Body Building Part II: How the Church Does What it Does as the Body of Christ

In Body Building Part I we saw what the church does as the Body of Christ—it holds its confession, serves and works, and manifests spiritual gifts. But as important as what the church does as the Body of Christ is how the church does what it does. Paul moves on in his discourse in I Corinthians 12 to illustrate how the Body of Christ does what it does.

The Body functions as a unit (vs. 11-12)

An important thing to remember about the unity of the Body is that it is not something that we create; it is something God has already graciously imparted to the church. The unity is a reality which exists apart from the actions or experiences of the church. We tend to see ourselves as individuals who have decided to form the church; God sees as us as an organic whole which He has created. This organic wholeness means we are to function as a unit (vs. 12) like a football team or army troop where each individual’s responsibility takes place in the context of and for the good of the team or troop.

Paul says something interesting in vs. 12: “so it is with Christ.” Why doesn’t Paul say, “So it is with the church?” It is because this organic wholeness of the church is centered in Christ, not in the church. The unity exists in Christ even when the church is not expressing that unity in its behavior. Every action of the church, even disagreements, must be undertaken only when the end is to preserve and promote that organic wholeness in Christ.

The Body accepts its Spirit-arranged parts (vs. 14-20)

In the physical realm, God has arranged every part of the body to be where He wanted it to be. Verse 18 says that He does the same in the Body of Christ. The church is not a haphazard collection of miscellaneous people. God, in grace, arranges people where He wants them to be according to His choice and desire, not according to your choice and your desire.

It is safe to assume that God’s gracious arrangement is for the demonstration and manifestation of His glory. The arrangement accomplishes His purpose. The implication of the parts of the Body being arranged by God is that every part, every person, is called to accept himself and others. It also means that every part, every person, acknowledges his need for the other parts. There can be no thinking that the church would be better if this person or that person were not here. To think that way is to question God’s arrangement of the parts in the church. It doesn’t mean that God would never rearrange the parts by having someone leave a church; it does mean that you cannot make that decision for someone else.

The Body accepts its Spirit-appointed roles (vs. 21-27)

Paul writes in vs. 25 that the parts are to have equal concern for one another. That tells you that each part has a responsibility outside of itself. There is a call to care for and support one another. Why is that important? It is important because no matter how gifted any individual person might be, God’s purpose for that church cannot be accomplished without the gifts of others. That care and support is to be so evident that Paul says when one part suffers, every part suffers and when one part is honored, every part rejoices (vs. 26).

Perhaps one of the best illustrations of the church as the Body of Christ is an orchestra playing a symphony. If you have ever been to a symphony, you know that the orchestra comes out and they begin with tuning. Every musician is doing her own thing with her instrument. It sounds like utter chaos. Once the tuning is over and the symphony begins, it becomes extremely important what everyone is playing and how she is playing it. The success of the symphony depends on everyone in the orchestra playing as a unit, knowing the arrangement of her part and accepting the role that she plays in the piece of music. When each musician plays what she is to play the way she is to play it, the result is beautiful harmonies and complex intermingling of the sounds of the various instruments. It can take your breath away.

Become part of the God’s symphony called the church. When you play your God-arranged, God-appointed part you add to the beautiful harmony, glorify God, and give others a glimpse of the glory of the grind.            

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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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