1 Corinthians 12:12–31

“God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body” (vv. 18–20).

Uniting us to Christ our head (1 Cor. 6:17), the Holy Spirit also unites those who trust in Jesus alone to one another so that we who are many become one body (10:17). This communion of saints we confess in the Apostles’ Creed is vital to the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Our place in God’s kingdom depends on His electing grace and our personal faith, but we are not brought into heaven alone. We are rescued in union with others as the people of God, for our Lord redeems a corporate body for Himself. Christ laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11), so the church is no afterthought in the Lord’s plan. It is essential to His salvific purposes, for Jesus conforms us to His image through the preached Word, sacraments, fellowship, and other benefits we receive in the church (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:1–16).

When we think of the communion of saints and the doctrine of election, we should also understand that God chose each of us for the body of Christ for a specific purpose. Of course, there was nothing in us that motivated the Lord’s election. Salvation is entirely of grace and we are not in the kingdom because we are nicer, smarter, better-looking, more spiritually sensitive, or otherwise more worthy than those whom God has passed over for redemption. But when the Lord snatched us from the flames of hell, He did not do so merely to rescue us but also to put us to work in His body. This is one of the points of today’s passage, which is another proof text for question and answer 55 of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Paul tells us specifically that God Himself has arranged all the members of the body of Christ, putting us in specific positions and giving us particular gifts for the good of the whole (1 Cor. 12:18). Just as each organ and member of the human body has its own role and function, each Christian has a calling that is indispensable to the health of the church. Not all of us are teachers and administrators. These public leaders are important to the body, but they are not more important than those who may work behind the scenes caring for babies in the nursery, cleaning the sanctuary, making meals for new mothers and sick families, or performing any of the other tasks that might seem lackluster (vv. 14–17, 27–30). Our gifts and talents are all necessary for a well-functioning church.

Coram Deo

In summarizing today’s passage and the communion of saints, answer 55 of the Heidelberg Catechism says that “each member should consider it a duty to use these [spiritual] gifts . . . for the service and enrichment of the other members.” One clear implication of today’s passage is that we are sinning if we are not putting our gifts to use in the church. It is therefore incumbent upon each of us to determine our gifts and then use them to serve others.

For Further Study