Summary: Second of two parts on the reality that no part of the body can claim superiority or feel inferior because all parts are necessary and empowered by God.
October 27, 2002 1 Corinthians 12:21-31a
“Unity, not uniformity” (pt. 2)
For more than a year a little old cleaning women, who lived on the wrong side of the tracks, had been trying to join a fashionable downtown church. The pastor was not eager to have a seedy looking person in faded, out-of-style clothes sitting in a pew next to his rich members. When she called for the fifth time to discuss membership, he put her off for the fifth time.
"I tell you what," said the pastor, "you just go home tonight and have a talk with God about it. Later you can tell me what He said."
The poor woman went her way. Weeks moved into months, and the preacher saw no more of her and his conscience did hurt a little. Then one day he encountered her scrubbing floors in an office building, and felt impelled to inquire, "did you have your little talk with God, Mrs. Washington?" he asked.
"Oh, my yes," she said, "I talked with God as you suggested."
"Ah, and what answer did He give you?" asked the pastor.
"Well, Preacher," she said as she pushed back a wisp of stringy hair with a sudsy hand, "God said for me not to get discouraged, but to keep trying. He said that He Himself had been trying to get into your church for 20 years, with no more success than I have had." - Unknown (PULPIT HELPS, Sept., 1990)
That church had what I would call an attitude of superiority. They felt that they were too important to need someone who they felt didn’t match up to their standards. But in the verses that we are going to look at this morning, we are going to discover that no part of the body of Christ is of any greater value than any other part. We all stand as sinners in front of a holy God, we have all been saved by the same grace, and our sins have all been washed away by the same blood.
In spite of what God has done in their lives, some Christians never get involved in actively serving Him in a local church. Paul deals with two reasons for this here in verses 14 – 31 of 1 Cor. 12. The first is that “some feel that they have no gifts or abilitites that are worthwhile, and so sit back and let others do the work.” We dealt with that reason last week. We saw that there are no inferior people, and there are no inferior spiritual gifts. The second reason that people do not get involved in ministering with others in a local church is because they “feel they are so highly qualified that they do not really need the help of others to perform their ministry”. A spirit of inferiority and an attitude of superiority both have the same affect: they isolate Christians from one another. They divide us. We become unproductive separated parts rather than the powerful unified body of Christ. “We are not to isolate ourselves in our supposed inadequacy, nor are we to isolate ourselves in our imagined superiority”, and it is that attitude of superiority that we are going to deal with this morning.
Let’s take a look at three ways that an attitude of superiority can prevent the body of Christ from being healthy and accomplishing God’s mission for it.
1. An attitude of superiority prevents the parts of the body of Christ from recognizing their need for each other. (vs. 21-24a)
If you remember from our study last week, the focus of the Christians in the Corinthian church was on certain spiritual gifts – the ones that were of the more showier type. These would include the gift of healing, the gift of performing miracles and especially the gift of tongues. Anyone who didn’t have one of these gifts considered themselves to be inferior, and those who did have these gifts thought of themselves as superior. “Whereas the first [group] says, “They don’t need me,” the second says, “I don’t need them.”” But Paul wants to communicate to them and to us that no part of the body is strong enough to not need the other parts. In order to be healthy, we need each other. Look at vs. 21.
a. No part of the body can be discarded. (vs. 21)
Christians can get to the point where they think that they are self-sufficient. Imagine that you can hear the foot talking to the hand. And he’s saying something like this: “I don’t need you! I can get along fine without you. You are doing such a horrible job at being a hand. I think I can do my job of walking and still do your job better than you are doing it right now. You screw-up. You can’t do anything right!” The hand was already feeling like it was all thumbs before these harsh words came from the foot. So now, a part of the body that is already feeling inferior is being trounced on by another part of the body which only serves to confirm the way that the hand was feeling about its worth to the body to begin with. “The philosophy that we are basically self-sufficient and do not need anyone else is Satan’s philosophy and the opposite of God’s plan and will for men…[man’s] great desire [is] to be his own god.” – p. 318