Christ’s people have a variety of functions in his spiritual body (12:14). This is illustrated by hands, feet, eyes, ears and noses (12:15-18). The Spirit of God is teaching us that there are clearly defined bodily functions and parts of the body to fulfill those functions.
Your position in the church is an adult son; you have authority to minister because you are a priest; the place of your ministry is determined by God. Since we have spiritual gifts and have been shaped by the Spirit to serve, we perform various spiritual functions in the local gathering of saints (church) we attend. To use the illustration, God makes you, a priest and an adult son, to act as a hand, a foot, an eye, an ear or a nose.
Many parts are necessary in the body for all spiritual functions to be fulfilled (12:17). Clearly, this makes the spiritual maturity of every member of the body important. In the new covenant way of life, this is very important. (I will spare you from an overdose of adjectives and adverbs, but I’m pausing here so that you will reflect on this point.) The new covenant way of life is not about pressing people to conform under a code of laws, rules, etc. This “checklist morality” is the focus for Christian behavior that many people are zealous to enforce by “church discipline”. But that is not my subject. The new covenant way of life is about people in Christ sharing life in the Spirit, which involves mutual service. You do not achieve service by investigating whether everyone is keeping the code. You serve because you have a vital relationship with others that impels you to show concern by practical actions for the benefit of each other. It is a sense that all of us, yes, all of us, are necessary for the spiritual health and progress and mission of our local gathering. For example, your timely use of your gift of encouragement might be what the Spirit uses in me today to persevere in the struggles of life. The personal Spirit enables spiritual people to provide care for Christ’s people.
So then, think on a couple ideas. First, a few people cannot possibly do everything. God intends a better way. That better way is the involvement of every member of the assembly. Some people have remarkable people skills that bring people to open up their hearts to each other. It is a joy to behold. Second, the tragedy is that people gifted by the Spirit are not fulfilling their function. This means that some parts of body ministry are left unfulfilled and other parts are weakly done by members unequipped to do them. They see the need and valiantly seek to serve, but… it would be so much better if those with the right spiritual skill sets were doing them. Try lifting your fork to your mouth with your ear! I don’t think the job will be done very well. If you are thinking, “That’s ridiculous! You can’t pick up a fork with your ear!” then you might be able to understand the weakness of the church in our time.
In every local church, God arranges the parts as he intended (12:18-20). If the Lord has saved you and brought you to a gathering of his people, he clearly has a purpose for you to fulfill in it. God your Father wants you to experience the joy of fulfilling his purpose for you as you share life with others. You find your purpose by learning the needs of the body and your desires and abilities in reference to those needs. Others should notice your gifts. But you can’t wait for others to push you to do it. I don’t want someone to tell my liver every morning, “Please do your liver thing, whatever it is.” Start to serve one another in love, and the Spirit will provide insight to you and others that you are learning to function in your local church. If you are not connecting with other followers of Christ, seek a local gathering to join this week.
Grace and peace, David