We All Have a Part
November 13th, 1955 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
WE ALL HAVE A PART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
11-13-55 10:50 a. m.
In our preaching through the Word, we have come to the twelfth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, and the sermon is based from the middle part of the chapter – from the twelfth through the twenty-seventh verses. And this is the reading of the Word as you turn to it and follow it – the first Corinthian letter, the twelfth chapter:
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot shall say, "Because I’m not the hand, I’m not of the body," is it not of the body?
And if the ear shall say, "Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body?
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?
But now are they many members, yet but one body.
And the eye cannot say unto the hand, "I have no need of thee"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it . . .
[1 Corinthians 12:12-26]
You don’t believe that? You’re not conscious of your little toe. You’ve got an ingrown toenail on your little toe, and you’ll think it’s the only part of your body that has any feeling in it. "Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it" [1 Corinthians 12:26] – maybe a little, tiny inconsequential member; or, "One member be honored, all the members rejoice with it" [1 Corinthians 12:26]. Just let anybody come along and they got something pretty: their hair is pretty, or their eyes are pretty, or their hands are pretty, or there’s something pretty about them. No. If every member of the body rejoices in it, that’s what we magnify.
And if you ever go to a beauty school – and they got one down here in this church once a year when they have Christian home week. They’ve got a charm class, and they always kidding me about going to the charm class.
Well, it’s all right. There’s nothing wrong in trying to look nice and be nice. And the secret of charm is this they told me down there: that whatever your strength is, magnify it. If you have marvelous eyes, build everything that you dress and have on around your eyes or your hair or whatever it – your smile, or your demeanor, or whatever it is. Well, that’s the way God made it. If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it [1 Corinthians 12:26].
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" [1 Corinthians 12:27]. Now what’s he talking about? It’s an obvious thing. What makes the body click – what makes the body tick are all the members in it, all of them doing their parts.
And I got more unnamable parts on the inside of me that are ticking and carrying on; and any one of them if they went out, I guess I’d go out too. They are all vital. I don’t even know the names of them, and when I look at them, they look terrible. They look awful. I’m glad I can’t see them. But they’re all vital – every one of them, every one of them. And my head is, and my eyes are, and my tongue is, and my ears are, and my feet are, and my toes are, and everything about this – God made us that way. And it’s the togetherness of it that makes it work.
Now Paul says here that is an exact illustration of the body of Christ. The body of Christ are all of His people – all of us, every one of us – and all of us together make up the functioning body of the Lord [1 Corinthians 12:12-27]. And the point of his sermon, of his writing, is this: that we’re all vital, every one of us.
The eye can’t say to the foot, "I don’t need you" [from 1 Corinthians 12:21]. And the foot can’t say to the ear, "And I don’t need you." And the head can’t say to your legs, "And we don’t need you." Every part of the body is vital. And if we’re all foot, all eye, all ear, all head – if we’re all me or all you, it would be tragic.
I think if the whole kingdom of God were just like me, wouldn’t that be awful? Wouldn’t that be awful? The only thing that’d be more terrible would be if the kingdom of God were all you. That’s all. That’s all. No, the Lord needs us. Lord needs us. As different as we are and as multifarious and interesting and talented as we are, it takes us all – keeps it from being monotonous. We don’t all look alike; we don’t all talk alike; we don’t all act alike; we don’t all do alike. That’s fine. God made some of us this and some of us that and some of us the other, and when you put us all together, we make the kingdom of Christ. We make the body of the Lord. We make the church of our Savior; and we all have a part in it, and every part’s vital.
Out there on one of those no-man’s-land, there was a soldier who was carrying a message for his army. And he got shot down and his leg shot out from under him. And he couldn’t walk anymore, and there he had a message to deliver. And looking around him out there in no-man’s-land were other soldiers who, likewise, were shot down. And one of them had been blinded by that terrible battle. And this man pulled himself over there to the other soldier that had been hurt and lying out there in no-man’s-land, and he said, "You got good legs. You got good legs, but you don’t have any eyes." He said, "I got eyes, but I don’t have any legs." He said, "I got a message to deliver." He said, "You be legs for me; I’ll be eyes for you; and we’ll deliver this message."
That’s it. It takes legs and it takes eyes and heart and lungs and feet and toes – everything to make the kingdom of God. And when we are together in that, we’re strong. Every part is filled. Everybody’s in his place. That’s it.
When I’s a kid going to school, in one of those little readers was a story of a man who had seven sons. And the father gathered his seven boys around him, and he had some sticks. And he picked up one stick and he snapped it, and another stick and he snapped it; had another stick, and he snapped it. And he broke seven sticks.
Then the father picked up seven sticks and tied them together in one bundle like a fasces. And the father gave that bundle of seven sticks to his oldest son and said, "Son, break them." And the boy tried to break those sticks; he couldn’t do it. Then he gave the sticks to his second boy and his third one and his fourth one until all seven tried it but they couldn’t do it.
And then the moral the father plainly pointed: "Sons, when you fall apart, you’re easily broken. You’re weak. But when you stay together, you’re strong." [I] remember that story reading it there in that child’s reader.
That’s the kingdom of God; that’s the body of Christ; that’s the church of the Savior. Individually, we’re weak. We can hardly do anything: couldn’t run a school, couldn’t run a seminary, couldn’t send out a missionary, couldn’t build a church, couldn’t carry on a program. One of us by himself is most weak. But put us together as we are fitted here into the body of the Lord, and we’re strong. That’s the way God made us.
Now put us together, all of us here, and we make up this vast program; and it reaches out and beyond – places that I can’t even name, countries far, far away. It reaches all that we seek to do.
In this church, all of us make it possible; and that’s the reason, according to the Word of the Lord: that we all are to have a part – every one of us, all of us. The genius of the Christian faith is this. The genius of the Christian faith is its emphasis upon personality, individuality. You’re somebody in God’s sight.
That’s the terrible and cruel and merciless doctrine of totalitarianism no matter where you find it. To a totalitarian government – whether it’s fascist, Communist, or ecclesiastical – to any totalitarian government, the people are just – they’re just masses. They’re just gobs. They’re just oceans full. They’re just cannon fodder. They are slaves of the state and of the tyrannous dictatorship.
The antithesis of that – the diametrically opposite of that – is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ for the religion of Jesus is the religion of the one lost sheep [Luke 15:1-7], the one lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], the one lost boy [Luke 15:11-32]. The religion of the kingdom of God is this: that God knows you by your name [Isaiah 43:1], and you’re somebody in His sight. The very hairs of your head are numbered [Matthew 10:30]. He even says He marks the sparrow’s fall [Matthew 10:29] and how much more does His heart go out in care for you? That’s the religion of Jesus Christ. We’re all somebody in the presence of the Lord.
And the Lord looks upon us one by one. The Lord looks upon us when we’re born. He gives us life one by one, born one at a time. The mother may have twins; she may have triplets; but when those children are born, they are born one by one. God gives them life one at a time.
We are born again one by one. There may be several come down an aisle at church and say, "Pastor, this day have I given my heart to God. I’ve taken Him as my Savior." But he was saved – that one who comes, those ten who came – they were saved one at a time between an individual heart and soul and God. That’s the religion of Christ.
We die one at a time – one by one. Our spirit goes out to the Great Maker, and we are judged one by one. Each one of us someday shall stand in the presence of God and give an accounting for the deeds done in the flesh [2 Corinthians 5:10]. It’s the religion of the one – the one. And that is the great support of the program of the Lord Jesus Christ: all of us are to support it one by one. Every member of the family, every child, every one of that circle, every member of the Sunday school, everybody that loves this place and who prays for this ministry, everybody, all of us – we are to share in this God-given opportunity.
It isn’t right. It isn’t according to the Lord for a man to take a pledge card and he fill it out for him and his family. God says that’s not right; that’s not right. That man is the head of his family, and in most cases, he’s the wage earner in the little circle. But God says, "When you appear before Me, you appear one at a time [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And your support for the work of Christ is to be all of you, all of you."
The wife is to have a part. The difference between the Greek religion and the religion that Paul was preaching over there in Corinth was largely, among other things, a difference in the status of women and children. No woman could be initiated into the Greek mysteries. No woman could ever endorse or ever come into the fellowship of the great religion that almost swept the ancient world, the cult of Mithra.
But in the Christian faith, the woman had a part: the woman was an equal with the man. In God’s sight, there wasn’t any male or female, no bond or free, no Scythian or barbarian, no Greek or Roman, no Gentile or Jew [Galatians 3:28]. Each one was separate, individual, a personality, a somebody before God.
And when we appear before the Lord with our offerings, we’re to appear, we are to appear one at a time. All of us are to come. This man is to come, and this wife is to come, and all of those children, they are to come.
So many times, a man will look upon his wife – because she receives no paycheck, he looks upon her as being an adjunct, an appendage. And while he’s out working, making a living, why, all of the increment is his. She makes no contribution at all. It’s his salary check.
That’s not true; that’s not true. According to God and according to all human equations, the woman in the home works like her husband does. She makes a contribution. She’s there taking care of the house while he is out there working in a job in some other place. And she and the children with the father – all of them – are to share in this offering as we come before the Lord.
Christianity is a family religion, and its strength lies in its emphasis upon the worth of all the members of the home. When you go over there to that Moslem world, nobody goes to the mosque – not supposed to – except the man. It’s a man’s religion. When you go to that Mohammedan world, he’s everything, and she’s nothing. She’s just one out of several wives. Not so in the Christian faith. The woman in the presence of God is like the soul of the men. They’re equal, and they’re to come before the Lord as equals [1 Peter 3:7].
All of us are to share. And what makes a church beyond anything I’ve ever seen in this world – what makes a church the very heart, center, and soul life of those great principles that we cherish and love is that very thing: that a family is in God’s sight not just the man to domineer and to dominate, but the family is somebody – each one of them, each one of them – and each is present and each is precious in God’s sight. And the support of our church is made sweet and beautiful and strong in proportion as our families learn to share in it.
While I was gone on my trip this summer, one of the dear, wonderful, blessed members of our church died. Mrs. Bebe Brown brought her family up in this church – so faithfully came. They built their lives into this church. She was sick long time, and while I was away, she died. And when I came back, I greatly missed her. She always spoke to me, always encouraged me.
I broke bread with her husband. I wanted to see him, wanted to tell him that I missed her so very much. And while we were eating dinner together, why, he said, "I’d just like to tell you something about my wife – just how faithful she was down there at the church."
He said she always had her purse on a little table by the bedside. And just before she died, she called her husband and said, "Husband, would you bring me my purse?" She didn’t have enough strength to reach over there, even to the table, and take it. And so he put the purse in her hands. And she opened the purse, and there in her purse were our church envelopes. And she took out an envelope, and then she said, "Husband, I haven’t strength to write my name. Would you write the check for me and put it in the envelope and send it down to the church?" He said, "Every Lord’s Day, that envelope was filled faithfully by my wife."
That’s the religion of Jesus Christ. That’s how God put it together. That’s how God made it. He has a part, the doctor has a part, the wife has a part, she has a part, and those children that they raised, they all have a part.
You know, about your children: you don’t need to pound in kids and work on them with words. All you’ve got to do is to do, and they catch on lot faster than you think. You just do it front of them.
For example, your children: "Here, Johnny and Sue, why – why, you all come here. We’re going to have a good time today: here’s fifty cents for the picture show; and here’s a dollar for the midway; and here’s some money for peanuts and popcorn and chewing gum and candy. Now let’s go out and have a good time." And so, the children go out, and they have a good time. And then, when Sunday comes, you call the children and say, "Here, son, here’s a nickel for Sunday school."
You don’t need to say anything. He gets the point. The midway’s big business: that’s a dollar! The theater and the picture show is big business: that’s fifty cents! Peanuts and popcorn and chewing gum, candy – that’s big business: that’s a quarter! The church – that’s little business: that’s a nickel. He gets the idea. You don’t need to say anything. He’s already caught it.
Oh, my people, the Lord never meant for us to do that way! That’s not it in God’s sight. "That little fellow down there, he doesn’t amount to much." You don’t know what that little fellow amounts to! You don’t know what’s bound up in his life.
You know, these sermons I preach, I wish I could preach them all at one time. The sermon I preached this morning at eight-thirty o’clock, I told about this deacon that helped me in the church that I had. It wasn’t a missionary church – didn’t give to missions. I tried to make it largely giving to missions, and he helped me. And I asked him, "How is it that you’re that way?"
And he said when he was a little boy – just a little fellow, a little boy – he said, he said, "There was a missionary that came to our church from China, and he laid upon our hearts the heathen of the Chinese and took up a collection." And he said, "I took my nickel – the only nickel I had – I took my nickel, and I gave it to the missionary." And he said, "You know, from that day until this, I’ve always had a great interest in missions and especially in China. As a little boy I used think, ‘I got a nickel over there in that country.’"
You don’t know. You don’t know! That’s for God. That’s in His wisdom. Don’t leave out that little fellow. Don’t leave him out. Take him in. He, too, belongs to God. He’s Christ’s also – and may be a little fellow, but he’s vital; he’s vital. We all are to appear before the Lord – all of us [2 Corinthians 5:10].
Now may I make an appeal for how we give? The Lord has an infinitely wise and wonderful way. The Lord says, "Whatever I give you, however the increment, whatever it is, take a tenth of it and set it aside for Me." That’s a wonderful thing. Now they don’t make very much, just that much is God’s; make a whole lot, that much is God’s. And we all can share in it, and it’s a blessed thing, a wonderful thing.
When you go way, away, away, why, you expect to see beggars everywhere, and they are. Walk down any street, go to any shrine, go to any place, and you’d just – it’s just like plowing through the beggars. Ah! Just hurts your heart.
But I didn’t expect to see beggars in some places. There where Mount Moriah, where Solomon had his temple, is the Mosque of Omar – the Dome of the Rock. And then just south – oh, a hundred yards just south, is the mosque – the mosque that is much used, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where the king was killed while he was worshiping – the king of Jordan, Abdullah [Abdullah I bin al-Hussein, 1882-1951].
Now we went in that beautiful mosque. It’s a magnificent thing. It’s built for a church. The Mohammadans took it over. Went in that mosque, and, oh, it’s a wonderful thing.
A sheikh is an Arab tribal leader. A shek is a Mohammedan religionist who has memorized the Koran and who’s been to Mecca. And you can always tell a shek – he’s a religious leader – because he has a white band about that wide, a white band around his turban. So I’s looking around. And everybody left, and I’s delaying. And there was a magnificent looking shek in that Al-Aqsa Mosque. And so as I was walking out – the rest all gone ahead and I’s looking around – why, he came up to me begging. I was amazed. I was surprised.
When we went to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, run by Greek Orthodox priests, I did the same thing. The rest of them gone and I’s interested, you know, and gawking around, probing around, seeing what I could find, talking to the folks – just interested. And so to my surprise, being separated like a stray sheep from the herd, why, those Orthodox priests came around me begging.
Ah. God’s service and God’s church and God’s worship: I don’t know. I started to say, "I’d starve before I’d do it!" If somebody were to come here to this house, this church house, to look it over, I say, I’d starve before I’d beg from him. But I don’t need to.
"Well, why don’t you need to?"
Because in the wisdom of God, there is a way that God has provided for His minister and for His people and His missionary and His church and the whole work of the kingdom of God in the earth; and it’s not for us to beg.
The only time we’re to beg, the only time we’re to kneel is never before a man, never! If they cut off our heads, we don’t bow any knee to any man. The only time we’re begging is when we kneel before God, and we’re suppliants then: "Lord, remember, remember us. Poor lost sinners as we are, remember us." But when it comes to this thing, we’re not to be beggars. We’re to be stewards, and we’re to hold our heads up, and we’re to come to God’s house as honorable men and honorable women. We’re to come having dedicated to God a proportion of what the Lord hath given us.
And this thing is something of dignity. This thing is something of high, noble sobriety. This thing is something of the very character and glory of God. It’s not to be in the dust. It’s to be elevated great and high as the Lord shall help and bless us.
I haven’t time this morning – that tenth, that’s God’s way. Back there in Abraham, he gave a tenth to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God [Genesis 14:18-20]. Back there in the days of Jacob at the vision of the angels: "All that you give me," said Jacob, "I’ll surely give a tenth unto Thee" [Genesis 28:22]. Back there in the days of Nehemiah, when he rebuilt the worship of the Lord Jehovah God, he taught the people again to bring their tithe to the temple [Nehemiah 10:28-39]. And in the great preaching of Malachi, Malachi: "Would a man rob God? No! Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse" [from Malachi 3:8, 10].
And my text this morning in the sixteenth chapter of this Corinthian letter concerning the support of the church: how shall we do, how shall we do? "Upon the first day of the week" – God’s day, the Lord’s Day, Jesus’ day – "let each one of you" – every one of us: children, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, all of us, each one of us – "lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no collections when I come" [1 Corinthians 16:2].
When the preacher stands up to preach, he’s not ding-donging for money. He’s not everlastingly trying to get hard, miserly people to support the infinite kingdom of God. But he’s to stand up there preaching the Word of the Lord, and he has no burden about that at all. The people take care of that: "We’ve taken care of that. Don’t you fret, Preacher. Don’t let it be a burden to your soul. We’re for this mission program. We’re for it more than you think, more than you realize, and we’re for this church and its teaching ministry. Don’t you be burdened or fret. You just stand up there and preach the Word of the Lord. And Sunday by Sunday, according to the Book, we’ll be here dedicating a proportion of all God gives us, giving it to God."
And that’s His way. And the Lord sanctifies and hallows that way.
Dear people, I cannot close. You don’t realize how much of my sermons I leave out. As I go along, I just leave out, leave out, leave out. This one thing, may I put in?
As you know, I preached for a long time in Oklahoma, and the biggest church we had up there when I was there was the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. And they called a pastor at the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City, and they had an annual budget of $75,000 a year. And when the pastor came there to the First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, the pastor said, "This budget is not worthy this tremendous church." And he suggested to them a worthy program for missions and for the church.
And the leading man in the church – when the thing was presented, the leading man stood up and said, "We don’t need it; $75,000 is enough. That’s all that we need. We can pay the preacher and the janitor and the light bills and keep this thing going. That’s all that we need. Seventy-five thousand dollars a year, that’s enough. What you going to do with any more?"
Well, the pastor was wise, and the love of the Lord was in his soul, and he was a great general and a wonderful leader. And he began to teach those people and to preach to those people things like this: that if we had 100 million dollars, it wouldn’t be enough. The need is so vast, and the need is so great.
And I got a telegram yesterday. The First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, last week, pledged more than $444,000 to their budget. But that’s beside the point. May I take up just for the second what the pastor laid upon the church in Oklahoma City? "If I had 100 million dollars a year," he said, "it still wouldn’t be enough."
"Well what do you mean, preacher. What do you mean?"
I mean simply this: we are tied in with the greatest work and the greatest ministry in this earth. You look at it.
By law, we ought not to teach religion to these children in school. When the Jew comes, the Jewish child comes into the public school, he ought not to be taught against the parent’s wish. I believe in freedom of religion! And if a fellow wants to be an atheist, it’s his right to be an atheist. And if a man is a Jew, it’s his right to be a Jew; and if he’s a Catholic, it’s his right to be a Catholic. And if he’s anything, it’s his right to be that. And when we send our children to school, I do not want my child taught the Hebrew faith and religion. I want the child taught the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have that separation in the Constitution between church and state.
Well then what shall you do? Are we to bring our children up in atheism and in ignorance and in materialism? No! They are to be taught the truth of God! Where are they to be taught the truth of God? They’re to be taught the truth of God in our churches. We ought to accept the responsibility for the religious training of our children and that means a system of education in itself. We ought to magnify it and support it.
We have these ministries here in this city, in this church. Those blessed people there, we invited this young man to come that he might be their pastor and love them and preach the Word to them. We have seven missions that are right now having services in this city, in our "Jerusalem" alone – seven of them this morning. And then these institutions of ours: our schools and our missions, way and beyond.
Oh, you could cry your heart out! So little, so little, so little and so much to be done, so much to be done: doctors there in little old hospitals made out of arbor stuff; missionaries, one out of to maybe ten million people.
I have to quit. All I’m trying to tell you is this: that if our church brought down here to the front and dedicated to God 100 million dollars a year, it still would be such a little, such a little in a world so big, so needy.
Oh, my soul. We just will. We couldn’t do otherwise. We will. When we must, we can; and when we can, we will.
Well, let’s sing our song. Our radio from now on goes until 12:15. So when I make an appeal, on the radio they listen to it – this morning, listening to the preacher’s message of the body of Christ all fitly joined together. God has a place for you. Nobody can fill it but you. It’s your place. And all of us have a place, all of us. It’s our place – God’s place for us.
And the Lord has a place for you here in this vast auditorium. Give your heart to God, kneel by your chair by that radio, and tell the Lord about it. Open your heart, invite Him in. And in this great throng this morning, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus, put his life in the church, you come. "Pastor, here’s my whole family. We’re all coming today." You come. You come. As God would say the word and lay the cause upon your heart, while we sing this appeal, make it down to the front and stand by us. Do it now while we stand and while we sing.
WE ALL HAVE A PART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
A. The human body is beautifully joined together
1. A picture of the body of Christ – every part is vital
a. Soldier with a message, his legs shot down
B. It’s strength is its working together
1. Father of seven sons, bundles seven sticks together – cannot be broken when bound together
II. God’s will for our church – we all have a part
A. A pledge card for each member of the family
1. The genius of the Christian faith – the priceless worth of the individual
a. God does not look upon us by the masses, but one by one
b. The religion of the one lost sheep, one lost coin, one lost boy
2. We are born one by one – we are born again one by one
3. All of us are to support program of Christ one by one
a. The wife
i. Mrs. B. B. Brown
b. The children
B. The appeal that we tithe
1. We all have a part – some just a little, some much more
2. The wisdom of God for His churches
a. Expect to see beggars everywhere, but a surprise to me that a sheik at Al-Asqar Mosque and Greek Orthodox priests at the Church of the Nativity came to me begging
b. God provided a way for us not to beg – we are to be stewards
c. The tenth, that is God’s way(1 Corinthians 16:2)
3. Pastor of FBC Oklahoma City – "If we had 100 million dollars it would not be enoughâ€¦"
4. We are tied in with the greatest work and ministry in this earth