(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
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…
function and ability
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
III. “…Is it therefore not of the body?” (12:14-16). Notice another fact about this
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
function and ability
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
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
cannot serve Christ
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,
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 …
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
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
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.