One Body, Many Parts

Paul teaches that the church is one unified body made up of many divers parts, each dependant on the other and equal in value.


    • Pastor Mark Driscoll
    • 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
    • July 30, 2006

Father God, as we get into your word this evening, we come, acknowledging the authority of the Scriptures that you have chosen to speak to us, through the Bible. So, God, we come to the Bible with humble hearts, willing to listen, willing to repent, willing to learn, willing to yield ourselves to what you would have to say to us – and it is my prayer as we study tonight that you would give us your heart for the church, that you would give us your heart for our church, and that you would allow us to participate in meaningful ways and that he would find it a joy to do whatever it is that you have called each of us to do to make this the most healthy church; to serve the city to maximum effectiveness. For that to occur, and we ask that Jesus would be the centerpiece of our lives and our study this evening and that the Holy Spirit would come to lead, guide, convict, instruct, in power and gift us to do the work of an industry that he has appointed for us to do. And we give our time to you, expecting great things. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray, amen.

Well as we get into it, and here’s where we find ourselves in 1 Corinthians. Great book. I hope you’re enjoying it. We still have chapters, 12, 13, and 14 that we will study over the course of eight weeks, beginning this week. These are the most debated sections. It talks about prophecy and tongues and miracles and healings and all of the good stuff is coming up. This week, Paul is going to lay down for a foundational principles of our unity, diversity, interdependence and worth insofar as the church he is concerned and how we do life together. And so, by way of preface, I will just tell you that the church is, is not just a building, it’s not just a place, it’s not an event, it really and truly is, in its essence, people, living their life together with Jesus as their center and their Lord and their God and their savior he and Jesus as the one who is knitting various people together, changing their lives and working through one another, so that each person is blessed and so that more people meet him.

And so, when we speak of church, we’re speaking of a community of people doing life together around the person and the work of Jesus as revealed in the Bible.

So we’ll start, Chapter 12, Verse 12 of 1 Corinthians. The first principle is this principle of unity. Jesus prayed for, John 17, he says, “Father, my prayer is that you would make them one as we are one.”

Unity is so important among God’s people, the church, he that Jesus prayed for it and Paul speaks specifically of how that kind of unity can be obtained through the Holy Spirit. He says, beginning in Chapter 12, Verse 12, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” He’s working here by way of analogy, to articulate to us what it means to be a Christian church. And he has chosen one of his favorite analogies, which is the analogy of the body. And you think about your body, what a miracle your body is, your physical body. The Psalmists says that we’re fearfully and wonderfully made. And we are. I’m no doctor, but some of the research I did says that we have over 200 bones in our body, 650 skeletal muscles, 210 cell types. You have so many different parts of your body, visible and invisible, and you have so many systems in your body that worked together, but sometimes, we sort of miss the absolute wonder and miracle it is for all of the little things we do in life and how all of the different systems and parts of the human anatomy work together for singular purposes and causes. I was meditating on this verse yesterday. My daughter, Ashley, she’s my oldest, two days her ninth birthday and I was working today, so yesterday I spent time with her. We had a daddy date for her birthday.

So I said, “Well what do you wanna do?” And so we came up with this idea. Let’s get up early, let’s go out to breakfast at Pike Place Market, let’s walk the market, I’ll buy you tons of jewelry, maybe clothes that they have some in your size. I’ll buy you flowers, ‘cause you’re a total girl. And so we did. We got up early and we went downtown and I was walking through the market, I thought, “What a miracle it is. I mean, here I am holding hands with my little girl. We’re walking. We’re talking. We’re smelling, you know, food and flowers. We’re looking at jewelry and clothing. We are picking things up. We are feeding ourselves. We are visiting. We are laughing.” Just all of the systems in our physical body, all of the parts of our physical body that are working together, just for my daughter and I to get daddy time – a couple hours on a little adventure together. It’s just absolutely astonishing how well the body works and how much it is able to achieve and sometimes we take for granted our physical body until all of a sudden we have sickness or injury or illness. And then all of a sudden we realize that the body is a miracle and when it’s not functioning well, everything is implicated in its illness or is injury.

Paul says so it is with the church. The church, when it is appropriately functioning, is supposed to be like a body. That everybody in the church, every person in the church, is a part of the body. We’ll get into this in a few weeks but some of you are toes and fingers and years and armpits, and we are all part of the body of Christ. And that’s one of the great joys – is that we all have something important, we all are connected to other people and everybody’s doing their part and working together for singular mission and cause of bringing the love. And the question then is, will how do we obtain this unity? And Paul says, well actually it’s something that God does and he does it through the Holy Spirit. And he says that all who are Christians have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. And this is it referring to water baptism, it’s referring to spirit baptism and that is analogous two when you become a Christian.

And when I was in college, I was 19, I was not a Christian but then the Holy Spirit came into my life and all of a sudden, my mind open up and I understood Jesus was God, died for my sins, and rose in love for me. And my heart was changed. I love Jesus. I remember waking up one day, going, “I really like Jesus.” That was different. Yesterday, I didn’t. And I remember my well-being changed, thinking, “I need to read my Bible and I need to be more like Jesus.” So my minds and my will end of my emotions in my heart are all changed. What is that? That’s the Holy Spirit. Just changing me from the inside out. Jeremiah says taking out my heart of stone, giving me a heart of flesh. Taking out my resistance to God and giving me a desire to love and to obey and to follow and to serve God. And that’s the baptism of the Holy Spirit where the Holy Spirit comes into a person and transforms them from the inside out and empowers them to live a new life and gifts them to do ministry in service to Jesus Christ.

And for those of you who have experienced it, you know that this is a radical thing. That you’re never the same that things change – that you change. And Paul says that if we are Christians, what causes our unity is the Holy Spirit. Right? The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the bible and Christians read the Bible. That’s where we go for the truth. That when Christians are convicted by the Holy Spirit of sin, we repent and get it to Jesus. That’s what we do. When other people apologize and repent to us, we forgive them as Jesus has forgiven us. And what Paul is saying is that our unity comes – not that we’re all alike but in fact that we are all filled with the same spirit, we are all led by the same spirit, you’re all reading the same Bible, we’re all being convicted by the same spirit of sin. We’re all loving one another with the love that God has poured out into our hearts to the Holy Spirit, the book of Romans says. So, when were convicted and when we love and when we see the truth and when we’re transformed and when we serve, it’s all by the enablement, the empowerment of God the Holy Spirit. That he has baptized us, making as Christians, and that we continue to drink from his well of kindness, and thereby enabling us to live a new life that is increasingly more patterned after the life of Jesus. So, unity is not possible apart from the Holy Spirit. But with the Holy Spirit, unity is not only possible, it is the natural result of people following the leading of God, the Holy Spirit.

So, his first point is that Christians have and should have unity. That’s why fighting in disagreement and Christians who are turning on one another in very negative ways is such a sad thing, because we are to love one another and where to be unified. Just as there is one God, father son and spirit, they are unified. They are singular in mind and purpose and identity and will and as there is one God, so God’s people in their diverse community, are to be unified as one, which leads to his second point, is that – in spite of our unity, we still maintain diversity. Because unity is not uniformity. Some of you may not be Christians and you may be worried about becoming a Christian, saying, “I know a Christian, do I have to be just like them?” Well, to be a Christian means you do hate sin, love Jesus, read your Bible, pray, those kinds of things are consistent and we have unity around that, but there’s also a great deal of diversity. All right, that in, in our church, even, there is diversity. There’s different kinda people, right? I mean, you just look next to you. I mean there’s hip-hoppers sitting next to indie rockers and there’s dudes in suits sitting next to dudes in Mohawks, right? And one is looking at the other, saying, “You need a job.” And the other is saying, “You need freedom in Christ.” And we have all these things to talk about, and there’s great diversity.

And here’s how he says it in Verse 14. “Now the body is not made up of one part but many.” Just like your body’s got a lot of parts, so this church has got a lot of parts, as the parts of your body are different. Your toe is not your head, thankfully, you know? That’s so, in the church that there are different people and they’ve each got a part to play. He goes on: “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say,

‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” Verse 17: “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” Here’s what he’s saying. Within the church, this church, there is unity but there’s also diversity. Black, and white, young, old, rich, poor, hip hop, indie rock, highly educated, school of hard knocks, people who are really rich, people who are living on Top Ramen and going to college, right? There’s all kinds of people. And you walk into the room, and you say, “Well, they’re different styles, tastes, colors, races, backgrounds, genders, what in the world are these people all doing together?” Because apart from Jesus, we’d be killing each other. That’s what we’d be doing because of the differences would lead to divisions, which would lead to conflict and would lead to hatred and would lead to all kinds of sin and prejudice but in Jesus – you say, “Well, I love Jesus, you love Jesus. Well that’s all that really matters.” And as Jesus is the center of our community, as we pull together around Jesus, we actually grow closer to one another. Right, if you’re walking toward Jesus and I’m walking toward Jesus, we’re unified because we’re getting closer together.

And so one of the great things is Jesus says, by this the world will you know you’re my disciples if you love one another. So you walk into a church and you say, “Well, there’s lots of different people here. Well how come you guys are all together? What’s going on here?” Jesus. “Oh. Well Jesus seems to be bigger than our class and our race and our income and our gender and our life experience and education. It seems like Jesus is big enough to love a wide number of people, to change them and bring them together as one very diverse, loving, unified family and not take away their diversity. Not take away their distinctions.” And we’re not talking about here distinctions and diversity that are sin or heresy, we’re just talking about people who do life a little different, have different perspectives and backgrounds and preferences and such.

And in saying this – I love the fact that he does not say that we need to be uniform. You know, it’s a terrible thing when you walk into a church and everybody looks the same and everybody’s into the same music, and watches the same film, and has the same hobbies, when everybody kinda wears the same clothes. Paul says it really shouldn’t be like that. It doesn’t need to be like that.

And Paul’s point is that it is a very sad day when some group in the church says what we’re doing is more important than what anyone else is doing. And the saddest thing they can have been is when all the same kind of people go to a church and they say, “We do teaching, not evangelism.” “We do evangelism, not teaching.” Or, “We do social justice but not church planting.” And they’re a single issue voter church that all they do is one thing, when the church is supposed to do as many things as it can so that as many people are utilized and as many gifts are employed for the purpose of building a great church to love and serve as many people as possible. And so diversity is a good thing.

Third point is that though we have unity and diversity, we also have interdependence. We need each other. It’s not like these people over here do evangelism, and the single people over here, and the married people over here, and the Bible teachers over here, and the administrators over – no. Everybody needs everybody and everybody is important. He says in Verse 18, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” He’s talking here about interdependence. Different people working together and we need each other. And this is, this is absolutely true.

We have little kids who are coming in and love Jesus and they are needed as well. I mean, this is what he’s saying. That whatever your age, whatever your race, whatever your life station, whatever your experience, whatever your background – of that the more diversity that we have and the more we work together, and the more we honor one another, and the more everyone gets to use their skills, talents, and abilities, the stronger, better church we’ll be, the more ministry will be able to do. More people in this city will be able to love and bring the truth of Jesus to. And when he uses the word body, that’s what he’s referring to. That when Jesus was on the earth, when he came as a man into human history, he did ministry out of his body and now that he’s a send it into heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, to empower us and gift and enable us to do ministry as the body of Jesus Christ on the earth, doing the work of Jesus and loving other people and serving them with the truth of the goodness of God’s Word.

And so what he’s saying is this, the more you work together, the more it gets done and the more things go better, and the more you learn and they learn. And so, if you’re working with people who are different than you, you both learn and it’s mutually beneficial for everyone and it’s in the issue of interdependence.

And what he says is that God arranges the parts of the body just as he determines and sees fit. We have holes and you’re here to fill them. Some of you walk in, you get frustrated, you say, “This part of the church is it going well. I don’t like it. It’s all messed up.” Great, you apparently have the gifts to see that, diagnose it, and we’ll put you to work in Jesus’ name and you can help fix it.” And that’s all that ministry is, walking in and saying, “I see a whole, I see a need. I have two choices. I can complain and say, ‘Well that kinda stinks,’ or I could say, ‘I could help.’” And nominate yourself to help. So my question to you is, you know, are you connected to this church body? Or are you just a free floating toe? You know, are you just a free floating mouth? I mean, those are the worst. The free floating Christian mouth, who just goes from church to church, “That one stinks. That one stinks. That one stinks. That one stinks. Or it’s not good enough for me.” Oh sure. They are all filled with sinners and hypocrites, you’ll fit right in, come on. Join us, you know? You’re just like us. And it’s sometimes popular for Christians to stand back and critique a church rather than saying, “Well, I’m part of the family, I guess I should stop complaining and help pick up dishes and be a good part of the family.”

When he’s talking about the body, he’s talking about you being plugged in.

He goes on then to say, that in the church not only is their unity, diversity, and interdependence, but there is worth that is ascribed to every person. So you walk out of this room and it depends on how pretty you are and how smart you are and how much you are and how cool you are. But as far as the church goes, we have a different economy and we value people differently. In fact, we value everyone because they’re image bearers of God and if God would bring them to this church, we believe that God has brought them for a specific reason and their bringing something that is very important and we need to welcome them and to discover what god has brought them to us. He says it this way in Verse 21, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” I mean how and silly would it be if one part of your body declared war on the other? Right, I mean it’s just sort of a silly metaphor, but that’s what happens in the church when one group of people declares war on another group of people in the same church. I mean, who wins, right? Who wins? Nobody winds. Everybody loses. I mean, if your right hand declared war on your head, neither would win, right? I mean you get that? The keypunching yourself and the head and the right-hand says, “I won.” Won what? You know, you don’t get a trophy for that, you didn’t win anything. Everybody loses. When there’s war in the church and factions in the church and division of the church that is unnecessary, nobody wins. Right, you can’t look at different groups, different services, different congregations in different parts of the city, different departments within the church, and say, “I don’t need you.” In fact, we do. We need one another.

“The head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” Verse 22 says. Some of you come in here. You say, “But I’m not really rich. I’m not really smart. I’m not really successful. I’m not really a mature Christian. I don’t know my bible that well,” you know, “So what am I supposed to do?” Well, you’re a very valuable part of this body. One, you, the people who have learned and have grown, they have an opportunity to love and serve you. You’re giving them an opportunity to teach you, to counsel you, to bless you, to pray for you, to love you, to serve you, to help you. And so you are an important part of this body. Additionally, there are many people who are struggling, who are not doing great, who are in a hard place in their life and if you are here, then they know that they’re welcome here too. Which means other people, including non-Christians, are gonna feel welcome here, because it’s not just the winners club for people with red capes and no problems, it’s where real people can come and deal with real issues.

And so, he goes on in Verse 23, “and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,” so let’s talk about that. Are their parts of your body that you don’t show people? Kay, let’s talk about big stomachs and small shirts for a moment, since we can. See, there certain part- you’re just like not supposed to show certain parts – that’s why your butt’s in the back, you’re not even supposed to look at it. Nobody supposed to see that thing, right? You know, I mean there’s just certain parts of your body that people aren’t supposed to see. Like if you’re the dude with the big yellow, curled toenails and the toe jam and the funky, you know, black and blue toenail – like do not wear flip flops. That’s evil. Get some socks, get some shoes. You know, right here, you’re not being Biblical. You’re supposed to cover that out. None of us are supposed to see that, right? And what he says is just like in your body, and some of you ladies know what I’m talking about. You’re like, “Ooh, I gotta buy certain clothes that cover certain parts and then it won’t be, you know, seen and,” I know, I know, I know, I know, I know.

And so it is, and dudes, dudes are just dumb. They’re like, “Huh?” that’s why we wear sweats, just cover everything, keep it simple. But he there are certain parts of your physical body you don’t show off. “Wanna see my scar?” “Wanna see my stretch marks?” “I got a black and blue thing. You wanna pick at it, like,” we have certain parts we cover. Nobody wants to see that. So it is in the church body. Just because everybody’s equally loved, equally important, equally valuable, does it mean that everyone’s equally visible, right? We love you, you know, like, “[makes noises] the notes?” And like, no, we’re not gonna do that. We’re gonna help you, but we’ll find something else for you to do, right?

And what he’s talking about, here, is that – is that if your definition of church is – church is an event that happens in a building on a Sunday on the stage with a microphone, then you say, “I’m not involved in the church unless I’m on the stage on Sunday with a microphone.” And not everybody can be. Not everybody should be. Not everybody wants to be. And so what he is saying is this, that we need to expand our understanding of church. The church is the life that we live together as a people, not just the event that we attend together as a people, and that people live their life, right? Opening their home to love people, and pray for people, and read their Bible, and serve, and bring the truth of Jesus to others, and you ministry that is not visible, right?

But the problem is, if we think that church is an event that happens on Sunday and it’s not really ministry unless you have a microphone and you’re on stage, what happens then is that some smaller churches, emerging type churches, they say, “Well, we don’t need a leader. Everybody’s equal here. And we all need to get together. Who wants to teach today? Who wants to sing today? Who wants to be in charge today?” and the issue is, just because we have equal worth, we each have a different role and not everything is going to be visible. Much of it will be invisible, but it’s not invisible to Jesus. He knows exactly what everybody’s doing and he’s pleased, whether or not anyone else sees what you’re doing. If your loving and serving him, then he does take account of that.

That doesn’t mean that just because people aren’t seen that they’re not important. I mean how many of you have parts of your body that are very important but are unseen? So it is with the church body. So it is with the church body.

He goes on – “while our presentable parts need no special treatment.” Verse 24. “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body,” don’t you love that? There’s distinction , there’s difference, there’s diversity, but not what? Division. That’s what’s great about the church. Different people, but not divided, and not trying to all be the same. I even like that metaphor of the melting pot. No, it’s more like a stew pot. I mean a potato’s a potato, a carrot’s a carrot, a bean’s a bean. They’re all in the same pot but they’re still what they are. Come into the church. It’s not a melting pot where we’ll melt together into one sort of general culture, where we all like the same things. Know, we maintain our distinctives. We just simmer together to give a better flavor. It’s distinction. It’s differentiation. It’s diversity. But it’s not division. We’re not divided over that. You’re different than me. We both love Jesus. Cool, we have things to learn from one another and where both benefited by having a relationship together as the church.

He goes on, “but that each part should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices.” Here’s what he’s saying. That in the church, there is mutual concern. And just like your physical body, right? How many of you have sustained an injury to a portion of your physical body and realize that it does not remain concentrated in the area, it affects your whole body? Let’s use the example that you’re – you’re working on something and you hit your thumb with a hammer. If you’ve ever done that, you realize it doesn’t just affect the thumb, right? It affects the feet, ‘cause you’re dancing. It affects the eyes, you’re crying. It affects the mouth, you’re saying bowling words. I mean it affects the whole body, right? You’re all – everything was involved in this – and the right hand, ‘cause it did the damage. I mean everything was involved in this. So it is in the church. If one part of the body – if someone in the church is hurting, is suffering, is in pain, we’ll feel that. Last week, we had a dear brother die of a long, hard bout with cancer. We feel that. A woman comes in and gets pregnant and is excited and miscarries. We feel that. Someone dies. Someone gets sick. Someone loses a job. Someone is unemployed. Someone’s spouse abandons them. Someone’s children turn their back on God. We feel that as a church body. We all feel that. We don’t just say, “Well, that’s your problems, that’s not my-“ no. We all feel that. We’re empathetic, compassionate. We care.

Right, when people are hurting, it’s the great privilege of the body of Christ, the church, to hurt with them. To weep with those who week. To feel with those who are in pain.

He says also, if one part rejoice is, we all rejoice. If somebody gets a raise. If somebody gets married. If somebody gets a baby. If somebody graduates from school. We rejoice if somebody is healed. We rejoice and we all rejoice. Right? Just like if one part of your body is honored or was sick and it’s healthy, your whole body is glad, so we’re glad when something good happens.

And Paul says this is, this is what it means to be the church. To be unified because of the Holy Spirit around the person and work of Jesus. To have diversity that we don’t all need to be the same but we have the same Jesus, the same Bible the same mission, led by the same Holy Spirit. That we have interdependence. We really need each other and the more different kinds of people that participate in the church, the better off we all are. And worth. That even though everyone is not equally visible, everyone is equally important.

When you’re ready, get some time in prayer for yourself and the church, asking the Holy Spirit to tell you where it is that you’re supposed to plug in and participate. When you’re ready, you can come for communion if you’re a Christian, remembering the body and blood of Jesus, and then we’re gonna give of our tithes and offerings. If you’re not a Christian or a first-time visitor, do not – please do not – give your money. We love you. We’re not trying to take your money. The Christians will pick up the tab. We’re happy to have you. You’re our guest. Do not give your money. It’s not about the money, is about Jesus, and if you don’t know Jesus, just think about Jesus, work on Jesus, ask questions about Jesus, wrestle with Jesus. Don’t let the money get in the way. Set that aside. That’s really not an issue for us.

Father God, I thank you so much for sending the Lord Jesus. And Jesus, I think you for not sinning, for loving us, for dying for us, for rising to conquer enemies of Satan, sin and death. Jesus, I thank you that you are the center of this church and because of that, there is unity, even though there is diversity and that there is interdependence and worth, even though everyone is not equally visible, they are equally valuable.


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Mark Driscoll

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