The Christian experience is not that of an automaton or a robot. Unity amongst Christians does not negate diversity. Rather, diversity is what most vividly portrays the beauty of the gospel. Where cultural, social, or generational tensions once divided, now, because of the gospel, there can be unity. But this does not mean that every member loses the identity that once they were. Instead, that old identity is now filtered through the gospel to respond in love for others. Diversity is one of the greatest testaments to the unity of the gospel.
As Paul continues his explanation of what binds believers together, he highlights the reality that while we are drawn together in peace and unity, each member still is unique. Previously, Paul argued that the church is like a building perfectly fitted together by the wisdom of God. Even in this analogy we must understand that buildings are constructed with all manner of parts. If every part were a door, then there would be no place to sleep. If every part were stairs, then there would be no place to eat. Rather, a well-fitted house is made from a diversity of parts. Similarly, a well-fitted church is made from a diversity of members.
Continuing his argument about the uniqueness of the brethren, Paul explains that the uniqueness in the church is not brought about by background but instead is brought about primarily by the equipping work of the Spirit. At the point of conversion, every believer is equipped to serve the church. These spiritual gifts can be a number of things, and Paul gives lists of these gifts in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. These lists include the gifts of giving, serving, preaching, teaching, and so many more. The main thing to understand about spiritual gifting is that everyone has been equipped to serve the church. Sadly, many turn from their duty and the clear call of Christ to serve others and instead sit idly by while others serve and labor in the church. Because there is confusion for many people as to what their spiritual gift is, instead of serving and working until they see a gifting in themselves or have it affirmed by the church around them, they sit by continuing their excuse of never being involved as simply the fault of their not knowing their spiritual gift.
So why should we care about our spiritual gift, and why should we seek to use it in the church? Can’t we just join the ranks of lazy Christians who serve themselves and don’t stress about “getting serious” in church? Paul answers this with an explanation of why every Christian should strive to live amongst every other Christian serving the body with their gifting. Paul’s explanation is simple and is found in verses 8-10. Jesus came to earth to liberate us from our sins. He came and died so that we could not only be freed from sin, but that we could have a Spirit-empowered life. When the Spirit comes and regenerates and converts sinners He empowers them with gifts. These gifts that we have are connected directly to the sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross. Therefore, to neglect these spiritual gifts is to neglect the very sacrifice of Jesus.
Instead of neglecting, we should realize that we are a very purposeful part of the body. Finally, in verse 16 Paul brings us to the illustration of a body and how every part works within its specially designed purpose for the health and strength of the body as a whole. Similarly, we are specifically designed parts, some teachers, some givers, some servants, and most of us are a blend of several of the gifts. Now, let us strive to fulfill the calling we have been given in the death of Christ. Let us serve one another in love, striving for the unity of the body through the uniqueness of our gifting.
Reflect: Read Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Write out a list of the spiritual gifts that Paul mentions there. Do you see any of these as natural inclinations in your life?