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1 Corinthians 12:12-31

You can read the text here.

In this section Paul continues to hammer home the need for unity and for valuing every member of the church using a well known philosophical trope, that of a community forming a body. However, Paul turns the usual analogy, aimed at reinforcing the current social hierarchy, on its head.[1] Whether they like it or not, they are one body. All who have been baptized into Christ, are, by his Spirit, joined into one body.

The one body is made up of a variety of individuals with a variety of gifts. Just because one feels that that don't have any special role to play in the church's mission doesn't make them extraneous. Nor should they obsess over their "lack" of gifts. Every part has a role to play and every member is essential. If everyone had the same gifts the body would be a monstrosity, only through unified diversity can the body be healthy and whole. In fact, God has given those whose stature in the body may be small special honor. When one part suffers the whole body suffers with it, and when one part is honored, the whole body is honored. The Corinthians are a union whether they like it or not. Paul wants them to like it and to lay down their individualistic status seeking, otherwise they will harm the body, which is ultimately Christ's body. Hence Christology and ecclesiology meet.[2]

Paul then proceeds to rattle off some roles and gifts that God has given to certain members. Some degree of hierarchy does seem implied, but that has to be qualified by everything said above. Even if some roles are more central to the body's function, they are all still necessary (no one is an appendix). Apostleship, exhortation, and teaching head the list with their focus on sound instruction and building up the community. Interestingly Paul mentions administrative gifts. A church does not need to be "institutional" to have logistical issues to manage. Tongues comes in last, again as Paul tries to devalue the gift in the Corinthian's eyes. But Paul has focused enough on gits for the moment. He wants to show them something far more important to be focused upon.


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[1] Ciampa and Rosner have an excellent extended section on the background of the body metaphor, one of the few places the exceed Thiselton in this regard.

[2 So Thiselton.

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