Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 May 28, 2017
“One Body, Many Parts”
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Today we enter brief respite from our sermon series in 1 Peter. This occurs because the next portion of that letter before us, to wit, 1 Peter 2:18-25, will require two weeks to treat well. Over the next few weeks, it may be tough to get two weeks together without a special occasion intervening. Next week is Pentecost—and, God willing, we shall consider the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in some detail. In two weeks we honor our scholarship winners, and that occasion will call for a sermon appropriate to the day as well. Then we have Father’s Day, plus the General Assembly meeting that week, and we see better how it may be tough to get two consecutive Sundays to treat 1 Peter 2:18-25. Hence, rather than split the two planned messages from that text with several intervening weeks, I wait to begin preaching it.
I have answered a fair number of imagined questions, but one remains, “Why today’s text?” This question pops into many minds when there is no preaching plan evident—or when the preacher interrupts the plan. Rest easy this day, beloved. There is neither burr in the saddle nor hobby horse here. I do not perceive screaming pastoral need in our congregation today that requires this sermon to alleviate the need. Today’s text, and its attending sermon, will conduce to our general spiritual health in Christ— individually and together. Fundamentally, though, preaching this text—as well as I can discern—is God’s will for the day. Let’s hear this word, from the Lord, through Paul, to the Corinthian Christian households and to us—and may we profit as He receives His rightful glory.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The editors of the English Standard Version (which we just heard) divide our text’s major portion into four paragraphs—and that division serves us well today. The first paragraph tells us that we, though many members, are one body in Christ (12-13). The evidence of this is our baptism in and drinking of one Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead, grafts us into Him Who is the vine, Christ Jesus (John 15:1 ff.)—and He is our cleansing agent, effectually applying the blood of Christ (and its benefits) to our needy souls. More than this, the same Spirit pours Himself out in our hearts—and as we partake of Him, He, the Living Water, flows out of us. All of this is the special work of the Spirit, and that work makes us, though many, one body in Christ Jesus.
Second, we learn that each member of Christ’s Body is included in the whole, and wholly so (14-20). Hence, none stands excluded because his form and function is not another’s. Paul, led by the Spirit, illustrates this with a couple of nonsense notion. If a foot, perceiving itself not a hand, should declaim participation in the body, then the foot would not on this basis cease to exist in the body. Paul illustrates the same idea using eyes and ears. Then he appeals to function. For example, if the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing—and if the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? The conclusion then follows: God has arranged His Body, and the constituent members, as He wills—both as to form and function. He has us formed and functioning, each, and all, just as He pleases.
Third, we learn what each member, as part of the whole, has (21-26). Each believer in Christ has utility in Him; that is, no one is useless in Christ’s Body—despite any appearance or feeling to the contrary. Therefore, no one can say of another, “You are useless,” and no one can say of himself, “I am useless.” Also, each Christian has honor. Each member—each part of the great Body of Christ—has equal honor before Him. This is true no matter his relative length of time in Christ, this-worldly attainments, or form and function in Christian service—to name but three. The Lord bestows this utility and honor evenly in order that there be no division in the Body. Rather, we enjoy precious unity of sentiment one with another in the Lord. If one member suffers, then all suffer together. If one member is honored, then all rejoice together. This demonstrates to us, and to the world, our identity in Christ and our love—chiefly for Him, but also deeply for one another.
Fourth, we learn from today’s final paragraph that no one is the total package (27-31)—despite some outlandish claims in sport, for example, to the contrary. The Lord lists for us in His Word about twenty spiritual gifts (found in Romans 12:3-8 [the service gifts], 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 [the manifestation gifts], Ephesians 4:11-13 [the office gifts], and 1 Peter 4:7-11 [certain other gifts])—and no one has them all. Moreover, no one is devoid of spiritual gifts. Hence, every Christian has at least one gifts, and most have several. These gifts, given in various proportions or withheld at God’s pleasure, constitute your spiritual gift mix. Therefore, you, your spiritual gift mix, and your ministries flowing therefrom (love (agape [agaph]) prerequisite to all the others, cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, esp. ibid, 1-3) glorify God and bless His Church.
Not only does God give each Christian a specific gift mix, but He also gives a specific set of gift mixes to each congregation—in order that the congregation both looks like what He wants the congregation to look like and functions as He wants the congregation to function. Each congregation, therefore, is as unique as the individuals constituting it. Moreover, by extension of the same principle, the Lord gives a specific color to joint identities and ministries of two or more churches being and working together. Examples of this include collaborative ministry between churches in a given town (or portion of it) and the organic unity within a given denominational grouping or portion of it—such as a presbytery. This, again, glorifies God, blesses the redeemed of God in Christ, and often draws the called of God to faith in His Son by the secret work of His Spirit.
May our three-in-one God, then, be glorified in His Church, and everywhere, and may you (and we) be blessed in your (and our) place and service in His covenant family. AMEN.