As is sometimes the case, i have been silent over the last little while here. God called me into a period of silence. I can’t tell you how awkward it is for someone who has to speak for a living to be called into a period of silence. Don’t get me wrong. I still did my job. I still did the bible studies and even preached twice during this time. The silence i was called into was a silence i hadn’t experienced before. Be quiet and say nothing during prayer meetings. Be silent on the blog. Be silent. Listen. Do you hear My voice? Yes, Lord. I hear.
The problem with truth is that sometimes it hurts. God spoke much to me over the last while. Things about my life, my marriage, my relationships, my responsibilities. Some of those truths hurt. Some brought incredible insight or healing. And in the midst of those truths being revealed i continued to read, study, and be informed. One of the books i have been plodding through is A. W. Tozer’s (1897-1963) The Councelor: Straight Talk About the Holy Spirit. I thought i would leave the rest of this post to Tozer, except to say that sometimes the truth hurts. How you react is up to you…
All One Body
What Paul is emphasizing is the fact that the Church, the Body of Christ, is not torn nor divided, but each local church group has all the functions of the whole body. Just as each individual state is a vital, throbbing part of the whole union of the states, so each local church is a living, organic part of the whole Church of Christ. I believe that we are members of the whole Body of Christ in heaven and all over the world, but we are all descendants of the great God, who by the Holy Spirit and the Word caused us to be born into His family.
Therefore, the Church of Christ is not divided. When we sing that old song, “We are not divided, all one body we,” people smile and say, “How about your 600 denominations?”
Well, they don’t frustrate me with that question. That song, that truth – “We are not divided, all one body we” – is just as true as the fact that I am not divided. The Body of Christ is all one body. We can sing it, and let those people make fun of us if they will – keep on singing it, for it is true!
We are not divided. It is a whole Church. Everyone who has ever been born into the family of God is born into a living, organic union and there we are. There is nothing the devil can do about it.
Each local group, I say, has all the functions of the whole group, just as the body of each man has all of the human faculties and organs and members. The members are designed so that each has a function. The eyes are designed to see, the ears to hear, the hands to do work, the feet for movement, the stomach to digest food, and so on.
So, we are designed to cooperate, and that’s in concert. I remember once reading a great article in Harper’s magazine. It explained what brought on old age. It said it was not the loss of strength in any organ of the body, but that the organs of the body ceased to cooperate and went off on their own, and that was what brought on old age. It was the failure of the organs of the body to cooperate that made people die of old age. They got independent and went off and started their own tabernacle, if we can use it in that sense of illustration!
So it is with the Church. When we work together and have a sense of unity and fellowship, when we all work together, cooperate with each other and act in concert, when all are for each and each for all, and all take directions from the Head, then one has a perfect Church. Each local church can sum it up, and we can all sum it up ourselves.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Anything that God can do through all of His Church, He can do through a local church, a local group. These various functions are the abilities to work and they are called gifts. He said, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us” (Romans 12:6a), “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren” (1 Cor. 12:1a), “But covet earnestly the best gifts” (12:31a), “When he ascended up on high, he… gave gifts unto men” (Ephesians 4:8).
So, when the gifts are lodged in the Body of Christ, in the local church, they are the ability to do. By way of illustration, your stomach is a gift from God. The purpose of it is not to hold up your trousers, just something to put a belt around. The stomach has a purpose and a function. What is your liver for? What are your eyes for? They have specific purposes and functions, something to do and accomplish. If they do their function and all the others cooperate, you will be a healthy, useful person.
We have these gifts in the Church in the same manner. Paul said in his careful instructions in the God-inspired writings that these gifts are placed to get things done. They exist in the Church for a purpose.
Now, Paul also used sports to illustrate, so if I use sports to illustrate, don’t say I’m not spiritual. I have no ambition to be more spiritual than the apostle Paul! You know that a baseball team in action has nine men. There’s a fellow to catch the ball, there’s a fellow to pitch the ball, there’s a fellow in center field, and there’s a fellow on first base and second base, etc. Each man in his own position has a function, and each knows what he is to do. As long as he does his job skillfully, the team as a unit is hard to beat. Whenever a team gets a star who does not care whether the team wins or not, provided he can shine, the success of the team as a winning unit is sacrificed.
Paul says that these gifts are in the Body. Some say that there are only nine, because the opening verses of First Corinthians list nine. But do you know that I have counted at least eighteen in the Scriptures? There may be some that overlap, and the list could be reduced to fifteen. Let me follow the Scriptures closely now and staying by the Word of God, let me simply name the gift functions of the divine Body which are named by Paul.
First, there is the gift of an apostle, or an ambassador or messenger. There is the gift that makes a prophet. There is the gift that makes a teacher. Then, there is the gift that makes an exhorter. There is the gift that makes the ruler. That would be someone like the old Presbyterians called a ruling elder. Then there are the gifts of wisdom, of knowledge, of faith, of healing. There is a gift of miracles, a gift of tongues, a gift of interpretation, a gift of discernment, a gift of helps, a gift of mercy showing, a gift of government, a gift of liberality and the gift of the evangelist.
There you have it. These are the gifts which are in the Body, the functions which enable the Holy Spirit to work. As long as you have the bodily members, the life within you can find its mode of expression.
As long as your hands are obedient to the head, they will be all right. Just as long as your feet take orders from the head, you will not get hit as you cross the street. Just as long as the members of your body do their work, and take orders from the head, you will be all right. Just as long as the Church of Christ recognizes the Lord as being the Head of the Church, and Christians as members in particular and these members gifted with the “abilities to do,” we will have a revived and blessed Church!
When the Gifts are Missing
Remember that the work of the Church is done by the Spirit, working through these gifts and through these gifted members. Where these gifts are not present, or not recognized, or denied, the Church is thrown back upon other ways of getting a work done.
There are several mistaken emphasis in our circles, and the first is just plain humanism. If you had no hands, you would have to do the best you could without hands. If you had no eyes, you would be doing the best you could without eyes, If you had no feet, you would have to crawl around as well as you could without feet. So, if we deny or refuse to recognize that there are members, and that there are gifts in these members, then we are thrown back upon mere humanism. We have this in great measure today. We are thrown back upon talent – just talent. Let me solemnly tell you that the Holy Spirit never works with mere talent. Don’t be mistaken by the parable where Jesus uses the word talent, which was a sum of money (see Matt. 25:14-30). It had no reference to the ability to sing or imitate or project – whatever it is that theatrical people do with their talent.
Our second mistake is that we are thrown back upon psychology as a substitute. I am quite amused and somewhat disgusted with some of my ministerial brethren who are so busy studying psychology in order to know how to handle their congregations. When you have a Bible and a mind, a mouth and the Holy Spirit, why do you have to study psychology? I recall my own experience as a young fellow when I thought it necessary to become a great student of psychology. I studied Watson and James, and particularly Freud, who was the father of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. I learned all the terms and all the pitch. I’m not dumb about psychology, but there is no use bringing psychology to the pulpit when you have the Holy Spirit. If you have the gift of the Spirit, you do not need to study Freud. If you do study him, that is all right, but don’t bring him to the pulpit with you!
Another mistake we make is dependence on business methods. I get amused and hurt a little about these brethren and their business methods, trying to carry on the work of God after the fashion of the American businessman. When we carry on the way they do on Madison Avenue or Wall Street, the body is all artificial limbs. It won’t work!
Then there is the political technique, with persuasion by sales methods. I think we are going to have to restudy this whole teaching of the place of the Holy Spirit in the Church, so the Body can operate again. If life goes out of a man’s body, he is said to be a corpse. He is what they call “the remains.” It is sad, but humorously sad, that a strong, fine man with shining eyes and vibrant voice, a living man, dies, and we say, “the remains” can be seen at the funeral home. All the remains of the man, and the least part about him, is what you can see there in the funeral home. The living man is gone. You have only the body. The body is “the remains.”
No Life Without the Spirit.
So it is in the Church of Christ. It is literally true that some churches are dead. The Holy Spirit has gone out of them and all you have left are “the remains.” You have the potential of the church but you do not have the church, just as you have in a dead man the potential of a living man but you do not have a living man. He can’t talk, he can’t taste, he can’t touch, he can’t feel, he can’t smell, he can’t see, he can’t hear – because he is dead! The soul has gone out of the man, and when the Holy Spirit is not present in the Church, you have to get along after the methods of business or politics or psychology or human effort.
You cannot overstate the necessity for the Holy Spirit in the Church, if you say it according to the Scriptures, for without the Spirit there can be nothing done for eternity. Someone will say, “If that’s true, why don’t we just cast our lot in with the tongues movement, because they believe you can be sure you are filled with the Spirit, but you must have the evidence of tongues”?
Well, in answer, I have known and studied these dear brethren, and I have preached to them for a long, long time. I have studied them, and I know them very well, and I am very sympathetic with them. There are some churches that are very sane and very beautiful and godly. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it is true that, as Christians, we have to smile and thank God for the truth, whether it hurts or not. The movement itself has magnified one single gift above all the others, and that one gift is the one Paul says was the least. An unscriptural exhibition of that gift results, and there is a tendency to place personal feeling above the Scriptures, and we must never, never do that!
God has given us the Book, brother, and the Book comes first. If it can’t be shown in the Book, then I don’t want anyone coming to me all aquiver and trying to tell me anything. The Book – you must give me the Word!