I Corinthians 12:14-20
by Lois E. Gibson
In the last section of Corinthians that we covered, Paul shared how our physical body, though it has many parts, it forms only one body. He likens this to God's one Spirit baptizing all believers into one body. So as the physical body has many members, yet is one- so the body of Christ consists of many members, yet is one. Our text for this study is 1 Corinthians 12:14-20.
Paul is now going to expound upon the thought of the physical body having many members, yet different functions. We will first see how no member of the body should feel any less needed than another because of their function. Now, it is important to keep in mind why he is stressing this point. Though speaking of our physical body, Paul is also relating this to our being the body of Christ. In addition, this all ties in intricately to the gifts, ministries and effects mentioned near the beginning of chapter twelve. When the Church (body of Christ) realizes and understands what Paul is teaching, there is no telling what will happen!
I Corinthians 12:14-20 (NASB)
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
16 And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
19 If they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now there are many members, but one body.
This section of Paul's writings emphasizes the fact that no member of our physical body can cease to be a member of the body because they do not have the same function as another member whom they might feel is more important or needful. But we are also to relate this truth to all of us being the body of Christ. Let what Paul is sharing sink way, way down into the depths of your soul and understand just how important YOU are to the body of Christ.
We are reminded again that the body doesn't have just one member, but many. It is all the members placed together where each belong which makes our physical bodies what they are.
We start off by seeing that our foot has decided it isn't the same as another member of our body, the hand. The foot proclaims, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body." (Allow me to interject some things that are not part of the Scriptures, but will hopefully give more of a visual of what Paul is sharing.)
Perhaps the foot noticed that the hand could easily grab hold of objects. It noticed the hand grabbed a hammer, saw and some wood and skillfully constructed a table. It also watched as the hand picked up food and took it to the mouth, thus providing a means to nourish the body. It saw the hand grasp door knobs and gain entry for the body into various places. "Look at all the wonderful things the hand can do!" the foot sobbed. "I cannot do these important tasks. I am not a hand and therefore am not a part of the body."
The ear heard the foot sobbing. It retorted, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body." The ear went on to consider all the wonderful things the eye can do. "Listen, it's even worse up here! The eye allows light into the body. Through it colors and shapes are seen. Words from the pages of a book can be read, making the body filled with knowledge. I can do none of these things. I am not an eye and therefore am not a part of the body, either."
Does this not sound silly? Absolutely! That is my point. Doesn't the foot and ear have important functions as well? Just imagine the various parts of your physical body deciding they were not part of the body because they didn't have the same function as another part. Would their proclamation make them any less a part of the body? No way! Now the visual Paul gives gets even stronger.
"If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?" Have you ever tried to picture this? Your entire body is composed of all eyes; lots and lots of eyes. Or, your body is composed of all ears; loads of ears. Imagine! Maybe we could be one mass of noses, or legs, or hands. Do you get what Paul is sharing? If our body were one member, where would all the other needful functions be? Gone! They would cease to exist. So while you may see even more than you did before, you couldn't walk anywhere. You could pick nothing up; no hearing, no sense of smell, and no more eating. You would cease to be a body.
Listen again: "But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body."
Again, we are many members yet one body. Without the various members, there would cease to be a body. And who did this? God. God formed our physical bodies and placed each member of the body just where he wanted it, with the function(s) he intended it to have. Now- please understand this- just as God formed our physical bodies, he has formed His body, the church, in like manner. By His one Spirit, he has baptized each of us into this one body. We are many members, yet one body. He has given gifts and ministries to each member of the body as he desired, fitting them together perfectly, so that each is important and necessary and each is interdependent upon each other.
Can you hear what Paul is saying? Do you see what he has shared? Would you let it sink deep down into your heart so that you are forever changed by these words?
If there's anyone out there who feels their place in the body isn't what anothers is or who might feel they don't have a place, please allow what Paul shared to speak to you. The Spirit has gifted every believer. Every believer has his or her own place and function in the body. Maybe you don't see your place? Well, let me tell you that you are not any the less a part of the body! Do you feel envious of how another might be used of the Lord, thinking that maybe the way He uses you doesn't seem quite as desirable or important? Understand this- God places us in His body as He desires. No one receives any giftings or ministries that are unimportant or not needful. And thinking any of these things does not make you cease to be any the less a member of the body. Whether you see it or not, whether you accept this truth or not, you are a member of the body!
Let's jump over to Ephesians 4:15-16 again (NIV): "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK." (Emphasis mine)
Hmmm. As a body, we are to grow together. Does not our physical body grow together? If one part of our body decides to not grow, what happens to the body? Think about it. What if your legs decided they were so unimportant that at three years old they ceased to grow but the rest of your body grew normally. What would happen? Could those three-year-old size legs support a full-grown body?
As a body, we are to build our self up in love. What is love? Ah, I'm so glad someone asked! We'll see this in chapter 13. (Again, chapter 13 is intricately tied into Paul's teachings on the gifts and body of Christ.)
But- hold on here! What does the end of verse 16 say? As each part does its work. Hmmm. You don't think you are important or needed because you haven't been given the same gift as another? God's Word says you have a work to do. You are part of the body of Christ. God has placed you in this body EXACTLY where He wants you to be. He's given you a function, a work to do. Through the one Spirit, He has given you the ability to do that work. But we only function properly as a body when ALL parts do THEIR work.
One body, one Lord, one Spirit, one church, one God, one faith, and one baptism. We are many, church, yet one in body. Christ is the Head. Ah, that we would move together as a body, building each member up in love, each doing our work! We are ONE body.
Paul isn't through yet! There's more! He doesn't want us to not see what he is sharing and there's another side to this lesson. Think about these things.
Posted November 5, 2004
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