1 Corinthians 12:12 – 26
State of the church in this present age... One study shows that only half the people who attend a “conservative/Bible believing” church have a “saving relationship” with Jesus [Barna]. Another study shows that between 15% and .3% of those who choose to follow Jesus join the church in the first year [Schwarz].
How is it that we can attract people to church but not Jesus? How is it we can attract people to Jesus but not the church? Why has this become a two-step process?
One possible explanation has been the loss of form and function of the body of Christ in our culture. In the “West” we are so individually oriented, we seldom see the need to associate with a group unless we feel passionate about those in the group or the group’s common interest. We also have the tendency to be competitive to the point where we damage each other instead of working together. We tend to resist any form of “connectionalism” thinking it leads to a loss of identity, independence, and personal entitlement. (Absolute values in American society.)
The Bible describes the church as an interdependent collection of diverse people. It is “the body of Christ.”
Many years ago a scientist noted that the human body had enough lime to white wash a good size chicken coop, enough salt to fill a small shaker, and enough iron to make a small nail. The value of the individual parts of the body is very low in comparison to the value of the individual.
I. What are the principles of the body of Christ?
A. The body is UNITED under King Jesus.
1. Jesus is the “head.”
“And He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.” [Colossians 1:18]
2. The body depends on diversity.
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” [v 12]
“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” [v 14]
3. The body exists for a purpose.
“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” [Ephesians 4:16]
B. The body is DESIGNED by God.
“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.” [v 18]
1. Each part of the body is dependent on the other.
“If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” [vv 15 – 16]
“The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!” [v 21]
a. No part can live separate from the body. (We would call this “amputation.”)
b. Notice, even Jesus (the head) places Himself in dependence to us.
2. Different types are needed to make a body.
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” [v 17]
“If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” [v 19]
C. The body is DEPENDENT on its weakest part.
1. The “weak” are indispensable! (“absolutely necessary” – Oxford.)
“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” [v 22]
2. The necessity of caring for others forces us from our general apathy.
“So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” [v 25]
a. There is no room for self-depreciation [v 15]
b. There is no room for depreciating others [v 21]
II. How do we deal with our society’s training?
A. Our tendencies:
1. Identity is based on the individual:
a. We see ourselves through our family, job, etc...
b. Even group connections are is for the individual, not for the cause.
[“Conviction” v “Preference” – Conviction is what you will go to jail for and die for. Knowing for absolute certain you are right. It is who you are. Preference is what you like and want. You will fight for it but not die for it.]
2. Need is considered self-inflicted.
3. Care for others is optional.
B. Our realities:
1. If our identities are not based on Jesus, then we are not “saved.”
“You are not your own;  you were bought at a price.” [1 Corinthians 6:19b – 20a]
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Galatians 2:20]
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” [Galatians 6:14]
2. Compassion is an essential component.
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” [Matthew 10:42]
“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” [Matthew 9:26]
“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” [Colossians 3:12]
III. The body at work
A. Mutual relationships!
1. American Revolution: “Hang separately or hang together.”
[On July 4 1776, delegates from 13 American colonies approved the Declaration of Independence in Independence Hall. John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, warned the delegates, "There must be no pulling different ways: we must all hang together."
Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia's legendary wit, is said to have added, "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately."]
a. Do you really want to be alone?
b. Loneliness is a major driving force in a world becoming more disconnected.
2. TV show Cheers: “Wouldn’t you like to go where everyone knows your name?”
a. It’s more about your name, its about sharing in your life.
b. It’s about having someone being there for you, and you being there for someone.
3. “T.E.A.M.” – Together Everyone Achieves More.
B. Shared suffering and honor.
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” [1 Corinthians 12:26]
(Ill.) The floor of the parsonage is a truss system, not individual 2x12. First thought it looked weak, talked to the person who built them. At first he was skeptical but the designer demonstrated the strength difference between the two floors. The difference is remarkable between one piece and many pieces carrying the load!
So it is with our lives and our church...