Happy Independence month everyone!
I had planned a different post for July using another Scripture reference I felt addressed some important issues going on in our world today. However, through a medical condition I had, the Lord allowed me to understand a picture the Apostle Paul was painting for the church of Christ in his time, and for us today. The Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul is answering some questions the Corinthian church had, as well as giving them some general biblical principles on godly living. In this chapter, Paul is primarily discussing how members of Christ’s body have spiritual gifts and ministry callings that are used in the church. This is how this passage is taught or preached, and it is a proper interpretation. His theme is evident in verse 1 where he states, “Now concerning spiritual gifts…,” and in the concluding verses 28-31, where he identifies spiritual callings members have (i.e. apostles, teachers, etc.).
When we get to 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Paul shifts his thought and begins to paint a picture for us by making an analogy of members of the human physical body to members of Christ’s body (the church). It reads,
“12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 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,[b] yet one body .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.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. 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. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
I really enjoy Paul’s writings because he almost always highlights for Christians how in Christ either something has already been done for us, or he emphasizes a present state we are right now in, as in this analogy of Christ’s body. It is a mindset we are to adopt, a way we are to see ourselves. In verse 27, Paul argues, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” This was the Corinthian church’s status, and it is also the church’s status today. We belong, are included in, and are participants together with other believers in the universal body of Jesus Christ. As a unified whole, we are Christ’s body, following and representing Jesus Christ, the Head. Individually, I am a unique member of this diversified group. Paul wants us to have this picture in view so that we will respect the whole as being Christ’s and thus see each individual member as a selected, essential, equal part in this membership. (See Rom. 12:5; Eph. 1:5, 3:6, 4:25, 5:30; I Cor. 6:15; Col. 1:18, 1:24, 2:19, 3:15)
On June 29th, I underwent a parathyroidectomy, a minor surgery where doctors removed an abnormal parathyroid gland from my neck due to hyperparathyroidism. This abnormal parathyroid caused me problems with: an elevated calcium level in my blood, kidney stones that developed over time in both kidneys, calcifications around my aorta, and osteoporosis. Oh boy! These ailments were indicative of an abnormal parathyroid which needed to be removed. Thankfully, we have 4 parathyroid glands, so removal of one would not be life-threatening; however, this tiny part (or member) of my physical anatomy was so important, that its going awry had contributed to my normal body function going off. This gland is so significant that, after surgery, I now need calcium supplements and should eat and drink foods rich in calcium to bring my calcium and PTH back to a proper balance. Isn’t this amazing?
Some Facts About the Body of Christ
Here’s the main point Paul is making for us in comparing Christ’s body to the human body. Just as our physical bodies have various significant parts that help it function properly, so too individual members in Jesus Christ’s body help it function as Christ intended the church to function.
- Christ’s body is also known as: the church, members, family of God, God’s people, assembly, citizens, saints, believers, congregation, disciples.
- Christ’s body is formed, held and led by One—the Holy Spirit of God (vs.13). No other spirit controls or leads Christ’s body. Members of Christ’s body share an affinity with one another—the life and message of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. They are believers in Jesus Christ who have chosen to follow Christ and live by His Holy Spirit, who binds us all together. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, culminated into one all those who have placed their faith in Christ. It is by His Spirit we have been placed as members in Christ’s body for a specific purpose. Membership is not based upon: age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, culture, race, status, socio-economic class, education, good deeds, going to church, and/or spiritual giftedness, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (vs. 13).
- Christ’s body is large and ever-growing (vs.14, 20). There are a lot of members in Christ’s body from all around the world. It’s been growing for centuries, ever since the twelve Apostles began preaching the Gospel throughout the world. The 3,000 souls who were saved from Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2 may have duplicated his actions and added 3,000 more souls as they preached. (You see my point?) The body of Christ is not specific to your one church congregation (vs. 14); your church congregation is inclusive and a part of the body, but it is not the only body of Christ. We must broaden our view of Christ’s body.
- Christ’s body is unified yet diversified (vs.15-26). Not everyone is a “hand,” an “eye,” a “heart,” or as strong as another. You are uniquely significant to and needed in Christ’s body! If something happens to one, it affects the whole–whether good or bad. Just as the small parathyroid gland in my neck proved to be essential to my normal bodily function, so it is in Christ’s body. Members share an affinity in this group—serving the Lord Jesus Christ and sharing His good news message of the Gospel. We must then be respectful of, care and look out for one another. We can only do this as we visualize, as Paul suggests, how our physical bodies function. We are connected and what we do affects each other. Paul stresses each member’s difference, yet importance. Everyone is needed in Christ’s body. (Were examples of how the early church functioned recorded for us for a reason? See Acts 1:12-2:6, 2:42-47, 4:32-35, 5:12; 9:31, 12:5. See Acts 1:12-26, 6:1-7, 9:19-31, 11:1-18, 12:11-17, 13:1-3, Acts 15 and Eph. 4:13; Phil. 2:2.
- Christ’s body is affirming and accepting (vs.15-18). If you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior but are finding some seeming to be more noble, wise, or spiritual attempting to convince you: (a) that you are NOT a part of Christ’s body because you do not do or act as they; (b) that you are NOT essential to Christ’s body because you are weak; or (c) that you MUST DO something more to be in Christ’s body, I am confident in saying, more likely than not, this is not coming from the Spirit of God. Jesus simply said, “Come…” (See Matt. 11:28-30; 2 Pet. 3:9.)
Membership in Christ’s body is always open for new members. Rev. 3:20 (ESV) says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” Jesus Christ is knocking at your heart today, inviting you to become a member of His family, to know Him, to know God, and to enjoy life found in Christ. He is the truth for this life and the one to come, and He is the only way to God. He said it in John 14:6 (ESV), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus could say this because as He walked the earth He is the only One who fulfilled God’s righteous standard and gave up His life so others could be saved. What a man! What a God! What a friend! Please, open your heart and come to Jesus today! You are welcomed regardless of what…