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The Body of Christ

The Christians at Corinth wrote to Paul with some questions about their miraculous gifts. They evidently had some misconceptions about the relative value of various gifts. It is also apparent that their attitudes toward each other, both among those with the various gifts and between those who had a gift and those who had none, were not what they should have been.

Paul addressed the attitude problem in three ways. First, he pointed out the unity of the gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Second, he drew an analogy between a person’s body and the body of Christ to show the right spirit (12:12-30). Third, he insisted that they learn to serve through love, a way of serving that was essential both during the period of miraculous gifts and in the time after they ceased (12:21–13:13).    

Paul’s body analogy is a most helpful passage. In it he makes five points we would all do well to remember.

1. There is one body composed of many members (vv. 12-14). Just as a human body is a collection of various parts, so is Jesus’ body, the church. Though we are different, we all became part of the body in the same way, we all enjoy the same benefits there, and there we are one.

2. Each member has its function (vv. 15-16). Like feet, hands, ears, or eyes, we all have something to do. The fact that I cannot do what another can should not make me feel despondent or left out, nor can I use it to rationalize not doing what I can.

3. All functions are essential to the body (vv. 17-20). Just as your eye cannot hear or your ear cannot smell, no one member in Christ’s body can do everything. It takes the variety of functions to make the body complete. Paul emphasized that God arranges and assigns functions. Mike Willis prudently observed, “If a person does not like the station which he occupies in the body of Christ, he should reflect on the fact that God is the one who gave it to him.”

4. All members need all other members (vv. 21-25). There is no place for arrogance in Christ’s body. We all need each other, just as the eye needs the hand and the head needs the feet. In these verses Paul speaks of three kinds of looked-down-on members: weaker ones, less honorable ones, and less presentable ones. Interestingly, he does not identify these, either in the physical body or in the church. We are simply to learn the lesson that the proper response is to care for such members rather than disdain them.

5. The body functions as a unit (v. 26). What happens to one member, whether good or bad, is felt by the others.

These truths are not limited to the era of miraculous gifts, which, as Paul pointed out in the next chapter, was coming to a close. They are just as relevant in our day. We do not all have the same “natural” gifts or opportunities. We do not all have the same functions or serve in the same ways. But there is something each of us can do, and that something is important. The rest of the body is counting on you to do what you can. Let’s work together in love and mutual respect, each doing what he can, in a way that befits the body of Christ.

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