1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.…
1. The glory of the Apostolic Church was not merely in her faith, zeal, conversions, or martyrdoms; but above all, and as their source — in the possession of the Holy Spirit.
2. Her miraculous gifts have been long laid aside; but the Holy Spirit is still the glory of the Church, endowing her with even nobler gifts; and of them the text is still true. There is variety in unity.
I. IN SPIRITUAL, ENDOWMENTS.
1. There is the greatest diversity —
(1) In the natural order.
(a) Take a family. One has more ability than another, and the abilities run in such different lines as make the same treatment or destination impossible.
(b) Take the little world of school. Each boy has his own capacity, one seemingly promising, another the opposite according to our artificial standard — a standard to be reversed in after life.
(c) Take the greater world. What diversities here — the orator, and the man of no utterance, but a man of deeds; the poet and the stern man of facts, etc. And all these diversities are for the well-being of man, and we are not to despise any of them.
(2) Now granting that religion is the work of the same God, should we not anticipate a kindred diversity in His spiritual gifts? All Christians have their spiritual talents, some five, some two, etc., but every man according to several ability. All God's children —
(a) Are taught of the Lord by a Divine illumination. But how great the diversity between the apostle soaring in inspired vision and the unlettered Christian who simply knows her Bible true — her Saviour sufficient.
(b) Are, in common, partakers of like precious faith; but here there are diversities between the faith that staggers not at promised impossibilities, and the faith that can only say, "Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief."(c) Love Christ. But what striking diversities between the love that rejoices to surrender all for Him, and the love that can but keep the garments unspotted and is ever ready to wax cold! From this diversity, then, it follows that some will become more remarkable for faith, some for love. Some have the grander, sterner qualities predominating; others have the softer, more gentle.
2. Over all these diversities there is a pervading unity of the one Spirit that creates and sustains them. As all the diverse works of nature prove the unity of the Creator, so all the gifts of grace bear the broad arrow of His hand. Some are like great rivers diffusing fertility through an empire, sustaining a mighty population on their banks, and bearing great navies on their bosom; others are as little rills, which serve only to gladden the eyes of a household or two, and then disperse into the great waters; yet all of them are channels, filled with the same living water; each has its own flow from the one mountain range, each is of the like quality, each has its own separate beauty.
(1) The humblest gifts of grace have a use and a value, surpassing all gifts of genius and wealth, and are not to be despised. True science finds its field not merely in scanning the firmament, but in studying the flowers.
(2) Nay, the more lowly and obscure these graces are, the more they are like Him whose chief glory shines in His condescension. The humblest gifts are the Divinest, for they do not inflate the heart with the sense of its own greatness. And in a higher world, may it not be found that these humble ones were the highest in God's esteem, because the least mixed up with self?
II. IN SPIRITUAL MINISTRY. "Property has its rights, it has also its duties" — so have natural gifts. And the greater a man's powers, the more sacredly is he bound to minister to the welfare of humanity. And all gracious powers are held by the like condition. The Church is like a great palace where every man has his post, and the humblest ministry is as necessary as the most distinguished. In a great steamship, it is not enough that there be the master to issue instructions, the pilot to steer, the engineer to control its mighty powers; but there must be those who perform the meanest services, else all the skill and power of the others will be useless. So in the Church. What lives of power and productiveness were those of Paul, Luther, Knox, etc. How insufficient seem other ministries in comparison; yet the faithful steward of a few things is as useful in his way and as honourable as the faithful occupant of the most splendid office. There is a ministry of —
1. Parental instruction. You cannot transfer this to another hand, even were you anxious to do so to the wisest and best. You alone can travel the pathway to the affections and confidence of the youthful heart. For your children's sake and for your own soul's sake, renounce not this ministry. It is your noblest blessedness and theirs to have these children made yours by the double tie of nature and of grace.
2. Sympathy. This brings us into immediate communion with the Spirit of Jesus, who has consecrated all the sorrows of humanity by His own. In the Primitive Church this office was heralded by gifts of healing. These are gone, but we can sympathise with distress, and by that chord touch the heart, and gain a hearing for Christ. "Mercy is twice blessed," etc.
3. Liberality. What a magnificent power of blessing to the Church is a rich man who, with a heart delivered from selfishness, is willing to use his Master's stores in his Master's service!
4. Prayer. The Church is mightiest on her knees.
III. IN SPIRITUAL OPERATIONS. Nothing could be more infinitely varied than the operations of God in nature and in providence. There is the tempest, as well as the soft west wind; the gentle breath of spring, and the summer heat. And there are corresponding diversities in God's dealings with the sinner.
1. In the act of preparation for, or in the want of it. In the sunrise in our own land the darkness of night gradually passes into the pale grey of dawn, the grey into the saffron, and the saffron into the ruddy tints of morning, and how these in their turn melt away in the bright light they herald. Whereas, in tropical lands the sun rises at once. And is it not the same with the dawn of new life on the soul? I have stood on the sea-shore, and for a considerable time could not tell whether the tide was coming in or going out. Again, I have stood beside it when its mass of waters was tossed by the fierce tempest, and when it swept all before it, as it rolled its mighty waves to the shore. And in these different aspects of the ocean we have a picture of the diverse experiences of the soul in passing through the great change. Take the case, e.g., of Lydia and the gaoler, John and Paul.
2. In the after experience of the Christian life. Some advance with uninterrupted progress. There are others whose course is like that of Israel of old in the wilderness. With some, the course is all among the deep shady valleys; others are walking on the high ground, always in the sun. The one class go on their way with joy and singing, the other advance with timid step, going, and weeping as they go. But however opposite the experiences of God's children, and however diverse their paths, they are all led by the right way, by the one Spirit to the one home.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.