1 Corinthians 12:12‚Äč-27

Growing in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Intro: In ancient times the illustration of the human body being made up of many parts to form one whole person was used to control the masses. This figure was chosen to remind the subordinate classes to stay in their places in the social order. They were not to upset the natural equilibrium of the body by rebelling against their superiors. The lesser members of society must continue to serve the greater members. In today’s text, the Apostle Paul selected that same illustration of the human body and put an unexpected spin on it. He used it for the opposite reason. Instead of keeping the underlings in their proper lanes, he argued that the body example raised them up to the same importance as the presumably more powerful group of people. The need for diversity within the body and the ways the different parts depended on each other to function properly was the whole point! There were no unimportant members.

1 Cor 12:12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

Have you ever considered how many different parts make up your body? Yet add them all up and you get exactly one “you.”

In an eye-catching twist, we expect to read, “so also is Christ’s church”; instead, what we get is, “so also is Christ.”

The point is surprising and clear: Jesus and His body shall not be sharply distinguished. They are inseparable.

Matt 25:40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Acts 9:4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Acts 9:5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”


1 Cor 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

The church is not merely a human organization arising from the thoughts of men. Rather, it is brought into being by the activity of the Spirit of God which binds believers into a living union with the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.

Elsewhere in Paul’s letters he calls this being baptized “into Christ” (Gal 3:27) and being baptized “into His death” (Rom 6:3).

The point is that the entire believing community has been immersed in the Spirit’s power!

The passive verb suggests that Jesus Christ is the baptizer, and the Spirit is the person in which we are plunged at baptism. This is consistent with the 5 times in the Gospels where John the Baptist declares that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

The result of that immersion in the Spirit is that all believers have been made one.

They came from polarizing backgrounds that would ordinarily cancel out any possibility of fellowship. But now Jews/Greeks, slaves/free have been made to drink from the same Spirit. Therefore, the old markers of identity must no longer divide them.

Religious and ethnic backgrounds are of no consequence for those who are coming into the body of Christ. Neither is social status.

The only prerequisite is a genuine faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

It is likely that Gal 3:28 became a traditional baptism formula/confession in the infant churches started by Paul.

From the moment of being included in the fellowship, the new converts learned that every believer had a brand-new identity in Christ. Ethnic and social barriers were broken. There was no room for partiality in Christ’s body.

In the same way we were dunked in water at our physical baptism, we have been immersed into the essence of God’s Spirit. We have been plunged into a new life overwhelmed by the Spirit of God. We have all drunk living water from the same well.

John 7:37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
John 7:38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
John 7:39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

All Christians have been given of the one Spirit to drink. The Spirit of God has entered our innermost beings. The verb is sometimes used for irrigation from which comes the idea of lots of water provided!

Goodspeed translates, “We have all been SATURATED with one Spirit.”


1 Cor 12:14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.

Diversity is no accidental attribute of the body. It is its very essence. No one member is to be equated with the body of Christ. It takes many members/parts to make up one body.

Therefore, individual members cannot opt out.

The conflicts in the Corinthian church seem to have depressed some of the less gifted or not as remarkable members of the church.

They wondered if they were truly welcomed or needed in such an extraordinary group of believers with such spectacular gifts.

Paul, therefore, gives direct encouragement to the lowly among them. He imagines ridiculous scenarios in which various parts of the human body seek to secede from the body itself.

1 Cor 12:15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?
1 Cor 12:16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?

In this illustration, the foot may very well be depressed because it cannot perform the complicated functions of a hand and may see its own function as an insignificant one – always in the dust and bearing the weight of the whole body.

But that does not disqualify it from the body. As with foot and hand, so with ear and eye.

Even if some members of the body feel that they are inferior and therefore inconsequential and unnecessary, they are still vital members of the body.

Some in the body may feel as if their gifts are so pitiful and small that they can be dispensed with. Because she is never in the limelight she becomes discouraged over her seemingly lowly estate in the church.

She may even grumble and allow herself to become discontent and jealous of those who have more conspicuous gifts.

However, every member of the body is needed for the body to function properly. Verse 15 declares that no amount of complaining can remove such a member from the body. Every member is important no matter how hidden from view.

The body is crippled when one member is not functioning. It can be a peak efficiency only when every single part is active.

Chrysostom insightfully points out that the foot contrasts itself not with the eye, but with the hand. We are prone to envy those who surpass us a little, rather than those who are clearly in a different class.

If the teacher says, “Because I am not a prophet, I am not a part of the body,” is he no longer a part of the body?

If the helper says, “Because I am not an encourager, I am not a part of the body,” is she no longer a part of the body?

1 Cor 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?

No organism can survive where only one member is involved, no matter how prominent that member.

There is not a single body part that can be held up as the representative member that makes us human. There is no comprehensive part that can substitute for the whole.

illus: Whose name is usually on the church’s sign? It’s as if we have programmed the culture that we would prefer the whole body to be an eye (teacher)…GCCOB: Trevor, pastor; Don, administration; Stacey, encourager; Leah, giver; AJ, prophet; Craig, helper…

If the body were only a single part, it would be both unattractive and helpless.

No member of the body can perform the function of another. The ear cannot see, but then the eye cannot hear either. Both functions are necessary for a body to function normally. (A right foot cannot be a left foot!)

No member of the body should ever think that he or she is worthless or unimportant. Each individual part has its own distinctive purpose in the functioning of the whole thing.

If the whole church was made up only of encouragers, where would the teaching come from? If the whole church was made up of prophets, where would the giving come from? If the whole church was made up of evangelists, where would the administration come from? If the whole church was made up of the merciful, where would the leaders be?

1 Cor 12:18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.

The whole discussion rises to the highest level here. The members are not in the body randomly or haphazardly; GOD HAS PUT THEM THERE!

It is not only a matter of God arranging the various parts in the body in their proper places; He created them to function in their special ways. This verse gives unparalleled dignity to every member of the church, no matter the amount of recognition received.

“Each of them” – suggests that God’s care does not only extend to the more important or more spectacular members.

His creativity and His oversight extend to every member of the body without distinction. He made them all “just as He pleased.”

It takes all kinds of parts to make up a body. To think otherwise is to criticize God.


1 Cor 12:19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?

This rhetorical question shows how inappropriate it was for the Corinthian believers to revere those who possessed the more impressive gifts over those who ministered behind-the-scenes.

No matter how important any one member may be, there can be no body formed from that one member alone.

That would be a grotesque monster, not a gloriously intricate body.

1 Cor 12:20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
1 Cor 12:21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

Paul now turns from those humbler members, who thought their lack of spectacular gifting might disqualify them from membership of the church, to those who possessed the greater gifts, who were evidently looking down on their less gifted brothers.

In their lofty eminence they thought that they could manage well enough without the unimportant contributions of lowly people.

But the eye cannot do without the hand, nor the head without the feet.

The apparently “higher members” (eyes, ears, head) cannot scorn the hands and feet, because without hands and feet, they would have no power to act.

Those members of the church who think they are superior, as if they do not need the members who are less impressive or less gifted, are seriously mistaken.

There is simply no room for maligning or belittling any member of the church.

The prophets cannot say to the encouragers, “I don’t need you.” The teachers cannot say to the helpers, “I don’t need you.”


1 Cor 12:22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.

Not only can no member do without other members, but even the parts that “seem to be weaker are necessary.” Unsung members.

The word points to those members currently out of service – who are perhaps walking in the world and not being led by the Spirit.

Presently, they do not seem very useful to the body.

“weaker” members = internal organs

What is true about them? “3 V’s”
(a) vital to the body – cannot function without them
(b) not viable outside the body – cannot survive apart from the whole
(c) hidden from view inside the body – not readily noticeable

1 Cor 12:23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty,
1 Cor 12:24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it,
1 Cor 12:25a that there should be no schism in the body…

Paul is referring to clothing here. There are some parts of the body that are not appropriate for public consumption – that should not be viewed.

“less honorable” members = less attractive parts that we generally cover with clothing (ex. torso, limbs, shoulders)

“unpresentable” members = reproductive organs that we automatically cover for reasons of modesty and decency

In a civilized culture, we clothe them properly thereby giving them “greater honor” through “greater modesty.”

God composed the body by giving the parts that were lacking in appearance even more honor, granting them the most crucial of all functions: reproduction. The idea being that those hidden parts are often the most imperative for the future.

By implanting modesty and self-respect in our hearts, God has caused us to protect our unpresentable parts (reproductive organs) from being exploited when we properly cover them. The presence of clothing is a sign that shouts: “No Access!”

Likewise, those parts of the body of Christ who are new to the faith, or the ones who find themselves spiritually weakened by the world, or those gifted less dramatically, we celebrate even more noticeably.

We protect them, especially if they are fragile. We do not diminish their importance in any way.

Those who are more obviously gifted need no special recognition – their gifts show off for them.

Again, it is reiterated that that the makeup of the body of Christ is not by chance but by God’s specific ordering. “But God composed the body.”

Why are these thoughts important? “That there should be no schism in the body.”

The church must never divide over whose gifts are more useful and whose gifts we can go without.



1 Cor 12:25b…but that the members should have the same care for one another.
1 Cor 12:26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

It is the Lord’s plan that we recognize that each member of the church is essential. When we do, the members will have equal concern for each other. Everyone will benefit from the same care, which means to have an anxious compassion for others.

The church is built up when the members love each other.

This truth guards against partiality and a quiet slipping away of any part of the body.

The unity of the body is seen in both suffering and honor.

The suffering of any one member means that the whole body suffers. It is impossible for one part to be in pain and the remaining parts to be in peace.

Everyone understands how a sprained ankle, or a broken finger can absorb the whole body’s energy and attention! The existence of one trouble center means the whole body is involved.

Similarly, when one member is honored, all share the joy. The body really does celebrate together.

Chrysostom – “The head is crowned, and the whole man is honored.”

If a member is honored, the other members of the body do not give way to envy, jealousy and bitterness, which could easily be the case if they focused on themselves.

Paul does not speak of sharing the honor, but the joy!

They rejoice with the person who is honored, taking pleasure in their good fortune.

Rom 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

The body functions well, and the gifts are being exercised rightly when the church is a place of love.

The interrelationships of this body are so binding that believers have no alternative but to live together in harmony. To do otherwise is to run counter to the plan of the one who has established the body.