The body the church
12: For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13: For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14: For the body is not one member, but many. 15: If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16: And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17: If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18: But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19: And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20: But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21: And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22: Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24: For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26: And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27: Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28: And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29: Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30: Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31: But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
Paul is talking about the unity of the body of believers. He says that although the body of Christ has many members yet all the members of Christ’s body, are one body. Then Paul explains how this body of believers came about. He says in one Spirit the Holy Spirit all of us as believers are baptised into the one body of Christ – the Church. Jews and Gentiles, slaves and freemen, we are all one in Christ. Our human body does not just have one part to it. Imagine how damaging it would be if the foot said, l am jealous of the hand. It wears a ring and does all the important stuff but I’m ignored and l trail in the dust and no body thinks of me, maybe I’m not part of the body. And imagine if the ear should say, I’m not beautiful like the eye. Nobody looks longingly at me. I don’t sparkle or shine. Maybe I’m not part of the body. Is the ear not part of the body? Imagine how grotesque it would be if the whole body were an eye? How would the eye hear anything? And if the whole body were an ear how would it smell beautiful scents? God has put all of the parts of the body together in a way that pleases him. If all the body were an eye then where would the body be? The eye cant say to the hand l don’t need you. Nor can the head say to the feet l don’t need you. Sometimes the parts of the body that seem to be weak are actually very necessary. And those parts of the body which we don’t think are very beautiful are in fact very important. God has knit all the body together in such a way that there is no division in the body and that it all works together in perfect harmony. And that all the parts of the body look after each other, so that if one member is hurt all the rest feel it. And if one part of the body is appreciated by someone all the rest of the body rejoices too. Now says Paul it is like this in the body of Christ. You Corinthians are the body of Christ. God set in the church firstly apostles, secondly prophets and thirdly teachers. These three represent the three orders of ministry. The Apostles brought the very words of Christ as eye witnesses of Christ’s life and teaching. The Prophets followed them in bringing divine revelation to the Church of God before the NT was complete and in fact some of them with the Apostles are the writers of the NT. And thirdly there are those who now teach the word of God from the inspired writings. And then after these gifts come those that perform miracles, then there are those with the gifts of healing, There are those who administer, those who govern churches, those that have different languages. Now says Paul let me ask you, is everyone an apostle? No of course not. Is everyone a prophet? No. Is every believer a teacher of the word? No not at all. Does every Christian perform miracles? No of course not. Does every christian heal people? No. So does every believer speak in languages and do all believers have the ability to interpret languages. No not at all. We are all different and each christian receives the gift that God gives to him. We are to long for the best gifts yet there is a much better way (and l will explain this in the next chapter).
(We must remember that this passage was written during the apostolic period before the death of the Apostles and the destruction of Jerusalem when the Apostolic signs and gifts ceased.)