Understanding the Body 101
What is the body of Christ?
- A common expression
- Not ‘like’, but are (v27, 5.30-31)!
- Made up of unique members (v14)
How to join it?
- Given one Spirit (v13)
- Participate in baptism and communion (v13)
Diversity – The inferiority debate
The complaint (v15-16)
- Variety is essential (v17, v19-20, 1 Cor 1:5-7)
- God chooses to do it that way (v18)
Pride – The spiritual wet blanket
The arrogant believer (v21)
The humble reply
- The “better” need the “lesser” (v22)
- The “presentable” need the less “presentable” (v23f; Mark 10:42-45; 1 Cor 4:9; Col 1:24)
Unity – You, me, the church and its superglue
- The body needs the superglue of love (v25-26; 1 Cor 13; 1 Cor 3:1-2)
- The body needs many ministries (v28)
- The body needs you to desire the greater gifts (v31)
An issue is the development of a charismatic gift into a ministry.
1. All believers are ministers (Mk, 10.45; 1 Cor 12.5-7; Acts 6.1)
Most people thinking of the term minister, think of someone who is in the ministry, a ‘minister of religion”. We speak of going into the ministry as an honour and leaving the ministry as a shame. Terms like ‘Reverend’ reflect a super-spirituality. Michael Green in Called to Serve says, “[terms like] Reverend, Venerable, Very Reverend, Most Reverend are a hindrance to ministry. They build a wall with others. They can make a hearer just a little proud, a little pleased, a little further removed.”
In the New Testament, the term ministry does exist. It translates the word diakonia, and can be also translated as servant or deacon.
There is a spirit of diakonia (ministry) in Mark 10.45 and the manner of diakonia is seen in 1 Cor 12.5-7. There are many activities associated with diakonia:
1. Apostolic ministry (diakonia) : Acts 1.17 which Judas shared with the other apostles.
2. Food distribution: Acts 6.1.
3. Waiting at table: Acts 6.2
4. Ministry of the word: Acts 6.1
5. Mission (diakonia) of Barnabus and Paul: Acts 12.25.
6. Help or assistance (diakonia) which Paul sent to Macedonia: Acfcs 19.22. Also 2 Tim 1.18, Col 4.7.
7. Evangelism: Acts 20.24, the task (diakonia) which Paul had been given, for example testifying and evangelism. Also 2 Cor 6.3.
8. Overall Ministry: Acts 21.19, Paul is reporting what God had done through his ministry (diakonia). Also in 2 Tim 4.11.
9. Administration: Roms 12.7, 2 Cor 3.5
10. Service: Rms 13.4, 1 Cor 12.5, Col 1.7
11. Devotion: Rev 2.19
12. In 1 Cor 12.7 charismata is translated ministry.
Ministry is what all Christians do. Eph 4.12 talks of the responsibilities of some people to prepare saints (Christians) for works of ministry or service (diakonia). All are ministers.
2. A spiritual gift may develop into an area of recognised ministry
A spiritual gift is a significant ability given to each believer by the Holy Spirit. This “significant ability” exceeds the normal ability level of others in the church. It has been referred to as a “supernatural ability” in contrast to the natural talents we and others may have in many different areas. A well established and publically acknowledged gift can be known as a ministry. For example, a pastoral gift which is nurtured and exercised may result in a pastoral ministry.
Both natural talents and spiritual gifts can be used for the glory of God, but spiritual gifts are unique by their powerful nature and in their dedication to the service of the Lord. Sometimes the term ‘ministry’ is used of a powerful and consistently used spiritual gift.
Therefore spiritual gifts should be discovered, developed, and used freely and willingly. We were given these gifts by God’s grace, and our use of them should be just as gracious.
Pray for guidance: Prayer is essential if you wish to become serious about discovering and using your gift to fulfil God’s purposes. Continually pray for guidance and strength in the use of your gift and ask God to open your eyes to the needs of others that your gift might help.
Accept the gift: Believe that you are gifted (1 Pet. 4:10), and give thanks to God for your gift.
Learn about the gift: Study scriptural passages on gifts in general as well as specific gifts you believe you have been given. Gain a good understanding of your gift by discovering the characteristics of people who have this gift and the ways the gift can be exercised. Seek out and speak with other Christians who have the same gift, and find out what they have done with it. If there are conferences or workshops that would help you develop your gift, try to attend.
Offer yourself to God: Make a commitment to do whatever God asks of you, and trust in him to give you what you need for the task. Do what you are gifted by God to do and avoid the things which you are not!
Seek confirmation: Do other Christians who know you recognise particular giftedness within you? Ask friends and family and especially from people who seem to have the same gift. Do they see this gift in you? The support of a small Christian group can be very helpful.
Try out your gift: Test the waters as soon as you can! Volunteer in places where you can use your gift. Expect to sacrifice personally in the service of the Lord, and do not be afraid. Having and using a spiritual gift in no way shields us from trouble, but it does give us assurance that God’s at work in our lives.
Expect to make a difference: If you have accurately identified the spiritual gift, use of it will produce fruit. Continue working to develop your gift, and the blessings will become apparent to all. If your service has been ineffective,
then seek anew to find your gifts.
Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians has a comprehensive discussion of spiritual gifts, however, spiritual gifts are mentioned in at least six other places, so clearly God wants each of us to know and use our special, spiritual gifts. (Exodus 31:3, Romans 12:6, 1 Cor 1:7, 1 Cor 14:1-2, Eph 4:11-12, 1 Tim 1:6-7, Heb 2:4)
1. In verse 13, the word “baptised” does not refer to a traditional water baptism. What could it mean here? And what does it help is to understand about unity in the body of Christ?
2. The first section (roughly verses 14 to 20) and second section (verses 21 to 26)could be addressed to two different audiences. How would you describe each audience?
3. Have you ever felt like an unneeded or unimportant part of a group or team? What did you do about it? How does this passage help you to see yourself?
4. Conversely, if you are in a position of importance and feel needed, what should you do? (1 Peter 5:1-3, Hebrews 10:24-25)?
5. How could you illustrate the truth of verse 26
from your own experience ? From our experience at GBC?
6. Some Bible translators show the gifts in verse 28 as being in an order:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership (or administration),
those who speak in unknown languages.
Two questions: a) do you think this list (or the one in verses 8-10) is meant to be exhaustive or all-inclusive? b) Is there any significance in the ordering, i.e., first, second, etc.? If so, what?
1. If we view the body parts as the Spiritual Gifts, are there any the body can do without?
2. What Spiritual Gifts do you feel Paul was saying needed to be treated with “special modesty?” Why?
3. Who “baptises” us into the body of Christ? How? When?
1. By drawing on your experience of the use of gifts at church, what lesson do you take away for you to use in your home, volunteering or work situation?