Olsen Park Church of Christ

“Members Individually”

Introduction. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)  There are many figures that the Bible uses to describe God’s people (e.g. house, kingdom, temple, family, etc.) yet one of the most beautiful and thought provoking is the description of the church as the “body of Christ.”  This evening I’d like for us to look at a passage that explores this description and brings out a number of points that are important for us to understand if we are to see how we fit into this relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

I.  “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (12:12).  Consider something that this shows us…

The body of Christ is formed by

many individual Christian members.

      It is an interesting fact to consider as an individual Christian I am “part” of the body of Christ, but I am not the body of Christ.  It is not an accurate statement to say, “I am the church.”  The body of Christ is formed by the union of individual members. 

      These members have different: strengths/weaknesses; talents/abilities; backgrounds/experiences; interests/hobbies, etc.  Yet this diversity of parts forms a unity of body. 

II.  “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (12:13). Notice some things about this diversity that are taught in the next few verses…

Diversity of function and ability

is not diversity of doctrine.

      Some confuse the diversity of the various parts with a diversity of faith or purpose.  That is not what is taught here.  The Spirit has revealed the doctrine of Christ.  It is one doctrine.  If we are part of the body we accept this doctrine.  If we follow a different doctrine we are acting without the control of the head.  Example:  A few years ago my wife had a dream where she couldn’t make her arm move.  Spiritually if we don’t follow Christ’s teaching we are removing ourselves from the body.

III.  “…Is it therefore not of the body?”  (12:14-16).  Notice another fact about this diversity…

Diversity of function and ability

does not make a part unconnected to the body. 

      This is what many in the modern world don’t understand about the restrictions in gender roles in the church.  They want all parts to have the same function.

IV.  “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?” (12:17).  Finally, notice one last truth about this diversity…

Diversity of function and ability

is necessary for a healthy body.

      Now, we have already observed that the diversity of the parts doesn’t mean diversity of faith or practice.  However, this text shows us that if we don’t have a diversity of function we will not have a healthy body.  Example: I saw program some years ago about a two legged dog that could run, could jump and could function remarkably.  He didn’t realize what was missing.  We know dogs have four legs!  Many churches get by on “two legs” if you have the other two there is so much more that can be done!

V.  “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”  (12:18).  When we confront our own appraisal of the church we must always remind ourselves… 

God Himself set up the church.

      This is true of the organization of the church.  This is true of the membership of the church.  Not in a direct deterministic sense but when individuals respond to God’s word it is He who “sets” them in the body.  That means if there is someone that is sound in faith - but different from me in personality, interests, temperment, or financial status and I think within myself “what are they doing here?” or “they don’t really want to serve God!”  -  I am resisting something that God has set within the church!

VI.  “ …The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’…” (12:19-21).  “There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few we can solve by ourselves”  Lyndon Baines Johnson

Christians cannot serve Christ

acceptably cut off from one another.

      Certainly there are times when people, because of hardship or persecution have found themselves the only Christians in a community.  That doesn’t mean that they are cut off from God.  They serve Him.  They worship Him.  They try to teach others.

      It is a different thing when people have other Christians around them and choose not to involve themselves with them.  We cannot please God by doing this!

VII.  “No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (12:22).  In the human body, the vital organs do not have their own protection.  The heart is protected by the rib cage.  The brain is protected by the skull.  This is not saying we need to keep some people spiritually weak.  Instead it is saying that just as in the body the parts that are necessary may be unseen and not prominent.  So it is in Christ.  We need all of the gifts and abilities that each of us have to offer, whether they are open and prominent or behind the scenes and quiet.  

Necessary parts are not always

the most visible parts

      Everybody shouldn’t be the preacher, or an elder, or a deacon.  Everybody doesn’t have to be a songleader, a Bible class teacher.  We need people who will take food to the sick, visit them, people who will talk to their neighbors about the truth, set up studies for another member to teach.  We need members who can repair things at the building, or help someone fix something at their own home that they can’t.  We need people who will give tracts and flyers out.  The list can go on and on.  If it is a scriptural action there is no end to the need that exists for members to fulfill their function.

      At the same time, while this isn’t saying we should stay spiritually weak it is clear that all of us are at different levels spiritually.  We need each other for this as well.  When I struggle if I have a stronger brother or sister who cares about me I don’t have to fall.  Homer said - “Union gives strength even to weak men” (Illiad, 18.237).

VIII.  “ …God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it.”  (12:23-24).  I find it interesting in this description of part honoring part, member caring for member, it shows us that …

Christians should look out for each other.

      We should take the kind of interest in one another that involves a genuine concern with what poses spiritual dangers to one another.  There are things that might pose no temptation to me at all, yet to you they are the kind of thing that endangers your soul.  On the other hand there might be things that I simply can’t face without my faith being shaken, but they pose no threat to you.  Now, we can sit back and when we see one another struggle, say to ourselves “they need to be stronger!”  Is that really “giving honor to that part that lacks it?”

IX.  “…There should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” (12:25). 

God wants unity among His people.

      This is true of congregations and it is true in the religious world as well.  It should not be that people teach different things and practice different things.  It should not be that in churches, people who hope to spend eternity in the same place can’t spend two seconds with one another.  That is not how God wants it!

X.  “ And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (12:26).

We must develop the ability

to empathize with one another.

            We know what sympathy is, literally “suffering with” someone.  Empathy is defined as “Understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts and motives of one are readily apprehended by another” (American Heritage Dictionary).  We are obviously not able to read each others thoughts, but it isn’t enough just to care about losses.  We need to care about the ups and the downs—the good times and the bad.

Conclusion.  “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (12:27).  We belong to one another.  We need each other.  We are dependent upon one another.  It can’t be any other way if we are to be acceptable to God.

Kyle Pope 2010

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