1 Cor 12:12-31 – The Body of Christ

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1 Cor 12:12-14

  1. Paul compares the church to a body. At the same time as we all belong together, we are also different.
  2. What brings believers together and unites them into a “body” is the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who removes the enmity between Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, and makes them “brothers and sisters” in Christ.
    1. The word “baptism” (“baptizo” in Greek) means to “lower”, “dip”, or “completely envelop”.
      1. For example, if you immerse a piece of fabric in paint, it is enveloped by the paint and becomes completely filled with it.
      1. If a believer is baptized in water, he is completely surrounded by water and rises as a new man. An outward manifestation of inward salvation.
      1. If you are baptized in the Holy Spirit, you are completely enveloped and filled with the Spirit of God and empowered to live a Christian life boldly and bear witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

1 Cor 12:15-16

  • It is as wrong for a foot to say that it does not belong to the body because it is not a hand, as for a Greek to say that he does not belong to the people of God because he is not a Jew, or for a person who does not have the gift of tongues to say that he cannot be a Pentecostal. What binds the body together is not any ethnicity, wealth or spiritual gift, but faith in Jesus.

1 Cor 12:17-20

  • Not only does Paul want to stress that we should accept each other’s differences in the church, he goes so far as to say that differences are even necessary for the whole to work. A body must have different kinds of body parts in order to function as a body is meant to.
  • Why did the hand become a hand, and the foot a foot? Well, because God wanted to create that way and he has the right to choose.
    • Why was I given the gift of prophesying, and you the gift of healing the sick? Well, because God wanted it that way and he has the right to decide.
    • In this way, none of us can take credit for what God has given us, but instead use our gifts together to glorify God. In this way, we realize that we need each other to fully function as the body of Christ together.

1 Cor 12:21-26

  1. While we hide some of our body parts so as not to show them off to all and sundry, we give them greater honour by dressing them.
    1. The heart and lungs may be considered more sensitive parts of the body than the arms and legs, but they are still vital and are protected more than the other parts of the body.
  2. If we each understand our place in God’s kingdom and seek to serve God according to the gifts and abilities we have, then we don’t need to quarrel with each other. It is only when we want to take someone else’s place that divisions arise.
  3. Although the foot is a relatively tough and resilient part of the body, nothing hurts like stepping on a Lego bit. In such a tragic and shocking event, the whole body suffers, not just the foot. To avoid a recurrence, the eyes need to help the feet see the floor properly. The eyes help the feet even if it was not the eyes that suffered, but because the body is connected.
    1. No part of the body lives only for its own sake. The hands make sure the whole body is fed. The hands do this not just for the hands, but for the whole body. The heart does not just pump blood around the heart, but around the whole body.

1 Cor 12:27-28

  1. Paul now mentions eight different functions and gifts, “body parts”, of the church. All believers can generally function in all of these gifts, but some are equipped by the Holy Spirit in a more specific way.
    1. Apostles
      1. The word “apostle” (“apostolos” in Greek) means “sent”, and can have several different meanings:
        1. In a sense, all Christians are apostles, i.e. “sent” by Jesus into the world to preach the gospel in word and deed.
        1. A second meaning of the word is the twelve apostles of Jesus, his closest circle who wrote the New Testament and were the first leaders of the early church. One criterion for being such an apostle was to have been with Jesus from the beginning, and to have been sent by Jesus (John 20:21) as a “witness to Jesus’ resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22). Apostles of this kind do not exist today but are reserved for the time of the early church in order to lay the foundations of Christianity (Eph 2:20, Acts 2:42).
        1. A third meaning of the word “apostle”, and the kind of apostle I think Paul means in this verse, is “a pioneer church leader”, “church planter” or “missionary”. For example, we see that the pioneer church leaders Paul (1 Cor 9:1-2), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), James (Gal 1:19), Andronicus, and Junias (Rom 16:7) are all called “apostles,” even though they were not among the original twelve apostles.
          1. An apostle of this kind works with the gospel, lays the foundations of churches or church activities, builds up and takes new initiatives in new places. When the work is self-sustaining, the apostle moves on to new unreached areas to build up the kingdom of God there as well.
            1. Because an apostle is often a pioneer who breaks new ground and builds a church from the ground up, apostles are often gifted with more or less all five of these ministry gifts. An apostle must be an evangelist to reach new people, and a shepherd to care for those who are saved. An apostle must also be able to prophesy in order to supernaturally touch people’s insides, and must also be able to preach Scripture in a way that people understand.
    1. Prophet
      1. In the Old Testament, a prophet was a “mouthpiece” for God and conveyed God’s word to God’s people.
        1. In Joel 2:28-29, the prophet Joel prophesies that in the end times God will pour out his Spirit on both men and women so that they will prophesy. This was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21).
      1. In the New Testament, to “prophesy” or to be a “prophet” (“prophetes” in Greek) usually means to communicate in one’s own words what God has revealed to the prophet.
        1. Prophetic words give people “edification, encouragement and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3) to the whole church (1 Corinthians 14:4-5) and, for evangelistic purposes, can reveal a person’s inner “secrets” so that they are led to salvation and worship (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
        1. Since the prophetic message is from God but delivered through a human being, prophetic greetings can sometimes contain errors, or be “colored” by the person who has experienced the message. Therefore, it is important that all prophetic words be “tested” by those who hear the message, so that they are consistent with God’s word and will (1 Cor 14:29, 1 Thess 5:20-21).
        1. Some examples of New Testament prophets are Agabus, who predicted a severe famine (Acts 11:28), Judas and Silas, who encouraged and strengthened the brothers (Acts 15:32), and the evangelist Philip’s four unmarried daughters who all had prophetic gifts (Acts 21:8-9).
    1. Teachers
      1. A “teacher” (“didaskalos” in Greek) teaches the Word of God (Romans 12:7). So do evangelists and shepherds, of course, but teachers have a special gift for opening up the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-32), sharing the “word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), teaching the “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), passing on the apostles’ teaching (2 Timothy 2:2) so that people understand and embrace the message at a deeper level.
    1. Miracle
      1. The gift of miracles (“dynamis” in Greek) is about God performing remarkable miracles at well-chosen times that defy all natural laws.
        1. Some examples of this gift is when Jesus and Peter walked on water (Matthew 14:22-33), when Jesus commands the storm to calm down (Matthew 8:23-27) or when the Spirit of God hastily “snatches” Philip from the desert and miraculously moves him to the city of Ashdod (Acts 8:39).
    1. Healing
      1. All Christians can pray for the sick and many who do so regularly can testify that miracles sometimes happen! But those who receive the gift of healing (“charismata iama” in Greek) are especially used by the Spirit of God to pray for the sick and see many people healed.
      1. God often performs miracles and healings in order to “confirm his gracious word” as it says in Acts 14:3. Supernatural miracles go hand in hand with sound Bible teaching.
    1. Helping
      1. To be set by God “to help” (“antilempsis” in Greek) means to help and assist others to serve God in their gifts.
        1. In the Old Testament, there is a great story about King Saul’s son Jonathan and his “armour-bearer” (1 Sam 14). In the story, Jonathan is the hero, but he wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for his anonymous armour-bearer. Not only did the armour-bearer, of course, carry Jonathan’s weapon for him, he was also a support that gave Jonathan the courage to carry out his task. When Jonathan hesitates about his task, the weapon bearer says: “Do whatever you have in mind. You go! I will follow you wherever you want to go.” (1 Sam 14:7) Without the support of the armour-bearer, Jonathan would never have succeeded in his own task. When the battle does come, it is Jonathan who must fight, but the armour-bearer goes behind and delivers the deathblow to those whom Jonathan defeats. Together they defeat the Philistines, leading to Israel eventually winning the war against all odds. However, only Jonathan gets the credit for the victory while the weapon bearer remains anonymous. But for a person with the gift of “helping,” the reward is not the limelight, but seeing other people grow in their faith and function in their gifts to the glory of God.
      1. The gift of helping can also mean helping other people socially and diaconally in various ways.
    1. Administrating
      1. The word “administrating” (“kybernesis” in Greek) is associated with being, for example, a “navigating officer” on a boat, or a “pilot”. A person with this gift is simply skilled at using the Holy Spirit to steer the church in the right direction, making sure that things are not going too fast, too slow or in the wrong direction, and that everyone is in the right place and knows what they are supposed to be doing. For example, an administrative leader or a chairman.
    1. Speaking in tongues
      1. The word “tongues” (“glossa” in Greek) actually means “language” and in general tongues means that God supernaturally gives you a “prayer language” that you can use to pray to God in your spirit with words that you do not understand but that God understands (1 Corinthians 14:2, 14). Normally, this language of prayer is not an existing language but a “spiritual language” that only God understands, but on certain special occasions, the person who speaks in tongues in a supernatural way may be given the opportunity to speak in an existing language, but one that he or she has never learned.
        1. Paul wants all Christians to share in the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5), but at the same time notes that not everyone receives it (1 Corinthians 12:30).

1 Cor 12:28-31

  1. Paul now concludes his argument with a rhetorical question, “Are not all…?” Paul’s point is that we should allow all the gifts of the Holy Spirit to flow into the body of the church rather than focusing too much on one particular gift or one specific charismatic leader. It is not when all the parts of the body try to become one mouth that the body works best, but when all the different limbs work together and function as a whole.
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