Body-Building Part I: What the Church Does as the Body of Christ

One quick glance at me would tell any seeing person that I am not a body builder. Through the years I have done some light weight lifting on and off and I did learn a few things. I learned that what you do in weight lifting is important because doing the right things helps you to fulfill your goals. If your goal is to be a power lifter, then your program will involve heavy weights with low repetitions because that builds muscle mass; if you are training for general health and strength, your program will involve light weights with high repetitions because that builds body tone.

What is interesting is that there is also body building for the church, the Body of Christ, as I Corinthians 12 teaches. What is the Body of Christ in its essence – unity or diversity? The answer, of course, is both. The Body cannot be a Body without unity because then it would merely be a collection of unrelated parts. The Body cannot be a Body without diversity or it would all be only one thing. So when the Body acts, it is always a grace-imparted, Spirit-directed unity expressed in diversity. As in weight lifting, these actions need to be the right things. What does the Body do according to this passage?

The Body holds its confession (vs. 1-3).  There is a doctrinal component.

Paul begins by reminding the Corinthians of their former experience apart from Christ, when they were led astray and serving idols. He contrasts that with their present experience as individuals regenerated by the Spirit, those who have been transformed from blasphemers to believers. The doctrinal confession of the church here is summarized in three words: “Jesus is Lord.” For us they are easily repeated words. For the early church confessing “Jesus is Lord” rather than “Caesar is Lord” could lead to martyrdom.

Throughout the history of the church, doctrine has always been on the front burner. All of the creeds of the church were born in the cradle of controversy. Why controversy? It is because nothing is as important as the truth. Without truth, the Christian faith is hollow.

The Body serves and works (vs. 4-6).  There is a ministerial component.

What is in the forefront is the ministry of the Body of Christ. The word for service here is the word from which we get the word deacon – one who ministers. The word for working here is the word from which we get the word energy. So the focus is the energetic involvement of the church in works of ministry, whether those ministries be speaking ministries or serving ministries

The Body manifests spiritual gifts (vs. 7-11).  There is a relational component.

This is relational because of vs. 7 – though a gift is given to you, it is not for you; it is for the common good. That is, exercising your gifts is the way you minister in the Body of Christ. Someone has said the gifts are for employment, not enjoyment.

You do not choose your spiritual gift but the Spirit of Christ sovereignly and graciously gives you the gifts He determines you should have. Since the gifts are Spirit-chosen and Spirit-empowered, there is never a place for boasting about your gifts. All are bestowed by the same Spirit so all have equal honor, though some are more visible than others.  And since no one has all the gifts, the community of the Body of Christ is necessary so that all those gifts are operating in harmony for the glory of God.

One of the church fathers, Cyril of Jerusalem, speaks of the work of the Spirit in bestowing gifts as the rain. He says that one and the same rain comes down on all the world yet it becomes white in the lily, red in the rose, purple in the violets. The same rain causes each recipient to become what it is intended to be.

In a similar way, the world is showered by the grace-empowered, Spirit-directed work of the Body of Christ. This showering comes through its confession, service and gifts, bringing refreshment and providing glory in the grind.


About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
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