Today’s bible study is 1 Corinthians 12:12-14: Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body-whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
It is very easy for us to understand that the human body is made up of many parts. They are evident to all of us. The body is a glorious combination of bone, muscle, organs, tissue, blood and more. Yet, what does it mean to say that we are all baptized by one spirit to form one body? Is it the body of the church that we are told to form? Is it the body of Christ within us? Is the body of humanity? Let us seek to learn.
The twelfth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians basically speaks of spiritual gifts. In chapter fourteen, it moves on to speak of one body with many members. By using the phrase, one body with many members, Paul adapts a common political metaphor as a way of understanding the nature of the church, with two important modifications:
(1) In Roman society the body politic metaphor was often used to urge members of the lower social classes to stay in your place, since this is needed and healthy for society as a whole. Paul emphasized the equality of members of the body.
(2) The body is the body of Christ, not the body of Christians. Without speculating on the mystical connection between Christians and Christ, Paul insists that being a member of the church is actually participating in the body of the living Christ. Member thus means a functioning organ in a living body, not membership in the sense of having one’s name on a list and paying one’s dues. The church is organism, not organization, corpus not corporation.
How wonderful if we could all hear these words again and again today. Too many of our members are little more than names on a list, even admitting to being nominal Christians. And or churches have, in many instances, taken their places among the biggest businesses and revenue producers in our communities. Let us always remember, as Paul writes, that we are truly functioning members in the living body of Christ and our churches are intended to be corporeal, not corporate.
References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.
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- The Jesus Walk Bible Study Series
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