March 5, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #8: Questions Concerning Christian Worship, 1 Corinthians 11.2-14.40



Lesson 8.3-2: Exercise of the Gifts of the Spirit in the Church
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12.12-26

Part 2: Paul's Parable of the Body and Its Various Members, 1 Corinthians 12.12-26

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14  For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.



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

For as the body is one,
The great Pauline teaching that the church encompasses the spiritual body of Christ is among the most important teachings revealed to man. In this verse the apostle uses the human body as a visual aid to teach us about the church of Jesus Christ as it exists in the world. He made the same comparison when he wrote to the church at Rome; but it was for a different purpose (See Romans 12.4). In that passage, he urges everyone to be satisfied with his own calling, and not to invade another’s territory—seeing that ambition, curiosity, or some other attitude, provoke many to get their hands on more than is necessary. Here, however, he encourages believers to come together and share the special gift(s) that each has received from God. They are not free to keep their gifts for their personal enjoyment, but since all spiritual gifts are given for the purpose of glorifying Christ and edifying others within the church, they must use their gifts to benefit others.

It is common practice for any society or congregation, to be called a body, just as one city constitutes a body, and likewise, one senate, one state, and one people. Among Christians, however, the situation is very different; because the Church does not amount to a mere political body; it is the spiritual and mystical body of Christ, as Paul himself added later in the chapter (see 1 Corinthians 12:27). The meaning therefore is — “Although the body has many parts, and each part has a unique function, they are, nevertheless, linked together in such a manner that they unite in one body. It is necessary, then, for those who are members of Christ’s body, and are endowed with various gifts, to always treasure that connection which we have in Christ.”

God's method of reckoning people righteous is to bring them into the community of believers, of which Christ is chief (person in charge); all the saved are members of this community, which we identify as the body of Christ— therefore, all, are partakers of the perfect righteousness of the Son of God Himself. God saves people, but He does NOT do it by injecting righteousness into them (on the grounds of their faith and/or obedience), but by transferring them “into Christ.” By this heavenly tactic, man becomes truly righteous and as a consequence is saved. Faith in Jesus Christ must come before God's transfer of sinners into Christ; but neither the faith of the sinner nor any act of obedience on his part is the ultimate ground of his redemption; that all-important ground being the perfect faith, obedience and righteousness of the Christ Himself. Any man failing to fulfill the prior conditions of being “in Christ” is not a part of the body of Christ.

 Romans 12:4 (KJV) “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office.” The church is likened to the human body in which the various organs each has its own office, and all members of the church are related to each other similar to how the organs of the body are related.
 1 Cor 12:27 (KJV) “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” All were “baptized into one body” (verse 13), and therefore are individual members or parts of the one body, with offices to discharge like those of the members of the human body.

And hath many members,
Notice how the wisdom of God has structured the church—like that of the natural human body— and how the apostle elegantly compares it to the body of Christ. The body is like Christ’s Church in that it has many parts (such as eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc.).

and all the members of that one body, being many,
Here he continues this striking analogy—our own mortal bodies are used by the Holy Spirit as a representation of how His body (the Church) functions. In Ephesians the Spirit speaks of the husband and wife, and of that sacred inter-relationship of the one body. Then He says: "For we are members of His Body, of His flesh, and of His bones." In the Epistle to the Corinthians the Spirit says: "For as the body is one and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ"—our current verse. It is a sacred fact that we are all baptized into one body, by the same Spirit. In view of that fact, let us remember that when we meet other believers, they are also members of His Body, even though they may not be members of the same local church.

There are two other verses that should be considered along with this one: “But now are they many members, yet but one body;” (v. 20) and “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (v. 27). Again, Paul is using a comparison to the human body. Just as one body has many members performing different functions, so the members of the church need to perform different functions. The human body has many members, hundreds, even thousands of members. In the church, the body of Christ, there are many gifts, hundreds, probably thousands of gifts. As numerous as they may be, they all belong to, and make up the one body; but performing different functions, for which they are naturally equipped for the good of the whole. Each believer has a gift bestowed upon him by the Holy Spirit; in fact he or she may have several gifts. But there is no reason for anyone to envy another believer, whose gift is different than theirs, or to resent them, and to be puffed-up with pride over gifts you possess, since all gifts are given not earned. The Holy Spirit distributes gifts as He pleases, and not according to what we want.

We don’t ever see some of the members of His Church. Some of the most important members in churches where I have worshipped have been men and women whom the church knew nothing about. They weren’t the officers or the Sunday school teachers or the soloist or the preacher. They were quiet, unobtrusive folk who prayed and who exercised their gift of faith.

so also to Christ.
Our human spirit controls the function of our bodies, and in a similar way the Spirit of God is the animating power of every member of the body of Christ. The body is one: it has many members; yet ALL are united into one body. "So also is the body of Christ." This certainly is not merely local: it includes the entire body of Christ worldwide, but it is the local church which gives expression to it. Christ’s Church is not personal and private, but mystical; not the head alone or the members by themselves, but head and members form one body, the Church. The church, consisting of God's elect, who are closely united to one another, in union with Christ, the head, make up one general assembly, and because their head is Christ, they are called by His name. Unity and God’s grace, not unvarying uniformity, is the glue that binds His Church. The many members of the body make up the whole and none can be dispensed with as being unnecessary, in like manner, those who are gifted by the Spirit, compose a spiritual whole, the body of Christ, into which all are baptized by the one Spirit. Jesus is the Savior of His Church, and He doesn’t consider Himself complete without His Church (See Eph 1.23).

Christ and the Church form one body, of which Christ is the Head; one Vine, of which Christians are the branches (See John 15.4); one building, of which Christians are the living stones.

“Since we are in Christ a fruit-bearing vine, what are we out of him but dry twigs?” This, then, is our consolation— that, just like He and the Father are one, so we are one with him. Therefore, his name is applied to us.

Now we can begin to see why every believer is given at least one gift, and why there are a great variety of gifts—for the profit and edification of His church, which he compares to a body that has many members. That one Spirit who distributes the gifts, could have given them all to the same person, yet to maintain a mutual dependence, and service to the brethren conveyed in the spirit of love, he gave one gift to this one, and to another He gives a different gift.

 Eph 1:23 (NLT) “And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” In the same way he is head over all things, he is head of the Church; and this Church is considered the body of which he is especially the head; and from him, as the head, the Church receives light, life, and intelligence.
  John 15:4 (KJV) “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” We are dead, fruitless branches, without the Christ-life. The whole history of the world demonstrates that fruitfulness is only found in union with Christ.

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,
We can be certain the apostle is not talking about water baptism, because he said, “‘by’ (or "in") one Spirit are we all baptized;” baptism of water, and baptism of the Spirit, are two different things (see Matthew 3:11). More to the point, all that are baptized in water, are not baptized in or by the Spirit; nor does water baptism integrate persons into the church of Christ; the invisible church, which is the body of Christ, which is that “one body” the apostle refers to here. In contrast, those who are in reality true believers are suitable persons to be received into a church; but baptism itself does not place them into it, or make them members of it. A person may be baptized in water, and never join a church. There is, however, an allusion made to water baptism, but what is intended here is the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification, which is frequently signified by water, and called a baptism, or being baptized. The Lord Jesus, when speaking to the woman at the well referred to salvation as a well of living water; and salvation (being born again) is what qualifies persons for the ordinance of water baptism. Now this is produced by the Spirit of God in response to a person having faith in Christ; it is not due to water baptism, which has no regenerating power. It does not matter whether we are Jew or Gentile, whether we are slave or free, and our nationality and social status do not matter; if we are born again into a state of grace by faith in Jesus Christ, we belong to Christ and to his body, and we share equally in the blessings belonging to his people; (see Colossians 3:11).

The body of man, though composed of many members, is influenced by one soul; likewise, the Church of Christ, which is His body, though composed of many members, is influenced by one Spirit, the Holy Ghost; actuating and working by his spiritual body, like the human soul does in the body of man. It is true that salvation is by faith alone, but water baptism is the most important ordinance belonging to Christ’s Church. Jesus emphasized the importance of baptism when He required, that people be “born of the water and of the Spirit” (see John 3.5). Peter did the same on Pentecost by the command that all people should “repent and be baptized ... and ... receive the Holy Spirit” (see Acts 2.38). There is no doubt whatever that Paul's words here refer to the same twin essentials, the new birth, and baptism by the Holy Spirit.

“For by means of one spirit we were all baptized into one body.” Rather, moved by one spirit, we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, bond or free. The idea is that, though diverse in race and condition, all has been made parts of one body by baptism, and that this baptism had been done under the direction of one spirit. All receive this baptism as a gift of the same spirit, and so, if special and extraordinary spiritual gifts were imparted to the members of this body, these would be due to one spirit. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who puts us into the body of believers and who gives a gift to each particular member. We are to function in that body, and we are to use that gift. It may be that we are the “big toes” with an unseen but important ministry. We each have a gift, and we are to use that gift.

whether we be Jews or Gentiles,
Gentiles are literally Greeks; there were Jews and Greeks in the Corinthian Church. There is no difference between Jews and Greeks in God’s eyes (both were on the same level), but within the Corinthian Church there was a division of the assembly because the Jews favored one preacher and the Greeks another. But the dividing lines created by the Corinthian Christians were strictly artificial, since Jew, Greek, slave, and free, did not matter anymore, because they were all in one body; baptized by the one and same Spirit. The boundary lines of nationality and social differences were all obliterated by baptism, which made them all equal members of one holy brotherhood (see Galatians 3:28).

whether we be bond or free;
It is evident that many who were slaves were converted to the Christian faith. The Christian religion, however, considered all men to be on the same level; and conferred no favors on the free which it did not on the slave. It was one of the happy lessons of Christianity; because it taught people that in the great matters pertaining to their eternal interests they were on the same level. This doctrine would tend to secure, more than anything else could, the proper treatment of those who were in bondage, and of those who were in the humble ranks of life. At the same time it would not diminish, but would, instead, increase their respect for their masters, and for those who were above them, if they regarded them as fellow Christians, and destined to the same heaven (see 1 Corinthians 7:22).

and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
There is One Spirit and there is one Body; the body of born again believers. If there is only one Holy Spirit and there is only one Body, and we are all baptized into that one Spirit, we have also been made to drink of the one Spirit. Another passage in Corinthians says that we should have the same care one of another. In another Scripture it is written, “That they may be one, even as we are one.” In addition, we are all partakers of the same graces of the Spirit, which are faith, hope, love, and so forth. And every day, we receive these graces under His guidance, direction, and influence.

There may be in this clause an allusion to the fulness of grace which resides in Christ, from which they draw and drink, with joy, this living water; the same eternal water Jesus offered to the woman at the well. There may also be an allusion here to the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, as there was the allusion to baptism in the former clause. Moreover, since all new born babes in Christ desire the sincere milk of the word, they “drink” of it, and are refreshed with it, and are nourished by the words of faith, and sound doctrine. All of it comes from the hand of the Holy Spirit, who plants them, waters them with His grace, and under the ministrations of the Gospel they become strong spiritual trees within the one body under Christ (their head), so they are made to drink into one Spirit, or to become of one heart and soul with one another, being knit together in love, which is the bond of perfection.

This clause, “have been all made to drink into one Spirit” fulfills Matthew 3:11 (see below); John 1:33 (see below); and Acts 1:5 (see below). That this baptism is common to all the believers at Corinth is implied by the fact that Paul does not further exhort them to be baptized by the Spirit. Rather he assumes that they have all been baptized. The believer does not tarry or pray for this baptism. It occurs at the moment of regeneration. While speaking in tongues occurred in conjunction with the baptism of the Spirit at Pentecost, this outward manifestation was not always repeated as the only proof of such baptism.

The divisions, or schisms, in the Body of the Corinthian Church are all out of harmony with the plan and purpose of God. When one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," we are speaking as men, who have a carnal nature.  The Spirit will punish those who cause divisions within the body to bring them back into fellowship with one another.  Within the body, there should be no envying of those who occupy a higher station than we do; nor should anyone despise those who are beneath us. Every member is useful in his place, and necessary to the good of the whole. Certainly, if everyone held the same office, there would be no body: if they were all an eye, or all an ear, the body would soon cease to exist, since it needs those powers the other parts of the body supply. There is nothing in the body either unnecessary or defective. It does not need anything added: and if it suffers damage or loss, the whole is injured and deformed: because there is no part that can say to any other, “I have no need of thee.” In this respect, therefore, all are honourable before God, and all have reason to discharge with pleasure the office assigned to them.

 Matt 3:11 (KJV) “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” John the Baptist’s baptism was only a water baptism. Jesus could send the Holy Spirit, and give a mightier baptism.
 Col 3:11 (NLT) “In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” In the new man there is an obliteration of distinctions. National privilege has been wiped out; ceremonial standings have been wiped out; cultural standings have been wiped out; and social castes have been wiped out. Christ is absolutely everything.
  John 3:5 (ASV) “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God!” Jesus does not reply directly to the question of Nicodemus, but proceeds to give a more explicit statement concerning the new birth. One must be born of water and of the Spirit. Whatever this may mean, it will be admitted by all (1) that no one is a member of the kingdom of God until he is born again; (2) that the Savior declares the impossibility of one entering who is not born of water and of the Spirit. All agree that the birth of the Spirit refers to the inward, or spiritual change that takes place, and all honest authorities agree that born of water refers to baptism. If at all possible, all born again believers should be baptized in obedience to this command by the Lord Jesus.
 Acts 2:38 (KJV) “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” By being baptized in his name, you acknowledge yourselves to be His disciples and servants.
 Gal 3:28 (KJV) “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ the old, worldly lines of separation are all blotted out.—People's New Testament, The
 1 Cor 7:22 (NLT) “And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ.” The eternal equality of the servant and freeman in Christ is shown. The “servant” is Christ's freedman, since Christ has freed him from sin; the freeman, when converted, is Christ's servant.
 John 1:33 (ASV) “And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit.” It was revealed to John that the Christ would be revealed by a dove. Indeed it was the anointing of the Spirit that made Jesus the Anointed, the Christ.
 Acts 1:5 (KJV) “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” They had received John's baptism; they were now to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

14  For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

For the body is not one member, but many.
Paul continues to use the illustration of the body, but now the emphasis is on the diversity and placement of each member. This is a proof that diversity of gifts and members is necessary to the unity of the church. The church can no more consist of people who all have the same gifts, than the body is all eye or all ear. Seeing that the body is not “one member, but many,” so the church is not one member, but many. It is impossible to escape the strength of Paul’s argument: for a body to be a body it must have a variety of members. It is absurd to expect everyone to have the same gift and to achieve the same result when they use it. God placed each member within the body where it pleased Him. Paul stresses the sovereignty of God in this process. It is not only foolish but disobedient to covet another man’s gift, because the place and gifts of each member are determined by the Lord.

The natural body is not just one member (see Ps 139.6); nor is any one particular member of the body, regardless of its function, more important than any other member, as the head or eye may be considered to be so by some: likewise, the mystical body, the Church is not one person only, nor does it consist of one sort of person; such as only Jews, or only Gentiles, or only rich and free-men, or only men who possess extraordinary gifts and abilities, or great spiritual knowledge. In the same way that the natural body is one, so is the mystical body; as the natural body is informed and animated with one spirit or soul, so is the mystical body, the church, animated by the Spirit, received from our spiritual head, Christ Jesus, and communicated to all the members of his body, to give them life and motion. Just as the members of the natural body are not alike, but some are superior, and others inferior in worth, nevertheless all have a function that is indispensable (because the wise God has created no member of man's body in vain; but has designed all for the mutual help and benefit of one another); in like manner, within the church, the mystical body; there are different gifts, some of which require less ability than others, and some “from the human viewpoint” are of lesser or greater honor; yet all contributing to the good of the whole. One who has the inferior gifts must not consider himself useless, since every one that cannot be excellent may still by useful. Therefore there must be different gifts and offices for different uses. But everyone must use his gift, and perform his office, for the service of the whole.

 Psalms 139:16 (GW) “Your eyes saw me when I was only a fetus. Every day {of my life} was recorded in your book before one of them had taken place.” If God had left out an eye or hand in his common place book you would have needed it.

but many.
The Arabic versions has “but many members” and adds “as eyes, ears, hands, feet, &c.” Therefore, in the mystical body of Christ, the church, there are many members, some in a higher station, others in a lower station; some with greater gifts, grace, and usefulness, others having less; some Jews, others Gentiles; some bond, others free; yet all are one in Christ, the head, and all are related to each other.

If the foot shall say,
The” foot” is the lowest member of the body, and it is the one closest to the ground; the body walks upon it, therefore it must support the entire weight of the body while performing its assigned functions of standing and walking, which are often pure drudgery and very fatiguing.  Paul probably wants the foot to represent those believers who are in the lowest position in the church; a janitor, nursery attendant, and such; the ones who are really the least of the Lord’s saints, and he thinks of himself in that way. He may have the smallest amount of love for Christ, and only a meager amount of spiritual light and understanding.

“If the foot should say,”  “I am not of the body because I am not the hand,” the foot would be both irrational and wrong.  Diversity does not disqualify one from the body.
Here, Paul speaks for the one who feels alienated from the body. It is as if some of the Corinthian Christians were saying, “I don’t have this certain spiritual gift, so, I guess I’m not part of the body of Jesus Christ.” After all, hands and eyes seem more important and more “glamorous” than feet and ears. So Paul wants these Christians who feel estranged from the body to understand that they are indeed members of the body, and their feeling that they are not, is just as foolish as the foot or the ear who feels excluded. Now, my friend, the same rule can be applied to the situation where there are those who desire to exclude others from the body. Paul could just as well have said, “The hand cannot say the foot is not of the body because it is not a hand.” Paul also wants Christians who might exclude others because they don’t appreciate their place in the body to recognize the fact of the unity of believers.

So every member of the mystical body (Body of Christ, His church) cannot have the same place and office; what then should the one who feels he doesn’t belong do? Shall he renounce his relationship to the body? Because he does not have the same good position, or been favored with the same good gifts as others within the body; shall he say, “I quit, because I don’t think I belong to Christ?” Absolutely not, because the most humble member of His body is as much a member as the noblest, and is actually regarded as such by the Lord Jesus. All His members are dear to Him.

Another rule to be applied to this particular question is this: All the members of the body are necessary, they are dependent on each other, and minister to the general support of the total body; the same can be said of the Church. All the private members are intimately connected with every other member, and also with their pastors; without such a union no Church can subsist.

Paul would insist on our grasping this one point—that each member ought to be satisfied with his or her own place and office, and not envy the others. Later in this passage he introduces a comparison between the more distinguished members, and those that have less dignity. For example, the eye has a more honorable place in the body than the hand, and the hand than the foot. But if our hands would, from a feeling of envy, refuse to discharge their office, Could the body endure this? Would the hand be listened to, when wishing to be separated from the body? It would be just as unreasonable for men to renounce the Church, because they did not have the most distinguished gifts, or were not in the most important places and offices.

Because I am not the hand,
The lesson Paul teaches from this passage is that the members of Christ's spiritual body have a variety of talents and perform many different services; some are highly esteemed in the eyes of men and are rewarded with fame and honors; but no member of the holy body should be envious of any other. All are necessary, and all are truly a part of the sacred whole. The differences among Christians are analogous to the differences in nature, where there exists infinite diversity, not even two snowflakes have been found to be exactly alike. This is according to God's will. In the age we live in, people are apparently determined to make all men alike; but this can never be; not as long as God is in control. In some limited political sense, perhaps, it may be declared that “all men are created equal;” but as a matter of simple fact, the opposite is true. Consider Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who at the age of five years composed a concerto in one sitting and then played it from memory! Robertson suggested that in this passage people “should observe the difference in the Christian doctrine of unity and equality, and the world's idea of leveling all to one standard.”  Men are not created equal as far as their physical bodies and their intelligence are concerned. These differences are never more on display than when one watches a football game. There are the giants who play on the offensive and defensive lines, and smaller men who run with the ball. As for intellect, the quarterback is the field general who calls the plays and directs the receivers. There are very few men who have the physical ability of an offensive lineman, and even fewer who can play quarterback on a professional football team.

Within the Church of Jesus Christ, the humbler members should not belittle themselves, nor should they have to bear mocking and ridicule by others who consider themselves more noble than they are (see 1 Corinthians 12:21, 22). The humble member will compare himself to the more honorable member which is most like himself: hence, the ear compares itself to the eye (the nobler and more commanding member) (see Numbers 10.31 and 1 Corinthians 12:16). Just as it is in life each compares himself with those whom he comes closest to in gifts, not those who are far superior.

• Num 10:31 (KJV) “I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes.” As Israel journeyed through the wilderness the cloud directed their general journeys, but not their particular excursions. Parties took several journeys while the grand army lay still. They therefore needed such a person as Hobab, who was well acquainted with the desert, to direct these particular excursions; to point them out watering places, and places where they might gather fuel.

I am not of the body;
I have no part in it, am no member of it, and I do not belong to it:

is it therefore not of the body?
To be “not of the body,” means—to have no communication with the other members, but to live for self, and to seek only its own advantage. “Would it then,” says Paul, “be acceptable for the hand to refuse to do its job for the other members of the body, on the ground of its being envious of the eyes?” These things are said about the natural body, but they must be applied to the members of the Church, just in case ambition or misdirected desire and envy should become the cause bad feeling among believers—feelings that could lead one that occupies an inferior position to have a grudge against those above him, which would lead him to withhold those services they require from him.

The Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions render it thus: "it is not therefore not of the body"; nevertheless it belongs to it, and is a member of it: therefore, the lowliest person in the mystical body, the church, even though he should say, that because he is not as useful and valuable as another, cannot give as much to charity, or do so much as another, therefore he is not a proper member of the church; it does not mean that it is so, because Christ, who is the head of the church, regards people like these as members. Furthermore, he does not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, or despise the company of small things; he highly regards their prayers, and takes notice of their humble services; and they are, and should be considered full members of the body, by the rest of the members and by themselves.

16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

And if the ear shall say,
The ear is the organ created for hearing, and distinguishing sounds, and its highest calling is to hear God’s Word; it was designed by God so that hearers of the word of God hear not merely externally, but internally. Those who truly hear His Word come to love, savour, and relish it; then, through the helps of the Holy Spirit, to understand and believe it, and to act in compliance with it; and they hold it in the highest regard, though they may not be able to communicate it effectively, or instruct others in it.

According to Isaiah 55.3 (see below) it is better for a man to be blind, lame, and dumb, than deaf; because life enters into the soul by the ear. How does it do it? Doesn’t it say, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10.17; N KJV). God has made it very clear that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. If you want to trust Christ, you will have to listen to the Word of God. God will give faith to all who give heed to the message of the gospel.

• Isaiah 55:3 (KJV) “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” God was merciful to David, and He will be merciful to you and me today.

Because I am not the eye,
Here the apostle goes from a less impressive part (the ear) to the eye, a most impressive part. The eye is the organ for seeing, and it comes in a variety of colors, which enhances the beauty of a person. It has been called “the window of the soul” through which light is received, and it uses it for the good of the body by supervising all its activities, whose superintendent it is. The eye is representative of the ministers of the Gospel, who are to the church, as eyes are to the body; they are the light of the Church, have a clear insight into the doctrines of the Gospel, and communicate their light to others; they are esteemed worthy to set in the highest place in the church, where they are watchmen and overseers, who instruct, guide, and direct the members of the church.

As we continue, you may notice that he builds his doctrine upon the foundations which he has laid. And first of all he speaks to those who want to abandon the body because they are jealous of those whom they believe have been given better gifts than they. This is, he says, like the foot saying it is not part of the body, because it is not the hand, or the ear, because it is not the eye. Therefore all parts ought to defend the unity of the body, since they have been joined together to serve one another.

I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
No part of the body should act independently. When we say we are not of the Body, we immediately begin to act autonomously; independent of the Head and one another. When unity or oneness with the Head is broken, oneness with the other members of the Body is broken, and unity disappears. But if we act in perfect obedience to the Head, we will, of necessity, act in full unity with every other member of the Body. We are ONE in Christ. If we are out of fellowship with our Lord, we are sure to be out of fellowship with His saints. Each individual member has its own particular style, place, and use. The most insignificant member is a part of the body. The foot and ear are less useful, perhaps, than the hand and eye; but because one is not a hand, and the other is not an eye, can they truthfully say, that they do not belong to the body?

It appears from what has come before, that the great problem within the Corinthian Church was divisions (parties, schisms; splits and breaks from the church), which was the first thing the apostle had charged against the Church of Corinth. One cause was that they split up behind their preachers; Paul, Apollos, Peter, etc. But recently, Paul has been speaking of the trouble within the church due to the differences in gifts; which was a matter of degree. For instance, some members exhibited the higher gifts or most desired gifts; they were more famous for their miraculous acts (healing, prophesy, speaking in tongues), for which they were despised and vilified by those who felt inferior to them; or those whose gifts were not so highly regarded (prayer, giving, edification, interpretation of tongues) and their position in the church was lower; therefore, they would not admit to being members of the Corinthian Church, because they and their gifts were not respected. The apostle argued the unreasonableness of this way of thinking, by making another comparison of the natural body with the spiritual mystical body, the church, where he showed it was as unreasonable for men to renounce the church, and their affiliation with it, as it was for the foot to say, it was not of the body, because it was not the hand; or for the ear to say, it was not of the body, because it was not the eye.

It should be added—there are some who are only hearers of the Gospel, but if they are loving, believing, understanding and fruitful hearers, although they do not have a great deal of knowledge and wisdom that would make them capable of overseeing and instructing others, yet they are true and useful members of the church, but above all, they are highly respected by Christ the head, and they should be held in esteem by their fellow members, who may be superior to them.

The most obvious conclusion that can be reached from the view that Paul has given of the nature of the church is that the duty of each member is to be content.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

If the whole body were an eye,
The idea in this verse is that all the parts of the body are useful in their proper place, and that it would be just as absurd to require or expect that all the members of the church should have the same gifts, as it would be to attempt to make the entire body “an eye.” If all were the same; that is, if all members had the same gifts, and held the same important offices, then there would be no one left to fill the other less important offices, and so many functions of the church could no longer be carried out. Therefore, all members are to be satisfied with their gift(s), and all are to be honored for the role they fulfill. Not only is this diversity in the body of Jesus Christ desirable, it is essential. The body cannot work properly if all its parts are hands, or if all are eyes. The body must have different parts and different gifts, or it would not work together effectively as a body.

Now, with this argument he sets aside a foolish striving for equality, by showing how impossible it would be to achieve, and the problems it would create. “If all the members,” he says, “desire the honor that belongs to the eye, the consequence will be that the whole body will die, since it is impossible for the body to remain safe and sound, unless the members have different functions, and are able to communicate with each other—a body needs a mouth for eating, feet for walking, lungs for breathing, etc. That's why equality interferes with the welfare of the body, because it produces confusion that brings about destruction. It would be madness, then, for one member, instead showing respect to another, to work against them and cause the ruin of the entire body.
By this line of reasoning, the Apostle probably intends to insinuate, that if there were no other gifts in the church other than those which they so highly valued in some of their teachers, it would be a very great disadvantage to the body.

Within the ideal body (or church) there is a common interest and a perfection of each individual function. All are not equal in strength and skill, but each is happy, and each is necessary to the well being of all. There could be no better illustration of the ideal relationship of Christians to each other and to the Church than the functioning of a healthy body.

where were the hearing?
 If there was no ear, then there would be no sense of hearing: and if the whole body was capable of only hearing or only consisted of a member capable of the sense of hearing, what would become of it? How could it live and move and have its being?

If the whole were hearing,
If the body was composed of only ears, how could it smell? If all the parts of the body were the same, would it really be a body? The natural body has many members, and for that reason there must exist a distinction between them; yet they are only one body (see verse 20). One member of a body is not a body; a body is made up of many members; and among these many members there must be differences; differences of condition, shape, use, etc. It is the same with the body of Christ; its members must have different functions, and different powers, and be in different places. Variety in the members of the body contributes to the beauty of it. What a monster a body would be if it was all ear, or eye, or arm! Therefore, it is the diversity of gifts and offices that creates beauty in the church. God has arranged the members of the natural body to please Him, and likewise, He has placed every one of the members of His church where he pleases.

where were the smelling?
The apostle has made it clear that within the church there must be a diversity of gifts, as well as differences in management and diversities of function and responsibility; all are necessary, and all of these are created and directed by the very same Spirit. This, then, is our responsibility: we must all faithfully fulfill our calling and do our part in the Body of Christ, in perfect unity with Christ, because the failure of one part of the Body cripples the entire Body. Remember, "To every man his work." Therefore, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."

There are numerous actions to be performed by the body of a man in order for it to continue to live, or for its comfort and benefit while it lives. Seeing, hearing, and smelling (which are the three actions mentioned here) are not necessary for the perpetuation of life, but they do contribute to a man’s well-being, and the enjoyments of life; therefore a variety of bodily members are needed, organs of sight as well as hearing, and organs of smelling as well as hearing. Our God is too wise to have created any member of man’s body in vain; each one has been given a specific function in order to contribute to the well-being of the body. So, it is much the same in the church of God: if the church only consisted of ministers of the Gospel, men known to possess wisdom and knowledge, and who are qualified for the preaching of the word to others, there would be no hearers; and on the other hand, if it only consisted of hearers, men who could only hear the word and use it for their own advantage, there would not be any who possess a quick understanding, or are quick to detect wicked things, to distinguish truth from inaccuracy, to recognize spirits (whether they are “good” or “bad”), and direct the rest of the members to wholesome living, and preserve them from what would be hurtful and destructive to them.

Again, Paul tells them what would happen to them if that which they desire should come to pass; that is, if everyone was equal, the entire body would be destroyed. It could not be a body unless it was made of many members knit together, and different from one another. And no man can find fault with this unequal division of gifts, since God himself has joined all these parts together. Therefore all the parts must remain joined together, so that the body may remain strong and safe.

This verse means that the very existence of the body depends on the union of members, each of which is endowed with a different function.

18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

But now hath God set the members
The very same God who created us has placed each of us in the body, so that we may contribute to the life and growth of the body. One member may not say to another, “I do not need you.” Each member has been baptized into the one true Spirit, has eaten the same spiritual meat, and has been linked to the other members in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity.
The infinitely wise God, who has made the natural body of man, and prepared all of its members to serve a specific function, either for the continuation or promotion of the life of man, has also predetermined the order in which every member shall stand within the body of Christ. All this was done for a purpose—so that the head would be in the highest position and therefore able to guide the whole body; the feet in the lowest position in order to better walk upon the earth, and to bear the weight of the whole body: and the result being that no one may grumble about the wisdom of God, which has not only created man’s body, but also appointed every member of Christ’s church to his and her place of service, so that the body can stand against the many attacks by Satan and his demons.

God has arranged the various parts of the body so that each is conducive to the harmony and usefulness of all, so as to constitute one living, organic whole.  That member, therefore, who is not satisfied with his posting, will have to argue with God. Let us, therefore, willingly accept the arrangement which God has settled on, so that we may not resist his will (see Ecclesiastes 2.12).

• Eccl 2:12 (KJV) “And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.” “I turned” implies a deeper investigation into the relative values of wisdom and folly. Perhaps there are those who have not yet been convinced that the pursuit of pleasure for pleasure’s sake holds no permanent profit for man. All of humanity hovers between the pursuit of wisdom and the pursuit of folly as the two possible ways for man to live. Wisdom, when compared with folly, manifests some striking advantages. Wisdom compares with folly as light compares to darkness. The verdict is that wisdom is superior and leads to the path of profit.

every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
God is the One who gives the gifts, and He gives them to whom he pleases. He is the One to be pleased, not little man. He places these gifts in the body so that the body can function.
He has given me a gift and if you are a Christian, He has given you one (or more than one) too.
I can “rightly divide” God’s Word—at least I hope I can—and that is my Gift. He has given me another gift that complements this one; it is a deep love for His Word. There is nothing in life that I love more than Scripture. I am blessed more by what I write than anyone who reads it. I am thankful for my gifts and I joyfully serve Him by using them for His glory.

We can get some idea about gifts from these incidents in the Bible.
• Ananias and Sapphira had gifts, but they had not submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and their gifts were not functioning for the Lord. So they fell down dead before Simon Peter. They couldn’t exist in the early church. They had gifts, but they were not exercising them as they should.
• There was a woman by the name of Dorcas who had a gift of sewing, and she used that gift under the lordship of Christ. She exercised it in the will of God. When she died, Simon Peter went to Joppa and the widows had a regular fashion show as they showed Peter the dresses that Dorcas had made. The reason they wore them was that these were all that those poor women had to wear. Dorcas and her gift were important in the early church, so much so that Peter raised her from the dead. She had a gift that was still needed.
• Simon Peter had a gift. He was the great preacher on the Day of Pentecost. God used him mightily. When God no longer needed his gift, he died—he was not raised from the dead.

My dear friend, the Spirit of God is sovereign in all this. He is the One who determines what is important and what is not important. If God has called you to bake a cake or to sew a dress, then do it. That is a gift. The Holy Spirit wants us to use our gifts and to bring them under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

God the sole authority in the Church, which is His Body. The words "As it hath pleased Him," leave no room for complaining. He has situated every member—the hand, the foot, the ear, the eye, etc.—in the Body, as it pleased Him. Now think about this; if we had wanted to dictate to God where He should place the members of our physical bodies, what could we have said? His placing is perfect! The truth is, He has done a better job of it than we ever could; and we should proclaim before the entire human race, “Truly we are wonderfully made!” So, in the Body of Christ, which is the Church, each of us is placed according to His pleasure, but this by no means suggests that God has favored certain members of the Body, or that in the Church there is room for a justifiable complaint on the part of one member against another; because God places more honor upon those members who seem to be of the least value.

Why is the foot a foot and the hand a hand? Because it pleased the Designer to make it that way. So, the hand can take no “pride” in being a hand, and the foot can bear no “shame” in being a foot. Each is serving the pleasure of the Designer. In the design, we see the wisdom of the Designer: everybody has something; but nobody has everything. God made people different, each person being unique; and there were never two 'equal' people on earth. Each Child of God stands in the best situation and position they could be in, and for the greatest service and usefulness to the whole: so God, and not man, has set every member in the mystical body, the church, in such a place and part of it, as He thought best; some in a higher station, others in a lower station, but all for the good of the body; and therefore each member ought to be content with his place, gift, and usefulness; since it is the wise counsel and sovereign pleasure of God, who works all things after the counsel of his own will, that thought it should be that way.

19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

And if they were all one member, 
These verses (19 and 20) are a repetition of the idea that diversity of organs in the body is essential to its nature as a body. How could the body perform the several actions necessary for its well-being, if it consisted of only one member?

Paul poses the question, “And if they were all one member, where were the body?” He is asking what it would be like if the body consisted of nothing but an eye, an ear, or a leg. The answer is obvious; there would be no body. The idea which this seems to illustrate is this: that if there is not a variety of talents and gifts in the church, the church cannot exist. If, for example, there were only apostles, or prophets, or teachers; if there were just those who spoke with tongues and those who could interpret them, the church could not exist. A variety of talents and gifts in their proper places is as useful as are the various members of a healthy human body.
Since we know this to be true, we must conclude that God has not acted at random, or without good reason, in assigning different gifts to the members of the body; but He did so because it was necessary for the preservation of the body; and if some parts are taken away or moved out of their allotted position, there would be utter confusion and disorder. That’s why we ought to submit ourselves to the providence of God, which has so suitably arranged everything for our common benefit.

You and I need each other, and the Lord wants to use all of us.

where were the body?
If the physical body, or the Body which is the Church, were only one member, would there be a body at all? There is a necessity for the various parts of the body to have different functions.  So if the community of the saints was either all ministers, or all hearers, there would be no body, to receive any benefit or usefulness from either one, and the church of Christ would not be that uniform, useful, and consistent community it is today. No one part of the Body can do every other part's work, because the Lord has said, "To every man his work" and "Every man shall bear his own burden." A body with only one kind of member would be an absurdity.

Since the illustration used here represents the corporate body of Christians on earth, which has many millions of members (see 1 Corinthians 12.12, 14), it must be acknowledged as God's purpose that “they all should be one,” even as Christ prayed (see John 17:21). The shattered unity of Christianity is not due to the will of God, but to the devices of Satan. The interests of the individual must never overshadow those of the Church. In the Church, as in the body, the atrophy of any one member is injurious, not only to itself, but to the whole.

 (John 17.21; NKJV) “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” Christ prays for the Father to stand guard over the disciples in the wicked world. “That they may be as one” does not mean that Christ wants all denominations to be the same; He is praying that the disciples would be united in their stand against the wickedness of the world.

20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.

But now are they many members,
The Apostle’s aim throughout this passage is to confirm the interdependence of believers—one person gives to others that in which they are deficient, and he derives what he needs from each of them in turn. The Christian Church is not a lifeless mass of mere learners and passive subjects who are to be taught and ruled by a small authoritative fraction of its members. It is a great co-operative society, in which each is for all and all for each (or as the three musketeers put it, “all for one, and one for all”), and the object is to bring Christ into every sector of our being and our fellowship, similar to the way in which the life-blood nourishes the body of man. There is a word that expresses the interdependence and mutual interests of men and nations; and nothing could more aptly describe the apostle’s ideal body than that word “solidarity.”  It is a body that stands upon the firm foundation which is Christ, a “solid rock.”

The apostle keeps repeating the idea of the body having many members, but one body, because the emphasize of the whole question lies here—that the unity of the body is of such a nature that it cannot be maintained unless it has a diversity of members; and, while the members differ from each other in their gifts and functions, they have maintained a mutually dependent connection with each other for the preservation of the one body. For this reason a body cannot retain its significance without having a diversity of members, and each one discharging its duties for the benefit of the community.

yet but one body.
All the parts of the human body are united together to make up one complete body, and it cannot be perfect if it is missing even one small part; likewise, there are many members in the body of Christ, the church; some are teachers, others are hearers; some give, and others receive; but all make up one church, of which Christ is the head. Not even one of the least of them can be spared, since that would cause a deficiency, and the church would not be the good steward of God’s gifts that it should be. 

We read of worldly organizations, which claim to enjoy "Unity, harmony, and comradeship"; but none of these organizations manifest a unity or harmony or fellowship comparable to that of the Church. His body, the Church is an organism, working under one Head, who is Christ. The diversity of its members; each one has one or more uses and functions for the service of the whole body; but they do not make a multiplicity of bodies, because there is still only one body. Nothing is more glorious than, the whole body joined together by that which every part supplies. It is from this unity that we have acquired the mutual dependency of the members.

Paul is now going to show that each member is mutually dependent upon the others.

21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

And the eye cannot say unto the hand,
Verses 21-26 are a continuation of Paul’s elaboration on the composition of the body of Christ, the Church; in which he shows that the less “glamorous” parts of that body are just as important as the more glamorous parts. He illustrates this principle with the human body serving as a living example: Every member of the natural body is useful and necessary.

Now the danger is that the “eye” may say to the “hand” I have no need of thee. It is not suggested that the “hand” may say this to the “eye”. Practical experience proves that it is usually the intellectual, far-seeing brother who is tempted to speak thus to the brother who is far less intelligent but a far harder worker, rather than vice versa.

When he says, “The eye cannot say,” he is addressing those believers who are afflicted with pride due to a sense of superiority because of their gifts or place in the body. The eye is the seat of the sense of seeing, and the hand is the organ used to perform work. Some believers are like the eye; “seers” possessing intelligence and spiritual insight. They revel in an understanding of the things of God. They are devoted to the study of the Word, contemplation, and prayer; they probably have very little interest in other activities. Other believers are like the foot; very active workers. They are involved in many hard tasks in the interests of their Lord. In fact they work so hard that they may not avail themselves of instruction, and for this reason they are in danger of departing from the will of the Lord.

“The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee,” because the hand when it is in its assigned place is as necessary as the eye. The eye could not perform its appropriate functions, or it would be not be as useful without the aid of the hands. Each is useful in its proper place. The same thing can be said of the Church. Those that are the most talented and are richly endowed with gifts cannot say to those with less talent, that there is no need of their aid. All are useful in their proper place.  Without the assistance of those who have the humblest gifts, individuals who are most richly endowed could not accomplish nearly as much. Therefore, Superiors should not slight their inferiors, since they cannot do as well without them, which they will eventually be forced to acknowledge.

This verse emphasizes the mutual dependence of the members of the church.

I have no need of thee:
Again, this is a rebuke to the pride of those who thought their own gifts were unique and valuable. Often, we consider a part of our body unnecessary or of little importance—until it is hurt or sick. Then we realize how important it is! The hand or the eye may seem to be more important, and may have more “glamour” in its position—but it is not more necessary or important than other parts of the body.

There is no such thing as a freelance Christian. No part of the body can “put down” the other members as though they were not necessary, since every member of the body has its place and is needed by every other member. Notice that the phrase does not say that the eye should not say to the hand, I have no need of thee, but that it cannot. In just the same way the one body of Christ is considered to be the fruit of God’s work. It is what God has established; God’s work which can never be undone by man.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” since those members of the body which seem to be weaker are in reality necessary. And, on those members of the body which we think are less honorable, we bestow greater honor. God has wisely arranged the parts of the body to give greater honor to that part which lacks it. There should be no rifts in the body since all the members ought to care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

nor again the head to the feet,
The head and feet are placed in contrast to one another. Hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting are confined to the head. The only one of the five senses distributed over the entire body is the sense of touch. If the head is to exercise its functions it needs peacefulness and relaxation. But the feet are instruments of motion. The head wishes for what is still and stationary so that it may observe, hear,  and think, but the feet are all for that activity and movement that will disturb it. The head may be strongly tempted to say to the feet, I have no need of you! But within the human body every member is necessary; because God has designed it so that all the parts are dependent upon the other parts. He has given more honor to those parts which might be considered to be without honor, and He has given great beauty to what might appear unattractive. Medical science seems to be accumulating proofs of this, by showing how obscure glands, which formerly no one thought much of, are really of great importance, exercising such a control that if they cease functioning the body dies. The body of Christ is like that, because all its members are to have the same care and interest in one another. If one is affected, either for good or bad, all are affected.

The head, which is the command center for the senses, and is superior to, and has the command and government of all the members of the body, cannot say to the lowest and most distant parts of it, the feet, you are unwanted and useless; so it is with those who occupy first place in the church. They have the rule over the others, but they cannot say to those that are under them, even the lowest and most unassuming of them, that they are of no use to them. They can no more do without them, than the head can do without the feet, or than princes can do without subjects, or government officials without citizens, or generals without soldiers.

The less honorable parts probably refer to the principal internal organs, such as heart, lungs, stomach, and intestinal canal. These, when compared with the arms and legs, are comparatively weak; and some of them are considered to be unsightly and less honorable; yet these are more essential to life than any of the others.

I have no need of you.
God has designed His church so that each member has a role to play, and is essential to the proper functioning of every other member, and to the whole body; there is no part that is unnecessary. Every member serves some good purpose: it is useful to its fellow-members, and crucial to maintaining the good condition of the whole body. There is not a member of the body of Christ that is not useful to his fellow-members, and sometimes, and in some cases his assistance  is absolutely essential to their well-being. None of the members of this sanctified body should despise or envy another member, seeing that God has made the distinction between them by distributing gifts as he pleased. He is adept in keeping them all in some degree of mutual dependence, and He makes them valuable to each other and concerned for each other through their mutual usefulness. Those who excel in any gift cannot say that they have no need of those members who are their inferiors in that gift, while perhaps, in other gifts, they are inferior. The very lowest members of all have their use, and the highest cannot do well without them. The eye has need of the hand, and the head needs the feet.

Suppose that God would once again give some of them the gift of tongues like He did in the apostolic times. It still would be true that not everyone would speak in tongues. The analogy is to our bodies. Our bodies are not all tongue. (I have met a few people who seemed to be all tongue, but they are exceptions!) The Holy Spirit is not going to give the same gift to every person. As it is with the human body, there needs to be eyes and ears and feet and hands. Different people are given different gifts by the Spirit of God so that the body of Christ can function in all the ways He has intended.

The thought Paul conveys in this passage is that the educated, the famous, the talented and the honorable cannot possibly do without the rest of the body. The nation could get along without its philosophers and politicians much better than it could get along without its farmers and plumbers. The same principle should be applied to the church.

The higher cannot dispense with the lower members.

22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble,

Verses 22-24, contain some big words which show the mutual dependence and indispensability which characterize the relationship of every member of the body of Christ to every other member. There is also the suggestion that the “less honorable” members are in reality more honorable than those who are highly regarded. Eisenhower reprimanded a general in the army for speaking of a soldier as “just a private,” by sternly informing him that “The private is the man who wins the war.” This is exactly what Paul was saying here.

Some think that the words “Which seem to be more feeble,” refer to the brains, stomach, heart and bowels, which are very vulnerable, and prone to many ailments. Others believe the apostle is referring to the least muscular parts, veins, arteries, and other minuscule conduits in the body, where the least obstruction would be fatal in some instances. These, when compared with the arms and legs, are comparatively weak; and some of them, when considered by themselves are repulsive and less honorable; yet these are more essential to life than any of the others. A man may lose an eye by accident, and an arm or a leg may be amputated, and yet the body may still live; but let the stomach, heart, lungs, or some of the other internal organs be removed, and life is extinguished. That is the reason why these parts are not only covered by skin, but they are surrounded by bone and muscle for their preservation.

If “more feeble ( meaning weaker than the rest; more delicate)” would be replaced by “less noble,” the sense of the sentence changes to relate to the nature of these channels for throwing off the dregs, which, though they are thought to be dishonorable, are actually necessary; so necessary that if they become obstructed, intense torment and inevitable death must result. The amazing thing is that God has knitted the members of the Body of Christ together in a way that has given more honor to the parts that would otherwise be regarded as dishonorable. This has prevented divisions from forming within the Body; as a consequence each member of the Body exercises the same care one for another.

are necessary:
The meaning seems to be this. A man can live even if the strongest parts of his body are removed; but not if the feeblest parts are removed. A man can live if his arm or his leg is amputated; but not if his brain, his lungs or his heart is removed. So the assumption is that although these parts are feebler, and more easily injured, they are in reality more necessary to life. Perhaps the notion is—and it is a beautiful thought—that those members of the church which are the most humble and feeble and apparently are concealed from public view, unnoticed and unknown—the meek, the peaceful, and the prayerful—are often more necessary to the true welfare of the church than those who are well-known for their talent and learning. It is easier for the church to spare a man, even a minister, who is educated, eloquent, and popular, than some little known and humble Christian, who is to the church what the heart and the lungs are to the life of the body. The one is strong, enthusiastic, and active, like the hands or the feet, and the church often depends on them; the other is feeble, obscured, yet vital, like the heart or the lungs. The vitality of the church could be maintained even though the man with talent and learning is removed; likewise, the body may live when the arm or the leg is amputated; but that vitality could not continue if the humble and prayerful saint was removed, any more than the body can live without a heart and lungs. It is the meek, the peaceful, and the prayerful that God has seen fit to call in great numbers by his grace, and place them in the body, where they are strengthened and made perfect in their weakness.

We may infer from the apostle's teaching here that the least attractive gifts are the most important.

23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

And those members of the body,
In this verse the apostle continues to compare the members of the natural body with the members of the spiritual mystical Body, the Church. His purpose is to show that there are some members in the natural body that are less honourable, and some that are more honourable; but we put more honour upon the less honourable members by giving them an appropriate though unpretentious covering. But, we do not cover our attractive parts, such as the face, since they are handsome enough without adding any type of artificial beauty. Likewise, all the members of the mystical body should be taught that the lowest offices in the church, and the humblest members of the church (those possessing the least desired gifts), are as valuable to that spiritual body as those that have the most respected offices and gifts. God has done it this way so that the least members do not envy the greatest members, and the greatest does not despise the lesser members; but instead, each member would value and respect all the other members. There are two reasons assigned to this practice:
1. To prevent divisions within the Body, the members have the same love and good-will for all the other members. If the members of the natural body should strive among themselves, the whole body would split and break apart. Likewise, strife within the Church will lead to divisions and dissensions among its members.
2. Because there ought to be empathy between the members of the mystical body, as there is between the members of the natural body. The members of the natural body share feelings of both joy and grief: they all rejoice and mourn with one another: if one member is pinched, the whole body feels the pain.

Therefore all the members of Christ's body, the church, ought to have the same common interest, the same common concern, the same common thoughtfulness, and the same mutual sympathy, with each other, both in joy and despair.

You have seen some little, underdeveloped boy taking exercises and lifting weights. He is trying to develop some muscles and trying to develop some strength. God pays attention to the body of believers so that the small gifts are developed. I think there are many gifts in the church which need to be developed today.

Perhaps you feel that you are not doing anything for the Lord. One of the most thrilling things in the world, especially if you are a young person, is to find out what God wants you to do and where He wants you to go. What a thrill, what an experience, what an adventure to find out what gift God has given you!

which we think to be less honourable,
Here we have another argument—that the dishonor of one member becomes the common disgrace of the entire body, which is shown by the care we take to cover the parts that are less honorable. We all know what those parts of the body are, which are commonly “thought to be less honourable” and less appealing in appearance; upon these we confer more honour and beauty, by hiding them and covering them, since they are not, like the hands, the face, and the head, (which we regard as the more honourable parts of the body), which are exposed to public view. Clothing is used to cover those parts of the body which are typically regarded as the least becoming, and may even be deemed unseemly, if uncovered. This illustration is meant to show that rich and poor, great and small, high and low, gifted and ungifted, have all their own separate and indispensable functions and no class of Christians can wisely denigrate or do without the aid derived from other classes.

upon these we bestow more abundant honour;
Honor and glory are bestowed on the less honorable parts of the body by a man’s garments, since a man's garments are his honour and glory. Similarly the poor members of Christ's church, who are thought to be the less honourable, though they really are not, have honour conferred on them by God and Christ: God has chosen the poor of this world; Christ has sent his Gospel to them; the Spirit calls and sanctifies them. Christ has assigned his churches with the job of caring for them now, and He will accept them as his brethren when the great day arrives; but for now He greatly honors them with His presence, His grace, and His Spirit.

and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
By this he means to say that we adorn and decorate the body with frivolous apparel. Those parts which decency requires us to conceal we not only cover, but we endeavor as much as we can to adorn them, to preserve decency and modesty. In the mean time we leave the face uncovered. The idea is that we should act in a similar manner and not despise or disregard those members of the church who are of lower rank, or who are less favored with spiritual gifts than others.

There is one other circumstance that may be inferred from this verse, which is the situation with regard to backsliding believers, who have fallen into great sins; these are the unpleasant parts of the church; men and women, who, when made aware of their sins, are restored to fellowship, and received into the church. The brethren place a mantle of love over all their failings; and all possible precautions are taken so that their faults are not exposed to the world, and more importantly, that the name of God, and the Church of Christ, may not be blasphemed and disgraced.

24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

For our comely parts have no need:
It would be easy to go into great detail in giving a description of the different parts of the body to which the apostle refers, but it would probably not contribute to the understanding of the apostle’s teaching in this instance; and besides, I have attempted in the prior verses to explain what Paul meant by those parts he identified as feeble, less honourable, more honorable, comely, and uncomely. My readers will therefore have to excuse my lack of detail in this instance.

“Our comely parts” refers to the face, eyes, nose, lips, cheeks, etc., which are rarely covered, except in the Muslim countries where women must cover their entire body before appearing in public.  “Our comely parts” have been blessed by nature and our heavenly Father, with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and are noted for grace and holiness, and are enabled to walk worthy of their calling, and to have their conversations suit the Gospel of Christ, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience; these do not need a covering, to hide and conceal them from the world, as does those parts the apostle has dubbed feeble, less honorable, and uncomely.

but God hath tempered the body together,
He repeats what he had stated once before (see 1 Corinthians 12:18), but more plainly this time,
“But God hath tempered the body together;” by which he means to say that God has created, structured, mixed and united all its parts in such a manner that they are necessary to the harmony and proper function of another. Every part is useful, and all contribute to the harmonious action of the whole. God has so arranged those parts which are less comely by nature, and are customarily adorned and guarded by apparel, in order to produce harmony and equality in the body. He has used the same pattern to form and maintain His Church. Without such an arrangement a schism in the body would quickly break out. That's why the Body of Christ is not merely shattered, but the authority of God is openly made to appear as nothing, whenever any one assumes more than that which belongs to him. The Body of Christ, the Church, should have love for one another, tender concern for the well-being of each other, empathy and compassion for those experiencing grief, and join with the brethren in their joy and pleasures.

having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
The Syriac version renders “that part which lacked,” as "which is the least"; and that is a good description of the nature and makeup of the church, which, for mutual good, has mixed rich and poor persons; some having greater gifts and others having lesser gifts.

The “more abundant honor,” refers to the greater attention, and care which we give to those parts of the body "which is the least," or rather thought to be the least. The least, less honorable parts must be covered, therefore clothing is needed, not only for protection from cold, and heat, and storms, but to provide a sense of attractiveness and conceal from view.

By making the less presentable parts of the body essential to the well-being of the rest, and by diffusing a common life through all the members, God has made the body a harmonious whole.

25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

That there should be no schism in the body;
The word “schism” when used in an ecclesiastical sense means “a formal division within, or separation from, a church or religious body over some doctrinal difference.” Therefore, the meaning of this clause is: That there should be no unnecessary and independent part in the entire human body, and that every part should contribute something to the well-being, maintenance, and beauty of the body. God has designed and constructed the human body so that not even the smallest visible part can be removed from it without causing injury and producing deformity. That's why each member is necessary to the safety and welfare of every other member. The eyes and ears watch and listen for the general safety of the whole; and they are placed in the head, like sentries in a tower, in order for them to discover the approach of an enemy and give alarm. The hands go on the attack instantly to defend the head and the body; and the legs swiftly convey the body to safety when it is exposed to danger. Even the heart reacts to an alarm from both the eyes and the ears by beating faster; and when an attack is made on the body every muscle becomes inflated and contracts itself, in order to concentrate its force, and effectively defend the body against the assailants.

Schisms, Divisions and alienation of feelings should be foreign to the Body of Christ. That is the gist of this clause. The Body should be united and act as one harmonious assembly in which no member has separate interests; and they should all feel equally necessary to the whole. Each member ought to be truly dependent on each of the other members; and no member should be alienated from the others, or deemed to be unnecessary to the welfare of all. The premise which is illustrated by this is, that no member of the church, however feeble, or illiterate, or obscure, should be looked down on or regarded as unnecessary or worthless, since every member is necessary and valuable; and it should not be assumed that they are unworthy or unfit to associate with those who have been deemed to be more important or to possess superior gift(s). When seen from God’s perspective, there is never any reason for schism in the body, since both the “pride” of the “honorable” member and the “shame” of the “less honorable” member is kept in check. The conditions that might create a schism within the church cannot exist where jealousy and competition do not exist, and all the members have one common interest which is to worship and honor Jesus Christ.

but that the members should have the same care one for another.
“Should have the same care” would be better stated, “Should care for the same thing.”  Each individual believer should have the same high regard for the interests of all the other members, and desire the preservation, harmony, and well-being of the whole. When any part of the body is affected by disease or pain, we are deeply interested in finding a cure. The idea is that no member of the church should be ignored or unloved; but instead, the whole church should have a deep interest in all its members, being attentive to their needs and treating them with kindness. To that end, God has prearranged the church in order for persons to be placed in it, and gifts distributed to them in such a manner that every man is obligated, not only to be concerned for his own things, take care of himself, and perform his office, but also be concerned for the welfare of the others within the church, and to support them with prayers and whatever assistance they may need.

This “same care one for another” means shared suffering and a shared honor.

The parts of the body work together. The eyes and ears do not only serve themselves, but the whole body. The hands do not only feed and defend themselves, but the whole body. The heart does not only supply blood to it, but serves the whole body. Sometimes there is a part of our body which only lives to serve itself. It doesn’t contribute anything to the rest of the body, and everything it gets it uses to feed and grow itself. We call this cancer.

If one member of the body suffers, all the members suffer with it. If a joint on any one part of the body hurts, the whole body goes into action on its behalf. If one member is seriously sick, the whole Body is concerned, feels its pain, prays, and helps if possible.

If one member of the Body is honored, all the members rejoice. In this, jealousy is excluded. If we share the honor, how can we be jealous of one another? If the members of the Body worked independently of one another, there might be boasting. When, however, none of the members can do anything apart from Christ, the Head, and none of the members can do anything apart from every other member, there is rejoicing together.

The early believers "were of one heart and of one soul;" and the moment that a complaint arose that alleged one of the weakest and smallest interests was neglected, the supposed neglect was amply remedied (see Acts 4:32).

 Acts 4:32 (KJV) “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” The number of believers at this time was about five thousand; and the number was constantly increasing.

This expression, “one heart,” denotes tender union. They felt alike, or were attached to the same things, and this prevented discord.

The phrase “one soul” also denotes close and tender union. No expression could denote it more strikingly than to say of friends “they have one soul.” There can be no more remarkable demonstration of union and love than to say of more than five thousand who are suddenly drawn together, that they had one soul! And this union they demonstrated in every way possible; in their conduct, in their prayers, and in their property. How different would the church be today, if the union had continued to the present time!

And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it;
This clause has been illustrated by an example derived from the human body: “When a thorn enters the heel, the whole body feels it, and is concerned: the back bends, the belly and thighs contract themselves, the hands come forward and remove the thorn, the head stoops, and the eyes gaze upon the affected member.” We all know from personal experience that this is the case with the body. A pain in the foot, the hand, or the head creates deep concern. The concern, however, is not confined to the part affected; instead, we feel that our entire body is affected and demands treatment. The word “suffer” is used here to refer to disease, or sickness. It is also the case that we not only feel concern for the part that is affected, but that disease in any one part has a tendency to spread throughout the body. If it is not stopped by the application of medicine or by the hand of God, it may be conveyed by the blood through all the members until life itself is destroyed. It is not a coincidence, then, but it is the inevitable result of the natural processes of the body that a diseased member tends to affect the whole body. Of course, the church does not have the same “physical” connection and “physical” effect, but the unity of its members is just as close and no less important, therefore it is certainly a fact that the conduct of one member will affect all the members. It is also implied here, that we should feel a deep concern for the welfare of all the members of the Body of Christ. If one is tempted by Satan or made miserable by his slings and arrows, the other members of the church should feel it too, and “bear one another‘s burdens.” If one of the members is poor, the others should help him, and supply his needs; if one is persecuted and condemned for righteousness’ sake, the others should sympathize with him, and join with him in his cause. In all the things pertaining to religion and to their mutual welfare, they should feel that they have a common cause, and regard it as a privilege to help one another. What’s more, a man should not think it is any more of a burden and hardship to aid a poor or afflicted brother in the church, than it could be deemed a hardship for the head, and the heart, and the hands to sympathize with any other member of the body which is diseased. The Jews have a saying that says, “If one brother dies, all the brethren grieve; and if one of a society dies, the whole society grieves"; and there is another that says, "Everyone that afflicts himself with the congregations, is worthy to see or enjoy the comfort of the congregation or church.”

God has designed and constructed the natural body to prevent schism, rupture and disunity among its members; He will not have even the least mutual disregard. This should also be avoided in the spiritual Body of Christ. There should be no schism in this body, since the members are closely united by the strongest bonds of love. But where affection decays, there are the seeds of schism. Where Christians grow cold towards each other, they will be neglectful and unconcerned for each other. And this mutual disregard is the beginning of a schism. The members of the natural body are made to care and nurture each other, to prevent a schism from forming. It should be the same with Christ's Body; the members should sympathize with each other. In the natural body, pain in one part affects the whole, and when one part feels pleasure all parts receive pleasure; it is the same with the Church, therefore Christians consider themselves honored when their fellow-Christians are honored, and should suffer when they suffer. Martin Luther in his letter to Lampertus Thorn, who was a prisoner for Christ’s sake, wrote:  “I doubt (and it is a grief to me) that I shall never have the honour of martyrdom as you have. But herein I can comfort myself, that your bonds are my bonds, your imprisonment and burning at a stake mine; for so they are so long as I confess and extol them; so long as I both suffer with you and rejoice with you.”

or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
If applied to the body, this means that all the other members partake of the benefit and honor. If one member is sound and healthy, the benefit extends to all. If the hands, the feet, the heart, the lungs, the brain is in a healthy condition, the advantage is felt by all the members, and all derive advantage from it.

If applied to the church, this means if one of its members is given preferential treatment or is raised to a position of honor and influence above his brethren, all members are happy for him. If one member is favored with remarkable talent, or is raised to a station of influence, and exerts his influence in the cause of Christ, all the members of the church partake of the benefit. It is for the common good; and all should rejoice in it. This consideration should suppress envy at the elevation of others, and should lead all the members of a church to rejoice when God, by his direct agency, or by the arrangements of his providence, confers extraordinary gifts, or gives opportunity for extended usefulness to others. Nothing is more likely to promote harmony than this community of awareness that occurs when everyone feels that he is enriched by the prosperity of others, and likewise, that he is impoverished by their poverty.

My friend, there is no place for jealousy, envy or contempt in the church—we all are members of the same body. If one is honored, we all receive that honor. And when one member is suffering, we all suffer with him. This means that all the members will feel involved in the misfortune or prosperity of fellow-Christians. If a brother suffers any kind of sorrow or loss, those who are really Christians will share in the hurt; and whatever honor, success or joy may come to a brother in Christ, the same should be an occasion of rejoicing on the part of all his Christian brothers.

“All the members rejoice with it” means sharing in the honor, or benefit of it: so if one member of the church of Christ is honored with a high office, with great spiritual gifts, with a large measure of grace, spiritual light, and knowledge; and if he should experience the awesome love of God, presence of Christ, and communion of the Holy Ghost, the other members rejoice with him. It befits the saints to rejoice with them that rejoice, and be glad for both the temporal and spiritual prosperity of each other: and the effect upon the whole is clearly seen; that the very least have no reason to be discouraged, or do the highest and greatest to be proud and elated.

Do you have any questions or comments?

 From Acts 12:2 we know that Herod beheaded the apostle James, brother of John, but do you know the rest of this story? James was the first apostle to suffer death after the martyrdom of Stephen. Although Herod was the authority that took his head, James’s fate started when a nameless individual brought charges against him before the tribunal. When the case was over and James had been condemned to death, the man who had instigated the trial was deeply moved by the behavior and continence of the apostle. James was so filled with the Spirit of God that on the way to the place of execution the one who had initiated the charges against him made a confession of faith in Christ. When he asked James to forgive him, the apostle said, “Peace be to thee, brother.” James then kissed him and both men were beheaded for their faith in 36 A.D. A Spirit-filled life may lead to physical death, but more importantly, it always leads to eternal life.

Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World, John Foxe, 1989, p. 5