Summary: The gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good not for our personal advancement. Paul shows us how the body of Christ is quite a literal expression.
THE ART OF BODY BUILDING
Jesus is not here…in the flesh. His body is not here but his Spirit is here. We read in John 16 that Jesus had to go away; he had to return to his Father in heaven, so that his Spirit could come, so that his very person, the essence of his being could be with every believer everywhere in the world. Through the work of his Spirit, his body can be found in and through the people known as the Church.
We have been given the task of building the body with the help of the Spirit. But with body building come certain dangers. As with the Corinthian Church, the church today can easily focus on certain areas while ignoring others.
Consider the art of bodybuilding itself. Many years ago on “The Merv Griffin Show,” the main guest was a bodybuilder. During the interview, Merv asked, “Why do you develop those particular muscles?” The body builder simply stepped forward and flexed a series of well-defined muscles from chest to calf. The audience applauded.
“What do you use all those muscles for?” Merv asked. Again, the muscular specimen flexed, and his biceps and triceps sprouted to impressive proportions.
“But what do you use those muscles for?” Merv persisted. The body builder was bewildered. He didn’t have an answer other than to continue flexing.
What strikes me as odd is that of all the people sitting here today, no one looks like that. There is no practical purpose to building enormous muscle mass except for looks. And most people are grossed out by how it looks. While physical fitness is important, exercising the mind, exercising your spirit, and exercising your serve are equally important to having a balanced body, a body that is healthy and useful.
This is the thrust of Paul’s teaching to a church that built up certain muscles but neglected other body parts. Here in our passage today we learn what makes us part of the body and why every part counts to bring glory to Jesus.
1. How you became part of the body
How did you become part of the body of Christ? Quite simply, when you believed in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and allowed him to claim his rightful place as Lord of your life. This is really no simple thing. But when you believed you were joined through the baptism of the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. We symbolize this great event through the water baptism Jesus commands us to receive.
We are Mennonites and by no means Pentecostal. So when we speak of the baptism of the Holy Spirit some of us grow a little suspicious. Is this some ecstatic, lose-control-of-your-body kind of experience? We don’t adhere to that. But Paul does speak of Spirit baptism right here in Corinthians. He 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” (13).
You were baptized in the Holy Spirit and given a gift or gifts of a spiritual nature at the time of your conversion. The word “baptized” in this context has a double meaning. It is in one sense ‘being initiated into’ and in another ‘being overwhelmed by.’ The Greeks at that time spoke of a sunken ship as being baptized. That ship was not merely initiated into water; it was thoroughly overwhelmed by water. Not only was the ship under water, the water was inside the ship. What Paul wants us to understand then is that the Holy Spirit is in us and we are in the Holy Spirit. We are surrounded, overwhelmed and indwelt by the Spirit who comes from Christ. Through this Spirit we are made part of something much larger than our individual selves, we are made part of the body of Christ.
Martin Lloyd-Jones, a well known Reformed preacher, asked his congregation a question along these lines. He said, “I want to talk to you today about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. You may call it what you want, but I want to know, have you experienced the fullness of the Spirit?...I know that all of you would want to say to my question about the Holy Spirit, ‘Well, we got it all at conversion; there’s no need for any more experience.’” (And we Mennonites would say ‘amen’ if we were able to). But then Lloyd-Jones said, “Well, I have only one other question to ask you. If you got it all at conversion, where in God’s name is it?”
When we did our gift survey at Men’s Retreat, we did another test beforehand. Its intent was to show us our starting point in terms of ministry. The short answer for me was that I had wisdom and commitment but was lacking power. And many of us are lacking power, the power of the Holy Spirit. We are apt to lean on our own resources and forget that the body needs the Holy Spirit to give us power and energy to use our gifts. It is the Spirit too who makes the body one.