We Need Each Other
No one is dispensable in the Body of Christ:
There are no second-class citizens in the Body of Christ. Neither are there any lone-wolf Christians. Not only does every single Christian matter, and matter greatly, but we all need each other. We are incomplete without the others God has placed in the Body.
These sorts of biblical truths can easily be lost on us Western Christians who are so highly individualistic, and who value so much our independence and autonomy. That is often why God’s church is so dysfunctional and so unlike what God wants it to be.
Instead of seeing our need for each other, and seeing how valuable every other Christian is, we tend to look down on other believers, and we tend to think we can get by on our own. That in good measure is why the church is doing so poorly so often.
The inspiration for this particular article comes from what I was just involved in over the weekend in which I did a number of church talks in western Victoria. At least two things made me reflect again on the importance of God’s Body. One, the thought of driving zillions of miles out west did not really appeal to me that much.
But the guy who invited me to do these talks, and the one who arranged them – the indefatigable Peter Stevens of FamilyVoice – offered to drive me to all of the events. Peter kept saying that he likes driving, and I kept thinking that I like being a passenger, so it worked out really well!
Our two differing likes very nicely coalesced in this ministry trip. We had great discussions and fellowship all weekend, and the meetings went really well. I told Peter we may have to become a tag team for future events like this. He agreed.
The second thing that happened which led to this piece was a chat I had with a gal after one of my talks. I did my best to stir up the troops, remind them that we are in a war, and that we all have a role to play. One woman came up to me afterwards and said she fully agreed, but felt constrained as she was a mother and housekeeper.
I assured her that those are some of the most important roles anyone can be involved in, and if she did her job faithfully and as unto the Lord, she was every bit as important to the Kingdom as some travelling speaker like myself. Indeed, she will be doing as much for Christ as a Billy Graham. She will be doing as much in the culture wars as a Fred Nile.
So we all have a role to play. As I told one audience this weekend, we each have our own sphere of influence which no one else has: we have a unique set of friends, family members, neighbours, workmates and classmates that no one else has that can be reached and ministered to. So in doing the work of the Kingdom, we really do need each other.
We were discussing this on the way home yesterday and Peter mentioned the verse about being happy to be a doorkeeper in God’s house. That is Psalm 84:10:
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Yep, no job or task is too lowly if done for the King of Kings. And of course the classic passage on all this is found in 1 Corinthians. Chapters 12-14 are about the various gifts God gives to the Body of Christ, and 1 Cor. 12:12-31 speaks about how we are one body with many members. It says this:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
Let me remind you of the context here. Paul is of course writing to the Corinthians in good measure because of the divisions found there, and how some were claiming special spiritual giftings, abilities and status. Certain arrogant and powerful figures were bringing in divisions as they looked down on others and were trying to lord it over them. Paul quickly needed to correct this.
Plenty of great spiritual truths are found in the above verses, but one key point is found in verse 22: “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable”. Those members who are not in the public spotlight, who are not known by millions, who do not have some mega-church or some terrific television ministry or global outreach, are every bit as vital to the Body as anyone else.
Again, this housewife I mentioned may not be known except to a handful of people, but as she lives a faithful and obedient Christian life, she will have just as great of an impact as some super evangelist or apologist or preacher. And she will bring just as much glory to God – maybe even more.
Let me finish with a few commentators here. In his Teach the Text commentary, Preban Vang offers a broad brush look at what chapter 12 is about:
Paul does not argue that the differences between the various body parts mean that church members who have received diverse gifts should be free to whatever they feel their gifting enables or “allows” them to do. The purpose of each body part is to function in accord with the others. If or when the parts do not, they cease to be one body. A limb must fulfill its assigned purpose in the body or it will cease to be a limb and consequently leave the rest of the body impaired….
In a body, all parts are important; when one is missing, the body is handicapped. Furthermore, no part can exist separate from the body. If a finger is severed from the body, the body is handicapped, but the finger dies.
Unity and diversity are crucial themes, not just in this chapter, but in the whole book. But as Marion Soards reminds us:
Paul’s theme becomes “diversity in unity, and unity over diversity.” Modern interpreters sometimes read Paul’s vision in an artificially balanced way, so that “unity in diversity” and “diversity in unity” become equal and synonymous statements. They are not. According to Paul, in Christ unity dominates diversity and makes diversity genuinely meaningful and constructive. The problem in Corinth was diversity run wild.
Stephen Um says the following about this portion of Scripture:
The main point that Paul is trying to get across is this: God has designed his church to be a community of complementary interdependence. The church is to be complementary; that is, each member brings something to the table that the others need and is enhanced by interdependence. It is also a place where each member can be harmoniously dependent upon others for his or her identity….
Rather than being a sign of weakness, interdependency is God’s design for the church. The church is to be a microcosmic picture of a restored humanity and is to reflect God’s original intention for humanity (i.e., interdependence). Rather than embracing the hierarchy and celebrity culture in the world surrounding the church, it is called to be a countercultural community. The weaker are indispensable.
This idea of weakness is picked up by Mark Taylor:
The language of weakness, honor, and shame brings to mind some of the major emphases of the letter. In explaining Christ crucified as God’s wisdom, Paul reminded the Corinthians that God’s weakness is stronger than men (1:25) and God’s choice of the weak things of the world shames the strong (1:27). Paul’s ironic rebuke of the Corinthians’ arrogance by comparing their self-exaltation to the suffering of the apostles in 4:10 employs the weak/strong and honor/dishonor motif, “We are weak, but you are strong!” Paul warned those with knowledge to watch their so-called freedom lest their liberty causes their weaker brother to stumble (8:9–10)….
As to verse 22, Soards says this:
Implicit in this verse is a foundational assumption. Not only has God enriched the unified body by granting distinctive gifts to the diverse parts of the body, but also God created the unified body per se, and the deliberate arrangement of the diverse members of the body. In other words, not only has God brought the richness of diversity to the coherence of unity, but also God created unity through the deliberate arrangement of the diversity. Unity prevails and makes diversity meaningful. Remarkably, God’s authority and purposefulness lie behind both unified diversity and diversified unity.
So we must always bear in mind that it matters nothing whether we are the president of a Bible College, the author of dozens of acclaimed commentaries, a church janitor, or a fulltime homemaker. If we love the Lord and are devoted to him and keen to see him glorified, we are an indispensable member of the family of God. Every single believer is needed, is necessary, and is vital. We really do need each other.
9 Replies to “We Need Each Other”
Thank you for your encouragement, BIll.
Brother Lawrence’s ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ speaks further to your gracious theme (though personally I think that Billy Graham’s ministry bore more fruit than we could imagine).
Certainly intercession, including at the kitchen sink, is a high calling.
Yes Suzanna, Billy Graham did see countless thousands come to Christ, whereas a housewife at the kitchen sink may not see too many directly won to the Lord. But both being faithful to their God-given callings and roles are just as vital and just as valuable.
These verses are encouraging given I often feel like a freckle that could be dug out and not missed and that the body would be just fine without.
When your ability to contribute is financial donations to charity, adding to discussions on forums or sites, and help my parents when needed you feel awfully low and insignificant. I’ve never really been a somebody just a forgettable sack of fat. I guess that’s why I usually am on the depressed side I see people who have done things I could only dream of and feel like nothing. Even when you have gifts from God if you can’t use them it is frustrating. It’s hard when you’re part of the body but don’t feel it. It’s like you’re some body part from a different body because the other part often ignore you. It’s sad. Even now there are still thing I don’t understand about my situation or God’s purpose for me. I feel that housewife has a better situation and more influence. Some days it just doesn’t make sense.
Well Paul, given that at least 99.9999999% of the world has never even heard of me, I am no different than you are! But often it is your comments that encourage me and help me to keep going. So you are invaluable to me, and I am sure to so many others, including your parents. Only in the next life will we finally find out how much good and godly influence we actually had on so many others. So keep going champ – we appreciate you!
Maybe slightly off topic but I’ve always had a problem with the apparent contradiction (to me) of 1Cor 12:28 and 31- ‘God has appointed …..’ and ‘But earnestly desire …..’. One theologian told me that the ‘But’ in the original tongue makes the imperative uncertain and hence indicative would be better. The final sentence of v31 and Ch13 seem to support that.
I’d appreciate further light anyone can shed.
Thanks Antoon. There is no contradiction here. In fact, this is found all throughout the New Testament. On the one hand we have passages telling us that God is at work, or that we should reckon certain things to so (the indicative), but on the other hand we are so often commanded to make such things happen or are brought about (the imperative). We can be told we have died with Christ for example, but we are also instructed to put to death the old man, etc. So both go together. See more on this in the following articles:
Thanks Bill, If there is no conflict, it would mean that if God should appoint me an Administrator, I must earnestly desire to become an Apostle or perhaps a Prophet or Teacher (instead). And so should everyone else.
Isn’t that precisely what vs 17,18 and 29,30 try to oppose?
Hence my search for further light relates more to the linguistics of v31. Peterson’s The Message uses the indicative mood. Maybe not a good example but I don’t know about any others.
Thanks Antoon. I still don’t see too much difficulty here. On the one hand Paul urges us to seek the best gifts, just as he elsewhere urges us to do so many things concerning our spiritual growth and sanctification. Yet just as in other verses Paul tells us it is God who is in fact at work to bring about our sanctification, so here it is God who sovereignly distributes his gifts as he wills. So both can happen simultaneously. In a sense we could all strive to be a megachurch pastors, in the hopes of having a big outreach, etc., while also realising that God places us where he wills.
And given that the Corinthians had real problems with disunity and arrogant ‘supersaints,’ it was important for Paul to stress the sovereign distribution of gifts to keep everyone humble and united. Also, while some suggest the verb could be indicative in 12:31, the same verb is used in 14:1 and 39 as an imperative.
Thanks Bill. I often hold on to Joel 2:25 about God restoring the lost years. I’m a simple man I don’t look for much, though I’m sure God has more than I look for, as a believer in a pretrib rapture I made a rapture bucket list, it was quite a bit ago, that only had 3 items: see a triple crown winner (at the time their hadn’t been one since I was an infant), see my team win the World series (I didn’t move here and become a fan till a few years after the last one), and see my team win the Super Bowl (last one happened years before I was even born). All three have happened so I am happy. So you can see I’m not looking to be a millionaire or a big star just simple thing can please me. I would like like to have a bunch of boy to have as my sons in heaven a good house to raise them in a job as a elementary teacher and youth pastor for junior youth, 12 and under, simple joys that come from working with and having fun with kids. Nothing fancy. If he has more great I wouldn’t turn down anything but I’m not seeking something huge. I’m not the “center of attention” type the social butterfly type the Wheeler and dealer type. But one change I would like is to have some people notice me, not a lot but a few, right I could go to a party and sit down no-one will wave come talk to me or even say hi. Just a little bit of attention would be nice. I hold fast to Joel 2:25 I feel it show God will give me what the various locusts of live have eaten.
Sorry I didn’t reply right away but past few days I have had bad eye and head pain and darkness with no tablet or puter has been best.