March 18, 2007

You Need Us

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 1 Corinthians Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:21–27


You Need Us

1 Corinthians 12:21-27
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Pastor Randy Smith

Have you every heard the corny story about the Tate family? They dwell in every organization, including the church.

There is Dick Tate, who wants to run everything. Ro Tate tries to change everything. Agi Tate stirs up trouble whenever possible and Irri Tate always lends him a hand. Whenever new ideas are suggested, Hesi Tate and Vegi Tate pour cold water on them. Imi Tate tries to mimic everyone, Devas Tate love to be disruptive and Poten Tate wants to be a big shot. But it's Facili Tate, Cogi Tate and Medi Tate who always save the day and get everyone pulling together (Co-op Magazine, Date Unknown).

The goal in any organization is to pull everyone together. Yet to take naturally selfish people that come from a variety of backgrounds, each with their own interests and distinctive personality types and put them together to serve in one unified direction could almost be considered a small miracle.

Apart from any intervention, life in the church would be chaotic - each person doing what is right in his or her own eyes. There would be confusion, discord and even at the expense of much time, energy and money, the accomplishment of very little worthwhile. Therefore if we wish to honor God not only in our unity, but also in our productivity, certain guidelines must be followed.

First, God's Word must be exalted as our common standard. Our beliefs and our experience must always be subordinate to the Scriptures. Second, as a church, we must share the same overall vision and objectives. And third we must understand our individual place within the church and how our specific role contributes to the overall purpose.

Last week we learned that Paul compared the church, which is also known as the body of Christ, to the human body. And serving as two bookends to our unit of study he first said in verse 12, "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ." Then in verse 20 he said, "But now there are many members, but one body."

As Christians it is our responsibility to understand that we are not solitary ships floating in a sea of isolationism. The Bible says that we have been immersed into a body (verse 13). The Bible says we have been placed into this body just as God desired (verses 11, 18 and 24). We are individual parts of a greater whole. Mavericks and Lone Rangers may make great movie stars, but they make horrible Christians and can greatly damage the body of which they are a part.

Now there are two mistakes that we as members in the Body of Christ often make.

One mistake as we discussed last week is the attitude that believes we are not necessary. It starts with pride, leads to self-pity, gives birth to a faulty way of thinking and results in a refusal to serve the body. Among some of the defective conclusions I have heard as to why people don't serve in the church are as follows: "Someone hurt my feelings." "I don't get the attention I deserve." "I'm not worthy." "I have nothing to contribute." "My gifts are second-rate." And "I'm not wanted around here." In a nutshell, "You don't need me." All of these responses stand contrary to Scripture and hurt not only oneself but also the rest of the body, because if one body part is off (personalize that!), the whole body suffers. That is Paul's point! Your actions as a body part have repercussions on the entire church.

Dizzy Dean, famous baseball pitcher, once was hit by a line drive directly on his toe.  Not too big a deal.  But he did not give it adequate time to heal and instead kept pitching. Because of the pain he felt whenever he put any weight on that toe, he changed his delivery.  This put additional stress on his pitching arm, and forced him into retirement.  A "little thing" like a stubbed toe ended up having major and unforeseen consequences (Taken from: MacArthur, The Master's Plan for the Church, p. 109).

What we have been discussing is spelled out beginning in verse 14: "For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, 'Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,' it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, 'Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,' it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?" (1 Cor. 12:14-17).

Every person (or body part) in the church must remain spiritually healthy and spiritually active fulfilling his or her God designated role in order for the church to have success.

Consider the following story: A certain sea captain and his chief engineer argued as to which of them was the more important to the ship. Failing to agree, they resorted to the unique plan of swapping places. The Chief ascended to the bridge and the Captain went into the engine room. After a couple of hours the Captain suddenly appeared on the deck covered with oil and soot. "Chief!" he yelled, wildly waving aloft a monkey wrench. "You'll have to come down here; I can't make 'er go!" "Of course you can't," replied the Chief. "She's aground!" (Bits and Pieces, December 1989, p. 17).

So last week we learned that each of you in Christ have a role to fulfill within this local church. You are uniquely gifted and sovereignly placed within this body to meet a specific need through your God empowered service. Every body part must function in order for the Church body to function. Hence the sermon title last week: "We Need You!"

Now this week, as we conclude 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul continues his body metaphor, but takes us in a different direction and looks at the other mistake people commonly make. In verses 12-20 we saw the effects on the whole when one body part fails to contribute. Today in verses 21-27 when one body part fails to contribute, we will see the effects on that one body part. Hence the sermon title this morning: "You Need Us!"


Let's begin with the first point: Celebrating Interdependence. As verses 12 and 20 served as bookends for last week's study, verses 21 and 27 serve as bookends for today's study. Follow along as I read those passages: Verse 21, "And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you;' or again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' And verse 27, "Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it."

Let's start with verse 21, the personification of body parts. Like the envy problem that Mr. Foot was having with Mr. Hand last week, another problem has arisen in the body, this time a pride problem between Mr. Eye and Mr. Hand.

There is no doubt that a lot of attention goes to Mr. Eye, and it seems that all the praise has swollen his ego. He has developed a "stand alone" mentality. He has chosen to do his own thing believing that other members in the body can contribute nothing to his welfare. He is self-reliant. He is self-sufficient. He is self-exalted. And he is, according to the Bible, self-deceived.

Not only does this illustration from Paul reveal the squabbles and divisiveness that can occur in the church body (looking up to others with jealousy: foot to hand or looking down on others with pride: eye to hand), it also reveals the foolishness when individual Christians think they are superior and suppose they can live lives isolated from other believers.

Think of that proud eye divorced from the other body parts. Not only will his arrogance hurt the body (as we learned last week), but his ignorance will also hurt himself. The eye needs a brain to process his information. He needs legs to get around. He needs tear ducts to keep him lubricated. And he needs an eyelid to protect him from the scorching sun. On his own, away from the body, that eye will serve no purpose and eventually shrivel up and die.

John Wesley once said, "There is no such thing as a solitary Christian."

The Bible says God has immersed us into the body (1 Cor. 12:13). Did He make a mistake? Are we disappointed to be in Christ's church? Isn't the interdependence of body parts necessary for the church body to survive? If we agree with these statements then shouldn't our practice reflect the reality of our theology? If we agree that we are immersed into a body, isn't separation from the body immature, foolish and arrogant? So for our own good we should be involved and connected with the lives of other believers. What I am saying is that it is unbiblical and self-destructive to look across the aisle and say, "You don't need me" (last week's study) or "I don't need you" (this week's study).


Now, as we move to the second point, Paul will explain why this interdependence is necessary. You see, the Corinthian church was into celebrating those who shared the same gifts. Tongues was their signature gift, the flavor of the month, and they had little use for those who did not share their perceived badge of spiritual elitism. The more showy and more spectacular gifts captured their attention and those with the less prominent gifts were considered unnecessary.

So Paul, in an effort to address this error continued with his body metaphor. Beginning in verse 22 he said, "On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked" (1 Cor. 12:22-24).

Do you see what Paul's getting at? Of all our body parts, if I were to guess, we probably are most thankful for our eyes. When it comes time to do hazardous work or catch some rays, the first body part we protect is our eyes. At one time or another I am sure all of us have considered the agony we would face if we were to ever lose our sight.

But isn't this praise and love for the eyes a little imbalanced? We could lose an eye and still live, but what would happen if we lost our kidneys, liver, lungs or heart? How often to we think about or thank God for these parts? Although they are more necessary, much less care is given to keep them operating at optimal performance. I mean, think of the disrespect they receive. They keep us alive and we are willing to compromise their health at the expense of satisfying our taste buds, growing hair on our head or trimming our waistline!

Another example comes from my personal life. About seven years ago I went to the doctor after continually being concerned about an extreme coldness that I experienced in my hands. After clearing me on a healthy skeletal system and circulatory system, he concluded that I had Raynaud's Syndrome (sp?). There is a common and necessary function that all our bodies perform - mine simply overreacts.  As it was explained to me, the body, when cold, constricts the blood vessels to concentrate its attention (blood volume) on the heart and primary organs and thus circulation is limited to the extremities. In other words, the brain has determined when the core body temperature starts dropping that it would much rather lose a hand than die of hypothermia. My point is that although the hand gets much attention, the intellect says I'm foolish because there are much more important body parts that deserve greater consideration.

The Corinthian church was a church where everybody wanted to be an eye or a hand. Remember from two weeks ago everybody was seeking after the so-called "greater gifts" (1 Cor. 12:31). Therefore Paul needed to tell them that the less prominent members (or as they saw them, "weaker members") are indeed necessary for the body to function properly. They should be appreciated and not degraded. As verse 24 states, God gives these less prominent parts honor. We would be wise to appreciate them and understand how indispensable they are to meet our needs.

Take Vaughn's Rule of Corporate Life. It basically says the same thing: "The less important you are on the table of organization, the more you'll be missed if you don't show up for work."

Paul is talking to people in the church who thought others contributed nothing to their needs. From a spirit of arrogance they looked down on those who appeared to be of less prominence.

Consider the following illustration: "During World War II, England needed to increase its production of coal. Winston Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation he asked them to picture in their minds a parade which he knew would be held in Picadilly Circus after the war. First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky. Last of all he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner's caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, 'And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?' And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, 'We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal'" (Don McCullough, Waking from the American Dream, quoted it: Leadership, v. 10, n. 3, p. 42).

Point: Not all the jobs in a church are prominent and glamorous.  But it is often the people with their "faces to the coal" that help the church accomplish her mission.

And though we do not fully appreciate those people now, there will come a time, as Paul told these Corinthians, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). "For the day will show it because (the quality of a man's work) is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work" (1 Cor. 3:13). The day will come when we will all appear before the Bema Seat of Christ. What will be said by our omniscient God as to the materials we used to build on the foundation of Christ (1 Cor. 3:11-12)? The test of fire will reveal if it was "gold, silver, (and) precious stones (or) wood, hay (and) straw (1 Cor. 3:12)." The Lord sees all and will call into account everything that happens unknown to the human eye.

One Commentator said, "Every member of the body of Christ ought to realize that God has bypassed no one in the distribution of gifts and talents. He or she may not bury these talents through idleness, for there will eventually be a day of reckoning when God demands an accounting. In that day, God will commend and reward those who have been faithful by employing and developing their gifts" (Simon Kistemaker, 1 Corinthians, p. 434).

Another said, "I believe that the most surprising experience Christians will have is that of seeing the Lord present His rewards at the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ... If there is such a thing as shock in heaven, I believe that is what most of us will feel when the secrets are revealed (1 Cor. 4:3-5). Jesus said those who seek to be first in this life will be last in the next (Mt. 19:30), and that spiritual greatness is determined by the spirit of servanthood not by high position or impressive achievements" (MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, p. 321)

Though we might not appreciate the less prominent members now, the time will come when they will receive their just attention.


As we move to the third point we enter the heart of Paul's concern. This Corinthian church wanted unity in their uniformity. Yet God wanted unity within their diversity. For that is the only way we can compliment each other and that is the best way the cross is exalted for bringing differences together. Unfortunately their unloving and selfish attitude was not uniting the church, but as we would expect, creating division.

Picking up the text in the middle of verse 24: "But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another" (1 Cor. 12:24a-25).

Notice very carefully God's goal for the church - It is unity (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10)! And according to verse 25 the way we measure that unity is if we have the same care for one another. Contrary to the attitude of the Corinthians we show our care by: Using our gifts to build up the body and appreciating those who have gifts different than ours.

We must always adopt an attitude in everything we do that shows a greater care for others than the care we have for ourselves. We must ask ourselves how our actions or lack of them will affect others within the body of Christ. And if it will cause harm to the body, it would be much better if we would (as Paul told this church in chapter 6) be personally defrauded than harm the church due to our own selfishness. We must be willing to disagree at times, but never lose our love for one another. Care for one another (not possessing some spiritual gift) is the attitude that is most distinctively Christian. For that attitude is most reminiscent of Christ.

"Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:6-8).

The Corinthians were very selfish, and it was killing the church. So Paul needed to firmly tell them, "If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him" (1 Cor. 3:17). And we too need to ask ourselves, are we like Christ caring for the church even at the expense of self to avoid division and build others up? Or are we divorced from the body's needs and through our actions elevating our own needs and subsequently tearing the body apart whether we realize it or not?

I watched them tearing a building down,

A gang of men in a busy town.

With a whole 'Heave-ho', and a lusty yell,

They swung a beam and the side wall fell.

I asked the foreman: 'Are these men skilled,

And the kind you would hire if you were to build?'

He laughed and said: 'Why no indeed,

Just common laborers are all I need.'

'They can easily wreck in a day or two

That which has taken builders years to do'.

So I said to myself as I went on my way:

'What part in the game of life do I play?'

'Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,

Carefully measuring with a rule and square, patiently doing the best that I can.

Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,

Content with the labor of pulling down?'

Source Unknown

Care for one another. Listen to how Paul taught it to the Ephesians also spoken in the context of ministry. "The whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16).

To show what this care looks like, Paul gives us a beautiful example in verse 26. "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."

This is how a human body functions. If you have ever has a bad toothache, smashed finger or ingrown toenail you know that one small part can cause the whole body to ache. But our favorite dinner or a warm fireplace or a nice backrub can make our body sing for joy. This is how a church body functions as well. In the demonstration of our care, we all suffer when one suffers and we all rejoice when one rejoices.

Beloved, may we all understand that God has given us all spiritual gifts for the common good. When we fail to use our gifts, we hurt not only others in the body but also ourselves. Spiritual gifts are not a sign of spiritual maturity, but the way we view them and use them in love definitely is.

Imagine a church with no distain, rivalry, competition, envy or malice, no inferiority or superiority, only love and care for one another. That is what God wants and that is the small miracle I spoke of earlier. And it is that unity that will produce not only a peaceful, but also an effective church. It has been said, "Coming together is a start; keeping together is progress; working together is success."

other sermons in this series

Apr 22


Edification or Self-Exaltation

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:1–40 Series: 1 Corinthians

Apr 15


Everything Minus Love Equals Nothing

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1–13 Series: 1 Corinthians

Mar 11


We Need You

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12–20 Series: 1 Corinthians