1 Corinthians 12:14-20 ESV
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 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. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”
What is the body spoken of here? It is the body of Christ, the Church, the people of God who have trusted in Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior. They are those who have died with Christ to sin, who have been reborn of the Spirit of God to live to God and to his righteousness and to walk in his holiness in obedience to his commands. They are the ecclesia, the people who are called out from the world and to God and to his eternal kingdom.
Although we all form one body, we are many individual people living in different places all over the world. We have all been given spiritual gifts of the Spirit of God, and it is God who empowers these gifts in everyone. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. And some of the gifts are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, and distinguishing of spirits.
Although we are physical people, this is not speaking of us all forming one physical human body. So, when this refers to the various human body parts, it is speaking figuratively, not literally. This is for illustrative purposes to help us to understand how the body of Christ is to work. Each part of our physical bodies has its own unique function, yet each part is necessary to the proper working of the entire body (speaking here of the human body).
So, it is with the body of Christ. We are all gifted differently, and we each are assigned of God our various parts (roles, functions, callings) within the body of Christ. And we are all necessary, and we are all to be working parts, with each part doing its work for the building up of the whole body of Christ to maturity in Christ, which includes speaking the truth in love to one another so that none of us is hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
[Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 12:1-31; Eph 4:1-16; Eph 5:17-21; Col 3:16; Heb 3:13]
And our shepherds are the ones who are to be equipping and training us for ministry, and they should be the ones to also allow for us and to provide for us to use our giftedness and to function in our God-assigned roles within the body of Christ for the proper working of the body as we encourage one another in our walks of faith in Jesus Christ so that we can all grow to maturity in Christ, and so we aren’t led astray by clever charlatans.
Now, just because we have different gifts and different functions, one from the other, that does not make one superior over another. For we all serve the same God, and it is only in the power and working of God’s Spirit that any of us can operate in the Spirit. So all glory goes to God. So, we should not think that just because we are not like someone else that we are less or that we are not necessary. We are ALL necessary to the proper working of the body of Christ. We are all essential. But we must be obeying God.
1 Corinthians 12:21-26 ESV
“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.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. 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. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
Now, this is something I feel very passionate about, for this is something that is a real issue in the way most “churches” in America are “doing church” and are operating as “the body of Christ.” It is all messed up! The body is all lopsided. A small minority do everything and the rest are left to fend for themselves or to be just merely spectators in a crowd. For these “churches” are being run more like human-based businesses rather than as “the body.”
The pastor is more like the CEO and/or cult leader who has a select handful of faithful and loyal followers who will protect him and who will do his bidding. And the plans and operations for “the body” largely now come from marketing books and business plans and goals. And “the church” is now being marketed to the world like any other business or product, and so “the church” isn’t the body of Christ, but it is conglomerate of many people.
Therefore, they are indeed saying to parts of the body, “We have no need of you, so go someplace else where you will be a better fit.” And they are being trained to say this to people they don’t want in their “churches,” who don’t fit with their target audience and with their marketing schemes and business plans and goals. Most of them especially don’t want people with “strong convictions,” for they are being warned against people like us in their training seminars, I’ve been told. And they have no conscience about it.
So, what we have today in America, at least, for the most part, are gatherings of people, some or most of whom call themselves Christians and/or followers of Jesus Christ but including those making no profession of faith in Jesus, too. They are calling their gatherings “Church,” but they just loosely resemble what the church (the ecclesia) is, if at all. For Jesus Christ is not head of these institutional churches. Humans are.
And the gatherings are comprised of so many people from the world, and so many people making false confessions of faith in Jesus Christ, and so many who have bought into the business model “church,” so that what is called “church” does not function and cannot function as the body of Christ. And so Christians are not being discipled in godly and holy living and in the body life and how we are all to have a functioning part for the spiritual growth and maturity of the body as a whole.
And so the body is suffering because of it, and so many have become worldly and fleshly, and so it is indistinguishable between “the church” and the world these days, for the most part. And so many Christians are not being given the opportunity to use their gifts and to function in their roles within the local gatherings of what is being called “church.” And so they are either falling by the wayside or the Lord is opening other areas of ministry for them where they can function within the universal body of Christ.
I have not been able to find a local body of Christ who is not part of the institutional market-driven worldly “church” with whom I can have fellowship and serve in the way God would have me to serve. And I am not alone in this. All the time I am hearing Christians cry out that they can’t find the biblical ecclesia in person near them but all they are finding are these market-driven and flesh-driven businesses being called “church.”
And so many members of the body of Christ are suffering because they are not finding a functioning body of believers who are following Jesus and his gospel and who are operating in the way God intended for his church, his body, to operate, where we each have a ministry and gifts that are assigned to us and gifted to us by God for the spiritual growth and maturity of the body of Christ, as a whole.
Some of us are finding this, to some degree, on the internet with other likeminded Christians, and that has been encouraging. We are having fellowship with the body of Christ and we are able to use our gifts there for the encouragement of the body, as a whole. So, that has been a blessing. And this is one of the ways, I believe, in which God is giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there is no division in the body of Christ.
Listen to Our Hearts
Songwriters: Geoff Moore / Steven Chapman
How do you explain, how do you describe
A love that goes from east to west
And runs as deep as it is wide?
You know all our hopes,
Lord, you know all our fears.
And words cannot express the love we feel,
But we long for You to hear.
So listen to our hearts.
Hear our spirit sing
A song of praise that flows
From those you have redeemed.
We will use the words we know
To tell you what an awesome God You are.
But words are not enough
To tell you of our love,
So listen to our hearts.
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