|Lesson 9||February 22-28|
"One Body, Many Parts-
One Church, Many Members"
Read For This Week's Study: 1 Corinthians 12.
Memory Text: "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it" (1 1 Corinthians 12:26).
Key Thought: The health of the church requires the proper function of the gifts the Holy Spirit has given to each member. We all must commit ourselves to discovering and utilizing our own gifts and appreciating those God has granted to others.
|Sabbath Afternoon||February 21|
GOD CALLS FOR UNITY IN DIVERSITY AMONG HIS PEOPLE. "Life in nature objects to uniformity. In the branches of the vine there is unity in diversity. There is a variety in a tree: scarcely two leaves are just alike. And this variety adds to the perfection of the tree as a whole. In the human body, from the eyes to the feet there is variety. And all these members are dependent upon one another to make a perfect whole. In all the variety composing the human body, there is harmonious action, in conformity to the laws controlling the being. There is an unseen, conscious, invisible unity, keeping the bodily machinery in action, each part working in harmony with every other part."--Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, article 41, 1900; reprinted as "Unity in Diversity," Adventist Review, February 17, 1994, p. 14.
In this lesson we will explore how in our diverse spiritual gifts we may experience such harmony for building up the body of Christ.
UNWRAPPING GOD'S GIFTS (1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30).
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul begins his treatment of the theme of spiritual gifts and continues to chapter 14. In chapter 12 he underlines the need for a diversity of gifts and ministries, all of which are given to the church by the unifying power of the Holy Spirit. Then he points his readers to "the most excellent way" (12:31) of love and compares the relatively passing nature of spiritual gifts with the eternal durability of love (1 Corinthians 13). In chapter 14, Paul turns to the gift that had proved especially problematic in Corinth--the gift of tongues. This week we consider chapter 12; the next two weeks, 13 and 14.
Compare the three lists of gifts and ministries provided in I Corinthians 12. What remains consistent and what varies in the lists? (1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30).
|VERSES 8-10||VERSE 28||VERSES 29, 30|
The lists in 1 Corinthians 12 are by no means complete. For further study we could include those in Romans 12:3-8 (the gifts of ministry, exhortation, giving, leading, and mercy), Ephesians 4:11 (evangelists and pastor-teachers), and 1 Peter 4:10, 11 (which mentions only speaking and service). Paul's concern is not to give an exhaustive list of gifts. His concern is that the Christians in Corinth avail themselves of the Holy Spirit's rich variety of gifts that will fully equip the church for ministry. There will always be some differences among church members, yet that should not hinder their unity in laboring for Christ.
All "should seek to be in perfect harmony. And yet no one should feel that he cannot labor with those who do not see just as he sees, and who do not in their labors follow just his plans. If all manifest a humble, teachable spirit, there need be no difficulty. "God has set in the church different gifts. These are precious in their proper places, and all may act a part in the work of preparing a people for Christ's soon coming."--Gospel Workers, p. 481.
"YOU ARE A GIFTED CHILD" (1 Corinthians 12).
Among the ideas Paul shares on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, which ones would you judge to be most important today? Why?
Paul writes to troubled Corinthian Christians who are experiencing difficulties with spiritual gifts. We can be grateful for Paul's treatment of those ancient problems, for they leave us with many helpful concepts. Among the ideas especially important today are: 1. All members of God's church are gifted (verses 11-13, 27; Rom. 12:4-8; Eph. 4:7, 16); 2. It is presumed that the church as a body will be healthiest when each part is working in the way God designed (verse 18). An important implication of these thoughts is that we should make an effort to determine how God has gifted us to function in the church. "Strive for the spiritual gifts" (1 Cor. 14: 1, NRSV).
Think of three possible ways in which you might determine your spiritual gifts:
British preacher Charles Spurgeon once visited a woman who lived in a London poorhouse. He noticed, hanging on the wall of her shed, a framed document. He asked about the certificate and the woman told him that it had been given to her by an aged and invalid gentleman for whom she had cared. In appreciation for her care, the man had scribbled on the paper and presented it to her. She framed the piece and hung it on her wall. After considerable persuasion, Spurgeon was finally able to take the document to the local bank. The manager exclaimed, "We've been wondering to whom the old gentleman left his money!" (Source unknown.) Living in poverty, she held deed to a fortune. Could the same be true of us? Has the Spirit given you treasures that lie unknown and unused?
To the degree that we "choose not to (or simply neglect to) recognize, develop, and exercise our gifts, the church is less than it could be. Less than God intended it to be."--Don Jacobsen, "What Spiritual Gifts Mean to Me," Adventist Review, December 25, 1986, p. 12.
THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT (1 Cor. 12:10).
Paul, writing to the youthful pastor Timothy, urges him to "stir up the gift of God, which is in thee" (2 Tim. 1:6). With Timothy, each of us has a responsibility to rekindle or, perhaps, discover for the first time the ministry God has entrusted to us. Among helpful ways to explore one's gifts is to study carefully the Bible's descriptions of the various gifts.
The first quarter of 1997 was devoted entirely to the study of spiritual gifts. To refresh your mind, you may refer to those Sabbath School lessons.
Given the wide variety of spiritual phenomena in the modern world, the church today has a special need for the gift of "discerning of spirits" to be manifested in our midst (1 Cor. 12:10). Could it be that God has granted you this gift? This gift is generally understood by specialists in this field to be the ability granted by the Holy Spirit to some members of the church to know with certainty whether a teaching or behavior is truly inspired by and approved of God.
Why is the gift of discernment important? (1 John 4:1).
Are there any guidelines that are helpful in exercising the gift? (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 4:2, 3).
Read Hebrews 5:14 in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 2:14; 11:29. If all those who are spiritually mature are able to distinguish good from evil, why does the church need people gifted with "discerning of spirits"?
When it comes to discernment, we often think of others' behavior; but according to 1 Corinthians 11:31, who would be an appropriate target for the gift of discernment? (Note: 1 Corinthians 12:10 uses the Greek noun diakrisis to describe more closely this gift of discernment, rather than the idea of judging. The corresponding verb diakrin is used in 1 Corinthians 11:31 and 14:29.)
Based on Hebrews 4:12, what should serve as the basis on which the gift of discernment operates?
How might this gift of "discerning the spirits" function in a helpful way in your class?
ONE BODY, MANY PARTS (1 Cor. 12:12-19).
How does Paul illustrate the "unity in diversity" of the church? 1 Cor. 12:12-19.
Paul uses an example that would have been familiar to his audience, for it had been used frequently by Greek and Latin authors. These writers seem to have drawn on the Aesop fable, The Belly and the Feet: "The belly and the feet were arguing about their importance, and when the feet kept saying that they were so much stronger that they even carried the stomach around, the stomach replied, 'But, my good friends, if I didn't take in food, you wouldn't be able to carry anything.'"--Lloyd W. Daly, Aesop Without Morals (New York & London: Thomas Yoseloff, 1961), p. 148.
Paul's use may also reflect a feature of the local Asclepion, the temple where Corinthians worshiped the Greek god of healing, Asclepius. Those who felt they had been healed by Asclepius would sometimes bring a small clay image of the body part thought to have been healed as an offering to the god. Many of these replicas of hands, feet, arms, legs, and the like have been found among the temple's ruins. The prominent display of these "severed" body parts in Corinth may have given Paul's image of a living, unified body special force for his readers.
How would you summarize the themes that Paul is trying to highlight in 1 Corinthians 12:12-19?
Many tend to think of "unity" and "diversity" as two opposites, two extremes. If one stresses unity too much, diversity is surely harmed. If diversity becomes the watchword, unity is threatened. The two must be held in delicate balance. The genius of Paul's body metaphor is to expose the fallacy of such thought when applied to spiritual gifts and ministries. Reflect on this statement and see how well it describes your congregation: Just as the human body is both marvelously unified and incredibly diverse, so ideally is the body of Christ. A failure to foster the appropriate diversity of gifts actually threatens unity (verse 19). The one body has many parts. The varied parts join together to form one body (verse 12).
"God's living Church has parts, but it has no parties."--James Moffatt, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (New York London: Harper and Brothers, n.d.), p. 159.
HONOR TO THE HUMBLER PARTS (1 Cor. 12:20-26).
What plan has God followed in arranging the parts of His body, the church? 1 Cor. 12:20-26.
An electrical outlet is usually obscured by furniture or other objects in a room, while a light fixture is displayed in a prominent place. The "humble" outlet is of no less importance than the beautiful light fixture. For without the outlet's function, no dazzling light can be produced. They are indispensable to each other as the electrical current flows from one to the other.
There are some members of Christ's body who enjoy serving "behind the scenes," while others bask in the "limelight." Where do you enjoy serving most, and why?
What is the spiritual implication of investing greater honor to the parts of the body less honorable as alluded to in 1 Corinthians 12:23, 24? In what affirming ways may we give recognition to the unrecognized diligent members?
Unfortunately, there are occasions when dedicated church members who serve tirelessly are not made to feel appreciated by the ones serving in the "spotlight." Yes, various tasks are essential to be accomplished behind the scenes, but let us not take for granted our brothers and sisters serving us in this way. Why not take some time today to express appreciation verbally or to send a note of thanks.
What are the specific spiritual benefits that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12:25, 26 in connection with honoring members whose service is not so obvious?
"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I do not need you,' or the head to the feet, 'I do not need you.' Quite the contrary: those parts of the body which seem to be more frail than others are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we regard as less honourable are treated with special honour. The parts we are modest about are treated with special respect, whereas our respectable parts have no such need. But God has combined the various parts of the body, giving special honour to the humbler parts" (1 Cor. 12:21-24, REB).
Further Study: Outside of 1 Corinthians, the major passages that deal with spiritual gifts or ministries are: Rom. 12:1-8; Eph. 4:1-16; 1 Peter 4:7-11. In addition, on the idea of the church as a body, consult the following passages: (Do they all actually discuss the church as body? What do they add to the thoughts in 1 Corinthians 12?) 1 Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:29; Eph. 1:22, 23; 2:14-16; 3:6; 5:21-33; Col. 1:15-20; 2:18,19; 3:15; Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 445-447.
"God wants His people to be united in the closest bonds of Christian fellowship; confidence in our brethren is essential to the prosperity of the church; union of action is important in a religious crisis.... Jesus would have His followers subject one to another; then God can use them as instruments to save one another; for one may not discern the dangers which another's eye is quick to perceive; but if the undiscerning will in confidence obey the warning, they may be saved great perplexities and trials."--Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 446.
|1. How could we shape the way we select
"church officers" to reflect more adequately the New Testament discussions
of spiritual gifts and ministries?
3. The Corinthians faced a twofold problem. Some gifts, especially tongues, seem to have been overly active or improperly employed while others may have been underemployed (however, see 1 Cor. 1:7). Is the same true today? What gifts are most needed to spread the good news of Christ's return in your culture?
Summary: In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul highlights both the unity and the diversity of the human body to underline the need for a variety of spiritual gifts and ministries in God's church. We must be active in taking up the inherent challenge in the chapter--to discover and affirm our own gifts and those of others in the body of Christ.
|He Came to Argue
Thomas Mukasa came to the evangelistic meetings to argue, but God had other plans for him.
Thomas had heard about the young people who had camped outside his village. He had seen some of them working on a road and others helping his neighbor with his crop. He had heard that they were clearing wells--and even washing clothes and cooking meals for old people. He wondered why these young people were working so hard for people they did not know. Then he learned that they were building a mud-and-wattle church in the village. So that was it! They were trying to convert people! Well, he thought, they weren't going to convert him!
One evening Thomas heard singing from the direction of the new church. He saw people walking toward the building and wondered if the young people were going to start preaching now. He was not interested in religion; he found comfort in his bottle of waragi, Ugandan beer. But by the second week of meetings, Thomas decided to go to the church and investigate. And if the preacher said something about his drinking, he would start an argument. He fortified his resolve with plenty of waragi, and tucked a spare bottle into his old bag. Then he staggered into the meeting.
An usher seated Thomas up front, but Thomas was so drunk he fell asleep, waking only when the youth sang the closing song. The next evening he came again, still intending to argue with the preacher. He was not so drunk, and did not fall asleep, but the meeting ended before he could interject his opinion. He continued attending the meetings, but each night he was a little more sober.
One night the speaker appealed for those who wanted to follow Jesus to stand. Several people responded, including Thomas. When the preacher called for believers to keep the Sabbath and be baptized, Thomas again responded. By now he was sober. He began studying the Bible and was baptized with 100 others.
Now, instead of arguing with the preacher, Thomas is helping to build a permanent church. The believers have made burned bricks for the walls, but they have no money for sand or cement for mortar, or for timber or iron sheets for the roof. Pray that God will supply their needs as they seek to reach out to others with God's love.
|Christian Aliddeki is president of the Uganda Union in Eastern Africa Division.|
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