Text: 1 Corinthians 12:18-31 June 19, 2011
1) A new funny sport: A funny new sport popularized in recent year renders some other sports pale in terms of the size and form of competition. Few people may grasp the full reasons or purpose of it. It is called “Toe Wrestling.” Each year, people from all over the world gather in England for the world championships. Both competitors sit on the floor facing each other and lock the big toe of the other person. The object is to pin the opponent’s foot to the floor in a manner similar to the way an arm wrestler pins down the wrist of his competitor.
2) New honor for the toe: This unusual competition brings honor to a part of the body largely ignored unprecedented recognition. Few people pay any attention to his toe until we drop something on it. Although our toes and feet are vital parts of our anatomy, we pay little or no attention to them unless they are hurt or have problems. In today’s text, Paul used the foot to remind us that there are no unimportant parts in the body of Christ. Each person in the church of Christ is important. Even if you think that you are overlooked or ignored, you are a valuable part of the church of God.
HOW WAS THE BODY CREATED: (12:18-21)
1) The body was created by God. “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, everyone of them, just as He wanted them to be.” (12:18) Make no mistake, it is God who puts every part of the body together as He wants them to be. Every part means every part, the ones stronger and the ones weaker; the ones we love better and the ones we love less. No one can question the wisdom of God in putting all the parts into one body.
2) No body is created with one part: “If they were all one part, where would the body be?” (12:19) No matter how good, how big, bow beautiful of how important, no one part can form a full body. When it is one part, it is one part, not one body. No matter how much we love to be an important part, we won’t have a body with only one part. God doesn’t work it that way and we cannot demand it that way.
3) But one body with many parts: “As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (12:20)The recognition of many parts in one body is the fundamental concept we all have to accept and to work with. Be it in a family, a company, a class or a church, we will always have many people to form that body and that is God’s design in His superior wisdom. This is about unity among diversity and it is for the best functioning of the body.
4) All parts are interdependent: “The eye cannot say to the hand: I don’t need you! And the hand cannot say to the feet: I don’t need you!” (12:21) It all depends on the kind of functioning you want to do, you need each part at one time or another, the eye, the hand or the feet or anyone else. In a more complicated functioning, you need the contribution of more than one part of the body to achieve to goal. So, the value of each part depends on the value of other parts to make it work. No part of the body can function to its fullest extend without the help of other parts.
THE EQUALITY OF ALL PARTS: (12:22-26)
1) On the weak and less honorable: “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. And the parts that we think are less honorable, we treat them with special honor. And the parts that are less presentable are treated with special modesty.” (12:22-23) The three adjectives used here for the weaker, the less honorable and less presentable indicate the fact that in every body, they are indispensable and need special care. God never makes mistakes by placing unnecessary parts in a body or a family, a class or a church. They are all needed and they deserve our respect and protection.
2) On the strong and the honorable: “While our presentable parts need no special treatment, God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it.” (12:24) This is contrary to human system: usually we offer the honorable and the presentable more special treatment than those who are less. But God wants us to know that more respect and attention need to be given to those who are weak or less gifted. God also combines the body with strong and weak, presentable and less presentable parts; we need to treat them with respect.
3) On the unity among diversity: “So, there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” (12:25) Division due to differences is a tragic problem in many churches. God gives to us different level of gifts, ability and talents for the unity and benefit of the whole church and not to divide us. Mutual love, respect and acceptance of each other are the key to harmony and unity. While each has different level of contribution to the well being of the body, every part has its unique contribution no other part may replace. We need to focus on the one body instead of the many parts to maintain unity.
4) On mutual sustenance: “If one par suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (12;26) This is about community life. In a church, same as in a family, a school, a company, we live in communities. The fate of the community depends on the comrade spirit and mutual support. There shouldn’t be pride or gloating or jealousy among the people, honorable or not, we are in the same boat. We have to show mutual support and share the duties for the boat to sail.
EVERYONE DOES HIS PART: (12:27-31)
1) We are the body of Christ: “Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.” (12:27) There is a problem in many churches: people tend to identify a church with a leader, the pastor or a key member. While the pastor and key leaders have their responsibilities in the building and functioning of the church, the real components are the “parts” (members) of the body of Christ. The church is all the people, not just the leaders. “WE” who are called and placed in a church “ARE” the church. We all have the share of pride as well as the responsibilities of OUR church. We are responsible for her growth, her health and all the aspects of her ministry to serve God and the people.
2) We all have received assignments: “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gift of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.” (12:28) The list here is roughly the same as that in 12:6-11. It indicates that God has given different gifts to different people for different needs and ministry. This is a very important concept for all Christians to know, to exercise and to serve God through the church. No one has all the gifts and no one has no gift. We all receive from God our share of gifts according to His assignment and we are to use them faithfully and diligently for His glory.
3) Our many different assignments: “Are all apostles? Are all pro-phets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gift of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (12:29-30) The only logical answer to the above 7 questions is NO, not all have the same gift to serve the church. There are many needs in a church and God has given to His people many different gifts to meet those needs. We need to recognize the importance of all the gifts and work together to build God’s church.
4) Seek that greatest gift of all: “But desire the greatest gifts. Now I will show you the most excellent way.” (12:31)And the greatest gift of all is the gift of love which Paul spent the whole chapter 13 to detail its nature and application. If you take away love, love God or love people or both, no gift may mean anything for any good. Love is the only catalyst that can bring all people with different gifts together for the good of all. Paul encouraged all Christians to desire and seek that greatest gift of all before they seek any other gift.
1) We are one body of Christ: Whenever we talk about unity of the church, we first need to recognize that we all are in that ONE body of Jesus Christ just as in the pledge to the “one nation, under God, indivisible.” We all belong to “one church, under God, indivisible.” The sense of one or oneness is indispensable. This oneness will hold us together in time of, disagreement or debates or even crisis. We must keep this oneness at all costs over and above our personal agenda, pride or principles. None of the above is more important than keeping us as one.
2) We all have different gifts: This is second to the oneness as a church. We need to recognize that we need many different gifts to build God’s church. We also need to recognize and uphold each and all gifts as equally important to the one church. We may even want to give preferential honor to the less honorable, less visible and the less recognized. We need each other, no matter how big or how small we are. Mutual appreciation, respect and support are needed to make unity possible.
3) Let us build the body of Christ: When we give gifts to someone we love, we expect they will love it, use it and feel good about it. When a gift is stored, hidden or forgotten, it is worse than just wasting the time, effort and money in buying it, it also hurts the giver of the gift. Same principle applies to the gifts God has given us. Do we care God’s gift? Will we use it to achieve what God intends us to? What will you tell God about his gift, if you have never use it, when you see Him in heaven? What do you think God may say to you when he finds out that the gifts He has given you was never opened much less used.