Unity of the Body

By Jeff Horn

1 Corinthians 12

Several of the previous articles have dealt with the topic of unity. First Corinthians 12 is another passage that discusses the basis of unity with other believers and the actions of a unified body. First Corinthians 12 deals primarily with the topic of spiritual gifts and our need to be exercising these gifts for the common good.

Paul uses the metaphor of the human body to illustrate the functioning of the church starting in 1 Corinthians 12:12. He makes the point that the human body has many members but all the members are combined in one body. They are unified for the purpose of making the body effective. Paul says the body of Christ is to function in the same manner.

In verse 13 Paul makes the point that our unity comes about through the work of the Holy Spirit. All believers have the common experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. At the point of our justification, the Holy Spirit baptized us into the body of Christ, the church. He identified us with Christ and with other believers. Paul makes this point also by speaking of our drinking of the Spirit. By this he is pointing out the fact that the Spirit dwells within us and enables us for ministry. Since we have been baptized into one body and have God Himself dwelling within us in the person of the Holy Spirit we are to be unified.

Paul goes on in verses 14 to 19 to discuss the need for a diversity of gifted individuals to have a properly functioning church body based on the comparison to the human body. Then in verses 20 to 27 he discusses the need for a unified body to insure that all the members are supporting the functioning of the body.

In this last section (verses 20 to 27) Paul specifically discusses the interaction of believers with one another. In verse 25 we are told that there is to be no division in the body. Each of us as members of the body are to care for the other members as we would care for ourselves. In verse 26 we read, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

Our relationships in the church body are to be such that we understand when others are suffering and we suffer with them and support them through their trials. To use the comparison to the human body, if I hit my thumb with a hammer, all the members of my body feel the pain and do what they can to ease the pain. So it should be in the body of Christ.

The second part of verse 26 may be just as challenging as the first part. If someone in the body is honored, we are to rejoice as we would if we ourselves got that honor. It is often difficult to see someone praised or honored because by nature we want that praise to come to us. But we are instructed in this verse that there is no room for petty jealousy in the church. We are to rejoice with those who are honored.

It is a marvelous blessing to have received the gift of salvation and been made part of the body of which Jesus is the head. In thankfulness for all that God has done for us we must be living lives characterized by unity and love for all members of this local body.

“But now there are many members, but one body” (1 Cor. 12:20).