By J.B. Stoney
"There are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit.
"And there are differences of administrations but the same Lord", 1 Corinthians 12: 4-5.
Now there are diversities of gifts all over christendom; gifts are to be found in every system where Christians are.
Where then is the failure? It is in the administration.
It is not enough to have gift; two other truths must be taken in connection with it.
"The same Spirit", gives the gifts but it is "the same Lord" who administers them. The "Lord" is for the individual.
For instance, I might have been preaching in some other place this evening; I might know whether the Lord would have me here, and I must know whether the Lord would have me preach at all.
But in Christendom everything is upside down.
I see a young man beginning to do some little service for the Lord; his delight is in visiting a poor sick old woman, reading to her, and leading her soul on in the things of God.
Presently I hear that he has been sent out to China as a missionary.
His gift is all right but the administration is wrong.
Then I hear of another young man whose delight has been talking to navvies in a lane, seeking to bring sinners to Christ; and presently I hear that he has been sent as minister over a congregation in London.
Just as if in a house where there are many different candles, I were to take a dip into the drawing room, and a wax candle into the stable.
It is all wrong administration.
You may have a gift, but the question is, are you using it in the right place?
Thus individually with the saints Christ is Lord when I speak of Him corporately, in connection with the church. He is Head.
Everything, even in my private life, should be determined by my relation to the church.
If you are wrong in your relation to the assembly, you will be wrong in your own house. And if wrong at home you must be wrong in the assembly.
The assembly is the first circle of interest. In every epistle it is so.
Ephesians begins with keeping the unity of the Spirit, and ends with the servants in the home.
Romans in like manner. We begin with "one body in Christ", and end with living "peaceably with all men".
These, gifts are "given to every man to profit withal", 1 Corinthians 12: 7, not for his own profit but for another person's.
You have not only drunk into this Spirit for yourself, but for others; for the one body. See then, how you stand in relation to it.
When you come into the assembly your gift is a member of it, because you drop into the corporate thing; you leave your individuality and become a member; it may be a mouth or an eye.
If a man be a teacher he is a gifted member. He may, at any time, ask his fellow members to come together to hear what he has to say, but this is not in the assembly.
The moment he comes into the assembly he is simply a member of the body, though a very useful one.
Suppose a man says, 'I have been reading and enjoying during the week a portion in 2 Chronicles; I will read it now'.
He is acting as an individual if at the time he is not consulting for the good of the assembly.
Suppose he comes with a hymn marked in his hymn book ready to give but, he comes into the assembly as an individual, and not as a member.
He says perhaps, 'I have it on my heart', but that is no reason for giving out a hymn. I hope sisters have hymns on their hearts as much as brothers.
It was this thought that gave rise to Quakerism.
Suppose he says, 'I thought there was a pause'. A pause! Is that the way to minister in the assembly of God?
It is little understood how responsible a thing it is to give out a hymn.
To avail yourself of a silence without faith is the most terrible thing, for it is intruding in the most holy place.
A stranger in the power of the Spirit will walk into an assembly and bring out the very truth that is needed in the place.
He will not need to be told of the state of things there; indeed he will prefer not to hear it, for he will be guided.
In all my service for Him I may walk in the confidence that the Lord would have me do it.
You ask me why I give out such a hymn. I answer. Because the Lord would have me.
And in all this I have a certain proof from Scripture whether it is so or not, and that proof is whether it edifies the body.
If you see a person very anxious to minister in the assembly you may be sure that person does not know the responsibility of it.
Those who really do know what a grave thing it is will more likely err on the side of timidity, though timidity may be as much nature as forwardness.
By keeping back I may give an opportunity to some person who is not in the Spirit to make an intrusion.
In one way there is nothing happier than being in a meeting where one is not called upon to take any part, for the sense of responsibility in a certain way checks one's happiness.
Of course, one is happy after it, but, I mean at the time.
But I would add that when taking no part it is not that one has no responsibility, but rather that the responsibility is in another direction for hearing is as much responsibility as seeing; it is simply the difference between being an ear and a mouth for the body.
So that sisters do not escape the responsibility.
Health in the body is when it is "fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth", Ephesians 4: 16.
To have health, both food and exercise are needed. lf you say you do not need gifts, then you do not need food; and, if so, there cannot be health.
But while, as we have seen, when a soul is wrong in the assembly he will be wrong at home, it is equally true that if his own house be in a disorganised state he must bring wrong elements into the church. If he can but get right with God in the assembly he will go back to his house and say, I can no longer allow things to be as they are; I have judged them in God's presence.
There never was a man who was unfaithful to God that he was faithful to anyone.
You may hear it said, 'What a nice man so-and-so is', but I tell you if he has been unfaithful to God you need not expect that he will be faithful to you.
If he does not love the greater, how can he love the lesser? The relations of a man with God in the assembly affect all his other relations.
There are then the two sides to the ministry in the assembly: there is the responsibility of caring for the Lord in His body, and there is the danger of intruding in His holy things.
In chapter 13, he goes on to say that while it is very good to have gifts, one who has them cannot in consequence take a prominent position, cannot take leadership; he must be the servant of the assembly, and nothing more.
My eye is the servant of my body; it does not assume to lead my body.
The more excellent way for this is charity. If we were divested of our own selfishness we should become useful to the assembly of God.
Two or three things may perhaps occur to me to say in the church I wait then on the Lord; I turn to Him to get His support, and then I do not trouble myself about how I shall get it out, how I shall express it.
It is not a question of long prayers or long sermons. People often, think that by making long prayers they shall make a great impression.
But, says the apostle, it is not the possession of gifts, but it is the getting rid of yourself that is charity.
You are then like a well-trained horse ready to go in any direction it is required; you have got rid of the selfishness, which prevents your being useful to others and in the grace of Christ you become a great benefactor.
The most charitable man in the world is the man who is self-divested.
Charity is generally supposed to consist in doing for another that which he wishes, but charity in God's thought is removing from another that which hinders his communion.
If I remove a little worldliness from you, that is charity; also if I remove anything from myself that hinders my being useful to you, and I cultivate all that will, that is charity.
I have not much to say on chapter 14, which is the working of the gifts in the assembly. One interesting thing we may notice in verses 23-25.
The Holy Spirit is actually dwelling in the house of God on earth; but it is not the simple fact of His dwelling there that affects people; it is His activity in the house.
A teacher is one who expounds the word.
A prophet is one who, brings out the character of the word so as to expose one to oneself.
It is the opening out of the word so lucidly and so effectively that the heart is searched by it.
It is not great eloquence; there my be nothing very striking or stirring in what is said, but people are nevertheless subdued into quietness and attention, listening, and the conscience is reached.
Let everything be done to edifying is the great point of chapter 14.