Formations 10.12.2014: Teamwork

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

A “whimsy” from a nautical-themed wooden jigsaw puzzle. Puzzle by The Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Company Limited

A “whimsy” from a nautical-themed wooden jigsaw puzzle. Puzzle by The Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Company Limited

A team of students from Cincinnati’s Mason neighborhood has distinguished itself in creativity and problem-solving. The Global Finals of Destination Imagination, or DI for short, was held last May in Knoxville, Tennessee. Over 1,100 teams from forty-five states and thirteen foreign countries gathered to face challenges in several categories, including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and Visual Arts.

The Cincinnati team, calling itself MIT, or the Mason Imaginator Team, placed second in the Visual Arts category. Their challenge was “to bring a comic strip to life.” Coach Dennis Drozdz explained the students had to pick an international artist and one of his works, write a story based on that artwork, and perform it in a skit.

Team member Sam Hodge explained the team’s creative process: “Everybody brings their ideas. It starts with this tiny little idea and it just snowballs and gets bigger and bigger. And everybody contributes, so in the end everybody’s ideas were in the skit.”

Matthew Terry agrees. “I like the flow I get with DI,” he says. “You start with a simple idea and your mind goes all over the place. By the time you get to the final competition you look back to that first moment. I love thinking about what we accomplished.”

Although he may not have used those words, creativity and teamwork were almost certainly on Paul’s mind as he wrote to the Corinthians about properly using their spiritual gifts. More than most, he understood that great things can come from small beginnings—and that everyone’s contribution matters.

Paul compares the church to a human body with many, varied parts. The gifts God gives us make each of us unique, but this uniqueness should not be a cause for conceit. Rather, believers must acknowledge their interdependence in one body of Christ, in which every part does what it was created to do for the good of all.

Kamellia Soenjoto Smith, “Local Students Win Awards for Creativity, Teamwork,”, 30 Sep 2014


• When have you been part of a team where everyone made a genuine contribution?
• What attitudes or behaviors can get in the way of productive teamwork?
• Why are we tempted to think of some gifts as more important than others?
• How can we develop a mindset in which the members of Christ’s body all suffer or receive glory together (v. 26)?

Reference Shelf

The Body of Christ

Here is the ground of the church’s unity: Christ is not divided, and those who are “in Christ” are united in Christ—they form his body as members, they were baptized in his name (1 Cor 1:13). Party-spirit, faction, over confidence in one’s own understanding of the gospel, all divide and threaten Christ’s body. The Eucharist (1 Cor 10, 11), as the sign of this unity, is a sharing in one loaf and one cup. Done in faith, in a state of agape with one’s neighbor, it is participation (koinonia, Vulgate participatio) in the life and redemptive self-giving (the body and blood) of Christ.

The members of this body enter freely (voluntarily, i.e., out of an act of their own volition) into this corporate relationship. But this is an opting for membership in the body; it is not the creation of it. Faithful people volunteer, but the “body of Christ” is only in a secondary sense a “voluntary association of baptized believers.” Primarily, it is a living organism whose existence does not depend on the vote of even baptized believers. We have a voice in whether we will be members of the body: we have no voice in whether there is such a body of Christ. For this body has its reality and taxes its character not from its members but from its head. Jesus Christ alone is the source of the “sanctification” of this body (Eph 5:26), the truth on which it is built up (Eph 4:15), the moral power by which its members are brought to obedience (Col 2:10), are equipped for ministry and brought to maturity (Eph 4:12-14), and to a unified life in Christ and with each other (Eph 4).

The church as body, then, is the model of Christ’s continuing self-expression in the world. This is why the church is sometimes described as “the continuation of the incarnation.” I believe it might more helpfully be called (with T. W. Manson) the “extension of our Lord’s Messianic ministry.”

Theron D. Price, “Church,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 152.

Many Members, One Body

Paul’s introduction of the body metaphor in v. 12 contains a surprise. One might have expected him to apply the metaphor to the church since the practice of applying it analogically to groups of people, such as the city, was well established, as we have noted. Instead, Paul applies it to Christ. As a body has many members but remains one body, so it is with Christ. This leap over the church to Christ suggests that Paul saw the image of the body as more than a metaphor. Later, in v. 27, he confirms this when he proclaims, “Now you are the body of Christ.” He immediately connects the body of Christ with his emphasis on the one Spirit in vv. 4-11 by stressing that it is the Spirit that brings one and all into Christ’s body. All are “baptized” by one Spirit into the one body, whoever and whatever they might be, and all “drink” of the same Spirit. Overtones of the sacraments may be found in these two statements, but I think Paul’s real point lies elsewhere. Baptism is an external washing, while drinking is internal. Paul’s point is that entrance into the body of Christ involves a complete saturation of the Spirit, inside and out. His omission of “male or female” from the triad of pairs in v. 13 probably reflects Paul’s remembrance of his argument in 11:2-16 and his inclination not to reopen the issue he addressed there.

Following the pattern of the body metaphor’s use by political writers, Paul envisions different parts of the body disclaiming membership in the body. Claiming to be separate from the rest of the body, however, does not make it so. Forgoing amputation, each member remains a part of the body, which is fortunate. If the body consisted of only certain members, it would be dysfunctional, which is not God’s design (vv. 17-19). God arranged (etheto) the parts, each one in the body as God willed. Because each part of the body is essential, furthermore, no part can claim to be independent of the others. By contrast, each and every part needs each and every other part. Furthermore, those parts of the body that may on the surface appear to be unimportant are, in fact, the most indispensable. In veiled language Paul refers to the genitalia (our unpresentable parts). Except for athletes and statues of deified persons, the general practice in Greece and Rome, as in most civilized cultures, was to cover up the unpresentable parts rather than expose them. Paul asserts that this constitutes honoring those parts. As a sign of respect and dignity, those parts are given a special treatment that other parts do not require. Rather than argue that those parts are covered out of shame, Paul affirms their essential value. This represents concord in the body, whereby all parts express mutual care for the others. The inescapable interdependence of the body’s parts means that all share equally in suffering and rejoicing.

Robert Scott Nash, 1 Corinthians, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2009), 363–64.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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