Many Yet One

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How much is 1 + 1? Of course, everybody knows it is 2. But, God said of the husband and wife that two shall become one. So, according to God’s math one plus one equals one. How much is many plus one? According to God’s math many plus one still equals one.  “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Rom. 12:4-5).

This is not the only occasion Paul uses such a comparison. He develops this concept extensively in many of his letters. He also exclusively used a unique illustration to get his audience’s attention; the human body.  In Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians he wrote more than 30 times to illustrate how the church is to function. Approximately half the time he used the word, he was referring to the human body with it’s many parts and members. In the other half, he applied the term to the church – the body of Christ.

Paul’s most extensive use of the analogy of the human body is in 1Corinthians.  The reason is clear. They were immature and carnal. He made his point in such a way they could not miss it. The body is not one member but many. There is an interrelationship between all parts (1 Cor. 12:14-26). There was no way even the most carnal and immature Christian could miss his point. Paul is trying to tell us that no individual Christian can function effectively by himself.

Consider, did you ever have a speck of dust in your eye? Instinctively you rub your eye with your finger. There is no debating with the finger, no arguing, no criticizing, no stabbing, no being short or curt. It is a natural response to reach up and pull the lid of the eye to clear the dust. But without the hand, including the finger, the irritant would remain. Just as it is natural for the many body parts to function with one another harmoniously, and each is important to the whole, so it is with the body of Christ. All that we are exhorted to do or commanded to do with one another is a natural response. We can’t say, “I don’t need you.” We each need each other.  When lifting we are to use our legs.  Bending at the waist to lift a heavy box seems natural, but it can be damaging to your lower back. However, if you combine arms, legs and back properly, it is easier. The heavy box is lifted best when each part functions as it should.  For the hand to think the leg is not needed is absurd. Such suggests a reliance on one another.

Further, we must see there is value in one another. Paul teaches this by first laying out the complimentary relationship between two ideas that often seem at odds with each other (Romans 12: 4-5).  We are to be one but we are different.  Once again, to illustrate Paul uses the human body. The body has many parts: feet, hands, legs, arms, torso, and head. Different parts with different functions yet all have a single purpose. All the parts work together for a common goal. So it is with the Lord’s people.  We are different in our talents and gifts but we work for one common goal. We function interdependently rather than independently. Being one in Christ makes us all fellow members. As such a member, I belong to all others and vice versa. I not only serve the Lord I serve all those in relationship with Him. We are mutually dependent on one another. The existence of one is necessary to the usefulness of others.  Paul regarded himself as just one member and each his brother. He has his apostleship, others have their function. He must not think himself more highly than others (Romans 12: 3).

Moreover, even though each has a different job we must not think we are worth nothing.  Also, don’t lightly esteem others. All are necessary. We are members of one another with respect to mutual interests and helpfulness. We depend on one another for nourishment and assistance. Whatever the gifts the Lord has given me, we serve Him. In so doing we serve all in relationship to Him, as well as they serve us.  We must never forget who we really are. Paul never did. When he looks at the Lord who gave him his apostleship he is humbled. When he looks at fellow apostles, he is ashamed (1 Cor. 15:8.)

Finally, we must maintain sanity and balance with whatever the Lord has given us. No one is to exceed his estimate he must place upon himself. None of us can do everything or be everything.  For Moses there was Aaron. For David there was Jonathan. For Paul there was Timothy. Even Jesus chose not to operate by Himself. He called twelve men to walk with Him. We are inextricably bound to each other.


By Rickie Jenkins