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The Sunday Sermon – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27


The Body of Christ – United in the Spirit!

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.


Now we have seen that the overall theme of this chapter is the unity in Christ that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ought to bring to the local assembly.  The Corinthians were so divided, in doctrine and practice and worship, that even when it came to their various God-given abilities, they bragged and boasted about them, vied with each other over the exercise of them, attempted to over-ride each other’s ministries and as a result their worship was nothing short of chaos, as described in chapter 12v1-3.

So Paul has argued that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given so that we can present a united stand for Christ, for everyone has received a task, every believer has something that they can do for the Lord, and instead of pushing each other aside so that our individual ability can shine, we must instead all join together, and make the most of everyone’s God given ability.  That way, we can unite the local church to work for God!  Paul then gave some examples, of the gifts which were operational in Corinth, and he uses this diversity of gifts to illustrate that it is God Himself who decides to whom the gifts and abilities are given, that these gifts are distributed by God’s grace, in accordance with His sovereign purpose, and not according to any merit of ours.

Now Paul uses an illustration to show how the church, being diversely gifted by God, is in fact united in one entity.  He describes that church as being, “The Body of Christ.”

The Body of Christ – Considered!

Chapter 12:12.  Why would Paul use this particular illustration to describe the Church?  In what sense is the Church the body of Christ?  Well, as we know, Christ is ascended to His Father in heaven, where He has sat down, His redemptive work having been completed.  Right now, the presence of God, and the presence of Christ in His Church, and in the individual believer is enacted through the agency of the Holy Spirit. John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.   But the Holy Spirit is A SPIRIT!  He does not have a body in this world!  John 14:17 So we are Christ’s body in this world!  We are His Hands, to do His Work!  We are His voice, His feet!  It is up to us to do His work and to preach His gospel and to carry His message!  William Barclay puts it like this, “Christ is no longer in this world in the body; therefore, if He wants a task done within the world, He has to find a man to do it.  If He wants a child taught, He has to find a teacher to teach him, if He wants a sick person cured he has to find a surgeon to do his work, and if He wants His story told, He has to find a man to tell it!”[i]

So WE are HIS body in this world.  Now notice three things that Paul teaches us about that body in verse 12:-  Firstly, For as the body is one.  The Body of Christ of Christ, the Church – is one body!  But secondly, it is diverse!  and hath many members.  Not all of the Body of Christ are Congregationalists!  There may even be Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, and even Pentecostals!  And even within local assemblies, there are great differences!  I remember one author and preacher wrote a book on the church, entitled, ‘Building with bananas!’  It was a reference to how the Lord builds His church with such odd-shaped people!  (Not physically speaking of course!)

Thirdly, we see in this passage the mystery of the Body!  all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  All the parts of that Body are organically united!  Most of us will have two hands, two eyes, one mouth, two ears, two feet, two knees etc.  But we are just one body!  You have, I’m sure, heard some person complaining about ill health, and saying, “I had to go to the doctor with my legs!”  It would be hard to go without them, for they are an organic part of that patient!  At the same time, the patient recognises that it is the legs, locally, which are giving the trouble.   So there is this great mystery!  We are all part of the Body of Christ – all those who love the Lord, and have been Born Again of His Spirit!

The Body of Christ – Called Out!

Chapter 12:13.  Here is the proof of the unity of the church in one body!  We are all baptised by one Holy Spirit into one Body! Again here we must notice a difference between common charismatic teaching, and the Biblical text.  The typical charismatic will teach that the Baptism of, with, or in, the Holy Spirit, is something that occurs after salvation.  The typical Pentecostal sequence of events is that a person will be regenerated by the Holy Ghost, then, at some later time in their Christian life, will cry out for more of the Lord, and will then be anointed or blessed by a second experience, which they call the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This verse totally contradicts that theory!  I remember an old Pentecostal saint, whose name was Matthew Hanna, agonising over this verse.  He was a true Pentecostal, a man who was steeped in AOG teaching, and who had all his life believed in the ‘second experience.’  When I met him it was at my first little outreach church, and he was helping in the evangelism there, a man who was then well into his seventies.  He brought my attention to this verse one day, and he said, “Robert, I have been a Pentecostal all my Christian life, but I have never been able to shake off the doubt that this verse brings to all my theories.  It’s the verse that the Pentecostal preachers can’t explain!”    Paul says here, that the Baptism ‘into’ or by (Gk. eis) the Spirit occurs when we become part of Christ’s body, that is, when we are saved, and is a unifying factor, common to all believers!  That’s why the little word ‘for’ is included; to link Paul’s teaching here on the body of Christ, with his earlier teaching on the unity which is wrought through all believers using the gifts God has given them, for the benefit of the Lord’s Church.  Look at the verse!  We see:-

  • The Washing of the Holy Spirit at Conversion! For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.  Now this is very important indeed.  Observe in this phrase:-
  • The Object of this work!  We are brought into Christ by this action of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit baptises us into Christ!  That is the work of the Spirit at Conversion, not after conversion!  He baptises us into the death of Christ, so that God regards us as already having died in Christ, and as already having our sins atoned for and paid for!  He baptises us into the resurrection of Christ, so that we share in His new life, and have assurance of eternal life in Him!  According to this verse, the very purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to ‘initiate’ us into Christ’s body, to bring us into Christ and His Universal Church!
  • The Method of this work!  It is baptism!  But this is not baptism by water!  When you are baptised in water, – that does not make you a Christian – by any stretch of the imagination!  Evangelical Christians should never use the word ‘Christening’ when they mean baptism, it implies that the act of baptism makes the recipient a Christian.  Now, I have a Baptist friend, and he gets very cross when he hears anyone talking about ‘water baptism.’  He argues that there only is one form of baptism, baptism in the element of water, and therefore baptism is simply baptism!  But he too is wrong!  Listen to what Jesus says,  Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:  John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.  Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.   It is quite clear from the Scriptures that not only is there an external baptism with water, but there is also an internal baptism, which is effected by the Holy Spirit.  But just as external, water baptism signifies the admittance of the recipient into the visible church, so the Baptism of the Holy Spirit brings the recipient into the invisible church, the body of Christ. It is what baptism is for!  Baptism is always ‘baptism into’ not a subsequent baptism of those who are already in!
  • The Scope of this work! whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free And again this is the key to the understanding of this doctrinal position.  Contrary to historical Pentecostal belief, the effect of this work is to unite the whole church!  Paul’s argument is that, as every Christian, of whatever background, has been baptised by the Holy Spirit at the time of their entry into Christ’s body, they are already in an organic unity within the church.
  • The Drinking of the Holy Spirit at Conversion. and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.  This section of the verse seems the most difficult part to grasp.   We now know that at conversion the Holy Spirit spiritually baptises us, cleanses us from our sins, but the illustration that Paul is using is of an external washing.  He quickly shifts to another illustration of the Holy Spirit’s work, using an internal metaphor.  Not only does the Holy Spirit baptise us at conversion, but WE DRINK of the Holy Spirit as well.  This ‘drinking of the Spirit’ :-
    • Happens at Conversion!  At that point, once and forever, the Holy Spirit enters our bodies, and dwells within us!  Let us listen again to what Jesus said,  John 14:16-17 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  Romans 8:9  1 Cor. 3:16   1 Cor. 6:19 
    • It only happens once!  The Greek here is in the past tense, but it is not a continual past tense, it is an aorist tense!  (Gk ‘been made to drink is all one word, ‘epotisqhmen) We have BEEN made to drink!  It cannot happen again, and once it has happened it cannot be made to ‘unhappen!’  Salvation only occurs once!  The true Christian is saved for all eternity, because at one point in time the Holy Spirit came to dwell within!
    • It is A PASSIVE act on our part!  The word is not just an aorist, it is an aorist passive!  We have been MADE to drink!  Because salvation is not something that we can do ourselves!  It is something that the Lord does to us!  It is a work of God from beginning to end.  Not the labours of my hands, can fulfil thy laws demands!  Could my zeal no respite know, should my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone!  Thou must save, and Thou alone!
    • This act of drinking is also an act of great satisfaction!  Vine[ii] records that the root Greet word is the word potizw, a word which is mostly used in the New Testament to signify times when our thirsty souls are watered and fed and satisfied by the power and blessing of Christ!  Paul uses it in 1 Cor. 3:2 I have fed you with milk.  Jesus used it also in Matthew 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

There is some tremendous gospel truth taught in this little verse!  At conversion, the Holy Spirit applies the cleansing, sin-washing, devil-defeating work of Christ to our lives.  He baptises us into Christ’s body!  At the same time we drink of Him!  He comes and dwells within us, and quenches our spiritual thirst forever and ever!  It only happens once, and our part in it is the part of passive recipient of God’s unearned and unmerited favour, and in Christ we are fully and completely satisfied!  So you see to argue that the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs as a second experience, or that there is some kind of second blessing, some months or even years after conversion is to do despite to this verse, and to utterly rob it of its glorious meaning!

The Body of Christ  – Compared!

Paul makes a great list to illustrate how the parts of the body interact and co-depend. The Foot and the Hand! The Ear and the Eye! The Eye and the Hand, and the Head and the Feet! The Strong and the Weak! The Handsome and the Utilitarian!

1)      Every member NEEDS every other! And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you

2)      Every member must VALUE every other! And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

3)      Every member must BOND with every otherThat there should be no schism in the body.

4)      Every member must EMPATHISE with every other! And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

[i]               Barclay, W.,                          Letter to the Corinthians DSB                            St Andrew Press, Edinburgh, 1975, Pg 113

[ii]               Vine, W.E.                             Expository Dictionary of NT Words Oliphants, London, 1975, Pg. 340

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