I. The unity of the body (12-13)
II. The importance of each individual member as placed by God (14-21)
III. Caring for all the members of the body (22-26)
IV. Specific areas of service for individuals in the church (27-31)
Define the “body”.
What symbol does Paul use to describe the functioning of the church?
Explain the comparison and the main points that Paul wants to convey.
What other symbols are used in Scripture to describe the church?
Who is a member of the body?
So what is the role of the members?
Is every member equal?
Does every member have the same responsibilities?
Is there a member corresponding to the “foot” and if so who would that be? (No, don’t take a symbol too far.)
What is the implication of verses 15-17 (don’t be jealous of other members or desire different gifts/responsibilities than God has given you)?
Who decides who goes where and who does what (18)?
What implication is there for us in the knowledge that God has placed each member just where He desires?
Describe what the result would be if every person in the church tried to do the same thing?
What words occur more than any others in this Scripture?
One – Stressing Unity
Body – Christ is the head and the body belongs to Him. It is a living organism. It is not our body or our church. It is Christ’s body and Christ’s church.
Member – We are a part of it, not the owner of it. We each have a supporting role and a specific responsibility.
Why are the weaker members necessary?
Why is more honor bestowed upon those who seem less honorable?
How does this compare to a body?
What does this look like in a real church environment?
Why has God designed the church like this?
Does verse 28 tell us that some gifts are more important (first, second)?
What would the greater gifts be?
Romans 12:3-8 – Many gifts. One body. Many functions.
Ephesians 4:2-6 – Unity. Bear with one another. One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Galatians 3:28 – No slave or free, Jew or Gentile in the church.
Colossians 3:11-14 – Because there is no division in the body bear each others’ burdens and love one another. Forgive and exercise unity.
Philippians 2:1-2 – Talking about the unity believers should have.
James 2:1-10 – Don’t show partiality. The poorer members are chosen by God.
Luke 5:31 – The unhealthy need a doctor. The church is largely made up of low people and horrible sinners.
1 Corinthians 1:10-12 – Division in the Corinthian church.
Romans 12:3-8 – Gifts passage.
Ephesians 4:11-16 – Gifts passage.
Other analogies for church used in Scripture.
Loaf of bread
Marriage picture of Christ and the church
Other analogies that can be used
Verse by Verse Commentary-
Intro – Throughout the whole book of Corinthians division in the church has been a major point Paul has addressed. He has addressed factious and misplaced loyalties, judging others, people looking down on others, and the poor and the rich to name a few. Now its some people getting prideful in their gifts or role in the church and looking down on those whose gifts aren’t as public or visible. Paul shoots their pride out of the water and tells them how a Christ-like church should run. Unity is essential.
The first two verses repeat “one, one, one”. In Christ we are one and there are to be no divisions. This is one of the things that makes the church unique and set apart from the corrupt organizations and agencies in these world. These virtually always divide. The rich have their own little elite and exclusive club. The poor hang out together and look down on them. Women have their groups. Men have theirs. Pet-lovers get together. Retired people get together. Young people get together. There are as many divisions and ways to sort people as there are people. But all of those divisions should go out the window once we step foot in church.
It is clear in the New Testament that one of the things God desires above all for His church is unity. It is a horrible testimony to the world if believers cannot even love one another and look past the color of skin or the size of the bank account. Unfortunately many churches today are divided on just those same things. The church overall has a definite problem in this area. It is miles past where the world is, but still not where it needs to be. How about us? Do we have a problem in this? Do we look down and judge in the church based on skin color, education level, bank account size, or as is the theme in this section of Scripture, perhaps what one does in the church, how much they contribute, or where they serve? Stress Ephesians 4:2-6.
Whether you like it or not, all believers are in the same boat. It’s like a family when you live together. You cannot escape them. You might as well learn to love them. A founding document in the US, says that all people are created equal. I have news for the founding fathers. All people are not created equal. Some are born rich and never have to work in their lives. Some are born in a low caste in India and can’t get out of it no matter how hard they try. BUT, in the church, in God’s eyes everyone IS equal. This does not mean we are clones or all doing the same thing. There is great diversity, but there is unity. It is like in a marriage. The husband and wife’s roles are different and complementary, but equally important.
Paul takes his “body” analogy even further to describe the different parts of the body and their own specific functions. Let me ask you doctors this. Is there any part of the body that has no function? At times in the past, some doctors thought that certain parts of the body had no function, such as tonsils, maybe appendixes. But later they discovered that these too have a function. I also have news for the scientific world. Even if they think a part of the body has no function, they are wrong. If God created it, it has a function. This is just as true with the church.
The key verse of this section is verse 18. God gave each member the gifts He wanted them to have and put them in the area of service He wanted them to have. Three things I want us to remember from this section of Scripture:
- You have a role in the church. There is not a believer in this entire world that God doesn’t have some work planned for and that doesn’t have the proper means/gift to accomplish this work. There are not supposed to be some sitters and some servers. There are not supposed to be some hearers and some speakers, some watchers and some doers. EVERYONE has a role. Your role might not be public speaking or singing and leading. But it is essential nonetheless. You wouldn’t cut off your foot and say it is not necessary. Neither should you lazily sit and do nothing and think that your work is not necessary or that you are not good enough to contribute. Ephesians 2:10.
- Your role is essential and ordained by God. You must be content in your role, whatever it is, and not be jealous of others. You must be willing to fulfill your God-given responsibility without shirking it in favor of something He didn’t give to you to do. If you don’t know what God would have you to do, start serving and volunteering and finding out. You must be humble and not seek glory for whatever God has given you to do.
- If you have a more visible role than others, you must not ever look down on them or get puffed up. We are all in the same boat and we are all there because of God’s grace, not because of our skills. If we have a more visible role we need to spend more time caring for and showing our love to those who are not as visible, while letting them know we appreciate all that they do.
III. Verses 22-26
Going back to the example of the body, Paul seems to be alluding to the ugliness and seeming insignificance of the internal organs. These don’t appear very presentable or very necessary, but they are actually more necessary than most of what we see when we look at a body. It’s like a play. Maybe 1% of the work is actually putting on the show and 99% is practice and preparation.
The weaker or less visible members are also crucial and have their own specific function. As mentioned above, we need to spend more time caring for and showing our love for and respect to this group of people. Should they be doing it for the thanks of men? Won’t God give them their reward? Yes, God will and they should do it to be thanked by us. That is from their side. But from our side, we should express our appreciation and care and not ignore them and treat them as inferior. If we are actually in this group, then we need to thank God for the role He has given us, recognize it is essential, and carry on to do it with our whole hearts.
Verse 25 reminds us that there should be no divisions and that we should have the same care for one another. There should be no divisions between different sets of workers or contributors. Neither should we care more for the rich or visible instead of the poor and background servers. James sternly warns the church against partiality. I think the biggest thing we can take from this passage is that we should be showing our care towards everyone in the body, even those we think aren’t doing as well as they should.
In a family, one person’s bad news is the whole family’s bad news and the same with the good. We should try to bear one another burdens, mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Romans 12:15
From my notes on 12:1-11.
In that day there were a lot of counterfeit gifts going around from the occult. Satan has always been one to mimic the real thing, twisting it and abusing it for his own purposes. The two most common of these included ecstasy and enthusiasm. Ecstasy was a kind of almost hypnotic frenzy where through sensuous and frenzied hypnotic chants one thought he was communicating with the divine. It was deemed a super spiritual practice and often confused with tongues. This has its roots in false religion and demonic activity. Enthusiasm involved dreams, visions, etc. The basic problem was that in the church many accepted anything that appeared to be a miracle or supernatural as automatically good and worthy to try. But they were ignorant and didn’t know they should test the things that were going on or how to test them.
From the beginning of the book we remember that they lacked no spiritual gift. They were gifted spiritually, but they were abusing their gifts. The first problem was that they were ignorant. Satan is prowling around like a roaring like seeking someone to devour. If someone is ignorant of the truth, they are in danger. Imagine a deer who cannot recognize a lion. Bye bye deer. If the Corinthians did not even know the truth about spiritual gifts, then they wouldn’t know how to use them correctly. This was one of the first epistles, so though I’m sure Paul had taught them something, they didn’t have the benefit of a complete Bible yet. They may have had some excuse for being unaware. But we have absolutely none. We need to know the truth so that we can properly serve God. In Timothy we know that we need to rightly divide the Word.
Their second problem was that they seemed to be easily deceived. When they were unbelievers they had been led aside to idol worship and the occult and pagan practices that were so prevalent in that area. Unfortunately after they believed, a number of these practices carried over to church practice, though some in different forms. We see throughout the book that a big problem for the Corinthian church was imitating the world around them and getting sucked into it instead of truly being set apart. In chapter 14 we learn of some of their abuses of the practice of tongues and it is pretty clear that counterfeit gifts were creeping into the church and leading many astray. Today it happens too. There are countless stories of fake healings, fake tongues, as well as rolling in the aisles, acting like dogs and cats, etc. How can we prevent being led astray?
- Know the truth.
- Evaluate everything by the Scripture. Don’t just accept something because a church teaches it or is practicing it or it is common.
Verse 3: The abuse of the gifts was to such an extent that in moments of ecstasy people were actually blaspheming the Lord. It was clear that demons were responsible and using these moments of ecstasy as a way to mislead church members and wreak havoc spiritually. See cross-references in 1 John. The truth is always a measure of what is right and wrong. If things appear good and seem to work, but are untrue, they are not good. What areas could this be applied to today? Preachers. No matter how smooth and polished they are, if they don’t teach the word we should not listen to them.
In this section we learn about the source of gifts and purpose of gifts. The source is not people and certainly not demons. The source is the Holy Spirit, Jesus, God the Father. In short, the Trinity. If He is the source they are also for Him and always to be conducted in accordance with His will and in His way. These gifts are supernaturally bestowed on believers. There are three general categories of gifts, verbal, serving, and sign gifts. The verbal gifts are for the purpose of speaking to edify the church such as teaching, preaching, prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, etc. Serving gifts include things such as leadership, giving, mercy, faith, and discernment. The sign gifts included miracles, healing, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. So there all kinds of gifts and perhaps even combinations of gifts, but the same God gave all of them. Therefore there is no basis for pride that one’s gift is better than another’s. Later in the chapter it shows that every gift and every believer is vital and has a distinct and important role to fill.
Although there are many gifts, the purpose of all the gifts is the same. That is the common good. They are for the building up of the body so that the body can better glorify the Lord and reach the world for Him. Review questions and cross-references.
This is a good reminder for all of us.
- We need to be unified.
- We have the same goal and need to be working for it.
- You have a special gift from the Lord.
- You should be using your special gift by actively serving others.
Are you using your gift? Are you actively serving others? Are you concerned about the common good?
What phrase repeats again and again?
In focusing on each spiritual gift and what it is, I almost looked over this repeated phrase. The fact that it is repeated again and again shows that it is very important and perhaps the main theme for this whole section. It is “Spirit” or “same Spirit”. The point is that The Spirit is the source of all spiritual gifts. It is a reminder of our unity in the Spirit, but also our diversity. Not everyone will do exactly what you do in the church. Not everyone will have this gift. Not everyone will have this calling. Not everyone has to do what you are doing to follow the Lord. As teachers, evangelists, disicplers, we have a tendency to think everyone should be doing this. But from Scripture, it is clear, not everyone has this gift or calling. God has different tasks for different people and we need to understand and accept that. We need to recognize the value of other’s contributions and not think we are doing the only thing valuable. It’s like marriage. The husband and wife have different roles, but they are both valuable and important.
Word of wisdom – Ability to understand God’s Word and His will, and to skillfully apply that understanding to life.
Word of knowledge – Ability to understand and speak God’s truth, with insight into mysteries of His Word.
Knowledge majors on grasping the meaning of truth, while wisdom majors on applying that to practical real-life situations in the proper way.
Faith – This would not be a saving faith or a persevering faith as every believer has that. But rather it is a kind of especially strong faith that places complete confidence in God no matter what the circumstance. Very likely guys like Hudson Taylor and George Muller had this gift.
Gifts of healing – Check cross-references. This was a gift of healing specially given mostly to the apostles for a certain time and stage in the church’s development. If a person with this gift touched a sick person, they could be immediately healed no matter what sickness they had.
Because the message was new, God gave so-called sign gifts to confirm His apostle’s authority so that people could easily recognize they came from God and were teaching truth. Once the church was established and the Bible was complete, the use for this and other sign gifts faded. Even later New Testament books don’t mention the sign gifts. Like Jesus’ miracles, they were for a specific purpose. If you look through the whole Old Testament, miracles by prophets were relatively seldom and far less than the amount of teaching they did. Having said that, there is no clear passage you can turn to in Scripture that emphatically shows the sign gifts have ended. This belief comes mostly from logic about the purpose of the sign gifts, their absence in later Scriptures, and their fading from the mainstream of church history. My position is that sign gifts are no longer normative for the church around the world. It is mostly established already.
However, I would not go so far as to say they are completely eradicated. It is possible that in some areas where the gospel is just now reaching and the church is not established or mature, God may still make use of sign gifts in order to confirm those who go with the gospel message and attest to its truth. Certainly a number of accounts exist, especially in these new areas, about healings and various miracles. Each one of these would also need to be evaluated according to the truth of God’s Word and not automatically accepted just because it appears good. There are many many fraudulent claims to the sign gifts just as there were in the Corinthian church.
Having said that, God still heals people and God still does miracles. It is foolish to tie God’s hand and dismiss miraculous events as just coincidence or lies. God is the same God and He is still involved in the world. So what should you do if you hear or see sign gifts? Evaluate by Scripture. See if the person is using them in the right way and truth is being taught and lived.
Gift of miracles – Includes such things as casting out demons, the jars of oil, etc. This is a demonstration of supernatural power (God’s power) in some way that is abnormal in the natural world. Again, the purpose is to show God’s power so that the beholders will believe.
Gift of prophecy – Nowadays most people consider this gift to be a telling of the future. But it actually only means “speaking forth” or “proclaiming publicly”. The connotation of telling the future only entered in to the word during the Middle Ages. God may have used this also as a way to confirm His truth, but since the completion of the Scriptures it is no longer bringing new revelation. God’s revelation is complete. Those with the gift of prophecy now have the ability to exposit and explain the Scriptures and edify others with them. See 1 Corinthians 14:3. It’s quite similar to the gift of teaching or other speaking gifts.
Distinguishing of spirits- Christians with this gift have the ability to recognize lying spirits and to identify deceptive and erroneous doctrine. It is exercising discernment to distinguish between the lies of Satan, his counterfeits, and the truth of God, the real thing. Those with this gift can act as guardians of the church to protect it from false doctrines and infiltration of the world’s ideas. They seem to be able to look deeper than the average person to see the true moral issues/problems at stake and identify root problems in ideas. These are in a sense stewards of right doctrine and practice. This is also a so-called gift on gifts as it enables those with this gift to unmask whether the other gifts being shown and used in the church are real or counterfeit.
Gift of tongues – From Acts, we see that this gift involved speaking a real foreign tongue without knowing it through study. Basically, it is a rolling back of the tower of Babel to allow believers to communicate with those of other tongues and dialects. It both reaches people believers would have difficulty reaching without it and is another sign gift showing the power of God so that unbelievers will believe. This gift and its abuses will be covered in detail in chapter 14.
Gift of interpretation of tongues – This is like reverse engineering. Those with this gift can listen and understand those foreign tongues and then translate it back to their own language. The counterfeit often included lots of ecstatic gibberish unintelligible. It seemed very spiritual, but had no real value.
Verse 11 is yet another reminder that all of these gifts are from the same Spirit. All the praise and recognition for these gifts goes to Him. They are distributed not according to our desires, but according to the will of the Spirit. They are for His master plan of the church. We need to serve Him as He wills not as we will. Go where we are needed instead of where we want to go or feel comfortable.