Close Your Church for Good. Chap 4, Part 2. After introducing the popular image of “The Body of Christ” for the church, we now look briefly at the only place in Scripture where this exact term is used. This will be covered in two blog posts.
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The primary passage from Paul that talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit is First Corinthians 12. In this chapter Paul compares the church to a body, and just as each part of a body has its own unique function, so also our gifting by the Holy Spirit provides each of us a unique purpose within the church, which is the Body of Christ (12:27). To understand Paul’s idea in First Corinthians 12, some background is necessary. As noted above, the vast majority of the uses of the word “body” (Gk. sōma) in the New Testament are by Paul. Of these, he uses it most frequently in the letter of First Corinthians. Why?
The Corinthian Christians saw themselves as spiritually elite. They were super spiritual. For them, everything was about the Holy Spirit, and their own spiritual life. Many of them were beginning to neglect the physical reality around them, and even deny that what was done in the flesh had any serious ramifications upon their spirit. In their minds, the flesh and the spirit were separate. This error of dualism has its origins in the philosophical ideas of Plato. Much of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is focused on correcting this hyper-spiritual outlook on life. He attempts to show that what is done in the flesh has serious ramifications for life in the Spirit.
This is part of the reason Paul emphasizes the image of “body” so much in his letter to the Corinthians. He wants to show that what is done in the body affects not only the spirit, but also the body, including the entire Body of Christ, the church. The earth-shattering concept that Paul emphasizes to the Corinthians is not only that the physical and spiritual side of a person are connected in one unified body, but also that each and every person within the Body of Christ is connected to each other. When we sin in our own flesh, we drag the entire Body of Christ with us.
One example is sufficient to show Paul’s thought. After an extended discussion of why the Corinthians should glorify God with both body and our spirit, Paul tells the Corinthians in 6:15-20 that having sex with a prostitute is not simply a sin of the flesh, but also engages the spirit. Beyond this, it is not just their own body and spirit that are united to the prostitute, but the Body of Christ and the Holy Spirit as well! Paul argues that such an idea should be enough to keep us from sin.