The Body of Christ (pt. 1)
Sermon Audio here: https://sermons.faithlife.com/sermons/613232-the-body-of-christ
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. 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.
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.
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. – 1 Cor 12:12-27
What does the gospel do? When someone believes it, really and truly, what happens to them?
The Bible teaches us that when we come into this world we are naturally self-centered; what matters most to us is our happiness, our goals, our dreams, our priorities. But when God opens our eyes to trust and believe in the gospel, suddenly our center of gravity shifts vertically upward towards God—He is now our highest our priority. Becoming a Christian is not acknowledging that we need God to come into our story, but it is to actually see that we are in His story. We are reconciled with Him and filled with His Holy Spirit to be empowered to live for Him and walk out the role He has apportioned for us in His great narrative. And anyone who is in Christ here today knows what that is like—to find your life suddenly reoriented off of “self” to “God”—this is one of the fundamental aspects of what we call conversion.
But, here is my question: does the gospel leave you there—receiving the benefits of reconciliation with God and a call to live a holy life…all by yourself? My encouragement to you today is to see that the gospel not only restores your vertical relationship with God, but also establishes your horizontal relationship with God’s people. Or, to put it another way, my aim is for you to see the truth of 1 John 4:20-21, “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen…whoever loves God must also love his brother.” Or, to put it one more way, to be united to Christ is to be united to everyone else who is united to Him. When God saves an individual He does not leave that person as an individual, but brings him or her into the family of God, the Church.
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. – 1 Cor 12:12
A human body is comprised of many, many different parts, but it all functions together as one collective unity (when I walk all of those hundreds of different body parts work in perfect harmony) and share a collectives identity (I don’t think of my body as a summary list of each appendage, I just think of it as “my body”). So it is with the Body of Christ; we share a collective identity and function together harmoniously as one. Why?
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. – 1 Cor 12:13
We have this remarkable unity because we all have become partakers of the same Spirit. Our unity doesn’t just come from shared interests or cultures or similar places in the socioeconomic bracket. Notice how Paul specifies that Corinthian congregation was comprised of Jews and Greeks, slaves and free. Do you have any idea how much Jews and Greeks hated each other? Do you have any idea how suspicious they were of one another and how culturally distant they were from each other? The animosity between the two of them would have been similar to a Union and Confederate soldier after the Civil War. Or, for a more contemporary example, it would be like the animosity between an illegal immigrant and an American who wants to deport all illegal immigrants. What on earth could possibly bring these two groups of people together into the same church? They have believed the same gospel and have been filled with the same Holy Spirit—though they come from very different cultures and have very different preferences, they now both share the most important thing in common, so they are unified.
Friends, think of a member here that you know least or maybe don’t get along with that well. Now, think of a friend or family member that you know very well and get along with, but isn’t a Christian. This is teaching us that you actually have a much more significant relationship with that church member than your unsaved neighbor or relative. Why? Because you both have believed the gospel, both been filled with the Holy Spirit, and both have been “baptized into one body.”
Now, what does that mean—in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body? When the New Testament describes someone becoming a Christian, it assumes that multiple things happen simultaneously: (1) you believe the gospel and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2) you are baptized and (3) you become a member of a church. In Acts 2, after Peter’s sermon, he gives this offer to the listeners, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,”… So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls,” Acts 2:38, 41. Added to what? Added to the church in Jerusalem. Do you see the three cords intertwined together there? (1) Believing the gospel and receiving the Holy Spirit, (2) being baptized, and (3) becoming a part of the church. This is what Paul is referring to here in 1 Corinthians—we have received the Spirit, been baptized, and by our baptism we have been added into the body of Christ, the church. And, of course, to the Church can refer in the Bible to every Christian across space and time—but it most commonly refers to a local congregation (“the church in Corinth…the church at Rome, etc.). Theologians refer to that first understanding of the church as the Universal or Invisible Church (all Christians) and to the second understanding as the Local or Visible Church. But here is the question: is Paul referring to the Universal, Invisible body of Christ when he says the Corinthians were “baptized into one body,” or is he referring to the Local, Visible body of Christ in Corinth? Is Paul assuming that being filled with the Holy Spirit and being baptized means that one is an individual Christian, or does it mean that person is a member of a local church? Now, one cannot be a part of the local church without being a part of the universal church, so the question basically boils down to whether or not Paul is referring to the local church.
As we will look at the rest of the passage we will see that Paul’s reference to being baptized into one body refers, of course, to the universal church, but also to the local church in Corinth.