Online Bible Commentary
The Body of Christ
1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
In this chapter Paul has been writing of spiritual gifts. In this passage he writes of how these spiritual gifts work to benefit the church, the body of Christ.
Paul compares the body of Christ to the human body (v. 12). Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit all believers have been “baptized into one body, the body of Christ (v. 13).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs the moment when one becomes a Christian and is indwelled by the Holy Spirit. This is the moment when we become a member of the body of Christ. Water baptism by immersion is our subsequent announcement to the church that we have made the decision to become a Christian.
The church consists of many members, each bringing their unique spiritual gift, just as the human body consists of many members. Each human part, whether the foot, hand, ear or eye, performs a unique function in making the human body complete (vv. 15-17). In the same way, each member of the church performs a unique function in making the church complete when they exercise their spiritual gift (vv. 18-21).
The church in Corinth, to whom Paul is writing, had valued some of the spiritual gifts over others. Specifically, they believed that the gift of tongues was the superior gift.
Paul counters their claim by writing that all of the spiritual gifts are needed (v. 21). There are no “weaker” gifts (v. 22a). All the gifts are “necessary” (v. 22b).
Some parts of our human body are more “unpresentable” than other parts and so we bring honor to them by covering them with clothing that may not be needed by the more “presentable” parts (vv. 23-24a).
In the same way, in the body of Christ God gives greater honor to those spiritual gifts that may appear to be less important (v. 24b). All spiritual gifts are important.
This mutual importance creates an interdependence within the church that prevents division within the church (v. 25). Each member needs the spiritual gifts of the others in order to flourish within the church.
So if one member “suffers” we all suffer (v. 26a). And if one member is “honored”, we should all rejoice in that honor because we all benefit (v. 26b).
In conclusion, Paul reminds us that we are one body, the body of Christ, with each member providing his own unique gift to contribute to the overall success of the church (v. 27). We might liken this to a baseball team.
Baseball is an individual sport, but also a team sport. When each player succeeds in his gift, the team succeeds as a whole.
Every church member is just as important as any other church member. All of their unique gifts are needed in order for the church to flourish as a body.