Join us sundays at 10:30AM

One Body, Many Members

August 21, 2022 Preacher: Kevin Godin Series: Growing in Grace

Topic: Spiritual Gifts Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26

Sermon Text:

Today, we continue our series Growing in Grace, working our way passage by passage through the book of 1 Corinthians. We are not here to listen to my thoughts or the opinions of any man. We desire to be students of God’s book and through it to hear the voice of God speaking to us through his living word. We are here to meet with God and to be changed for having done so.

Last week, we began chapter 12 and saw that God distributes different but complementary spiritual gifts to each believer. Everyone has one or more of these gifts or graces of the spirit, and they are intended for the common good of the church. Now we come to a powerful illustration of how the diversity of God’s people and their gifts work together as a single unity. The illustration is pretty straightforward, but its implications are deep.

The key idea that I want us to notice in the passage this morning is that The Church is not an Organization, it is a living Organism. It is the body of Christ.

If you have your Bible, turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, beginning at verse 12. If you are using the blue Bible we provide, it is on page 1196. If you do not own a Bible or have need of one, please take that one as our gift to you today. Verse 12,

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.


The church is the body of Christ. We hear it so often that it can become just a phrase. Just sounds in the air that we don’t really think about. But friends, that is a shocking and profound concept. It points to how intimate and profound a believers relationship with Jesus and each other really is.


Paul is talking about the church and begins with this image of the body being one thing made up of many parts. But notice that Paul doesn’t say “so it is with the church”, or “so it is with you”. No, he says “so it is with Christ”. He is talking about a multitude, a group, but that identity is so bound up with Jesus that he refers to the church as one with Jesus Christ. Many individual members who share a single identity, and that identity is that they are “in” Christ. They are partakers of the life of Christ.


When Jesus lived on earth, his spirit interacted with the world around him through his body. The same is true for us, right? But now that Jesus has ascended to heaven and has sent his spirit to dwell within believers, his spirit interacts with the world through us. We are his body, empowered by his spirit to continue aspects of his ministry. In a sense, believers are the hands and feet of Jesus until he returns.

Where believers are, Christ is. Wherever redeemed sinners are bearing the fruit of the new spirit within them Christ is there! Where the members of the church are working together, it is Christ is working in the world.


The church of God is not simply a gathering of people around a common interest. The church is not a human invention. It isn’t a club or a group. It is a supernatural union that is only possible through an exercise of God’s creative power. Every believer is a miracle, new creations transformed from spiritual death to a glorious inheritance through the immeasurable greatness of God’s power to raise the dead. Believers are united with Jesus in his death and his resurrection. We are “in” Christ.


This was one of the first gospel truths the apostle Paul learned. You may recall that when Paul was younger, he was a persecutor of the church. The blood of Stephen, the first martyr, was on his hands and he arrested and harassed many others. But something happened to Paul. It is recorded in Acts 9:1-5 where Paul is referred to by his Hebrew name Saul,


But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.


Paul was persecuting followers of Jesus. He was persecuting those who belonged to the way, meaning the Church, the believers in Jesus. Then Jesus dramatically appears to him and asks, “why are you persecuting ME?” He says, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”


I once heard former mob boss Michael Franzese say something interesting. Back in the 70’s and 80’s Michael was a capo in the Colombo family in New York. He was among the most powerful mafia figures in the country before becoming a Christian and leaving that life. He said that in the street you run into lots of guys who think they are tough guys. He said that when things get heated, sometimes guys would say, “do you know who I am?” Michael said those are not the guys you need worry about. Do whatever you have to do. But if a guy says, “do you know who I am with”, you had better check.


I hesitate to compare the kingdom of God to the mafia, but it true that the most important thing about us from a spiritual perspective is who we are connected to and if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are as connected as you can get. In fact, you are connected in such a way that whatever is done to you is done to Christ.


In Matthew 25:38–40 Jesus says on the last day when the righteous receive their rewards they will say,

38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’


A profound change in identity comes with putting our faith in Jesus. That is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, 17 … if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” We are new creations “IN” Christ. The Bible is full of references to being “in” Christ. All the blessings we receive, we receive through our union with Jesus. Theologians call this the mystical union. We are united to Jesus in such a way that our lives are his and his life is ours. In the same way that we are in the air and air is in us, we are in him, and he is in us.

Look what Paul says in verse 13,

13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.


We see again the supernatural nature of the church in that it is “in the Spirit” that we are baptized into his body. Water baptism is an external symbol of this internal work of the Spirit. Paul also tells us that in building this body God does not discriminate; he calls people from every conceivable situation. Ethnic identity doesn’t matter, both Jews and Greeks are called. Social and economic status doesn’t matter, both slaves and free are called.


The church speaks different languages, sings different kinds of music, eats different foods, and has different cultural habits but what is of ultimate importance is that its members have been united to Christ by the working of the Spirit and we all drink of one Spirit. One Spirit unites us, sustains us, and is the source of the grace we each receive.


God promised Abraham that through his seed, all the nations of the world will be blessed. That promise is kept through the gospel because through the gospel the Spirit of God is adding people in every nation to the body of Christ from who is the source of every blessing a sinner can receive.


Apart from this work of God nobody from any nation would be saved. All of us have all followed our selfish hearts and have broken God’s laws. Even our good works are tainted by sin and selfish motivations. We think we can earn the favor of God or others by our own goodness. In the end, this is just seeking glory for ourselves.


We like the applause and the accolades but if we could play a video up here of every thought and desire of your heart throughout your life, would you want anyone to see it? The selfishness and pride we kept hidden would be on full display. The truth behind all those so-called good things we did would be seen for what they were. Not to mention the shameful things we have thought or done.


Well, God sees all of that and one day we will all stand before him to give an account for it. I am telling you honestly that if any of us are to be judged on our own goodness, then none of us are going to make it. We haven’t simply made mistakes. We have sinned against a holy God and every one of us deserves hell. That is the bad news.


Here is the good news. God knows what is on that video but out of pure mercy, God offers salvation to sinners like us. Jesus, who is God the Son, lived a perfect life in the flesh. He never sinned. If we played the video of his life there would be no shame, no falling short in any way. Then, in an act of overwhelming love, he took upon himself the sins of all who would ever put their trust in him as their salvation. He paid for that sin on the cross. He was crucified and died. The wrath of God against sin was poured out on him and he suffered the death that we earned. He experienced the hell we deserved and then three days later he rose again victorious over sin and death.


If we will only give up our pride and admit that we are not worthy of salvation based on our life, we are offered salvation based on his. All who accept this invitation by faith are united to Jesus Christ and we therefore have perfect righteousness before God. Not a righteousness that comes from us, but his righteousness that we have because we are “in” him. And through that connection we also receive his spirit that gives us gifts and brings us into the body of Christ. To earn salvation is neither possible nor necessary but is offered freely to all who receive it by faith.


And every believer is not only saved as an individual, but is added to the visible body of Christ. I say visible because remember from last week that the gifts are designed to show forth the Spirit at work in us. Beginning in verse 14, Paul explains this happens when we use them in fellowship with each other and each one has a place,


14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.


The way our bodies are designed is a model for understanding our lives together as a church. every part depends on the others, and each has been designed by God to perform a certain function. If one of the parts decides not to participate, they are no less a part of the body, but the rest are put in a position to compensate because that part was needed.

We all know Christians that think they don’t need to be connected to other believers in fellowship, but do they know more than God? He says we need each other for the whole to function as designed. We might know others that insist on doing what they want rather than what is needed, and they are gifted for. They won’t show up unless they get their way.

But have you ever tried to answer the telephone with your foot or steer the car with your chin? Some of you may be able to pull it off but you shouldn’t. It works much better for everyone if you use your hands. There is a reason our ears are not in our armpits and that we don’t have three eyes and no mouth. In the same way, the body of Christ is designed so that it works best when each part serves according to its shape.

Each person has been included with a purpose. Paul continues in verse 21,

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

God has designed us for a shared experience that honors the unique shape of each of us. If there be any believers among us, they have important contributions to make. The lowly and the humble are as essential as the prominent. We cannot say we don’t need each other.

In most churches, 80% of the work is done by less than 20% of the people. Less than 2 out of 10 generally account for most of the serving, giving, and planning. It isn’t supposed to be that way. Church should be a place that enables every member to use their gifts to serve. Unfortunately, that is incredibly rare.

Some people simply do not step up, they are content to hang back while others work. They come for years seeking to be fed but they never convert those spiritual calories to spiritual muscle for lack of exercise. They are like athletes that are constantly training and watching film but never show up for the game.

Others jump in and do so many things that others never get a chance to do anything. They are like those annoying kids we all knew in school that were constantly waving their hand at the teacher yelling “pick me, pick me”. Some of us need to step forward more, but some of us also need to step back more often.

There isn’t anyone who is not needed and whose gifts are not necessary. Paul says in verse 22, 22 …the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

There are some who seem to be weaker or less useful. Paul says it seems that way, but they are indispensable. They are necessary. I remember as a child watching the Challenger space shuttle launch with my classmates in school. Sadly, just over a minute after the launch, the shuttle exploded, and all lives were lost. It was a national disaster. That spacecraft was one of the most advanced pieces of technology on the planet. It cost over 1.5 billion dollars to design and build.

It turns out, the reason it exploded was that an O ring on one of the rocket boosters failed. Up that day I am confident nobody in the public was interested in hearing about shuttle O rings. But that simple rubber component was indispensable. Most people never took notice of it, but all that other advanced technology depended upon it to work properly. 

Every single member has an important contribution to make and when those contributions are not made, we are poorer for it. It is my desire and my job as the pastor of this congregation to equip and encourage each of you to fulfill your ministry to the body. Every member should be using their gifts for the building up of the whole. Those gifts are prominent or humble, they are necessary and indispensable.

We don’t want to come and sit here as if we are in the lobby of a dentist office or something like that. You know when you go to the dentist or doctor you are polite to the folks there. You may be watching the same programming or leafing through the reading material, but there is no community there. There is no vital connection to others. You are with other people, but it is an individual experience. That is not how God designed the church.

Paul says,

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The church is a participation with one another in the life of Christ. We are not primarily together because we share appreciate for a style of music or teaching. That can be done without Jesus. What makes the church different is our union with Jesus Christ through faith. Everything else is secondary.

We hear about black churches and white churches, republican churches and democratic churches, rich churches, and poor churches. You can find a so-called church that will cater to just about any fleshly distinction you want. The Bible knows nothing about any of these. The body of Christ is not white, black, red, or yellow. It doesn’t identify with any political party or even country. It is not defined by the wealth or poverty or abilities or disabilities of its parts. The biblical distinction is whether you are in Christ or not, that’s it.

This is the reality of the new covenant promise. There are four major illustrations in the Bible to describe the people of God. There are three in the Old Testament that then get applied to the church in the New Testament. The people of God are described as a kingdom, with God as our king. We are described as a family, with God as our Father. We are described as a building or temple, with God as the cornerstone. But this picture of the people of God as a body is unique to the New Testament.

It points to the reality of our being united to the savior. It clarifies Paul’s earlier teaching about how our exercise of the gifts makes the Spirit of Christ visible. Many people have an unbiblically spiritualized view of Christianity, but biblical faith is a flesh and blood faith. Even now, Jesus has a body that consists of flesh and blood on the earth. It is through his people that Christ makes himself visible.

We do that by loving each other. By bearing each other’s burdens. By suffering with each other. By building one another up. By sharing and showing the gospel to each other and to the lost.

That means each of us must assume our responsibilities within the congregation. Our gifts and talents, our time and treasure, our voices and our hands have been added to the body by our Lord for a reason. If you are a member here we cannot function without your ministry. There are big jobs to do and small jobs to do, but everyone is indispensable. Don’t deprive yourself of a blessing by being the eye that chooses not to see or the ear that chooses not to hear.

Not only do we need to accept our responsibilities, but we also need to accept our limitations. Jesus is the only man who has every gift. None of us can do everything no matter how mature or godly we are. Some of you have many gifts but we all need the gifts of others.

How do you think the praise team would sound if we had them all switch instruments for the next song and brought the sound guys up here to sing? That wouldn’t be good, right? No, because those songs are arranged so that all those individual notes come together in harmony. That happens because each musician knows their part, and the instruments they have been given are uniquely designed to produce the sounds required for their part.

That’s how it is with the church. We rejoice in each other and use what we have been given to build each other up. Our gifts and our joy in serving comes from our connection to Christ. When we come together, we are no ordinary gathering. We can rejoice in the deep and profound truth that by the Spirit we are “in” Christ. Remember our key point, The Church is not an Organization, it is a living Organism. It is the body of Christ.

Everything important about us flows from the profound reality of our identity as those who by grace through faith are partakers in Christ. If you are a believer in Jesus, I want you to listen carefully…

You might doubt that others see in you blessings, joy, or encouragement. Ok, do you doubt that they see such in things in the Lord Jesus? No, well you are in Christ.

Maybe you struggling with illness and weakness and worry sometimes that you just don’t have the strength to go on? Ok, did Jesus suffer faithfully and complete the work God gave him to do? Yes, well you are in Christ.

Perhaps you look at what is happening in the world today and it is making you anxious and troubled. Ok, do you believe Jesus when he tells you that he has overcome the world? Yes, well you are in Christ.

Do you ever doubt if God really loves you? Ok, do you think he really loves his Son? Yes, well you are in Christ.

Are you struggling with sin and guilt wondering if your sin has changed how God looks at you? Ok, do you think there is anything lacking in the righteousness of Christ? No? Well, you are in Christ.

Through faith in Jesus, we have been freed from bondage to sin. We have been freed from any need to be concerned about the opinions of other people. We have been freed from the burden of having to perform or try harder. We have been forgiven and accepted.

We are not added to the body because of our service. Rather, we can serve because we have been added to the body. We are freed by grace to serve with joy and to celebrate the gifts of our brothers and sisters knowing that it Christ at work in them and in us.

Let’s conclude the message with the words of Ephesians 4:1-7

… therefore… walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.


More in Growing in Grace

January 1, 2023

“Church Business”

December 18, 2022

Victory in Jesus

December 4, 2022

Raised to Glory!