Many Callings, One Cause – 1 Corinthians 12
The twenty second message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
The 1973 Oldsmobile Tornado was the first commercially sold car with airbags. It wouldn’t be until 1991 that legislation was passed making Airbags mandatory equipment in new cars and that law wouldn’t go into effect until 1998.
The presence of an airbag increases your chances of surviving a head on collision by 30% and airbags are credited with saving thousands of lives over the past several decades.
It was probably a good thing that it became a requirement for all cars to have this safety feature, but imagine with me if the government had overreached and made a really silly decision (I know that will be hard to imagine), but imagine they had past a law that because only the 73 Olds Tornado was the only car with airbags if they had said that Olds Tornadoes were the only cars that could be made.
Imagine if you walked out of the store and every car in the parking lot was a 73 Olds Tornado…
Imagine if instead of your 4 wheel drive pickup truck, you had to load your 4 wheeler onto a trailer that was pulled by a 73 Olds.
It was a good thing that the Tornado had an airbag, but it’s a good thing that’s not the only car on the road.
In the Corinthian church there was another issue with the worship services. Many, many people were practicing the spiritual gift of speaking tongues and it was making their worship services an absolute mess.
Let me explain speaking in tongues really quick.
In the beginning of the church, the gospel needed to spread quickly to people of all nations, cultures, and lands.
Also, the church was new and there was no new testament that they were preaching from. To give validity to what they were saying, God used signs and wonders to demonstrate that this was of God.
You could put stock in the message you heard from Peter, James, John, and Paul because they healed people, had the gift of prophecy – foretelling events that came true, and they spoke in tongues.
So in the beginning of the church, God used speaking in tongues to accomplish the spread of the gospel into new cultures and the verification of the message.
When Peter spoke in tongues, people who spoke a different language than he did understood what he was saying, and people who spoke languages could relate to everyone else that the message had been shared in another language- in other words someone could interpret what had been said in this foreign language.
In the Corinthian church this had happened and people heard the gospel because of it and the gospel was verified by it and it was powerful.
But sense then lots of people were speaking in tongues, and they were speaking over one another, and no one was translating, and instead of people hearing the gospel they were hearing gibberish and instead of people having the gospel verified, they were getting confused.
This was happening because everyone wanted to practice the gift of speaking in tongues and apparently some people may have even been faking it so they could be considered blessed or used by God.
They weren’t doing this to serve God,
they were doing it to be noticed by others.
Speaking in Tongues had been a good thing, but it had become a problem.
Like the Old Tornado it was good thing to introduce, but any making it something that everyone had to have or do, it was becoming an issue.
Paul uses the next 3 chapters to tackle this issue.
In chapter 12 he explains what they need to know.
In chapter 13 he shares what they should feel.
In Chapter 14 he covers what they need to do.
Chapter 12 speaks to the head.
Chapter 13 speaks to the heart.
Chapter 14 speaks to the hands.
Notice what Paul says in verse 2, even when you were gentiles carried away with dumb idols-
that means idols that can’t speak because they are just statues, yet you were carried away with them…and you felt led.
Paul says, listen even when you worshipped idols you felt led.
Now Paul is tackling the issue of EVERYONE feeling led to speak up in church and speak in tongues and have something to say.
Their defense would have been, “well I feel led of the spirit.”
How do you argue with that? Paul says, well you felt led even when you were praying to a rock so it may just be that your “feelings” are leading you astray.
I heard of a pastor who came to lead a church that had once been very strong but had dwindled. The church had always kept a microphone in the middle of the aisle of the congregation so that if at any point in the service someone felt led to get up and saying something, sing a song, read a poem, or do whatever, they could.
The first Sunday the pastor was there at the church, the microphone was gone. People were upset. They accused the pastor of not following the Spirit’s leading in the church.
He responded by saying, if the Spirit is really leading this church, He’s doing a pretty bad job.
Paul is saying to the Corinthians, you are all getting up and interrupting the church service and I’m not sure that what’s leading you to do that is the Spirit…
In the next verse Paul gives them an example of someone getting up and saying something that no one would agree was of the Spirit.
Paul is giving them the hypothetical that if someone got up and said bad things about Jesus, they would agree that wasn’t of the Spirit. Paul is illustrating, just because someone says it’s of the Spirit, doesn’t mean that it is.
God gets blamed for a lot that He did not do and rarely gets credit for what He has done.
There is a diversity of gifts.
The Corinthians were all focused on the one of speaking in tongues and they were missing so very much.
Paul then covers some of the different gifts in verses 8-11, but then in verse 12 he gives them a really helpful illustration. Let’s look at that.
Paul explains to the Corinthians that the Church is the body of Christ and there are many PARTS.
Paul makes the analogy that the church is the body of Christ at work in the world. We are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.
We are to do the work of Christ here in the world.
Those things that he would do, we should do.
Those needs that he would meet, we should meet.
Those that he would care for, we should care for.
Those that he would have compassion on, we should have compassion on.
This is the main idea of this chapter, this is the main point that he wants the Corinthians to get. He wants them to see that if they all try to be something that they are not, if they all try to be in the forefront, the body of Christ will be severely limited.
The Church is seriously handicapped whenever we fail to fulfill our in the “body.”
A handicap is what we experience when we lose or never had the use and function of some part of us…
Most churches are handicapped because there are different parts that are not being used, they are not present, they are not responsive…
Now many people who are differently abled do an incredible job of doing what anyone else can do by making effective use of their other muscles and limbs and senses, and there are many churches who do an incredible job of making up for their handicaps and make an incredible impact with few people, resources, volunteers, etc.
As Paul uses this illustration he conveys a few important ideas that I want us to get a hold of this morning.
Let me quickly cover these 4 concepts.
· The Body of Christ is a picture of the Gospel. (v.12-13)
Paul says in verse 12, as we are a body of many parts, so is Christ.
Then he goes on to say that the gospel, the message of Jesus’ grace has brought together Jew and Greek and Slave and Free.
Now the Corinthian letter has dealt with divisions on multiple occasions. In the beginning of the letter they were divided over which teacher they liked best, Paul, Peter, or Apollos. In the middle of the letter they were divided over their backgrounds and ethnicity. In the previous chapter they were divided by economic status.
Here Paul says again, the gospel brings us all together.
When we serve together, this is a demonstration of the fact that the gospel has brought us all together. If you have a problem serving because you don’t “like” the person you serve with, that’s not their problem, that’s your problem and your problem is not with the church, it’s with God.
I really want everyone to hear this.
Paul knew that this was an underlying issue to their serving and he would get to the heart of the matter in the next chapter. When you allow your interpersonal problems to hinder the mission, you do damage to the Body of Christ and obscure the picture of the gospel.
We should operate in such a way to show the gospel. We should operate in such a way that people see the gospel IN us.
Later on Paul is going to say that people from the outside that come in and see all that is going on, they’re not walking away compelled by the gospel, they’re walking away confused or disgusted.
Because everyone was doing what pleased them, because they were doing what brought the focus on them, people who needed to see Jesus were not seeing Jesus.
That’s the cause.
That all would see Jesus.
That all would know the message of His grace.
We are all called to this cause and each of those callings is different.
Some of those callings put us in the forefront, so are in the background.
Some of those callings make us extremely comfortable, some make us squirm with awkwardness.
Some of those callings put us in a place to serve people just like us, some of those callings put us in a place to serve people who are nothing like us…
But ALL of these callings are for the cause of the gospel.
· Every part has a an IMPORTANT role in the body. (v.14-25)
Paul already touched on this, but he goes into greater detail in the next paragraph pointing out that every part plays an important role in the body and that the parts that seem less beautiful or useful actually perform some of the most important roles.
You’ve probably gone weeks without thinking about your lungs. But there they are in your body, giving you life….
I think we can all relate to this… all of us recognize the importance of each part of our body…
Because of this, whenever we lose a part, even under the best of circumstances, it’s a painful and difficult experience.
Because every part is important and because every part is connected to the body in an integral way, whenever a part of the body hurts, the body hurts.
· When one part of the body hurts, the entire body FEELS the pain. (v. 26)
verse 26 explicitly states just this, when one part is in pain, we all feel it.
· There are many callings in the cause of Christ and we should all DESIRE to fulfill our personal role.
I could guilt you into playing your role.
I could manipulate you into playing your role.
I could stop asking for volunteers and start recruiting “voluntolds” but I know that if you’re walking with Christ you will have a desire to fulfill your role.
You know what I believe about you, what I believe about all of us?
I believe that you have a great desire to be a part of something greater than yourself. You want to make a difference in a powerful, effective way.
I believe that we are all hard wired to make a difference and be a part of the kingdom of God.
I believe we are most content, peaceful, and joyous when we are playing our small but vital role in the big production of what God is doing in the world to bring glory to Jesus.
You know last week I leaned in as Jamie Lee shared about the church that he is going to start in Champagne, IL because I believe he’s going to make a difference there and even though I may never go to that city and I may never see the church that he’s going to start, I’ve got an opportunity to play a small but vital role in the work that God is going to do there.
Paul says, here’s what you need to know:
There are many parts to the Body of Christ and every last one of them is important, so desire to do YOUR part.