1 Corinthians 12:12-31
You can listen to this Sermon HERE
The absolutely central truth that God is communicating in our reading for today is this: You (collectively) are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Paul the apostle wrote the letter to the Corinthians. He was inspired with this concept that somehow we Christians … together … are the body of Christ. Where did this idea first get planted in his mind? I suspect it was when he … as a persecutor of the early Christians … was travelling from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest some Christians there … and was stopped in his tracks by a blinding light from heaven and a voice that called out to him:
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”.
“Who are you Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” the answer came back.
No doubt, over the years, as Paul reflected on that statement from Jesus … the penny dropped. Jesus had not said, “I am Jesus, whose church you are persecuting,” … but … “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Paul must have realised that when he was persecuting the church … he was persecuting Jesus … which meant that in some mysterious way the Church was Jesus … in that moment.
The Church is the present-day physical manifestation of the real and present Jesus Christ. And it is that idea which he is teaching now in 1 Corinthians under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, saying to the local Church in Corinth: “You are the body of Christ.”
I don’t know about you, but believing this really humbles me … and it gives me a profound sense of responsibility … as a part of the Church which is the body of Christ. I (and we all) have an enormous personal (and corporate) responsibility to ensure that we accurately manifest Jesus in a present-day physical way.
So how could we ever get this right? The answer of course is in the verses that follow … and it is this: The Holy Spirit animates the Body.
The Holy Spirit animates the Body
I am at the risk of saying the same thing over and over, week after week … but please bear with me as I repeat myself just in case anyone should have missed this somewhere along the line. When a person comes in prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ and commits themselves into His hands … surrendering to Him as our Lord and Saviour … He graciously breathes His Spirit into us … and as the Holy Spirit enters our being … He gives us eternal, abundant spiritual life. We come alive spiritually … we are born from above as children of God.
And … Speaking of this truth … verse 13 says: “We were all baptised by One Spirit … and we were all given One Spirit to drink.”
The absolute fact is being stated to all Christians … all children of God through faith in Jesus … the Holy Spirit lives in us all.
Note that! Here the emphasis is not to reassure me that I have the Spirit because I am in Christ … it is to reassure me that YOU have the Spirit too because you are in Christ … AND … that WE together have the Spirit because WE are in Christ.
And it is that Spirit who is alive in me … and in you … and in us together … Who animates us as the Body of Christ in this world … the present-day, physical manifestation of the risen Jesus!
To mix up the metaphor a bit … a physical body is united … amongst many other things … by the fact that it shares a blood supply. Each organ shares a source of ongoing physical life … the blood that flows through its connecting veins and brings oxygen and nutrients to the organs of the body.
For the Church of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit is the source of spiritual life … the life-giving-power that resides within us … but Who also flows through our relationships to one another … to bring spiritual life, power, healing, peace, joy and love to us all.
This is the beautiful plan of Jesus!
And it is the sovereign plan of Jesus. To us as His followers he does not say, “I give you the choice to become part of My Body.” Instead He says to all who receive Him, “Now you are part of My Body.”
But here’s the catch. We can mess it up!
And this is what the rest of the chapter is about, really. How to properly and reverently approach the truth that we are indeed part of this sacred fellowship … this sacred family … this sacred community … which in a mysterious and yet very real way .. is the body of Christ in the world … is the present-day manifestation of the risen Jesus in our physical world.
So … how do we properly and reverently approach this truth that we are the Body of Christ?
We accept that we belong together (v.15-16)
If a body-part could speak … and the hand could say to the rest of the body: “I don’t belong to you,” … Paul argues that this does not mean it stops being part of the Body. It really just means that the hand is in denial.
When a Christian … a believer or a disciple or whatever we call ourselves … says: “I don’t belong to a Church. I serve God by myself in my own way by living according to the values of Christ and I find Him in nature and worship Him there on my own. I don’t belong to the Church …” well … the Inspired Word of God replies: “You are living in denial. If you truly are in Christ then you ARE part of the Body … whether you think you are or not … why not stop living in denial and accept that you belong to this Body.”
You cannot be a child of God without belonging to the rest of the family too! DUH!
You might not like your family … but like it or not you still belong to it.
But this accepting is far more important than just accepting the reality that we and every other believer are part of the Body.
What would happen to a hand if it actually did manage to cut itself off from the rest of the human body it was a part of?
It would die! A hand cannot survive without the arm … which in turn cannot survive without the torso or the torso without the head, etc.
Why is that? Because God has designed the hand to receive it’s life-giving blood supply through the arm, etc. etc.
And God has designed … in His sovereignty … for a Christian to receive their life-giving spiritual blood-supply through the Church.
So step one is for the believer to accept that I am a part of this Body of Christ called the Church and I belong with the rest of my siblings in this Body.
Recognise that our individual uniqueness is our gift to each other (v.18-20 and 28-31)
Paul makes the irrefutable point that if every body part was the same … the body could not function. God has designed the physical body that way … and He has designed the Church like that too … the Body of Christ in the world.
We are all different and unique … in our personality, strengths, weaknesses, gifts, abilities, inabilities, passions and callings.
We are not all the same and it is our uniqueness that is critical to the overall health of the body. In fact, not just having that uniqueness … but actually expressing it.
What good is it if one of us here is a brilliant singer … but when we stand in church to worship God on a Sunday morning … we do not sing because no-one else here is a brilliant singer … and we would just stand out as different? How sad and misguided that would be.
What if one of us has the gift of wisdom … but we never talk to other Christians and so we never share our wisdom with them. What use would that be?
Say you are a brilliant cook and you love hosting people in your home … but you never look around the building on a Sunday morning and invite one of our young adults who is far from home and family to come for Sunday lunch with you next week?
Say you love reading and you love children … but you never volunteer to come to Kids’ Club and spend half an hour helping a Grade 1 to learn to read. What use is that?
There is not one of us here that is the Body … it is only when we are together and working together and each bringing our unique abilities … and strengths and passions … to the life of the Body that we can truly function the way we are meant to function.
Our individual uniqueness … in personality and ability is our gift to one another and to the mission of the Body. It’s time to recognise that and time to live out that truth with great joy!
3. Recognise that we NEED one another (v.21-22)
The head cannot say to the feet, I do not need you. We NEED one another. The devil is forever trying to deceive us in the Body of the Church.
Brother, you’re an employed person with a regular income. The devil tempts you to say, “We don’t need these poor people in our church.” The Holy Spirit says, “Oh yes you do!”
Sister, you’re a young adult … the devil tempts you to say: “We don’t need these old people in our church!” The Holy Spirit says, “Oh yes you do!”
Any time in any way that you hear the thought in your head, “This church would be better off without X, Y or Z people … tell the devil where to go … tell him to go back to hell. Because the Holy Spirit says: “No Body-part can say of or to any other Body-part: “We don’t need you.”
We need one another precisely for the uniqueness we bring. We need the faith of the poor … the financial acumen of the wealthy … the energy and vision of the young … the wisdom and insight of the elderly. We need one another.
4.Treat each other with HONOUR (v.22-24)
I wouldn’t want to go into the details of the metaphor that leads Paul to talk about unpresentable parts and weaker parts. His point is that every part of the Body must be treated with honour simply because it is part of the Body. And those parts of the Body that seem in the flesh to be less honourable or less presentable should be given special honour. This is another example of the upside Kingdom of Christ. It is sadly often true that in the Church we apply the same measures as the world does … and we “value” and ascribe honour to certain people above others. The call of Christ is for every one of us to treat every other one of us with equal honour … except that when someone is in a position of weakness we should offer them even more honour.
In practical terms this means that we prioritise those who are vulnerable or in positions of weakness.
It means we make decisions which put our children in the centre … even though they are young an few.
If new people are present … slow down to explain how things work.
If someone is standing alone over coffee after church … they become the most important person in the room. Not your friends you see every week. Give that person alone … greater honour.
When you’re in a circle having a conversation and one of you is silent … give them the honour of asking what they think.
5. Have compassionate care for one another (v.25-26)
Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. We are to open our lives to one another and allow each other to be a real part of our lives.
Now let’s be real. This can’t happen here on a Sunday morning very effectively. If you really want to experience the true wonder of being a Body Part … join a Home Group. It doesn’t really matter what they’re studying or how they run their evenings all that much. What matters is that they give us the opportunity to build relationships of love and trust with each other where we can let each other in to our lives and truly care for each other.
In conclusion, allow me to remind you of the Body Part Questionnaire which we circulated last week. If you didn’t get one please take one from the back after Church and bring it back next week. This helps us to see where there are gaps in the life and ministry of CMC which Christ may be caking us to fill. These are roles and tasks and forms of service which will help CMC to function more healthily as a Body. Please have a look at it prayerfully, and please respond to this call today from 1 Corinthians 12 to come and be a meaningful, functioning part of this Body.
The other thing I must mention in closing is that next Sunday is our Covenant Service with Communion. It is a very solemn annual service of recommitment to our Covenant with Christ. If you don’t receive the church email, please also take a copy of this sheet from the back. It is a helpful guide to reflection in preparation for the Covenant service. You can also download it HERE