The body of Christ

Paul talked about spiritual gifts in the context of supernatural regeneration or what Jesus referred to as being born again (John 3:3). Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to understand that being identified with Christ meant you would receive a particular spiritual capability that was different than your natural capability in order to facilitate the effective functioning of the body of Christ. Paul said:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, ESV)

Paul described all believers collectively as the body of Christ and explained that in the same way that a human body has many parts that enable it to function effectively, so all believers are expected to function as a collective unit. Paul referred to both diversity and unity in his description of the spiritual capabilities that every believer is given and stated, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).

The point I believe Paul was trying to make was that spiritual gifts are only useful in a collective sense. Paul used the expression tempered together (1 Corinthians 12:24) to describe the process God uses to unify the body of Christ. The Greek word sugkerannumi (soong-ker-an’-noo-mee) means “to commingle” (G4786). Figuratively, sugkerannumi can mean to assimilate. Paul was most likely talking about Christians being joined together culturally. One of the Old Testament uses of the phrase tempered together had to do with the creation of a perfume that was placed before the ark in the most holy place of God’s temple (Exodus 30:34-36). The individual elements of this holy anointing oil were beaten together until they dissolved and became an aromatic fragrance comparable to a priceless perfume. When Paul said there should be “no schism” in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:25), he was probably referring to an expensive garment that had been sewn together in such a way that it was impossible to tell that it wasn’t a single piece of cloth. Together, these illustrations suggest that the body of Christ is like an Olympic athlete that is able to accomplish superhuman feats through its collective efforts.

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