For just as the body is one with many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ. Its stunning that he says, “So it is with Christ.” You would have expected him maybe to say, “So it is with the church.” But this passage is not first about union with each other – but about our union with Christ as his body. This shows how deeply the apostle's conviction is rooted in the faith that the church is living entirely by Christ's own life in it.
They are not just breaking unity with each other through division, they are abusing the very body of Christ. You see when we are united with Christ and divided with each other there is a problem – because Christ cannot be divided.
We get so used to the word members that we are not confronted with it: he is talking about body parts, organs and limbs. The body is one cohesive whole but that one cohesive whole is made up of very different parts.
As one theologian says, “Things which are parts of a single organism may be different from one another: things which are not may be very alike. Six pennies are quite separate and very alike: my nose and my lungs are very different, but they are only alive at all because they are parts of my body and share its common life. Christians think of individuals not as mere members of a group or items in a list, but as organs in a body-different from one another and each contributing what no other could.”
And how is this brought about – how have you become a part of this body?
We read in verse 13, For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all are made to drink of one Spirit. The only way you become part of this body is if you have been united to it by the holy Spirit, of which baptism is the sign and seal. In baptism you have been incorporated into the body of Christ, into that realm of blessing and challenge which is the sole basis of our existence. The church is nothing without the Spirit.
But filled with the Spirit, all members are an important part of the body. Notice the word all twice in verse 13. ALL of you – those who belong to Paul, or Peter, or Cephas. Those who are weak and those who are strong, those who are married, and those who are single, those who are Greek and those who are Jews. Each person fulfilling their own special role. As Paul says “For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
With these three verses as introduction, he dives in and shows how this happens.
Bellville VGK, you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
- God placed you and united you here.
- Therefore, each member is essential.
God Placed you and united you here
You are here not because of your work, or because your family grew up in this church, or because you have always come. That is the means God used to get you here, but that is not why you are a member of this church. You are a member of this church because God has so arranged it that you are here.
He starts his argument in verse 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. 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.” The problem was not just an individualistic spirit, it was also a tribalistic spirit. Not just about individuals thinking they are better, or worse, but different groups.
Tribalism is when people with a certain way of thinking, personality type, or leader group together. This is the opposite of the body, where people that have nothing in common besides faith in Christ fit together. God is saying don’t try to be part of something above and beyond what God has made you a part of. An elite “group” of Christians. This seems to have happened in the church with the individuals that had visible gifts.
And on the other hand, there was an individualistic mindset. Where the thought was, “Well I am not contributing – so I don’t matter.” Or “I am doing a lot more work, so I matter more.”
Stop the individualistic thinking! You are thinking about yourself! Some people were feeling sorry and full of self-pity for themselves. These are the people with the “I am not an eye or hand mentality.” They rate their connectedness to Christ according to the function that they have in the body. This is ridiculous when you think about it. In a body there is no reason to be jealous of another’s gifts because you benefit from them.
Does the foot complain as part of the body because it is not part of the hand. No, it functions as a foot – just as the head of the body directs it. Are the children here any less part of the body then the elders because they fulfill a different role? No says Paul. A body does not function that way.
As he says in verse 17, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? In other words, for a body to function every part must be doing its part that God appointed to him.
That’s the point, “But as it is, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” This right here, is God’s work. Each of you is a uniquely placed by God to do your part as part of this body. God arranged you. Its no accident you are here. It is divine purpose. He arranged this church in this particular way so that we might give him glory as a body.
Each one of you.
That is you he is talking about. He didn’t make a mistake, so don’t think it’s a mistake that you are here. The starting point is faith that God knows what is best – God placed me here that means I must fit. Just because you are different – and I know a few of you who feel that way – does not mean that you do not belong as part of the body. An eye, and a lung are very different yet they function as part of one body.
If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. what would happen if the whole body was an eye? It would not be a body, but dead, and good for scientific investigation under a microscope. The body is only truly alive in that each member does its part. And think about it if you remove yourself from the body, would you life for very long? How long does a hand exist if it is cut off from the body. It doesn’t. it cannot. The bible does not know of Christian who are not at the same time living and active members of the body of Christ. It simply cannot be. You cannot proclaim you have faith in Christ, and not enter fellowship and communion with him through the body of Christ.
So, “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.” Paul is telling the church stop acting like one work is less important, but start appreciating each other, because you need each other. Let’s take the head and feet as an example. It happens so easy that the head thinks that the only thing the church needs is good theological and biblical truth. Good doctrine. On the other hand, the feet can say, “I am the place where the rubber hits the road. We need to act. We need to move into the world, we need to not spend so much time crossing our “t’s” and dotting our “i’s” that we never do anything! And so, the head and the feet stand against each other – when they really need each other. Just imagine if they worked together! They are both essential. We need deep thinkers, and people that are actively moving and apply that doctrine to everyday life.
Therefore, every member is essential
He writes, “on the contrary the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts that we think less honorable we bestow greater honor, and our unpresentable part are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.” Did you catch that? Some people’s roles are less glamorous. But these less glamorous roles deserve the greatest honor — because they are indispensable.
Think about some gifts, that are to be covered in a sense with greater modesty? I think of things like generosity, and prayer. These things may not be seen, and in fact Jesus even commands that we do them not to be seen by men, but really these are to be treated with greater honor. The lack of public recognition does not mean that God has abandoned those gifts as ultimately worthless. The fact is that God himself bestows great honor on those gifts that will never be outwardly seen. Dear church God does not judge by outward appearance but by the heart.
On top of that just because someone is weaker in faith does not mean they are more dispensable. Sometimes it is exactly these members that teach us the depth and breadth of the grace and love of God. They teach us it is not first of all what we do, but what God has done. Remember 1 Corinthians 1, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly and despised things of the world, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast in His presence.”
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
No division – but that all may have the same care. This implies that if there is division then the members don’t care as much for each other. If they have a warped view of gifts, and status, they will not consider the health of the whole body. But this is simply not the way a body functions. When my head hurts the whole body hurts, when I hit my nail with a hammer, the body is not indifferent. When I enjoy a ice cream on a hot day with my mouth, my whole body rejoices. So it is with the body of Christ.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Are you genuinely excited when someone else succeeds, as excited as if it was you succeeding? No this would be impossible as you see yourself as an individual apart from that person, but if you saw yourself as interdependent to the extent that that persons joys are your joys it is easier. The same goes for suffering. We need to believe and live out of the union with Christ that we are so interdependent like a body that we have the same care for ourselves as for others, because their hurt is our hurt. Their sin hurts us all. Their joy and success is our joy and success. Imagine.
This is the point, and he concludes by says, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” And then he mentions an example of how the body functions as a whole in that time. “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administering, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” This list is not by any means exhaustive, it is interesting that he puts tongues last, when the Corinthians would have put it first, and he puts apostles and prophets first, because it is those gifts that the church is ultimately built on.
Every Christian is knit to the body and has a purpose, and that purpose is not the same as the others. God designed all gifts for all Christians to serve others. Someone may say, “I am an inactive Christian.” But that is an oxy-moron - there is no such thing. That is like saying, “I am an honest thief” or “I am a godly prostitute.” An inactive Christian is a paradox in terms. No Christian is without a special, supernatural gift from God meant for the benefit of the body.
Again, all of this is only understandable if we realize how obvious it is to Paul that all activities of the church are the activities of Christ himself, and that hence neither boasting nor depression is thinkable in the church.
Christians are united to Christ, have received gifts from his spirit, and therefore the unity of the body is as real and efficient as that of the natural body.
This truth should give you confidence: your particular gifts have a valuable, God-appointed place. It should also humble you: your particular gifts are simply one part of the body, and you desperately need other people with their particular gifts (see Rom. 12:3). Finally, this truth should increase your love for the local church: the gifts in the body are exactly what God knows your congregation needs. Because of God’s sovereign choosing, no part is missing, and every part is valuable.