Grab your Bibles, and let’s study 1 Corinthians 12 today.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 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.
Here we read about the beautiful diverse unity we have in the body of Christ. Paul says it this way in this letter to the Romans:
Romans 12:4-5 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
In these passages, Paul uses an illustration of a human body to show us just how connected we now are in Christ! Like the members of our body are utterly dependent on and connected to each other, so we, too, are members of one another.
Now, notice what is so amazing about the body of Christ.
Diversity: Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function
Unity: Romans 12:5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
A “diverse unity” sounds like an oxymoron, right? But that is what is so cool about the body of Christ—about the true Church. Let me take a moment to clarify what unity is not, because we often get it mixed up!
<>What UNITY is not!
Unity is not sameness! The very oneness of the Godhead is a “diverse unity.” It is not sameness!
If you and I are trying to be united by dressing alike, what happens when we disagree about something? Do our same clothes allow us to be unified through that disagreement? No, we will say, “Fine, you go your way, and I’ll go mine,” and whatever community was there is now broken.
But if we are the “body” of Christ, the issue we disagree on quickly demands a different response. It demands we fight for unity! Why? Because if the left leg says, “I hurt,” and the mind says, “Forget you, it’s time to walk,” then the “You go your way, and I’ll go mine,” answer doesn’t help that body move forward!
It paralyses the entire body while both parties sit in the corner and pout or avoid each other. The mind is not getting anywhere without the leg, and the leg doesn’t know what to do without the mind. So together they must unite, talk it out, listen to each other, and resolve their differences. Only in unity does the body move forward! Do you see the diversity? Do you see the unity?
Where I have seen this play out in a powerful way is in a healthy marriage. God’s design for marriage is not just togetherness; it’s more than that: It’s oneness.
One way to think about the true commitment of “until death do us part” and the oneness God intends for marriage can be illustrated this way. Two people go to a surgeon and say sow us together. Now, while that sounds a little crazy you will see where I am going with this in a moment. Now after you are sewn together, consider every day for the rest of life, every little thing you do is involving this other person. Think of the communication it would require, the patience, the encouragement, the forgiveness—all the things God intends for us, the Church, to experience in our oneness as members of one another. And if we can truly embrace all God intends for us to be for one another, then what we are able to do is remarkable and oh-so joyful. It brings to mind an old illustration I used to share with my youth ministry students.
We have all seen the birds flying together overhead before, right? We have seen them fly in a big “V” formation.
Scientists at Cal Tech have estimated that 25 geese flying in a “V” formation can fly 70% farther than one goose alone. That’s the beauty and benefit of unity.
There is something awesome God has saved us into: the family of God. It is a joyous, amazing reality. I want you to know this for yourself—to be a member of this body—of one another.
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We are called to one unified body by which one all-powerful Spirit empowers us to one eternal hope. Not many hopes, not many ends, not many ultimate satisfactions and joys—one hope. One glorious future made possible by one Lord who gives one faith and one baptism to the one God who is Father of all, who is over all, who is at work through all and in all whom He has called and saved.
We are members of one another. The biblical charge before us is to keep the unity in peace.
Ephesians 4:3 (NLT) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
First of all, notice it says, “Make every effort”! That is “fight for it” language! In other words, don’t give up easily—fight! Don’t try once and walk away—fight!
Second, notice what it says next! Fight “to keep the unity of the Spirit.” When we are in Christ, unity is something that we receive. It is not something to be attained!
Only by the grace of God is unity even experienced in this life. We can’t earn our way into unity. We have to simply receive it in Christ and then value it.
Let me say it this way: Our command is to practice unity!
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Jesus calls the sons of God “peacemakers”! What do peacemakers do? They fight for unity! Peacemakers are not people who have no conflict; they are people who fight for peace in and through that conflict.
God is doing something eternal in and through us in this that we need not miss. Jesus Christ did not come just to hand out tickets to heaven. And He did not just call His Church to point people to the guy handing out tickets to heaven.
He wants us to live out our unity as members of one another so that the testimony of what He has done to restore His people can be out there for others to see. Why? Because more of His people are still to be saved and to join us to be an active and essential part of the local church.
Jesus said it directly in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
A huge way the Lord wants our testimony of the gospel to be on display is in our unity as the body of Christ. This is so central for Jesus, it was essentially His deathbed plea to God the Father in His prayer before he was arrested:
John 17: 20-23 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
Not just Jesus, but Paul and Peter go on to say it again and again:
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
“Live in harmony with one another ...” Romans 12:16
“... Live in harmony with one another ...” I Peter 3:8
My prayer this morning is that if you are not truly a committed part of a local church—not a church where you go play religion, but a church where you truly are members of one another, where you joyfully are in each other’s lives growing, loving, and serving together—that you would make it a priority to get committed to the local church.
And for those of us who are committed members of a local church, that church would be more to you than a couple activities or gatherings on your weekly schedule, but it would be to you a unity of loved ones who are on mission for God’s perfect purposes.
I am committed to holding us accountable to our fight for unity! We must fight to keep it strong, and we learn to love doing this life together. I pray that we would not try to do this life alone anymore—no matter what comes, no matter how hard it gets at times. We are an eternal FAMILY! We are saved and bound and held together by Jesus!
Just for fun, I want to leave you with a silly but great testimony as to why we value each other and never go at it alone.
A man injured on the job filed an insurance claim. The insurance company requested more information, so the man wrote the insurance company the following letter of explanation:
Dear Sirs: I am writing in response to your request concerning clarification of the information I supplied in block #11 on the insurance form, which asked for the cause of the injury. I answered, “Trying to do the job alone.” I trust that the following explanation will be sufficient.
I am a bricklayer by trade. On the date of the injury, I was working alone, laying brick around the top of a three-story building. When I finished the job, I had about five hundred pounds of brick left over. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to put them into a barrel and lower them by a pulley that was fastened to the top of the building.
I secured the end of the rope at ground level, went back up to the top of the building, loaded the bricks into the barrel, and pushed it over the side. I then went back down to the ground and untied the rope, holding it securely to insure the slow descent of the barrel. As you will note in block #6 of the insurance form, I weigh 145 pounds. At the shock of being jerked off the ground so swiftly by the 500 pounds of bricks in the barrel, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope.
Between the second and third floors I met the barrel. This accounts for the bruises and lacerations on my upper body.
Fortunately, I retained enough presence of mind to maintain my tight hold on the rope and proceeded rapidly up the side of the building, not stopping until my right hand was jammed in the pulley. This accounts for my broken thumb (see block #4). Despite the pain, I continued to hold tightly to the rope. Unfortunately, at approximately the same time, the barrel hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel now weighed about 50 pounds. I again refer you to block #6, where my weight is listed. I began a rapid descent.
In the vicinity of the second floor, I met the barrel coming up. This explains the injury to my legs and lower body. Slowed only slightly, I continued my descent, landing on the pile of bricks. Fortunately, my back was only sprained. I am sorry to report, however, that at this point I again lost my presence of mind—and let go of the rope.
I trust that this answers your concern. Please note that I am finished trying to do the job alone.
May we be joyful to not go at this life alone but in the wonderful diverse unity Jesus purchased for us. May we thrive and grow as members of one another.