One: 1Corinthians 12.12-30
June 30, 2013 Series: One | First Letter to the Corinthians
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:12–12:30
1Corinthians 12.12-30: Gifted Body Part 2
INTRO: v. 12-13 One Body (God Made)
Our God is big. Consider that, before the foundation of the world, God knew you. Before you were created and could choose Him, God chose you. And before you were “good”, God saved you and called you into relationship with Himself. And before you could love Him, God filled you with His Spirit and sealed your adoption as His child by that same Spirit. Then consider that, out of all the thousands of eras that have passed, God chose to bring you into the world at the time He did; out of all the billions of families there have been, he placed you into the family that you have; out of all of the millions of places there are, he located you in this city. Paul writes in Acts 17.24-27: 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.
Then consider that of the thousands of churches God has in this county, and the hundreds in the nearby cities, God led you here to Damascus Road Church. By His Spirit, God has redeemed us, equipped us, and gathered us all together into this one family of families. Sinners who were once idolatrous aliens are now worshipping citizens of the King in Christ, and people who were strangers, separated by race and social statuses, are now brothers and sisters in His church. God did all of this on purpose. These verse say God apportioned. God made. God arranged. God composed. God appointed. Therefore, every individual that God has brought into this church is an essential part that in needed to complete the whole—whether they know it or someone else recognizes it. Paul says in verse 27, we are the body of Christ. This is not an imperative command of ought to be, this is an indicative statement of what is. .
A body is by definition a unified collection of different members/parts. Paul uses the image of a body, with its limbs and organs, so that we might understand how the church functions so as to display Christ. The literal body of Christ is no longer on earth. Until he returns, the church is His body. In other words, Christ is continuing to bless, preach, pray, serve, help, and heal through the church by His Spirit. Unfortunately, instead of building unity, the exercise of God’s spiritual gifts in Corinth has torn the people apart. Some members of the church feel inferior as if they are not needed, and others feel superior as if no one else (but them) is needed. In their own ways, both deny God’s sovereignty (over them and others) in building a church to display the manifold wisdom of God and make Himself known to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3.10)
V. 14-20 To Members who feel Inferior (God chose).
Paul first addresses those who feel inferior and believe they don’t have a place, a role, or significance in the body. A body has designed the body to have different limbs, organs, and parts. Paul imagines limbs and organs talking to themselves about their roles. The foot and the ear sound discouraged like members of a church who feel out of place in the family. More than likely, a majority of members in Corinth have been made to feel second class or less-than because they have been told, or assume, they don’t have the “right, best, or important gifts”. We know that this church emphasized gifts that were most visible – like tongues. When a church fails to celebrates the variety of God’s gifts, members of the church will invariably play the compare game with others. This often leads to people ignoring their own calling and coveting the calling of others. Eventually, they accept their differences as less than which leads to thoughts like: I do not belong, I don’t have a place in the body, and what I have the body doesn’t need. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
Paul argues that every limb, lash, and organ is vitally important to the body—no one part should ever THINK OF ITSELF as less than another. In order to work and grow, the body needs to have parts that are different. The body cannot exist or function if all or even most of the parts are the same—a pile of ears, eyes, or tongues is not a body. Without the body, a single member is a useless pile of flesh. If the whole body were one part, it would be incomplete, inefficient, and awkward. In other words, these differences are by design. More than that, in verse 18, Paul says it is GOD WHO ARRANGED where you are and God who CHOSE who you are. To reject either is not only ungrateful; it is to reject something about God Himself. In essence, you deny that God is good, wise, loving, or powerful enough to gift you and put you in a church where you were needed. If you are a Christian, then you are gifted. If you are here, you are gifted for this body. YOU ARE NEEDED. Your encouragement is needed. Your service is needed. Your teaching is needed. Your ability to build or organized is needed. Your giving is needed. Your mercy is needed. Your faith is needed. You have received a ministry, we need you and your absence will be felt.
V. 21-26 To Members who feel Superior (GOD COMPOSED)
In verse 21, Paul addresses the “spiritual” people who have made others feel inferior. These are the members who feel superior and believe they have no need anyone else in the bod—at least not anyone who is not spiritual like them, or just not likeable. Those who possess the most “spectacular” gifts have declared that they don’t need the other members with less impressive gifts. Again, we have body parts talking. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” This time, one body part says to another, “I have no need of you.” Paul argues that we do need each other—you cannot fully live who God has called you to be alone. Some might say, I can be a Christian and not go to church or be a part of the church. Yes, you can. But why would you? As one commentator noted, that would be like saying you can survive on bread and water—but what kind of life can you have? Not only are you needed, you need others. An important body part like the “Eye” or the nose cannot tell the finger that I don’t need you. One little fly in the eye or booger in the nose will reveal just how important that finger is. Without question, there are body parts that are more visible and more active than others. But when someone wins a race or crosses the Grand Canyon on a tight rope, we don’t say, “Well done feet.” We praise the entire person. In the same way, we need each other.
Weaker, Dishonorable, but Indispensable parts
Paul wants the strong to value who, on the surface, we might consider insignificant. Specifically, he challenges attitudes toward those deemed weak, immature, or even dishonorable. In Corinth, these terms used to address what is a great disparity in the church of Corinth between rich, poor, educated and uneducated. According to 1Corinthians 1.26-29, the church in Corinth was largely an assembly of societal nobodies. Those who are “superior” in the church, materially and spiritually, have deemed other members useless in contributing to the work of the church. In truth, the parts of the body that we might consider “weaker” are often essential. One insensitive nerve can result in injury; one hyper-sensitive nerve can result in weakness; one exposed nerve can result in pain. Consider how our eyelashes protects our eyes, how our sweat glands ensure we don’t overheat, how our pinky finger secures our grip. These are unspectacular parts of the body that are indispensable to our lives. Relative to a car, how important is the one plug at the bottom of your oil pan? Engine, you might be big and loud, but you aren’t anything without that plug.
Instead of elevate, the Corinthians would rather hide some of their weaker members. Paul compares them with “unpresentable” parts—those parts of our body we are too embarrassed to reveal or expose. PRIVATE PARTS. These parts that appear less honorable, endowed, or strong are the ones we protect and value most. And while we hides these for the purposes of modesty, we all recognize that these are some of the most special parts, these parts that are ESSENTIAL to our lives, they are indispensable to life being sustained. Now in the church, it is unlikely someone wants to be identified as the genitals, bottom, saliva, or breasts. But the point is made—God SO COMPOSES the body that those parts that we do not see or hear most easily are in often MORE important than those we do. Those who flaunt the “spectacular” gifts may turn out to be less essential than those who are faithful, hard praying, hard-working, members whose contributions are not readily seen or overlooked.
No division, but dependence.
The ministry of the church is more than a person or a program—it is the result of a people with a variety of gifts, talents, personalities, and experiences. This variety of gifts is itself a GIFT to the church, not to create an environment of competitive comparison, but complementary cooperation. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. God does not desire his children to engage in sibling rivalry, but to rejoice with one another’s uniqueness. Refusing to value each other’s gifting will only serve steal your joy or reveal your pride. Anytime someone in your family succeeds, you’ll compare yourself to what they are doing and become depressed. Anytime someone in your family fails, you will feel a sense of superiority. Caring for and valuing other parts of the body, especially those that are different than us, is essential to our own health and joy. Without it, we will become a church in a perpetual state of puberty, irritable, uncertain of our identity, awkward, and ugly. We are not to be divided, but so dependent that I rejoice with your success because it is mine, and I cry with your pain because I feel it as the same body. I don’t weep or because it is my duty, but because we are so close that our lives impact one another whether I want it to or not. God wants us to share life.
V. 27-30 A Body among Bodies (GOD APPORTIONED)
I am needed and I have needs. We are each a unique member among many members of one body—we don’t have all we need in ourselves, so the body will only as strong as its weakest part. Our gifs are assigned to each of us for the common good, to build us all up together, and to display a complete picture of Christ. Members with the gifts of encouragement, evangelism, or service not only contribute to that picture by their own service, they help teach others to do the same.
We know that bodies can survive, even thrive, without some of its parts functioning. In some ways it is weaker, other ways stronger, but certain different. But even with all parts functioning, not all bodies are the same. By grace, God has given the parts (and shape of those parts) we are supposed to have and withheld the one’s we’re not supposed to. Even when all parts are working properly, we are a unique body among bodies, church among churches. Beginning in verse 28, Paul rhetorically asks if everyone has all the gifts. The obvious answer is no. The Spirit of God apportions the gifts to whom he wants, and God appoints whom he wants the church. Just as we want to fight playing the compare game as individuals, we must fight the same thing as a church. I recently purchased a used car and spent weeks determining what kind of car I would buy. There are many different kinds of cars, but there are there are certain characteristics of an automobile that makes it an automobile. They include an engine, steering, tires, windows, door, etc. But there are all kinds of cars. There are wagons, sedans, SUVS, trucks, compacts. Every car has its own style and primary function—be it work, transporting, racing, cruising, etc.
The same goes for bodies. Every human body has certain parts that identify it as a body. Bodies have arms, legs, fingers toes, hair, etc. But even bodies that are healthy look different. I have four ½ kids and each one looks different. Some are bigger, some smaller, taller, shorter, stronger, weaker, sleaker, rougher, different skin tones, different voices, and that doesn’t begin to speak to the different personalities or preferences they have. All things being equal like diet and environment, bodies will look different by design.
The same goes for the church. God is the one who apportions, arranges, composes, and appoints spiritual gifts to the church that He gathers in a particular place. And though there are certain things that every church must do, there is much a church can do, but no one will be everything—though churches try. Every church has its own culture, and its own personality, and its own strengths characterized by serving homeless, evangelism, kid’s, foreign missions, planting, etc. There are churches in the slums, churches in the cities, churches in the suburbs, in the words, gathering in public and in private, in homes and in public. One church by itself is not the CHURCH itself. Therefore, we can and should rejoice with those leaders and churches who, preach God’s Word, but are different—knowing that in the end, just as we as individuals are appointed to this church and give ONE PICTURE, all the churches together COMPLETE the picture of Christ’s bride. The question remains, what kind of church are we? I believe that, in addition to how the Bible defines the church, who we are is determined by who God brings. It changes as we grow. In other words, we actively grow up and the work we do is shaped by….YOU and ME..
Conclusion: Connected to the Head
Our bodies is different, with different parts, and that is ok. The one thing that signals our end of life as a bod-- decapitation. We are not a living body without a head. A body can survive without a lot of parts, but it cannot survive without a head. Colossians 1.18 declares Jesus to be the head of the church, His body. Our unity as a church is not created by a commitment to certain programs, traditions, or practices. Our unity is created through trusting Jesus Christ as Lord. And this is a result of grace. God doesn’t save us because we are gifted, he gifts us because we are saved. The gospel of Jesus Christ should humble us, and guards us from feeling superior—we are sinful and didn’t deserve anything. The gospel also protects us from feeling inferior—we are loved and have been given everything. Romans 12.3-8 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
By grace, we are the church. Jesus is the one who has saved you to a new hope, blessed you with a glorious in heritance, and brought you by his power to be with us. Be who you are in Christ, so we can be who are for Christ.