1 Corinthians 12:12


If this be a true representation, what an honour, what a happiness it is to be a Christian! It is to be joined to the Lord of life and glory, and to be associated with the noblest, the purest, the best of mankind.

I. IN WHAT RESPECTS CHRIST AND HIS MEMBERS ARE ONE. The expression used by the apostle is remarkable: "So also is Christ." He says, "Christ;" yet he means Christ's people; from which it appears that, in the view or the apostle, as in the view of the Lord himself, all who are his are identified with and comprehended in his own Divine personality.

1. This is a fact which is exhibited in various manners and especially by various metaphors, Not only are Christ and his people the Head and the body; they are the Vine and the branches, the Foundation and the stones, the organism and the Soul.

2. The union as spiritual is formed and sustained by faith. There are sacramental symbols of the union, but the real and vital connection is of spirit with spirit, i.e. is of faith. As mutual, it is depicted by the Lord himself, when he says, "I in you, and you in me."

3. The character and the aim of the Head and the members are identical. "As he is, so are we in this world."

II. IN WHAT RESPECTS CHRIST'S MEMBERS ARE SUBORDINATE TO HIM.

1. He is the Giver of the life which his people have in common with him.

2. He is the Source of authority, issuing the commands which govern their activity.

3. He is the Centre of harmony; they who are his revolve around him as planets round the sun; and their orbits resemble one another, because all are drawn by the same attractive force.

4. He confers upon them the glory which is their prerogative - the moral glory which is conferred here and now, and the glory to be revealed hereafter.

III. IN WHAT RESPECTS CHRIST'S MEMBERS ARE RELATED ONE TO ANOTHER. All are "one body."

1. Their dependence upon the one Head is the same. The unity is not simply in the organization; it is in the life.

2. They are bound by Christian law and drawn by Christian impulse to mutual affection and confidence. Love is the law of Christian social life, as in the following chapter is so exquisitely shown.

3. They have each his several service to render to the one Master; the gifts are alike consecrated, the ministrations are alike devoted, to the Divine Lord.

4. They have mutual ability and obligation to help. As in the body each member, each sense, supplies the other's lack of service, so in the Church it is not simply the case that the gifted and the powerful render help to others less favourably endowed, but the feeblest and the most obscure may render some service for which his brethren may have reason to be for ever grateful.

5. In the blessings conferred by the Church upon the world around, each may be said to supply the other's deficiency; and the work of evangelization, in which each performs his proper part, is advanced by the cordial cooperation of all whom Providence has qualified and grace has inclined for the work. - T.







For as the body is one, and hath many members .... so also is Christ.
The law of variety in unity obtains —

I. IN NATURE.

1. No two leaves of the same tree, no two faces, even of twins, entirely correspond. Science, however, is continually bringing to light an unity and simplicity of type in things apparently different. What objects can present a greater superficial difference than quadrupeds and fishes, both of which, however, being vertebrates, are formed on the same general plan?

2. And the resemblance is not only of ground-plan, but of agency. The same power of gravitation which ties the planets to the sun, and retains them in their orbits, causes the leaf or the fruit to fall to the ground. The same power of electricity which rives the oak, attracts light substances towards chafed sealing-wax. The same refraction of the rays of the sun produces the rainbow, and makes the tiny dewdrop to twinkle with the prismatic colours.

3. The various parts of the universe work together for one end. Strong forces are at work in and around the earth, which, if allowed unlimited sway, might peril the planet's existence; but they play into one another's hands, and hold one another in equipoise.

II. IN THE WORD OF GOD. The Scriptures are a collection of books written under various circumstances at different times. We have histories, biographies, poetry, aphorisms, prophecies, rituals, letters. But however dissimilar, they are one organic whole, knit together by a certain plan and principles. The prophecy of the Seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpent's head, is manifestly the nucleus round which the whole Bible has formed itself. The entire Old Testament looks forward to Messiah historically, typically, and prophetically.

III. IN THE CHURCH. Shall we not expect to find the same feature here, for the Church, quite as much as Nature and Scripture is God's workmanship?

1. The members of the Apostolic Church had various gifts, the phenomena of which were different, but all the results of the agency of one Spirit, and all working together for the glory of one Saviour. These supernatural gifts had something in the natural endowments of the possessor's mind corresponding to them. Thus, e.g., corresponding to the gift of tongues, some persons have now a great facility of acquiring languages; corresponding to the girt of prophecy, we find in others a natural gift of high and fervid eloquence; some persons even nowadays have such a wonderful art of imparting what they know, that we can hardly be said to have lost the gift of teaching; others are admirably adapted for government; while even the gift of miracles itself rests on the power of mind over matter, of which power we have exemplifications in a natural way even nowadays.

2. The character and temperament of each individual Christian is different from that of his neighbour. Thus St. John represents the contemplative and studious disciple. St. Peter is the great bulwark and rock of the Church, breasting its perils and responsibilities gallantly, before St. Paul appears; Apollos is an eloquent declaimer, "mighty in the Scriptures"; Barnabas has a still small voice of consolation; while Paul, in powers of physical and mental endurance, in the expansiveness of his affections, is God's chiefest instrument for the diffusion of the glad tidings. These are some of the moulds in which Christian character was cast, and in which we may expect that it will continue to be cast nowadays.Conclusion:

1. Let us not distress ourselves that we were not brought to God in the same way as some others. God's ways of influencing the human mind for good vary, first, with the original character of the mind, on which the Holy Ghost has to operate; and, secondly, with the acquired. shape which that mind has taken from circumstances in which it has been thrown. On the same page of Scripture there is the record of Lydia, who became a Christian through the gentle opening of the heart, and of the gaoler who was shaken with strong alarm, as if over the pit of hell; nothing else would have broken bonds so firmly riveted.

2. Our method of serving God must depend on our capacities, endowments, position, and opportunities. It may not be a high or a widely influential work which we are doing for God, but then He may not have called us to such a work. "I would undertake to govern a hundred empires," said Dr. Payson, "if God called me to it, but I would not undertake to govern a hundred sheep unless He called me."

3. Learn a lesson of large charity. We ought, if rightly minded, to rejoice in the exuberance and variety of the spiritual gifts possessed by Christians, just as we delight in the rich variety of Nature or the Word of God. God's purpose is that each Christian should exhibit, in the peculiarity of his circumstances, education, moral temperament, and mental endowments, a new specimen of redeeming love and grace. By various discipline here He fits and polishes each living stone for the place which it is destined to occupy in the spiritual temple; and when all the stones are made ready, He will build them together each into his place, and exhibit to men and angels their perfect unity.

(Dean Goulburn.)

If we examine a thistle we find that each of the purple fringes of which the head is composed is a distinct flower, so that the plume of the thistle is not, in reality, one flower, but a collection of flowers. Each part has its own work to do, and is changed in shape or colour, according to its work. One part produces honey; another attracts, by its colour, insects to fertilise the plant; another helps to produce seed. Each part has its own excellent quality, and the effect of their combined labour is to promote the welfare of all.

(H. Macmillan, LL.D.)

The apostle's discourse is of spiritual gifts. These were largely distributed among the Christians of Corinth — to largely, it would seem, for the grace that went along with them. The diversity in unity here affirmed by the apostle of the gifts communicated to the early Church, pertains to the Church in its entire structure. It is, in fact, the law of its composition — an identity of character and experience, combined with an endless diversity in the details. The most palpable exemplification of this law is that which is offered by the diverse outward forms in which the Church exists. It is not the visible Church which the apostle affirms to be one; but the true Church — the Church made up of the regenerated and saved, who are confined to no one communion, and are known to God alone. But it is not without its significance that He has permitted the visible Church to be cast in many separate moulds. He might have prescribed a polity with such distinctness, and enjoined it in such terms of authority, that all churches would have conformed to it. But He saw fit so to frame His instructions on this subject as to leave room for a diversity of interpretation. The fact is indisputable, that to one class of minds this form of worship is the more edifying; to another, that. In this view we may refer to the visible Church as illustrating the principle of diversity in unity. The principle, however, finds its legitimate sphere within the brotherhood of real believers. This phrase, in fact, defines the sense in which they are affirmed to be one; they are "real believers": this makes them one. So the apostle teaches in the passage before us: The body of Christ (the Church) is one: "for (ver. 13) by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free." It is through the anointing of the Spirit men are born again, and so engrafted into Christ as to become members of His body. This is the communicating of a new nature which makes them one, as really as the natural birth, the possession of a common humanity, makes them one. External diversities are of no consequence in either case. The child of the hovel, the wigwam, the palace, it matters not where or when he is born, he inherits the common nature and belongs to the race. So with the new birth, it merges all outward distinctions.

1. This unity includes a common head. "Christ is the Head of the Church." Union with Christ is indispensable.

2. It denotes, further, a oneness of faith. Diversities of belief there certainly are among real believers. All Christians concur in the necessity of "repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."

3. They are also of one purpose. The various members of the body, controlled by a single will, work together for the same ends. The members of Christ's mystical body have a common aim.

4. They are united, too, by the bonds of a mutual sympathy. In the human body, if one member suffers, all suffer; if one rejoices, all rejoice. But this unity is not monotony. The Church is one. But it is one as the body is one; as the animal kingdom is one; the vegetable; the mineral; the whole realm of nature. The formula of definition in all these cases is, Unity in diversity, and diversity in unity. The Christian Church began in this way, and began gloriously. The Day of Pentecost supplied the mould in which it was to be cast. "Parthians and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia. in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians." What an assemblage was this! And as it set out, so it has continued. Contemning all distinctions of climate, empire, language, and religion, the Church has gone on, gathering into its ample fold people of all lands and tongues and faiths; cementing them into one harmonious whole; and that, without disturbing the elements which mark their several nationalities. But we may see this diversity in unity without convening the Church Ecumenical. It is the law of the kingdom everywhere. In the apostolic age, the household of faith comprised persons of every rank and occupation. And this variety has been perpetuated. The ministry has never been without its Johns and Pauls, its Thomases and Peters, its sons of thunder and its sons of consolation. Let me name Baxter, Owen, Bunyan, Jeremy Taylor, Bishop Hall, the Wesleys, the Erskines, Romaine, President Edwards, Whitefield, Dwight, Robert Hall, Chalmers, Davies, Mason, the Alexanders. What a galaxy is this! Every star is brilliant; but no two shine with the same lustre. And as with the ministry, so with the people. To delineate the variety which pertains to the many members of the one spiritual body would be to describe the numerous sorts of people aggregated in a community. For the Church recruits itself indifferently from the vast outlying masses of humanity. It appropriates to itself all ages, sexes, and conditions. Of course the training to which it subjects them demands the lopping off of excrescences and the healing of disorders which, neglected, would consume the life. But within the wise and wide limitations prescribed by the Divine Husbandman, it allows all the trees and shrubs transplanted into its enclosure to follow out each the law of its own growth. The pine is not expected to become an oak; nor the orange a vine; nor the violet a rose. This rule is observed even in respect to the methods by which the dead branches are engrafted into the True Vine and made alive. It is the prerogative of the one Almighty Spirit to effect this; here is the unity. But He does it in a great variety of modes; here is the diversity. Nor in conversion only. He carries the same variety of modes and means into the culture and development of the immortal germ deposited in regeneration. The efficiency in all instances is His own. And the one agency He has Himself prescribed, in His Word. But who can describe the paths along which He leads His people, and the endless combinations of proverbial and gracious influences by which He conducts them step by step up the acclivities of the higher life, and fashions them to the "likeness of the heavenly"? The fact is patent to every one. Let us advert to a few of the more important aspects in which it offers itself to our contemplation.It will not be difficult to show that this Divine law of diversity in unity is as essential to the proper perfection of the Church as it is morally beautiful.

1. Let me begin with this latter thought, the moral beauty of this arrangement. This is not a thing to be argued. Beauty is a matter not of logic, but of feeling. Its appeal is to a constitutional susceptibility. And it is a part of our constitution to crave variety. We do not want, painting to be all of one colour, nor a tune of one strain. The ocean would pall upon us if it were always still or always boisterous. We grow weary of looking day by day at the same people in the same situation, unless they are our intimate friends. And as to our friends, we would not have them all alike if we could. It is one of the charms of the domestic state, the variety there is in families. He who made man made the Church; and of course adapted it to this as well as to every other part of his nature. No one can complain of the New Testament as a monotonous book; nor feel that when be has seen one of its personages he has seen all. We love the Church all the more because its unity, like that of a garden, effloresces in a grateful variety of fruits and flowers.

2. The principle of diversity in unity upon which the Church is constructed illustrates the power and efficacy of Divine grace. The palpable fact which meets the eye is that while grace is more than a match for depravity in its worst forms, it renews and elevates all the nobler traits of humanity; and in either case, without disturbing identity of character. In man's hands these various types of character might be bent or broken; they could never be renewed. Changed they might be, but not changed without sad contortion or mutilation. Too often has the experiment been tried. A wonderful achievement it is, as wonderful in power as in love, that of imbuing a whole community with a new life, from its very nature pervading, elevating, and controlling, and yet so incorporating it with all the natural faculties and functions as to aid their proper working and their true development. We cite it as one of the fruits of that diversity in unity which enters radically into the constitution of the Church.

3. It is still more to our purpose to refer to the wisdom, perhaps we may say the necessity, of this principle, in view of the mission assigned to the Church. It is not for man to say that anything is absolutely necessary to God in effecting His purposes which He has not declared to be so. But we may speak of the perfect adaptation of the principle we are considering, to the ends for which the Church was established. Not to name other topics, the Church is appointed to be, under God, the Teacher and Guide of the world. Its business is to disciple all nations. It needs, therefore, labourers of every sort and every variety of talent. With fewer gifts in kind, some portions of its work would be neglected. If it is to carry Christianity through the globe, it must have men whose constitutions and training fit them for the various climates of the earth. It must have men of iron nerve who can face dangers. It must have men of the requisite scholarship to grapple with strange languages and preach to strange peoples. In its home-field there is room for the exercise of every kind of gift. A scheme so vast demands a corresponding variety and affluence of talents. And this want is provided for in that diversity which, as we have seen, enters into the constituency of the Church. There are ministers of every grade of culture and with every kind of gifts. How, otherwise, could the ministry fulfil its design? The people vary indefinitely. And who can survey the broad acres which the Church is cultivating, without rejoicing in the combination of gifts employed in carrying forward the work? A radical part of this agency lies in the silent power of example; the simple routine of a quiet and upright life. Some are breaking up the fallow ground. Some are sowing. Some are nurturing the precious grain. And others reaping and gathering the crop. But all are servants of the great Taskmaster.The unfolding of such a subject suggests the practical lessons which grow out of it.

1. One is a lesson of instruction and encouragement in respect to religious experience. We have seen that this is of no uniform type. Certain elements are essential, but beyond these it partakes of a very great variety. We are not, then, to set up this or that instance of conversion, nor this or that form of the Christian life, as the standard by which all others are to be tested. God has His own methods for bringing men into His kingdom. The only safe or authorised mode of trying our state is to come to the law and the testimony.

2. As unity in diversity is the law of the Church, it is the duty of all its members to cherish and promote the spirit of unity. The apostle points out the effect of a schism among the members of the body, as illustrative of a divisive spirit among the members of the Church. The divisions among Christians have always been the opprobrium of religion.

3. As diversity in unity is the law of the Church, let us try to learn what are our own gifts, and to fill each his own place. To learn what. this is, we must ask His teaching in prayer. We must consider our situation and circumstances. We must endeavour to find out what gifts we have, and how they can be used to the best purpose.

4. There is one other lesson which I would gladly enforce if the time would permit, viz., a lesson of charity in judging of the Christianity of others.

(H. A. . Boardman, D.D.)

The appellation "Christ" is here applied, not to the person or our Lord, but to His Church, intimating that she is identified with her Saviour; and being given to the Church as a body, indicates the harmony and union of all its parts.

I. THE UNION OF BELIEVERS WITH CHRIST. This is here represented as corresponding with that which subsists betwixt the head and the members of the body. (Ephesians 4:15, 16; Colossians 1:18). This reminds us that Christ is —

1. The same nature with ourselves, even as the head is of the same nature with the body (Hebrews 4:16, 17).

2. The governing power in the Church, as the head is of the body. In the head the eyes are stationed like watchful sentinels; the ears receiving the information conveyed by sound; the organs of taste and smell discerning things that differ, and contributing eminently both to our safety and to our enjoyment; the tongue, the interpreter of thought: there, in short, is the countenance, the seat of beauty, giving to man an impress of dignity not found in any of the inferior animals. Now the superior endowments of this capital of the human frame afford a fit emblem of the honour and supremacy of Him who is constituted our spiritual Head.

3. The vital principle, the source of life and feeling to the whole body. Christ our Head, in whom dwell all wisdom and all power, imparts and sustains the principles of the spiritual life.

II. THEIR RELATION TO ONE ANOTHER.

1. The members of the body are many, and differ exceedingly, and yet in a machine so complex each movement and circumvolution is exactly fitted for its specific end. Of the many bones, e.g., of the hand or foot, not one could change its place without injury to the limb to which it belongs. In like manner, every muscle, nerve, and artery has its own place and office, which no other could supply. So in the mystical body of Christ there are many members, with each its own office. One Christian excels in the intelligence of the eye, another in the discrimination of the ear: one has the activity and adaptation of the band, another the firmness and perseverance of the foot: one has the energy of the arm, another the tenderness of the bosom (vers. 4-11).

2. This diversity occasions a dependence of the several members upon one another (vers. 21, 22). Let no believer, however mean, be discouraged; let no believer, however eminent, presume that he is independent. The analogy suggests the mutual sympathy that should subsist among believers (ver. 26). The tenderness each should cherish our fellow-Christians, the zeal each should render.

4. This mutual co-operation has the happiest results. In the natural body, when the eye is quick to discern, the hand diligent to execute, the foot steady to pursue, the ear open to hear, and the tongue ready to return a right answer, the combined exertion of our powers secures ends which their separate and unconnected attempts could never have attained. In like manner the efforts of the several members of the body of Christ are then successful when they are honestly and affectionately combined.

(H. Grey, D.D.)

I. WHAT THIS IMPLIES. That its members, like a living organism, are —

1. Animated by one spirit (ver. 13).

2. Mutually dependent (vers. 14-18).

3. United for one end (vers. 19, 20).

II. WHAT IT REQUIRES IN THE SEVERAL MEMBERS.

1. Humility and contentment (vers. 21-24).

2. Unity and sympathy (vers. 25, 26).

3. Gratitude and fidelity (vers. 27-31).

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

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