5. The One Body (1 Corinthians 12)
“The body is one” (v. 12). It is the
Father’s wisdom generally to place believers together in
“families”. The ecclesia is more often the object of concern than is
the individual standing alone. We are all, whether we like it or not, members of
a body. No man should live to himself; that would be selfishness, stagnation,
sterility, and a direct contradiction of Paul’s elaborate allegory. The
most important lesson of our spiritual education is to learn to think and to act
unselfishly as part of the One Body, and not selfishly as a separate individual,
even as regards our own salvation.
The body is one, yet it has many members (v.
14). Some are less beautiful or feebler than others (vv. 22,23), but these too
are necessary. “God hath tempered the body together” (v. 24);
these individuals have been welded together with the ecclesia. In faith and
obedience they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Those for whom Christ
died must not be treated haughtily or indifferently.
“The beauty and usefulness and purpose of the human body is in its
diversity. A severed foot or hand is a repulsive monstrosity. It is obviously
dead and useless — detached, broken off, lost, cast aside, rejected; yea,
worse: decaying, corrupting, putrefying. But a complete, living, healthy body,
with all its parts functioning smoothly together, all perfectly coordinated in
grace and symmetry and harmony of movement and purpose, all instantly subject to
the one Head — is of great attractiveness, and obvious power and
usefulness. No single member can be a body in itself: however accomplished,
however skilled, however wise. No one of us can stand alone. We may, by
unavoidable force of circumstances, be confined to lonely isolation, like Paul
shut up in prison, but we are still part of the Body; and we must, like Paul,
think and live and move and breathe as part of the Body. Those who live for
themselves alone, however holily they may strive to live, are monstrosities and
abortions” (G.V. Growcott, “The Same Care for One Another”,
The Berean Christadelphian, Vol. 57, No. 10 — Oct. 1969 — pp.
“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of
thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you” (v. 21). So
Paul presses home the point: There should be no schism (division) in the Body
(v. 25). “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer
with it” (v. 26). Life itself teaches everyone that pain in one member
affects the whole body; and the loss of one member, even a small toe, can
seriously affect the balance of the whole. It is by no accident or meaningless
rhetoric that we find Moses interposing himself as a would-be sacrifice on
behalf of his blind and erring countrymen (Exod. 32:30-33). Neither is it to be
thought unusual that Nehemiah and David and Daniel and the other prophets showed
no sign of dissociating themselves from Israel, no matter how wayward their
countrymen became. (And even when Jeremiah ceased praying for his brethren, it
was God’s decision and not his! — Jer. 14:11.) These men had
learned the Bible doctrine of the One Body long before Paul. They lived fully
Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 13:
“LOVE suffers long” (v.
“LOVE thinks no evil” (v.
“LOVE bears all things, hopes all
things” (v. 7).
“LOVE keeps no score of wrong, does not gloat
over other men’s sins, but delights in truth” (v. 6,
If we might by any means see how often our spiritual
perceptions are out of line! In our small and often self-centered
“fellowships”, are not our prayers frequent and fervent for the
fortunes of Israel “after the flesh”? (And well they should be!) And
we feel almost at one in spirit with these long-suffering sons of our father
Abraham. But how often do we make mention of other Christadelphians, from
whom we may be divided by only a single point, except to find fault? These, who
— even by the strictest standards — are much more nearly our true
brethren than any of the unbelieving Jews! Dare we ask again? Is this the
attitude of Paul? of Moses? of Jeremiah or Ezekiel or David?
“It may perhaps be argued that when gangrene sets in, amputation becomes
an urgent necessity if life is to be saved. Precisely! Gangrene (like cancer) is
a condition in which the damaged or faulty member is not willing to receive and
use the healing influences which all the rest of the body, via the blood stream,
tries to bring to bear. Instead it is an aggressive evil which, left to itself,
will certainly bring death. Here is the false teacher who refuses the help which
the ecclesia can make available to him, but who instead employs every effort to
spread the corruption which has affected him. For such, excision or amputation
is the only course. On the other hand, to take off a toe because the nail is
ingrowing, or to gouge out an eye because a squint has developed, is plain
folly. In such cases, the body puts up with the defects and takes what action is
advisable to restore normality to the defective member” (H. Whittaker,
“Block Disfellowship”, The Testimony, Vol. 43, No. 513
— Sept. 1973 — p. 342).
There is a simple, common-sense lesson that we must all learn.
It is a lesson in humility and patience and faith among other things. The
ecclesia does not exist in order to keep the Truth pure as a theory (i.e.
‘The purer our ecclesia, the better!’). The Truth (as an abstract
principle, or set of principles communicated from God) cannot be anything
but pure! The ecclesia does exist to help impure men and women
(with imperfect beliefs and impure ways) to move toward purity,
even if their progress is slow.
There is no point in an ecclesia existing if it does not
understand and confidently accept this duty. If perfect “purity”
(i.e. non-contamination) is all the members of the “Body” desire,
then the best course would be to disband the ecclesia and allow each individual
to bread bread at home. Chop the “Body” into a hundred separate
pieces, and isolate each piece in an airtight container! And then you can spent
your time wondering what happened to the love, the joy, the fellowship, and the
family feeling which you once enjoyed.
Consider again Paul’s beautiful inspired allegory: The
One Body! “Fearfully and wondrously made.... how marvelous are thy works,
O Lord!” (Psa. 139:14). The spiritual body, like the physical body, is not
a sterile laboratory “experiment”, existing in a fragile regulated
environment, behind locked doors! The spiritual Body of Christ, like the
“fearful and wondrous” physical body, is much more akin to a
hospital. Like a hospital, with its Great Physician at its head, it is
constantly working even in its imperfection to heal its diseased members
and to strengthen its weak members. And so it must continue, until its
work is finished and the One Body — perfected at last — is glorified
with its Head for a joyful eternity.