The Church is a Body – the Goal is Unity in Service
Series: Pictures of the Church
“The Church is a Body: The Goal is Unity in Service”
1 Corinthians 12: 12-26; Colossians 1:18-19; 2:19
May 17, 2015 Kitwe Church
Today we will finish our series entitled “The Pictures of The Church.” Where we have sought to answer the question “What is a church?” So far we have seen that “The Church is a Family – the goal is maturity.” Next we saw that “The Church is a Field – the goal is fruitfulness.” Two weeks ago we say that “The Church is a building – the goal is quality.” Today we will study 1 Corinthians 12 where we will see that the church is a body and the goal is unity in service.
1 Cor. 12:12-26 says, 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
In 2011 my family and I attended a 5-week training program for missionaries where we met another family that became dear friends. Their oldest daughter had just finished secondary school and was going to go experience life on the mission field for their first year of service. She raised her own missionary support as an independent adult so she could join the rest of the family in their first year of ministry and she could stay connected and know what they were experiencing. After that year she went back to America to attend college. In 2013 she was in a very bad car accident and she lost her left arm at the shoulder. You can imagine the impact that this would have on a young woman in that stage of life when appearance is so important. Yet, more than that she had to learn how to do so many things with just one arm that had once been easy when she had two. Think of the normally simple tasks that would become quite difficult: tying shoes, getting dressed, taking the lid off of a jar, typing on the computer. Was she still a lovely woman? Of course. Was she still able to function? Absolutely, in fact, just a couple of weeks ago she got married. Losing her arm was certainly not the end of the world for her, but it did make things more challenging. She now had a greater appreciation for the missing arm that, like all of us, she had taken for granted for so long.
That is a fitting illustration for what we just read in 1 Corinthians 12.
Today, as we conclude our series on “Pictures of the Church” what we see is a very vivid picture of what a church should be. It is something we all are well acquainted with, something we go to great lengths to take great care of, something we spend a small fortune on to make sure it works properly and is physically appealing. Just look in the mirror. When you think of your identity it is closely associated with your body.
So, the church is the body of Christ. What a powerful picture. As we turn our attention back to the text of 1 Corinthians 12 we will see that we are jumping into the middle of the chapter. We are jumping into a picture that Paul is using to illustrate another truth he is teaching. The overall context of Chapter 12 is the role of spiritual gifts in the lives of individual Christians and in the life of the Church as a whole.
This topic of spiritual gifts is an important one that deserves attention, but it will not be the subject of today’s message. We will come back to this and do a series on it in the future. For now, all we need to know is that a spirit of pride and competition has crept into the church based on who had the most attention getting spiritual gifts. This had caused division in the church because people started assuming that those with certain sensational or spectacular spiritual gifts were more important than others with less public and less flamboyant spiritual gifts. Paul writes to correct this attitude, which had deeply hurt those who did not have the flashy gifts. After all, they didn’t get to choose their gifts. God chose them and distributed them as he deemed fit. These people needed validation as important parts of the body. The body needed healing so all the parts could work in cooperation again.His encouragement to this church is the same encouragement I offer to you today on the authority of God’s Word.
We, as the church, are a body. We must work together in unity! As we explore this idea, the first thing we see is that….
1. A Body Requires Many Inter-dependent parts to work together. V. 12-14
There is an important truth we must notice in verse 13. Not every human being is part of the body. This metaphor, this picture only applies to those who have been baptized into one body.
Last week Phil spoke on the ordinance of believer’s baptism, where someone who has professed faith in Christ makes a public profession of that faith by being immersed in water. The Baptism ceremony is a physical picture of the spiritual truth spoken of here. The Baptism being spoken of here is “Spirit Baptism” which God the Holy Spirit does to every believer at the moment they are born again. At the very moment that a person admits their sinfulness to a holy God, turns from that sin in repentance, and comes to Jesus Christ to place saving faith in Him that person is baptized into the body of Christ. He unites them to the larger body of believers.
Water baptism is an outward symbol of this reality. So, if you are sitting here today and you can think back to that moment in time when you repented of your sin and put faith in Jesus Christ for the removal of that sin so you could have a right relationship with God. Then you have been baptized into the body of Christ even if you have not yet experienced the outward symbol of this truth in water baptism. I do not know all of your experiences in the past. I do not know who has been born again and who has not, but you know in your heart if you have. Now, imagine if each of us sitting here have already become genuine Christians. Look around you. What would you be looking at when you see each other? You would see the church – the body of Christ. What else do we see from these verses? It says that the body is not one member, but many.
Some churches are dominated by the personality of one leader. The church is a one-man show. That is not how it should be. The Pastor is not the church. He is one member with a specific purpose for building up the body. The elders and deacons are not the church. They are all members with specific purposes to benefit the entire body. Every member is an important part of the body. We have a job to do and for it to be accomplished we have to work together in cooperation rather than competition. We have to see the importance of our place in the body. No one is insignificant or unimportant. V. 17-20 To further illustrate his point, the Apostle Paul now lists of several senses that are important to the overall function of the body to help us see that although we are all different we are all important. No two of us are the same. Although there will be overlap in our gifts and abilities, none of us will have the exact same function in the body.
When we look at each other we are looking at the hands, feet, heart, arms, legs, nose, eyes, mouth, and ears of the body of Christ. If one of these is missing it affects the others. On the screen you see a picture of me with my Father. What is the first thing you notice? That’s right. He was missing most of his nose. It was amputated during one of the many surgeries he underwent in his numerous battles against cancer. It happened long before I was alive. I never knew my father to look any other way. I would introduce him to friends and they would usually have a startled look on their face. Then I would realize I had forgotten to warn them about his missing nose. It affected many other things about his body. At times it affected his self-esteem. He couldn’t help but know that his appearance made him stand out. Sometimes it frightened people.
One day as we were at a store and he was wearing a black leather jacket the woman at the cash register asked, with a wavering voice, if he was in a motorcycle gang and if he had recently been in a bar fight. At first you could sense his embarrassment, but he had a great sense of humor and before telling her the truth that it was due to a cancer surgery he joked with her that yes he was a biker and you should have seen the other guy. The loss of his nose also affected other things. Obviously he couldn’t smell anything. He couldn’t swim underwater because he would drown. It affected his ability to taste food because the sense of smell and taste are intertwined. Also, in the same series of surgeries when trying to get the cancer out of the lymph nodes they nicked his vocal chords so he spoke with a raspy voice. His tear ducts didn’t work right so he couldn’t really cry. It affected a lot of things.
Now, with that illustration in mind, let us read verses 17-20 again and let’s think of the church. If we all try to be the same. If we all want to be the same body part with the same responsibility do you see how badly it would affect the body as a whole? We would be missing so many senses. It would affect how the world sees us. We would stand out in a way that could affect our self-image, which would affect our boldness in serving as a light to the world to shine the Gospel. As it is, there are many parts, yet one body and that is exactly how it should be! So, what we have seen that a body requites many inter-dependent parts to work together. What impact should this have in our thinking? That question is answered by our second point.
2. Do not devalue your contribution to the body v. 15-16
Devaluing your own contribution is one way that the body gets maimed and stops functioning right. Sadly, so many churches are missing body parts. It affects their appearance. It affects their ability to function as God designed it to. From our passage today we will see several reasons of how a church body can get to that point of missing a limb. Our purpose in studying this is to make sure it doesn’t happen to Kitwe Church. We are still in the forming stages as a church. We have not yet become an official, organized church. It is as if this body is still being formed in the womb and we are rapidly heading to the moment of birth.
So, let’s make sure we know how to care for this body so we do not become dismembered and less effective as we move into childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as the local body of Christ known as Kitwe Church. What do these two verses tell us about our contribution? We are important to the overall function. Do not look at others and say, “They are superior. They do what I wish I could do. Since I can’t do it then I must be worthless. No! Are you different? Yes! Are you worthless? No! Recognize the differences. Admire the strengths of others since they are intended to benefit the entire body, including you. But, do not let the difference make you feel inferior, unimportant, or like an outcast. Recognize that you have something to offer to the others.
Perhaps you say, I honestly don’t see what good I have to offer. I don’t even know what body part I am here at Kitwe Church. Don’t worry. Chances are that the rest of us see what you are and how important you are to the body even if you don’t. It will come to you in time. That is the beautiful thing about the process of discipleship. You will become more self-aware with time and over time God will even develop more skills in you that you might not yet even know are there. So, we have addressed danger number one. Do not devalue your contribution to the body. Now, we must see the third point from our text.
3. Do not devalue the contribution of other members of the body v. 21-25a
Some of us know exactly what body part we are and we are proud of it. We see ourselves as absolutely crucial to the church, but our pride has blinded us to just how much we need the rest of the body. When I think of proud parts of the body I picture a body builder with large biceps. I think we would all agree that arms are very important and arms like these are quite impressive. They look amazing and the weight they can lift is breath taking. The work they can accomplish is inspiring. Yet, take that arm away from the body and what can it do?
What good is it then? It needs the rest of the body! When we think of the senses that we use most I doubt any of them are quite is influential as the power of sight. An eye is an incredible body part that’s very design is proof that we are the product of an intelligent designer. The human eye is far too complex to have ever been the product of random chance, as the theory of evolution would have us believe. Perhaps you are the eye of Kitwe Church. Awesome! Glad to have you! But don’t you dare look down upon those who are the hand. You need that hand. What is the first thing you do when you get something stuck in your eye and you are in incredible pain? You raise your hand to come to the aid of the injured eye. There is a stern warning in these verses. We better never be so lifted up with pride over our own place in the body that we consider other members as expendable. No, we must value them. We must never use our actions, attitudes, or words to devalue other members of the church that God has placed in our local body of Kitwe Church. This takes us to point four.
4. Each member should care for the others v. 25b-26
These verses tell us we must truly, genuinely care for one another. This has three specific applications. First, we must care for each other physically. Just as the hand and eye work together to clean the wound of the injured knee. So, church members should work together to provide the care needed when we see one of our members injured or in need. When someone is in the hospital, do you go visit them? If they are in need of some physical resource do you who have it come to their aid?
Second, we must care for each other emotionally. When someone is down, discouraged, or depressed are you willing to take the time to be a listening ear? Are you willing to cry with them? Pray with them? Counsel them? Encourage them? That is what we must do to care for each other emotionally.
Third, we must care for each other spiritually. When you know someone is struggling with a temptation over a specific sin do you leave them to fight that battle alone or do you lovingly encourage them to spur them on to do the right thing? When you know someone is stuck in sin do you pretend to not know or do you who are spiritual go to such a one to restore them by lovingly confronting them as we are told to do in Galatians 6:1?
Here is what a church should do. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. That seems so opposite to human nature doesn’t it? Our natural tendency is to compete, but as members of the body of Christ we are supposed to cooperate with and compliment each other.
How is that accomplished? The answer to that is found in point five.
5. Each member must be controlled by Jesus Christ, the head of the body, in order to serve in unity.
Colossians 1:18-19; 2:19 In our own strength, of our own will power, of our own nature we would never serve in unity. It would be impossible. Both our culture and our base innate character tell us to look out for “Number 1.” To exalt ourselves. To compete for prominent positions and the prestige of fame. There is only one way for all of us to care for one another and work in unity. We all have to be controlled by the same source. We all have to follow the impulse being sent to us from the brain! Who is it that has that position in the body? None other than Jesus Christ. He is the head of the body, the church.
Colossians 1:18-19 says, “18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”
Colossians 2:19 says we “must hold fast to the head – Jesus Christ, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”
Jesus is the head. He commands our actions and our attitudes by His Word, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit. Just like the brain sends signals to the limbs through the nerves in the spinal cord, so Jesus guides our actions and reactions through the Holy Spirit. There is one way and one way only that we will be the body working together in unity. That is to submit to the authority of Jesus, the head. We must know his commands by studying the Bible and walk in the Spirit.
Will you do that? That is the only way Kitwe Church will be able to thrive as a body without maimed limbs.
The brilliance of this picture of the church as a body is that we are effective and powerful because of our diversity. If we were all the same we would accomplish very little. It is precisely because we are so different that we have the capacity to fulfill our mission on earth of evangelizing the lost and training disciples of Jesus Christ from every family, language, nation, and ethnic background. That is our mission! We have that capacity IF we will allow Jesus Christ, the head to control each of us so that our diversity can work in unity.
As we close, we must not let ourselves go out these doors without evaluating our lives in light of what we have heard.
First, we must begin by asking. Am I a member of this body? Only those who have been born again by repenting of sin and putting faith in Jesus Christ for their acceptability in God’s sight are able to be true members of Christ’s body, the Church. Have you done that? I know some of you have been wrestling with that decision for weeks or even months. Is today the day you will humbly bow before the God you have offended with your sin, but who lovingly died the death you should have died so that you can be forgiven, freed from the power of sin in this life and the penalty of sin in the life to come. Is today the day to be adopted into the family of God?
Second, for those of you who have been born again, has God’s word convicted you about your attitude about yourself or others? Have you been devaluing yourself making it so that you are robbing the church of the services and senses that God appointed for you to provide? Have you been devaluing others making it so that you are crippling them from being able to do their part in serving the Lord and serving you? Perhaps there are some attitudes that need to change today.
If so, let’s get that sorted out today.