Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Intro: Charts of a physical body and its parts in the doctor’s office – bones, circulatory system, muscles. Do I really look like that on the inside? The charts are designed to give a comprehensive view of connected parts of the body. I am always amazed at the complexity yet unison of the human body. How can all of that work together so well? The mystery is not why are we sick, but how do we stay well so much of the time. There is nothing outside the chart – it is all connected.
I. “One Body in Christ”- Romans 12:3-5 – 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Paul draws our attention to the chart on the wall – there is one body with many parts, or members.
A. Earlier in Romans 12 the apostle used the term “body” in a literal, physical sense when he called on us to offer our “bodies” as a spiritual sacrifice. In vs. 4 & 5 he uses the word “body” twice in a symbolic or spiritual sense. As we noticed last week, Paul specifically identifies the body of Christ as the church in Eph 1:22-23 – “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Later in Eph. 4:4, the apostle tells us there is ONE body.The analogy presented is easy to see. In the physical reality we all have only one body, even so does Christ have but one “body” of disciples. The church of the Bible is not a conglomeration of denominated congregations. It is a single body of individual believers. Col 1:24 – 4 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church – The obvious conclusion would be that, although there are many churches in the world today, there is only one church that is the church of Christ, and the true church of Christ is one body.
B. One Body – One Spirit: The only head of the church, as His body, is Christ. Interestingly, when Christ is referred to as the head of the church it is always in the sense of mind, spirit, and control. When a body loses its mind or spirit it dies and becomes a corpse. It still has structure but it does not have life. It is still organized but it is no longer a living organism.
1. The same picture of God’s people is utilized in Paul’s discussion of the use of miraculous spiritual gifts in the church at Corinth. Although Paul is describing and discussing the use of miraculous gifts, which are no longer present in the church today, I want us to notice the accurate image he provides of the one body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 – For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
a. In this discussion Paul makes it clear that the unity of God’s church is based on their common obedience to one Lord (v. 4), and all being made to drink into one Spirit (v. 13). In fact, Paul mentions the “one Spirit” 11 times in 1 Cor. 12.
b. The unity of God’s people is a unity based on the objective revelation of God’s Spirit – now contained in the written word.
c. A physical body has many members but one head and one mind. One will (mind) tells each part of the body to do what it is best designed and equipped to do, and consequently they work in marvelous harmony together. The Spirit reveals the mind of our Head, and thus directs the body creating what Paul calls the “unity of the Spirit” in Eph. 4:3. According to Eph. 4:3, this unity must be maintained. This demands that we remain loyal to the directions of our Head, and directed by the Spirit of God. But there is more to this image of the Lord’s body.
d. In Romans 12 Paul’s uses the term “one body”, not so much to contrast the many churches that might exist, but to contrast the “many members” that make up that one church. The one body has many members. What are the implications of that?
II. “Many members” – God’s church is not a homogenized group of spiritual clones. Christians come from all backgrounds, cultures, races, social classes, and nationalities. It is an arrogant mistake to see all Christians as American, white middle class, southerners.
A. However, in the church, individual diversity is not inconsistent with practical unity. In fact, these verses tell us how the Spirit of God is able to create unity amidst diversity.
1. In God’s creation we marvel at the diversity that exists among the plants, animals, fish and birds. Yet just as impressive and indicative of divine work is the harmony that exists in this diverse universe. It all works together and each part is dependent on the other because God gave each part a function. In the created world these physical elements fulfill their appointed functions individually.
a. Although a football team may have forty to fifty men on the roster, if everyone demands on being the quarterback, the team will not be able to compete. Each member of the team has a differing function. It is only when each member accepts his specific function and responsibilities that team unity exists. That is Paul’s point here; There is a practical unity that is based on function.
2. If each member does their part the body benefits as a whole. Eph 4:13-16 – 3 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. A body that is unified grows stronger. The unity that exists is functional.
B. In a further description of a unity in diversity, Paul says in Rom. 12:5 that we are “individually members of one another”. What does it mean to be members of each other? It is a picture of interdependence. We cannot function in isolation from each other, any more than a member of my physical body can function independently.
1. Return again to 1 Cor 12:21-27 – 21 And 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 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. Paul’s analogy is insightful.
2. No one member of the body is more crucial than the body itself. In the Lord’s church, I am not more important than the body. My wants must be subservient to the needs of the congregation; to the spiritual well-being of my fellow-members. Look back at 1 Cor 12:17-19– If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? If we are only looking out for ourselves then there can be no unity in the body.
3. Therefore Paul tells us that we must never devalue each other as members of the same body. (v. 21) The church member who would say to another, “we don’t need you. You are of no value to us,” is not manifesting a Christ like attitude. He destroys the unity created by the Spirit of God by placing himself above another part of the body.
4. Paul compares the “parts” of our human bodies. Some are considered weaker and less honorable than others. There are some parts that are more visible and prominent – eyes, arms, legs. These members are strong and less vulnerable than the lungs, heart, brain, and other internal organs. Which are more “vital” to the life of the body? We even call them “vital organs”.
a. You can lose an eye or ear, a hand or leg, and still live. But you cannot lose your heart or liver or brain and live.
b. The work of your hands is more prominent that the hidden work of the heart, but not less important.
c. Just because a member is weaker does not mean it is less important to the body. The physical body naturally protects (and thus gives honor) through the skeletal system those parts that are most vulnerable. Therefore, there is no division in the physical body (vs. 25)
d. Could it be that those members who appear the weakest are the most vital?
5. In vs. 25-26 Paul gives too necessary admonitions to the body of Christ:
a. but that the members should have the same care for one another… When we recognize the value of each person, and sincerely care about them (physically, socially and spiritually).
b. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. There is no place for envy or competitiveness in the body of Christ. When one member suffers they all feel the pain. When one member is honored they all rejoice. This is the proper relationship for service.
c. Acts 6:1-7 – 6 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. 7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. We often discuss this event in the context of a study of deacons or benevolence. But there is more here. This is also an apostolic example of preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:3). The apostles were demonstrating that these neglected widows were valuable members of the body that needed to be honored as such.
C. Return to Romans 12:4 –For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, Paul uses the Greek word “praxis” here. The KJV translates it as “office”, but the better rendering is function. The word literally means “a doing, or deed”, a “practice”. (Used to talk about a doctor having a “practice”. It meant he had established his role as a doctor through functioning in that role.
1. We often think of an “office” (KJV) as a position of rank with a title, but that is not the though here. There are many in the church who do not have an office, but all have a function to perform.
2. What is your function in the body? What should you practice? That is an important question to this discussion, since we do not all have the same function. We all need to be doing something to benefit the growth of the one body. In the text Paul lists both miraculous and non-miraculous gifts present in the church at Corinth. [v. 6-8 – prophecy; ministry; teaching; exhorting; giving; leading; showing mercy] However, there is a sense in which everyone’s function is the same. Our individual function is to use the gift(s) that God has given us.
Conclusion: In a society that applauds self-sufficiency and independence it is easy for us to fall prey to the notion that we do not need each other. But that is completely dispelled by the fact that as Christians we are the body of Christ, members one of another.
God has made us and redeemed us not only for Himself but for each other. Heb 10:24-25 – 4 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. We have a mutual responsibility to serve each other.
You cannot fulfill that responsibility that Christ has given you outside of His body, the church. As we noticed earlier, Paul told the Corinthians that they had been baptized into the body of Christ. Will you submit yourself to the Headship of Christ alone and become a member of His unique body, the church?