God's Masterpiece of Unified Diversity
September 24, 2014 by Eric Garrett 0 comments
Something unexpected happened to me on Sunday morning. While I was preparing to teach for our children's ministry, Truth Miners, I was struck by the profundity of the passage I was about to teach from. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how God reveals to both young and old the same truths in profound ways. I was so affected by what I studied that I want to share some thoughts about the passage with you. The passage I taught from is 1 Corinthians 12, and my thoughts center on what God is doing when He masterfully blends unity and diversity together through His people, the church.
As human beings, we typically emphasize either unity or diversity to the exclusion of the other. When speaking about sociopolitical issues, it's common to hear one group arguing for individual choice as the root of social problems while another group counters that social problems are rooted in social context. In the business world, one group will assert that decisions within an organization ought to be made by individuals in positions of authority while others believe that a more or less democratic system is the only one that can work for a business. In the realm of education, one side will argue that every student must follow the same educational path while another side will maintain that each child ought to find their own unique path. Isn't this how we tend to operate? We typically believe that either unity or diversity is at the bottom of how the world should operate.
But God is different from us. While we argue from one side of a pendulum to another, God holds all things together in a perfectly unified and diversified balance, and this is profoundly seen in the way He has instituted the church. And in 1 Corinthians 12 we get a stunning glimpse into this wonderful masterpiece God is putting together. Look at what Paul says in verses 4-7: he says that in the church "there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
Now at first glance, one can rightly gather from this passage the unity of God's activity in the midst of a wonderful diversity of activities within the church. More than that, we ought to marvel at the reality that God has orchestrated this variety of gifts and services to serve the unified goal of His entire church: our God has blueprinted the united church to benefit from the diversity of the gifts of each member as they serve one another...beautiful! But that's not the sum of what's going on here. Like everything else, God has designed the church to reflect Him in the splendor of His unified diversity.
The most stunning truth from this passage is not about the church per se, but the revelation of the person of God through the church. Notice the consistent refrain of this passage: in verse 4 we read that the giver of the church's many gifts is the "same Spirit"; in verse 5 we see that although there are various ways to serve, we all serve the "same Lord"; and in verse 6 that behind the many different activities of the church is the "same God" (emphases added). There is one Spirit, one Lord, one God...and there are three distinct persons! You see, Paul is not just saying that the unified God works in a diversity of ways in the church. He also wants us to grasp that the one, unified God is Himself three diverse persons. He's helping us to see the ultimate reason why God has so constructed a unified and diversified church: because through this masterpiece of His, He is revealing to us who He really is: a perfectly unified and diversified God!
And the rest of 1 Corinthians 12 spells out much of how we are to live with this marvelous truth in view. So in lieu of the awesome reality that God is putting together a stunning representation of Himself by unifying a diversity of gifts, services, and activities within the church, how should we live? Simply put, we should strive for unity while we embrace diversity. We, the people of God, the church, the body of Christ, exist for the purpose of revealing the glory of the Triune God to the world...this should never cease to be amazing to us! So with that in view, let us serve one another with the unique gifts we have been given while we embrace those who are marvelously different from us by God's very design.
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