The Book of 1 CORINTHIANS
James J. Barker
MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
- The Bible uses different expressions for the local church. For example, in I Timothy 3:15, Paul refers to the church as “the house of God.”
- You may recall back in I Corinthians 3:9, the church is called “God’s husbandry” and “God’s building.”
- Another term used is the bride of Christ. This looks to the future when Christ the Bridegroom returns for His bride.
- Probably the term used most frequently is “the body of Christ.”
- The term “body of Christ” is found many times in Paul’s epistles – in Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians.
- And it is found many times here in I Corinthians 12 (verses 12—27).
- There is some confusion over this term, the body of Christ. Some teach that it is a large invisible group of saved individuals from all over the world.
- This is the view of the Scofield Study Bible. “The true church, composed of the whole number of regenerate persons from Pentecost to the first resurrection (I Cor. 15:52) united together and to Christ by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:12, 13) is the body of Christ of which He is .the Head (pg. 1304).
- I love the Scofield Study Bible, but I have a problem with this. First of all, there are practical problems with this position. It is not usual to meet nominal Christians who disdain the local church but claim allegiance to some vague, mystical “invisible church.”
- I heard J. Vernon McGee say that the invisible church people are the ones who are invisible on Sunday and Wednesday nights.
- Unfortunately, many are invisible on Sunday mornings as well.
- It is hard for me to comprehend a church without officers, without ordinances, without meetings, without members, etc. Where do these invisible church people pay their tithe? (Answer: most do not tithe.)
- There is no accountability outside the local church. There is no church discipline outside the local church. There is no Scriptural missions program outside the local church. Soulwinning and discipleship cannot be carried out properly outside the local church.
- In addition to practical problems, there are doctrinal problems as well. The first reference to the church is found in Matthew 16:18. I will not waste precious time debating whether or not our Lord was referring to a local church or an invisible church. Our Lord certainly organized a local church, with the two ordinances, and He gave them the Great Commission.
- The word “church” can be used in an institutional sense. For example, we speak of the separation of church and state. Which church? Which state? Perhaps our Lord’s words in Matthew 16:18 were used in an institutional sense.
- Our Lord was certainly referring to the local church in Matthew 18:17. How could an "invisible church" practice church discipline? So, the problems with this invisible church theory are many.
- There is a sense in which the Bible speaks of the unity of all true born again believers. All true Christians recognize this, though we may differ on our terminology.
- Paul addressed this epistle to “the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s” (I Cor. 1:2).
- This indicates that Paul’s words are not limited to those in the church in Corinth.
- The emphasis in the New Testament is always on the local church.
- The word ecclesia is used 113 times in the New Testament and it always refers to local churches.
THERE IS UNITY IN THE BODY
- First Corinthians 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized.”
- It is taught in some churches that Christians need to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but this is not taught in Scripture.
- Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be filled with the Spirit,” but being filled with the Spirit is not the same thing as being baptized with the Holy Spirit.
- Warren Wiersbe said, “To be baptized by the Spirit means that we belong to Christ’s body. To be filled with the Spirit means that our bodies belong to Christ” (The Bible Exposition Commentary).
- Although it has many members with diverse functions and duties, the human body is nevertheless one organism. A single life flows through it all.
- Likewise, the Bible says, “For as the body is one, and hath many members” (I Cor. 12:12). There certainly is great diversity in the body of Christ. There are older saints who have been saved for many years. They have wisdom and maturity.
- There are new believers who are full of excitement and energy. There are Christians from various different countries – but “the body is one” (12:12).
- “One body” (10:17; 12:12, 13, 20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 3:15).
- Though there is great diversity in the body, there is unity (cf. Eph. 4:4-6).
- God wants unity. “There should be no schism in the body” (12:25; cf. 11:18; 3:3). All
the parts are equally necessary, and are dependent on each other.
THERE IS DIVERSITY IN THE BODY
- “For the body is not one member, but many” (12:14). Without a variety of members, you could not have a human body. There must be many members, each one different from the others (12:15-21).
- Each member works in obedience to the head, and in cooperation with the others. Christ is the head of the body of Christ, and we all work together in obedience to Him.
- J. Vernon McGee gave a good illustration about hurting his foot in a hunting accident. He asked the doctor how many bones were in his foot and the doctor said there were twenty-seven.
- Dr. McGee said, “I think I hurt all 27 of them,” and the doctor said, “No, you only hurt one.” The point Dr. McGee was making was that his whole foot was hurting (12:26).
- He gave another good illustration. Dr. McGee preached one night and afterwards was dining with a physician. The doctor asked him what he thought was the most important part of his body. McGee said his tongue.
- The doctor said, “No, the most important part of your body today was your big toe. If it weren’t for your big toes you would not have been able to stand up there in the pulpit.”
- We need all of our members for the church to function properly. There is a place in the body of Christ for each and every Christian.
- Verse 23 refers to “our uncomely (indecent, unseemly, private) parts.” “Comeliness” refers to appropriate clothing.
- The word means, “external charm or elegance of figure, external beauty, decorum, modesty, seemliness” (Thayer’s Lexicon).
- John Phillips says, “The ‘less honorable’ members are usually clothed; the ‘uncomely parts’ are not clothed” (Exploring 1 Corinthians).
- The words translated "abundant honour" here refer to clothing.
- Albert Barnes says, “We bestow upon them more attention and honor than we do on the face that is deemed comely, and that is not covered and adorned as the other parts of the body are…Those parts which decency requires us to conceal we not only cover, but we endeavour as far as we can to adorn them. The face in the mean time we leave uncovered. The idea is, that in like manner we should not despise or disregard those members
of the church who are of lower rank, or who are less favoured than others with spiritual endowments.”
- “For our comely parts have no need” (12:24) means there is no need to put clothing on our faces.
THERE IS STRENGTH IN THE BODY
- I can probably preach without my legs but I’d have a hard time going out soulwinning. Most of you here today would probably have a difficult time of it if you lost your ears or eyes or nose (cf. 12:14-24).
- The foot should not feel inferior because it is not the hand (12:15). The ear should not feel inferior because it is not the eye (12:16). A body with four hands or four eyes would not function properly.
- But with all the members working together, the body is strong and functions properly (12:17).
- God has placed you in the local church for a specific purpose and you must take your rightful place as the Lord (the head of the body) directs you (12:18).
- The point here is we should not be envious of others. Not everybody can be an eye or an ear or a foot or a hand but each member helps the other, and working together the body can accomplish much.
- Children are (small) members of the body, but they can be greatly used by God. I remember a conversation I had with a man many years ago. He told me that his wife was impressed by our kids passing out flyers for VBS.
- There should be no big shots in the local church. Problem arise when one member has a haughty attitude and thinks he is better than others (12:21, 22).
- Chapter 12 begins and ends with spiritual gifts (12:1-11, 28-31).
- Apostles and prophets were foundational gifts (12:28). Ephesians 2:20 says the church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.”
- Next are teachers (12:28). First Timothy 3:2 says that a bishop must be “apt to teach.”
- Second Timothy 2:24 says, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.”
- Next, miracles and healing are mentioned again (12:28; cf. 12:9, 10). We need to beware of all the fake “miracle-workers” and “faith healers” that are leading people astray and hindering the true Gospel.
- The “ministry of helps” (12:28) is seldom mentioned today, but it is very important. Perhaps that is your gift. If you are saved, you must seek your place in the local church.
- “Governments” (12:28) refers to church administration.Barnes says the word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and is usually applied to the government or steering of a ship.
- You may not have a gift of government or a gift of teaching but you can serve the Lord in various ways (12:29-31).
“A more excellent way” is charity (love) according to I Corinthians 13.
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