Christ’s Body — 1 Corinthians 12:12-30

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Levi Durfey

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The human body is simply an amazing piece of God’s engineering design. It’s taken us thousands of years to figure out how God wired our bodies to function. 

 

Take breathing, for instance—the nose and mouth are the entrance for the air into our bodies. But then what? The air has to go to the lungs. The lungs take the oxygen from the air and pass it to the red blood cells. Where do the red blood cells come from? Our bone marrow—our bones help us to breath! 

 

These red blood cells travel all over the body giving oxygen to the other cells that need it. The red blood cells travel through a system of arteries, veins, and capillaries that, if you laid them end to end they would stretch around the Earth four times. 

 

Of course, to get the blood cells moving, we need the heart—that amazing little pump that beats faithfully 42,000,000 times a year. Without it, the oxygen we breath in through the nose would go nowhere.

 

It’s amazing how the parts of our bodies are designed by God to work together. If one part does not do it’s work, what happens? We get in serious trouble. The nose, lungs, bone marrow, blood cells, and heart are all necessary for us to breath.

 

By the way, this is one argument against evolution. Everything has to function correctly from day one in order for the body to survive. You can’t have the lungs evolve over time, because the body wouldn’t survive for them to evolve. This argument is call irreducible complexity.

 

At any rate, Paul compares the body of Christ—which consists of every Christian—to the human body to make a vital point. Like with the human body, every member of Christ’s body is important, needed, and should be cared for. Turn to 1 Corinthians 12—

 

The first thing this passage teaches us about Christ’s body is that…

 

CHRIST’S BODY HAS MANY MEMBERS

 

For as the body is one, 

and hath many members, 

and all the members of that one body, 

being many, 

are one body: 

so also is Christ.  (1 Corinthians 12:12)

 

Christ’s body, metaphorically speaking, is made up of many members—Christians like you and I. How do you become a member of Christ’s body?

 

1. You Need To Become A Christian

 

Obviously, becoming part of Christ’s body means becoming a Christian. But becoming a Christian isn’t like joining a club or deciding to follow the Christian worldview. It’s much more personal than that. Let me quote part of a verse from Isaiah, and as I do, ask yourself: does it describe you?

 

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; (Isaiah 53:6a)

 

We tend to think of sin as doing something bad. But the problem we have is that we judge what is bad based on what others think around us. A recent survey of young people showed that they thought that “not recycling” was more immoral than viewing pornography.[1]

 

But sin isn’t just doing something bad according to the current cultural trends, it is going astray from God’s ways, from God’s word, and from God himself. It’s his high standards that we need to compare ourselves to. So, I ask you, are you a sheep that has gone astray?

 

Our sins are a personal affront to an infinite and holy God and therefore require an infinite penalty—death (Romans 6:23).

 

One you realize this personally for yourself, there is good news, for the rest of Isaiah 53:6 says, “And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

 

Who is the person that the Lord has laid our iniquities on? It’s his own Son, Jesus Christ!

 

You see what I mean about Christianity being something very personal? It’s about restoring our relationship with our Creator—that’s personal. It’s about our sins—that’s personal. It’s about our Creator sending his own Son to die in our place. Are you a sheep who is going astray from God? Or have you trusted Jesus Christ and entered into a personal relationship with your Creator?

 

The moment you do, you become part of the body of Christ, because…

 

2. You Will Be Be Baptized Into Christ’s Body

 

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, 

whether we be Jews or Gentiles, 

whether we be bond or free; 

and have been all made 

to drink into one Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 12:13)

 

First, this is not talking about water baptism. It’s clearly a spiritual baptism here. A believer is baptized by water to symbolize this spiritual baptism.

 

Second, this is not a special baptism that happens to some believers and not to others. Twice we see in this verse the word, “all,” indicating that it is something that happens to all believers when they believe.

 

9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)

 

Third, there’s a lot of discussion about the phrase, “by one Spirit are we all baptized.” Does it mean that the Holy Spirit does the baptizing? Or does it mean that we are baptized in the Spirit?

 

Some argue that the word “by” could also be translated “in” or “with.” Their reason for preferring that is the six other references in the New Testament to the Spirit’s baptism indicate that Jesus baptizes us with or in the Spirit. Each of these six references refer to John the Baptist preaching that Christ would baptize people with the Holy Spirit. Here’s one verse:

 

8 I [John the Baptist] indeed have baptized you with water: but he [Jesus] shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. (Mark 1:8).

 

Who does the baptizing? Jesus. What are the people baptized in or with? 

 

The Holy Ghost. That’s the same in Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5 and 11:16. All six references say that Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, so shouldn’t we understand the seventh reference in 1 Corinthians 12 the same way? “In one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.”[2]

 

On the other hand, those who argue that it’s the Holy Spirit doing the baptizing say that it would sound odd to say, “in one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” It sounds forced to say that we were baptized into the Spirit and also into one body. Saying that we are baptized by the Holy Spirit fits better with the passage.

 

Which view is right? Does the Holy Spirit baptize us or are we baptized in the Holy Spirit? It’s a real head scratcher, and I’ll let you scratch your heads a bit on that one. 

 

For me, I decided to step back and ask myself, “What was the point that Paul was making most strongly in this verse?” It’s that we are, despite our differences (“Jew,” “Gentile,” “bond,” “free”), are “by one Spirit” are “baptized into one body” and “made to drink into one Spirit.” The emphasis is on “one.” 

 

As a Christian, whatever your skin color, gender, nationality, or social status, you become part of one body. The Spirit’s baptism (however it is accomplished) is your initiation into Christ’s body. It’s our spiritual baptism into Christ that gives us as Christians our unity. 

 

Some people use this as a reason why we shouldn’t care about doctrine. They say that our unity goes beyond that. I don’t think that’s the case. We are to admonish the brother or sister who is off course in their doctrine—

 

14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:14–15)

 

Why is doctrine still important? Our doctrine is the evidence of our baptism into Christ’s body. Therefore, if our doctrine is wrong, that brings into question whether our baptism into Christ’s body is genuine.

 

Paul goes on and uses the picture of the human body to show that…

 

CHRIST’S BODY HAS NO UNIMPORTANT MEMBERS

 

For the body is not one member, but many.  (1 Corinthians 12:14)

If the foot shall say, 

Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; 

is it therefore not of the body?  (1 Corinthians 12:15)

And if the ear shall say, 

Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; 

is it therefore not of the body?  (1 Corinthians 12:16)

If the whole body were an eye, 

where were the hearing? 

If the whole were hearing, 

where were the smelling?  (1 Corinthians 12:17)

 

A foot cannot claim to be less important because of his position (which you have to admit is generally a pretty stinky position). You can understand how a foot would be jealous of the hand which gets to do more important things. You hear people say, “You have such gifted hands,” but no one ever says, “You have such gifted feet.” But without those feet, where would the hands be?

 

Sometimes believers feel like they are feet in Christ’s body. They don’t appreciate their spiritual gift; they wish they had a different gift. Older folks that I have talked to often feel that they can’t do much anymore and feel sad about that. They might say, “All I can do is pray.”

 

If you feel that way, one thing to keep in mind is that you are not where you are by accident. Every member of Christ’s body is placed by God:

 

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, 

as it hath pleased him.  (1 Corinthians 12:18)

 

Look also at the end of this chapter,

 

Now ye are the body of Christ, 

and members in particular.  (1 Corinthians 12:27)

And God hath set some in the church, 

first apostles, 

secondarily prophets, 

thirdly teachers,

after that miracles, 

then gifts of healings, 

helps, 

governments, 

diversities of tongues.  (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Are all apostles? 

are all prophets? 

are all teachers? 

are all workers of miracles?  (1 Corinthians 12:29)

Have all the gifts of healing? 

do all speak with tongues? 

I’m do all interpret?  (1 Corinthians 12:30)

 

We already discussed these gifts, so we won’t review what they are (or, how, in the case of some, they were only temporary for the purpose of validating the writing of the New Testament). 

 

What we need to see here is the phrase, “God hath set” in verse 28 and verse 18. Your loving, heavenly Father set you in a place in the body of Christ where he knows that you can thrive. 

 

The shut-in who can only pray and speak encouraging words to people on the phone can thrive in that position if they choose to do so. That is because…

 

CHRIST’S BODY HAS NO UNNEEDED MEMBERS

 

Paul takes his illustration of the body and continues:

 

And if they were all one member, 

where were the body?  (1 Corinthians 12:19)

But now are they many members, 

yet but one body.  (1 Corinthians 12:20)

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, 

I have no need of thee: 

nor again the head to the feet, 

I have no need of you.  (1 Corinthians 12:21)

Nay, much more those members of the body, 

which seem to be more feeble, 

are necessary:  (1 Corinthians 12:22)

 

Evidently, in the Corinthian church, the Christians who did not have the spectacular gifts like speaking in tongues or healing had begun to feel left out. Paul’s response is that every body part is necessary. The head cannot tell the feet to go take a hike!

 

Anyone who has lost a thumb, or their hearing or eyesight, can tell you how important that part really is. I am missing a tooth. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t notice it’s absence—especially when I eat something like corn that likes to fall in the hole the tooth has left.

 

Look at it this way, if the mayor of a city went on a three week vacation, hardly anyone would notice. But what would happen if the garbage collectors left for three weeks?

 

The parts that are not “up front” are often the parts we miss the most!

 

And those members of the body, 

which we think to be less honourable, 

upon these we bestow more abundant honour; 

and our uncomely parts 

have more abundant comeliness.  

(1 Corinthians 12:23)

For our comely parts have no need: 

but God hath tempered the body together, 

having given more abundant honour 

to that part which lacked:  (1 Corinthians 12:24)

 

What does it mean that “God hath tempered the body together”? The word “tempered” [3] means to put together. Let’s have the kids come up for a moment to help us illustrate this point.

 

[Kid’s object lesson: Have the kids put together a puzzle. Each can have the opportunity to put at least one piece on (use a 25 piece or whatever can be put together quickly). Make sure that several pieces are missing. When finished ask:

 

1. What do you think of the puzzle? Does it look good? Why or why not?

2. Why are the missing pieces important and needed?

3. What if this puzzle was the church and each piece was a person?

 

Each piece has to go in a certain spot. If there are pieces missing, you don’t get the whole picture. Each believer is put into the body of Christ by God and is needed where they are placed.]

 

I noticed that in a puzzle, each piece interlocks with another piece, it’s like each puzzle piece takes care of some other pieces. In the same way, each believer interlocks with each other believer, so…

 

CHRIST’S BODY HAS MEMBERS WHO CARE

 

That there should be no schism in the body; 

but that the members should have the same care 

one for another.  (1 Corinthians 12:25)

And whether one member suffer, 

all the members suffer with it; 

or one member be honoured, 

all the members rejoice with it.  (1 Corinthians 12:26)

 

The part of this passage that struck me was “that there should be no schism [division] in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.” When you reach out and care for another, you lose your feeling of self-importance and division vanishes.

 

The only thing the New Testament tells us that should cause division is sin and bad doctrine. Skin color, personality differences, preferences in the paint color of the nursery, and the like should not cause division.

 

There seem to be three types of people when it comes to the idea of caring for one another. There are those who genuinely care for one another and do the best that they can. 

 

Then the other two types are those who do not. There are those who are too busy, too distracted, too self-important to think that they should be reaching out and caring. These folks are the ones who say that the pastor should do it or the deacons and deaconesses should do it. They are prideful in their self-importance.

 

The last type of person who does not care for others in the church are those who think that they are the ones who need cared for. I guess they do, but probably not in the way that they think! They are also prideful, but their pride is not one of self-importance as much as it is a pride of self-pity.

 

In the end, each one needs cared for. No one person can care for each person, nor should they. Each puzzle piece interlocks with a few others, and those interlock with a few others, and so on. In other words, don’t assume that one part of Christ’s body is responsible for caring for everyone else. Everyone needs to care for everyone else.

 

CONCLUSION

 

In Christ’s body, there are many members—joined together by a trust in Jesus Christ that was immediately followed by the Spirit’s baptism.

 

In Christ’s body, there are no unimportant members. If you feel unimportant, remember that God has set you in the body and given you a purpose. Don’t try to be a eye if you are a foot; instead thrive at being a foot!

 

In Christ’s body, there are no unneeded members. You may not be up front, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t needed.

 

In Christ’s body, there are members who care for one another. Is there someone that you can encourage today?

——————————————————

[1]  http://setfreesummit.org/up-to-date-stats-on-porn/

[2] You can even read the English word, “by” in the same way. Most often we think of “by” as referring to the person performing the action, “The ball was hit by Bob.” But we also use the word “by” to refer to the means of something happening, “Joe was baptized by water.”

Also, the image given in the last part of the verse, that believers are “all made to drink into one Spirit,” fits nicely with being baptized in the Spirit. Have you ever opened your mouth will being under water and swallowed a mouthful? It’s almost like that, when you were baptized (or immersed) in the Spirit, you also drank in the Spirit.

[3]  συνεκέρασε, VAAI3S, συγκεράννυμι; compose, put together, combined, arranged.

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