We might say that one of the big ideas in 1 Corinthians is that our disunity as Christians can and should be healed by our union with Christ. The church at Corinth was marked by disunity and division. Division caused by a fleshly desire to maintain status and power through spirituality and knowledge. They were a divided church living in a culture of division. Men over women. Free over slave. Jew over Gentile. Rich over poor. Those with “knowledge” over those without. And those with cool spiritual gifts over those with “less cool” spiritual gifts.
But our union with Christ unites us to each other. It levels us all out. It equalizes us. It places us into a body (the church) that all works together to become Christ’s body here on earth. And so now, after spending 11 chapters addressing specific problems in Corinth, Paul will spend the next chapters teaching them once again of the glorious mysteries of their union with Christ as the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12 still begins by addressing a specific question from the Corinthians about spiritual gifts, but it quickly becomes our master class on union with Christ lived out as the Body of Christ in love for one another. Paul is showing us how to truly discern the body (11:29):
1 Corinthians 12:4-7. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:11. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12: 18-20. But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
1 Corinthians 12:24-26. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
1 Corinthians 12: 27. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
1 Corinthians 12:31. But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
The glorious reality of our union with Christ, is that each of us has all of Christ and at the same time, each of us is part of Christ. The life of Christ manifests itself in each of us undivided, but also in the church as a whole. Therefore, Christian, you cannot separate yourself from the church. Would you separate Christ’s finger from his hand? Would you separate his leg from his body? Would you cut off his ear? Of course not! What pain and agony that would cause our Savior. So why would we think that we, his arms, legs, ears, fingers, toes, and eyes could separate ourselves from the Body without that same pain and agony?
“To live is Christ” means that we live as part of Christ’s body. A body arranged by God for God’s glory in the world today. A body with many different members (limbs and organs) that suffer and rejoice together. A body with great gifts, freely given by grace for the building up of the church. What a glorious reality! What a life changing truth.
How important is it to you to live out your Christianity through the Body of Christ (the church)? How does your union with Christ change how you see your relationship to the church? How can knowing that Christ is in you and you are part of Christ change how you see the purpose of your life?