1 Corinthians 12 = The Body of Christ
Bible Background: Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth have lovely words and harsh words. The Christians there were gifted and challenged at the same time: divided when they could have been united; cocky when they could have been humble; selfish when they could have been generous. 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 are important as Paul writes about spiritual gifts, the ‘greatest gift (love!), and the interconnectedness of the body of Christ!
Digging Deeper: 1. The great late theologian Karl Barth noted that “There is no New Testament letter written apart from problems in the early church!” One of the problems among the Corinthians is that some thought they were better Christians than others. Some thought they had more important spiritual gifts-like the gift of speaking in tongues. Paul is trying to level the playing field and straighten them out!
2. Paul does this by noting that “all have gifts”, and, that “those gifts are for the good of all!” He insists that all gifts come from the same Spirit and are used to serve the same Lord. Paul then uses the illustration of the human body. It’s made up of many parts. All the parts are different. All the parts need each other. Some parts of the body seem more important. Some seem less so, but all are needed!
3. Then Paul reminds that group of Christians “You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” They are to care for one another, to suffer with those who suffer, and to rejoice with those who are honored. As Paul describes some of the various ‘parts’ of the church (i.e. apostles, prophets, teachers, leaders, healers) he also points out that nobody has all the gifts. Together, the body of Christ has all the gifts needed for serving and glorifying God. But by ourselves, we don’t.
4. Someone has said, tongue-in-cheek, that “I feel like a nose hair on the body of Christ!” That’s like: “I don’t feel I have any gifts that stand out. I’m not sure what my place is. I’m not sure what I can do.” This is where the rest of us help each other identify and use their gifts. That’s especially important when we’re nurturing young people who may feel like “I’m too young” to do important work for Christ or the Church. And it’s important when we meet seniors who feel like “I’m old, and there’s so little I can do anymore.”
5. One thing to try is a Spiritual Gifts Inventory which can help show some of the ways God’s Spirit, working in you, has equipped you. Here’s one. https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Faith-Practices/Spiritual-Renewal/Assessment-Tools