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#27 Christ's Body is a Unit

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(A Series on I Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 11/15/98 a.m.                I Corinthians 12:12-26

PROPOSITION:  That the Body of Christ is a unit, made of many parts, not all one part but many, living in mutual dependence and honor.

I. introduction

-     I TALK to people frequently who are willing to talk about God, or the “man upstairs,” or even Jesus....but because of some issue or another have no time for the church of Jesus Christ.

-     THEY are convinced that they can serve God out there on their own as a lone ranger.

-     YOU will hear them say things like.....Jesus I can take, but not the church.

-     OR, I am just as near to God out on the golf course, drinking in nature.....which is what I do a lot when I play golf.

-     OR you hear them say, the weekends are my time for myself.

-     RITA and I met a lady by accident in a mall on the east side on Friday....and she overheard us talking about God in her she asked if we were Christians....which she admitted that she was too.

-     WE chatted for a while and then I asked her which body of believers she was a part of and she said, “Oh....all of them. I visit one here and one there.”

-     I DIDN’T want to get into an argument, and as a pastor my motives could be suspect, so I said nothing. But I can’t find her version of the Christian life anywhere in here (hold up Bible).

-     WHEN the Holy Spirit first started the Church of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, the pattern of their new life for those 3,000 believers is found in Acts 2:42. Every day.....

      “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

-     THE apostle Paul deals with the theology of this new thing called church in I Corinthians 12.

-     IN 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul writes,

      “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

-     PAUL writes in Colossians 2:19 that Christ is the head of His body and that we as members of that body are,

      “...supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews,(and that it) grows as God causes it to grow.”

-     AS a member of the body of Christ you are not “out there” in some private orbit.....

*     .....answering to no one.

*     .....committed to no one.

*     .....involved in no on-going ministry to others.

*     .....taking care of no one but yourself.

-     THE Christian life is not a private deal between your and Jesus.

-     YOU can’t have Jesus without being a vital, connected, responsible part of His body.

ii. a unit of many parts

-     SOME of the problems that Paul is correcting in his letter to Corinth are similar to the rugged individualism of our culture.

-     THE context of I Corinthians 12 is the gifts of the Spirit.

-     AND it appears that in Corinth the ministries and gifts that God was releasing in Corinth had caused some of the people to get arrogant and independent.

*     So, if God used you in a prophetic word you thought it was because you were something special and a cut above the others.

*     And those that considered themselves spiritual separated themselves from the not-so-spiritual.

*     And there was a lot of envy and pride and division.

-     SO, in I CORINTHIANS 12:12 (page 1137), Paul writes,

      “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (13) For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (I Corinthians 12:12-13)

-     THE dictionary says that the word, unity, means “a single thing.”

-     THAT is simple yet profound.

-     IT means that the church of Jesus Christ is a single thing....a unit.

-     AND since the New Testament only speaks of and to local churches.....this means that,

*     University Presbyterian is....a single thing.

*     Aurora Nazarene is....a single thing.

*     Edgewood Baptist is....a single thing.

-     WESTGATE Chapel is....a single thing, though it is made up of many parts (verse 12).

-     WHAT parts? You, and you, and you and me.

-     WHEN you and I came to Jesus and were born again by His Holy Spirit, we were baptized into the church of Jesus and connected with some local expression of that body that is....a single thing.

-     I PERSONALLY am not bothered by different denominations and long as they preach the cross and salvation by faith...and as long as we don’t fight with each other.

-     WHAT is far more important is the reality that you were born again INTO the body of Christ....and that you connect with some expression of that body.....each of which is a unit....

*     ...called by God.

*     ...focused on Jesus.

*     ...anointed by the Holy Spirit.

*     ...blessed with leadership and spiritual gifts.

*     ...and given a mission to glorify God by making disciples of the lost.

-     SO, whether you are Jew or Greek, Scandinavian or Indonesian, Chinese or African American...or Heinz are welcome in the body of Christ because the Holy Spirit put you there.

-     THE local church of Jesus is a unit made up of many parts.

iii. not all one part but many

-     THE second point that the apostle Paul makes about the body of Christ in the next few verses is that it is not ALL one part but many.

-     VERSE 14,

      “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.

-     ONE of the problems in Corinth was the comparisons they were making between themselves based on some superficial ranking of spiritual ministries or giftings.

-     SO in verse 15 Paul writes,

      “If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. (16) And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.

-     THEN there were some in Corinth who acted as if theirs was THE only gifting and ministry and everyone else should be like them....if they were going to amount to anything.

-     SO, to this group Paul writes verse 17,

      “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

-     IN fact it is God Himself who designed EACH local church, with JUST the right mix of gifts and ministries to bring Him the glory.

-     VERSE 18,

      “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (19) If they were all one part, where would the body be? (20) As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” ( I Corinthians 12:14-20)

-     SO, the church of Jesus is not all ONE part, but many parts in one body in all of the living color and diversity that God alone could create.

iv. living in mutual dependence and honor

-     THEN in the next few verses Paul digs a little deeper on the issue of division based on an over-inflated opinion of ones own role in the body of Christ.

-     VERSE 21,

      “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don't need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don't need you!’

-     YOU can’t tell another member of the body of Christ that you don’t need what they have to offer for function.

-     WE need each other.

-     HOW foolish and arrogant to think otherwise.

-     IT is so easy to think more highly of ourselves than we should!

-     THEN Paul goes on to tell us about those members of Christ’s body that many of us would just as soon dump along the way.

*     These are the ones who are always struggling and never seem to get the victory.

*     These are the ones who seem to be feeble....or sickly...not so robust.

*     They are the ones in the body that you want to say, “Get a job, get a life, get on with it!”

-     VERSE 22 says about them,

      “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable....”

-     NOT just tolerated, or welcome...but indispensable. We need the weaker ones....

*     They keep us from running on ahead of God. He always stopped for the weaker ones.

*     They keep our feet on the ground.

*     They keep us calling on God.

*     They keep us from thinking our strength is in ourselves.

*     They are indispensable.

-     VERSE 23,

      “....and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty...”

-     THERE are some members of our body that we don’t care for others to would be immodest to have all of our body on display.

-     SO, those members get special treatment.

-     THEY are not exposed, but treated with modesty.

-     IN another place the Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8)

-     INSTEAD of exposing the unseemly, less honorable members of the body of Christ....since they belong to us and us to them...we cover them. And the Greek words used in verse 23 refer to the clothing that we use to cover the immodest parts of our human anatomy.

-     PAUL is not saying that sin isn’t dealt with. He is saying there is a difference between dealing with sin and exposing the member of the body of Christ.

-     THE latter is usually reserved, in the New Testament, for those who refuse repentance.

-     VERSE 24,

      “....our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,

-     GOD has put the body together the way He has seen the combination He has chosen. It is not by chance that you have been placed in this body.

-     AND the variety and diversity is from Him....verse 25,

       “ that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (26) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” ( I Corinthians 12:21-26)

-     WE are to live together and minister together in mutual dependence and love.

v. conclusion

-     LET me go over the three points that Paul makes in this passage...

1.   The local church of Jesus is a unit made up of many parts.

2.   So, the church of Jesus is not all ONE part, but many parts in one body in all of the living color and diversity that God alone could create.

3.   We are to live together and minister together in mutual dependence and love.

-     HOW connected are you to the body of Christ in some local expression?

-     HOW committed are you to the diversity in the body of unlike who you are?

-     HOW united are you with all other members of the body of Christ?


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