by Wayne Barber
Christ said "I will build My church" (Matt. 16:18). Christ told His disciples-those who would carry the torch after He had gone back to the Father, those who would receive His Spirit on the day of Pentecost-that Peter's confession, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God," would be the truth that His church would be built upon.
The term Christ is the word Christós, which means the anointed one. The term refers to the fact that He is the Son of the Living God. The definite article is used before the words "Christ," "son," "living," and "God." This is very significant. The Christ. The one and only Son of the one and only living God the Father. When God is used in the same context as Christ it refers to the Father.
Peter's confession says that Jesus is not merely a man, but He is the God-man. It denotes His pre-existence before the foundation of the world. It is the term used to reference the resurrected Lord Jesus. It is the term in which we recognize His "finished work" as our Redeemer. It is equated with His Lordship. It refers to His absolute ownership and control of everything.
Who He is must always be the central focus of all truth. Truth that leads a person away from this focus is not truth. And Christ said, It will be Me, not you that will build My church, not your church. We are just vessels…conduits, if you please, through whom God chooses to do His and only His work.
In 1 Corinthians 12, verses 4-7 we have a powerful affirmation of this truth: "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." Gifts, ministries, and effects are all in God's hands. Why? Because it is His work.
Let's review a bit: The doctrine of the Corinthian church had gotten off center. For this reason they became ignorant of spiritual matters. Paul said, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware" (v. 1). The word "gifts" is in italics, meaning it was inserted by the translators. The word "spiritual" is pneumatikós in the Greek. It refers to "spiritual matters" or "spiritual things." An imbalance had occurred. Anytime you focus on anything other than Christ, not only do you stunt your growth, but you also become imbalanced when it comes to spiritual matters. Paul is trying to straighten them out. It puzzles me when we would rather focus on gifts when we could focus on the Giver of those gifts.
In verses 4-7, he reminds them of this all-important truth. Notice the comparison he makes in verses 4-6. He uses the word "varieties" and the word "same" in connection with the gift, the ministry and the effect. "Varieties" is the word most of us have thought was referring to the differences of the gifts, ministries and effects. While all these are definitely different, that is not what the word is referring to. It is only used in this chapter. Look down at verse 11 and see what it is referencing: "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills." The word "distributing" does not refer to the gifts, ministries, and effects being different, but to the different way in which they are distributed. The gifts given by the Spirit, the ministries given by the Lord Jesus, and the effects given by the Father are all distributed differently.
That's why it is so important to focus on the Giver. He is good, just, and righteous, so if He chooses to give one a particular gift, then so be it. If He wants to give a particular ministry to another, then so be it. If He wants to give certain effects, then so be it. He is God. He is in control. This is all about Him. It is not about us.
But how we have made it about us! What we can do for God. What we can do. Signs on billboards that simply say to others "We do church better than you do." We have our programs, our methods, our educated input. It has become more about us than it is about God. No wonder Paul said in Romans 12:3: "For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think." We take what God has done in one church, and we package it and sell it as a formula for what He can do in other churches. How simple we make it seem. Church growth seminars, methods, books, tapes abound. Man in his own wisdom forms a committee that works to come up with what they believe that God would be proud of and completely miss what God is up to.
God gives the gifts, the ministries, and the effects the way He chooses to give them and man has no input in the matter. We only get the privilege of being a part of what God is up to. What is it in us that makes us feel that we can do it? It is that old tendency of the flesh that Paul had to deal with in Romans 2:1 to 3:20: religious flesh. "We can do it, we can do it, we can do it."