“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body?” (1 Cor. 12:14-19).
These verses in 1 Corinthians 12 teach that each and every member of the Body of Christ is vitally important. Nobody’s a nobody. Everybody’s a somebody. Each has an essential role.
Many of the Corinthian believers were not happy with their gifts, and many in the church wanted a gift that someone else had. Paul says “the Body is not one member.” That is, we simply cannot all hold the same position in the Body. God has graced different people with different abilities, and God in His wisdom and sovereignty has placed each of us in the Body where we will be the most useful for Him: “God set the members…as it hath pleased Him” (v. 18).
The “honourable” / “less honourable” and “comely” / “uncomely” members (v. 23) that Paul refers to is from man’s point of view (“which seem,” v. 22; “which we think,” v. 23). From God’s vantage point, all members of the Body of Christ are important and necessary.
“Sir Michael Costa, the celebrated conductor, was holding a rehearsal. As the mighty chorus rang out, accompanied by scores of instruments, the piccolo player — a little pint-sized flute—thinking perhaps that his contribution would not be missed amid so much music, stopped playing.
“Suddenly, the great leader stopped and cried out, ‘Where is the piccolo?’
“The sound of that one small instrument was necessary to the harmony, and the master conductor missed it when it dropped out. The point? To the conductor, there are no insignificant instruments in an orchestra. Sometimes the smallest and seemingly least important one can make the greatest contribution. Even if it doesn’t seem to make that big a difference to the audience at large, the conductor knows it right away!
“In the church, the players and the instruments are diverse — different sizes, different shapes, different notes, different roles to play. Like the piccolo player in Sir Michael’s orchestra, we often in our own sovereignty decide that our contribution is not significant. Our contribution couldn’t possibly make a difference, so we quit playing, stop doing that which we’ve been given to do. We drop out, but the Conductor immediately notices. From our perspective, our contribution may be small; but from His, it is crucial.
“I just have to believe I’m talking to some piccolo players who have dropped out of the orchestra for whatever reasons: pain, exhaustion, insecurity, criticism, laziness, misbehavior. Convinced that your contribution doesn’t mean a hill of beans in the bigger scheme of things, you have buried your talent in the ground.” 1
That’s what Paul says in verses 15,16; to paraphrase, “Should the foot complain that he is only a foot and not a hand, or the ear that he is not the eye?” That is, the foot is a part of the body, the ear is a part of the body, and they’re both needed. For a body to be a body, it must have different parts and diverse members. Similarly, as members of the Body of Christ, we have particular functions to perform. Our purpose in life should be to perform our separate functions as well as we possibly can, and in His strength for the glory of God.
God does not want us to envy other people’s gifts and positions in the Body of Christ, and He also does not want us to judge others who may have a different gift. Some are prayer warriors, some are evangelists, some are teachers, some are pastors, some give, some rule, some show mercy and compassion, some minister by caring for the poor, providing for the sick, or watching over the local church. We’re not all eyes, nor hands, nor feet, and we’re not all ears.
If we were all the one same part of the Body, like the eye, Paul says in verse 17, then how would we hear, and if we were all an ear, how would we smell? In other words, if we all had the same position in the Body, how would the Body work? How would we minister? It would not even be a Body as verse 19 shows. The diversity in the Body allows Christ’s Church to reach more people, to help more people, to minister to more people. The Church is most effective with its members faithfully performing the different ministries to which God has called them.
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.
- J. Michael Shannon, contributor Preaching Today, accessed August 4, 2018, https://www.preaching.com/sermon-illustrations/illustration-service/. This source attributes the anecdote to a sermon by Richard Love entitled “Blowing Your Horn.” ↩