1 Corinthians 12:17
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
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(17) If the whole body were an eye.—Here is shown how absurd it would be for the body to be merely one member, and in 1Corinthians 12:19 is shown the converse absurdity of the members losing their individuality. There is a corporate body composed of divers members. That is the difference between a dead machine and a living organism.

12:12-26 Christ and his church form one body, as Head and members. Christians become members of this body by baptism. The outward rite is of Divine institution; it is a sign of the new birth, and is called therefore the washing of regeneration, Tit 3:5. But it is by the Spirit, only by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, that we are made members of Christ's body. And by communion with Christ at the Lord's supper, we are strengthened, not by drinking the wine, but by drinking into one Spirit. Each member has its form, place, and use. The meanest makes a part of the body. There must be a distinction of members in the body. So Christ's members have different powers and different places. We should do the duties of our own place, and not murmur, or quarrel with others. All the members of the body are useful and necessary to each other. Nor is there a member of the body of Christ, but may and ought to be useful to fellow-members. As in the natural body of man, the members should be closely united by the strongest bonds of love; the good of the whole should be the object of all. All Christians are dependent one upon another; each is to expect and receive help from the rest. Let us then have more of the spirit of union in our religion.If the whole body ... - The idea in this verse is, that all the parts of the body are useful in their proper place, and that it would be as absurd to require or expect that all the members of the church should have the same endowments, as it would be to attempt to make the body "all eye." If all were the same; if all had the same endowments, important offices which are now secured by the other members would be unknown. All, therefore, are to be satisfied with their allotment; all are to be honored in their appropriate place. 17. Superior as the eye is, it would not do if it were the sole member to the exclusion of the rest. There are several actions to be performed by the body of a man, either for the support and the upholding of it in life, or for the accommodation of it while it lives; seeing, hearing, and smelling (which are the three actions here mentioned) are not indeed necessary for the upholding of life, but they are highly useful for a man’s better being, and the accommodation of bodily life; therefore there is need of a variety of bodily members, organs or instruments of sight as well as of hearing, and organs of smelling as well as hearing; the wise God hath created no member of man’s body in vain, each one hath its use in order to the being or well-being of the body: so it is in the church of God, as the apostle, 1 Corinthians 12:27, argueth; but he goes yet further on, first, in his comparison of the natural and mystical body. If the whole body were an eye,.... And nothing else,

where were the hearing? there would be no ear, and so no sense of hearing: and if the whole were hearing: or only consisted of a member capable of the sense of hearing,

where were the smelling? there would be no nose, the organ of smelling, and that sense would be wanting: thus if the church only consisted of ministers of the Gospel, of men of eminent light and knowledge, qualified for the preaching of the word to others, there would be no hearers; and on the other hand, if it only consisted of hearers, of such who only could hear the word to their own advantage, there would be none of a quick understanding, or of a quick smell to discern perverse things, to distinguish truth from error, to discern spirits, and direct the rest of the members to wholesome and savoury food, and preserve them from what would be hurtful and pernicious to them.

{11} If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

(11) Again speaking to them, he shows them that if that should come to pass which they desire, that is, that all should be equal one to another, there would follow a destruction of the whole body, indeed and of themselves. For it could not be a body unless it were made of many members knit together, and different from one another. And that no man might find fault with this division as unequal, he adds that God himself has joined all these together. Therefore all must remain joined together, that the body may remain in safety.

1 Corinthians 12:17 exposes the preposterous character of the preceding language.

ὀφθαλμός] sc[1995] ἦν, 1 Corinthians 12:19.

ὌΣΦΡΗΣΙς] Plato, Phaed. p. 111 B, the sense of smell.

[1995] c. scilicet.1 Corinthians 12:17 expostulates in the vein of 1 Corinthians 12:15 f. with those who exalt one order of gifts (either as possessing it themselves or envying it in their neighbours) to the contempt of others; the despised function is as needful as the admired to make up the body: “If all the body (were) eye, where the hearing? if all (were) hearing, where the smelling?” The senses are set in order of dignity; the ear wishes to be the eye (1 Corinthians 12:16), but then its indispensable service of hearing would be undischarged; so the nose might desire promotion to the rank of an ear, leaving the body impotent to smell. The discontent of the lower members and the scornfulness of the higher are alike signs of a selfish individualism, indifferent to the welfare of the body ecclesiastic.—ἦν (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:9) is understood here.—Ἡ ὄσφρησις is “the sense of smell”—not odor, but odoratus (Vg[1909]).

[1909] Latin Vulgate Translation.17. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?] “Observe here the difference between the Christian doctrine of unity and equality, and the world’s idea of levelling all to one standard. The intention of God with respect to the body is not that the rude hand should have the delicacy of the eye, or the foot have the power of the brain.”—Robertson. “To desire such an equality as this,” says Calvin, “would produce a confusion which would bring about immediate ruin.” The duty of each is to do his work in the place in which God has set him, with a proper consideration for the rights and the needs of his brother Christians who occupy other positions in the world. “If each man,” continues Robertson, “had the spirit of self-surrender, the spirit of the Cross, it would not matter to himself whether he were doing the work of the main-spring or of one of the inferior parts.”1 Corinthians 12:17. Εἰ ὅλον ἀκοὴ, if the whole were an ear) It is not said, and if, for the etc. is supplied at the end of the verse, or if the whole were smelling, where were the taste and the touch?Verse 17. - If the whole body were an eye, etc. In the body there is between the members an identity of common interest and a perfection of separate functions. All are not equal in strength and delicacy, but each is happy, and each is necessary to the well being of all. There could be no better image of the ideal relation of Christians to each other and to the Church.
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