The Expository Files


Members of One Another

 1 Corinthians 12


It is said that in former times the various members of the human body did not work together as amicably as they do now. On one occasion the members began to be critical of the stomach for spending an idle life of luxury while they had to spend all their time laboring for its support and ministering to its wants and pleasures. 

“The members went so far as to decide to cut off the stomach’s supplies for the future. The hands were no longer to carry food to the mouth, nor the mouth to receive, nor the teeth to chew it. 

“But, lo and behold, it was only a short time after they had agreed upon this course of starving the stomach into subjection when they all began, one by one, to fail and flop and the whole body to waste away. In the end, the members became convinced that the stomach also, cumbersome and useless as it seemed, had an important function of its own, and that they could no more exist without it than it could do without them” (Aesop’s Fables, page 46, Grosset and Dunlap, Publishers). 

Aesop was concerned with affairs of state. In a commonwealth, different people have different abilities. The idea of a commonwealth is that such abilities should be organized and coordinated so that each man can have the benefits not only of his own talents, but also of the others. Not everyone is good at making laws; so a few do that for the whole group. Not everyone is skilled in military strategy. Those who understand that science take care of national defense. Some keep the wheels of industry turning. Others till the land. The list is infinite. Each makes his own contribution to the general well-being that we enjoy as a nation. Some jobs may seem easier, more profitable or more glamorous than others, but all are necessary for a complete and functional “body.” 

Paul says that the church is an organic relationship (Ephesians 5:25). In it are all sorts of abilities (1 Corinthians 12). It is not expected that all will have the same abilities. If they did, this would limit the scope of its activities. “The body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14). 

The members in Paul’s illustration were smarter than Aesop’s. They did not go so far as to conspire against another member. Aesop’s members were so contemptuous of the stomach’s value, they thought they could do without it. See 1 Corinthians 12:21: “I have no need of you.” It is easy to play down a job you have never done and know little about. So they thought they could get along just as well without the stomach. In their ignorance, they destroyed themselves. 

In Corinth, everybody wanted to be a strong right arm, or an alert and sparkling eye. But if that were the case, how could the body walk? How could it smell? How would it hear? (verses 16–17). 

Now, a stomach or a liver is not a glamorous thing. But they are necessary things. And, likewise, every member makes its own contribution to the successful function of the organism. For a properly working body, no part is dispensable unless, being hopelessly diseased, it becomes a threat to the rest of the body. 

Instead of performing radical surgery when we see a member we don’t like, we ought, for our own good, to promote its usefulness. And if, rather than coveting the other man’s position, I do my job the best I can, I will ultimately benefit both from what I do and what he does. At best, it is self-destructive to attack the other members of the body. At worst, it is suicidal. The stomach is slimy, slothful and seldom seen. But a great deal depends upon it. And so it is, to some extent, with every member. Whether we like it or not, we are a body. We are members one of another.[2]


Jay Bowman (1936-2015)
From Expository Files 22.7; July 2015