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Home Sermons “Maturity is valuing your body – all of it!” 1 Cor 12:11-30 - Text

“Maturity is valuing your body – all of it!” 1 Cor 12:11-30 - Text

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“Maturity is valuing your body – all of it!”      1 Corinthians 12:11-30   




David Calderwood


Body image is a really big thing in our society. Television, billboards, magazines all promise that we can have the body we have always wanted, the body we really deserve.


With the sculpted body only the gym or certain fitness equipment can produce, the right meal plan, the right personal hygiene products, clothes, hair products, and accessories, we can have the cool, sexy, sophisticated, or family image we want.    


Body image is so important - collectively we spend billions of dollars chasing it each year.


And body image should be hugely important to every Christian here this morning, but I suspect this is not the case, at least not in the way that Paul suggests in these verses. 


So, let me make a general observation to encourage you to think deeply about what the Lord would have us identify and learn from this passage of his word.


1 Corinthians 12:12-30 contain the most extensive and detailed use of the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ in the New Testament. The question is - Why?


Thinking corporately was the antidote to division. Look at verses 20, 25, and 27. The emphasis fits perfectly with the key verse of the whole letter – chapter 1:10. The picture of one integrated body fits perfectly with the idea of being knitted together in deep unity.


The believers at Corinth were seriously divided in their thinking about how the enabling and empowering work of the Holy Spirit within them reflected spiritual maturity.


Some thought that the person with the most “showy gifts” was more mature spiritually, and also superior to other Christians. Paul states that maturity is seen as they use whatever ability and enabling they had been given by the Spirit for the good of the whole body.


Paul states that true spiritual maturity will only be seen in healthy Christian community, which is the church as a body or unit.


True spiritual maturity will never be individualistic or self-promoting. It will always be obsessed with healthy community or body image.


So, let’s get into the text with this controlling thought in mind, and consider


1. Forming initial body image:– This properly begins in our head.

(12-13 & 1-11)


Right thinking results in right actions. And the metaphor or picture of the body, beginning verse 12, flows directly from the argument of verses 3-11, which of itself is a restatement of the opening paragraph of his letter, 1:1-10.

Follow as I recap quickly. Verse 3. By definition, to be a Christian is to be spiritual because every believer has the renewing, defining, transforming presence of God’s Holy Spirit within them. As a church family they had deep spiritual unity in Christ.


Verses 4-7.  But unity will never mean sameness. Wherever God’s Spirit is, there will be a wide range of evidence of his enabling and empowering – a great variety grace-based, service-based and general spirit-driven skills, abilities and activities. Many of these will be natural abilities newly enhanced, developed and re-deployed with totally new motivation.


Verses 7-10. Paul’s point is that they could not rate spiritual maturity according to particular abilities or giftedness – why? – because every believer has a range of spirit enabled abilities.


So, the measure of spiritual maturity is not in having a particular skill or ability, but whether you use it for the common good of Christ’s body, the church, and for the glory of God.


Verse 12 is an easy step forward – A great picture to establish his point – it is really helpful to grasp how this all works in the body of Christ by thinking about your own physical body.


Your body has 206 bones, not to mention organs, muscles and cells. But it doesn’t matter how many parts you can name and how many functions you identify, you are still one body.


That’s exactly what it is like in Christ. Because of our deep unity through the Spirit, we are one integrated whole, even while we enjoy a huge diversity of abilities and skills enabled and empowered by the Spirit’s transforming work within each of us.


Verse 13, Paul emphasises deep unity once again – he’s really hammering the point isn’t he!


Historically there has been lots of argument about what this verse means, but I think the context makes clear Paul’s point – Once again he is emphasising the oneness of the Christians at Corinth: At conversion it was the same Spirit which renewed them and flooded their hearts with his defining, transforming, enabling, empowering presence.


The old categories of measuring people – race, social, economic or political divisions became obsolete because all believers are defined by the defining presence of God’s Spirit.


Friends, pause for a moment and hear this next sentence carefully as the basis for moving into the rest of the text.


In God’s community there is no single complete or perfect personality. Rather we are complete personalities in Christ, which is always expressed through being the integrated community we call the local church – in our case GECN. 


This cuts across our determined individualism, but it is a direct implication of this picture. If you think of this church family simply as a group you are involved with on your own terms, for a few hours a week, you have not understood what it means to be in Christ.


To be in Christ, to be a Christian means to be obsessed with body image. We have an inseparable connection to other believers in this church family, and it is only in community that you can be spiritually mature as Christ intends you to be.


Okay, let’s step forward with Paul as he addresses challenges in the Corinthian church, in


2. Protecting our body image:- beware of destructive thinking (14-26).


Wrong body image - too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too freckly, too plain, etc. - is destructive, and sometimes deadly. Paul identifies wrong body image.


Feeling of little or no value in, or to the body (14-16). This is so familiar to us, isn’t it? It is the person who feels disconnected from the body. It is the person who says, “Because I’m don’t have this particular ability or gifting, then I am not important or not valued”.


It is the person whose actions convey they are just attenders not contributors.


This is so wrong! Feeling, saying, and acting as though you are not part of this body is totally inconsistent with what you are in Christ – deeply united to other believers in this church family. The problem is the starting point in your thinking.


The proper starting point ought to be, verses 3-7, the realisation you have a range of abilities and skills, given you and enabled in you by the Spirit, which are of equal value to the overall health and wellbeing of this church family.

So, instead of lamenting what you don’t have, allowing dissatisfaction to lead to disconnect with the church family, get on with identifying where you can use the abilities and skills you do have. Look for gaps in the ministry base in our church family and say – I can do that!


Wishing to have the abilities and skills of another believer (17-20).


This develops when feeling of little or no value develops into deep-seated jealousy and erodes any sense of deep unity in church families. But the process is understandable, even though very sad.


So often in church families like ours we create an ‘inner ring or circle syndrome which gives undue prominence and value to a few high profile abilities and skills. These are paraded as the real backbone of the church, and the real hope for future growth and maturing.


Inadvertently or consciously we can convey that everyone else is just along for the ride, or even worse, everyone else is just valuable as the means to fund the ideas and ambitions of the valued individuals, all too often leaders or elders.


The resulting sense of threat and exclusion easily turns to jealousy and competitiveness to be in the valued circle by having the valued abilities and skills.


But again, this is so wrong! It is totally inconsistent with what God is doing among his people people, verse 18-20, and ultimately denies the whole concept of a complex, integrated body.


We are very wrong to move towards a narrow uniformity when God has put in place a diverse, complex harmony. Yet inadvertently we continue to do this as evangelicals – making teaching, evangelism, and up-front personality types THE abilities to value and desire.


Our charismatic brethren do the same with their insistence on miraculous gifts, resulting in people trying to manufacture these gifts to be accepted, OR on the other hand concluding they are second-rate, and perhaps not even converted if they do not have them.


Thinking that your ability makes you superior to others (21-26).


This wrong body image is at the opposite extreme,  but just as dangerous to the wellbeing of the body because it hides an arrogant dismissive attitude towards others.


Some in Corinth, having decided which abilities and skills are valuable and desirable, arrogantly dismissed others who did not have these abilities as ‘lesser’ Christians. Even worse they failed to recognise that those dismissed had different spirit-energised abilities.


Could anything be more hurtful, but it is so common in churches. But are we guilty too? 


Again such body image is so wrong!  They are using totally wrong categories – valuable versus not valuable; needed versus not needed; desirable versus not desirable. Paul introduces gospel-based categories reflecting who they are in Christ.


Verse 24 – the word is combined, an integrated, structured whole. The question to ask is not – “Am I a finger or an eye?” But will I be content and determined to use my abilities and skills whether they are specific grace-gifts, general service skills, or some other spirit-energised activity I can contribute to the life of this church family?


Verse 25 – No division! Rather equal concern, respect and valuing of one another – Put positively the desire for my skills and abilities to produce unity and build one another up. Recognising that the less showy, less public ministries are every bit as important to the life of the body as the public profile ministries are.


Verse 26 – what one commentator calls empathetic harmony. If I get an infection in my foot, my whole body makes adjustments to fight the infection and produce healing. Likewise in our church family, when one is wounded or out of whack, then empathetic harmony means we all feel the pain and all combine to be part of the healing.


Friends, because we have not understood properly verses 3-11, with the focus on verses 3-7, we have not understood properly the metaphor of the body.


We have reduced Paul’s teaching to a very narrow, institutionalised view of gifts. The focus has become – either the inferiority based question of “Am I a finger, or toe, or eye?”, or the superiority based statement, “I am the eye or the right hand, or the tongue.”


Both promote division because the starting point of one is what you are not – a sense of not having the abilities that are thought to be desirable or valuable, and the starting point of the other is thinking that I am more valuable than others because I have this skill or ability.


The truth is that every ability is God-given and Spirit energised for the good of the body. And so Paul’s final point in this section is to move from warnings to the positive of;


3. Displaying healthy body image:- harmony not self-promotion (27-30)


Verse 27 -“You” is the congregation. Every believer should think of the body, recognise their importance in it, and get on with contributing what the Spirit has given you to contribute without complaining of lack of ability, or envying or dismissing a brother or sister.


Verse 28-30 - Unity will never mean sameness, and will always mean diversity of gifts and abilities. That is the beauty of being in Christ, and it was clearly evident in the church at Corinth.  So don’t be threatened by what somebody else can do, and don’t withdraw from contributing because there are abilities you do not have.


Verse 31 – Most translations render this verse as a challenge as does the NIV. That is, chase after gifts that build up the congregation rather than make a show and promote self.


But there is an alternative reading which also works with Paul expressing his absolute surprise – Given all this about who we are in Christ and what it is to be spiritually mature, how come some of you are still chasing after the so-called important or showy gifts and abilities?


And that is the question I leave with you – Given the deep unity we have in Christ, are you still chasing after a particular ability or ministry in this church because that is what you think reflects spiritual maturity, or because you think it is what will make you valued, or because you see it as desirable to create the public profile you want to have in our church family?



Last Updated on Sunday, 22 March 2015 19:08  

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