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. 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.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 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. 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. 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? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them,as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
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.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 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, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 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. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
Summary – Paul has already begun his explanation of unity through the Spirit in 1 Cor 12:1-11. Now he goes on to explain that the unity he speaks of is more than just a bunch of individuals lashed together with a string (the Spirit). Those individuals are now part of one new individual: the Body of Christ, and this work is done through the Holy Spirit. Being part of a “body” comes with it the implication that each person plays a different part. Everyone is different, nevertheless each is as indispensable as the next. If everyone in the church were a preacher, there would be no one to preach to!
Insight – Do you ever feel like you’re the “feet” in Christ’s body? Do you feel like you just get “walked on” all the time? Wouldn’t it seem nicer to be the brain? This line of thinking has two problems: First, God didn’t tell us which gifts equal which part of the body. So there is no way to know if your gifts are the “lowest” and dwelling on that is not helpful. But second, does the brain really have it all that easy? It gets headaches, concussions, and aneurisms! The Bible tells us that certain gifts in the Body of Christ are not to be entered lightly. James says that not many should be teachers because they will be “judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). But Paul does tell us to “earnestly desire the higher gifts.” This all teaches us two things: First, we should with perseverance try with all our might to “be all we can be” for God, and use all our gifts to the best of our ability. Second, we should be content with where God places us and not worry too much about being at the “top of the pile.”
Child Catechism – Which part of Christ’s Body is the most important? None of them. They are all important.
Discussion – What do you think Paul means when he says “earnestly desire the higher gifts”? Does this imply that someone with one gift is more important than someone with another one?
Prayer – Thank you Lord that you have given us clear pictures in your Word of what your church looks like. Thank you that in your wisdom, we have diversity amongst ourselves even as we serve you together. We ask you that our unity in our diversity would beautifully picture the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We pray this in your Triune Name, Amen.