The image of the body, which occurs in today’s Bible Gateway verse of the day, is familiar to many Bible readers and — at least in theory — informs our understanding of the Church. We all understand the first point since we all share the same experience:
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function ... (Rom 12:4)
Indeed we do have such a body, and indeed our various limbs and organs have various functions, from which we are led to the idea of ‘every member ministry’ in the church.
But the point Paul stresses here is not, in the first instance, the variety of ministries but rather that the ‘members’ of Christ do not all have the same function. And the emphasis is not on what we are able to do, but on the fact that we are not able to do everything.
In v 3 he writes,
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought ...
This is important, because our question is so often phrased in terms of what we can do, or ought to be doing, for the church to take our share of the work. Ironically, this is partly because the church developed a pattern of ‘ministry’ which very much overlooked exactly what Paul was saying, so that we wound up with just one kind of ‘minister’, and very often just one minister per church. And in this case, we must have a minister who is thought of rather too highly, at least by others if not by himself.
Paul’s word, however, is to all of us:
... but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
And what we must think of ourselves is this: “I cannot do everything. In fact, I can do only those things God has equipped me to do. Therefore I am dependent on other Christians.” Thus our ‘verse of the day continues,
... so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
This is yet another reason why you cannot be a Christian apart from the Church. To do that would require that you are omni-competent. More dangerously, it would also require you to think that you were so good at being a Christian that you did not need the contributions they would make.
In fact, though, as vv 6-8 go on to say, each of us has strengths and weaknesses:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (v 6)
So some of us are good at ‘prophesying’, others at serving, some at teaching, others in leadership, and so on. Sometimes we still forget what this means and we berate ourselves that we are not great at something we see others doing. The message of 1 Corinthians 12 is not that we should make greater efforts, or ask God to enable us in this area as well, but rather accept that this is why there is a Church at all. Relax and rejoice!
John P RichardsonAnonymous users wishing to paste in the comments box need first to select 'preview', then close the preview box. When posting your comments please give a full name and location. Comments without this information may be deleted.
26 August 2010
26 August 2010