Pauls analogy of the body for the Church!

One Body

‘Each One’ comes up a lot in 1 Corinthians and the questions is why (13x in the letter).  We need to take note of this as it an important syntax that Paul uses.  In no other letter of Paul or other writers does the words each one come up so often.  This underlying theme of unity and division is something that runs through the whole of the book and sometimes we might not realize that.

The list;

  1. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:12
  2. 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 1 Corinthians 3:5
  3. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:8
  4. 7  Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
    1 Corinthians 7:7
  5. 17 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17
  6. 24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
    1 Corinthians 7:24
  7. 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 1 Corinthians 11:21
  8. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7
  9. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
    1 Corinthians 12:11
  10. 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 1 Corinthians 12:18
  11. 26  What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26
  12. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; 1 Corinthians 14:27
  13. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 1 Corinthians 16:2

This is important because Paul is separating each member of the Church. The Holy Spirit deals and gives gifts on an individual basis.  The problem in this letter tends to be that some people think they are better than others.  Paul needs to change this arrogant mindset to one of humility and get the Corinthians to realize that they are ‘all’ important and that it is time to ditch their divisions.  Paul can only now turn to talk about ‘the body’  which is a fitting and suitable topic by Paul for the Corinthians.

Before we turn to the text of 1 Corinthians; What does body actually mean?

The Greek is σῶμα sōma and it means body.  We need to find the context from the passage.  The passage that we are going to read uses words such as feet hands unseemly parts.  It sounds like the human body so in his example we interpret body as any human body.


12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For  by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has  appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then  miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
And I show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:11-31 From Olive tree.

My interpretation of this would be that Paul is using analogy of the body to explain that all members of the church are equally important.   In that sense perhaps the ‘the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues etc’ was room for Paul to be concerned with the pride in the church; that some members, because they practiced such and such gifts were better and more important than the other members.  This goes on in the Church today. In some churches it might not be spiritual gifts, but it could be something else; ‘I am the treasurer of the church and everyone needs me’ at the expense of the cleaner.  In Pentecostal churches and other charismatic churches this is directly relevant and also the other things I said that was aimed at a non-charismatic readership of my writings. 

Going back to whether or not Paul is using analogy I found this

‘The point needed to be made in a concrete way and

the body analogy achieves this by showing first that diversity is

necessary in the body, and then that the members of the body are

interdependent and interrelated.

Gale10 locates several elements in the analogy which evidence the

influence of the situation on its use. Among these are:

(i) The inclusion of v. 13 after the initial analogical statement

in v. 12 shows that something other than the picture of the

human body occupied the central position in Paul’s mind.

This was an explanation of how this unity in diversity came

into being.

(ii) Reflection on the physical body would not suggest even the

possibility that one member or another might not “belong

to the body” (vv. 15, 16.).

(iii) The idea of discord is not a possibility within the physical

body (v. 25).

(iv) Members of the physical body cannot “have the same care

for one another” (v. 25), nor strictly speaking can they

“suffer together” or “rejoice together” (v. 26).

All this indicates that Paul has introduced the analogy for a

polemical purpose.’

Brian Daines, Evangelical quarterly 1978;

I think analogy is a better word to describe the body than metaphor because in a metaphor the idea is to use one idea to make with comparisons with another.  It is up to you to decide on that; I’m now going to dive into the text and see where it takes us.

12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

The general word used for body here is soma (body).  The church of Christ is one body, one Church. The number one (εἷς heis) is used; One body = One Christ.  Paul is emphasising the importance of the unity of the church   and we haven’t even left verse 12. I have an interesting question here though; Why does Paul give us ‘so also is Christ?’  οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός 1 Corinthians 12:12  So also is Christ.  Maybe a better way to read this might be thus indeed is the Christ.

Christ is the head of the Church let us leave it at that for now.

I’m also interested in the switch verse 12 – 13

οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός· 13 καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

so also is Christ. 13 For  by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Something is missing here in the NASB and has been left untranslated.  The small ‘kai’ which is usually a conjunction ‘and’.  However, when it is used with ‘gar= for’ then the ‘and’ turns into indeed or something like it(adverbial).  I looked at a few translations and they all don’t add that little extra.  I think the reason might be that the idea of ‘indeed’ came with the earlier ‘kai’.  The NIV from my point of view was a disaster in translation;

13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.’ Taken from Bible Gateway.

The words ‘so as to form’ is not in the Greek text at all.  Dynamic equivalence is acting more as a commentary on the text than a translation.   The body of Christ is already here we don’t need the Bible translators to tell us the obvious.  I suppose that a more literal and wood text will protect scripture more.  If one starts adding a little here and a little there, there is room for religious cults to mince up the Holy Scriptures and give us a fairy tale.

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