SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
November 2, 2008
Though Different We Can Work Together in Love and Unity
1 Corinthians 12:3-21
Key Verse: Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. – Ephesians 4:7
The church is made up of people who are different. God planned it this way. He made us different. He gave us different gifts. Each of us has a gift that the church needs.
Our diversity can be a blessing or a burden. We have a choice. We can work together or we can fight with one another. We can unite in love or we can divide in friction. We can compliment one another or we can compete.
In my ministry as a pastor I found joy in seeing how the Spirit brings together people whose gifts complement one another. I had an associate pastor whose gift for counseling was much stronger than my own. The Spirit taught me to refer people to him rather than compete with him. This freed me to spend more time sharpening my gift of preaching.
Every pastor feels pressured to be all things to all people – a great preacher, a great counselor, and a great administrator. Our ego can cause us to pretend we can do things for which we are not gifted. This pretense can weaken our use of the gifts we do have. In one church God gave me an associate who was gifted in administration. I turned the administration of the church over to him and we were both blessed.
The desire to receive “credit” for everything can result in disunity rather than unity. The key is to learn to enjoy letting other people receive recognition for the use of their gifts. Such a spirit is contagious. It can cause people to celebrate their differences rather than struggle with one another for control of everything.
When we examine the scripture we can see Paul’s great secret. He was not a “control freak.” His concept of ministry began with surrendering the control of his own life entirely to Christ. Observe how he describes himself. In Ephesians he is “the prisoner in the Lord.” In other letters he is a slave or a servant of Christ.
For Paul Christ was in charge. He was the Head of the church. He was the Lord whom Paul served. The church is Christ’s body and Christians are parts of his body, “joined and knit together” to use our separate gifts to promote the growth of his body. When we fight like children we fail to build up the body. This results in immaturity rather than the maturity that God desires for us. By competing with one another we become vulnerable to jealousy and resentment, attitudes that erode unity and create discord.
Fred seldom made a speech in his church on behalf of missions. Neither did he chide others for not caring about missionaries. He did not have to. His generous giving for missions quietly motivated others to support missionary projects. Fred’s example was much more effective than an impassioned plea for missions. He exercised the Spirit’s gift of giving and others were moved to follow his example.
Paul constantly encouraged his Christian friends. We should also. Encouragement builds up the body of Christ. In our various ministries we all face resistance and rejection from others. This can cause us to question our worth and may sometimes lead to depression. But kind words of encouragement can rejuvenate our spirit and get us back on track. A pat on the back or a “well done” can inspire us to return to the front line of service.
Unity is a gift of the Spirit, not something we can achieve. We should receive it with gratitude and do all in our power to work with others in love and unity. The more we mature as disciples of Jesus, the more aware we are of our need of each other. The more we graciously admit our need of others, the greater the unity that binds us to Christ and to one another.
Paul gave us a good example by submitting himself to the control of Christ. Instead of trying to control others in the church by having our way, we can renew our surrender to Christ as the Head of his church. This will free us to encourage others in the use of their gifts and to give thanks for the diversity of our gifts.
We can each find a quiet place to kneel and pray, thanking God that he has given us a gift that is needed by our church. We can pray with sincerity, “Thank you Father for needing me in your church. Give me the grace to make a difference by using my gift to strengthen your church. Purify my heart of jealousy toward others and help me celebrate the fact that we all need each other to accomplish your will. Continue working on, in, and through me until I am fully mature in Christ. In His Name, Amen.”
(Contact Walter at