You Are The Body of Christ
1 Corinthians 12:1-31a,
Key Verse: 12:27
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
The Holy Spirit is God himself, and the way that he works in the believer is at times evident and at other times complicated and we understand from the Scripture that His work is beyond our ability to visualize and understand. There is internal work, and external work. But that the Holy Spirit works in God’s children is clear and absolute. Jesus taught us a lot about the work of the Holy Spirit in the believers’ lives. Later on when the New Testament was put together, the Lord gave us through it much insight on the greater works of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I say this because in these chapters here, 12-14, Paul teaches us about one clear work of the Holy Spirit. He teaches us that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to the believer. And when we look at the gifts Paul mentions, we see that some are the visible kind while others are the invisible kind. But the truth is that visible or invisible, there is absolutely no doubt that every believer has gifts from the Holy Spirit, whether they are visible or invisible. It seems that the Corinthian Christians were differentiating between gifts and gifts and making some gifts seem more important than other gifts. Some among them were feeling inferior while others were feeling superior, just by the kind of gift they had received from the Holy Spirit. Some were proud of what they received, while others were feeling as if God had shortchanged them. Paul tells us how ridiculous this is. Then he explains the purpose of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives each believer. It’s not to elevate nor distinguish one Christian from another, but clearly to serve God’s purpose individually and collectively. It’s important that we consider what gift God has given me, and then to learn how to use it in the sight of God, so that I can be a blessing to others, and to the whole body of the church, and to God as well.
In verses 1-3 Paul teaches them who has the Holy Spirit or does not. In verses 1-2 he says. “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.” Before coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the Corinthians worshiped idols. We know that idols are nothing but false gods that people have worshiped in history. Yet although idols are nothing, we must know that idols are the inspiration of Satan and of demons in people’s lives. But God’s grace found the Corinthians and sent the Holy Spirit to deliver them. The Spirit of God drove out these demons from their hearts and opened their eyes to see the Lord in all his glory. The Holy Spirit led them to Christ who alone can give us eternal life and the kingdom of God. When they were freed from demonic influence, they were able to worship God and serve him as they should. Now, the were able to open their mouth and confess that “Jesus” alone “is Lord” and no other! By their confession from the heart, it was clear that they were Christians. (Ro 10:9-10; Mt 16:18). As Christians then the Holy Spirit works in them and gives them gifts. Whatever the gifts may be, there is no doubt that they are Christians, loved by God and set apart as most precious.
Now we may not know the exact circumstances in which these Christians became confused, whether by ignorant Christians or even by those who promote supernatural and ecstatic experiences, somehow there was a confusion in their hearts, and they needed to differentiate the work of the Holy Spirit from any other kind work. And Paul was clear that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. They needed to make that the standard of differentiating, and no other.
In verses 4-6, Paul teaches them that there is One Spirit and different gifts. ‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” God’s salvation work is rooted in who God is. He is the Triune God, rich in diversity, yet one in identity and purpose. The Holy Spirit gives gifts. The Lord Jesus serves and teaches his people to serve. The Almighty God works to create, to sustain and to redeem. Though there are different kinds of gifts, service and work, the same God works all of them in all people for his own purpose.
There is progression in these verses. Those who confess Jesus is Lord receive the Holy Spirit and a spiritual gift. They are to use their gift or gifts to serve others as Jesus did. Then God weaves together the ministries of service to accomplish his own purpose of world salvation. In our ministry God has called and gifted many in many ways, but our mission calls us to raise disciples of Jesus from among campus students. God calls us, regardless of our gifts to be a blessing to teenagers and college students. While our collective gifts are focused on this special mission and calling, we must acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is diverse in his work in other Christians whom he calls according to his own purpose for other special missions. All to his own glory. Whether it’s a prison ministry or street evangelism or campus mission, it is the same God— working in all those who have the same confession— that Jesus is Lord. While we fulfill God’s special mission on campuses, we must open our hearts to see the wide and awesome ways in which the Holy Spirit has empowered all his people everywhere to do.
Verse 7 reads. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” He says: “to each one”, and that is very important to know (11). Each one who confesses Jesus as Lord receives a gift from the Holy Spirit. These are not just natural talent— things that may be common to most human beings— intellect and such. He is talking about gifts that are different. Spiritual gifts that come from the Holy Spirit. Only God’s children have these gifts. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to make each person a blessing in special way to the whole body of Christ. It is for the common good. Church members should know this and always have an attitude of sharing the special gifts God has given to bless, to give, to serve, and so to honor and glorify God.
In verses 8-10, Paul describes some gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are more than these, as passages like Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11-12 make clear. There are at least 18 specific gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the New Testament. But Paul mentions only nine here. Read verse 8. “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit….” For example, the message of knowledge teaches us who God truly is, based on the Bible. The message of knowledge corrects our wrong ideas about God and turns our understanding to know the truth about God. Then, the message of wisdom for example, teaches us how to apply this knowledge to glorify God. The message helps understand of the Gospel more fully. This message gifts are glorious because through those who have these gifts, others learn the depth of the Gospel, and can fully see Jesus better.
The next gift is that of faith. Look at verse 9a. ““…to another faith by the same Spirit…” All believers have saving faith which is a gift from God. But the gift of faith mentioned here is special; it produces miracles. In giving this faith, God makes history through people. And the Bible is full of stories about this kind of faith-gift. Hebrews chapter 11 talks about remarkable faith of those who made history. Their faith turned their weakness to strength and accomplished God’s purpose in a most difficult time in history. Faith is very important in the salvation history God is doing around the world. Faith compels a person to give up his or her easy going life, and go for example to places that are difficult and dangerous. Joseph and Charisma Magno sacrificed much when one went to Nigeria for several month to help a struggling ministry, while the other carried the burdens of family and ministry all by herself. Such gifts of faith must not be left without use. They must be used when God urges, and calls and speaks to our hearts.
Verses 9b-10 say. “…to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” The Holy Spirit uses some people to heal others, both physically and spiritually. Just as healing from some ailment is the work of the Holy Spirit, we must not forget what is more important for example which is Spiritual healing— it is very much the work of the Holy Spirit, and we must encourage those who have that gift to work for the glory of God until a young man is healed from his sin and another healed from his or her pride and indifference. The Holy Spirit enables some to work miracles, such as driving out demons. There are gifts of prophecy and distinguishing between spirits. The last two gifts are related to tongues-speaking and interpreting. When we get to chapter 14, we will deal with that. Here, The important thing here is to recognize that some gifts are intended to be used together. Without an interpreter no one can understand one who speaks in tongues. The Holy Spirit is clear when he wants us to work together. Those who are gifted at fishing must work closely with those are a gifted with follow up ministry. Some people insist on working all alone because they think they are special and know more than others. But the Holy Spirit continuously disciplines them that its urgent to work together.
In verses 8-10 the words “to another,” or, “to still another,” are repeated eight times. The Holy Spirit does not give all of the gifts to one person. The Holy Spirit spreads out the gifts among the believers so that each one will have something to contribute. This challenges us and compels us to respect one another and use all our gifts for the common good.
Verse 11 says. “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one just as he determines.” Though the gifts and service and works of the Holy Spirit are so diverse, God gives them with a common purpose and according to his own sovereign will. It’s so important for a Christian to recognize and accept God’s sovereignty in the gifts he or she are given and in accepting that others have received other gifts, and respecting that. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts, as he determines. We must discover what these gifts are. To do this, we must pray and learn to see things from God’s perspective. Sometimes God wants us to try this and that until we discover what gifts we have, rather than wait to be inspired. Some people for example think that they would make terrible Bible teachers, and resign themselves to something else. Why not try and teach then and discover if this is God’s gift for you. Some think they cannot deliver a message, because they are not gifted writers, but why not pray and see if God has gifted you as a messenger. May God encourage us to discover our gift from God, to thank him for it, and to use it for his glory and the common good. There is no one without a very special gift that God had given him or her to use.
In verses 12-31 Paul talks about the unity and diversity in the body of Christ. He Paul explains the work of the Holy Spirit in the church by using the metaphor of the human body. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts. These parts have different functions, but they are interrelated. The parts cannot function by themselves and they cannot function outside the body; they need each other. So it is with Christ.
Verse 13 says: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” The word “baptized” means to be regenerated or born again by the work of the Holy Spirit. Though we come from many different backgrounds, we have the same spiritual Father. We have the same Lord. We drink daily from the same Holy Spirit. So we are one body joined together by the one Holy Spirit. Those who feel distant from Jesus Christ and their Christian family now have a message from God— as Paul says: “drink deeply of the Holy Spirit” and experience the marvelous work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. God’s word does not lie— it is truth. We are one with God and with our dear spiritual family members. The bond we have in Christ goes far beyond any human bond of blood or color or nationality. Every one who confessed Jesus is Lord is ever invited to drink of the Holy Spirit and receive God’s blessing. .
In verses 14-20 Paul develops his body metaphor to deal with the problems of inferiority feelings that easily creep into our hearts. The feet should not feel bad because they are not hands. The feet are very important. But if the feet compare themselves with the hands, they can feel inferior. After all, the hands can play an instrument, and can write and draw. If the feet begin to envy the hands, they can be easily discouraged and say, “I do not feel a part of the body.” But it doesn’t change the fact that they are part of the body. But the way they feel can only harm themselves and the body. The body has many parts. It cannot be all one part. It is made up of diverse parts and each part must accept its place in the body. Look at verse 18. “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” We must accept our God-given place in the body of Christ.
In verses 21-26, Paul deals with the problem of despising others in the body of Christ. For example, the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” They are absolutely interrelated and interdependent. So it is with the body of Christ. But, the problem is that some people try to do everything by themselves. This is suicidal, and those who try to do everything without recognizing the importance of others only hurt themselves and hurt the body. We absolutely need one another. You who does not honor your brother and sister because you think they are inferior to you, please learn the heart of God and honor others practically and not just in your mind. Those who seem weaker and not so important in the body of Christ, are indispensable. They must be treated with honor. When we honor one another properly, we develop an atmosphere of love crucial to the body and function of the church.
Verse 26. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” This is true, even though sometimes we do not feel the impact of the suffering until later. If the foot is injured and the hand does not care because the foot is so far away, and has little to do with the hand and its function, that hand will eventually suffer just as well, since they belong to the same body. Or if an eye is not aware that a toe is gone missing, whether it is aware of it or not, eventually that pain will be suffered in that one body. Regardless of what our function in the body is, we must care for the struggles of the other parts. The Lord tells us to care, because we are one body, and the suffering of one member is related to the suffering of another.
Look at verse 27. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” No one who calls Jesus Lord is outside the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ and each of us is a part of it.
In verses 28-30, there is a progression here. The church begins with apostles, ones who are sent to plant the word of God. The church grows as prophets provide spiritual vision and direction, and teachers patiently instruct with the word of God. Then the Holy Spirit raises up a body of believers and gives them enough spiritual gifts to transform their community or even their nation. It is God who appoints his servants and gifts them according to his purpose and plan. It is not those who are in authority in the church, but God himself who does this. Look at verse 31a. “But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” In his heart, Paul knew that the gift of love is most essential to the body of Christ. that is a gift to be desired by all, by every Christian whether their gifts are one or another. We will learn about the gift of love in the next chapter, but for now, pray that God would reveal to everyone of us his or her gift, pray that we may use it for the glory of God and not to compare and contrast gifts one with the other. Blessings on you.