There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (verses 4-6)
I love the symmetry and poetry of these verses – simple, parallel statements that ring forth the richness of unity in diversity.
Here are some of the things that stand out to me:
(1) Different … different … different. Same … same … same. These twin themes of diversity and unity capture perfectly what Paul is trying to tell us throughout this chapter about the church. Later he will put it this way: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts” (verse 12). We so often think that unity requires conformity and that diversity leads to fracturing. The Lord sees it entirely differently – diversity (rich and wonderful) is his principle of unity.
(2) The diversity is expressed in gifts, service and workings, these three themselves being parallel expressions of God’s work in each member of the Body. Gifts reminds us that our spiritual abilities are God-given – they reflect the Lord, rather than us. Service reminds us that each expression is not to be self-serving, but rather focused on the common good of the Body. Working (the Greek word comes into English as “energy”) reminds us that there is work to do, energy to be expended, for the good of Christ’s Body. Each one is gifted, called to service, facilitating the working of God in the church.
(3) This is one of those places in the New Testament where the concept of the Trinity is effortlessly and unselfconsciously expressed. The Spirit, the Lord (Jesus), and God (the Father) are identified on the unity side of each of these phrases. Distinct Persons, yes, but one Being (same, same, same). This is the classic statement of the Trinity.
(4) The Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is intimately involved in each individual member. No one is left out. No one is underprivileged. Each is empowered by Almighty God himself. And the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit within us is focused on the upbuilding of the Body as a whole. That’s the big picture. Everyone, together, is to be blessed. The verse immediately following makes it clear. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (verse 7).
So look around you (in your mind’s eye). Set your sights on each person who is part of the local Body to which you have been called. Give thanks for each one, those you find it easy to embrace in unity, and those you don’t. The stretch is part of the goodness of diversity. It all requires love, of course (which we’ll come to afresh in the next chapter). But this complex mix is what Almighty God had in mind.
And if, by chance, you are not currently attached to a local expression of Christ’s Body, ask the Lord where he wants you to be. There is no question he has a place in mind.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit – thank you for the diversity that gives expression to unity. Thank you for the richness of your gifts, your call to service, and your all-powerful working among us. Bless your church. Empower me to be a blessing with it. To the glory of your name.
Reflect: What gift or service or working has the Lord entrusted into your hands in this particular season? How is he wanting to use it to bless the Church? Embrace it. Activate it again. Offer it, and yourself, afresh to the Lord for his purpose and glory.