1 Corinthians 12:12-31
One Body, Many Parts
Here in this rather lengthy passage, Paul emphasizes the unity of the local church (and by extension, the universal) that is composed of many members. But he begins with the unity which is where we should always begin when discussing our Lord’s body—the church. And his proof for this is that we were all baptized into one body, regardless of ethnicity, social status, or gender, and were all “made to drink of one Spirit,” which I take to refer to the believer’s regeneration. In short, we are all saved by the same means (through rebirth by the Spirit) and pass under the same yoke (baptism).
But even so, we are still individual members who make up this unity. What I find interesting is that though Paul speaks of the parts of the body in the context of spiritual gifts, the fact that we are all members of one another in the body of Christ is true regardless whether we discuss spiritual gifts or not. Indeed, Paul does not return to spiritual gifts till the end of the passage. Thus, we are members of one another apart from our particular gifts, and need one another for a variety of things: accountability, support in times of mourning, and even in celebrations. And no one is to be left out, either by being excluded or by excluding themselves, which is the far greater problem in our churches. Bodies need eyes, ears, noses, feet, hands, and even those unmentionable parts which we treat with greater care and modesty. And the church needs all her parts. Even beyond spiritual gifts, we need the different personalities and skill sets; we need one another.
And by couching spiritual gifts within the context of the mutual need and unity of the body, Paul tries to get these arrogant Corinthians to see their need of one another. All the gifts are necessary. Though some might bristle at what I am about to say, Paul does seem to think that some gifts are “higher.” No doubt, there is a reason that he says, “First apostles, second prophets, third teachers”; after all, a body needs a head more than a pinky. But you will miss that pinky; we need our pinkies.
Paul will now turn their attention to a “more excellent way.” And what way is that? Love, of course. If these Corinthians would turn from themselves and to one another, they might discover something in the church of far more value than wisdom, knowledge, gifts, and matters over food, drink, and ladies’ scarves. I’m convinced that within the local church God has placed a gold mine that we have rarely tapped, a gold mine leading to growth and godliness and to a kingdom of priests, our first and best calling (1 Peter 2:9).