Would you turn in your bibles to 1 Corinthians Chapter 12?
Now with a title like today's title-- how to build a beautiful body-- it might sound like I'm advertising some new health spa. I assure you, I am not. We're talking about an entirely different subject. And if you know this section of scripture, you know exactly what we're going to talk about in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12.
Would you just pause with me for a word of prayer? Father, we often, in fact, almost always pray before a study like this. It's a time when we can just once again place our hearts before you and get them right so that we might get the maximum impact. Lord, we don't want any kind of distraction that would keep us from what you want to say, especially going on inside of us. And so, Lord, this is your time and we want to hear your voice. And we pray, Lord, that as we do we would respond appropriately as your people. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Now I think it's a universal fact, at least in this country, that most people don't like their own body. I think probably every one of us has some feature that we noticed growing up, and we notice it every time we look in the mirror. And we think-- if I could just change that one thing or two or three, but at least one.
In fact, a poll was conducted that asked people the simple question, if you could change one thing about your life, what would it be? And the answer, almost overwhelmingly, was my physical appearance-- my weight, my body type, my face, my age, my hair-- That's easy to do these days. But they wanted to change their physical appearance.
And this is the reason why the dieting industry is such a powerful, $40 billion per year industry because of that truth. This is the reason why ab machine ads dominate late night television. And why health club gym memberships still seem to be pretty strong even in a failing economy because we want to change that. Mark Twain once said, "The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not."
Now I think most Christians feel much the same way about their spiritual body, their church. I think every Christian would probably look at the church and their church and say, OK, it's all right, but it could use some improvement. And they would be right. The church can always use some improvement. The church is always growing. And today I want to show you how it can be improved.
Now all of this today centers around a phrase that is found three times in the writings of Paul. It's the phrase-- the body of. Christ. The body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1, that metaphor is employed that the church is like the body of Christ. It is one of Paul's favorite descriptions, and I would even say that is the Holy Spirit's description.
You see, when the Holy Spirit wanted to describe what a church is like, he didn't say it's an organization or an institution, but it's like a body. It's an organism. And we have to realize that that's what the church, that's what we're called to be-- a living, breathing, life-enjoying organism, far more than an organization.
A corpse is organized. I mean it's all there. Everything's together and nicely organized, but it's dead. It's lifeless. But a church is an organism. It grows and it moves and it changes. Now Chapter 12 is a Chapter that compares spiritual gifts-- better term, giftings-- spiritual enablings with the complexities of the human body.
Now my early college was spent studying the sciences, like integrated zoology and human anatomy and radium physics. And I got to look at the human body close up and discover David was right on when he said we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Boy are we.
The average human body has 100 trillion cells. There are more cells in your body than there are galaxies in the entire universe. And in every single cell, it's like a city in itself. In every cell is a nucleus. And every nucleus has that material DNA-- deoxyribonucleic acid, 46 segment's, 23 from mom, 23 from dad-- that program every single cell. How it is going to act from the moment of conception to demise. How you're going to age, what you're going to look like, how tall you're going to be, et cetera. All that is pre-programmed in.
And it's so intricate that if you were to translate that densely coded information from each cell, from a single cell, into written form it would fill a library with 4,000 books. 4,000 books. If you were to do a live reading of that information of one cell and you could read three letters per second, it would take you 31 years reading day and night. Nonstop. 31 years. That's just one cell. We are fearfully and wonderfully made-- this body of ours. But as wonderful as it is, it's also complex, and because it's complex, it can get messy. We can get sick. There can be diseases.
And that's exactly why Paul is writing this book. You see the church at Corinth was this beautiful expression of the body of Christ in Corinth, but over time it got diseased. It became an ugly body. It grew sick. It was torn by divisions. They tolerated immorality. They were lax in their discipline. They were taking each other to the secular law courts. And Paul writes this book to address those issues. And in Chapter 12, he tells this local body how to become beautiful once again. Four principles to make or build a beautiful body.
Now we're going to read a lot of texts this morning and I'm going to give you these four principles. I'm not going to belabor, by God's grace, any of them, but simply apply them. The first is to recognize variety. I think you've noticed if you look around that we're all a bit different. Our tastes are a bit different. Our capacities are a bit different. So watch this, Verse 4, there are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. There are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
Now those three Verses are what we call appositional statements. They're grammatically parallel statements. Basically saying the same truth with just a little bit of twist on them. Many gifts-- one source. But the way it's constructed it's if he's giving honor to the Trinity. Verse 4-- it's the Holy Spirit that is in view. In Verse 5, the son, the living Lord and Verse 6, God the Father. Paul wants us to know that the triune God is involved intricately in the body of Christ. One body-- many gifts.
Let's go on. Verse 7-- But the manifestation of the spirit is given to each one for the prophet of all. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
Now without entering into the argument to argue is He speaking about natural talents here or supernatural giftings? That's really not the argument in view at all and I don't want to enter into it. It's enough to say that these are divine enablements for us to do God's work on the earth, and specifically, in the church. They're divine enablings.
And the greater point here is that there's not one gift. There's not one style of ministry. There's not one method of getting things done. There's not one way that God works. And there's not one group that God works through to the exclusion of everyone else. Well I get the idea, as I read this, that God loves variety. He loves variety.
And I get that, not only from here, but I get that from looking around at the natural world. You look around your world and it's different. You go to different places. It all looks different. There's different kinds of terrain. There's ocean. There's mountains. There's desert. There's rain forests. There's tundra. And aren't we glad because if every place on earth looked exactly the same, where would you go on vacation? It'd be very boring, but God loves variety. And as I look around and I notice the variety of plants and animals-- scientists say there's over 10 million different species of plants and animals in our world. Only 2 million of them have been named and catalogued. God loves variety.
And when it comes to the church, God loves variety. There's a bunch of gifts listed. Some count nine. Others doing a fuller count of the New Testament listings will count 15. Others will say 19. Others will say 22 gifts of the Spirit. And it's funny how people will argue over that number. Again, I don't think that is the point. I think the point is this, you as a Christian have at least one of them, if not more. And there is an infinite number of possibilities with our different personalities and God's giftings for there to be a wonderful show of that variety.
Unfortunately, Christians have adopted a strategy that says save them and stick them in a mold. We'll get them saved. We'll see them come to Christ and then we'll put them in our mold. You must read this version of the Bible for you to be correct. You must like this kind of music to be holy. You must say words like this, instead of enjoying the variety.
There's a old story, a children's parable, that pictures the tools in Jesus carpentry shop having a meeting. And brother Hammer's the one presiding over the meeting. And before the meeting, the other tools think that brother Hammer should leave the meeting because he's too noisy. He's a hammer. And brother Hammer says, well, if you want me to leave then, brother Screw also has to leave because you've got to turn him around and around to get him to do anything.
Brother Screw objects and he says, OK listen, if you want me to leave, then brother plane also has to leave because everything he does is on the surface. He has no depth. Brother Plane says, OK, if I have to withdraw, then brother rule must also withdraw because he thinks he's the only one who's right. He measures everyone against himself. Brother rule says, OK, I'll leave, but if I have to leave brother sandpaper has to leave. He's so rough and he rubs people the wrong way. Well as they were arguing, in walks Jesus to build a pulpit from which to preach. And wouldn't you know it Jesus uses the hammer, and the screw, and the plane, and the rule, and the sandpaper. All of the tools that weren't getting along with each other-- the variety of the bunch to do his work.
I suppose the message behind that little parable is that God reserves the right to use people you don't get along with. And we might look at them and wonder how can God use that person. Answer-- because he's God and he likes it. He loves variety. There's no clones in the kingdom. There's variety in the kingdom, and he made each one unique now. Something else about Verse 4, 5, and 6-- not only are there different gifts, but there's different ways the gifts are exercised. That's sort of the thought behind those three Verses together.
This is what it means. You get two people and both of them have the same spiritual gift, but it comes out different. You can have two men that have a gift of teaching, both of them pastors, but I guarantee you if you give the same text of scripture to Chuck Swindoll and Raul Ries, you are going to have two completely different sermons. Both have the gift of teaching. Both exercise is very uniquely. Or evangelism-- There's a Billy Graham who can speak to stadiums. There's people who can do one on one evangelism. Again, variety.
When Jesus healed people when he walked the earth, how did he do it? Was it the same canned approach every time. Did he read healing book that says, place right hand on left shoulder, look eye to eye, and say these words. No. He didn't do that. In fact, it seems like he didn't do the same any time. Sometimes he'd lay hands on a person. They'd be healed. Other times he'd speak a word, and as he spoke a word from afar, they were healed. At other times the person would be leaving the scene, and it says as he left, he was healed. And then there was the time Jesus made a spitball out of mud and stuck it in a guy's eye. That's unconventional. That's different. Variety.
Don't fight variety. Enjoy it. God made you and he tossed away the mold. Each is unique. Each is unique. Recognize variety.
A second way to make the body of Christ beautiful is to emphasize unity. Now look at the next two versus as a unit-- Verse 12-- For as the body is one, and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free; and have all been made to drink into one spirit.
Now this truth gives balance to the first truth. Unity balances out variety. Can you see a problem? If we're over here celebrating and recognizing our variety and our uniqueness and our individuality, that can lead to anarchy because you've got a bunch of members of the church all doing their own thing without a cohesiveness about it. So variety to be balanced, needs unity. We've got to exercise our gifts, but we've got to do it together for the same purpose and the same goal. There has to be unity.
Now in the church, this is how it works. We have, just like a human body, in the church there's a head. And the head isn't the pastor. The head isn't a bishop or a pope or an elder. The head is who? Christ-- He's called the head of his body-- the church. So just like in a human body, the head is like control central . Everything comes from the brain and that nervous system, getting the message out to all the different parts-- so is the church. Jesus is the head, and he sends out the message and the impulse. And I see the Holy Spirit as the nervous system-- conveying the wishes of the head to all of the members so that they operate smoothly together, conveying that network.
Now your body, your human body, if it's healthy, is a great example of how unity works. It's marvelous. And this a very simple, in fact, very simplistic illustration. Stomach sends a message to the brain-- hunger, hunger, hunger, hunger. So the brain tells the legs, walk toward the barbecue. The legs do it. They walk toward the barbecue. Closer you get, your eyes now spot the meat, your nose smells the onions cooking into the meat, and the green chili next to that. And then the brain says to the hands, grab it, put bread on it, lettuce and stuff, and stuff it in your mouth. And you're satisfied. And life goes on happily.
So variety of gifts and unity of purpose brings prophet to all just like a human body. That's a point of Verse 7. Let's revisit that. But the manifestation of the spirit is given to each one for the prophet of all. Did you get that-- for the prophet of all?
The gift that God has given to you and the gift God has given to me isn't for individual gratification. Hey, I got a cool gift. Do you like it? It's for mutual edification for the prophet of all. Now for that to happen there must be communication. If members don't communicate to each other and there isn't that coordinated effort, it's going to be very jerky in movement and very spastic and not smooth and not coordinated. It'll be very destructive.
When my son was a toddler, he put his hand on the stove. I got the phone call. I was out of town. And my wife said you wouldn't believe what your son did. Electric stove-- red hot-- tea kettle about to go on. He is curious and he puts his little hand on top and pushes it on the electric stove top. And for a long time he bore that spiral mark on his hand.
Well luckily, he had a gift from God. It's called pain. Pain is a gift because as soon as he felt that and that little pain message hit his brain, he shouted to wake up the neighborhood. Pulled his hand off. And I am so glad because imagine if something inhibited the message getting from the hand to the brain that this is really hot and destructive.
That's what leprosy was all about. The person couldn't feel any longer. He couldn't feel the pain. He couldn't feel what was happening to his limbs. The message system was not working. There was no communication. And so there was eventual death.
I had a friend when I was growing up-- a good friend-- who got MS-- multiple sclerosis. And I watched him deteriorate. And I talked to some doctors about his condition, and the way they explained it to me is that there are hardened patches that form on the cortex of the brain and the cortex of the spinal cord. And so that the messages, the impulses, aren't making contact and that's why his movements were so jerky, and eventually he was completely paralyzed.
Well, unfortunately, that's what the world so often sees when it looks at the church. It didn't see this beautiful, wonderful, in-shape body, with smooth, coordinated efforts. So often it sees striving and fighting and a weakened church. And that's one of Satan's greatest desires. That plays right into his desires. One of his biggest traps is that he would get us to fight each other because now we're so distracted fighting each other that we're forgetting who the real enemy is. We don't worry about the devil in the flesh and, we fight each other. And now the heat's off of him. So as we recognize variety, but emphasize unity things smooth out.
Third, we're to maximize equality. Maximize equalities. Quality's It's not just one gift or one member that's more important. There is inequality. Look at Verse 14-- For in fact, , the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, "Because I'm not a hand, I'm not of the body, " is it therefore not of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I'm not an eye, I'm not of the body, " is it therefore not of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased? And if they were all one member, where the body be? But now indeed, there are many members, yet one body.
Now it seems judging from the general overall context, that the church at Corinth was emphasizing one gift over all the others, in particular, the gift of tongues. They thought tongues was it. That was the thing to have. That was the thing to exercise. And what that was doing is causing other people who didn't have that prominent, exaggerated gift to feel discontent, unequal, deprived and they stopped participating. They don't need me. I won't even get involved.
And so Paul, again, shows that the church is like a human body, every part is necessary. And because every part is necessary, all parts have a certain equality that they share. There are no vestigial organs in the body of Christ.
You know what a vestigial organ is? It's something that is thought to one time be useful, but now it's no longer useful. Did you know it was thought that your appendix was a vestigial organ-- a vestige of your evolutionary past. It's unnecessary now. But as time went on, the most recent idea is that your appendix is, indeed, not a vestigial organ, but a very, very important part of your immune system. That it serves as the gatekeeper between your ileum which is the sterile part of your alimentary canal, and your colon, which is the very bacteria-laden, unsterile part of your alimentary canal. It's the gatekeeper situated there as a part of that system. Well I should get off that subject. That's very unpleasant.
The point is in the church there's no such thing as a vestigial organ-- an unnecessary part. One of the reasons churches malfunction is they put certain people or gifts on a pedestal, leaving the rest of the people saying, well, I don't have that gift. I'm not that important. And the result is gift envy. Gift envy. You've got feet saying, I want to be hands. You got ears saying, boy, I wish I was an eyeball.
And I've seen people get motivated in the ministry because they watched the church elevate one particular gift. They think, that's what I want to do. That's what I want to be. And so they go get trained to be that, but God never called them, nor equipped them to do that. And that is the point that Paul is making.
Now what he does here is he compares a couple different parts of the human body. Two parts that are seen invisible, and thus, we think are important-- eyes and hands. And two that aren't seen as much. We don't give them much attention-- ears and feet. Your hands are visible. We see your hands. You wave with your hand. You shake hands. You embrace with your hands. If you're Italian, you talk with your hands. We see them a lot.
We don't see your feet as much. We keep them covered up, generally. We don't give as much attention to them as your hands. Same with the eyes versus the ears. One of the first things you notice about people are their eyes when you meet them. Because that's how we communicate, through our eyes. That's why it's always bad form when you meet somebody to not look in their eye, but to look down or look around. Look at them. You're communicating something about yourself. And we noticed them.
When I first met my sweet Lenya, I noticed her eyes. And I made a mental note-- those are beautiful, beautiful eyes. I don't remember noticing her ears. I never walked away going that chick has great lobes. Those are some cool ears. But I do remember her eyes. However, ears, as gnarly and ugly as they are, serve a purpose. They direct sound. That's why they're shaped that way. And feet have a purpose. They transport us. So you can't walk on your hands. You walk on your feet. You don't shake feet. You shake hands, but you need your feet to walk. The point is that all these parts are important.
Now look at Verse 17. I don't know if you've ever noticed the humor in scripture before, but I want you to picture this as I read it. You're allowed to laugh because Paul is indeed ludicrous in this. If the whole body were an eye. You picturing a six foot eyeball? Where would be the hearing? What good would a six foot eyeball be? If you can imagine that, especially, if it needed a contact lens. You couldn't talk to it because it can't hear. You can't go anywhere. It has to be carried. It's absolutely useless.
That's the point he is making. It's absolutely ludicrous. And here's the greater point, we do that, we make six foot eyeballs when we put people on pedestals and say, now you are so important, in fact, of greater importance in the body of Christ than everybody else. When we do that, when we elevate one gift over another gift, what essentially we are doing is setting up people to fall. And the higher you put the pedestal, the further they will fall. And they will fall.
And number two-- it creates inferiority among the people who don't have that gift or that calling. They go, well I'm not that gifted. I can't do that. I'm not that important, so I won't get involved.
Some of you will remember back in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. Do you remember that? You know what happened to Reagan? Not only did he survive, but he was put in a hospital for a few weeks. He was out of his Oval Office for a few weeks. He was in a hospital for weeks. The Chief Executive Officer of the United States of America wasn't there running the country. Did the country shut down? No, we seemed to go on quite well.
But what would happen if all of the garbage collectors-- the trash collectors of America-- went on strike? I'll tell you exactly what would happen. I read a report on this because it happened in one city back in the east. I think it was Philadelphia. They said within three weeks, the whole nation would reach crisis point and could potentially shut down. Which begs the question, so who's more important? The President of the United States of America or all the trash collectors in America? Answer-- all of them are important. All of them are important. Every one of those people from top down are vital to the operation of a country.
And that one of the points that Paul is making is that point. Just because you don't see someone or they're talked about a lot or they're not as visible doesn't mean they're unimportant. Unnoticed does not mean unimportant. Look at Verse 23. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty; but our presentable parts have no need. But God has composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it. That there should be no schism or division in the body, but that the members should have the same care or equal care for one another.
You can lose your eye and still live. You can lose your hand and still live. But if you lose your liver, you won't live. You lose your heart, you won't live. But how many times do you really think about your liver? Hey bro, how's your liver doing? You know, your spleen has been on my mind a lot this week.
Have you noticed when we carry pictures of ourselves or our family, we never carry x-rays? You never say, hey, let me show you my guts or my skeletal structure. Or check out my sella turcica, where my pituitary is. It's pretty cool. Huh? But that is like the center of it all. That's the center of your endocrine system, but we don't think about it. But it's so vital. Unseen, but so important.
And let me just say, when it comes to the church, it's exactly the same way. I have the privilege of standing up here on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and at other times, but I'm just a part. I'm a mouth. But there are so many people who are volunteers and prayer warriors. They form a heartbeat of the fellowship. Unseen, but so, so vital.
The fourth and final way to beautify the body, in this Chapter, is to minimize self-sufficiency. Let's look at that, Verse 21 and 22. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you, " nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you. " No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.
There's a whole different attitude, these Verses from the previous ones. In the previous set of Verses, it dealt with the attitude that said, well they don't need me. I'm not as gifted as they are. That gift is so important, and I don't have it. They don't need me. This is a different attitude. This is the attitude that says, I don't need them. I am self-sufficient. I've got all that it takes right here. Now that attitude stinks. It stinks in the secular world. It stinks in the workplace. You can have a secular environment. You have one self-sufficient, uncooperative, prideful person and everything messes up.
But it's far worse in the church. And sometimes people will say, church, I don't need the church. I don't need anyone. That is a big, fat lie. Of course you do. That's the whole point of this, but we're fighting something. We're actually fighting our culture. One of the hallmarks of American life has been this rugged individualism-- this pioneer. Don't need anybody. I'll go out there on my own. I'm the Lone Ranger-- remember that show? Lone ranger.
You can't be a Lone Ranger Christian. You can't be a self-sufficient Christian. That goes completely against the intention of the church. You see, the whole reason Jesus wanted to build His church is to have a new society. This is a new community. This is on display before the world. This is what I can do with a person, and another person, and a whole bunch of people who are redeemed. This is what they look like. That's what they look like. And when the world sees a smooth, considerate, loving, vibrant body, makes an impact. If they see a self-sufficient and biting and devouring group, it also makes an impact, but not for the gospel, but against it.
Well that's the message and those are the four principles, but there's something else. I was wondering as I was looking at 1 Corinthians 12 about how the early church dealt with problems before Paul came along. We've been studying the Book of Acts. And there comes a time when problems enter this beautiful church of Acts. And I wondered how did they fix the problem. You know what I discovered? By applying these four principles.
I want you to look, real quickly, at a few Verses in Acts, Chapter 6, as we bring this to a close this morning. Acts, Chapter 6 Verse 1: Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists or the Greeks, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, it's not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith in the Holy Spirit, and Phillip, Prochorus, Nicanor, and the rest-- by the way, all of them have Greek names because the Greeks were complaining.
Verse 6: whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem. Now here is a church, here is a body, that is losing its beauty and becoming ugly because of problems.
What do they do? Well first of all, they recognize variety. They recognize look, not all of us are apostles. They're some of us who are apostles. Will tend to this business. There are some who are called to that business. And so they recognize variety.
Number two, they emphasize unity. For they said, we shouldn't leave the word of God and serve tables, but you choose seven from among you. From among you-- there is the unity that they recognize and strove for in the body.
Number three, they maximized equality. Seven were chosen by the congregation, but the twelve also came along and bore witness with them and appointed them. And for they minimized self-sufficiency. It says, the saying pleased the whole multitude. You don't read of anybody in that group saying, I don't like the decision. I'm leaving. It pleased the whole multitude. They minimized any idea of self-sufficiency-- I don't need you. You don't need me. And there was a beautiful unity.
Now there was a woman-- a wife-- who invited some friends over to dinner. They came over to dinner. The two families were at the dinner table and this mother turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, sweetheart I want you to say the prayer, the blessing. And so the six-year-old looked up and said, I wouldn't know what to say mom. Mom said, sweetheart, just say what you hear mom say. Six-year-old closed her eyes, bowed her head, and said, dear Lord, why on earth did I invite these people to dinner? Amen.
You know what the truth is? Here's the truth. God has invited lots of people to his dinner-- lots of people to his dinner. And we wouldn't naturally come together or agree or have things in common, were it not for the fact that Jesus invited us all to his dinner. And now we have him in common, and that's what gels us together. We're invited to his supper, his dinner, and all of us have gifts. And if you've discovered your gift and you're employing that and using that, you're bettering all of us. But if you haven't discovered it and you're not using it, then you are hurting us and hurting the impact we could have in this community.
Jesus said, I stand at the door and knock and if anyone will open the door, I will come and sup with him, have dinner with him and he with me. The first step to be a part of this wonderful, grand design Jesus called his church is to receive the Savior as your own, to let him into your heart, to confess him as Lord and Savior. Let's pray. Our Father, we thank you. We thank you for this study. We thank you for this grand truth. One of the most important truths in all the pages of this Bible, that there is many gifts but one body and one Lord. Variety and unity all together. We're part of it. And pray for those who aren't yet a part of it. Today would be the day of surrender, in Jesus' name. Amen.