“HOW TO FUNCTION IN THE BODY” 1 Cor. 12:12-31
INTRO – Is the local church still relevant in our world today? Does it really have a place? Or has it run its course & become old-fashioned, outdated, & unnecessary?
If it is still necessary, does a person really have to join a local church? Is it really necessary to make a commitment to one body of believers?
If we truly take God at His Word when He talks about the Church, then we have to agree that He expects for believers to be intimately connected to a local church. Even in our passage for today, the Scriptures refer to each of us being a “part” of the Body, or a “member” of the Body. This word does not mean that we are members of the church as a person is a member of a club, or an organization like a sorority or fraternity. It’s not like American Express, where “Membership has its privileges.”
The term for “part” or “member” actually means a physical member of your physical body. My grandmother had cancer of the bone of her right index finger & had it amputated. At the moment that the amputation took place, that finger was “dismembered.” That member of her body was no longer attached as a viable part of her body.
Ed Stetzer wrote an article on why church membership matters. He gave 3 reasons that church membership is biblical & important:
- Membership reflects what the Church is – We are an organic, living community, & membership is a reflection of that. We are a body, not matter how we feel about that biblical fact.
- The Bible teaches covenant community – There may different ideas about how church membership should look, but there is no denying that the Bible clearly teaches that “there is no such thing in the New Testament as a church without some recognition of belonging—of membership in community.”
- People need church membership – “People need membership commitment because they need to be connected to a Christian community.” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/july/membership-matters-3-reasons-for-church-membership.html)
So, let’s keep peeling back the layers of the importance of the Church in our society, & talk about some specifics on how to function in the Body:
First, you’ve got to become a part of the Body – v. 12-13 – That’s probably pretty obvious, but there has to be a point at which a faith commitment is made to Jesus Christ, a commitment to trust Him alone for salvation, a commitment to follow Him in obedience for the rest of one’s life. And at that point that you make that decision to follow Jesus, you are “baptized by one Spirit into one Body,” & you become a part of His Body, the Church. The statement, “I love Jesus, but I don’t love the Church,” is unbiblical & heretical. It just doesn’t work that way. Wayne Grudem – “The Church is the community of all true believers for all time” (Systematic Theology, p. 853). You don’t become a Christian & not become a member of the Church. And a Christian who isn’t genuinely connected to a local church body is not living the life of a fully devoted follower of Christ.
Chuck Colson – “Yet membership in a confessing body is fundamental to the faithful Christian life. Failure to do so defies the explicit warning not to forsake ‘our assembling together.’ His understanding of this prompted Martin Luther to say, ‘Apart from the church, salvation is impossible.’ Not that the church provides salvation; God does. But because the ‘saved’ one can’t fulfill what it means to be a Christian apart from the church, membership becomes the indispensable mark of salvation.” (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/c/church.htm)
Secondly, we each need to find our place in the Body – v. 14-19 – (Wendy’s “Parts is parts” commercial) Sometimes we can view our place in the Body like that Wendy’s commercial, as if we are just like every other part, or that each part is indistinguishable from the other parts.
There’s so much more to being a part of the Body of Christ than just a “parts is parts” mentality. Paul talked about that in these verses when he used the analogy of the foot not feeling that it was a part of the Body b/c it was not a hand, & the ear not feeling that it was a part of the Body b/c it was not an eye.
No, just as every member of your physical body is important, so every member of the Body of Christ is important. And each of us has a job to do, a place to serve, a way to glorify God, a calling to fulfill IN THE BODY!
Back to my Granny’s finger being amputated – Was she able to continue to live her life after losing her finger? Sure. But her body was never the same after the amputation. Her body was never complete again after that finger had to be cut off.
The Church – THIS church – continues to function even when individual parts are not functioning properly, when individual members are not serving properly. But we are not complete, we are not whole, we are not able to fulfill God’s mission for us as a church body as completely as we could if all the members were striving to find their place in the body & serve the Lord in His Body. Paul said it this way in Rom. 12:4-8 – “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly” (NLT).
An important part of our church’s mission of “Developing Devoted Disciples” is to help every member discover their place of service in this church body. Use the communication card or your note sheet or another slip of paper to let us know if you want us to help you find your place in this body. As Discipleship Pastor, Mark Sandifer would love to help you in that way.
Third, we need to strive for peace in the Body – v. 20-26 – Strife & dissension & divisiveness in the church is so destructive to the work of Christ. Satan loves to see the church in turmoil, wrapped up in arguments & fights over things that are usually unimportant & inconsequential in the work of the church. He loves to see the members of Christ’s Body get wrapped up in pride & our own inflated egos, thinking that we are more important than other members of the church – v. 21. He loves to see us divided into different groups & factions & cliques within the church, even though the Scriptures tell us that God has put us ALL together in such a way that “there should be no division in the body” (v. 25a). He loves to see us ignoring each others’ needs, being too busy to serve in the church & minister to others in the Body, when the Scriptures tell us that we “should have equal concern for each other” (v. 25b).
Unity & peace in the Body is so important! If we don’t have it, then we become nothing more than a disjointed group of individuals, each doing our own thing – kind of like THE WORLD! We must strive for peace in the Body, fighting against the enemy as he constantly seeks to sow seeds of discord & distrust & disunity in the Body.
- We suffer together – v. 26a
- We rejoice together – v. 26b
- We worship together
- We serve together
- We battle the enemy together
Finally, we must keep our priorities in the Body – v. 27-31 – These last verses show us some of the different ways that we can serve in the Body, different giftings for the work of the Body. Paul makes it clear that there was a definite need in the church for the work of the apostles who laid the foundation for the Church by spreading the Gospel after the ascension of Christ. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent out.”
Prophets & teachers are also critical in the work of the Church. Prophets proclaim the will of God. Teachers teach the truths of God’s Word. Then all the other places of service & gifts that Paul lists in these verse – all important.
But, he states in v. 31 that there is a way that is “the most excellent way”, & that is the way of love – ch. 13. Of ALL the things that are important in the Body, the ONLY way we can function in the Body is by functioning in love for God & love for each other. Warren Wierbe – “Spiritual gifts, no matter how exciting and wonderful, are useless and even destructive if they are not ministered in love.” We are a church dead in the water if we are not operating in love, motivated by love, empowered through love, & obedient to love. It is the priority of priorities!
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 610). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.