1 Corinthians 12:12-21; 26-27
1. We need Jesus
2. We need the church
3. We need each other
Epiphany 3 – January 24, 2016
1/22/2016 9:10:58 PM
Do you remember Gilligan’s Island? A small group of people stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere. The TV Show was entertaining but not very realistic. Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you were alone on an island somewhere in the Pacific? There you had some people stranded on an Island. The show was not very realistic but it made you think about being in such a predicament. When I was a youngster I remember a radio program called, “Desert Island Date.” The host of the program would interview people and talk about how you would pass time on a dessert island. To begin with, which book would you want to read? If you could have someone there to talk to, “whom would you want there?” What music would you want to listen to? Most of those who were interviewed said they would use the time to read books that would take a long time to read. As for the person they would want to be there was usually some celebrity. It was someone they could ask all kinds of questions and discuss matters all day and night. Or just talk to that person they admired or idolized.
Sad to say, some people live under the illusion that they can live on a desert island and even exist on an island and be happy. The British poet John Dunne wrote the following some 500 years ago; “No man is an island, entire of himself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” In Paul’s letter to the Romans he reminds us, “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die; we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7)
A few years ago one of the families in one of the congregations I served stopped attending church. After some time I received a letter which explained why they were no longer coming to church. The man of the house was a son of the congregation. His great-grandfather had been a founding member of the congregation. The wife of the man was from another denomination and had taken instructions before she joined the congregation. She had some questions about certain doctrines and I did my best to answer her question. Before she became a member I told her not to become a member if she did not agree with what we believed and taught. I was disappointed when she said that they would not join any other church but would worship at home. They also had other concerns. They were offended by the ungodly and unloving actions of other family members. The concerns most certainly were valid.
I tried to get them to understand that holding to the faith is not easy under any circumstances. But when you try to do this on your own you might only focus on your favorite doctrines of the Bible and ignore those that may seem unimportant. God tells us that the whole counsel of God must be taught. Jesus also gave us the command to preach the gospel to the world. Since we cannot do this as individuals we send missionaries as a congregation and also as a church body and by doing this fulfill that command of our Lord.
An island most certainly can exist on its own. It can have vegetation and animals but this cannot be the case with a Christian. No one can ever say that he or she can be a Christian and exist as an island exists. We have heard some say how they worship Christ when they fish, hunt or hike. When they associate with other Christians they do not feel at home because there are so many hypocrites who are a disgrace to the church.
Let’s take a look at the Bible and hear what the Lord has to say about all of this. It seems that the only time when Christians can exist like an island is when there is persecution and the church has to move underground. Otherwise Christians will gather together and support each other as a support group. It was said about the early Christians that the love they had for each other was admirable and exemplary. There’s no doubt that NO CHRISTIAN IS AN ISLAND.
1. WE NEED JESUS
Paul reminds us of the wonderful unity we have with Jesus which we need. When we belong to Jesus we cannot possibly be like an island. 1 Corinthians 12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. So it is with Christ. It has been suggested that certain parts of the body are minor an non-essential. It is true that a body can exist without a hand, an arm and also without a foot and even without a leg. There are people who are armless and legless as a result of being casualties of auto accidents and combat in war. Such people can live and be productive but it takes a lot of will power and perseverance. The body cannot function as it should or would like to because something is missing. The Lord makes the point that many are one and not one is many.
The human body is a most amazing creation. Each member of the body has an important role. The head is the most important part. Without the head, the body cannot function. In the same way Jesus Christ is the head of the church. Without this head the rest of the body is incapable of doing anything. It is united as is Christ’s body the church. There’s no place for division in the church just as there should be no division within the human body. As the head is attached to the body so every believer is also attached to Jesus who is the head of the church.
There is only one way to become part of the body of Christ. Paul explains it was follows, 1 Corinthians 12:13 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. The blessings of baptism are all the same to all people regardless of who they are or what their position in life is. It makes no difference who baptized us because the blessings are from God. It is only possible through water and the word. This is the Holy Spirit at work in the heart of the believer. Where there is faith there is the temple of God because the Holy Spirit is at work.
The blessings of baptism should never be underestimated. In his letter to the Galatians Paul reminds us what the blessings of baptism are. Galatians 3:26-29 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
We were baptized “in” one Spirit, in union with him, in vital connection with him. This Spirit operates in baptism, works a spiritual change, produces a new spiritual life, establishes a new spiritual relationship. We are also reminded in our lesson that we were all given the one Spirit to drink. From time to time Jesus spoke about himself being the water of life. John 4:14 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” God uses each one and has a special role for everyone.
Without Jesus we are like an island separated from the mainland. Islands though can be beautiful and full of life. Not all islands are desert islands, they may be deserted and that’s what makes them not the place to be unless you want to live in the wild with no shelter or civilization. Some islands are major tourist attractions. Without Jesus we would be like a desert island but when Jesus changes our lives we are a living island. It is Jesus who not only unites us to himself but also to others. In Christ all Christians belong to one family or as our lesson reminds us today – one body. We learn more about this body which is the church. Just as we need Jesus.
2. WE NEED THE CHURCH
The body has many different organs but being different does not mean being inferior or less important. Paul reminds us, 1 Corinthians 12:14-16 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.
It really would be absurd if one part of the body told another part of the body that it was more important. Feet cannot covet the role of the hands and ears do not covet the role of the eyes. The body does not work that way. One part of the body cannot exclude itself from the body or insist that it is not part of the body. When children arguing on the playground can take their ball and go home, but the body cannot. Even if body parts could covet one another, nothing would change, because they would still be part of the body. In the church each one has been blessed with special gifts. The Lord reminds us concerning these gifts, 1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. All the complaining is useless because it changes nothing. It is not only useless but also foolish.
Just imagine if we saw giant eyeballs or giant ears walking around. Such creatures would not function for obvious reasons. Each organ needs other organs and body parts. So it is also in the church. There are many different persons and many different roles. This is how Paul put it, vs. 17 – 18 “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. One thing we
need to remember is that the church needs both generals and privates. One may seem more important than the other but think about one of those parts of the body that seem minor or non-essential. When you have a Charlie Horse cramp the entire body is in agony. When that little muscle acts up the whole body cringes and curls.
The body was put together with a plan. The church was also put together with a plan. God put specific talents into the church to make it grow and prosper. As each member of the body is united to serve the body so the members of the church are also bound to serve the body. This is a wonderful blessing to be able to serve as Christ did. He came to serve, not to be served.
Paul’s theme in this chapter is: the body – not one member but many. 2 Cor. 12:19-21 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” We who constitute the church and are individually gifted by the spirit must ever keep this great fact in mind. A living illustration of it is ever before us in our human body. This fault, to which many of us are prone, is found in the first part of the great fact: the body is not one member but many members. The remedy for its care lies in the second part of the great fact: The body is not one member but many.
In the church no one is an island. The church is like a support group supporting each other, supporting the cause they believe in by sharing the good news with the world. No one can say he or she has no need for the church. The church is many people doing God’s work. The church is not one member but many members. The devil likes to have us believe that we are better than everyone else and that in the church everyone is a hypocrite and that we are better off keeping our religion to ourselves. Thank goodness we are not in this alone. Thank God for giving us the church the way it is. It is not always perfect, but Jesus is and that’s what counts. We need the church and we need each other.
3. WE NEED EACH OTHER
Paul explains to us the need we have for each other. 1 Cor. 12:26-27 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. It’s not possible to assign value to any members of the body because if one suffers they all suffer. Even if it is only of the minor organs or limbs. A tooth, a nail on the finger or toe is important. When one hurts they all feel the pain. And then on the other hand when one part of the organ is well after hurting then every part rejoices. In his letter to the Romans Paul reminds us, Romans 12:15-16 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Each member of the church is united to Christ who is the head of the body not only now but also for all of eternity. No one is an island. This is made ever so clear by these words of Paul, Romans 12:5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Paul nowhere indentifies eye, ear, smelling hand, foot, head, even by implication, with definite members of the church. We cannot even say that the pastor is the eye and ears of the church. They say this because supposedly he has a connection with God.
Next comes the thought that the “less honorable” members of the human body are the arms, legs, shoulders and hips. This also is nonsense. Each individual has value in God’s eyes. He loved the world and died for the sins of the world. He has a role for everyone in doing the Lord’s work. Sad to say, there are people in every church who act as though they are an island. They no longer support the church. This not only hurts my own body when I act that way but everyone. Sometimes when an organ of the body is not well you might not even be aware of it until it’s too late. Sometimes people die suddenly from a heart attack or stroke. This was because they were a walking time bomb. This is also because sometimes we are in denial about a problem. The lump may be there but I’m convinced that this cannot be cancer and if it will not go away then I’ll do something about it. Then days turn to weeks and weeks to months and then all of a sudden that lump has spread all over. It did not just go away but it killed me.
Islands can exist by themselves but this is not true for me and you. We need each other. We need Jesus to keep us well and Jesus has given us the church for that purpose and also each other. This is not just my church or your church but it is everyone’s church. It is the church of which Jesus is the head. Thank God, Jesus is in charge and the head of the church because if we were we would destroy it. He promised that the church will always be there because there will always be people who know that they need Jesus, the church and each other to keep the faith. Thank God we are in this together. Alone by myself I’m nothing but when he is my head then I’m not alone. John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
God reminds us that we as Christians are there to carry each others’ burdens. Galatians: Carry each others’ burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. We live in a society where there are many organizations who will support people who have all kinds of needs. Then there also are government programs which are available to support those who are in need. For this reason when people have some kind of need the excuse for the Christian is to say, “Well the government will take care of you or the Salvation Army has soup kitchens.” The reason why there are other organizations who do what the government supposedly does is because the government does such a lousy job. The veterans have been forgotten and neglected. That is just one example. Those who are involved with government agencies that do what churches used to do will tell you that the element of compassion and love is not there.
No one is an island, we are one in mission as we sang in the hymn to do the Lord’s work. It may sooth our conscience by donating to charities who care for those with specific needs. But there also are needs that cannot be fulfilled with money but only personal contact. When people act strange there should be a red light flashing. But I know I have ignored that red light thinking there was no problem when in fact there was. God gave us the church for a specific reason. He knows the condition of every human being. He knows how each one was wounded or injured by sin. This is why Christ is the head. When all fail he will not fail. Sometimes I may have the impression that the things I do are make no difference. Sometimes you and I just need the reminder that our sins are forgiven. It takes a load of the shoulder. Lord, give me your love and concern to love and to serve. Help carry those burdens. You may feel ineffective but you are not. You are special and God has use for you. God bless us all as we serve Him by serving others. Amen.
Let us pray:
My we thy precepts, Lord, fulfill
And do on earth our father’s will
As angels do above,
Still walk in Christ, the living way,
With all your children and obey
The law of Christian love.
Spirit of life, of love, and peace,
Unite our heart, our joy increase,
Your gracious help supply,
To each of us the blessing give,
In Christian fellowship to live,
In joyful hope to die.