1 Corinthians 12:12-31 – One body, many parts: Many parts, one body

1 Corinthians 12v12-31


One body, many parts: Many parts, one body.




In the previous section [v1-12] we see Paul dealing with the supremacy of Christ and his sovereignty in giving gifts to his children. The primary function of the Holy Spirit is to gloryify Christ and the gifts are given primarily for that purpose and NOT so that we, the reciptients of those gifts, can boast.

The gifts that are given to individuals are sovereignly given by God for the good of ALL.


The issues that Paul is about to deal with he has already touched on in 10v17 “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf”.

The heading in the NIV tells us what is coming. “One body, many parts.”


1. ONENESS THROUGH ONE SPIRIT [Unity through diversity] [v12-13]


The oneness or unity of the body is mentioned 3 times in these two verses. By v 27 Paul has used the word “BODY”16 times.


The human body is the most amazing of God’s creations. It is amazingly complex yet has an unparalleled harmony and unity. You cannot sub-divided the body into several bodies – any part that is cut off ceases to function and dies.


ILLUST: From “Fearfully and wonderfully made” – by Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand. The DNA [the main constituent of the chromosomes of all organisms – in computer language the microchips of the body – it is the language of the body – there are 3000 million sequences.] DNA is microscopic.  “The DNA is narrow and compacted that all the genes in all my body’s cells would fit into an ice cube; yet if the DNA were unwound and joined together end to end, the strand could stretch from the earth to the sun and back over 400 times.”  The sun is 93 million miles away.


For all that the medical profession knows about the human body there is still a vast amount that they do not know. Yet even to someone like me who is basicaaly illiterate when it come to medicine, even I know that the body is more that just a collection of hands and feet and hair and skin, and blood and fat. A body is an organic whole put together in the correct order.


The Body of Christ is also a unit made up of many parts. There are many denominations, agencies, clubs, organizations and all sorts of groups but there is only ONE church. And every true believer in Christ is a member of that Body. The Church is one because Christ is one.  We can no more separate Christ from his Church than we can the head from the body.


When we speak of Christ as the head – we do not mean that he is some kind of disembodied head – it is always in the sense of mind, spirit and control. When the body loses its mind and spirit it ceases to be a living body. It has the structure but it doesn’t have life. It is still organised but is not longer a living organism.


How sad when a Church  loses its spiritual life yet still goes through the motions – manitaining the structure but with no spiritual life. Yet the true Church, the real Church – is Christ. He is not simply with his Church but he is in his Church and his church is in him. The Church is a living manifestation of Christ that pulses with his life.


That is why we can sing:-

We’re his hands, we’re his feet

we’re his ears, we’re his eyes

He’s the head

through his blood we are supplied


We are one because of the one Spirit whom he has given to us.

One Spirit. One Baptism. One Body.

One body is possible because one Spirit has baptised us into one body. It is the Holy Spirit who brings unity.


Spirit Baptism – v13 has been at the centre of much debate for many years. There were and still are those who claim that it is necessary for Christian to believe and be saved [we all agree] and then at a later stage, in a second experience receive the baptism of the Spirit.  This gives rise to a kind of two tier Christainity or even a two stage salvation.


There are 7 ref.s to baptism of the Spirit.















element [en-in]


Purpose [eis-into]
















Mark 1v8














Luke 3v16














John 1v33














Acts 1v5













Acts 11v16













ICor. 12v13












into one body



It is not the Holy Spirit’s baptism but Christ’s baptism with the Spirit. It is the same word [ei] that is used on all 7 occassions.

in the same v13 we read “… we were all given the same Spirit to drink”

In John 7 Jesus promised to send the Spirit – he referred to the Spirit as HE not IT. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the helper, the Advocate. He is a person – you can’t have a little bit of him. Youe either have the Spirit or you don’t have the Spirit. And Romans 8v9 is clear:-

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,

if indeed, the Spirit of God dwells in you.

But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ,

he does not belong to him.

It is not possible to be a Christian without the Baptism of the Spirit and there is on;ly ONE Spirit Baptism and that is at conversion. It is the Son of God who places all believers into the sphere of the Spirit’s power and person. We are placed into a new enviroment, a new relationship with God and with all other believers.


This does not mean that we can not have subsequent spiritual experiences – we do have highs and lows in our spiritual walk with God. And we need to be constantly be being filled with the Spirit as Paul says in Ephesians.

BUT the purpose of Spirit Baptism is to bring about conversion and place us within the Body of Christ – the Church.


And what is clear for this passage so far [vv1-13] is that Paul is NOT emphasizing one Baptism BUT ONE SPIRIT. The goal of our common baptism {immersion} in one Spirit is INTO one Body – the body of Christ. This implies that the Body of Christ already exists and we become part of it by being immersed in the Spirit.


In the following verses Paul goes on to explain hos this body should function.




Unity is the most important charateristic of the body – BUT unity balanced with diversity. Paul’s illustrations are very clear:

READ vv14-17.


There were many problems in the Corinthian Church. Some thought thaey were aiser than other, – some more knowledgable, – some higher social status, – some thought ythey were more gifted …

They were divided over Leadership, “I am of Peter, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Christ…”


Division like this usually arise because of envy – “I am not happy with who I am or with the gifts and abilities I have, I want……”  The end result of such an attitude is “Well if I can’t have what I want and the way I want it then I will take my toys and go home and I will never play with you again.”

If we were all the same it would be very boring.


ILLUST: If all like me – no music – no flowers – no decent cups of tea – no sound system …..

If the whole body were an eye – hand – leg -…. – what a grotesque monstrosity it would be.


God has gifted us all differently and if there is disunity among some over the Things of the Spirit it is certainly not the Spirit’s fault. Our common fallenness and sinfulness unfortunately often causes both pride and envy. It is our lack of sensitivity to the Spirit that often causes us to seek unity on other grounds.

What we desparately need at all times is a work of the Spirit to do among us what our programmes for unity can never do.




ILLUST: Invited to Buckingham Palace – the Queen gave you a priceless treasure – you say, “Well I do not want this one I want that one over there”


By discontent and coveting what others have been given we are in fact questioning God wisdom and goodness implying that he has made a mistake.  Emphasized all through this chapter – we do not receive our gifts by accident but they are given to us by a wise and loving God.


God knows what is best for us and he gives us what we need – individually and corporately. If we were all eyes we would not hear or walk or touch – all other functions would be lacking.


The Corinthian Church had an over emphasis on the gift of Tongues [ch.14] and Paul is pressing home this point of diversity before he come to deal with tongues specifically..




Paul continues the theme of oneness while stressing mutual dependence on each other. Individuality is important to God – each life is valuable. God knows how many hairs you have on your head [or in my case how many I don’t have] BUT modern western individualism is opposite to biblcal interdependence.


Individualism is appealing to natural man because we are inclined to want to do our own thing our own way. Ever since Cain renounced responsibility for his brother in Gen.4 mankind has generally been thought more about “ME” than about others.


The philosophy that teaches that we are self-sufficient and don’t need anyone else is Satan’s lie and opposite to God’s plan and desire for people.


ILLUST: Insurance Co. in RSA – advert -“Your destiny is in your hands your path is yours to choose”


Even Jesus is not independent – there is a community within the Trinity. He prayed to his Father in Heaven – he did his Father’s work – He sent the Spirit. Father Son and Spirit work together. One God.


Paul always worked with partner/s. Barnabas, Silas, Mark, Luke, …..  to the Romans he writes:-


I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift –

[he explains]

that is, that you and I may be

mutually encouraged by each other’s faith [Rom.1v11-12]


There are to kinds of individualism that break down unity and cause division in the Church.

The first we have seen in vv.15-17. “I hav no gifts and abilities that are worthwhile so I will sit back and let others do the work”  It is the kind of individualism that says “THEY DON’T NEED ME!”


The second kind od individualism is those who think that they are so highly qualified and gifted that they don’t need anyone else to help them

The first is “THEY DON’T NEED ME1” while this second one is “I DON’T NEED THEM!”


This attitude is bad enough in the world but it is much worse in the Church.


READ v21-27


Without getting into the detail of what the weaker gifts/people less honourable people/gifts are Paul point is that every part of the body is necessary. Some parts are more visible and we are more aware of them but that does not mean thay are more important.


ILLUST: What is more important, your hand or your heart? Your tongue or your toe?

bones or skin?


You see how ridiculous it is!!


ILLUST: Computer – one microchip broken/ missing and the whole system fails.


God has placed each member where he wants them and gifted each one in a specific way. It is our responsibility to use the gifts we have been gift for the good of others and to help others and allow others to use their gifts.


Whether we like it or not we are part of the body – we are related to each –

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it,

if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it [v26]


The first part is easy to understand If you have toothache you can’t study –  How you honour your hand and not your foot is difficult to know BUT the point is clear. What affects one affects all BECAUSE  You are the body of Christ, EACH ONE OF YOU  is part of it [v27]




READ 27 -28


Paul ends this chapter by illustrating again the diversity of the gifts and people within the Church by giving an ad hoc list of gifts. The lsit includes personal ministries – apostles prophets and teachers; charismata – miracles and healings and tongues; deeds of service – administration and helps. Unity but not uniformity.


He then drives home the point by asking a series of questions to which the implied answer is NO. In Greek the way a sentence in structure can determine whether it has a positive or negative answer. These are all negative answer questions.

Are all aposltes? [no!]

Are all prophets? [no!]

Are all teachers? [no!]

Do all have gifts of healing? [no!]

Do all speak in tongues? [no!]

Do all interpret? [no!]




God has given us much and gifted each one – we have much to be thankful for. BUT we need to ask “Are we in anyway restricting some from using their gifts?”

The so called “charismatic” Churches may over-emphasis tongues and healing and prophecy and we are sometimes critical of that  – BUT do we err on the side of the cerebral gifts like preaching and teaching to the exclusion of some of the others.  Are we balanced or is our body unhealthy because of an over-emphasis in certain areas.


BUT also gifts are people – and we need to be careful not to made some more impotant that others. No one should ever say “They don’t need me ” or “I don’t need them”

We all need each other because that is how God in his wisdom and love has designed his Body  – the Church.


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