Serving as a United Body

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

February 19, 2017

Sermon Manuscript

After seminary I went into the business world for a bit. At the time I didn’t understand why God had me go from seminary into corporate sales. I still don’t understand it, but I see the goodness of it. One of the things I enjoyed was going into different business and seeing how things were run. You could tell immediately upon entering a business how it worked internally. If the receptionist was rude, unfriendly, and disorganized it often meant more to come on the backend of things. I was fascinated by the difference in organizations, and I loved seeing businesses that were doing the right things in the right way. Where people loved being there, they were working hard, they were working smart and they were enjoying the ride. The receptionist was attentive to your needs. The leadership has provided clear direction. The office is kept up and things in place. It was a well oiled machine.

I want us to be like that as a church. Where we are a cohesive group working smoothly, seeing needs and addressing them, people being equipped to improve areas. If we are going to impact our local area and make a difference in the world it will require this. This is not a luxury. Todays message in the Realigned series we look at serving together as a church.

Turn in your Bible to 1 Cor 12:12-31

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. 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. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 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." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:12-31 ESV)

We want to work together as a church and there are four points I want us to see about what it means to work together in Christ:

In Christ we are Diverse

The passage shows not just diversity but the need for diversity of roles in the church. We see the need for people with diverse gifting. No one person has all the gifts needed in the church. There is no one gift that should dominate. We don’t all need to be the same!

Numerous gifts are listed here: gifts of faith, healing, teaching, evangelism, miracles, power. Other places we see the need for gifts of administration, leadership, serving, giving helping. All this diversity gives proper shape to a body.  

You can walk in the church doors and immediately see the need for different people to do different works. We need people who are gifted in singing, gifted in teaching, gifted in administration, gifted with kids. I’m a terrible singer. You don’t want me singing.

God gives these gifts to individuals, and this diversity is for the good of the body. Each of these are given for the common good (12:7). A body benefits from having different parts that do different things. It functions best when its eyes, ears, arms, and legs work. So also in the church.

This isn’t the first time we see diversity in the Bible. You actually see it at creation. God creates and brings a tremendous variety into the world. He doesn’t just create one animal, or even one type of bird. He brings a diversity of it and fills the earth. His goodness is all around. Its also seen with people. He creates people in his image, but there are different types of people, different colors, nations, and cultures. All these reflect who God is and it is impossible for one person or one people to fully reflect who God is. In this diversity, you see something more of who God is.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to join together as a body and then put down those that are not like it. It happens with those of cultures, skin colors, occupations, ages, etc. Today we hear diversity touted and ironically if you do not agree with every aspect of their desire to be inclusive you are very quickly excluded. It is not a biblical diversity for many reasons. We have the opportunity to show what true diversity is and how it’s cultivated. We have an opportunity to show how people of different ages, backgrounds, cultures, giftings, etc can come together in unity.

And this brings us to an important part of biblical diversity, and that is unity.

In Christ we are United

Today diversity is trumpeted for the sake of being diverse. But in actuality diversity is only helpful if there is unity. What does it matter if you have different body parts but they don’t work together? What does it matter if you have different cultures or gifting and they don’t unite for a common purpose? What does it matter if you are a great singer or teacher but are not willing to work with others?

This is why one of our values as a church is unity. We want to be a church that has different people from different backgrounds, jobs, nations, cultures, etc, but we don’t want to be diverse for diversity sake. We want to be united. Different but united. We are different but working toward a common goal. Christ is what unites all these different parts.

Trying to unite a diversity of people is hard. If you ever tour Washington DC you see an attempt to unite people around the idea of freedom. At the top of the National Capitol building is the Statue of Freedom and it has the inscription, “e pluribus unum,” out of the many one.” It’s saying that above all the different ethnicities that come into the country this idea of freedom is what brings them all together. Our leaders recognized the need to have something that unites different people together as one. They said it’s freedom, and that is helpful for a government. The Bible says it’s Christ that unites most fully and completely.

In Christ, we see that we are created by the one and only Creator of the universe. In Christ we realize that we are all sinners who fall short. In Christ we believe we are being redeemed of our sin and failures. In Christ our goal in life is the glory of God. In Christ we are of one household and have one Father! In Christ we are on a mission together. Christ makes us brothers and sisters. Christ gives us a common purpose. This is why we can come together as a church, put aside preferences and work together to make him known.

Paul expresses the unity over and over again in this passage. V3 “no one speaking by the Spirit of God says “Jesus is accursed” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit”. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;” (1 Corinthians 12:4-5 ESV), V14 the body has many members but it is still one body.

In Christ each individual part comes together to play a part in the body. The parts are united in a common goal. v26 if one member suffers all suffer. Each part is necessary for the body. This is how we should look at our church body. We ought to be united in purpose of glorifying God and advancing his glory. We need each part working toward this and if we do not we all suffer.

You see this with sports teams. I love watching teams where a guy is playing a position he is not used to in order to help the team. If we are united in Christ we ought to see that he is so much greater than our individual preferences. Some teams are less talented but do great because they work well together. Many Christians get a bad rap, and rightfully so, because they are more interested in themselves than others or Christ. May it not be so here.

In order to have unity we need to have self awareness. I’m hearing that term more today. “Self awareness” means you need to consider how your actions affect others. Why is it so important today? Because people are being raised and told they can do whatever they want without regard to how it affects others. It’s a lie. It matters how you interact with and treat others. We need to do the same in the church. Church is a great place to learn how to work with others. If you are serving here get in the habit of asking those around you how you’re are doing, how can i serve better. I want to do that. I think Christians should be most ready to learn from others because we know we are not the whole body, we know we are a part, we know we are sinful and have blind spots all around, and we know there is something greater than ourselves that we are trying to exalt. We want to exalt Jesus not ourselves. You need this self awareness not just in church but everywhere you work with others. Its great to ask that question in marriage, in your office.

Doing that takes humility. Uniting around Christ requires (and builds) humility, because you are in effect saying he is greater than me. And that is the way it should be in the church. In all we do we ought to have an eye to Christ. The problem in churches and society in general is “Many people aim at show rather than usefulness.” they serve to be seen or profit rather than serve to advance Christ. We ought to know “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” (1Co 12:22 ESV)

Grateful for the humility seen here. I have had a number of people come to me and say, “we are here to serve.” I love that. I look at them and say the same thing. Being a part of a body requires humility because we can’t do what pleases everyone. It’s impossible. I want to make sure we are doing the best things we can, and many of those things will require trusting various parts of the body and moving forward together.

Let’s have a unity that is based off what we have in Christ. Let’s welcome God honoring diversity that helps us see how we are made distinctly, and that puts Christ above all of our own unique preferences. Pride has no place in the church, and that is why so many churches struggle to get off the ground! Our resolve to serve Christ will be tested!

In Christ we are Needed

One of the great mysteries of the faith and life, is that while God does not need us, he uses us. So often when we are down God uses other people to pick us up. Likewise, in the church God uses people to accomplish his purposes. And we are commanded to pursue God’s purposes.

God gives people varieties of gifts to serve him and each are needed. He takes the imagery of a body, something all of us are familiar with, and shows how indispensable and interconnected each part is. What body part do you want to go without. What part of the body are you comfortable with your church being without?? For a body to function it needs hands, head, ears, nose, eyes, etc.

Each of us has a part to play, and we need to own that part. Ephesians 4:15 “... we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph 4:16). It doesn’t say the pastors, or the deacons, or the Spiritual Elite. Its each person in the body doing its part.

If you are a Christian you are commanded to pursue opportunities of serving. Don’t say you are not a part of the body. Don’t say you have no need of others or that you will not serve the body (v21). You would not send a man into battle with an arm tied around his back. If you are not doing your part in the church you are handicapping the body. Church is more than just showing up on Sundays. Its uniting in a mission together.

We need each other, and each part should be dependable. What good is your hand if it is only there some of the time or if it only works part of the time. We need people serving, and we need people showing up on time and when they are supposed to.

I talked to a college student who had a big time business leader come speak to his college class. Apparently millennials do not want to commit to anything (I’m not sure how only they get blamed for this!). His class got one on one time with him and at the end the guy said let me give you some advice that will set you apart from everyone else. He said, make sure you are on time, respect other people, and do what you say you will do. This student was disappointed success was so simple, and then realized the need for those simple things is so great.

In Christ we are united, in the body our service is needed. In Christ we ought to serve in ways others can depend on us.

In Christ we Make a Difference

In this chapter on spiritual gifts over and over again you hear the word building up the church, building up one another. “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1Co 14:26). Key word there is building up. 1 Corinthians 14:12 “eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (1Co 14:12). “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts. We don’t serve because we have to. We should serve because we want to make a difference.

We want to strengthen one another. We want to build each other up. This is where i love being a part of the church. Because we all get beat down by life. What do you do when those around you get beat down? I have been most helped when people share truths from God’s word or help meet my needs. When the sky is falling it is good to be reminded the sky don’t fall. We all need reality checks. We you are anxious and people quote

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV).

My soul, my inner being is filled and strengthened, able to take on the challenges of the day. This is what we are to do as individuals: find ways to make a difference. We do it through words, we do it through actions. Each person serving is making a difference. You might build someone up by shaking their hand on Sunday, singing a song, sharing a word or testimony, calling a visitor, moving a chair or table.

We have a number of holes on our team. There is a lot that goes into pulling off a Sunday. I was explaining all we do on sundays and a person said it’s like doing a wedding every week. It kind of is! I want to ask you if you will consider serving, or serving in a more significant way.

If we are going to keep the church as is there is no need to put any extra effort in. But I came to replant a church and to grow a church. You brought me here to do that. I think you want to do this. Let’s do it. We have been identifying what we need to do to push the church forward. We need people to serve in a variety of ways. We can’t grow if we don’t have a place for kids to go. We can’t grow if we don’t have people welcoming others in. We are going to be most effective when we have people watching the kids, greeting people in the parking lot, singing on the worship team, helping with the tech team and all the other things that go into making Sundays great. (We would like to have a launch at Easter and have 100/200 people here. Let’s prepare for that!)

In your bulletin you will see some of the needs we have. To push forward as a church we need everyone doing something on Sundays. If you are not doing something on sundays, not every sunday, we need your help.

Conclusion

What’s the result of us working together like this? I hope it is that we see people coming to faith. People are inviting friends, friends are showing up and being welcomed, kids are being cared for, taught, friendships deepen, Bible studies are done. The body grows. That’s how we will know we are working well together. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a church to make a disciple: a person who turns away from the world and trusts in Christ, and can help others see why they should turn from living for the world and live for Christ.

We are now going to do baptisms. It’s what we want to be about as a church. It’s the result of the church doing what it is supposed to. ...

Discussion Questions

  1. What issues are Paul addressing with the Corinthians in this passage and how does he do that?
  2. Why is it so important to have diversity and unity in the church?
  3. Why is it so important to have each part doing its part?
  4. How has God gifted you to serve in the church/broader community? What can you do to have an impact at Bridgeway?
...

Keith Welton

Lead Pastor

sermons sermon audio 1 corinthians manuscript series: realigned


February 19, 2017
Words: 3408
Read Time: 18 mins