1 Corinthians 12:12
For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: 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.
Parallel VersesKJV: For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.