1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.…
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord," but there are distinctions in the Divine nature: in the Old Testament He is called Elohim, plural noun joined to singular verb; and in the New He is spoken of as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Again, the moral law is also one summed up, like the Divine character, in love; but it has a diversity of applications. There is unity with variety in —
I. THE WORKS OF GOD.
1. In the matter of the universe. Matter is the same in all time and in all space. Chemistry and geology both prove this. But in what a diversity of modes does it appear: in earth, water, air, and fire; in the trunks, branches, fruits, etc., of plants; in the bones, muscles, etc., of animals.
2. In the forces of the universe. The sum of force is always one and the same. If you consume it in one form it appears in another. A large portion of it coming from the sun is taken up by the plant, which is eaten by the animal, and becomes in us the power which we use to serve our purposes. But in what a diversity of modes does this force appear; in matter attracting matter, and holding atoms and worlds together; in elements combining according to their affinities; driving our steam engines, heating our homes, quivering in the magnetic needle, blowing in the breeze, smiling in the sunshine, striking in the lightning, and living in every organ of the body; ever changing and yet never changing; imparting unceasing activity, and yet securing an undisturbed stability.
3. In the orderly arrangement of the matter and forces of the universe. He who created the elements and their properties has so disposed them that they fall in order like the stones in a large building, or soldiers in companies, every one with a duty to discharge. The issue is —
(1) Beneficent and highly complex laws, such as the revolution of the seasons. What a number of agencies, e.g., are involved in the periodical return of spring.
(2) The adaptation of law to law, so as to bring about individual events. This is what constitutes providence. This providence is general, reaching over the whole, because it is particular providing for every being, and for all wants.
4. In our mental talents and tastes. The mind is suited to the position in which it is placed in the world, and the world is adapted to the minds which are to observe and use it. Man's intellect, formed after the image of God, delights in unity with variety, and nature presents these everywhere.
II. IN THE WORD OF GOD. This was written at very different times by different men in different styles and about different topics: but there is unity from beginning to end. It is one creed in regard to God, Christ, man, this world and the world to come. This arises —
1. From the circumstance that there is one God inspiring the writers. As "the Lord our God is one Lord," so the Word He has inspired is also one. While "all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God," it "is profitable" for a variety of purposes.
2. From the whole being a development of the one plan of redemption. There is a universal harmony in nature, but somehow a discordant element has been introduced. Looking within, we find conscience indicating that man is not at peace with God nor with himself. Looking without, we see wars, bloodshed, disease, disappointment, and death. All these things can be traced directly or indirectly to sin. Now the Word of God reveals a way by which this discordance is removed. In its evolution the plan assumes various forms, the patriarchal, the Jewish, the Christian. But it is substantially the same along the whole line. God appears everywhere as a holy God, saving sinners through the suffering of His Son. Except in the degree of development there is no difference between God as revealed in Eden, on Sinai, and on Calvary. The first book of Scripture discloses to us a worshipper offering a lamb in sacrifice, and the last shows a lamb as it had been slain in the midst of the Throne. In heaven they "sing the song of Moses the servant of God and of the Lamb."
3. From the unity with variety in the experience of believers. In essential points the experience of all is alike, and has been so from the beginning; but because the Spirit works in a certain way in the breast of one believer, this is no reason why He should work in the same way in the heart of every other. He suits His manifestations to the difference of their state and character.
III. THERE IS AN ACCORDANCE BETWEEN THE WORKS AND WORD OF GOD AND YET THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.
1. Both come from God and therefore reflect His character, but in a somewhat different light. The works manifest His power and His wisdom; the Word His holiness on the one hand and His mercy on the other.
2. There are times when science and Scripture seem to contradict each other; but only as one branch of science may seem to be inconsistent with another. Geology, e.g., requires long ages to explain its phenomena, whereas astronomy seems to say, that so long time has not elapsed since the earth was formed by the rotation of nebulous matter, every one believes that sooner or later the seeming inconsistencies will be cleared up. Account for it as we may, there is a general correspondence between Genesis and geology, and with such correspondences we may leave the apparent irreconcilabilities to be explained by future investigation. At times it is not easy to reconcile profane history with Scripture; but ever and anon the monuments of Egypt, Nineveh, and Moab, tell us that the Old Testament gives us a correct picture of the state of the nations in ancient times.
3. I might dwell on the numerous analogies between nature and revelation. Both give the same expanded views of the greatness of God; the one by showing His workmanship, the other by its descriptions. "The heavens declare," etc. Both show that there is only one God; the works, which are bound in one concatenated system, and the Word when it declares that "the Lord our God is one Lord." Note — Two points brought into prominence by recent science.
(1) The operation of evolution. It is not proved, as some would aver, that there is nothing but development. For there cannot be development without some previous seed. We see a like operation in the kingdom of grace. the Jewish economy is developed out of the Patriarchal, the Christian out of the Jewish; and the seed planted eighteen hundred years ago has become a wide-spread tree.
(2) The state of things in which we are placed. The frivolous may feel as if the Scriptures have drawn too dark a picture of our world; but all who have had large experience of human life acknowledge that the account is a correct one. How much of history is occupied with the narrative of desolating wars. We boast of our splendid cities, but in every one of them you will find crime and misery fermenting. There are warring elements in every human bosom, and in every society. Any one seeking to remove the causes of discord will be sure to irritate and to meet with determined opposition. The greatest men have been martyrs, who, in order to pull down the evil, have had themselves to perish. And science gives the same picture. What mean these discoveries of worlds being formed out of warring elements? What means the "struggle for existence"? Science, as well as Scripture, shows that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. The two are thus seen to be in curious correspondence; but they differ in this, that while both speak of a troubled day, the latter and more comforting revelation assures us that "at evening time there shall be light."
(J. McCosh, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.