Body Parts and Church Functions

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image

The Apostle Paul's saying that the church is one body is often cited as spiritual egalitarianism. The church has many members, yet remains one body, and each member plays a vital role. "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:12–13, NAB)

As Paul works what the metaphor implies, in this passage he personifies body parts. "The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,' nor again the head to the feet, ‘I do not need you.' Indeed the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary . . ." (1 Cor. 12: 21-22)

In Corinthians, Paul addresses a squabbling church in which various factions need to recognize and reconcile with the others' importance. Paul particularly condemns using a person's God-given gift to justify that person's position in the church fight. The divine gift of teaching or healing, for example, does not necessarily endorse that person's every view.

I imagine the worst troublemakers in Corinth acted out of the best intentions. In fact, I suspect one cause of their spiritual blindness owed a good deal to something valuable in them. Often the people who cause the most trouble—particularly in a church fight—are those who see a need and wish to address it, see a wrong and want to right it. Unfortunately, they also often believe that no one else can or will handle these matters. Or, at least, as well as they might. So they take pains to advance their credentials. "I've been given a gift by God, and so I must . . ."

Not necessarily. One wonderful thing about God is his generosity. The longer I live, the more I see this, and the more I realize that "out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham." (Luke 3:8)

Paul's message of spiritual egalitarianism speaks to personal freedom. Because God lavishes his church with gifts, I can search his will as to whether a problem or need requires my particular talents. Most of the time, God already has others far better suited. In short order, I have the pleasure of seeing someone else begin to address the problem. And I realize anew how far God's ways and thoughts exceed my own.

On the other hand, what God really wants me to do is a task to which I'm wholly blind or highly resistant. And when faced with these tasks, I'm less inclined to haul out my credentials than plead lack of preparation. Only in doing the tasks to which I'm truly called, do I comprehend that God prepares and continues to guide and sustain me.

We are all members of one body. Christ is the head and substance. And only His direction—the logos' unfathomable genius—enables that body to function in gifted diversity.