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Romans 12:3-8: One Body in Christ

So we, who are many, are one body in Christ,
and individually, we are members who belong to one another.

Romans 12:5 NET

In Romans 12, Paul uses the analogy of the body to describe the relationships among those who call themselves Christians. Why is this analogy so important, and how does it apply to us today?

Just as our bodies have many parts, so does the body of Christ, the church. Each part has its own function in our bodies, and generally, our bodies work best when all the parts work together well.

God assigns the gifts

This is not the first time we see God specifying distinct roles or giving gifts to men. In Numbers 3 – 4, God prescribes carefully the Levites’ role, especially their roles in moving the Tabernacle.  Each of the three families, Kohath, Gershon, and Merari, had distinct roles.  While their jobs were not the same, each job was significant in the Tabernacle. So it is in the body of Christ, the church – each of us has distinct gifts, roles as it were, “faithful stewards of God’s grace!” (Also read Exodus 35:30-35, where God fills Bezalel and Oholiab with His Spirit and with knowledge and artistic skills to create the design features in the Tabernacle).

Joined in faith to our brothers and sisters in Christ

Paul’s picture of the interdependence of the parts of the body is such a great example of the church – diversity within unity.  Our relationship with God, while personal, is also corporate.  Together we form the body of Christ.  How sad when church members don’t realize how essential they are to the health and vitality of the body – how their gifts are needed to help the body grow to maturity.

Gifts of the Spirit given to the body of Christ

Two categories of gifts

Paul writes about the gifts of the Spirit in his letters to Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome. In general, gifts of the Spirit can be divided into two categories – gifts of speaking and gifts of service. Apostleship, prophecy, teaching, evangelism, exhortation, discerning spirits, and speaking/interpreting tongues are gifts of speaking. Typically, hospitality, giving, faith, healing, miracles, and leadership are gifts of service. One gift is not “better” or more desirable than another. Paul is careful to point out that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we should think but should think reasonably. After all, the gifts are not for ourselves, nor are they given because of any merit of our own. God is building His church and knows what each local church body needs. That’s one reason our church membership is so vital. As we exercise our gifts, our church body is strengthened and encouraged. When we hang back or hop around from church to church, we cripple the local body in which God wants to plant us.

What is my gift, your gift, and how are we using them
to build up the body where we worship?

We all are one in mission,
We all are one in call,
Our varied gifts united
By Christ, the Lord of all.
A single, great commission
Compels us from above
To plan and work together
That all may know Christ’s love.

We all are called for service
To witness in God’s name.
Our ministries are diff’rent,
Our purpose is the same:
To touch the lives of others
By God’s surprising grace
So ev’ry folk and nation
May feel God’s warm embrace.

We all behold one vision,
A stark reality:
The steward of salvation
Was nailed upon a tree.
Yet resurrected Justice
Gives rise that we may share
Free reconciliation
And hope amid despair.

Now let us be united
And let our song be heard.
Now let us be a vessel
For God’s redeeming Word.
We all are one in mission,
We all are one in call,
Our varied gifts united
By Christ, the Lord of all.

Rusty Edwards, 1986, Hope Publishing Co
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