TEXTS: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Paul the apostle, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote to the Corinthian church on the need for unity among believers in Christ. This subject of unity has become more relevant in view of the prevailing divisions and strife among believers predicted to be signs Of the last days. When Paul arrived Corinth with his team (Acts 18: 1), he preached and many of the Corinthians turned to the Lord. “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). Though the growing impact and influence of the gospel message caused a stir in the city and there was persecution, the Lord encouraged him, saying, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace” (Acts 18:9). so, he continued there eighteen months and established them in the truth of the gospel before leaving for other mission assignments (Acts 18:11).
CONTENTIONS AND DIVISIONS AMONG BELIEVERS IN CORINTH (1 Corinthians 12:15,16,21,25; 11; 3:1- 4; 1 Corinthians 6:1-7)
Paul received reports of the contention among members of the church in Corinth, which was an obvious deviation from the unity he left behind. “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you” (l Corinthians 1:11). The unity Paul left in the Corinthian church appears to have been threatened. Some contentions had come in probably due to the demographic distribution of the church — the mighty, the wise, the strong, the foolish, the base, the weak, the despised, the philosophical and highly educated — which compares with that of large churches today (1 Corinthians 1:26-28). But Paul’s focus was the truth of the word of God. Today, every true Bible church too will be interested in seeing the truth of the word of God blossom and having spiritual power and impact on the hearers (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). The problem that came into the church brought along with it debate, carnality, strife and division (l Corinthians 3:1-4). The brethren there struggled over positions and privileges, preachers and preaching. And in whichever Christian assembly these arc found, sin is right on the fringes. Such problems turn people away from fighting sin. TheThe eyes Of some believers in Corinth turned away from Christ to key personalities in the church — Paul, Cephas and Apollos. This is a carnal trait which must not be found in the church. Today, when there is preference for a leader or pastor, then carnality has crept in. When we begin to struggle for position, privileges, places, power and personality in the church, sin will reign and become rife. The Corinthian church glided from this carnality to fornication. Sin was spared In the church. In Corinth, the hearts and motives of the brethren were affected. They stopped fighting against sin and Satan. Next, they started taking one another to court (l Corinthians 6:1-7). Their marriages, homes and lives became muddled up (1 Corinthians 7). They began to rationalise idolatry and shirk their responsibility of Christian giving and tithing. And then their conviction On Christian dressing was shaky. The division made them centre their attention on non-essentials and forget the necessity of upholding righteousness and holiness.
It is against this background that the Apostle addresses in the twelfth chapter, the subjects of the unity of the body, the sovereignty of God, the diversity of gifts and the harmony amongst the children of God. The Apostle here underscores the truth that the Church should still be one body. And if all Bible churches do not address and rectify the problem in the church, the unity, growth and ministry of that local church will be baseless. This is because it is impossible to remain united, allow the Spirit of God, the diversity of gifts to operate and function while the body remains in disharmony.
THE CHURCH’S UNITY ILLUSTRATED WITH HUMAN BODY (l Corinthians 12:12-27; Psalm 133:1-3; John 17:21,23)
Paul likens the Church to the body having many members which must function together in a proper and coordinated way. He expounds this as the will and working of God. Just as God has constituted the body, in the same vein, the local church has been constituted by Him. Just as the body gets along in fulfilling its several functions with many bones, hands, legs, eyes, ears and fingers, in the same way, the local church gets on in unity with many different sections, members, functions and ministries in that single church. “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (1 Corinthians 12:18).
God has so organised and arranged the Church and her several members as it “hath pleased him”. The Church is not designed for the end or pleasure of anyone: the wise Greeks or the conservative Jews; the dynamic women or the pro-establishment men. Therefore, every member of the body of Christ – the mighty, the wise, the noble, the base, the weak. The foolish or the despised should submit to the absolute will of God and learn to say, “Not my will. thy will be done.” God wants people who will fulfil His will. This was why He preferred David to Saul (Acts 13:22). God sought out David, a young, but inexperienced little shepherd-boy according to His will. Strangely, Saul did not like this (1 Samuel But God was not working as it would please Saul, and later turned His back on him. In the church, all the members must learn to uphold and enhance the will of God, agree with the decision of the church and lend their weight to the decisions of the leadership. Pastors or any other leader picked by the church should be seen as the will and counsel of God. Rebellious, self-willed and demanding attitudes get people into the company of unrighteous people.
Members in the church, though many and diverse, are organically related and interdependent. The men cannot say to the women, “we have no need of you.” women, also, cannot pull out of the body and go to form an all women church. None can say to the other, “I have no need of thee”. The pastor cannot tell the church workers that he has no need of them.
THE CHURCH’S DIVERS GIFTS FOR MINISTRS’ (1 Corinthians 12:11,18,28-31; Ephesians 4:11,12)
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:28-30). God’s sovereignty is reflected in the body of Christ. He distributes the gifts, talents and resources of the Church just as Ile wills. The departments and multifarious ministries in the church are all set by God and meant to interrelate as one body. “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4). God makes the choice, places the people in the ministry and looks forward to the church to support them. Aaron was called of God and was given the honour by Him. This is the sovereignty of God. Though God calls, we need to fit ourselves for the calling with appropriate training, exposure and discipline. Choristers in the church must train their voices and ears; instrumentalists must train their fingers. Ministers in the Word must develop through much prayer, study, meditation and challenges. Certainly, God makes the choice and the church does the training so that each of us can function at their best. Our desires and aspirations in the ministry must be in line with God’s plans and purposes.
Each member must support, complement and lift up the other member. That means, we cannot disregard or neglect one another. Whatever we do in the church (preaching, teaching, ushering or singing) and whoever we are, we should follow charity (love), pray for one another and constantly provoke one another to love and good works. In honour, prefer one another. There must be no schism among the workers and members in the church. Tribalism must not be allowed. The church must keep united, marching on in the strength of the Lord. The young and old, the men and women — all the various facets of the church — must be bound together with the cord of love, peace and fellowship. The church must remain one body with many members who have diverse gifts.