John Carter – August 28, 2016
The Inseparable Body of Christ: A Message of Commission and Encouragement
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 MTT
To Commission – To Encourage
It is with great joy and great pain that I stand before my church family today. Joy as we rejoice with friends in their newly revealed future. Pain as we consider the newly revealed absence from each other’s lives. That is why it seems most appropriate to look at a text that will encourage the Rollingview Community and honor the service of Aaron and Jannason Long at Rollingview. Thinking back over these past two years of serving together and looking at a hopeful yet unknown future we have the opportunity to be heartened with the reality that All members of the body of Christ are inseparably bound with each other as one body with many parts.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
The first letter to the church at Corinth, written by the Apostle Paul, has quite a bit of instruction on Church Life to offer any church that has real struggles. But among all of those instructions the middle of the letter focuses on how the local church is to gather together and worship the living God as the Body of Christ. And in that section on worshiping together is chapter 12 where we find this section on what it means to even be the body Christ. A body that worships. A body that serves. A body that celebrates. And a body that endures suffering for the glory of God. A body that does these things not just as individual members but as an inseparable community of individuals who each carry the marks of the Image of God.
A Body is More Than You…
In the opening verse of chapter 12 Paul clarifies some basic observations on human anatomy. A body require many parts. When applying this analogy to the body of Christ, Paul is clear to connect that our unity is rooted in two theological truths. First, the many are one in the same fashion as Jesus the Christ is one. Second, Christians become one because of the baptism which they have received from the Holy Spirit. It is easy to look around a room of Christians that we regularly gather with and verbally affirm our unity. But consider for a moment the startling, possibly offensive, claim Paul makes in verse 13. Paul claims that Jews, Greeks, Slaves, and free-people who are baptized into one body under the name of Christ are one. That means that the work of Jesus on the Cross creates a new unity so strong that it even supersedes our common understanding of cultural, social, and racial categories. For example, Rollingview is a church that currently consists of white members who are all white. But we as white Christians share more in common with our black, Asian, or Latino brothers and sisters then with any unbelieving family member. Or the members of Rollingview have more in common with the members of First Baptist Church of Pulaski, TN then with our unbelieving co-workers. But not only do we have much in common, we as many parts are a unified whole made on many parts.
…But Not Less Than You
Although we are a body made of many parts we are not free to eliminate other members of the body freely and without consideration. Nor are we to conform the other body parts into our own image. The body of Christ must walk this careful line of embracing all who bear the name of Christ while avoiding two extremes. The first extreme is to assume that to accept someone means becoming just like them. The second extreme is to assume that to accept someone means expecting them to become just like you. Through the process of sanctification, which is the removal of sin and the conforming to Christian, we all begin to look alike as we are conformed into the image of Christ. But as individual members of the body we each still retain our gifting’s and talents. The body of Christ is more than you or I, but it certainly is not less than you or I.
God Designed Dependence
Whether we are talking about the Longs leaving for TN or discussing the discipling process we can also run into the error of rejecting a part of the body because they don’t meet our standards of acceptability. How easy will it be for Rollingview to write off Aaron of Jannason as unnecessary simply because they are not serving here? Or, how easy will it be for Aaron and Jannason to turn their backs on Rollingview just because they are in a different state? We need to come to terms with the reality that because we are all sinners this option is very easy. With vivid examples of body parts talking to each other Paul reminds us that we are not permitted to exclude ourselves from the body of Christ, nor are we authorized to reject others from the body. We are not authorized because God intentionally placed each member of the body where he wanted them to be. Our mutual dependence is designed, not an accident.
The Irony of Beautiful Body Parts
Consider the fact that a husband cannot say to his wife “I do not have a wife”, without severe trauma to the relationship. Why? Because he does have a wife. He can disown his wife but he cannot change the reality that he currently has a wife. Now consider that a body part cannot disown another body part on the basis of being unnecessary without severe trauma. In fact the irony of our beautiful, and not-so-beautiful, body parts is that we pay more attention to the less honorable parts of our body. We conceal and cover through make-up, jewelry, expensive clothing, cosmetic surgeries all for the sake of making beautiful what we consider to be less beautiful. We as humans highlight what we are embarrassed of. And these aren’t even the body parts that Adam and Eve, and later God covered up in the Garden after the fall. Adam and eve with figs and God with animal skins. In the same way, God ironically melded the body of Christ together in such a way that the people who we consider less honorable receive more honor, and those who would seem to be more honorable receive less. Remember it was the worthy hands Christ who washed the unworthy feet of the disciples.
The Purpose of Gods Irony
The reason the Jesus washed feet was to demonstrate, again, the reality that he did not come to be served, but to serve. In meditating on this model of leadership we learn much. But in light of 1 Corinthians 12:25 we learn the reason that those of less honor receive honor from the more prominent body parts is to ensure that division will not develop within the body. Rather, the various body parts are so focused on caring for each other that there is no time for sinful division. And if you are wondering if you are a strong member or a weak member consider that it is when we are weak strong in the power of Christ.
Join the Glories of Joy and Sorrow
That brings us to 12:26 where we see Paul’s call for all members to suffer with those who suffer. So, Aaron and Jannason, you are invited to suffer while you celebrate your new journey. Rollingview, we are invited to celebrate in the reality that we have a brother and sister in Christ sacrificing much to go and serve on this new journey. Brothers and Sisters, we are also invited to suffer with each other as we all consider the loss that are experiencing. Now some might claim that Paul has asked us all to do contradictory things. For how can you suffer and celebrate at the same time? Because we serve the “God of the Impossible”. Unbeliever I am even asking you to surrender your life of meaningless suffering and meaning celebration and accept Christ’s call to meaningful suffering and meaningful celebration. As you listen in on this message of encouragement you are only getting a glimpse of what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ.
Church we are the body of Christ. And because all members of the body of Christ are inseparably bound with each other as one body with many parts we must submit to how this has significance in our daily lives. It adjusts how we communicate with each other. The reality of how we communicate with God. It even affects what it means for the Christian to take part in the Lord’s Supper. It effects how you, as a Christian, treat unbelievers. But as it relates to the imminent departure of the Longs, it changes how we view our separation. Ultimately, we do not grieve because they are leaving. Ultimately we grieve because we long for the day when the entire body will not just be unified spiritually but also unified physically. We long for the day when we will not just rejoice in spirit the spirit of the Lord, but when we rejoice in the presence of the Lord. We long for a future when the last soul has been saved and we all get to go home. We long for a future not yet seen.
 The more ‘ugly’ we perceive a physical attribute about ourselves the greater effort we make to conceal/or beautify it. The more naturally beautiful the less we try to cover it up.
 2 Corinthians 12:19-11
 See: God of the Impossible, Everfound, Self Titled