Unity in the Pauline Epistles

But in the body are many members, not one merely. The lower are as essential as the higher (15, 16). All are proper to the body; and God set the members each one of them in the body as it pleased Him. How blessed and conclusive to faith! "But if they all were one member, where the body? But now [they are] many members, yet one body;" and the superior cannot do without the humbler members: all have need of each other (21). Pride is as out of place as discontent. Nay, those that seem weaker are " necessary," rather than the higher (22); " and the less honourable we clothe with more abundant honour, and our uncomely have more abundant comeliness " (23). "God tempered the body together, so that there might be no schism in the body" (24, 25). Hence if one member suffer, all suffer together; if one is honoured, all rejoice (26). Such is the true organisation of the church through the Spirit, without Whom it could not be.

Very important too are vers. 27, 28. The first proves that the local assembly (here primarily at Corinth) is Christ's body, and severally members. It represents in the locality that body, assuredly not as independent of, but as one with, all on earth. Compare chap. i. 2. All the saints here below were God's assembly, and each a member not of an but of the assembly, Christ's body. So the second demonstrates that if God set some in the assembly, it means not of course locally, but in it as a whole on earth. Certainly the apostles, &c. were not set in the Corinthian church or any other locality in particular. God sets the gifts in the assembly as a whole. They are, like the humblest Christians, members of the body; and the Holy Spirit acts therein by each as He pleases here below, for obviously it is no question of heaven. Thus, as the given Spirit abides with us for ever (John xiv.), it is unbelief to doubt that Christ's body exists here still, or that He can fail on His part. Let the members of Christ see that they be subject to the written word which alone secures the truth.

1 Cor. xiv. furnishes, what was so necessary, the Lord's regulation of the assembly. For the exercise of gift therein (whatever the liberty where is the Spirit of the Lord) is not left to the licence, any more than the authority, of man. It is for His glory Who is the Second Man. The apostle therefore explains not only the relative value of the gifts, which men were apt to mistake, but the order that befits God's presence and promotes the edification of saints. What he wrote they were to recognise as the Lord's commandment. Now is all this, so due to His name, so full of enjoyment and growth and communion, is it obsolete? Is it not only lost for our joint walk, edification, and worship (15-17), but so fatally that we are not to seek thus to assemble, or to count on God's blessing in the only order He prescribes for the proper assembly of His own here below? Of course evangelising, or trading with individual gift, is not here in question.

In Eph. ii. the truth appears no less clearly, though viewed, on the side, not of the Spirit's presence and action to glorify the Lord, but of Christ's love to the church. Hence are omitted all references to such sign gifts as tongues, interpretations, miracles, healings. But nowhere is the unity of the church revealed more plainly, nowhere with greater elevation, or out of love so deep. Yet here as ever (and it is due to Christ and to God, to say nothing of the soul), the individual blessedness of saints is carefully treated before the church is so much as named, in the strongest contrast with the catholic system which makes all blessing hinge on the church to its own glory but really its shame. Now in Christ Jesus believing Gentiles, once far off, are become nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace who made both (i.e. Jews and Gentiles) one, and broke down the middle wall of partition . . . that He might create the two in Himself into one new man, making peace, and might reconcile both in one body to God by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. So at the close of chapter ii. we are said to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, as the Ephesian saints also were being builded together for God's habitation in the Spirit. Thus God's house, like Christ's body, is shown to be the church, founded on redemption, and made good by the Spirit sent from heaven to that end.