The Spiritual Unity of the Church
Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:13
In response to divisions among the Corinthian Christians over spiritual gifts, the Apostle Paul sought to help them understand who they really were in Christ. They were not separate individuals, but rather connected parts of one whole, a whole Paul illustrates using the image of the human body. Just as the body has many parts, he explains, "so it is with the body of Christ" (12:12).
Christians are part of this one body in spite of cultural, ethnic, social, and ethnic differences. "Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free," Paul observes. "But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit" (12:13).
There is a curious mixing of metaphors in this verse. First, we are "baptized into one body." The Greek verb translated here as "baptized" is baptizo, which means to dip or immerse something in a fluid. In time, of course, this verb is used to describe what happens in the literal baptism of Christians. But, here, Paul speaks of our being immersed into a body (a solid, not a liquid). If Paul were writing today, I wonder if he'd speak of our being transplanted into the body. At any rate, the point is that the Spirit makes us part of the body of Christ as part of what happens in our conversion.
The next phrase also uses an image of fluid to describe the work of the Spirit, but in this case we all "share the same Spirit." The word translated as "share" means "to drink." So, when we put our faith in Christ, the Spirit immerses us in the body of Christ (as if it were a fluid) and, at the same time, we all drink deeply of the Spirit, who comes to dwell within us.
Because our unity with other believers is a work of the Spirit, it's not something we should ignore, endanger, or splinter. Rather, it is to be treasured, preserved, and nurtured as the Spirit empowers us to minister to each other.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How much do you value the unity of believers in Christ? Are you living out the unity you share with other Christians? How do your efforts reflect and strengthen the unity of the church?
PRAYER: Thank you, gracious God, for the way you join us to other Christians. Thank you for immersing us in the body of Christ. Thank you for allowing us to drink deeply of the one Spirit.
Help us, dear Lord, to live out who we are in Christ through the Spirit. May we not take our unity in Christ for granted. May we "make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Since you have made us one through your Spirit, may we cherish our unity and seek to preserve it.
Help your church, O God, to be one even though we are different in so many ways. May our cultural, ethnic, racial, economic, and political differences not keep us from being truly one in Christ. May our unity be a sign to the world of the Gospel and a demonstration of your love. Amen.