Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
In a day when many are minimizing the significance of the local church—even among “Christians,” it is important to be reminded of what Scripture teaches—the local church is how God gets His work done in the world. Through the assembly of believers, they are ministered to that they might be on mission for God. It is there that truth is taught, where we are equipped, that accountability is provided, mission is conveyed, and supplication is offered together in a powerful way. We are called to be members of a congregation—we are members of the body of Christ.
Of course, there is the church universal—all believers from Pentecost onward—a host dwelling in heaven and millions scattered through the earth today. Most of the time, however, the New Testament uses the term, “church,” to describe an assembly of saints, meeting at a particular place, gathering for worship under the guidance of pastors and deacons. That is how Paul is speaking of the body of Christ at Corinth in chapter twelve of his first epistle to them.
Before these Corinthians were born into God’s family and became members of Christ’s church, they were pagans (v.1-3). Coming to Jesus meant that the Spirit of God had come to indwell them. Each member had the Spirit residing in them, enabling them to confess that Jesus is Lord. That is the joint confession which is made powerfully when we gather with others who have experienced salvation in the local church.
The Spirit imparts to the members gifts according to His sovereign will (v.4-11). Each believer has received at least one spiritual gift, some have several, but none have them all. These gifts are not to puff us up in pride, but to be employed for the edifying of the body. The list of spiritual gifts here is not exhaustive, but representative. There are other gift “lists” with variation. The particular ones listed here were perhaps most visible in Corinth. It is the decision of the Spirit of God as to what gifts we have, and not a matter of our desire for one or the other.
The Apostle uses the illustration of a human body to explain how the church should operate (v.12-31). Just as our various organs have a specific function in relation to the health of our physical being, so the different members of Christ’s body have particular purposes—and diverse ones—cooperating together in a healthy church. Every member is essential. These differences, however, can become a source of strife—and it had in the Corinthian church. Members were comparing the nature and number of their gifts with one another and what God meant for good, the Devil was using for evil. It is like an auto-immune disease that some have today—where the body’s defense system starts attacking healthy cells and organs, thinking them to be a virus. Just as this is harmful, and potentially deadly to our physical being, it will be to the church.
Let us discover, develop, and deploy our gifts for the good of the entire church. This happens when love is the dominant force in our lives. It is the, “more excellent way,” Paul refers to in verse thirty-one, and that he will describe in the great love chapter that follows.
The church is headquarters for God’s work. Let’s plug in and get busy!