Believers Are The Body Of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-27)

Bod4 God12:12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.NIV 

Paul compares the body of Christ to a human body. Each part has a specific function that is necessary to the body as a whole. The parts are different for a purpose, and in their differences they must work together. Diversity can maintain unity as long as all submit to one Lord.

Christians must avoid two common errors: (1) being too proud of their abilities; and (2) thinking they have nothing to give to the body of believers. Instead of comparing ourselves to one another, we should use our different gifts, together, to spread the Good News of salvation. We speak Christ’s “body language” when we practice our unique gifts under his sole authority.

12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.NIV

What gives believers their unity is the one Spirit—the very same Spirit who also gives their diversity through the many and varied gifts.

The church is composed of many types of people from a variety of backgrounds with a multitude of gifts and abilities. It is easy for these differences to divide people. Despite the differences, however, all believers have one thing in common—faith in Christ. On this essential truth the church finds unity. All believers are baptized by one Holy Spirit into one body of believers, the church. We don’t lose our individual identities, but we have an overriding oneness in Christ. When a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit takes up residence, and that person is born into God’s family. As members of God’s family, we may have different interests and gifts, but let us pursue a common goal—deep unity in Christ.

12:14-15 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would 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.NRSV

Having established that the church, the worldwide community of believers, is indeed one body—the body of Christ—Paul went on to show the necessary diversity in that body. A human body does not consist of one member but of many. For a body to function, such diversity is essential. Individual members cannot separate themselves without harming the body. Paul explains, through this metaphor, that all the different gifts given by the Spirit to believers must be utilized in order for the church to function well. Likewise, the gifts are interdependent. Like the body, they cannot function without each other.

12:16 And if the ear would 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.NRSV As with the foot and the hand (12:15), so it is with the ear and the eye. The parts of the body should desire to perform only the functions for which they were made, not seeking other parts. The ear may prefer to be able to see, like the eye, but that does not mean that the ear is any less a part of the body. The ear will no more be changed into an eye or given the ability to see than a believer will be able to exchange one gift for another. Instead, each believer should discover his or her spiritual gift and then use it to its fullest capacity for the Lord.

12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?NIV Every spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit is vital to the functioning of the body. If everyone wanted to be an eye, then the body might see very well, but it would not be able to hear. If the whole body were an ear, there would be no sense of smell.

We respond to the mental picture of an ear’s declaration of independence from the rest of the body with a chuckle. A conference between body parts would make one thing laughably clear: As important as any one part might be to the whole, their reliance on the rest, even to accomplish their vital role, is far more crucial.
The idea that Christians can somehow function and flourish outside of the body of Christ sounds as ludicrous as a rebellious ear or foot. Solitary Christianity has no basis in God’s Word. We need the church, and we are needed by other Christians.

12:18-20 But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.NLT

As God created human bodies to function with their many parts working together, so the body of Christ—the church—needs all the various gifts working in harmony. The picture of a body with only one part illustrates the absurdity of a church with everyone trying to have the same gift. It would not be a body at all, and it would be unable to function. While there are many parts, there is only one body, because God ordained it that way, putting each part just where he wants it. All believers—those with the spectacular gifts and those with the quieter gifts—are placed right where God wants them so that they might serve effectively together. They are one body with many parts, because God made it that way.

12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”NIV Not only should each individual part realize its own importance, but all the other parts should realize their interdependence as well. One part of the body cannot say it doesn’t need another part. Those in the church who have the more spectacular gifts should not look down on or dismiss those with other gifts because, in reality, all are needed.

12:22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.NRSV The more honored members must not look down on the more humble members (12:21); in fact, those who seem to be weaker are indispensable. These “weaker” members are those who appear to be less important in the body. These people may not be always visible, always up front exercising their gifts, but they are in the background. If they are using their God-given gifts, they are actually indispensable to the body. Those with the visible gifts could not function to their full capacity without the other indispensable members utilizing their gifts. The pastor in a church may be well versed and eloquent, but he will not be effective if the other members are not utilizing their gifts to greet newcomers warmly, to make sure the building is maintained and clean, to plan the worship service, to make sure equipment is working properly, to follow up on people with needs, or to pray faithfully for the ministry. The church needs the visible members, but it needs everyone. In reality, the less-visible members are the “indispensable” ones.

Paul argued for diversity of gifts and acceptance of the full range of gifts that God gives to his people. No one should feel superior about his or her gift; instead, all should use their gifts to willingly serve. Too often the “up-front” gifts, like speaking or teaching, are more highly regarded than the “behind-the-scenes” gifts, like helping and serving. No one should discount the contribution of another person, no matter how insignificant it may seem. We should not be dissatisfied with the gift God has given us but be eager to serve. Nor should we envy those who seem to have more gifts than we do. In love, treat everyone’s gift, yours included, as valuable to God.

12:23-24 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect from the eyes of others those parts that should not be seen, while other parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.NLT “The parts we regard as less honorable” refers to the sexual parts of the body, the parts that we carefully protect from the eyes of others. The point of this verse is that appearances are deceiving; all parts of the body are necessary, even the ones that should not be seen and the parts that have less dignity. No one should dismiss anyone else as unimportant in the body of Christ; neither should undue prominence be given to anyone. The reason for this is explained in 12:25.

What is your response when a fellow Christian is honored? How do you respond when someone is suffering? We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Too often, unfortunately, we are jealous of those who rejoice and apathetic toward those who weep. When that happens, we have overlooked our connection with them in Christ.
Believers are in the world together—there is no such thing as private Christianity. Christ makes us one, even when we wish otherwise. When we follow Christ, we find ourselves in mixed company. We shouldn’t stop with enjoying only our own relationship with God; we need to get involved in the lives of others. That’s also the best way to break through our mere human reactions to them.

12:25-26 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other equally. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.NLT

 The harmony Paul wanted among the members had already been discussed in 1 Corinthians 1:10: “Let there be real harmony so there won’t be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” NLT. Such harmony happens only when all the members—the weak and the strong, the flamboyant and the quiet, the up-front and the behind-the-scenes—use their gifts, appreciate one another, and care for each other equally. Such caring is demonstrated as they share in one another’s joys and sorrows. As with the physical, human body, one part’s suffering causes every part to suffer.

When the head aches, the whole body suffers. When a thumb is hit with a hammer, the whole body knows it. In the body of believers, therefore, if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it. Believers should share one another’s burdens in order to help lighten them. Likewise, if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. There is no room for jealousy or strife when one person receives praise; instead, all should be glad.

Believers need to be able to empathize with others—to join in with their feelings as if they were experiencing the feelings themselves. Christians should rejoice with others, with no hint of jealousy; and they should suffer with them, offering kindness, concern, compassion, and a shoulder to cry on if needed. Following Jesus will mean that believers will have a wide variety of experiences. Christianity neither denies life’s hardships nor dulls life’s excitements. Both laughter and tears are appropriate before God. Identifying with the joys and heartaches of others is an important way for believers to show love and unity.

12:27 Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.NLT The words “all of you together” refer to all believers across the world. All believers together are Christ’s body. As new believers come to salvation in Jesus Christ, they join that body, receive a gift from the Holy Spirit, and are used by God. Therefore, each and every believer in the body of Christ is a separate and necessary part of that body. No believer is unimportant—each one has a gift to share in order to make the body function that much more effectively.

Source— Life Application Bible Commentary


About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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