Summary: Paul uses the human body to illustrate three wrong attitudes Christians sometimes hold onto, and how to move past them toward unity in diversity.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 January 27, 2019
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The church today is messed up. We all know it. We’ve been in churches that had a wacky pastor, or wacky people, or both. We’ve been in churches that cared more about buildings and budgets than believers. We’ve been in churches that liked to fight publicly and gossip privately. The church is a mess.
Yet, no church is more a mess than the church Paul writes to in Corinth. If you ever feel bad about your church, just read 1 Corinthians; you’ll feel much better! Paul’s first letter, what we call 1 Corinthians, was full of advice on how to get back on track as a church. His second letter, what we call 2 Corinthians, showed that they had listened to him and made some much-needed changes.
In chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses spiritual gifts, these unique ways the Holy Spirit shows up in the lives of believers. As you read these chapters, you catch a general theme of unity out of diversity. The Holy Spirit immerses each person into the church as they become a believer (this is a spiritual experience, not baptism with water), and that same Holy Spirit uniquely gifts each one to do ministry for the good of the body. So, when you get a bunch of believers together in a church, you’ve got a beautiful blend of unique individuals to care for each other and reach their community with the love of Christ. That is God’s design for the church. And as messed up as the church is, it is still God’s plan for reaching a hurting world.
The problem Paul found with the Corinthian church was, lots of folks were arguing about who had the best spiritual gift, and some were thinking they didn’t have any gifts at all! So today’s three points are selective; they may not ALL apply to you. But one of them might. Consider these three attitudes, and see if you find yourself in any of them. First, the attitude...
1. “I can’t do anything!” (vv. 15-20)
This is the person who feels inferior, who thinks, “I have nothing to offer. My church doesn’t need me. I can’t sing. I can’t preach. I’m not good at anything.”
First, you are not inferior. “God don’t make no junk.” That’s bad English, but good theology! Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The word for “handiwork” is sometimes translated “masterpiece.” You are a masterpiece on the canvas of God’s creation. And you were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” If you say you have nothing to offer, then you’re really saying more about God’s ability than your own. Everybody has something to offer the body of Christ.
And that brings us to Paul’s favorite metaphor for the church: the “body of Christ.” He uses the word “body” 18 times in today’s text and draws on the picture more than any other in his writings. In fact, he bookends today’s passage with this thought: verses 12 and 27 say the church is the body of Christ.
Back to the first attitude, “I can’t do anything.” Sometimes we’re jealous of people who have gifts we don’t have. “Why can’t I be more like them?” Drawing on the image of a human body, Paul writes in verses 15-17, “Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”
Every part of the body is important. The foot is important, even though it’s not a hand. The ear is important even though it’s not an eye. The body needs every unique body part! Not everyone needs to be a pastor, but somebody does. Not everyone needs to play the piano and organ, but somebody does. Not everyone needs to serve on the Board, or make hospital visits, or organize functions, or pray for those in need, or write notes of encouragement to people, or visit people at the Mission, or pass out bulletins. But somebody does. Someone needs to do each of those things. And each of you are equipped to glorify God and his church in some unique way. You will know you’re using your gift well when God blesses it. That’s a sign that you are honoring God with your unique gifting.