Upside Down Kingdom

Upside Down Kingdom

1 Corinthians 12v27-31
Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.

Here is a list of some of the members that God has placed in the body of Christ:

First are apostles,
second are prophets
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who can get others to work together,
those who speak in unknown languages,

Is everyone and Apostle, of course not! Is everyone a prophet? No. Are all teachers? Does everyone have the power to do miracles? does everyone have the gift of healing? Of course not. Does God give all of us the ability to speak in unknown languages? Can everyone interpret unknown languages? No! And in any event, you should desire the most helpful gifts.

Focus 1 – The IKEA principle

IKEA furniture moment.

Do you throw the bag of parts away?
Why not?

Because they are necessary to the project.

Which ones?
Each of them do something important.

Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.

Let’s look at the simple truth Paul is revealing in this:

You each are necessary members of the Body of Christ.

The Greek word for the phrase, “separate and necessary,” is a one word phrase, Meros.

It means to be, “uniquely placed or fit, allotted with specific responsibility.”
Paul is working to identify a tendency in the church. There are some who do not see themselves as necessary or unique. Because of that, the underestimate their value to the family.

Why?
A plethora of reasons. But the reality is simple:

We need each other to be complete.

Every member has a function.

The next question must be, what do I do with my gifts?

Be available to the Body.
How? What is the need? Where are the needs?

Engage
Find a place to function. It is in these places that you will encounter the very challenges that He wants to use to grow you.

Focus 2 – Supernatural law of access.

As Paul is teaching about gifting and service, he reveals an incredible truth.
We have permission (and are encouraged) from the Father to ask for whatever gift is the best for the moment. In other words: We are unlimited.

And in any event, you should desire the most helpful gifts.

desire – excitement of the mind, fervor in spirit towards something.

most helpful gifts – the greater grace

I believe Paul is teaching this with two desires:

1. Have no ego. If someone with that gift is around, call on them.
2. Have no fear. If no one is around, just ask the Holy Spirit for it.

Focus 3 – The Upside Down Kingdom
Here is a list of some of the members that God has placed in the body of Christ:

First are apostles,
second are prophets
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who can get others to work together,
those who speak in unknown languages,

Paul is borrowing metaphor from the culture around him:

“Paul’s metaphor of the church as a body is derived from Greco-Roman political discourse, where the figure functioned to urge concord. In the well-known fable of Menenius Agrippa, the Roman senator compared a strike by the common people to a revolt of the hands against the mouth, and teeth against the belly, resulting in the death of the body. In ancient politics, the body analogy was essentially conservative, portraying the established order as natural. Paul uses the metaphor subversively to question conventional assumptions about status and honor… Paul emphasized mutuality rather than hierarchy.”

(Welborn, Laurence L. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010, pg. 2016-2017)

What is Paul saying?

This term, “first,” is to be understood as, “first in order.”

The Apostles are first.
The Prophets are second.
The Teachers are third.
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who can get others to work together,
those who speak in unknown languages,

If I read this as a master list of value and authority in the Kingdom, it simply reinforces the tendency Paul seemed to be combating in the verse prior. It leads a person to to shrink away concluding that if I am not one of these people listed, I have less value in the body.

I am not sure that is what Paul is doing.

Consider what the narrative is saying in this section of 1 Corinthians…In the context of 1 Corinthians 12, there are two ideas that seem to clearly be on Paul’s mind:

He is using the picture of the human body to explain the inter-connectedness in the Body of Christ.

He is communicating the need for each member to serve and cover each other with their unique gifting.
I have questions.

First in order of what?

Is he intending to declare them in order of importance or responsibility?

Did Jesus intend for the Kingdom to be established this way?

Consider the truth from our last session:
Learning the Jesus life; to regard others, even to the disregard of self.

Now, re-consider this passage in light of that truth and answer this: What is Paul looking at as he writes?

A body. He is describing a body in this entire passage.

Could we therefore see him looking at the feet first, working his way up, ending with a language gift at the tongue?
First are apostles,
second are prophets
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who can get others to work together,
those who speak in unknown languages,

Consider him looking at the Apostles as the feet of the body.

If this is true, Paul would be, in reality, actually stating something revolutionary. He would be calling for the undoing of the cultural idea of hierarchical leadership.

Could it be that what Paul is really saying is, “the greater your responsibility is, the lower you go into the support of the Body?

Is there anything that carries more weight than the feet?

Isn’t there an tremendous workload that is handled by the legs?

Paul seems to be fighting the culture…teaching this young church that to be the greatest of all is to follow the model of our King and become the servant of all.

just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20v28

Servant leadership. The higher you go, the lower you go.

We are real members of this Body of Christ. We each have function. We are all called to servant leadership. Perhaps, as we serve one another, we discover our gifting and abilities?

Learning to live with the heart of a servant is key. But there is something even better than that.



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