Summary: In our lesson today we learn that there is unity and diversity in the church--the body of Christ.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the issue of spiritual gifts. Let’s learn about more about that in a message I am calling, “One Body, Many Parts.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 12:12-30:
12 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. 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.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 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.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 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, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:12-30)
Last week I began a series of messages on the issue of spiritual gifts. I would like to adopt Wayne Grudem’s definition of spiritual gifts: A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.
This definition is intentionally broad. It includes both gifts that are related to natural abilities (such as teaching, helping, or administration) and gifts that seem to be related to more “supernatural” abilities (such as miracles, healing, or tongues). The reason for this is that when Paul lists spiritual gifts, for example, in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30, and Ephesians 4:11, he does not distinguish between both kinds of gifts because both kinds of gifts were still operative at the time that Paul wrote.
Yet not every natural ability that people have is included, because Paul is clear that all spiritual gifts must be empowered “by one and the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:11), that they are given “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7), and that they are all to be used “for building up” the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).
One question that some may have is this: how are natural abilities different from spiritual gifts? When natural abilities (such as teaching, helping, or administration) are empowered by the Holy Spirit, they will generally show increased effectiveness and power in their use. Paul said that the Corinthians were “enriched” in all speech and all knowledge as they received spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 1:5-7). Any pastor who has preached for a time knows the difference between preaching in his own “natural” ability and preaching the same sermon under the anointing or empowering of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s text Paul pointed out the importance of each spiritual gift in the church by means of an extensive analogy. He likened the church—the body of Christ—to the physical human body.
In our lesson today, we learn that there is unity and diversity in the church—the body of Christ.
I. The Church Is a Unit Made Up of Many Parts (12:12-14)