Spiritual Gift: Mutual Dependence – 1 Corinthians 12:12-30

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 1 Cor 12:14

Flowing quite naturally from the previous text where the diversity of gifts are described in verses 1-11, Paul continues in the subsequent text to describe the employment of these diverse gifts in the church for their use for the common good. In verse 12 he uses the analogy of the physical body, writing: “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 _______ .” So it is with, who? With what? The church? The body of Christ? If you don’t have this verse committed to memory, or don’t have your Bible open in front of you, that is what you might expect to see written here, as the analogy he makes so clearly relates the physical human body to the body of Christ. But he writes, “so it is with Christ.” The Scripture so implicitly links Christ with the church, that the Spirit seamlessly leads Paul to write of Christ and the church interchangeably. At the same time however, the fact is that the Spirit did not lead Paul to write, “the church,” here, but Christ. This shows the importance of what is being dealt with in this text. This text is not merely about the interrelatedness of any sort of body politic or social organization. One could argue that our nation’s government functions by the employment of various gifts; so do sports teams and businesses. But what we are dealing with in this text is something far more important and far more enduring that any secular organization. When we consider the church, it has to do with Christ Himself. As there is one Christ, there is one body.

The oneness of the church is established on the fact all of its members are baptized in one Spirit into this body (v. 13). That is why it is unfortunate that some charismatic Christians use this verse to suggest that “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” is some kind of “inside track” only recognized by some believers who have been gifted with certain gifts. Such a teaching takes a verse that is meant to express unity and instead divides the body, often leading to spiritual elitism and smugness. Paul deals with this kind of attitude in verse 14-26 where all boasting is eliminated due to the mutual need and dependence that every part of the body ought to have for each another. He concludes the argument in verse 24-25: But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. It is ironic, to say the least, that a text that is meant to rebuke and correct the smug members of the Corinthian church who were boasting in the employment of their gifts, is used to this day as the basis for arrogant divisions over the very gifts that are meant to be appreciated for their mutual dependence.

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