The church is a body where every member has a place, a gift, and a contribution to make.
Near where I grew is American's largest private residence, the Biltmore House. A French chateau-style mansion, construction of the house took six years, involving over 1000 workers, 60 stone masons, and required a purpose-built kiln that manufactured 32,000 bricks a day.
Here's the point: the house was named after the owner, George Vanderbilt, but he didn't lift one brck in the construction of his house. What we don't know are the names of the 1,000 joiners, masons, plumbers, and electricians - the people who got the job done.
The church of Jesus is also named after its owner - Jesus - but unlike George Vanderbilt, he is actively involved in the building of his house. But he also invites us to join him in getting the job done. When we each contribute what he has given us by the Spirit, it all works to the building up the church.
In addition to the church as a building (Ephesians 2:22), the Bible describes the church as a body. And not just any body, but the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, we learn many key dimensions about the body of Christ, and about our role in the growth and functioning of that body.
12 Key Lessons from 1 Corinthians 12
1. There is one body.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12
2. We become part of the body by being baptised into the body by the Spirit.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13
3. God builds the body as he chooses.
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 1 Corinthians 12:18
4. The Holy Spirit powers the parts
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
5. Each part has a part to play
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7
6. Each party is valuable
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body”, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body”, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 1 Corinthians 12:15-16
7. Diversity of function adds value
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 1 Corinthians 12:17
8. The Body needs each part
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”, nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 1 Corinthians 12:15-16
9. Each part needs the body
If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20
10. The Body is for each part, and each part is for the body.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:26-27
11. There is order in the body.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12.27-28
12. The body wins when we think like contributors, not consumers.
The whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16
The body of Christ gets built as we each contribute our part. Like the Biltmore House, our shared kingdom project is more than any one person can do - it takes all of us playing our role. But unlike the Biltmore house, we're not doing this for the vanity of a perishable man, but for the glory of the eternal God. So what do you do?
First, get added to to a local body (Acts 2:41).
Second, discover what God has given you to give (1 Corinthians 12:6)
Third, show up to church, small groups, and fellowship moments looking to give, to bless, to serve, to build up, to contribute.