Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:12-21,26,27
Text: Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
At this time of year, the gyms are full of people carrying through on their New Year’s resolution to get back in shape. At first, many of them start out strong. They are there as often as they said they would be. However, as the months go along, there are less and less people there. They start making excuses as to why they can’t work out. Another thing that happens is that people start out too quickly. Rather the starting on the smaller weights and moving up, they try to tackle the bigger ones right away. Muscles get sore and then the person doesn’t want to work out. They would like the stronger body, but the effort is more than they want to put into it. This morning, the apostle Paul uses a picture of the human body to teach us some very important lessons. As we listen, may we go away with this motto: LET’S BUILD A STRONGER BODY. He, tells us we do so 1. By Recognizing Our Unity, 2. By Accepting Our Diversity, and 3. By Appreciating our Interdependence.
To illustrate the point, Paul begins with an obvious fact. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” There are many parts of the body – fingers, toes, eyes, ears, nose, and so forth. Each are individual parts. However, though there are many parts, they all belong to the body. Paul makes a comparison by saying “so it is with Christ.” When he refers to Christ, Paul means the body of Christ, or the church. These are all the believers who have been gathered into the Holy Christian Church. We see this as Paul continues in verse 13, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” It doesn’t matter what your nationality is or what your station in life is. All believers are part of this body of Christ.
The way that we became a part of this body is that “we were all baptized by one Spirit.” Through the Holy Spirit’s work, we have been brought to faith. This faith consists of an acknowledgment of whom we are by nature. We are born sinful. The Holy Spirit works through the law to show us how often we have failed to live as God demands that we live. We have not loved others as we should. We have not always held God in the position that he demands. Through the preaching of the law, we also are aware of what we deserve both because of the sinful nature, with which we are born, and the sins that we commit every single day.
However, through that wondrous washing of baptism, a faith is created that knows who Jesus Christ is. This faith trusts that Jesus lived for us, died for us, and rose again. This faith knows that Jesus’ sacrifice was full and complete. Because of this trust in Jesus, which the Holy Spirit creates in us, our sins have all been forgiven. We know that we have heaven waiting for us. Through the Spirit-born faith, we become a part of the body of Christ. This verse reminds us that this fact is true of every single part of Christ’s body, every single believer. Christ’s sacrifice was universal. Christ died for all regardless of earthly position. Because this is true, when I see a fellow believer, I don’t see them as separate from me. I realize that I am connected to them and they to me. We are all a part of this body of Christ.
Since this is true, we realize that there is no place for factions or divisions in the church. One part of the body cannot separate itself from the rest of the body. While it is true that there are parts of our bodies that are imperfect, they are still a part of our body. The same is true with our fellow believers. We are not perfect. We may do or say things that hurt someone else. They may do the same to us. However, as Paul reminds us, we are still all a part of this one body. We are unified under our head, Jesus Christ. This causes me to look at my fellow believers differently. They are part of me and I am part of them. We thank our God that he has brought us, all believers, into this one body.
Having made this point, Paul goes to show how important each and every part of this body is, even though that have different functions and abilities. “Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” While it is true that there is one body, there are still the various members of that body with different functions. The same is true within a church. To help us see the importance of the diversity of these talents and abilities, Paul gives voice to various members of the body. “Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.” Paul imagines the various parts of the body looking at other parts and despairing of the fact that they don’t have the same function. Yet, even though it isn’t that part of the body that it is looking at, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t still part of the body.
Sometimes, we might be guilty of doing the same sort of thing. We look at a talent or an ability that someone else has, and we find ourselves a bit envious of them. We see someone who is gifted musically, and we think to ourselves, “Why can’t I be like them?” We see someone who is a great leader, and we wish we were them. We look at our talents and abilities and think to ourselves that they are not nearly as important as those given to other people. We think that we have nothing to contribute for the good of the church.
However, Paul shows the foolishness of this type of thinking. He says, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” Yes, the eye is very important. However, how sad would we be if, though our sight was 20/20, we couldn’t hear the sound of a loved one’s voice or the birds singing in the morning? We can have perfect hearing, but how do we feel when we have a bad cold and can’t smell anything?
Rather than complaining about what talents and abilities that we do not have, when we see the gifts and talents that others have we can rejoice, because we know that all of them are working together for the good of us all. Furthermore, we know that whatever talents and abilities that we or others have are all gifts that come from God. Paul says in verses 18-20, “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” Rather than complaining about what we don’t have, may we recognize the diversity of gifts that God has given to the church and thank him for all of them.
Paul, also, reminds us just how interdependent we are of one another. He says in verse 21, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” Every part of the body is dependent on the other. The gift of sight is a blessing. However, the eye needs the hand to remove a foreign body that has gotten into it. The head is, obviously, very important. But, what if the head gets sick? It needs the feet to take it to a doctor.
The point is this: we need all of the various gifts and talents that God has given to the church. We cannot look down on one gift or talent as less important than another. What if all of us were great at numbers and financial matters, but none of us could swing a hammer and fix something that is broken or build something that is new? What if we all were gifted musicians, but none of us were able to teach others about Jesus? What if we were all great leaders and there was no one able to carry out the plans that are made? God gives these gifts in various amounts to different people so that, together, they might work together for the good of his body the church. We need each and every member’s talents and abilities. Every one plays a vital part in the working of the body, the church.
Paul, also, points out one of the many benefits of belonging to the body in verse 26. First of all, he says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” When you get up in the middle of the night to get something and you stub your little toe into something, it is not just the little toe that hurts. You feel that pain all throughout your body. This is the way that it is in the church. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. When we see a fellow member who is going through difficult times, we feel for them and try to do what we can to help them. We pray for them. We are there for them. It really doesn’t matter what pain they are going through, we are there for each other. As the hymn writer put it so well in the hymn, “Blest be the ties that bind,” “And for each other often flows the sympathizing tear.” We belong to a body that cares for each other.
Another of the benefits of belonging to the body is highlighted when Paul writes, “If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Tell a little girl that her hair looks pretty that day and see what happens. Her face lights up. She walks with a little skip in her step. The whole body is lifted up as one part is noticed and praised. As fellow Christians, we rejoice with each other when God blesses them. We are thrilled when we hear that someone has had a baby. When someone has come through surgery successfully, we come to God and thank him for blessing them in that way. The list can go on and on about how we can rejoice with each other when God blesses us in so many different ways. This is a special type of rejoicing, for we are not only happy for them, but we also recognize that God has given this blessing to them. This is all a part of that wonderful interdependence that we experience as we are part of this body of Christ.
As we said earlier, there are many people who start off with the best of intentions, but for one reason or another, they stop trying to get a stronger body. Distractions come in. Muscles hurt. If you want a stronger body, you must push through those things and keep at it. The same is true as we try to build a stronger body. The devil will try to throw in all sorts of distractions. They may come from the outside or the inside. Rather than building up the body, we find other pursuits or our own agendas to follow. There can be some growing pains as different people start to use the talents and abilities that they have been given. We find people not doing it the way that it has always been done. Whatever the case, we want to put all of these distractions and irritations aside as we strive to build a stronger body. We, first of all, recognize that all of us have been united into this body of Christ. Secondly, we want to accept that there are diverse gifts that God has given to us and that all of them are important for the building of this body. We, also, appreciate the wonderful interdependence that comes from being a part of this body. How thankful we are for this truth that Paul reminds us of in the closing verse of our text, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Amen.
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