In the former article we noticed that in the one church of God there are spiritual gifts. (Charismata). These gifts are all in the church by the operation of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of the risen Lord. There is not one gift, which does not come from the risen Lord through the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, does not stand in his service or must not be for the benefit of the entire body of Christ!
It is all, in the body of Christ, as the Holy Spirit determines to give to each member.
Nothing in the church has its origin, and, therefore, its purpose in man and his selfish purposes. All is out of, through and unto God. To Him be the power and the glory forever, Amen!
That all must, indeed, be just so with these gifts in the church follows from the very nature of the church itself.
That is Paul’s instruction here in I Cor. 12:12-27, which reads as follows: “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 . . . .” (Since the passage is quite lengthy I suggest that the reader look this up in his own Bible).
Even a hasty reading of this passage indicates that Paul is here drawing a comparison between our physical-psychical body and Christ. This metaphor of the human body is a very choice one with the apostle. He employs the same figure of speech in Romans 12:4, where he seeks to establish the same practical teaching concerning the proper use of and attitude toward the spiritual gifts in the church. In both instances the unity of the body precedes the exercises of the gifts in the body. Were the church in its oneness and in its manifoldness not a manifestation of Christ in his offices in the church, all admonition for the proper use of the charismata would be void of solid foundation. God’s work would then simply be the highest arbitrariness, and right might just as well be wrong, and justice injustice.
But now all is different!
Now the point of comparison is bedded in the solid rock of God’s wisdom in the Church; it is all a matter of seeing what God hath wrought in the Church as the architect and builder, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named!
Let us now take notice of the following particulars in the text.
In the first place, we should notice just what thepoint of comparison is in the text. Strictly speaking, Paul does not simply draw a formal comparison between the Church as body and our bodies, but he pin-points the comparison down towhat our body is and what Christ is. Thus we read in verse 12, “Thus also Christ“! Not simply the church has many members as one body, butChrist is one body and has many members.
Then, too, we ought to observe that in this passage not all kinds of points of comparison are made. Only one point is stressed in this comparison as being relevant. It is the point of Christ being one body, and yet many members. And we can see this reality concerning Christ in our very body in which we must tarry this three-score years and ten.
Just how are we to understand that Christ is one and the many members?
The answer to this question certainly must be; that, first of all, Christ is the Head of the church. The Church is gathered, defended and preserved by Him out of the entire human race, a church elected unto everlasting life. And each member is brought to be engrafted into Christ by a true and living faith. Thus we read in verse 27, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof.” Of this church we are members severally, not because we are engrafted into one another, but because we are engrafted into the body. The body is there first, and then the members. This is the very opposite of Arminianism, and all Pelagianism! With the latter the body grows out of the members. But with the Scriptural and Reformed position the members are engrafted into the body, of which Christ is the Head. The entire body grows out of Christ. Ephesians 4:15, 16 reads, “Even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.” Such is the Scriptural notion of the body of Christ.
However, it should also be observed that Paul has a very practical purpose in mind in writing these Chapters to the Corinthians.
They must be thoroughly furnished as living members in Christ, as man of God, to every good work!
This means that as members of Christ they must walk in the office of all believers, as prophets, priests and kings of God. The living members of Christ’s body have a calling toward one another. They must know themselves duty bound “readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts for the advantage and salvation of other members.” Heidelberg Catechism, Question 55.
It is for this reason, in our judgment, that Paul here speaks particularly of Christ. For Christ is Head, but as such he is also the officebearer, the anointed of God. He is the appointed Head of the Church. He reveals the secret counsel of God concerning our redemption to the church. He emphatically does such in the spiritual gifts, the Charismata of prophesying, speaking with tongues, etc. He is the only High Priest who gave His life for us, and who also ever lives to intercede for us before the throne of God in heaven. And he is eternal King, who rules us by his word and Spirit!
And Christ is not divided. His office is fundamentally one, although there is diversity in the office, namely, prophet, priest and king! However, the prophet in Christ does not say to the priest, I do not need you. Nor does the King in him say to the prophet: “since I am not the prophet, I am not part of the Anointing of the office.” Christ is not divided in all his office. And he also maintained and still maintains it out of heaven in its undivided, yet diverse unity!
This point ought to be clearly seen and appreciated for what it is worth. We should see the relevancy of this point in relationship to the fact that, in the body ecclesiastica there is also no division, schism in the function of Christ through the members! Where such division-reigns it is not Christ reigning, who is all in all through the energizing work of the Spirit.
For when the Son of God gathers his church out of the entire human race, he makes of her a new creature. Fundamentally she is cut off from the old Adamic race, lying under sin’s curse and damnation, and engrafted into Christ! Through one and the self-same Spirit this occurs in all. And thus through the one prophet, priest and king. Hence, we are simply as God wills us to be, and, therefore, has constituted us in the Lord.
Here, too, we are as Christ determines what we should be in our walk with respect to one another. Only the thoroughly Reformed man, who believes sovereign election, limited atonement, total depravity, efficacious calling and certain preservation of the saints, can have a solid basis and a strong motive for a godly walk in the church.
Against this background the several observations of Paul concerning the “body” and its “members” will come to stand in bold relief.
By virtue of being members of Christ, and partakers of his anointing by faith, it is true that each member needs the other member in his office of all believers, as well as in the special offices and gifts. Thus God has, indeed, tempered the body! The term for “temper” in the Greek is “sugkerannumi,” to mingle together, to mix together, so that one part qualifies the other.
This truth is such that the less honorable members share in the honor of those more honorable and more gifted. This is of a very practical nature. Suppose that I am a Christian with one talent, and my brother or sister in Christ has received more than one talent. Then I also receive that other talent from the Lord in my brother and sister. Thus the body is mingled.
Now this should be a remedy to end all strife concerning who is or will be the greatest. He that is least is the greatest, and lives at that vantage-point where he can see all things in their proper perspective and relationship to Christ and to God.
This was portrayed by Christ when he washed the feet of his disciples in the night in. which he was betrayed.
Blessed is he, who knowing this, also doeth it.
Wherefore let it be clearly understood, says Paul, that not what we “say” concerning reality determines truth, but what God in Christ has constituted. That is the truth! Hence, it is very well possible for the foolish “foot”, to say: Since I am not the hand, another member, having another place in the body, I am not of the body. But such an assertion can very well be gainsaid with a simple question: Is it, therefore, not of the body? How absurd such foot would be. Just so foolish is all envy for the place of the other member in the church. And there is a great amount of such folly under the sun in God’s church. Who of us does not need to crucify also this sinful member, the workings of sin in his flesh?!
The same is true of the more noble member the ear. It does not have the same function as the eye. But the fact that it is not “eye” but “ear” does that make it true that it is not of the body? To ask this question is to answer it.
For did not God so constitute the body that it could not be “body” without having several members? Had God determined to save only one soul, then there would be no body. But now he hath determined to save many, many people. And each must have his divinely determined place in the body. And in the mind of God this is the manifestation of Christ, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.
Let us then stand on higher ground when we see the diversity in the unity in the body of Christ. Philosophers may ponder and spin their theories about the one and the many, it is natural light in them, glimmerings of the same, let it be well understood! But Christians, who have an eye of faith, for the mystery of godliness that is great in the church, they do not speak of this as a mere logical abstraction, but in concreto, see this one and many of the Trinity and of the offices of Christ in the very fabric of their spiritual existence!
Then there is no schism in the body. Each has a care for the other. Such is Christ in our life. That is what it means to say: and what I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God.
Then when one member suffers all suffer. And when one rejoices, all the members rejoicetogether (sunchairei).
Here we see something new sunder the sun. Yes, we see only a small beginning of the new obedience! Yet so (let it be noticed) that we do not only live according to some but according toall of God’s commandments.
Yes, spiritual gifts in the church.
For the profit of all. Then there will be no schism!