Written by Paul J Bucknell on November, 04, 2021
1 Corinthians 12:7 One Body, Many Members
Significant Biblical instruction and guidance for Christian small groups
Body Life - 1 Corinthians 12:4-12
“4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. 12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:4-14 NASB).
God has made a significant investment in the church, God’s people. He not only has sent His Son, Jesus, to die for them but to redeem and empower them to engage in His works. 1 Corinthians 12:7 gives us special insight into what has been called body life.
Although many churches seem to have no clue to 1 Corinthian 12’s truths, the Lord has revealed all the special tools we need to accomplish His mission through His Word.
I want to explain how these special functions of the church body point to the need for small or cell groups in the church. Many believers still think of the church in its large worship service format, essentially divorcing themselves from God’s privileged special interworkings. I would suggest the church initially begins with small groups; the larger cathedral aspect had only later developed, totally stripping relevance to these verses in 1 Corinthians 12.
When we speak of cell groups, it might sound like a secret weapon, but it is more like a lost weapon. The scriptures say clearly about what kind of fellowship we ought to be having with other Christians. We ought to be inter-connected. Any time we hear verses about loving one another and caring for one another, something deep down tells us this is what we need to do. Fellowship around the Lord should define us. The more we can identify and apply these principles, the better and stronger the church.
I will draw three principles from 1 Corinthians 12:7. Later we will see how cell groups are a natural place for these principles to be developed.
- Each member of Christ’s body is important.
The Scriptures states, “But to each one” (1 Cor 12:7). No one is excluded! Not male, not female. Not the busy, nor the sick. Not old, not young. We contribute differently, some more public while others are more private, but that does not mean God intends to exclude anyone from His tremendous work in the lives of His people, the genuine church of God. God’s purpose for sending Christ to heaven is so that we all could minister in the power of His Spirit.
One of the intimidating tactics of the enemy is to tell us that we are worth nothing and can do nothing. We tend to accept this accusation because we don’t clearly understand the gospel. The gospel indeed tells us that we are sinners and unworthy of grace. However, God cleanses us from our sin and works in each of us because we are an essential part of His kingdom. How many of you who have ten fingers are willing to give up one? How many who have a nice car are willing to give up an inexpensive item like the steering wheel or brake pedal? Each is important. We are not naturally special but supernaturally very significant. God has made a significant investment in each of our lives. And like any businessman, he does not want to waste His investment.
Positively, we need to take part because we are part of His body. You will need to prioritize a 2-3 hour period out of your weekly schedule to meet with others. You will become a created community. The others might not live near you, but they can travel and form a community. Without your commitment, you will have difficulty valuing each person and his God-given gifts.
2. The Holy Spirit’s Activity through Us
- Each has the manifestation of the Spirit
The scriptures state, “Each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Paul speaks of every genuine Christian. If you do not have the Spirit of God, then you are not His. Each Christian is saved and shaped by the work of the Spirit of God in his life.
While this is simple on a theological level, it gets a bit more complicated when applying it to our lives. What if we don’t see the Spirit of God working? Am I still a Christian? How are we expected to see the Spirit of God manifested?
Paul answers these questions in part in the following verses by listing numerous spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is given to each Christian to accomplish God’s work by the power of God’s Spirit. It is totally up to the Lord who gets what and why.
Beyond these gifts are a host of other qualities, experiences, and insights that different individuals possess.
- How many different facets of ministry are mentioned?
- Which is operating in your church?
Can these spiritual gifts operate in personal worship? Not perfectly. They are for building up others. Will they work in large corporate worship? Not easily. We might get a few out front who have particular gifts; this is good and needed, but are we not forgetting the first truth?
All of us have these variety of gifts. We need to meet in smaller groups where we allow the Spirit of God to work through all of our lives to benefit others.
God desires to use us in new ways, perhaps unfamiliar to ourselves. It is not that He hasn’t so equipped us, but we haven’t entered into this special small group situation.
We need to learn how the Spirit of God wants to work through each of us. Each cell group will have a leader and an assistant leader, but, in fact, we all will be ministering to each other. It is fascinating to discover how he has equipped us to serve one another, bringing glory to God.
3. The Christian’s Obligation toward Others
- Each should serve for the common good.
Paul clearly states the purpose for which we are designed, “given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). We are gifted, created and blessed for the sake of other people. Sin is rotted in self-orientation, resulting in the product of the ‘self-care’ gospel. Our generation says that God has negated sin and made us neutral, but that is not the plan.
God’s plan is to have us do His works. When we take a look at Christ’s love exercised toward others, we see that He took of the anointing of the Spirit of God and ministered to others. Jesus gave what God gave to Him.
We, also, are to replicate what Jesus has done. We are not to worry about having the needed gifts, wisdom, or resources to meet the needs of others. By discovering that one person does not have all the gifts like Christ, we better appreciate the whole and find what we need. This is why we are called the body of Christ. We do Christlike functions by His Spirit. Our faith is in His ability to heal and strengthen those needing help.
If we get proud, show off, become competitive, then we will fail. We need to work alongside each person, valuing them rather than opposing them or carrying an attitude of “I can handle it.”
Be committed to loving. We must go beyond our selfish and narrow desires to be fed. We want the Spirit of God to communicate His purpose and power to us so that we can give to others. The Spirit of God equips you so that you can serve. We reach beyond our own needs and families. Jesus summarized this by the broad overshadowing statement, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
When we rightly understand what it means that God is in our midst, we can see that true worship calls us to focus on the needs of others. True worship occurs when I live my life open to God’s love so that His love has ministered through my life, again stating that He is the head, and we are the body. The head thinks and decides, but the body carries out the functions.
If we do things that are not according to His will, then His work is frustrating. I wonder if you can think of things He wanted to do through you, but you neglected to do them?
Implications of 1 Corinthians 12
Because we have not regularly gathered together for the particular purpose of letting the Spirit of God work through us for the benefit of others, we have not experienced koinonia fellowship. Bible studies help share some of these aspects, but we must go beyond just intellectual knowledge—we need actually to minister to each other.
When the church develops cell groups as a congregation, these truths function like central arteries. Each needs to be part of His great work.
We understand that at first, there might be some artificial barriers to break or need to clear out a host of questions:
- I might not know another person in the group. How can I share with them? You will learn because you care. Friendship is not instant, but it is genuine. Remember, you are, after all, brothers and sisters.
- I might not know how. Not know how to love? Yes, this is possible. Many of us grew up in families where we were served and did not serve. There may be many practical aspects of love that we have to learn. Let us learn together. I believe the Spirit of God is ever willing to help us.
- I am scared to share about my real life; I’m rather sensitive, but this is true with most of us. We all move gingerly along in relationships. For example, if you were not encouraged to talk and share in your family, you probably have difficulty sharing with God and others; or even being honest with yourself. But this is the time to grow. If we have areas of deficiency, we do not want to be buried with them. We don’t want our children to inherit them. We want to be known as Jesus’ friends.
- I am not perfect. Good that you can admit it. None of us are! The problem is with those who don’t admit it. One cannot grow easily until we learn of areas where we accept that we need to grow in. The whole area of forgiveness and forbearance enters here in our weaknesses.
- I am afraid you are making cell groups a legalistic thing. It could become like a Sunday worship service. Your concern is good, but you could also say this of any good thing. In the end, it is only a structure to serve us. It serves us, not us, it. Our willingness to use them is because of a few factors already alluded to: God wants us intimately acquainted and related to other certain Christians. We need to meet together regularly to develop this kind of artificial neighborhood. Real relationships will grow.
Thoughts on Revival
I believe down deep in my heart that a world revival will once again spread throughout the world. I sense with each former great revival wave, God’s people again apprehended certain truths. We are not speaking of new truths, but truths revived in our hearts. We have been blocked out from seeing the great work of God because of a closed mind. It is just like discovering electricity. It is complicated, but we can easily use it. Why did it take the human race thousands of years to discover and tap into its resources? We needed a change of perspective.
In this case, we need to recover a truth. The next revival might be centered on every Christian being a full member of the body; each is a priest. When each Christian becomes aware that he is a fully-enabled fighting unit for God’s glorious kingdom, the whole church will come alive. She will put away her fascination with toys for the real stuff. She will no longer be complacent with a 26-inch viewing area but want to step into the heavenlies. When we can see that our prayers make a difference in other people’s lives, then we will stand as unashamed God’s warriors. While still hearing about stories on David, Daniel, and Joseph, we will begin hearing testimonies of God’s work in people like you and me.