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Not Alone: Being a Member of the Body of Christ

September 12, 2021

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: 1 Cor 12:12–31

Not Alone: Being a Member of the Body of Christ

1 Cor 12:12–31 – Relationships that Work – Sept 12, 2021

Introduction

Reading 1 Corinthians 12:12–20.

It happens to us regularly: We get surprised by how much work good relationships take.

One place where we can really be surprised is in building strong relationships.

  • It just…takes…work.
  • COVID has made some of this work very real: Takes more work to leave our house and get involved with people—than to stay home.
  • Work to prioritize them—and those priorities can change.
  • Takes work because people can be unkind or just uninterested.

Right now we feel it in a fresh way.

  • COVID killed a lot of routines.
  • Over the weeks and months we’ve tried to get some of those back.
  • Churches throughout the country are having a hard time getting the momentum back.
  • Talking to pastors in the area it’s a universal challenge.
  • That’s why we want to take a few weeks and re-focus ourselves.

Our ability to work hard in a relationship is connected to how we DEFINE that relationship.

  • Takeout at Moe’s—how hard will I work in those relationships?
  • Not very hard. Pretty transactional. They give me food, I give them money.
  • If they don’t give me food, I don’t give them money.
  • Not going to sacrifice to keep Moe’s in business.
  • If I don’t give them money, they don’t give me food.
  • Not a food bank.
  • When I leave Moe’s, I’m not thinking about praying for them or making sure I ask about school. I’m not really wondering about how their parents or siblings are doing.
  • With a spiritual mindset, I can go in with a real awareness of them.
  • Pray for them in the moment.
  • Be sensitive about this is a divine appointment.
  • But basically, our relationship will last about 1 minute.
  • I don’t add them to my Christmas card list; they don’t invite me to dinner.

This morning we’ll spend time defining what kind of relationship we have with each other in the church. WHAT ARE WE?

  • That will inspire CHALLENGES and ENCOURAGEMENTS.

This sermon is part of a short series called RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK.

  • The elders also decided this summer that every year we want to start the year with a short series on one of our core values.
  • Those panels in the lobby: Sound Doctrine, Spirit-Filled, Relationships, Spiritual Growth.
  • This year,
  • This year: RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK.
  • What working relationships look like
  • The work required to build healthy relationships.
  • 1 Corinthians 12 (“Not Alone: Being the Body of Christ”); 1 Thess 5:11 (one anothers); Romans 12 (A big vision for a small group)

Our passage:

  • The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth with Sosthenes.
  • A church he planted (Acts 18:1–11, “stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them”).
  • He writes one letter that is lost to us (1 Cor 5:9) and then three men bring a response from Corinth (16:17).
  • 1 Corinthians is Paul’s response to what these men tell him about the Corinthians.
  • They had several issues they had questions about.
  • Chapters 12–14 focus on one of these issues: “Now concerning spiritual things…”
  • New discussions in this letter often begin with that phrase, “Now concerning…”
  • g., 7:1, “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote,” 7:25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1).
  • But in the context of this longer discussion of spiritual gifts he writes his longest passage on this idea of the church as THE BODY OF CHRIST.

The passage defines our relationships in the church: We are members of one body, the body of Christ.

  • We are by the Spirit Made Members of the Body (12:12–13)
  • We are One of Many Members of the Body (12:14–20)
  • We are Concerned for the Members of the Body (12:21–26)
  • We are Gifted as Members of the Body (12:27–31)

Prayer – Chung and Moon Kim and Lord’s Wing Korean Baptist Church (2pm 1st service).

I. We are by the Spirit Made Members of the Body (12:12–13)

As I said, our passage is part of a larger discussion that began in 1 Cor 12:1.

In 12:1–11 Paul was reflecting on:

  • “Varieties” of works of the Spirit (12:4–7)
  • A common purpose—“the common good” (12:7).
  • A common source—“one and the same Spirit” (12:11).

Then in verse 12 he brings out another dimension of our unity.

  • We don’t just have things in common (common purpose, common source, part of the variety).
  • We’re all part of the SAME THING: the body of Christ.

His analogy is the human body:

  • “the body is one and has many members” (v. 12).
  • “all the members of the body, though many, are one body” (v. 12).

Greek word for “Body” is sōma. Used 18x in this one passage.[1]

First he states the fact.

But then he explains HOW THIS HAPPENED—1 Cor 12:13. The Spirit!

  • Salvation = death to life, separated to united with Christ (Eph 2:1–10).
  • But, it’s also going from being alone to being a member of a body.
  • Whatever our background—“Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.”
  • When we experience the Spirit (“DRINK!”)—all drinking the same Spirit.
  • Paul even calls being “baptized in one Spirit” to remind us it takes place at the beginning of our Christian life. Automatic. A BoS ALL experience!

Not just Cornerstone: It’s all believers throughout all history and throughout the world.

  • That’s important.
  • The body is not just ONE local church.
  • A local church is one expression of the body of Christ.
  • But all true churches are part of something much bigger than themselves.
  • All Christians are members of the body OF CHRIST.

He’ll keep going back to this idea: ONE BODY + MANY MEMBERS.

  • This body is ETERNAL.
  • This body is VAST.
  • This body is SPIRITUAL.
  • This body is UNBREAKABLE.
  • Jesus says, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

There is no membership quite like this membership.

  • I’ll be a member of A LOT of things in this life.
  • Hours or days: Training program at work. Do the 8-hours and now you’ve got 3 more initials you can add to your email signature. Member of a society.
  • YMCA: Keep paying, they won’t cut me off.
  • Nothing compares to membership in the body of Christ

QUESTION 1: Are you a member of THE body of Christ?

II. We are One of Many Members of the Body (12:14–20)

Read 1 Corinthians 12:14–20.

The Body = not “one member” but “many” (12:14).

He’ll say at the end, if there is only “a single member” (a single KIND of member), you don’t have “the body” (12:19).

  • If our church is 300 hands, we don’t have a body but a hand collection.

Develops this idea of “MANY MEMBERS”:

  • Foot feels inferior to the hand—not a real part of the body (v. 15)
  • Ear feels inferior to the eye—not a real part of the body (v. 16)
  • If all of us eyes, no HEARING (v. 17).
  • If all of us ears, no SMELLING (v. 17).

Paul’s describing that feeling we can all have.

  • Because we’re not one of the IMPORTANT parts of the body, we don’t feel like a member of the body at all.
  • g., “Maybe if I was an EYE or a HAND, I’d feel more a member of the body.”
  • As a Christian, you simply ARE a member of the body.

With all these “MANY PARTS,” who decides what part we are?

  • Not the elders.
  • Not ourselves: We don’t decide for ourselves what part we are.
  • Verse 18 has the answer: “God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose” (v. 18).

The result? We’re a “body” and not “a single member” (v. 19).

So once again: “MANY PARTS, YET ONE BODY” (v. 20).

Gordon Fee:

Paul's point seems clear: Diversity, not uniformity, is essential for a healthy church….The one God who is himself characterized by diversity within unity has decreed the same for his church.
Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians[2]

QUESTION 2: Are you confident that you are a member of the body of Christ? Or do you struggle with feeling worthy, adequate, truly a part of it?

III. We are Concerned for the Members of the Body (12:21–26)

Read 1 Corinthians 12:21–26.

Now it’s not just that we ARE members of the body but it’s how WE RELATE as members of the body.

There’s a true concern for others in the church—just like there’s a true concern for ALL the members of our body and not just some of them.

Verse 21: Mutual need—eye and hand, head and feet.

  • We need each other!
  • In our bodies this is so obvious.
  • Paul says it’s the same in the church.

Verse 22: Some of the weaker are more “indispensable”—internal organs!

  • Some people who seem “weaker” on the outside are really “indispensable.”
  • One application: Saints older than you.
  • Can seem weaker.
  • But understand: They have knowledge you don’t have, wisdom you don’t have, spiritual maturity you don’t have, a perspective you don’t have.
  • Remember the perspective of the Bible:

The glory of young men is their strength,

but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. (Prov 20:29)

  • Young despising the old is nothing new—just like the old despising the young is nothing new.
  • But in the church we need to see people in a different way from our peers and our generation.

Verses 23–24: Presses the metaphor in an unexpected direction. Talks about “Presentable” and “Unpresentable” (or Private) Parts.

  • “Unpresentable” parts we cover with clothing, “greater modesty.”
  • That means we spend more time and money and effort ON CLOTHING.
  • So even though “UNPRESENTABLE” they get more of our effort.
  • In this way “GREATER HONOR” (v. 24).

Application: Sometimes those in need in our church get more of the church’s resources for a period of time.

  • Paul is telling us, “Yes! That’s exactly as it should be.”
  • Not forever, but for a period of time.
  • Extreme illness.
  • A death in the family.
  • Some kind of trauma.
  • Appropriate for many members of the body to come alongside a person for a season to help them, pray for them.

Verse 25: When this happens, “NO DIVISION” (schism) AND…

Verse 25: Doing this, “the same care for one another.”

  • “Care for” = “be anxious for,” “concerned about.”
  • When Jesus not to worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow has enough worries of its own, this is the word used (Matt 6:34).
  • Here it is entirely positive.
  • Our concern for others affects us emotionally.

Verse 26: The summary: “All suffer together,” “All rejoice together” (v. 26).

  • All suffer together: toothache, step on a nail, bee sting. One part suffers, whole body is affected.
  • All rejoice together: If you’re a sprinter and your legs won you the gold medal, your whole body rejoices in that gold medal and is honored.

QUESTION 3: How are you doing with being sincerely concerned for the members of the church body?

IV. We are Gifted as Members of the Body (12:27–31)

Read 1 Corinthians 12:27–31.

Verse is a clear statement we need to hear. Talking to these Corinthian Christians he says, “YOU ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST.”

He doesn’t tell them to WORK HARD TO BE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST. He states a fact, “YOU ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST.”

Collectively that’s true. And individually that’s true, “INDIVIDUALLY MEMBERS OF IT.”

Now he connects his two big discussions so far: SPIRITUAL GIFTS and MEMBERS/BODY. How do these relate?

Verse 28: ONE CHURCH + Many different gifts:

  • First apostles
  • Second prophets
  • Third teachers
  • Then miracles
  • Then gifts of healing
  • Helping
  • Administrating
  • Various kinds of tongues

Not everyone is a hand or eye or ear or foot or internal organ or head. And so, we aren’t clones in how we’re gifted. Not carbon copies.

Verses 29–30: He makes this point by asking the same basic question 7 times: “Are all (pantes) ______?” The answer is NO everytime. Just as not “ALL” are apostles, so not “ALL” will speak in tongues or prophesy.

I don’t think he’s dealing with the question here “CAN ALL SPEAK IN TONGUES?” Is there a universal ability to speak in tongues. In some ways that’s beside the point in these verses.

His point is more basic, “DO ALL?” And the answer to that question is clearly no.

Because he mentions tongues AND interpretation here, it’s possible he’s focusing here on the church as it gathers together. In the gathering of believers that happens in a local church, not all speak in tongues or interpret those tongues.

Verse 31: He closes with an appeal.

  • We’re jumping into the middle of the conversation.
  • At this point he’ll lauch into 1 Cor 13, the great love chapter.
  • But verse 31 also concludes our section.
  • He’s bringing correction to their practice of the spiritual gifts—but he doesn’t want them to become cessationists and act as if some gifts have “ceased.”
  • Far from it!
  • They are to “earnestly desire the higher gifts.” “Earnestly desire” is a strong verb. It’s an intense, earnest pursuit of something you desire.
  • And “the higher gifts” are the focus of this pursuit. By that he means especially the gifts that will build up other people.
  • And then he adds that there is “a still more excellent WAY.” There’s a WAY to practice the gifts that’s “still more excellent.” It’s the way of love (1 Cor 13).
  • He’s not setting up a choice between gifts and love. He’s telling us HOW to practice the gifts. We practice them in a spirit of love for our brothers and sisters.

QUESTION 4: Do you know your gifting? Are you using it in the church?

  • This might be a brand-new concept for you.
  • This March we’re doing a spiritual gifts seminar.
  • The goal is to look at all the different spiritual gifts in the NT.
  • Explain them.
  • Also help people identify what their gift(s) might be.

Conclusion

What we are: The Body of Christ. Emphatic, repeated in this passage. Verse 27!

QUESTION 1: Are you a member of THE body of Christ?

QUESTION 2: Are you confident that you are a member of the body of Christ? Or do you struggle with feeling worthy, adequate, truly a part of it?

QUESTION 3: How are you doing with being sincerely concerned for the members of the church body?

QUESTION 4: Do you know your gifting? Are you using it in the church?

Kevin DeYoung/Ted Kluck quote from Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (221–222).

Prayer and song

[1] 142 times in the NT. More than 10% in this single passage. No other NT passage comes anywhere close to this number.

[2] Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Eerdmans, 1987), 583.

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