At the LCMS Bible study today, the topic was I Corinthians 12:12-31, which describes the church as one body.
Here are some items:
A. The pastor drew a contrast between the United States and Norway. In the U.S., people normally go to college to get a good job and provide for themselves and their family financially. In Norway, people go to college to take their place in society and contribute to the well-being of society. That is Paul’s focus in I Corinthians 12:12-31: the well-being of the whole. That does not sacrifice the well-being of individual members but enhances it.
B. Greek philosophy, influenced by Plato, had a very spiritual conception of connection with the divine. According to Plato, the earthly realm points to a spiritual realm, where there is the ideal of humanity and life. God is spirit, so one gets close to God through one’s mind. Some of the Corinthian Christians were claiming that what was important was a spiritual connection with God so what they did in the body did not matter: they could commit fornication and that was fine, since what was important was their mind. The pastor drew a contrast between Lutherans and Calvinists. Calvinists see the Lord’s supper as something that lifts believers to the heavenly realm. Lutherans, by contrast, see it as God coming down to meet believers in the material, as Christ is inside the bread and the wine.
C. Some of the Corinthian Christians were claiming that they had a special revelation from God, and those with flashier gifts (i.e., tongues, healings) acted as if God liked them better than others. There was also division among classes. House churches would gather together for a potluck followed by the Lord’s supper. The richer Christians would bring fancy food and wine and would not share it with others. Some of the poorer Christians would stay at home due to embarrassment about their lack, depriving themselves of the Lord’s supper. Paul seeks to encourage Christians who feel inferior and bear resentment because they feel as if their gifts are not as good as those of other Christians, while exhorting those who are proud on account of their flashier gifts to put things into perspective.
D. Part of Paul’s exhortation was to remind the Corinthians that they received their gifts from one Spirit. There is not one spirit giving the gift of healing, and another spirit giving the gift of prophecy. All of the spiritual gifts come from one Spirit for the edification of those in the body. The Corinthians drink from the same Spirit. John 7:38-39 calls the Spirit rivers of living water that flow from the believer, so Paul, when he says in I Corinthians 12:13 that all believers have been made to drink of the same Spirit, is likely referring to living in and drawing from the Spirit.
E. The Christians are members of Christ’s body. Christ is the one who gives the body life; as someone in the class said, a body may lack an arm, but the body itself is still alive. The analogy of the body existed in Greco-Roman writings, which likened the body politic to the human body. Society is healthy, they said, when people respect one another’s rights and contribute. Paul claims that the body is Christ rather than saying it is the institutional church, for, if he said church, it would be a matter of us trying to figure things out. But Christ is the one who builds his body. He brings people to where the body is, even if they may think they are making the decision on their own, and the people he brings are gifts to the rest of the body. We may not know how some people are gifts, but they are. Paul refers to a part of the body that is covered up, yet it is that part that propagates the human race. Even by being in church, we are an encouragement to others in church, as God brings us through another week. The pastor referred also to Ezekiel 37, in which God’s Spirit brings together dry, lifeless bones to create a body.
F. The pastor commented on some of the spiritual gifts. Apostles are eyewitnesses to Jesus, so there are no more apostles; the New Testament contains the repository of apostolic testimony. Prophecy, according to the pastor, was the speaking of divine revelation for the fledgling early church, before there was a New Testament. Tongues are listed last to humble those who were proud because they spoke in them; the pastor said tongues were primarily for the edification of the individual believer.