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Part 5 of series: The Church as the Body of Christ
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In order to help the Corinthian Christians understand who they were as God’s people, the Apostle Paul used the image of the body. In my last post, I explained that he mixed metaphors a bit in revealing that every single Christian is immersed into the body of Christ. Generally we don’t think of a solid being immersed in another solid. By this odd image, Paul emphasizes the extent to which we are necessarily and deeply connected as Christians, whether we realize it or not. We are all members of the same body.
Yet if the parts of the body are different, that does not make them separate from each other, because “the many parts make up only one body” (1 Cor 12:12). Each individual part of the body is necessarily connected to the whole body. Thus there is a fundamental unity among the diverse body parts. In the body of Christ, the distinct parts, so variable and different from each other, are unified as one body. Thus Paul wraps up his analogy by saying, “Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it” (1 Cor 12:27). It’s that simple: one body, many parts; one unified body made up of diverse parts.
If we are going to live in unity as the diverse body of Christ, we need divine help. We need to love as God has loved us in Christ, which is exactly why Paul follows his discussion of the body in 1 Corinthians 12 with his famous “Love Chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13.
As I mentioned earlier in this series, Paul was not the first to apply the image of a body to human community. But his use of the body imagery in 1 Corinthians 12 was quite different from what the Corinthians might have expected. I’ll explain what I mean in my next post in this series.