1 Corinthians 12:27
At Corinth there was much of the spirit of self assertion: "I," said one, "am for Paul!" "I," said another, "for Apollos!" "I," said a third, "for Cephas!" This was a selfish partisanship; and with it was conjoined a disposition on the part of many to magnify their own gifts and powers and to depreciate those of their neighbours and fellow members. To all this the apostle furnishes the true corrective. Let Christians but regard themselves in the true light, as Christ's body collectively, and as individually living members of that body, and then inconsiderateness, selfishness, envy, and jealousy will flee away.

I. COLLECTIVELY, CHRISTIANS FORM THE BODY OF CHRIST. Not, of course, the body of flesh and blood which he assumed and wore; not the bread and wine of the Eucharist, which he called his body and blood; but the human representation of his presence which he has left on earth.

1. This assertion cannot be made of any one outward, visible, organic society. All these, because composed of human beings and consequently of imperfect and faulty characters, and because doubtless including within their boundaries unspiritual persons and hypocrites, are themselves far from reaching the Divine ideal. If one "visible" Church cannot claim to be the body of Christ, neither, for the same reason, can any association of such communities. They may be admirable, and their existence may be most important for the conservation of the gospel and the evangelization of the world, but they are not to be confounded with the body of Christ.

2. But it is true of the Church as it exists in the view of the omniscient Lord. The spiritual Church, sometimes called invisible, because its boundaries cannot be traced by human eyes, is penetrated by Christ's Spirit, is a living witness to his mind and doctrine, and is ever offering a service of obedience to his will. In these respects it is the Body, of which Christ himself is the living, inspiring, directing Soul.


1. This comes to pass through individual spiritual union with him. Though each Christian is indebted beyond measure to the teaching, influence, and spirit of the consecrated society in which he has been trained, still a spiritual process must, through the reception of the means of grace, take place in his conscious nature.

2. Each Christian has his several functions to discharge in the Church and for the Lord. There are diversities of gifts and consequent diversities of ministries; and this diversity is itself a witness to the individual, the personal nature of the membership of every one in him who is the Source of all true blessing and power.

3. All cooperate for the same end. That this is so is evident; and how can it be so, except as a result of such common subjection to the one Head as secures the mutual harmony and coordination of all the members? Each is selected for his own part and qualified for his own position. - T.

Niw ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
I. TRUE CHRISTIANS, AS THE BODY OF CHRIST, MANIFEST HIS PERSONAL PRESENCE AMONG MEN. In Christ incarnate "God was manifest in the flesh." Just as really is Christ manifest in His Church.

II. THE BODY OF CHRIST REVEALS THE MIND OF CHRIST. So closely do body and mind correspond, that the mind sometimes fashions the body to its own character. Essential characteristics, if not every thought and feeling, are revealed in gesture, gait, and countenance. The human body of Christ served the same purpose in expressing His mind. Now He has another manifestation. He is formed in us and thus expresses Himself as truly as once through flesh and blood. These "living epistles are known and read of all men," written over with Christ's thoughts, as those thoughts were once written on His own face. We are Christians only so far as we embody and reveal Christ to men.

III. THESE MEMBERS OF CHRIST'S BODY ARE THE INSTRUMENTS FOR THE EXECUTION OF HIS WILL. The body is the servant of the soul. Such was Christ's body on earth. It is now laid aside for other organs, even His Church, who are "members of His body, of His flesh and His bones". Here is the radical idea of Christian service. We are not independent to follow our own purposes, but the will of Christ. While the hands and feet are involuntary instruments moved by the soul, the organs of Christ's body act freely, although God worketh in them to will and to do of His good pleasure. Though not losing identity or individuality, they are so assimilated to each other and to Christ that they freely act together with the harmony of the most nicely adjusted machine. Again, Christ now is not limited to any spot at once, but is everywhere, in every Christian heart. Were He to get complete possession of all the members of His body and of all the agencies which they command, what rapid and sweeping successes would He achieve! When the Church is sanctified, when no member is paralysed or dormant or reluctant, but the whole are "clear as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners," how soon will the world be redeemed!

(H. Mead, D.D.)

The chemist mixes his various elements together in the battery, and when they are brought together, and the conditions are fulfilled, electricity is there. He does not summon electricity from some remote distance; but already dormant in these elements was the electric power, and when they are combined, instantly the electric power springs into existence. So Christ says, "In each one of you Christians there is a dormant power. I am in you, but there is more of Me in all of you together than there is in any one of yon separate and individually; and when you have combined around My banner and My name to do My will, there springs into existence, not merely the strength that comes from union, but the Diviner help that comes from this, that I am in the midst of that organisation, the spirit that inspires the body." It becomes at once more than human — it becomes Divine — the body of Christ.

(Lyman Abbott.)

God has chosen the most familiar objects to be the emblems of Christ and His Church — tree, rock, house, wheat, bread, and here the human body. In the "body."

I. ALL LIFE IS IS THE HEAD. If you separate the smallest particle of the body from it, that moment it dies. And so the Church is in such union with Christ that if you wilfully break the union by sin or unbelief, you are, spiritually, as dead as an amputated limb!

II. ALL FEELING AND ALL SPRINGS OF POWER AND ACTION LIE IN THE HEAD. When any spot in the body is injured, a nerve communicates the fact to the brain, and there is the suffering. And then, from the brain, a nerve communicates back to the injured place what is to be done under the circumstances. And so whatever touches any living member of the Church, either for weal or woe, it goes up at once to Christ; and from Him again there flows down to you the never-failing cords of His sympathy, guidance, and power.

III. THE DIFFERENT PARTS OF OUR BODY ARE ALL HELD TOGETHER BY THEIR MEETING IN THE ONE HEAD. So there is no real unity of Christians, except as they all meet and unite in the one Christ. Christ is, and must be, the centre piece of the arch of unity. If that centre piece is not there, the arch will fall!

IV. NO ONE PART OF THE BODY CAN COMMUNICATE WITH ANOTHER EXCEPT THROUGH THE HEAD. My right hand cannot touch my left but through the head. Just so it is in the Church. All true service and charity must be through Christ. If I have been kind to any one it is the Head has done it, from first to last.

V. SOME MEMBERS ARE COUNTED "MORE HONOURABLE" AND SOME LESS, BUT ALL BELONG TO THE SAME "HEAD," AND SO SHARE IN THE SAME DIGNITY. So it is with the Church. The poorest, meanest man that walks this earth, if he be a "child of God," is in the Head. You meet him there; he is equal with you there. Conclusion:

1. Away with all selfishness, pride, isolation! We are all one body.

2. This principle reaches beyond this world. In heaven itself there is "the Body of Christ." And there is nothing greater than that. The saints in glory are my fellow-members in it.

(J. Vaughan, M.A.)

I. THE CHURCH IS THE BODY OF CHRIST (cf. Ephesians 1:22, 23; Ephesians 4:12; Colossians 1:24).

1. Note the resemblances.(1) As the body reveals the soul, so the Church reveals Christ. What we love is in our friends, not the body. That is but the casket. But we know nothing of their souls except through the body. They are revealed to us by the glance of the eye, the tone of the voice, the deeds of love. So Christ is never seen directly. The salvation of men depends on the Church's revelation of Christ.(2) As the soul acts by the body, so Christ acts through the Church. The soul is the seat of the affections and motives, but the body must carry out its purposes. The soul of the parent goes out after the children who are scattered over the world. The body must write with pen and ink the messages of love. A neighbour longs to help some sick one. The body must be robbed of sleep that the neighbour may be helped. So Christ, the soul of the Church, loves and desires to save all men. But wherever men are saved, it is usually by the action of "His body, the Church."(3) As the soul speaks through the body, so Christ speaks by the Church (1 Corinthians 6:1-5; Matthew 18:17, 18).

2. If all this be true —

(1)How great is the honour which Christ has put upon us!

(2)How great is our responsibility!

(3)How important that we should see to it that we do not become a body without a soul — a Church without Christ!

II. INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANS ARE MEMBERS IN PARTICULAR, i.e., each in his appointed place. The teaching of the previous verses is —

1. That we are all members or parts of the body of Christ. We may have nothing that brings us into prominence, and yet we are component parts of the body. Without us it would be incomplete.

2. That we all have a part in the work of the body. No part of a living body is without a function which it alone can perform. So in the body of Christ our office may be a humble one, but it is one to which we are Divinely appointed.

3. That the meanest offices are often most important. How the disorder of one small obscure part of the body hinders the whole; — pleurisy or tic! So in the body of Christ. If the Church is hindered we need to make it a personal matter. "Lord, is it I?" Again, the less prominent offices in the Church are just now more necessary. We have had much preaching; we want religion lived in little things.

(J. Ogle.)

There are several analogies between our bodies and the Church as the body of Christ, viz. —


II. OUR PHYSICAL AND PSYCHICAL NATURES ARE SO CLOSELY JOINED THAT THEY CONSTITUTE A VIRTUAL UNITY. So Christ says of His Church, "As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us."

III. OUR SPIRITS ARE IN MOST SENSITIVE SYMPATHY WITH ALL PARTS OF OUR BODIES. If any part is cut or bruised, to that at once goes the mind in painful consciousness. So Christ bears all our sorrows, and carries our grief in His sympathetic spirit.

IV. OUR SPIRITS ARE ALERT THAT THEY MAY DEFEND AND OTHERWISE HELP THE BODILY MEMBERS. If a missile comes near, it is the soul that, looking through the eyes, sees it and warns the nerve to spring the muscle that moves the proper part of the body to avoid it. Such is Christ's watchfulness for His people.

V. OUR SPIRITS FREQUENTLY, IN THEIR DEEPER WISDOM, ORDER THE BODY TO RECEIVE PAIN — e.g., to present a hand to the surgeon's knife, to endure fatigue, etc. So Christ ordains suffering for the discipline of His people.

VI. OUR SPIRITS IMPART THE STRENGTH OF THEIR COURAGE TO OUR BODIES, THAT THEY MAY ENDURE PAIN without flinching, the resolute will holding the shrinking nerve; moral courage the source of truest physical heroism. So Christ's grace is sufficient for us,

VII. OUR SPIRITS ARE CONSTANTLY TRAINING OUR BODIES TO EASY, almost unvolitional OBEDIENCE, e.g., we learn to do, as if instinctively, many things that at first are performed only with difficulty — to strike the notes on a piano, to read without definite thought of the letters, all that we mean by "second nature." So Christ is training our souls to obey His precepts with liberty, without constant pressure of the sense of duty. Perfect sainthood will be as natural as the processes of physical motion.

VIII. OUR SPIRITS ARE CONSTANTLY MODIFYING THE ASPECT OF OUR BODIES, stamping character upon the countenance, and expressing disposition by manner and mien. So Christ, by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, sanctifies us.

IX. OUR SPIRITS KEEP OUR BODIES ALIVE SO LONG AS THEY ARE ASSOCIATED. There can be no death until the soul is withdrawn; then only does the tabernacle of the flesh fall. So Christ is the life of all the members of His body. And as His promise is, "Lo, I am with you alway," we can never die. "Because I live ye shall live also."

(J. M. Ludlow, D.D.)

I. THE UNION OF CHRIST WITH HIS CHURCH. This is sometimes illustrated by images borrowed from the relations of domestic life: those of master and servants, parent and children, husband and wife; sometimes by images derived from works of art, or from natural history: He Himself represents it by the union of the vine with its branches. The Scripture idea of Christ represents Him as identified with the Church, which is called the fulness or complement of Christ: so that Christ would want something essential to Him, without the Church. In the text believers are styled His body, which implies —

1. The participation of a common nature. In the former part of this chapter the apostle had spoken of the union of Christians, and those who participate of one Spirit. Christ makes them all His own, by the communication of His own Spirit; just as the natural members are united with the head. They receive, out of His fulness, grace for grace. Notwithstanding the difference of nature and of office between Him and them, yet the graces of Christians are of the same origin, and nature, with His. Every real Christian is animated by the same views, desires, tempers, principles of conduct, with his Divine Master. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." The difference between Christians and men of the world is not a difference in degree; it is a difference in nature.

2. The direction which Christ has over His Church. He is the supreme authority who prescribes all our duties. All religion emanates from Him as Lord of all. It is the work of the Spirit to establish His authority in the heart: a sceptre by which He gently, yet effectually, subdues His people.

3. The affectionate union which subsists between both. The Church is loved by Christ as His body, endeared to Him by the most tender ties. In love to it He descended from His throne to the Cross. Such love as the Father has to Him He has to the Church. And, by analogy, we ought to have the same love to Him, manifested by walking in His steps, consecrating ourselves to Him who so loved us. Like loves like; and if Christ is the pattern and friend of His people, how entire, intense, and constant, ought to be our devotedness to Him!

II. THE UNION OF CHRISTIANS WITH EACH OTHER. "We are members in particular."

1. Every member of the natural body, however mean, feeble, and obscure, is a member; so should no Christian be overlooked, however humble, since he stands in a sacred relation to Jesus Christ. To despise the image of God in the natural man implies a profane disregard of that God who made man in His own image; but to despise this image in the spiritual man is a higher species of impiety.

2. There exists an affection and sympathy between all the members. In the system of animal life, which is probably a modification of the spirit that animates the whole, the functions of all the rest are affected by one. Thus Christians are to feel for each other, "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ"; they are not to say, as Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

3. There is no schism in the body, so long as it is in a natural and healthful state; otherwise it tends to decay. Thus, for one member of Christ to envy others, is as unnatural and destructive as a division in the animal system.

4. There are different offices in the body; some parts are organic, as the eye, the ear; these are instruments of sense, and peculiarly important. Thus, in the Church, some are apostles, some evangelists; but all are not such, yet each has his own place and use; each may contribute his portion to the general good.

(R. Hall, M.A.)

"A member of Christ." Now, what "member" will you be? If you are "a member of Christ," you must do the member's part. If you say, "I will be like the hand," what will you do? You must work usefully with your hand, you must work for God, you must give to God. Or, with your feet, you must run with messages. Be very useful. Think, "Perhaps I shall be a missionary, with my feet beautiful on the mountains, to the heathen. I will do it for Christ's sake." Or, "I will always listen to good things." Be the ear. Or, with the eye, look at the beautiful things from heaven. Or, like the tongue, speak of God, of goodness, and of happiness. Then you are a useful "member of Christ." Remember, if you have got Christ in your heart, then you are "a member" indeed.

(J. Vaughan, M.A.)

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