As we explore these passages of Scripture this morning, I’d like us to ponder them in light of Jesus prayer in John 17 that He and His body would be one. That prayer is not only the desire of the heart of Jesus for KF. It is the prayer and desire of the heart of Jesus for the all those who have been born into the body of Christ, by grace, through faith in Him.
With that prayer in mind, what do you think Satan’s number one objective is in regards to the body of Christ? To steal, kill, destroy and divide. Why? Because Satan knows for a fact what the vast majority of Christians only know in their heads. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Know this beloved, The Lord Jesus has saved you and equipped you to be a blessing to the body of Christ. Know this too, Satan desires to sift you like wheat and use you as an instrument of division, discord and dissension. Secret, self promoting agenda’s. Resentment, the refusal to forgive from the heart. Pride.
12.12 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.
Beginning with verse 12, Paul introduces the most prominent image of the church in all of scripture: the Body of Christ.
In the consideration of this passage let us drop down to include two other verses: But now are they many members, yet but one body” (v. 20) Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (v. 27).
Paul uses the brilliant and beautiful illustration of the human body to relate the working of the community of the body of Christ.
Every cell in a human body is linked by a common DNA code, yet each individual part of our body (members) look different are treated differently, work differently, and accomplish different purposes.
Likewise, there is great diversity in the body of Jesus Christ, both in appearance and function, yet each member has a common root, The Lord Jesus Christ, and a common goal, the glory of God.
12.13 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.
The baptism that is being talked about here is the Spirit baptizing all who repent of their sins and believe in the death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ into the body of Christ. It is by The Spirit of God that all believers are baptized into the body of Christ.
Being baptized into the body of Christ not only means that you belong to Jesus Christ, it also means that you belong to everyone else who belongs to Jesus Christ.
Paul is not writing of water baptism or baptismal regeneration as some claim. Water baptism is an outward sign that depicts the believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection. In Romans 6.3,4 Paul speaks of being baptized into Jesus Christ. Buried with Him by baptism into death.
When we become a Christian, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, and we are born into God’s family. To drink into one Spirit means that each of us has received the same Holy Spirit. John 7:37-39 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.
The word “one” occurs five times in 12:12-13. Hence, the emphasis is on unity and oneness.
Unity among believers is not obtained by insisting that all believers look the same, teach the same, or worship the same. That is uniformity. The body of Christ is not a cult. Unity is obtained among believers because we have all been baptized by The Spirit into Jesus Christ. We collectively are both His bride and His body.
Jews or Greeks, Slaves or Free – The huge social divisions that existed in Roman society no longer counted in the body of Christ; all partake of His Spirit. The same applies today. There is no social, economic, racial or educational caste system within the body of Christ.
12.14 For the body is not one member, but many.
Isn’t this true of your body? The same is true of the body of Christ. You are not the only member in the body of Christ here at KF. KF is not the only member of the larger body of Christ. There is no such thing as private or individualistic Christianity.
Just like we depend on every part of our human body to function well, we function well as a body when every part is working according to their God given gifting and ability.
Verses 15-17 focus on those particular parts of the body that feel insignificant and unimportant. In verses 15-17, Paul illustrates the importance of each member for the unity of the one body by drawing a comparison to the human body.
12.15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
12.16 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?
12.17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
Try to picture being an “eye-body”—one massive six-foot eye! How gross it would be if the whole body was an eye. Or how about a six foot ear?
Your body needs your foot, your hand, your ear, your eye and your nose to function properly. Each particular member contributes to the health of the whole body.
The eye is not the enemy of the hand. Can you imagine a hand plunging a fork of food into the eye instead of into it’s mouth?
The parts of the human body have been designed by God to work together. The eyes and ears do not only serve themselves, but the whole body. The hands do not only feed and defend themselves, but the whole body. The heart does not only supply blood to itself, but serves the whole body.
A body with just an eye would not be able to hear. A body with just an ear would not be able to smell. A body without feet would not be able to walk, and we could go on and on.
Sometimes there is a part of our body that only lives to serve itself. It doesn’t contribute anything to the rest of the body, and everything it gets it uses to feed and grow itself. We call this cancer. Satan’s agenda for every single local church and every single child of God is to turn it into a body destroying cancer cell.
12.18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Why is the foot a foot and the hand a hand? Because it pleased the Designer to make it so. Likewise, God has arranged the members of the body of Christ (each individual with his or her gifts) according to His will.
May we learn to recognize and appreciate the vastness of the body of Christ. May we learn to recognize and appreciate the sovereignty of God in how He sets the various members into the body of Christ.
Each person has a place in Christ’s body according to God’s perfect plans and purposes, and all members are very important for the spiritual well- being and proper functioning of the entire church body.
12.19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
12.20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
12.21 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.
Paul explains that we need to squash spiritual pride because we all need each other. While the eye and head may seem like more important parts of a body, they cannot function without the support of hands and feet.
If all the church had was the pastors, elders, and deacons, how impoverished would that church be? We must always recognize that any public ministry is built on a private ministry. My preaching is only as powerful as your praying.
Every church has people who are out in the forefront and are more visible. But what is really essential to the ongoing life of the church is the people behind the scenes—those who serve faithfully and quietly (and often are the ones who make the leaders look good).
12.22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
12.23 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.
12.24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
12.25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
J.B. Phillips paraphrases verses 22-25 beautifully:
Those parts of the body which have no obvious function are the more essential to health: and to those parts of the body which seem to us to be less deserving of notice we have to allow the highest honour of function. The parts which do not look beautiful have a deeper beauty in the work they do, while the parts which look beautiful may not be at all essential to life! But God has harmonised the whole body by giving importance of function to the parts which lack apparent importance, that the body should work together as a whole with all the members in sympathetic relationship with one another.
The idea here is that we should not disregard members of the body who are in seemingly less important positions.
The public visibility of spiritual gifts should not be the basis for honoring a person or considering one Christian as more important than another.
Once again, Paul reminds us that it is God Who places the various members into the body.
Paul makes the incredible statement that the purpose of such diversity is that there be no divisions (schism) in the body. This appears to be counterintuitive until Christians realize that unity is not uniformity.
12.26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
If you have a headache, do your legs say, “That’s tough. We’re going hiking anyway”? No. If one part of your body hurts, your whole body rests.
If you throw a touchdown pass and win the game, does your left arm get upset because your right arm threw the ball? No, your whole body celebrates.
A brother in The Lord accidentally stepped off a curb and hurt his foot. When he went to the doctor, he asked him how many bones were in the foot. The doctor told him that there were twenty- seven. The brother said, “I think I hurt all twenty- seven of them!” “No,” said the doctor, “you hurt only one.” The brother may have hurt only one of the 27 bones, but his whole foot was painful. When one member suffers, they all suffer
So, too, as believers, we both suffer and celebrate together because we’re all members of the same body.
12.27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
12.28 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.
Paul gives here a partial list of the ministry gifts–specific God- given abilities and service roles that provide spiritual leadership and ministry for God’s people in the church (Ro 12:6- 8 and Eph 4:11- 13). The list here differs somewhat from that in vv. 8–10. Paul notes three of the gifts of Eph 4:11, then five of the spiritual gifts listed in vv. 8–10. The apostles and prophets were part of the foundation of the church.
These three gifts are listed as “first,” “second” and “third,” indicating their importance in the church. The rest of the list is introduced with “after that,” indicating the variety that follows
Apostles- After the coming of the Holy Spirit, apostles were sent out with the special task of proclaiming the Gospel and establishing churches. Those chosen by Christ during his earthly ministry to be with him and to go out and preach (Mk 3:14). They were also to be witnesses of the resurrection (Ac 1:21–22)
Prophets- The primary responsibility of New Testament prophets was not predicting the future, but rather presenting God’s message to their contemporaries.
According to Ephesians 2:20, the church is built upon the ministry of the apostles and prophets.
Teachers- The ability to clearly explain and effectively apply the truths of God’s Word so that others will learn. Teaching was most associated with the pastoral office. 1Ti 3:2
Helps- This refers to people who have the gift of aiding others in various ways. It was primarily the help that was given to the poor, needy, sick and distressed. In John Bunyan’s book Pilgrim’s Progress, “Help” came to Christian when he was mired in the “Slough of Despond.” That is often when the gift of helps is most useful.
Governments (administrations). This literally means, “leadership or managerial skill”, and is the same word used for someone who steers a ship. A person with this gift can help the church safely navigate difficult times and crises. This suggests that the spiritual gift of administration is the ability to steer a church or Christian organization toward the fulfillment of its goals by managing its affairs and implementing necessary plans. A person may have the gift of leadership without the gift of administration.
12.29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
12,.30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
The answer to all these questions is obviously “No” because there’s wonderful, needful diversity in the body.
If believers were all apostles, or all prophets, or all teachers, or all miracle workers etc., then the body would not function properly.
Do all speak with tongues? Great damage has been done in the church by promoting tongues as necessary to really live as a Christian, or as the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence. This has caused many to seek the gift of tongues, or to “fake” the gift of tongues.
12.31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
Paul encourages us to covet earnestly the gifts. But Paul will explain the more excellent way in chapter 13, with a focus on love, not the gifts themselves. The gifts are merely ways we can express and receive love from God and love to one another.