• November 25, 2014

Membership in church means being united

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Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014 12:03 am

My wife said it this morning: I don’t want to get up. Her body was sleepy, but her head knew she had to go to school. But it was cold outside, rainy and windy.

I couldn’t have agreed more.

“Call in sick,” I suggested, knowing what her answer would be. “No, I’m not sick and I only have a limited number of personal days.”     

You’ve been there, right? Your body wants to do one thing, but your head knows that is not the right answer. My stomach wants to eat things that my mouth knows tastes great, but there’s my head again, telling me carrot cake is not a vegetable.

The nerve of that head. Don’t you wish we could send our head to do the right thing and let our body do the other thing?

Being a member of the body of Christ is just like that: making the body do what it doesn’t want to do but what the head knows is the best for the entire body. 

We need to listen to the head, Christ, for the good of the body, the local church.     

In 1 Corinthians 12, we see the same thing in the local church that we see in our physical body.

Many think 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 is a great teaching on spiritual gifts and we indeed get a lot of our information on how Christ has gifted church members with various grace gifts.

But the overall purpose of 1 Corinthians 12 is not about the gifts, but why we have them and how we are to use them.

You see, the Corinthian church was not a role model for all churches today ... far from it. Corinth was a wicked city, and the church was mostly made up of formerly wicked converts, who still struggled with the past. Seven times, the Apostle Paul said, “Now concerning ...”

(See 1 Cor. 7:1, 7:25, 8:1, 8:4, 12:1, 16:1 and 16:12).

The troubled church had controversial problems and Paul hopefully had the answers, so the church wrote him. The tendency for the Corinthian church was to be divided, either by who to follow (1:10-17; 3:1-8), immorality (5:1-13), lawsuits (6:1-8), even how to take Communion (11:17-22).

Some were divided on the resurrection (15:12). Some were hung up over being legalistic while others were indulgent in their liberty (1Cor. 8:9).

The lengthiest response came in chapter 12, and Paul said he did not want the Corinthians to be uninformed (I love how the King James Version says “ignorant”). 

What was his informed, intelligent answer? Paul stressed unity.

First we are unified at salvation. “Being baptized into one Spirit” (verse 13) is not referring to water baptism, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit, accomplished at salvation.

John the Baptist and Jesus both said that the believers would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5). We “all” were baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.     

Secondly, we are unified in our service (1 Cor. 12:4-6). We are all equal, but unique. Galatians 3:17-18 explains it more fully, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 We do not give up our uniqueness in our unity, just the opposite: our unique race, nationality, status and even gender make us stronger as different parts of His body (see Acts 10:34). We do not cease being who we are. Our differences are united as we serve and there is no room to be prejudice in the church.

Thirdly, Paul says we are united in sharing (1 Cor. 12:24-26).

Whether we suffer or are honored, we all share together. The last part of verse 24 cannot be overemphasized: God puts the body together.  The cure for division was that “the members should have the same care for one another” (verse 25). 

Unlike like the Galatian church, the church at Corinth was not divided by doctrine. The source of its division was as old as sin itself: selfishness. Paul’s solution? Unity under the headship of Christ.

The Rev. Tim McKeown is the education minister at First Baptist Church-Killeen.

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