1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.…
Christianity claims to be, and is, in the belief of all its truest sons, a universal religion. And consider what that means. It means that it is a religion for all peoples, whatever their land, whatever their character; for the emotional races of the south as well as for the sterner and harder dwellers in the north, for the subtle and dreamy oriental as for the strong and practical inhabitant of the west. It means that it is a religion for all ages; that it can adapt itself to changing times. It means that it is a religion for all classes; that it can appeal to the rich as to the poor, to the cultivated intellect of the few as to the untrained reason of the many, to woman as to man, to the child as well as to the old. It means that it is a religion for all temperaments. Let us see what right Christianity has to claim to be and to do all this. Through what agencies dues it work? Are they fitted to make it accomplish the end of its being? Let us never forget, in the first place, that the one great agency to which it must look, nay the one which is its very life and inspiration, is the Holy Spirit of God. Without Him there can be no religion, no Christianity; without His work and influence no soul of man can be born again unto the kingdom of heaven. And if there is one attribute of His working which is dwelt upon more than another in the Bible it is its diversity. You cannot set limits to it; you cannot assign reasons for it. It can seize hold of a self-seeking Balaam or a narrow-souled Saul and make them its mouthpieces as easily as it can rest upon an Elijah, or a John the Baptist, or a St. Paul. It is on this boundless power, this power to change and to exalt, this power to fire the various capacities of men, to give them new strange gifts, that the apostle dwells so eloquently in this passage in the Corinthian epistle. And then pass on to another agency, which is in one sense not another, but the same; I mean the Book which the Spirit of God has inspired and which the Church of Christ bears in her hand for the teaching of the nations. What is the character of it? Not, as might have been expected, a short and logical and exact book of reference. The Bible is a book of what marvellous variety! Truly a book of marvellous diversity and yet of no less marvellous unity, for the golden thread of God's purpose of salvation in Christ runs through it and binds it in one from its beginning to its end. There is yet another agency which Christianity must use, and that is the Church. St. Paul, in the passage on which I am dwelling, makes it clear that here too, in his view, is to be the same diversity in unity. The Church is to be one, to know but the "one Body, and one Spirit, and one Hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all": and yet it is to find place and play for all manner of minds and characters, as the body finds work for all its differing members. "God fulfils Himself in many ways"; there is room in the church for all temperaments, and characters, and minds; her true aim as a Church is to follow up the work of the Spirit, not to attempt to manufacture Christians after a single exemplar, but rather to take what is strongest and best in the character of each, and to make it do service to God; not to crush the enthusiasm out of a St. Paul, or the independent thought out of an , or the artistic power out of a , or the poetry out of a Milton, or the scientific spirit out of a Livingstone, but to turn their special gifts to God's ends and consecrate them to all holy purposes. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit, differences of ministries, but the same Lord, diversities of operations, but the same God which worketh all in all. And yet, in spite of this universality of which we have been boasting, it is useless to shut our eyes to the fact that there is much failure to mourn over, much success that is only partial at best, in the progress of Christianity. Are there no Christians who have faith without charity, whose belief in Christ is a belief of the mind, whose religion is dogma without love, bigotry without humility? We may well ask, if Christianity is what, it claims to be, whence come these failures? And when we set ourselves to, answer that question, the first thing we find is that one failure is due to another. If the religion of Christ has failed in this or that part of the world, it is because it has not got thoroughly hold of the nation which preaches it. Yes, if we want to find the explanation of the comparative failure of Christianity among the races of the world, or among the labourers of our own land, we must seek it in this, that we are only one-sided Christians ourselves. But then we carry our inquiries a step further back. Why is it that there is so much of this one-sided Christianity? And the answer to that is that men do not entirely realise the ideal which is set before them. For that ideal is this — that every part, and power, and capacity, and tendency within them must be illuminated and inspired by the Spirit of God, given over to His supremacy and to His government, subordinated and made obedient to His will. Man is a many-sided being; and it is not enough, it is not the whole of the religion of Christ, if the intellect is convinced but the conscience silenced, if the emotions are kindled and the life untouched. The surrender, if surrender it is to be called where surrender means victory, must be complete; the service of the heart to God, if service it be where service is perfect freedom, must be unreserved and unqualified. But I shall be told very likely that I am contradicting myself; that a surrender, a service, a uniformity, a harmony so complete is practically just that dead level, that absence of diversity, which just now I disclaimed. But that is not so. God asks you for all your powers, but He does not ask you to exert them all in equal measure; He does not demand the same interest, the same fruit from your mind and heart if one is by nature greater than the other. He leaves you free. Thus with one man religion is the consecration of his intellect to God. The truth of Christ's message and mission has come upon him like a revelation; it fills his thoughts; the conviction that has seized him bears him on like a flood; it is life to him now to learn more and more of the knowledge of God. Or, again, with another, religion is the consecration of the will and the affections; the salt which saves him from moral corruption and decay. The strength of his life, the flower of his service to God, is not intellectual, but moral and spiritual. His part in the great warfare is less an active one than one of stedfastness and rest. In quietness is His strength. And yet once more: the religious life may be the consecration of the energies. We are familiar all of us with men who have neither exceptional ability nor any singular power of self-restraint; but whatever they do they do it with their might, seeing but one thing in front of them and making for that with every power and capacity that they possess. Theirs is no ambition to be in the vanguard of the march, but to save the stragglers and strengthen the weary and the weak as they falter and fail. Well for you if God's Spirit takes your intellect and makes it His own; well for you if He uplifts you to a life of holiness lived in the very presence of God; but if neither of these lots may be yours, then pray Him to make you one of His workers, wherever your field may lie.
(H. A. James, B.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.