Friday, January 23, 2009

One Body, Many Parts, Members of One Another

I've said before that if life were college, my "major" would be God's grace and my "minor" would be "the body of Christ." I know it's probably quite a deep revelation to you that I really love discussing God's grace! Haha! However, my "minor" doesn't get enough time on this blog. I've written about it several times, but not nearly as often as it's on my heart.

The identity and the functions of the individual members of the body of Christ (you, me and everyone else in Christ), is all woven together with God's grace. Along with that, the life of each individual member is woven together with all of the other individual members to form one body. "The body is a unit," Paul says in 1 Cor 12:12 (NIV). "Though is is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." In the same chapter of a different epistle, Paul writes, "For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another" (Rom 12:4-5 NKJV).

What I want to point out here is that we're one body and we're individually members of one another. Not all the "parts" are the same. We're each unique in our individual functions within Christ's body, but as one body we are individually members of one another. Christ Himself is the Head of this body, and we are all fully part of Christ's body and fully indwelled by His life that flows throughout the entire body, but we're not all the same "part" --- and that's a really good thing!

In all my talk of "grace" and our "identity in Christ," I love encouraging individuals in who they are in Christ. Each individual is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), born again of incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23), complete in Christ (Col 2:10), and so on and so on. This is all good news for us to individually digest and be rooted and grounded in! But I would be remiss if I spoke of our identity in Christ solely in terms of who we are individually. The life of Christ flows throughout the individual parts of His body and makes them all work together. Our identity in Christ is not simply who we are as individuals, but who we are as many parts that make up one body.

In both 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, Paul talks about some of the "parts" that people are in the body of Christ. He talks about those who teach and those who prophecy and those who heal and those who exhort. He talks about tongues and the interpretation of tongues. He talks about "the word of wisdom" and "the word of knowledge." He talks about so many different things that go on in the body of Christ. I don't believe his list is full and complete. In other words, your "part" in the body may or may not be mentioned by Paul. And the various things that Paul does mention may or may not have anything to do with who you are in the worldwide body of Christ. But his overall point is solid and clear: we're not all the same, yet together we form one complete body. Isn't that beautiful!

By using the human body as an illustration, Paul makes it clear that we're not all the same, but that each part is equally important!

"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body" (1 Cor 12:14-20).

I think it's absolutely wonderful that the fullness of Christ dwells in each of us, and yet we're not all the same and we don't all function in the same ways... and yet we all form one body! In the next post I'll get into practical applications of all of this.

Here are a few of my past posts that relate to all this:
We're All Important Parts of the Body of Christ (an article I wrote for a church publication)
One body, many parts - We're not all the same!
Fixed Eyes


  1. Aren't you simply referring to our individual giftings within the Body?? The five fold ministries and the spiritual gifts?

    Why we have that in our on-line family!! Look at all the different aspects of ministry that are present in the sum total of our blogs! That is why assembling in SOME FORM is important; we are functioning as a Body, not as individual, independent entities. I need the Christ in you just as you need the Christ in me. :)

  2. Joel,
    Beautiful post!! Yes, yes! We are all unique individuals...yet all part of the Body.

    What you said here, I loved:
    "By using the human body as an illustration, Paul makes it clear that we're not all the same, but that each part is equally important!"


    "I think it's absolutely wonderful that the fullness of Christ dwells in each of us, and yet we're not all the same and we don't all function in the same ways... and yet we all form one body!"

    Amen! Good stuff, Joel! As always!

    ~Amy :)

  3. Arge,

    Yeah that's sorta kinda what I'm talking about, more or less. ;) LOL. I don't know if I can fold the ministries into five parts though... LOL... "Five fold ministries..." Ok, bad joke.

    Seriously, though, I get what it means, and I'm talking about that, and in addition to it I'm also talking about anything and everything that God does in and through the individual 'members' (people) of the body of Christ, whether it seems like 'ministry' or not. It's all equally important, no matter how large or small it may seem, and it all works together to make the body as a whole work just the way it's meant to. :)

    I've even gotten away from the word "assembling" and I'm tending to use words like "interacting" more often. Of course, interacting can and does most certainly include assembling, but I think some people (but definitely not you, of course!) have made a religion out of "assembling." ;)

    What we have online here... I can't say enough about it! I love how it's become like a real family. Indeed we are not being a bunch of dependent people, but are being an interdependent, interwoven body of people who are "individually members of one another." It's such a cool thing! I never would've dreamed of it, even as short as two years ago.


    I love the word "unique." It's also one of my wife's favorite words. I think it's such an important word to use as the life of Christ flows through His body, through all the unique 'members,' working in and through each one in such ways as He knows is best for the entire body!

  4. Great post, Joel. I absolutely love the teaching about the body of Christ and you've done a great job in sharing.

    I like your use of the word "interacting" instead of "assembling". I'm trying to get the christianese out of my vocabulary and interacting seems like a more natural word to use.

  5. Aida,

    Yeah, my use of words such as "interacting" has sort of evolved. As RJW said, I do think that it's great that the Body "assembles" in one way or another, but in so many ways today the church's use of assembling has become a ritual and a duty rather than a purposeful means of the members of the Body interacting with one another. And for many people, weekly assembling has become the focus of their lives in Christ, rather than having day in and day out interaction with one another.

    I really just want to love God and love people, and to know God and know people, and I've found that that comes through interaction. :)

  6. I think the biggest 'disaster' in the body of Christ is that one part try to imitate/become another part. The thought line is, hey he/she has such and such but I don't, so I might be inferior or missing something. So, I need to 'do' something to get it.

    I think this concept (body of Christ) is great and I am glad you have it as your 'minor' and didn't ignore it.

    Great words!

  7. Yep, Bino, I agree... Feelings of inferiority or lack will cause people to think they need to do something to get what they think they're missing, and in doing so it takes away from who they truly are.

    The other side of the same coin is people who feel superior, who try to get others in line with what they're doing, rather than letting others be who they truly are, and encouraging them in it.

    I just have to add to all this, that one of the many reasons why I'm thankful for this online blogging community is because through the interaction with one another, you've all really helped me in that area... to be who I truly am. Not just as someone who blogs, but in every area of life. Thanks to all of you!


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