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Every Christian has a personal responsibility to grow and mature in the faith. An important element of spiritual growth has to do with how we conduct ourselves within the church, that is, the body of Christ. The Bible describes the church as a body, His body (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, we have been baptized into that body. This is how we become members of the church (Acts 2:47).
In his letter to the brethren in Corinth, Paul uses the analogy of the human body for explaining how unity provides healthy functionality (12:12-31). This concept is not difficult for us to to understand. For example, we recognize that sophisticated machines function properly when all the parts work together, meaning, all of its components function in the way in which they were designed. If a part fails to do its job, then the machine breaks down, which can cause severe damage and stop it from working altogether. Our bodies function in the same way. Every part has its purpose, contributing to the overall performance. This is what Paul is emphasizing.
Satan, on the other hand, wants to see the church fail. Because of this, division is a constant danger lurking among the membership. Disunity and conflict threaten the survival of the church and it can appear from many sources, such as the abuse of power, erroneous doctrine, or improper conduct. A glaring example of this is seen in the divisive nature of the church of Christ in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). This is why Paul was using the analogy of the human body in chapter 12! Learning how to function properly within the church requires one to have an attitude that constantly strives for unity.
To help us better understand the importance of unity, read Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and consider the specific details Paul accentuates. You should be able to deduce that the body does not exist only to serve the eyes, for example. But when the eye is hurt, different parts of the body will help it so that it may become useful again. We understand the hand does not take from the body for its own use nor does any one member demand something from the body for its own benefit. Yet sadly, there are brethren in the church who do not understand this concept. Their perception of the church is to get all they can from the body, or that the body exists only to serve them. All they do is take away from the church; they never give of themselves (2 Corinthians 8:5). It is truly sad that some members of the Lord’s church behave as if they are the only reason the body exists. What a shame!
There are three main points Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 12 that we should learn from the passage. First, there is only one body, not many. Second, the body consists of many members and each member has a special role in the body. Third, God united the human body, and He also united the church. With that in mind, what connection does this passage have to Ephesians 4:1-6?
As Paul described so very well, each part of the body must do its own work to supplement the body, not strip from it! Just as the human body provides life to all its parts, so does the body of Christ. The disciple must submit himself to the authority of Christ and serve Him because of his love for Jesus. Therefore, we must never approach the Lord’s body with the purpose to obtain selfish gain. Instead, we should approach His body with a desire to give of ourselves. By doing so, we will receive the greater reward. As Jesus said to the rich young man: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). He did not say: “Take what you want and do what you want”. Our Lord also prayed for unity among the disciples and that there would be no division among them (John 17:21). Let us all pray and strive for unity!