The Wonderful, Amazing, Incredible Church Part II
Text: 1 Corinthians 12: 12- 31
Proposition: The church is much more than the world thinks it is or even that the church herself realizes for the wonder, beauty and glory of God inhabits her.
Introduction: Two Sundays ago I talked with you about the Wonderful, Amazing Church. It’s wonderful because God animates it, His Holy Spirit manifests within the church and directs and empowers the people beyond what any might have thought or at times even imagined. That’s Wonderful, meaning full of wonder. Then we talked a bit about the Amazing church because God has made her to look like the person of Jesus Christ. As the Holy Spirit looks exactly like Jesus in terms of wisdom, knowledge, the care of others, in the way He plans and leads, in the way He heals and restores so now as the Holy Spirit indwells the church He makes the church to look like the character of Jesus. That to me is amazing because in our fallen human state it is so not who we typically are. Amazingly the church looks like Jesus. This morning I want to add one more descriptive term to who you are as the church… you are the Incredible church. Incredible, the very word means, “so extraordinary as to seem impossible’.
We were putting the finishing touches to church in Dawson City but there was still lots to be done. It was a Saturday morning, the men were meeting for breakfast and prayer before doing what was needed next. We all knew we were way behind schedule for the official opening. As we prayed that morning we asked God to help us, to send some carpenters to get the work done. It was just then that there was a knock at the church door. A man in his 40’s with his 18 year old son stood there asking if we knew where they could find a mechanic. Three times they had tried to drive up the hill out of town and three times the car started to stall out. One of our guys was a mechanic so we invited them in and soon found out that the dad was taking his son on a trip to Alaska as a graduation present. They too were Christians, in fact they ran a Christian book shop in California. Then they introduced themselves, Bud and Josh Carpenter. When we told them why we were laughing, that we were struggling with getting things painted and finished they decided to stay on for three days to help with the work. ‘The Incredible Church’ describes the way Jesus uses the church, making each part different yet critical to what He intends. Have a look at 1 Cor. 12: 12-31 to see what Paul says makes the church so incredible.
When you think of God being the Creator of all life we begin to see the extent of His creativity, His design, His sense of beauty. Scientists have been taking a census of the various forms of life. So far they have identified over 15,304 species of fish and 214,696 species of animal and plant life. But here’s the kicker, the census is adding about 150 to 200 species of fish and 1,700 species of animals and plants each year. We’re still discovering the extent of God’s creation, the degree of His creativity! My point is simply this, if God would use such creativity and diversity to function together in one eco sphere do you not think His creativity also extends to His new creation of a person born again in Christ? So let’s look at a few statements Paul makes about the way diversity in the Church works as an expression of the Incredible beauty of Christ.
In verse 12, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” It isn’t so much that Jesus has made a bunch of odd balls somehow function as the church as it points us to the greatness of Who Christ is. You could take all the cultures of the world, all the experiences of the people in those cultures and all the personalities in those people and together that diversity does not hold a candle to the diversity of Christ. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He knows each uniquely because it is he Who created each. So the call is to see that though we would consider any church a collection of diverse people they are but a microcosm of the universal church around the globe over all time and all of that is but a microcosm of the incredible Person of Christ. Verse 12 is inviting you to see that the diversity of a church is but a tiny fraction of the glory of Christ as He uses what the world would throw away to become in Him precious jewels.
In verse 13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” The moment you spoke to God and asked Him to forgive you of your sin, the moment you decided to turn from your attitude of entitlement to a place of desperation asking Jesus to save you, that was the moment that forgiveness of sin took place. It was forgiven because it was placed upon Christ and His righteousness was placed upon you. In that place of being forgiven the Holy Spirit was given to you, to indwell you, to be a seal that could never be broken, marking you as one who now belongs to the Father, one redeemed by the blood of Christ. It is in that moment that the Holy Spirit comes into your body and soul and makes your spirit which was dead to God now alive to Him in Christ. The Holy Spirit moves you from being against God to being a member of His kingdom, a child of the King. It is that act of moving you from one realm of darkness and death into another realm of light and life that the term baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to. It is for all who call out to Christ to save them, it is the action of the Holy Spirit moving us into the church and that is incredible! The last part of verse 13 says, “… and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” That word, ‘drink’ is more like the way a plant drinks when it is irrigated and tended. It means that the Holy Spirit is the One who waters our soul without which we wilt and wither. The Holy Spirit calls us to respond to the truth, to drink from His way of illuminating our understanding. There is no other place, no other god, no other Word, no other Savior but Jesus Christ and incredibly the Holy Spirit makes Him known to us more and more if we will but drink.
Then Paul says two things, we cannot self-exclude ourselves from being equipped in the church with a spiritual gift and essential role and neither can we exclude others in Christ.
In verses 15, 16, “If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?” The answer is yes it is part of the body even though it might minimize how it sees itself. As a member of the body of Christ you cannot self- disqualify.
In verse 21, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” The significance of one part of the body cannot deny its absolute need of the another part of the body. If the sliver is in the foot, the eye carefully looks to find it and pull it out. If dirt is in the eye, the hand seeks to gently wipe it away. It is as verse 26 says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” I want you see another principle that Paul urges us to employ. It’s in verses 23,24. In the NLT it puts it like this, “And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.” What part might be considered less honorable? The child, the new convert to Christ, the repentant sinner, the restored adulterer, the convict newly released, the person in poverty or need, the single mother of three? It is to be upon these that we pour out our care, our esteem. It is for those who lack honor or dignity that church is restore it.
Lastly Paul reminds us that though there are higher profile gifts like apostle, prophet, teacher, healer and tongues they are uniquely given by the Spirit and not all have these. It’s been said that Spiritual gifts are like wooden barrels, each one unique. Yet it is not the barrel that is to be desired but rather what’s in the barrel. So Paul says, “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” He’s referring to what is inside each barrel, what drives each spiritual gift. That is the more excellent way. He’s talking about the greatest quality of the character of Christ, His Love. That is what inspired the Creation, that is what persevered the Fall, that is what inspired the Incarnation, that is what demanded the Crucifixion. It is love that empowered the Resurrection. The love of God is the heart of Communion, His body and blood creating for us a covenantal hope. This is all for the Incredible Church!