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What does it mean that the church is one body in Christ (Romans 12:5)?

the church is one body in Christ

In Romans 12:4–8, the apostle Paul discusses spiritual gifts, which are special graces given by God to each Christian for the benefit of the entire church. He covers the same issue in more detail with the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 12, 14). Paul stresses that the church is one body in Christ in both teachings. Just as the human body is made up of many individual but interconnected parts, each Christian has his or her own unique, God-given gifts to contribute to the church as a whole: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:4–5, ESV).

Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12–14, ESV). He underlines the point: “Yes, there are many parts, but only one body” (1 Corinthians 12:20, NLT). Why is Paul so emphatic? Because the church can never function as God intends without an appreciation for each member and every diverse gift of God’s grace.

Paul knew some members thought too highly of themselves (see Romans 12:3, 16), assuming their gifts elevated them to a higher status in the church. Paul wanted them to understand that no one person or gift is more important than another (1 Corinthians 12:12–17). He told the Corinthians that the gifts are “given to each of us so we can help each other” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NLT). This understanding requires humility, recognizing that our gifts are not for our own glory but for the benefit of everyone in the body.

In fact, we are to treat “some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important” as “the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. . . . God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity” (1 Corinthians 12:22–24, NLT). No one in the church should be neglected or ignored.

Warren Wiersbe comments on the tragedy of minimizing certain gifts and accentuating others in the local church: “Spiritual gifts are tools to build with, not toys to play with or weapons to fight with” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1, Victor Books, 1996, p. 555). The church is one body in Christ. Individual members should not compete as rivals for positions of honor. Every gift is essential, and “God has put each part just where he wants it” (1 Corinthians 12:18, NLT). Preaching, prophecy, and teaching are just as important as serving, encouraging, giving, leading, and demonstrating acts of mercy (Romans 12:6–8).

Paul reiterates, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Whatever gift God has given us by His grace must be devoted to serving Him for the good of the whole body of Christ.

As Jesus prepared to depart from this earth, He prayed earnestly to the Father for His followers to be one in Him: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:21, NLT; see also John 17:11, 22). Earlier, He explained to His disciples, “There will be one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16, NLT).

The concept of the church as one body in Christ calls us to live in unity. This unity embraces the diversity of our gifts, positions, background, and gender: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28; see also Ephesians 4:4).

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What does it mean that the church is one body in Christ (Romans 12:5)?
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This page last updated: May 13, 2024