In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul calls Christians in the Corinthian church to come together. Why did he need to do so?
The Church today is in peril of becoming commercialised. Some churches have become so huge that they have become private entities. This commercialisation process may muddle the meaning of being the Body of Jesus Christ.
Paul reminds the Church, and particularly the Corinthian church, of the importance of coming together by using the imagery of the body. He illustrates at least three reasons for us to come together as the Body of Jesus Christ.
Firstly, 1 Corinthians 12:27 notes that we have ‘common ground’ in Christ. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” As members of the Church, we are baptised into the Body of Christ. Verses 12 and 13 explain that by belonging to one God, Christ, we also belong to His Body – the Church. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:16 that we are one Temple – the temple of the living God: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”
There will inevitably be functional differences in His Kingdom as each of us is made differently but uniquely in His image. However, our functional differences should not lead to dissension. We have one task
– building His church and ultimately His Kingdom. We need to be conscious that God has called us for constructive and not destructive work. Whenever we ignore this common ground in Christ, the enemy will have an easy access into our Church.
The Church has to guard this unity as we serve God in the world today. Working together always produces better results. We all know that the formula of synergy is “1+1>2”.
Secondly, 1 Corinthians 12:21-26 highlights that we are all co-workers in Christ. Every person is important in His Church. God has called us to work collectively; everyone is needed to fulfil His work.
This great commission is a great challenge to His disciples. We cannot fulfil it if we each act alone. The problem with the Corinthian church was that they attached too much importance to some gifts and minimised the others. Some tried to dominate the rest on the basis of the gifts they possessed.
Gifts are not evidence of our spirituality or symbols of our significance. They are given for service and to be used for His Kingdom alone. But for the Christians in the Corinthian church, instead of contributing to the common good, they isolated themselves and tried to dominate the rest. Friends, we may not have the same gifts, but all are equally important. Everyone is unique in his function, and we are all very important for the smooth functioning of the church.
Thirdly, we need to complement one another as highlighted in 1 Corinthians 12:28-31. The Church of God is an interdependent Body of Christ, of which He is the Head. God’s work complements and is not competitive. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul says: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” We all need one another.
We must remember that our needs are not at the centre of God’s Church. Too many people come to church to have their “needs met”, or leave churches complaining that the church has not met their needs. In Philippians 2:3-4, we are told that we are not only to receive but also to contribute to the cause of Christ. We are asked to give of ourselves and meet others’ needs instead of only looking out for our needs.
The Church has to guard this unity as we serve God in the world today. Working together always produces better results. We all know that the formula of synergy is “1+1>2”. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, we learn that we need to exercise our gifts to better function “for the profit of all” (NKJV).
Each of us is different yet strong in Christ. Therefore we are made unique by design, to work together as a collective body of Christ to achieve all things together.
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The Rev R. Prabhu was elected President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) in 2012 for the quadrennium. He is also Pastor-in-Charge of Ang Mo Kio Tamil and Seletar Tamil Methodist Churches.