SESSION 17 — “To a Church in Crisis, With Love,” a Bible study of 1 & 2 Corinthians

Text: 1Corinthians 12:12-31

In the first eleven chapters, Paul, who loves the church with God’s own love, has reprimanded, beseeched and instructed the troubled church in Corinth. All of what he has written, and all that they have said and done, reflects their infancy in Christ. They have not comprehended that Christianity is not about outward works, but an inward work in their hearts. 

In the first eleven verses of Chapter 12, Paul re-teaches spiritual discernment and the gifts given by the Holy Spirit for the common good.

Now, Paul addresses unity of the Body of Christ, our need for one another, instructs regarding the offices of the Body, and again reviews miracles, gifts of healings, and tongues.

If I were to give this a title, it would be, “The Holy Spirit Unifies.” 

The problem in Corinth is lack of unity, which reflects (once again) that they are infants in Christ. But Paul has already rebuked them for their quarreling and one-upmanship. So here, he uses re-teaching as a method to continue his rebuke more mildly, as he did with the first part of this chapter.

Verse 12 —

The body is one. Paul is speaking of the Body of Christ here. Just as a human body is one body with many different parts (which Paul calls members), so is the Body of Christ. They are many, but are one Body. 

They are one church, and as such, they must be one, just as Christ is one with His Father — that is, of the same nature.  That is how it should be, throughout His church! Why? He tells us in His prayer to His Father —

John 17:22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 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.”

In this passage, the “glory” is the fully indwelling presence of God within us, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. “I in them, and You in Me,” reflects His promise in John 14:23, that the Father and He would fully dwell in us! Only in this way can the Body of Christ be one with Christ and the Father!

Verse 13 — 

Who unifies the Body of Christ? The Holy Spirit, when He fills us with Himself, the Father and the Son. 

Water baptism is for repentance. Spirit baptism is for unity. Witness the difference in Peter and the rest of the disciples, who used to argue about who was the greatest. At Pentecost, they were suddenly made partakers of the divine nature (2Peter 1:4) and suddenly became servants of one another. 

It makes no difference what our background happens to be. Jew, Gentile, slave, free — all are made to drink of one Spirit. And to drink of Him is to be filled with Him; that is the intent of that word, in the original Greek.

Verse 14 — 

Paul again emphasizes that the Body is not one, but many. The Body of Christ goes way beyond your church, even to the ends of the earth! You are a part of this one Body.

Verses 15-16 — 

He uses the imagery of a human body to show them that they are not operating as one Body. The foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body.” But of course, a foot is part of the human body. Likewise, you cannot say that you are not part of the Body of Christ because your role is different from another’s.

And it is the same for the ear — it is a part of the human body, just as an eye is part of the human body. They have different functions, but they are both needed! One is not greater than the other.

But at Corinth, there seem to be demarcations, one believer considering himself to be greater than another. It is the same one-upmanship that the disciples suffered from, before Pentecost.

Verse 17 —

And all parts of the Body of Christ are needed! If we all were eyes, how would we hear? If we all were ears, how would we detect smell? Many different parts must, in unity of nature, contribute to the Body of Christ. The fact that Paul has to teach this again to the believers at Corinth reveals the lack of unity that has been reported to him by Chloe’s household.

Verse 18-20 —

Who has placed us all together, as the Body of Christ, and given each of us a different function? God! And He does it just as He desires. It is not up to us to choose our places or where WE want to contribute, but God will show it to us, by His Holy Spirit, if we are filled with Him!

As in Verse 11, the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts just as HE wills. Let us remember that our Father, Son, and Spirit know best!

Paul poses a rhetorical question now. If we all had the same role, there would be no Body. A human body does not consist only of ears, nor eyes, nor fingers, nor toes!

So, Paul concludes, there are many members, but one Body.

Verse 21 — 

Paul now addresses the difficulties in the church at Corinth. The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you, or the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Each part is needed, but in Corinth, some are saying, by their actions and their words, that they are the only Body part needed in the Body of Christ! Again, it is prideful and boastful to say such a thing!

Verses 22-23 —

“On the contrary!” says Paul. You are mistaken, O Corinthians, and O church of today! 

My NAS Bible reads, “It is much truer.” That is a poor translation! If there is wrong thinking, then what they are thinking is not true. There are no “degrees of truth!”

The original Greek to English is, “to a much greater degree.” So, to a much greater degree, the members which seem to be weaker (strengthless) are necessary.

Do not deem one part of the Body of Christ less honorable than the other. The believers at Corinth are arrogantly judging each others’ worth, judging those they deem “weak” as “despised!” All the parts of the Body of Christ are honorable. We have no right to one-upmanship of any kind! But it will always happen in a church where none, or not all, members are filled with the Holy Spirit!

Those who are considered “less important” should be honored by the Body of Christ even more greatly. If they are considered by some in Corinth to be not as presentable (beautiful, elegant), Paul says those upon whom they look down are actually beautified and made elegant when they are honored by their fellow believers. But there are some in Corinth who think only they themselves are beautiful and elegant. So they honor only themselves. It will always happen in a church where none, or not all, members are filled with the Holy Spirit!

Verses 24-26 —

Who made the Body of Christ with some parts more beautiful than others? God! He (and not we) composed the Body, giving more abundant beauty to one who lacks beauty — even His Spirit in His fullness! 

And why does God compose the Body of Christ in this way? So that there may be no division (schism) in the Body, as there is at Corinth. 

But each one seeks glory for himself and from others. Jesus says this to the Jewish leaders who were doing likewise —

John 5:44 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”

Seek to be filled with the Spirit, and you will be cleansed from such selfish thinking! Instead, you will suffer when another member suffers, and rejoice when another member is honored!

Beloved, none of us can do anything, apart from Christ (John 15:5). We must ask Christ to make that a reality in us, by being filled with  HIs Spirit.

Our selfishness and self-importance is a product of the sin nature. But when that nature has been crucified and we receive the Lord’s divine nature, we will look outward instead of inward, and both rejoice with and suffer with one another. 

It is far beyond human sympathy or even human empathy. When we become partakers of the divine nature, we feel what the other parts of the Body of Christ are feeling, just as with my body when my foot hurts, and my head “feels” it by receiving a pain signal!

Again, it is not happening among the believers at Corinth because they are still infants in Christ, and are not filled with the Unifier, the Holy Spirit!

2Peter 1:4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

No lust, no pride, no sin. The sin nature is crucified (Galatians 5:24)!

Verses 27-30 —

Paul concludes his comments on unity of nature with a summary and series of rhetorical questions for the believers at Corinth. 

He begins with, “You are Christ’s Body, and individually members of it.”  And it is not we, but God, who appoints! Who does He appoint?

— First, apostles, 

— second, prophets, and

— third, teachers

Paul notes (first, second, third) that there is a hierarchy of offices to which God appoints those who are to lead the church spiritually. Again, HE appoints, not us!

And God appoints some to work for Him and serve the Body of Christ in this way, for the common good 

— miracles (works that defy natural and scientific laws)

— gifts of healings (many forms of healing, and many individual healings)

— helps (relief work)

— administrations (steering, directing)

— various kinds of tongues (beyond that which we experience at our own personal Pentecost)

— interpretation of tongues (again, this is prophecy)

Not everyone is appointed by God to be an apostle. Not everyone is appointed by God to be a prophet. Not everyone is appointed by God to be a teacher, or worker of miracles. Not everyone is appointed by God to work in helps or administrations.

Not everyone has gifts of healings. Not everyone has the gift of interpretation of tongues. 

Again, the Spirit gives gifts as HE wills, and appoints to offices as HE wills. Jesus Christ decides each one’s ministry. And God is the One who works everything!

Verse 31 —

Ah! Paul says there is a more excellent way that what the believers at Corinth are doing! And he will show them and us this more excellent way, when we study Chapter 13! Lord, may the church of today have ears to hear what You are 12aying. Amen. So be it!