I had friends in Scotland. They were Mr. and Mrs. Willie and Mary McNeill; they served in China when the Japanese invaded China they were interned in China. They were interned with Eric Liddell. Eric became famous because of the movie made of him, Chariots of Fire. He won an Olympic gold medal in the 1920’s and he made an impact because he refused to compete on Sundays.
I would visit the McNeills and Willie would tell me stories of Eric Liddell. One of their children came to faith in Jesus through the ministry of Eric Liddell. There was something very unique about the McNeills. Willie McNeill was almost blind. Legally he was blind and he had to walk with a blind man’s cane. And Mary McNeill had gone deaf. Each one was handicapped but together they were complete. They would go out together and Willie was the ears and Mary was the eyes.
The McNeills are a good picture of the body of Christ. Only working together we are complete. We must work together as the body of Christ to be effective for Christ. That is the message that Paul brings. It was important at the time Paul wrote these words and it is important today.
The body of Christ is one unit. Regardless of our race, our nationality or our social status, we are all one in the body of Christ. We are all one in the body of Christ. In the previous verses Paul was talking about the diversity of spiritual gifts. Now he is saying with all these diversities of spiritual gifts we are one in the body of Christ.
I took a Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Jerusalem. I began talking to one lady on the tour who was not a Christian. I talked to her about Christ. Her response was she did not want to become a Christian because she did not want to be forced in any one mold.
When she said that I began to think of the people that made up our small tour group. There were people from Scotland, England, New Zealand and from America. There were teenagers there were senior citizens, there were Methodist, Presbyterians Baptists and Pentecostals and she looked at the group as one mold. I had to wonder how that could possibly be. There were so many differences. It is not that we are to be forced in one mold. Christians are diverse, but we are all one.
What Christians have in common is not that we look alike and think alike. Paul tells us what we have in common in verse 13 1Co 12:13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink.
It is not that we are alike. We find diversities, but we are one because we have all been baptized into the body of Christ. When we go through water baptism that is an outward symbol of an inward spiritual baptism into the body of Christ. We have that in common.
Of course in Corinth there were divisions. So Paul reminds them they are one in the body of Christ.
My wife and I were camping at Lake Corpus Christi State Park, near the town of Mathis. So we went to a Pizza Hut there. There were a few people in there not many. There were two Hispanic men in there. One had been a Christian for nine years and one had just become a Christian.
The one who had been a Christian for nine years saw I was wearing a Seminary t-shirt. So he knew if I went to the seminary I would be a Christian. He told the new believer he was with, I am going to speak to this couple over here and we are going to have something in common and they will be very friendly to us. The new believer asked, how do you know they will be friendly to us? He said I see he has been to seminary and I know he is a Christian. We began to talk and we had different backgrounds and very different experiences in our lives, we were excited to talk together and but we had much to talk about and much in common because we are one in the body of Christ.
Paul said whether Jews or Greek, whether slaves or free, that is a tremendous diversity yet, he said, all have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit. When you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, you become a Christian, you have entered the body of Christ and you have a common bond with all believers in Jesus Christ. Even if you meet a believer from another country you have a common bond in Jesus Christ.
Paul wants to emphasize this unity in the body that we are one in Christ. But he wants us to know we are diverse. Could you imagine if I were here before you and instead of a normal body I was a sex foot one inch 175 pounds gigantic eyeball. To my left was sitting a gigantic ear. But look at verse 17 1Co 12:17 If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? And if it were only an ear, how could it smell?
God made these diverse parts in the body so we should not want everyone to be like ourselves. We should rejoice in the diversities. Our physical bodies are made up of various parts. If they were made up of one part, as important as one part might be, we could never function as a body. God arranged all these parts so we should rejoice in our diversities.
Paul says this illustration which is obviously true in the physical body is also true in the spiritual body. How many bodies do we have? We have just one body! It is made up of many different parts. So we remember we are one body but each person is different. So we do not expect one person in the church to function as another person. We know that God made the members of the physical body to function in harmony. God has done the same thing with the spiritual body of Christ. There are different gifts and different abilities. And it is no accident that God has placed you in the body of Christ. Everyone is part of God’s purpose.
Our society seems to put a high value on conformity. The world conforms people into its mold. To drive the same car, wear the same clothes. There is a peer pressure to act alike. The Bible says you do not need to conform. You need to be who God made you to be and you need to function that way. That is why we rejoice in our differences.
God is not expecting you to be someone else. God is expecting you to be just who he made you to be. Even preachers are pressured to conform. There was an influential preacher who had an impact on many other preachers. He had one very unusual habit. He had long hair down to his eyes and always when he preached he would flip his hair away from his eyes. Those who were influenced by him were constantly flipping their heads. Even bald preachers would flip back their head. All these men wouldn’t accept who they were. They were trying to be someone else. We have the lesson to learn. God has made you who you are for a purpose.
There was a young girl who always dreamed of growing up to be tall with blonde hair. Bit as she grew up she was very short with black hair. She was miserable because she wanted to be tall with blonde hair. She did not know that the Lord had some purpose for that. Later she found out the Lord had called her to be a missionary. And the Lord sent her to China. Her name was Lottie Moon.
Because she was short and had black hair she was uniquely qualified to reach the Chinese. When she discovered God made her the way she was for a purpose her life was fulfilled.
We should accept who we are. We should also be thankful everybody is not like us. Because of they were there would not be many functions filled in the spiritual body of Christ. You are needed in the body of Christ. You need to be exercising the gifts and talents that God has given you. Even more than that you need us. You are not functioning properly apart from the body of Christ. We don’t need jealousies. The foot should not be jealous of the hand. How many sermon gestures are made from the pulpit by the foot? The foot could complain about never being involved. How come the hand gets to wear a gold ring and I am hidden behind this old shoe? If we are going to go anywhere we need the foot. How lovely are the feet of them that bring good news. Each person needs to realize they are important. We need different people to perform different functions in the body of Christ.
How can we argue importance of the parts? In a car the engine is important, but we need the tires, the brakes. If we are going to go anywhere we need all the parts of the car. The same with the church. Each one has a role.
Paul wants the people of Corinth to know that in that troubled time for the church everyone is valuable vs. 21-26. We need all the parts to function normally. How often do we take for granted different parts of our body? But if there is any kind of failure in any part we find out quickly how important each part is.
There is no reason for us to have spiritual pride. Everyone is needed. Each one of us has a service to the Lord. When we exercise our spiritual gift there will be great satisfaction. Some who serve behind the scenes are the most important. Look what Paul said in verse 22 1Co 12:22 On the contrary, we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker; Those behind servants who serve behind the scenes are indispensable.
It’s not right when a few individuals are overworked and others don’t even have an opportunity to serve. Like when a football game is played. There are two teams with eleven players each. At the end of the game you have thousands who need exercise watching 22 who need rest. Each individual needs to use his giftedness and not become spectators. Are you exercising your spiritual gift in the body of Christ?