Unity & Diversity in Christís Body

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Jerry A Collins




ō      What similarities are there between the church & a body?

ō      How do we function in the body of Christ?

ō      How do we define the body of Christ?


We have always valued the unity and harmony of our family. One of our family mottos is that we are a unit. We do things together and take responsibility together. We are not just a collection of individuals who have a hotel room, a restaurant with full service, laundry and maid service and chauffeurs. But we also realize that we are individuals who bring our own personality and individuality to the unit. While we are not identical we also are not independent either. So for the family to work we understand that individuality and appreciate the dependency we have on one another. For the life and health of the church we too must comprehend this unity of the body of Christ made up of a diversity of individuals and gifts. So this message emphasizes the following:


Verse 12 gives an intro to rest of chapter. (1) Body is one vs. 13. (2) Body has many parts vs. 14-20. (3) Parts of body work as one with diversity of outcomes.But the one who gave diverse gifts was the Holy Spirit vs. 13. First, this is true of all who believe at moment of salvation. Second, regardless of fleshly nationality or station in life all are identified with Jesus Christ. Third, every believer is indwelt by HS. The point here, then, is to stress the unity of this spiritual entity. We have an affinity with one another. A relationship by alliance. This is true for every believer since Pentecost until the Rapture. God is building this new spiritual thing. The image is of a body to describe the nature of this new thing. Without this unity this new work would break down. What holds it together is the work and ministry of the HS. He places us into this new entity. He comes to live inside of every one who becomes part of this by faith in Christ. Like a link in a chain we are all bound together across history, across ethnic lines, across social barriers, across economic lines, across ethnicity, across color and race, across male female. We are now part of a brotherhood, a sisterhood all centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ.


This section addresses two problems. The first problem is one of a lack of significance. This person says ĎI am insignificantí 14-20. The second problem is one of independence. This person says ĎI am independentí 21-26. Both are untrue of body of Christ. (1) For insignificance there are a diversity of the parts, they are not identical. In 14-20 different parts are needed if the body is to exist. Donít assume because you are different that you are insignificant. No believer should think of himself of his gift as inferior and then desire another memberís gifts. Remember, these gifts were not doled out in a willy-nilly manner. There was no haphazard effort here. The HS has chosen your gifts 12:11 and has carefully arranged them according to the will of God for each of us. It is a God thing. Whether a foot or ear or hand or nose God has maximized your potential to fulfill His will and utilize you in powerful and meaningful ways in His kingdom. (2) For independence we need to understand there is a corresponding mutual dependence we have 21-26. One with what may seem to be a more significant gift should never imagine that he could function all alone since doing so is like cutting himself off from the bodyóhe would cease to exist. If one is thot to possess a lesser gift, that one should be given greater attention by other members of the body just like we do with our own bodies. We give special attention to dress those parts of our body that we feel are less presentable than others. We take care and concern with this. The point is that as we give our special attention and concern to the well-being of the others, here will be no rivalry, no division, no pride or arrogance but genuine unity. This is the plan of God for the church, the body of Christ. Unfortunately, I just heard of another church disunity issue this very week. I was told that in this meeting attacks were made, lines were drawn, accusations were bantered about. This is not Godís plan for His church. So inferiority or superiority has no place in Godís new thing. Our giftedness is not meant to divide but to unite in mutual ministry and care and support. So much so that when one member suffers all of us suffer too. When one is honored we all rejoice vs. 26. Somehow we have got to begin to think on earth like they think in heaven.


Like a human body, the spiritual body†† of†† Christ†† has a diversity of membership but mutual dependence 27-31. Notice that the unifying member in the spiritual body is Christ not an apostle or a pastor. This is the 3rd time it is stressed that God not man assigned the gifts (18, 24, 18). First, God appointed gifted leadership. These may be classified as greater gifts (vs. 31) because of there extensive value to whole body of Christ. Then gifts used to authenticate their ministry. But with a series of rhetorical ?ís in 29-30, we are reminded that not everyone possess all of the gifts. No one member is self-sufficient and each one supplies for the need of the other. So we are commanded vs 31a to desire those greater gifts that will improve the quality of the whole body of Christóthe largest segment you may influence.

(1) THE CHURCH IS A BODY OF CHRIST Donít divide up into competitive groups or factions or have an allegiance to certain leaders. These are all of the things that the believers in Corinth were doing. This will major on weaknesses and strengths. It will cause lawsuits. I will bring pursuit of own interests at expense of other believers without concern for causing another to stumble. It promotes pride and arrogance and forgets about mutual dependence. So remember you are part of a body. You were meant to function and serve for greater good of all in that body. You are a vine to produce fruit, a bride with a husband, part of a flock needing a shepherd.

(2) CHURCH ONE BODY WITH MANY MEMBERS We belong to a much greater whole. This body not composed of only one member or one kind of gift but many kinds. We did not earn a spot but were placed there by God to function as He enables us. Quit trying to be something your not. Receive it with thanksgiving and serve.

(3) AS MEMBERS WE MUST COOPERATE NOT COMPETE The point here is to think more corporately than just individually. When we compete we tear down we do not build up.

A. This should change our way of thinking of ourselves and the church. Striving for our own growth and the growth of the entire church.

B. This should change our thinking from just a local church to universal church. The church in NT much bigger than just one local church. Most of NT letters were written to believers in cities. Like the 7 churches of Asia Rev 2-3.

C. Appreciate our differences and let God use these to make an impact thru us that might not otherwise be made. Donít get on an ego trip with your service. God will accomplish a variety of things thru us because there is a diversity of need. No limit to what you can accomplish for God if donít care who gets the credit.