Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.
11 February 2018 11 AM
Rev Hans Vaatstra
Readings: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31
Text: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
You are the body of Christ. This is what we read in our text in verse 27. Do you ever think about that? That I am a member of Christ’s body? What does that mean? Does that mean we are part of the world wide church of Christ and where ever we are, whether we belong to a local church or not we are part of the body of Christ?
That’s not what Paul meant when he wrote these words under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He was addressing a local congregation, Corinth in this case but it could be any congregation.
It is also our congregation. Each local church by Paul’s definition is the body of Christ.
That means to belong to Christ or to use Paul’s language here, to be a “member of Christ” means to be an active member of your local church. How that came about and what the implications are is what this text is all about. We’ll look at it in two parts, how we become members and secondly what it means to be a member.
Now in our text Paul goes a step further in describing the church. He uses as an analogy the human body with the head being Christ and the different parts of the body being the members of the church.
Paul begins by explaining how that comes about in verse 13. “We were all baptised into one body, whether Jews ore Greeks, slaves or free and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
Paul isn’t writing about the rite of baptism in this passage. He is talking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We also find that sense in Galatians 3:27 says, “For all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” The church at Corinth was a continuation of what happened at Pentecost when three thousand repented and believed and joined the church. They were incorporated by the Holy Spirit into one body the church.
That means that all the members of the church are part of the one body. All are baptised into that body, the body of Christ, by the Holy Spirit.
You see one of the battles Paul had to fight in the church of Corinth was elitism. Why were there factions in the church in Corinth? Why were there the Peter, Paul and Apollos groups? It was because those who belonged to either group thought they were superior to the rest. And what about those who spoke in tongues whom Paul wrote about in his letter? Did they have a post conversion endowment of the Holy Spirit? Did they have more than the rest; a second blessing as it is sometimes referred to in some circles?
These days second blessing of the Spirit is the belief of traditional Pentecostals. They tend to magnify the sensational gifts and if you don’t have them you are missing out on receiving the Spirit in full measure.
Well this is the kind of thing Paul opposed and refuted in this passage where it says all were baptised into one body and all were made to drink of one Spirit.. The word drink is the same word used in chapter 3:6 where Paul wrote. “I planted, Apollos watered but God gave the growth.”
When one waters seeds or young plants then the water has to really soak into the soil for the seed to germinate and grow. This is the impression Paul gives with the words all were made to drink of one Spirit.
So just as those who believe in Christ have been clothed with Christ so too have they been made to drink of the one Spirit. In other words if you truly believe then you do have a full measure of the Holy Spirit from regeneration and conversion onwards. According to Paul this includes all believers, Jew, Greek, slave, free, male or female, young and old. As Peter stated in his Pentecost sermon the gift of the Holy Spirit is” for you and your children”
So we need not thank that as those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for our salvation that we do not possess the Spirit. Boys and girls, young people who haven’t publically professed faith in Christ yet don’t think that you are not as much part of the body of Christ here in this church than anyone else. If you believe Jesus is your Savior and Lord than that is the Holy Spirit’s work in your life because no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. We are all members of the body of Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Now how we cooperate with the Holy Spirit is another thing. We are not robots. We have the ability to make choices. When we sin we might grieve the Holy Spirit, when we become slack and disinterested in Spiritual things we can quench the Holy Spirit but if we truly belong to him by faith God will do something to correct us. But that doesn’t alter the fact that you belong to the Body of Christ only because of the Spirit’s work in your life. That leads me to the second point.
Therefore as Paul puts it in verse 15 “if the foot should say because I am not a hand I am not a part of the body, it is no less a part of the body.” What that means is that just as every organ is important and necessary and missed if it is not functioning properly in our physical bodies,… so too every member of the church is important and necessary for the church to function well. In the physical body every member needs to function according to how God has made it and needs to remain attached to the body in order to survive. If a limb is detached or an organ cut out it will die. If an organ is not functioning too well then the whole body feels it.
If I am building something and I miss the nail and hit my finger with the hammer instead then I didn’t just hurt my finger I hurt myself!
The church is just like that. It consists of many members all necessary and useful for the well-being of the church. If one member of the church suffers we all feel it one way or another. When a member in the congregation dies we all feel the loss. If a member has unresolved difficulties and won’t be reconciled we all feel the pain. Of if a member is spiritually dead and lives a life of sin, not as a disciple of Christ but following the ways of the world then unless he or she accepts the spiritual medicine administered by the elders from the word of God and repents, that member may need to be excised from the body so that the decay of unrepentant sin does not spread.
On the other hand when all the members on the church function well according to their spiritual gifts and abilities the church thrives.
So the point is we all need each other and the best thing we can do when we realise that we are integral to the health of the body spiritually is to ask ourselves what can I do to help make my church function well? What can I do to make my church a thriving church? This is not only a duty to our church but more importantly obedience to the head of the church Jesus Christ.
The sad reality is that often churches have to cope with slackness by at least some church members. Often it is just few faithful saints who seem to do all the work in the congregation. They serve on session, teach Bible or lead devotions. They visit the sick and try to encourage new people as they come along. Others come along receive spiritual food but are weak from lack of exercise, they are spiritually weak and run the danger of spiritual heart failure. Instead of emulating the example of the faithful they are filled with discontent, they criticise the leadership, harbour grudges cause friction and some leave for another church. There the cycle of discontent often continues after the initial welcome is over.
But brothers and sisters every member of the body of Christ should realise that God does not bypass anyone in the distribution of gifts. So don’t bury your gift through idleness and complacency because one day there will be a day of reckoning. On that day God will demand an accounting and will reward those who have been faithful in using and developing their spiritual gift. On the other hand according to the parable of the talents Jesus will condemn and punish those who have neglected their gift and who have criticised and deserted their churches.
No member of the church should think that they are not important or have nothing to offer. You do all of you. That’s the very point Paul makes in his statements about the weaker parts which are indispensable and the less presentable parts of the body, the ones that are normally covered in clothing.
Let’s think about the weaker parts first. The obviously stronger parts of our bodies are our arms and legs. The weaker parts, are our internal organs. An internal physical organ such as the kidneys or the liver may seem weak; soft and palpable. These just sit there unseen and unfelt. And yet everyone knows that the body can’t live without them. Similarly in the church a person may be quiet by nature and unnoticed most of the time not really in the public eye and yet the same person can be very faithful in prayer, faithful in supporting the gospel ministry and very committed to Christ and his church. That person is an indispensable member of the Christians community and though such a person may not have a high profile he or she is in fact a pillar in the church.
Where Paul wrote about the less honourable parts of the body, those are the parts which we would cover with clothing for the sake of modesty and to avoid shame or embarrassment. And so, these less presentable parts receive greater care in the manner in which they are clothed.
In the pagan and neo pagan world modesty is an unpopular word like obedience or submission, they are the new 4 letter words it seems. Now a days you are cool brave glamorous exciting if you let it all hang out. But modesty is characteristic of the Christian community.
In any case the extra care afforded to the less honourable parts of the body as Paul puts it is an analogy of the honour God gives to the quiet humble achievers in the church. Those who use their gift willingly and joyfully no matter how insignificant it may seem in men’s eyes, they are honoured by God.
And why does Paul mention this? Because in the church at Corinth the elitists tended to look down on those whom they judged inferior. But the only thing elitism achieved was division. This is exactly the issue Paul addressed in verse 25. All members weak or strong, honourable or less honourable should care for each other in equal measure so that there is no division.
So summing this all up it’s not so much the spiritual gift you might have, that is God’s prerogative. Just as he designed all the different parts of our bodies fearfully and wonderfully with coordination between the members, with dexterity and agility, with interdependence. So too has God sovereignly given each of us our spiritual gift so that when exercised according to God’s design all the members of the church work in unison, and the church thrives as the instrument of the kingdom of God.
Furthermore, whatever gift he gives us that’s God’s prerogative. What is important for us is our attitude, that we are neither proud or envious but that we are joyful and willing and that our attitude is the same as Christ’s as Paul puts it in Philippians 2. Though Christ is the second person of the Triune God though He is almighty God he didn’t come to be served but to serve. He even stooped like a slave to wash his disciple’s feet. He didn’t count equality with God as a thing to be grasped but became as a servant and humbled himself to the point of death for our sakes.
So brothers and sisters you are the body of Christ. You became that through the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Therefore no one who believes can say I have no part to play in my church. That’s like saying one or more of your bodily organs is redundant! The reality is we can’t live or function properly without them. Similarly every member of the church belongs to Christ and is needed his or her church.
So let’s have the same attitude as Christ and ask, “what is there that I can do to serve my saviour and his church?”