Summary: Finding your place in the body of Christ is made difficult by the very nature of the spiritual gifts. People with upfront or flamboyant kinds of ministries can make the rest of us feel insignificant, like we are not contributing or maybe just aren't a par
As humans we like two things: to impress and be impressive. That was one of the main problems the Corinthians faced in many areas including spiritual gifts. The more flamboyant the gift, the more impressive the show of the Spirit, the better. So in chapters 12 through 14 Paul corrects this attitude.
Paul is continuing to erase the ignorance of the Corinthians about the true nature and purpose of the Holy Spirit, and His gifts to the body of Christ. They wanted to stratify based on whose gift was better, so too then the person must be “better.” In Chapter 11 they created “classes” according to socio-economic status. They must have applied this as well to the “place” people had in the body of Christ. Paul corrects this strongly.
This kind of thing works in both directions. The people who think of themselves as greater tend to think less of those “below” them. Conversely, those below might not even feel they are “worthy” to be part of the body of Christ. This type of thinking mirrors the values of the world, but NOT the values and character in the body of Christ.
In verses 1 – 11 we saw diversity of gifts but one Spirit as the source and director. In verses 12 – 31 we see a diversity of members of the body of Christ, but one Head: Jesus Christ, tying us all together as one functioning unit.
12 – 20
Point 1: We are taken from our standing in the world and put into the one body of Christ. Many made one.
Point 2: Though it is one body, it is made up of many parts—but no longer are those parts given their worth based on the values of the world. We are all equally valuable, though we are all different. Unity in diversity. It’s not better or worse, just different.
For those who feel they are “less than” the tendency might be to aspire to be like the “special” parts of the body. In this case I think Paul is saying that represents those who have more flamboyant and public gifts like prophecy, or speaking in tongues. For us, we might not feel like we are a really special Christian unless we have some sort of public ministry or can point to some tangible thing we’ve produced like converts or raising lots of money or creating bunches of programs.
What we don’t realize is that just as the human body cannot function without its parts, so too the body of Christ will not function well unless all the parts functioning. If everyone were a pastor or speaker, then nothing would get done in the body and meetings would be never ending!
You need to know that you have been placed into the body of Christ with a part to play that is unique to you. If you are an ear and you only want to operate as an eye, first ears don’t make very good eyes, and second, you won’t find your real purpose and potential because you are trying to see instead of hear.
This also applies to those who think they are already something special in the body.
21 – 26
So now we turn the perspective to those who possess what they think are more “spectacular” gifts. No doubt the eye is crucial to the functioning of a human. But though the eye can see the food, it cannot pick it up. The eye needs the hand for that.
So too, in the body of Christ, the “up front” ministry would be nothing if it were not for those who toil “behind the scenes.” I can teach till I’m blue in the face, but it takes all of you to make not only the operation of the church function, but more importantly, to be God’s hands and feet out in the world, sharing your lives and the love of Christ with others.
In verses 23 and following Paul is talking about the private parts of the human body. We put clothing over those parts, we “dress them up” in a way, so that we are not offensive and thus, more honorable. In the body of Christ, Paul is making the point that just because someone’s gift is exercised quietly and even hidden from others, does not make it less important.
Verses 25 and 26 are the point: That a well-functioning body is one where the upfront as well as the quiet are honored, nurtured, and cared for.
27 – 30
Earlier in the chapter Paul talked about some of the gifts, now he places them in a bit of an order, but not of worthiness, but of importance for the spreading of the gospel. The Apostles were the 11, plus men like Paul, James, Silas, Barnabas, and a very few others. They were those that had seen the risen Christ and had been commissioned by Him. They formed the foundation upon which the church was built. After that, prophets went out to encourage and exhort this young church. Following them are the teachers—those like myself, who labor week in and week out in the Word of God, teaching people how to think and act like Jesus Christ. The other gifts follow—but notice what Paul is saying: not everyone is going to have one of these gifts.