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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Knit Together as One Body of Christ
Text:1 Corinthians 12:24b-26 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Communion of Saints
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-10-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 133:1,2                                                                 

Ps 141:2,3,4                                                                           

Reading – 1 Corinthians 12

Ps 139:1,7,8,13

Sermon – 1 Corinthians 12:24b-26

Hy 49:1,2

Hy 61:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in the Lord Jesus, for many Christians a favourite Psalm is Psalm 139. We’re amazed at these words about how God knows us, even in the deepest place of our hearts. We’re comforted by the thought that no matter where we go or what we do, the LORD God is with us. Our God knows all, He can do all, and He is everywhere.

What a marvelous truth then, that this same Almighty God has formed and fashioned us. In his perfect wisdom, He’s put our bodies together—including our 206 bones, 600 muscles, tens of thousands of kilometers of blood vessels, and so much more. With all of that God has formed us just as He wanted us to be: “You created my inmost being,” the Psalmist says, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (vv 13-14). One cohesive body, made up so many thousands of parts, all working together.

In 1 Corinthians 12 this is the comparison by which we can understand some important truths about the church of Christ. Our Saviour has a body, his believers, who are brought into communion through his Spirit. Christ’s body too, is composed of many parts—we are diverse and different members, but made into a unity under Christ our Head. We’ve been knit together, not by our own choice, not because we all agree with one another, but because God has knit us together.

In that God-formed unity there is a strength, as we stand together with our fellow believers. And in this God-formed unity there is a mission, for we, the members of his body, ought to care for each other. It’s in the church of Christ that you ought to hear these precious words, “If your heart is as my heart, then give me your hand.” I preach to you on this theme,

 

It is God who has formed us into the one body of Christ, so:

  1. there should be no schism
  2. but the same care for one another
  3. and a sharing of sufferings and joys

 

1. there should be no schism: “God composed the body, having given greater honour to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body” (vv 24-25). That word “schism” (in the NKJV) isn’t one that we use a lot, unless we’re talking about the schisms in past centuries of church history. But it remains a threat to Christ’s body here, today—schisms. To understand what it means, maybe it helps to know that it’s from the same root word as “scissors.” And what are scissors good for, but cutting and dividing and separating? You snip things apart, remove what’s unwanted, and you keep the rest.

That can happen in the church too: schisms and divisions. The beautiful body of Christ can be cut apart by a cruel scalpel. It happens when some members are said to be unimportant, or when some are ignored in their time of need, or when factions grow.

For this kind of dissension, look no further than the church at Corinth. There, schisms were a major problem; it’s one of the first things Paul raises in this letter. He gives thanks to God for their faith, but then he confronts this serious matter. “I appeal to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1:10). Paul appeals for peace, and an end to division.

Because the Corinthians were at war with each other. They were fighting over which church leader was the greatest. They were fighting over which style of preaching was the best. And most passionately, they were fighting over which spiritual gift was #1.

Now, there was no doubt that the Holy Spirit worked among them, equipping the Corinthians with all kinds of supernatural abilities for building up the church. Except that not everyone had the same gift—and as soon as there’s a difference between us and others, we want to know who’s the best. That’s what the Corinthians were fighting about: What’s the best gift? Is it prophecy? Speaking in tongues? Were those who could heal the sick more important than those who could give to the needy? After starting so well, this church was being torn apart by divisions.

To fight against schism, Paul goes back to the one thing that binds them together. We heard it already in 1:10, “I appeal to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with one another.” Paul insists that there’s a new basis for friendship in the church, a new basis for family and unity. And that basis is Christ, and his Spirit among us.

Brothers and sisters, we need that message as much as the Corinthians. We see differences between ourselves—differences in age, in abilities, in money, in position, in looks—and that becomes all we see. Maybe we like those people in the church who think the same as us, and we criticize anyone who doesn’t. Perhaps we evaluate a person on the basis of what family they’re from: “That’s a good family. That’s a bad family…”

Just like the snipping of a pair of scissors, it doesn’t take long for us to separate and divide: “This is someone I don’t have time for. This person’s needy, and I don’t like his opinions.” And let’s be clear that schisms don’t have to be public. Most of them aren’t. They arise out of those judgments that we’ve made about one another, and you might see the schism only if you look very carefully, if you watch interactions after church, or if you eavesdrop on conversations. But hidden or not, there’s damage done to the body of Christ. And dishonour has been brought to Christ our Head.

For it shouldn’t be this way. Paul says to the bickering Corinthians: No more! “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor 12:12). That’s an outline of the image which Paul fills our in the following verses.

The one body of Christ is the church, the people who believe in Jesus for life and salvation. And among his believers there’s all kinds of backgrounds and abilities and strengths and weaknesses. Yet in Christ our Head we have a unity. In Christ, the many members function together—we are meant to function together.

How do we know this? Paul says it in verse 24, “God composed the body.” He joined us together. That word “composed” means literally “mingled” or “mixed.” The body of Christ isn’t the sculpting of a statue out of a single piece of marble. Instead, it’s the mingling of thousands of different parts to form a living and cohesive whole.

When Paul speaks about different parts, he means that: there really are a variety of members in the body of Christ. It’s easy to talk about diversity in the abstract, where we say, “Sure, everyone has something to contribute. Of course we need everyone.” But in practice, you figure that it’d be a lot easier if everyone was the same—be a lot easier if everyone was more like you. But it’s actually basic to the body of Christ, that we have differences, that there is a diversity.

This is what our text says, “God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it” (v 24). Isn’t it true that we give special honour to some of our body parts? We spend time every day inspecting and cleaning, primping and preening—our faces, for example. Meanwhile, our poor elbows go ignored for months at a time. Or our fingers get lots of attention for all kinds of important functions, while our toes are so lowly: covered by our socks, and smellied by the day’s work. But God composed the body in such a way that we need every part, even those that seem less honourable. Since no one part is able to do the work of another, all are necessary.

This is God’s wise arrangement, for the human body, and for body of Christ. The diversity of the church is not by chance, but it’s by God’s good design. So, practically, in the church of Christ it’s not allowed for some parts to act as if they have no need for others. No member of the church, however feeble or however obscure, should be despised. None should be regarded as unnecessary or valueless. Nor should we make one spiritual gift more valuable than all the others, where we say that those who lead are most important, or those who have lots of knowledge should be at the forefront. The Holy Spirit works a variety of gifts among every one of his people, you and me and everyone. He works his gifts among the old and the young, the women and the men.

God so composed the body that there should be no schism. God’s arrangement of Christ’s body means we should put away sinful clashing, and proud judging, and should  strive for a harmonious unity. In Christ, God gives us the glue of blessed fellowship, not the scissors of sinful division. Remember, that’s who we have community through: Jesus our Saviour. We have a common life in Christ. It’s the life-giving blood of Jesus that flows in the veins of his body, the church.

 

2. but the same care for one another: If God has formed us together in Christ, and given each of us the ability to serve by his Holy Spirit, then our calling is clear. We need to love one another, and care for one another. You can hear that implication, “God composed the body… that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (vv 24-25).

Just what does that mean? When the Spirit speaks about “care” in verse 25, He uses a strong term. He’s not describing some tepid emotion, where we might have a lukewarm interest in other people, but nothing too intense or permanent. That’s often how we use the word “care”—when we’re pretty blasé about something, “Oh, I don’t care. Whatever.” But in our text the word actually conveys a sense of anxiety for someone else, where you have a deep concern for them: “The members of the body should have the same care for one another.” When we hear about our brother’s trouble, we’re anxious. When we see this sister’s weakness or sin, we’re bothered. This affects us. We want to come alongside, and we want to do something about it.

That’s challenging, isn’t it? Individualism is our default worldview, where we see ourselves as the centre of the universe, and everyone else in an everlasting orbit around us—everyone else in a supporting role. And frankly, it’s hard to care about other people. We’re too busy dealing with our own stuff. There’s just not enough room in our hearts or minds to be that concerned.

Oh, we’ll say a prayer for those who are in the hospital, the lonely and the handicapped. But what about the other troubles we hear about in the church? What about the hints of a struggle with sin that people drop in conversation, or the opportunities to help that God opens up to us? We might be too busy to react. Too busy talking to listen. Maybe unsure of how to help. In the truest sense of the word, we don’t care.

But Christ turns our universe around: Because Christ loves us, we are called to make him the centre, to love him above all. And because Christ loves us, we’re called to love each other. Having life in Christ means a life together with all who believe in him. It means a loving regard for the interests of others. If we’re part of the body of Christ, then we desire the preservation and the health of the whole body.

This is why right at the end of chapter 12, God points us to an even better gift, the Spirit’s gift of love. For what’s the sense of all those spiritual gifts in the church, if they’re not used in love? Why bother with those blessings, if they’re not used for the good of others? Paul’s very bold in chapter 13, because he even says that any spiritual gift is really useless, if not exercised with love. The most eloquent speaker, the wisest counselor, the strongest  leader—if he or she doesn’t have love—just sounds like a ringing alarm clock that you can’t turn off.

Beloved, we have to see that having this spiritual gift or that ability isn’t the main thing. It’s not having church office, as an elder or deacon or minister. Being smart isn’t the measure of a person’s true value, nor is having lots of money to donate. It’s not even praiseworthy if you’re suffering for the gospel, and speaking up for Christ at work. None of this has any worth if you’re doing so without care for others.

But if we have Christ’s gift of love, we can do so much. It’s the one gift we need. We might only be in Year 6, but we can care. We might only be making minimum wage, but we can care. We could be 81, and a widow, and weak, yet still be active in caring for the body of Christ. We could be a young woman in university, or a young man on the jobsite, and be busy with Christ’s gift of love each and every day. Because every day we can care.

We can ask about each other. We can pray for each other. We can remember each other. We can reach out and give. Every day we can show to our fellow members a love that is patient and kind, a love that is humble, a love that cherishes the truth and endures.

 

3. and a sharing of sufferings and joys: Have you ever tried to study for a test when you had a throbbing toothache? It’s pretty hard. A tooth is a really small part of your body, but when it’s sore, it’s hard to think of anything else. Your whole body suffers with the part that’s aching. The body is such a cohesive unit, a closely-connected collection of parts, that pain in one area, or pleasure in one area, gets shared around.

So in the body of Christ, his church: “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (v 26). This is solidarity in trouble and in glory. In the church of Christ, there may not be loneliness in struggle, nor rivalry in blessing.

Like so much of what the Spirit says in this chapter, verse 26 describes a reality. This is how it is: If you are part of the body of Christ, then you do suffer with your fellow members, and you do share in their joy. By the very fact that we’re united in Christ, we share these things together. It’s a reality, even if we don’t notice it.

But it’s also a calling—it’s something we have to do more, and grow into. It’s a sensitivity toward other members that we need to develop. It’s like we have to train our spiritual nerve endings to reach the other parts of the body, to be more aware of them. So let’s look at both sides of this.

“If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.” I don’t have to tell you that there’s all kinds of suffering in the church. Some suffer physically because of medical conditions, injuries, and illnesses. Others suffer mentally with depression or anxiety or loneliness. There can be difficulty when people lose their jobs or have money trouble. Or there’s suffering because of marriages under stress, unfaithful children, or conflict in families. And right alongside all this suffering, there’s the spiritual struggle of wrestling with God’s will, praying but not receiving answers, questioning your faith, or wondering about the LORD’s goodness.

So much pain in the body of Christ—yet the great blessing is that it’s a pain that can be shared, a burden carried together. Your trouble doesn’t need to be endured alone, but can be endured with others. It’s our privilege to care for one another.

Just think of how God created our physical bodies so that they unite around trouble. In an amazing way, the members of the body mobilize to deal with injury or illness, sending extra resources and compensating for weakness. Our bodies do this automatically, without anyone asking them to. But as the body of Christ, we have a choice—this is the calling we can ignore or embrace. When we hear about the struggles of another person, we’ve got work to do. If one is tempted by sin, then another should feel it, and help with it. If one is poor, then another should give aid. If one is persecuted or struggling, then another should sympathize and encourage. The load is carried together.

For suffering to be shared, there’s required at least two things. First, it means that we have to talk about how we’re struggling. None of us can read minds. So what’s troubling you? What’s on your heart? How is Satan tempting you? We all love to project the sense that everything’s well with us: no hurts, no hang-ups, no bad habits. We’d be terrified if anyone knew the state of our heart, or embarrassed that this minor trouble causes us such pain. But who are we kidding? We’re all weak, involved in a daily battle against our own flesh, this world, and the devil. We need help, and we have to be ready to receive help. Part of our calling as body is to let the other members help us! It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.

So we need to admit our sufferings. And second, we should be ready to respond to those with struggles. We should be ready to care. Here too, we have things to learn. Say there’s someone who has fallen into temptation and sin. What’s our reaction? Might it be gossip? Criticism? How could it be? Just imagine the eye saying to the ear, “So, did you hear about all the trouble the foot’s having? Too bad! The foot should really get his act together!” No, by design the body suffers together. And we can suffer together.

For think of the bond we have in Christ. We share his life-giving gospel. We share his life-renewing Spirit. God has already equipped us to respond to one another. And God has already given us the perfect example of how to carry one another’s burdens—the example of Jesus Christ. He took on the sinner’s load. He sympathized with our suffering. He considered others better than himself, and served them. We should have the same mind, the same spirit.

And in that spirit, our response to suffering will be as varied as the sufferings themselves. Reach out, and invite over for lunch that lonely member. Pray with that brother. Encourage that sister. Ask that direct question of someone who’s been struggle with sin. Give a gift, make a meal, strike up a conversation and start listening.

I realize that sometimes need can overwhelm us. Do we have to talk to everyone who’s lonely? Do we have to make meals for anyone who’s sick? Mentor every young man, and encourage everyone who is depressed? So much need, we don’t know where to start, so we don’t start. But pray for open eyes, for a sensitivity to the pains and trials of others. Pray to see those whom God has put near you. And if you don’t see anyone, get a ward list for your church, see who is suffering in your ward, and then find a way to suffer with them, to help them in it.

What about when things are blessed? The Spirit says, “If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” We know it’s true for the human body: if your hands and feet are capable, if your heart is strong, all the other parts feel the advantage. So in the body of Christ. God might honour someone with a special ability. Maybe He raises someone in the church to a high position, or makes them a shining example of faith. These things can bring benefit to every member.

And because of our unity in Christ, the joys of other believers can also bring us joy. We can share in each other’s happiness, when there’s a birth, an engagement, a wedding, or a promotion at work. We can share in the joy of profession of faith, in the joy of breaking from sin, the joy of growing in Christ.

So once more, we need to talk about our joys. Don’t keep your suffering to yourself, and don’t hide your blessings under a blanket. Share them, not just the big and notable joys of life, but the small and ordinary joys. If God has been good to you, then say it. If the LORD has taught you something recently, then share it, and thank God together.

Here’s the amazing thing about our bond in Christ. Sharing a joy doesn’t need to cause rivalry or competition. Sharing with someone how God has been good to you doesn’t need to be bragging. If we have a common life in Christ, then we can sincerely give thanks with one another, just as we grieve together. Writes Paul in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” That’s what the body does.

Brothers and sisters, we have been knit together—knit together not by our own choice, but in the perfect wisdom of God. He intends us to be together, and He’s put us together for a reason. As many members we have been fearfully and wonderfully made into the one body of Christ. Let us then live as his body, in our suffering and in our joys, to the glory of Christ our Head! Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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