Life-Study of 1 Corinthians

Life-Study of 1 Corinthiansby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-7363-0959-4
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 58 of 69 Section 1 of 1

LIFE-STUDY OF FIRST CORINTHIANS

MESSAGE FIFTY-EIGHT

DEALING WITH THE GIFTS

(2)

Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 12:12-22

In 12:1-11 Paul stresses two matters: speaking and the Spirit. A Christian must be a speaking person. If we are silent in our worship, then we become dumb worshippers. We do not worship a silent God; we worship a living, speaking God. Thus, our speaking is a sign that we are proper worshippers of God. Furthermore, whenever we speak, Christ should be the center. We should even speak forth the Lord Jesus. According to 12:3, when we say, “Lord Jesus,” we are in the Spirit. Therefore, speaking is Paul’s first emphasis in 12:1-11, and the Spirit is the second.

As Christians, we all should speak. When we speak forth the Lord, we are in the Spirit. For example, as I speak, I breathe in air. I am not only surrounded by the air, but air is also in me. The more I open my mouth to speak, the more the air enters into me and saturates me. If I would neither speak nor breathe, there would be no way for air to come into my being. Then my inner being could not receive the necessary supply of oxygen. In order for oxygen to work in my inward parts, it is necessary for me to breathe and speak. By speaking I enjoy the air. In the same principle, when we speak with Christ as the center of our speaking, we are in the Spirit.

III. ONE BODY WITH MANY MEMBERS

In dealing with the gifts, Paul’s third emphasis is the Body. In 12:12-22 he speaks of the Body again and again. Today there is a neglect of the Body among many Pentecostal people. They may seek the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit without realizing that the gifts of the Spirit are altogether for the Body. The gifts are of the members, but they are not for the members. Rather, the gifts are of the members and for the Body.

We may use the members of our physical body as an illustration of how the gifts are for the Body. My hand has a particular gift and is able to do certain things. But the gift and the functions of the hand are not for the hand itself, but for the body. Likewise, the feet have the ability to walk. We may say that they have the gift of walking. But this ability, this gift, is for the body; it is not only for the feet. In the same principle, our mouth eats for the body, and our eyes see for the body. Would it not be a terrible thing if the mouth ate only for itself and not for the body? If such were the case, the food would remain in the mouth and not be supplied to the body. It would also be dreadful if the eyes functioned only for themselves and did not see for the body. The eyes have a function, the ability to see. This seeing gift, however, though it belongs to the eyes, is not for the eyes; it is for the body. The nose also functions for the body. If the nose could be selfish and keep all the air for itself, the body would not receive air. The nose breathes air for the body. All these illustrations show that the gift that belongs to each member is for the whole body.

We need to be impressed with the fact that immediately after emphasizing the Spirit, Paul turns to the Body and places a great emphasis on it. In 12:1-3 Paul stresses speaking, and in verses 4 through 11 his emphasis is on the Spirit. In these verses the word Spirit is used seven times. But in verses 12 through 22 the crucial word is the Body.

A. The Constitution of the Body

Verse 12 says, “For even as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of the body being many are one body, so also is Christ.” “For” indicates that verse 12 is an explanation of verse 11. Verse 11 says that one Spirit operates all the various aspects of His manifestation, distributing them to many believers individually. This is just like our physical body being one and having many members.

In Greek Christ in verse 12 is “the Christ,” referring to the corporate Christ, composed of Christ Himself as the Head and the church as His Body with all the believers as its members. All the believers of Christ are organically united with Him and constituted of His life and element to become His Body, an organism, to express Him. Hence, He is not only the Head, but also the Body. As our physical body has many members yet is one, so is this Christ.

In verse 13 Paul continues, “For also in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and were all given to drink one Spirit.” As the Spirit is the sphere and element of our spiritual baptism and in such a Spirit we were all baptized into one organic entity, the Body of Christ, so we should all, regardless of our races, nationalities, and social ranks, be this one Body. Christ is the life and constituent of this Body, and the Spirit is the reality of Christ. It is in this one Spirit that we were all baptized into this one living Body to express Christ.

The believers of Christ are baptized through water and in the Spirit into Christ, the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3), the name—the Person—of the Triune God (Matt. 28:19), and the Body of Christ. Baptism ushers the believers into an organic union with Christ and the Triune God, making them living members of the Body of Christ. All the gifts, as the manifestation of the Spirit distributed to the individual believers by the Spirit, are for the profit, the building up, of this Body. The apostle is very conscious of this. He is very Body-conscious, Body-centered, unlike the Corinthians and so many other believers through the centuries who have been very much self-centered concerning spiritual gifts. Hence, following this verse, Paul gives us a long discourse concerning the Body. His intention is to rescue the Corinthian believers from self-seeking back to a concern for the Body so that they may be no longer for their individual profit, but for the building up of the Body.

In verse 13 Paul speaks of Jews and Greeks and of slaves and free. Jews and Greeks refer to races and nationalities, and slaves and free refer to social ranks.

To be baptized in the Spirit is to get into the Spirit and be lost in Him. To drink the Spirit is to take the Spirit in and have our being saturated with Him. By these two procedures we are mingled with the Spirit. To be baptized in the Spirit is the initiation of the mingling and is once for all. To drink the Spirit is the continuation and accomplishment of the mingling and is perpetual, forever.

Today Pentecostal people talk a great deal about the baptism in the Spirit, but not nearly as much about being baptized into the Body. The baptism of the Spirit is not for individuals; it is for the Body. In verse 13 Paul clearly says, “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” This Body is an organic entity. We know from Matthew 28:19 and Galatians 3:27 that we have been baptized into the Triune God and into Christ. The Triune God and Christ are organic and living. From Romans 6:3 we know that we have been baptized not only into Christ but also into His death. Positively, we have been baptized into the Triune God and into Christ; negatively, we have been baptized into the death of Christ. This negative aspect of baptism clears away such negative things as sin, the flesh, the self, and the old creation. The ultimate issue of baptism is that we are put into the Body. Hallelujah, we are in the Body!

If we would have a proper appreciation of the spiritual gifts, we need to see the three important matters of speaking, the Spirit, and the Body. Spiritual gifts are a matter of speaking, by the Spirit, and for the Body. Whenever you use a spiritual gift for yourself and not for the Body, you annul your gift. To repeat, the gift is not for the member itself; it is for the body. If the feet used their gift of walking for themselves and not for the body, they would nullify their gift. Many are seeking the spiritual gifts and some seemingly have received the gifts. But in many cases they have received these gifts in vain because they use them for themselves and not for the Body. Many of today’s Christians have no thought of the Body. Actually, we do not need to seek the gifts so much. Instead, we should simply learn to be for the Body. If we are for the Body, we shall have an abundance of gifts. Furthermore, being for the Body will enrich, uplift, strengthen, and even multiply our gifts.

In dealing with the gifts, Paul was very Body-conscious, very church conscious. His concern was the building up of the church. The gifts are not for self-edification; they are for the building up of the Body.

I wish to testify by the Lord’s mercy that throughout the years I have always been concerned for the Body. The reason I have a strong gift of speaking is that I have never had the thought to use this gift for myself. My burden, concern, and intention have been and still are for the churches. I have no desire to be a popular speaker. My burden is for the Body and for all the churches. The more I speak for the churches and to the churches, the more I have to minister.

I appreciate Paul’s word in 12:13: “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and were all given to drink one Spirit.” Where can we drink one Spirit? We drink the Spirit in the Body. If we were not in the Body, there would not be any flow. There would be nothing to drink. The flow is in the Body. According to the book of Revelation, in eternity the flow will be in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:1-2). Today, the flow, the river, is in the Body. In one Spirit we have all been baptized into one Body to drink one Spirit.

Many of us can testify that before we came into the church life in the Lord’s recovery, we were either in a dry, parched land or in a marshy land. There may have been some water in this marshy land, but it was not good for drinking. But in the church life in the Lord’s recovery, we are drinking the Spirit every day, even all the time. We are not only at a fountain—we are in the flow. How I appreciate this verse telling us that we have been baptized into one Body to drink! In one Spirit we have been baptized into one Body to drink the one Spirit. When we are full of the water of the Spirit, we have no choice but to let this water bubble out from within us. During the years I have been ministering in this country, I have been bubbling over with the Spirit. I am bubbling over with the word of wisdom, with the word concerning Christ as the depths of God. I am also bubbling over with the word of knowledge. Furthermore, I can testify that I am not for my own interests. My only concern is the Body of Christ.

We all need to forget ourselves, our localities, our work, and our personal spirituality and be burdened by the Lord concerning His Body. This will cause us to be enriched, uplifted, and strengthened in our spiritual gifts. Imagine what would happen if all those receiving this word would be for the Body and would be willing to forget themselves, their individual spirituality, and their spiritual future. What a marvelous situation this would be! In the next period of time the Lord would be able to accomplish a great deal for the carrying out of God’s administration on earth. The churches throughout the earth would truly be heavenly televisions expressing what Christ is doing in His heavenly ministry. For this to come about, we must see the Body and be for the Body.

B. The Indispensability of Each Member

In verses 14 through 22 we see the indispensability of each member of the Body. The body is not one member but many. The foot should not say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body.” The ear should not say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body.” If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the smelling be? But God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, even as He willed. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” Much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.

In 12:14-22 Paul mentions the Body ten times. However, in these verses he does not mention the Spirit even once. Here Paul stresses the Body. This is the reason I cannot agree with the Pentecostalists who talk about the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, but do not place the proper emphasis on the Body. Those who pay attention to the Spirit and neglect the Body are divisive. No other Christians are as divisive as those in Pentecostalism.

We have pointed out again and again that in chapter twelve Paul first emphasizes speaking, then the Spirit, and then the Body. The proper speaking brings in the Spirit. When we say, “Lord Jesus,” we are in the Spirit. Then, according to verse 13, the Spirit ushers us into the Body. Now we need to become Body-centered and Body-conscious. This is Paul’s emphasis in 1 Corinthians 12.

Hallelujah for the speaking, for the Spirit, and for the Body! By speaking we are in the Spirit. When we take care of the Body, we are preserved in the Spirit. How can we get ourselves into the Spirit? By speaking, “Lord Jesus.” How can we remain in the Spirit and be preserved in the Spirit? By being in the Body and caring for the Body. We need to do two things: speak and stay in the Body. When we speak, we are ushered into the Spirit, and when we stay in the Body, we are kept in the Spirit.

I can testify that daily I enjoy the Spirit very much. The reason I enjoy the Spirit is that I speak, “Lord Jesus,” and I stay in the Body. It is not possible for me to get away from the Body. Wherever I go, the Body is there. Praise the Lord for the Body that preserves us in the Spirit!

When we are in the Spirit, we have the gifts of the Spirit. The Spirit never works in vain. As He is with us, He distributes certain gifts to us.

If we all get into the Spirit by speaking and stay in the Spirit by caring for the Body, the Lord will have a way to carry out God’s administration. He will have the mystical Body as an instrument to express on earth what He is doing in the heavens. We all can be those who are in the Spirit and in the Body.

Since I left mainland China in 1949, about three hundred eighty churches have been raised up on five continents through this ministry. All this has been accomplished without mission boards, fund raising, or people trained in seminaries. On the contrary, it is our reflection of Christ’s heavenly ministry for the carrying out of God’s administration. What the Lord has done since 1949 is a strong evidence that what God needs on earth today is the practical expression of the mystical Body of Christ. For example, because the Body is universal, there is now a church in Pretoria, South Africa, although we never sent anyone to that locality for the church life. This causes me to have high expectations for the future. The future of the Lord’s recovery is glorious. I surely believe that whatever the Lord has spoken in the New Testament will be fulfilled. There is no doubt that the Lord is working to recover, to gain, His mystical Body. We need to discern His Body and remain in the Body so that we may enjoy the Spirit for God’s administration.


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