5.8 1 Corinthians -- One Body
Paul returns to the theme of unity in his treatment of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12-14). This is a topic that, far from promoting unity, has wrought great disagreement among Christians of different denominations. But this was not Paul's intention:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Cor 12:7).
By now we should see Paul's preeminent concern for unity among believers -- the traditions of men, the freedom of the Gospel, and the gifts of God all are subject to this over-riding purpose. So too, racial divisions are overcome in the New Birth experience and the Christian community:
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Cor 12:12-13).
This is important. The true antidote to racial hostility is not sensitivity training, negotiating or role-playing, but being "baptized by one Spirit into one body." In reality, there is no resolution of racial rivalry at the carnal level. By Paul's standard, the United Nations is a failure. It can never succeed in achieving world peace, and in fact may exacerbate the tensions among nations by aligning them into larger and more destructive blocs. Racial antagonisms have to be addressed on a spiritual level, as members of each group admit that "none is righteous, no not one" (Rom 3:10), repent of pride and self-seeking, disavow racial partisanship, accept the cleansing of the blood of Jesus and the impartation of the Spirit, and forge a new and more perfect union as "fellow citizens of the household of God" (Eph 2:19).
That this was Paul's purpose is made clear by his reference to the main divisions among his congregation -- racial and political/economic. Elsewhere, he includes the division between male and female in his list of antagonisms that are overcome in the Spirit (Gal 3:28). Yes, this unity was an ideal, but it was also meant to become real in the local church. This was, in fact, the agenda of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts were given to build up and foster unity. These gifts were given without reference to personal history, prominence or education:
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines (1 Cor 12:11).
It is ironic, but not surprising, that these very tools of empowerment and unification of the church have been a means of further division and dispute. But men are clumsy when handling spiritual truths, and often bring to the subject a lot of personal baggage. It is unfortunately not uncommon for people to misuse genuine spiritual endowments to achieve control, advancement, and dominance.