Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
The Spirit makes the Church one Body. We see in this passage a focus on the Holy Spirit’s role in the local church as the one who brings us together and equips us to serve one another in love. As you look through this passage you see a number of aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work in the church.
- The Holy Spirit directs us to Jesus (12:3) The things he does point the church to Jesus, rather than away from Him.
- The Holy Spirit empowers our charismata service (12:4-6) Remember, we defined charismata as the sum totality of everything God has graciously given you – your natural abilities, cultivated skills, interests, personality traits, opportunities to service, etc. – for you to participate in the building up of the church. The point is that the Holy Spirit gives you all these things and then gives you the strength and the will to use them all in building up the church.
- The Holy Spirit sometimes supernaturally intervenes to build up the church (12:7-11) These are the manifestations of the spirit that we talked about two weeks ago. Words of knowledge, wisdom, healings, miracles, prophecies, speaking in unfamiliar languages, etc. These all are given as the Spirit wills to meet ministry needs that couldn’t otherwise be met, and display the Spirit’s work in our midst.
- The Spirit makes the church one from many (12:12-13) The Spirit does all these things to make us into one body, one family. As written in verse 13: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
Here’s the point: God loves bringing unity from diversity. Remember all the way back to last fall, when we were studying Genesis 1-3 and I made a big deal about how our Tri-Une God, who himself is diversity unified, the Almighty Three who is One, is most glorified when us, his creatures whom he created in His image, reflect his unity and diversity in our own interpersonal relationships. We’ve talked about on a number of occasions how this plays out in marriage: two individuals come together as one, yet somehow maintain their two-ness in that one-ness. Here, Paul’s focus is not the marriage relationship, but the church relationship, but the principle is exactly the same. Jews, Greeks, slaves, free, men, women, rich, poor, young, old, Chinese, Canadians, whoever else, we all come together in Christ as one, yet somehow we maintain our individuality within that united community. How does this happen? By His Spirit. When you come to Jesus Christ, when you turn from your sin in repentance and turn to Jesus in faith, you receive the Promise of the Father, which is the Holy Spirit, who is the seal of your salvation and who enables you to live the Christian life in holiness, godliness, and truth. There are not multiple Holy Spirits, as Paul says, “all were made to drink of one Spirit” which means that if you are here and have received Jesus as Lord, the same Spirit resides in you as resides in the person sitting next to you if they have also received Jesus as Lord. There’s a connection there. A bond thicker that water, or even blood. You share the same Spirit. Have you ever met someone and known they were a Christian before you could have known? This is what it means to be baptized by one Spirit into one body. It does not mean that you fall down and start shaking. It means that the God, by pouring the Spirit into your heart, has initiated you, baptized you, into his new community of diverse people all united by the Spirit within. You are part of His kingdom, His family, His bride, His church. That’s why Christianity can never be an individualistic undertaking, because His Spirit longs to bring those filled by His Spirit into the community of His Spirit. This also means that if you are not a Christian, maybe you come to this church every week, but you are not truly part of this body, because you have not been baptized into it. Yes you can come and get some benefits of this organization. You may make friends here, or learn some principles that will help you in life. But you’re missing the entire heart of the matter. You can’t understand the beauty of the church because you are not yet part of the church. You can’t experience the equipping and enthusiasm of the Holy Spirit, because he has not been poured into your heart. You’re like a car in a showroom without an engine. You may look like you belong on the outside, but there is no power under the hood. You my friend, need Jesus. And when you turn from your sin in repentance and turn to Jesus in true faith, he will forgive you, adopt you into his family, pour his spirit into your heart and baptize you into his body. You will truly become a part of this most fascinating organism that is composed of such different people coming together as one.
Diversity Benefits the Body.
Understanding the unity that God has called us into by the Spirit also helps us to understand the value of God’s wisdom in bringing people of such diverse backgrounds and experiences together in one community. To illustrate, Paul introduces a new metaphor in verse 12: a body.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
Just like your body is one entity that requires many different parts in order to function and grow, so it is with Christ’s body, the church. God wants us to understand this analogy so that we can confront two lies that Satan tries to whisper into our ears as we meet together as the church. These two lies cripple the church by getting us to focus on ourselves as individuals rather than as God’s perfectly formed body. The lies are very simple: 1) no one needs me 2) no one needs you. Let’s look at what God has to say about these two lies.
- No one needs me (12:14-20)
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.
Think about what is happening here and allow your heart to break for these people. Someone is coming to church looking around and saying, “I am not as gifted as he is, or she is, and therefore there is nothing I can contribute to this body, so I’ll just sit here and warm the pew and hope nobody asks me to do anything.” These people never find their place in the church because they don’t see a place for their gifting in the church. They are endlessly comparing themselves to others in the church and in effect becoming paralyzed because they fail to see how God has placed them in the church to fulfill a particular function. I believe that this is a big reason why people drop out of church. They do not see any future for them here or even how they are to progress in their faith, so they leave. This is why I believe many young adults drop out of the church after graduating from high school or college. When they were in high school or college there role was defined for them. They were part of the youth group or part of the young adult’s group. Yet when they graduate, there is no other group for them to graduate into so they lose their purpose in the community sooner or later come to the conclusion that “if they don’t need me, then they won’t miss me.” We lose generations of young adults from the church because they have not grasped a vision of how they fit into the mission of the church. I am not just talking about adding another program for young professionals, I am talking about providing a comprehensive vision for young adults as to how they make a healthy transition into becoming adult leaders of the church for the next generation. This is why I am excited when I see our young adults beginning to serve in different areas of our church, from Sunday School to Youth Fellowship to the Worship Ministry, but you know what? We haven’t even scratched the surface of your potential in this church. We’re building towards something here, but we’ve nowhere near arrived. I’ll know we are doing well as a body when our youth and young adults actually choose to remain here in Ottawa because they are excited about what God is doing in this church and have begun to comprehend how God could use them and their unique talents to advance the kingdom of God through this church in Ottawa, North America, and the Ends of the Earth.
Don’t you see how this lie, “they don’t need me”, cripples the church? As people feel unneeded or unwanted, they drop out of the church, which robs the church of the very diversity that God placed together to strengthen it. You get a body of all hands and no feet, or of all eyes and no ears. I believe this has contributed to a consumer mentality that has crippled the cause of Christ in North America. We tend to get churches which draw a certain type of Christian but make other Christians feel less valued, so they leave and find a church that values their interests and gifts. So you get all the ear people who love rocking worship going to the Ear Church. You get all the heart people who value compassion ministries going to the Heart Church. And you get all the brain people who love to study Theology going to the Brain Church. But where does the body of Christ come together? This is very dangerous, because it leads to the second lie:
- No one needs you (1 Cor 12:21-26)
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.
Here is where destruction lies. We split off into our cliques, into our ministries, into our churches and into our denominations, and begin to belittle each other. The heads say, don’t go to the Heart Church, their theology is so messed up! The Ears contend that that sort of attitude demonstrates that the heads aren’t listening to the Spirit well enough like they do. And the Hearts complain that both the heads and the ears miss the entire point of Christianity – which is that we are to continue doing the work that Jesus did. It’s easy for me to critique this on an interchurch level, but what about within the confines of a local church? My heart breaks for how this occurs at the local church level. Imagine a little child, listening to the Word of God, coming under conviction of the Holy Spirit, feeling emboldened to serve the body by offering his gift to the building up of the church. He approaches church leaders and offers to share his gift with the body, but the church leaders tell him that his gift is unnecessary. How soon do you think it would be before that person offers themselves in service again? I know people who have been hurt because either consciously or unconsciously someone has offended them by belittling their service to the church. Please, if I or someone else has done that to you, please let us know so we can make amends with you, we may not even be aware of it.
On the contrary, Paul says, instead of us belittling one another, we should be coming up alongside of those who are not as confident in their gifting or abilities and building them up, bestowing honour upon them, and recognizing that the service in which they serve is valuable to the church. In this way all are encouraged, all are edified, the church is strengthened and no one feels as though they are not needed or wanted. Understanding the church in this way is essential to our strength because we no longer think of ourselves as individual believers facing our own individual battles and struggles, but instead “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together,” meaning that we go together as a team wherever God leads us. When one of us falls, we all are affected, when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. Why? Because, Paul says, in verse 27: “you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Where do you fit in that body? Have you found your place yet? Are you exercising your faith as you use everything God has given you to help build up God’s Kingdom through the church? Have you become discouraged, because your contributions to the body have gone unappreciated? God sees. He cares. He appreciates.