Paul Likens Christ Mystical Body and its Function to the Human Body
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Paul now turns the focus of his letter to the function or employment of all of these gifts of the Spirit in our Lord Jesus’ Mystical Body by comparing His Body to that of any human body. Every person has a body and understands (to some degree) the function of the individual parts of their body. Surely someone who is not a physician does not understand what their internal organs do, but they can understand what their eyes, ears, hands, fingers, feet, or legs do every day. Paul being very practical and simplistic with this analysis says, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14) and he does so in order that the Corinthian believers and us today might grasp that our Lord Jesus expects His Body to operate as one.
The reality of our new birth is what unites true believers because we have the same nature of God (the Holy Spirit) dwelling in each one of us and God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are eternally united and so must His children be (despite the differing races), and this is why our Lord Jesus prayed the following words to the Father in the Garden before He was arrested, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:22-23). Paul declares that our gifts are to be exercised and used as a part of Christ Body just as in the human body the hand picks up items and takes them to the mouth so that the body can be fed physical food to strengthen it and nourish the entire body, including the hand.
Paul wants to make it clear that he as an Apostle with many gifts of the Spirit is no more important than any one of the Corinthian believers with only one gift, for Paul declares that that one brother or sister in Christ Body and his or her one gift and its function or employment is as important as the Apostle himself with his many gifts as he says it in this manner speaking of the human body, “If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:15-20).
Paul’s point is simple and clear and that is no normal functioning human body has its limbs or members working against one another but quite the opposite they are always working together doing their part or what they were created or designed to do for the good of the whole body, therefore, Christ Body made up of many individual parts have been gifted by God the Holy Spirit to exercise their gift for the good of the Head (Christ) and the entire Body (believers). Paul now wants to squash the envy, strife, and the many divisions that are manifested in this Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 3:3) that has propelled them to elevate the gifts and the people with them they deemed more relevant, important, or beneficial to the church and the gifts that are outwardly more flamboyant and flashy that brought about attention from non-believers (in their case and the way they were it was negative attention (1 Corinthians 14:23)).
Paul uses this example to show them how absurd and silly they were in neglecting every member of the church and his or her gift by saying, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:21-25).
Every one of the Corinthian believers and us today are fully aware that when we hurt our foot or our arm or even our pinky finger which seems to be minor or insignificant compared to say the heart or lungs, but when even the smallest part of our body is hurt or sick it directly effects our whole body and so it is with our Lord Jesus’ Mystical Body as Paul declares with these words, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27). The human body is not a disjointed bunch of members that can be taken or left, but every part of the human body externally and internally is vital and crucial to the proper and healthy function of the whole body and so our Lord Jesus wants His Body to be attached to the Head (Him) and every member serve and function employing their gift or gifts as directed by the Head (Christ) and energized, enabled, and empowered by the Spirit.
“The use of gifts must never be dictated by personal ambition or the desire for selfish gain. As every member of the physical body is united to the head by two sets of nerves, the afferent, which bring to the brain the slightest sense impressions, and the efferent, which bear to the extremities the commands of the mind, so is every member of the Church, even the feeblest and most distant, bound to his glorious Lord. The head of the swimmer is in one element-the air-and the members may be in another-the water-yet the head is able to control and co-ordinate them; so with the unseen Christ and His visible Church on earth. He must direct and use us. We have nothing to do with the work He confides to others, and must concentrate on that which He wants to achieve through us. If this means co-operation with other members or service to them; if it means hidden obscurity or temporary disuse, we must be equally content. It is for Him to do as He will. There is no room for envy or jealousy; they must give place to loving fellowship and mutual help, and the quiet peace and rest which come from recognizing the good pleasure of the Creator.” F. B. Meyer
“Paul uses an easy to understand illustration to correct these Corinthian believers in their distorted view of how their church should function in employing their spiritual gifts for Christ Glory and the proclamation of the gospel and for edifying and building one another up, even they who Paul called carnal in this letter could understand this illustration and surely it proved to make the necessary corrections needed by what Paul wrote to them in his entire second letter and specifically these words sum up the whole of the second letter, ‘I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you’ (2 Corinthians 7:16).” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…