I Corinthians 12:21-26
by Lois E. Gibson
In the last section of 1 Corinthians 12, Paul showed how a member of the body couldn't say that because it does not have the same function as another, it is not part of the body. Every believer has a purpose in the body of Christ and is just as needful as another, though their gifting or ministry differs. As it is with our physical bodies, we cannot all have the same function in the body of Christ.
In this next section, Paul approaches it from another angle, showing that one member of the body cannot look down upon another member and decide it has no need of it. We'll see how the body has no division and all parts should have equal concern one for another.
I Corinthians 12:21-26 (NASB)
21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable,
24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,
25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Just as one can look at others and feel they themselves are not as necessary or important as another, one can also get a big head and think they are so important they have no need of another. Remember that while Paul is speaking of our physical bodies, he is also relating this to the body of Christ. Verse 21 says, "And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; or again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.'" Here Paul gives us another visual. Imagine our physical bodies acting like this! What would happen to us if this could occur? Though the eye can see, it cannot grasp things. Though the head gives directions to other parts of the body, it cannot walk anywhere on its own.
Can you grasp this? Do you see how each member of the body of Christ is needful and plays an important role? The one who is a worker of miracles cannot decide that they have no need of the one who encourages. The one who helps others cannot decide they are not of the body because they are not a teacher. Who is the source of ALL these giftings; each of us? No, no, no! It is the Spirit who gives us gifts and ministries. God is the Source. So if God is the source, then how can one say they have no need of another? Or that they themselves are not needed? Or that they are not a part of the others?
Did not God place us into the body where He desired? Are we saying that God didn't know what He was doing and made a mistake with where he placed us or another? Think about this.....because this is indeed what we are saying when we think these things!
Let's look at the next four verses: "On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another."
So to the member of the body who has decided they have no need of another member, Paul proclaims that on the contrary, those members who may seem weaker are necessary. The NIV renders it this way: "On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor."
While there are body parts that are out in the open for all to see, there are also body parts that are treated with more modesty. That doesn't make them any less a part of the body. God has made the body so that there should be no division and that each member may care for every other member in the same manner. Just because one may be more visible does not mean they are more needful or more important.
Paul goes on to add, "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." This is what he meant by the members of the body having no division and all the parts having equal concern for each other. When you are injured somewhere in your physical body, does this not affect the rest of your body? Your eyes look to see what happened, your hand goes out to comfort and further protect the injured part; your body may even bend over in pain. The body is now focused on the injured member.
The same holds true with the body of Christ. God made it so there should be no division in the body. We are to have equal concern one for each other. When one of us suffers, all should suffer. When one of us is honored, all should rejoice. We are connected together- baptized into the one body by one Spirit. We are interdependent upon each other. Paul shared earlier in 1 Corinthians 1:10, "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought."
Let's return to Romans 12:3-6a as this goes along with 1 Corinthians 12. "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." Again, we are reminded that the body of Christ can be likened to our physical body. We are many members of the body, each having our own function, our own giftings, and we each belong to all the others.
If we continue in Romans 12, we will read more about how we are to be: we are to be devoted to one another in brotherly love; we are to share with God's people who are in need; we rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn; we are to live in harmony. These are a few of the things that are mentioned.
Can we see what Paul is teaching the Church? Can we see how the body of Christ is likened to our physical body? Can we see how this relates to the gifts and ministries that are given by God's one Spirit? Can we grasp how interconnected we all are and how interdependent we are? Can we each take our proper place in the body as God placed us? Can we each allow God to work through us so that we can do the work we are to do? Can we not envy another and realize our place in the body is just as needful as any other? Can we not get a big head and think we have no need of another? Can we have no divisions in our midst? Can we all suffer when another suffers and rejoice when another is honored? Can we have equal concern one for another?
Think about these things. Do we really move together as we ought? Do we function together as we should? Are we each doing our part?
May God touch each of us and give us understanding of the truths of what Paul is teaching and may these truths forever change us. May all believers realize they are a part of the body of Christ, gifted by the Spirit, and given a specific place in the body where they are needed. May we move together in love, may the body build itself up in love, and may we each do our part so that God's will may be accomplished in our lives and that others may come to the saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
Posted November 5, 2004
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