1 Cor. 12:21-27 – The Importance of Weak Members

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 26 July 2009


21 Aid the eye is not able to say to the hand, "I don't have need of you,”

            or again, the head to the feet, “I don’t have need of y’all!”

22. But rather, to a great extent, the members of the body which seem weaker are rather necessary for existence

            23. And those of the body which we deem to be more dishonorable,

            we put extraordinary honor around these, so our bad form has extraordinarily good form

            24 (though, our well-formed ones have no [such] need.)

Now, God has mixed together the body, having given extraordinary honor to the one that lacked

            25. in order that there might not be a division in the body,

            but rather that the members might care the same for each other.

26. Now, if one member suffers, all the members suffer together,

or if one member is glorified, all the members rejoice together.

27. Now, y’all are the body of Christ, and members of a part…


·        They tell stories about boot camp in the Marines. It's brutal, but the recruits are so dedicated to proving themselves that they will endure anything to earn the privilege of being a Marine. A friend of mine in seminary told me about a guy he knew who broke his femur as he was going through this boot camp, but he was so dedicated to finishing well that he ignored the pain and kept pushing himself to do the exercises so that he could become a Marine. After a while it became apparent to his buddies and the medical staff what was going on and they had to force him to quit against his will because he was doing permanent damage to himself by ignoring this broken part of his body.

·        Earlier this week, I was talking to people from another church. They said that there was a group of people who didn't like the pastor's sermons, so they voted by a slim majority to have the secretary deliver a letter of dismission to the pastor. Well, the secretary liked the pastor, so he refused to deliver the letter to the pastor, and things escalated from there. Meanwhile the youth pastor decided to take advantage of one of the girls in the youth group. And yet other church officer was caught taking money for himself out of the church funds.

·        This kind of behavior is on the level of someone walking down the street punching herself in the stomach and kicking herself in the head. It's self-destructive.

·        As crazy as it sounds to us when we are thinking sanely, the temptation to step on other people for our own self-advancement - even when it will end up hurting us too - continues to be a real temptation.

·        Whereas the previous section we covered last week in chapter 12 addressed those tempted toward self-pity and withdrawal from the body, this passage addresses those tempted toward arrogance, who are tempted to act in ways that ignore or hurt those who seem weaker.

I)   Why can't you say to someone else in the church that you don't need them? (v.21)

A)  You actually do have needs:

1.      Rev 3:16b-17 God says, "I will spit you out of my mouth because you say, "... I have gotten riches, and have need of nothing, yet you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked."

2.      "You can't stand up all alone." You have needs, and you need to look to God to meet those needs.

3.      Only God has no needs. Saying that you don't need help is pride; it’s making yourself out to be God, as Paul taught in Acts 17:25 "[God] is not served by men's hands, as though He needed anything, seeing He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things!"

4.      So you have needs; you are not God.

B)  There are no dispensable people, no unnecessary people in the kingdom of God.

1.      Darwinian theory, which is a religious movement toward materialism and humanism, tells us that life is about the "survival of the fittest." As our Western culture has bought in to that theory, we have removed the old, young, weak, disabled, retarded, etc., from our homes and from our communities and separated them from the strong and healthy part of our population into institutions which offered specialized care so that they are out of the mainstream of our life.

2.      This is not a Biblical way of thinking. If God is sovereign, then weak people are not fallouts in the evolutionary ladder, they are not accidents. And if they are not accidents, then they are among us because God organized it that way, and for us to ignore and push them aside is to rebel against God. We need the weaker ones to remain in community with us. (More on this later)

3.      This principle of honoring the weak also extends beyond our family and local church to brothers and sisters in Christ in other denominations and parachurch organizations.

·         This is not to say we have to agree with everything they are doing, but it is foolish to work against, demean, or ignore part of the visible body of Christ.

4.      I want to address three questions in this sermon.

A.    WHO is meant by the weaker, less honorable, unpresentable members

B.     HOW to honor those members, and

C.     WHY we should honor those members.


II)  WHO is meant by the "weaker," "less honorable," "un-presentable" members? (vs.22-24)
A) "Weaker" (v.22) and "less honorable" (v.23)

1.      "Weak" was used in 1 Cor. 1:26-27 to describe the people in the Corinthian church "behold your calling, brothers, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong."

2.      Later on Paul calls himself "weak" in 4:10 "We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you have glory, but we have dishonor."

a)      Paul also wrote of being in want and "lacking" in 1:7, 2Co. 11:5-9, & Phil 4:12

b)      Likewise, Paul's helper Epaphroditus got sick, in Phil. 2, and

c)      other great men & women of faith listed in Heb. 11 were "destitute & afflicted" (v37)

3.      The word for "weak" was also used in chapter 8 to describe those with a "weak conscience" regarding eating meat sacrificed to idols.

a)      Those who are more knowledgeable are exhorted to "take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to the weak."

b)      And, at the conclusion of that topic (9:22), Paul sets His example of accommodation to the weak: "To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some."

4.      Finally, in chapter 11 (v.30) weakness and sickness appear to be a punishment from God for taking the Lord's supper in an unworthy manner.

5.      So from the book of 1 Cor., we see this word "weak" used in a variety of ways, describing:

a)      the weakness of low social class,

b)     the weak appearance of Godly humility in the midst of a proud, self-exalting world,

c)      the weakness of not having a robust knowledge of the Bible,

d)     and the weakness of brokenness due to sin in our lives.

e)      I believe that all of these categories apply as we are exhorted that such "weak" members of our churches are necessary/indispensible.

B) "uncomely/unpresentable/immodest/deformed/a-schema (vs. eu-schema) v.23b

1.      This word is used throughout the NT exclusively inappropriate sexual behavior (Vincent) -here are all 5 instances in the NT of all forms of this Greek word (aschema):

a)     Rom. 1:27 (homosexuality)

b)      1Cor. 7:36 (incest or fornication)

c)     1 Cor. 12:23 (In this passage, something is literally "put around" the "unseemly parts to cover them and make them more presentable) This same idea shows up in...

d)    Rev. 16:15 ".. .Blessed is the one who watches and keeps his clothes on, lest he walk naked, and they see his unpresentable parts."

e)     and finally we have 1 Cor. 13:5 "[Love] does not behave itself in an unseemly/un­presentable manner" This might distinguish Biblical agape love from sexual expressions of love that would be inappropriate.

2.      Definitely a simile going on between physical body parts that must be covered and some people in the body of Christ that are best insulated from being out in the vanguard of the church. In the Greek wording, it says literally, "we set in place extra honor around these and [as a result] our bad-form [unpresentable parts] have extra good form." Why is it that we generally wear two layers of clothes over our private parts - underwear and then overclothes? It's not because those private parts are bad or useless or anything like that, they're quite good and useful; it's just that in this world of people broken by sin, putting those parts on display would lead to more problems, so we duly cover those parts, and that's a good thing.

3.      Calvin wrote: "the dishonor of one member turns out to the common disgrace of the whole body, as appears from the care that we take to cover the parts that are less honorable. "Those parts that are comely, " says he, "do not require adventitious ornament; but the parts that involve shame, or are less comely, are cared for by us with greater concern. Why so? but because their shame would be the common disgrace of the whole body." To invest with honor is to put on a covering for the sake of ornament, in order that those members may be honorably concealed, which would involve shame if uncovered."

4.      So let us "set extra honor around" those weak people who can't be out in the front lines of the church:


III)       HOW can we honor these weak, less honorable, unpresentable members of the body?

1.      When someone is sick; surround them by the care of others who are healthy

a)      visit them

b)      bring them meals.

2.      If someone is immature, protect them and lead them towards maturity.

a)      We don't put new converts into the eldership of the church (1 Tim. 3:6). We insulate them from the weightier issues and nurture them and lead them into maturity before saddling them with the responsibilities of leadership.

b)      This is the case with children in our midst. We don't put children into the leadership of the church any more than we would put new converts into the eldership of the church. Children need to be nurtured and discipled too.

c)      It's not just parents who should look out for little kids; older brothers and sisters can also help protect these weaker members of our body: I'm reminded of the little sister at the end of the Song of Solomon whose older siblings promised to build around her a wall of plated armor to protect her! (Son 8:9) Does your little brother or sister feel safe around you?

3.   There are also those who are very sensitive, easily injured, and need extra protection from harm:

a)     Our brain is a very sensitive and defenseless organ, so God designed a bony cranium to sur­round it.

b)     Often it is the case with a person who suffers physically from obesity or from a physical deformity or from the ravages of old age that for them to trip and fall would bring more injury to them than it would to a more "well-formed" person. Part of our reason for meeting downstairs here rather than upstairs where the atmosphere is cozier is that not everyone can handle the steep staircase.

c)     There may also be emotional pain that people feel from being different and being stared at. Let us be consid­erate of them and treat them as part of our body, not someone to be gaped at and avoided.

d)    Many cases of hypersensitivity to insults are really a result of spiritual immaturity, but we must be gracious and learn to appreciate even those people who are easily-offended, be­cause God gives them gifts too, and God works on different issues in different people's lives as different times.

·         James Strong was said to be a really crotchety person, hard to get along with, but his contribution to the body of Christ of making the first exhaustive Bible concordance and numbering and defining every Greek and Hebrew word in the Bible has been invaluable! Because of his work you don’t have to know Greek and Hebrew in order to do word studies in the Bible!

4. Those with weaknesses need to be paired up with other stronger members:

a)      In the physical body, our little fingers are intrinsically weak, so they are teamed up with four other stronger fingers!

b)     I know Christian businessmen and pastors who recognize their own temptation to­ward sexual sin, so they take Christian brothers with them when they travel and share the hotel rooms so that they can help each other stand in sexual purity.

c)      Around a pregnant woman or an elderly person - younger people should:

(i) Stand when they walk into the room (I Peter 5) and let them sit in your chair if there aren't enough chairs for everybody,

(ii) When they drop things, help them by picking it up off the floor for them,

(iii)If you see them carrying something heavy, go up and offer to carry it for them.

(iv) These are little things, but they are ways we can pair up the stronger with the weaker, and when we do so we will find that those physically weaker people have intellectual and spiritual strengths that can help you where you are weaker.

(d) In the church I grew up in, there was a boy with cerebral palsy named Chris Thompson. He was several years older than me. Chris was told he would never walk on his own. His speech was so strange you could hardly understand a word he said. He was poor and wore threadbare clothes, so the kids at my school called him "Threads." But God placed alongside Chris teachers and friends who helped him along. He got to the point where he could walk without out his wheelchair, and then he played on the football team. When I was in High School, Chris was hired by my church as a youth pastor. He walked with a strange waddle, he still talked funny, and he could hardly control his hands to pick up or carry things, but God used him powerfully in the lives of hundreds of high school students. My Dad was one of the men who came alongside him to train him for ministry, and Chris has continued to grow in ministry skills - last I heard he was in charge of all the pastoral care at one of the largest PCA churches in existence. He speaks clearly and walks normally now. Not every handicapped person will have such a success story, but still don't write them off.

5) God had to speak to Paul about the crippling weaknesses Paul felt he had. God said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you: for my power is made perfect in weakness..." (2 Cor. 12:9)

·         Ultimately, it is God whom we must trust to save us in our weakness, not our church friends. No amount of human help will make us right with God.

·         God’s ultimate provision for our weakness was to send His son to die on a cross and take on Himself the just punishment for our rebellion against God. Only when we trust in Jesus, the son of God, and follow Him, can we be made right.


IV) WHY can't we say, "I don't need you"? (v.21)

      WHY should we consider each person in the church necessary/indispensable? (v.22)

      WHY should we put special honor around those less honorable people? (v.23)

WHY has God composed/tempered together/combined/mixed together the body so that there can be special care for the people with special needs/who are lacking in some area/ come up short? (v.24)

A) SO THAT (v.25) there might be "no schism/division in the body but rather that the members might care the same for each other"

1.      Here is how to prevent church splits:

·         Consider every person in the church indispensable,

·         show special honor to the weakest people in the church,

·         and care about each person in the church as much as you care about everybody else in the church!

2.      Paul opened his letter warning against the sin of schism 1 Cor. 1:10 “Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

3.      How do we show this “care” to other members? We can get some insight from the last place this word “care” was used in chapter 7 (vs. 33-34) “he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife… she that is married is careful for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.”

a.       In other words, there are pleasant things in this world that we can give to these people to show them our care.

b.      The sorts of things a husband and wife might give each other to show care can give us a place to start thinking about how to care for others: money, chocolate, flowers, carefully-prepared food, a kindly-written note, an appropriate hug, and we can always pray for them.

4.      Is there anybody in our congregation you don't care as much for? Begin by praying for God to increase your love and concern for that person.

5.      WHY? So that we won't have a church split. But also...

B) BECAUSE (v.26) our well-being individually is hurt or made better depending on whether other Christians are being hurt or made better:

1.      Several weeks ago, I was nailing siding onto the house with an extra-heavy hammer I had bought for driving nails through those tough concrete fiber siding strips. At one point I swung that hammer hard and hit the tip of my left index finger. What happened when I hit that little part of my finger?

·         Did I say, "Well, this is just a small, insignificant part of my body, it's no big deal." No!

·         My sons can tell you they heard me holler from the other side of the house; it brought a response from pretty much every other part of my body from the pain.

·         I had to quit playing guitar for a while; I had to learn to pick things up differently with my hand; and pretty soon once the nail comes loose, I won't be able to stick my hand into my pocket and pull it out like I’m used to for fear of it being snagged on the corner of the pocket.

·         The harm done to that tiny digit had a great effect on me, because it is part of me and it is important.

2.      “God also knew that it would be necessary for those living in a free society to share in the suffering of others, by remembering those in bonds and by reaffirming that our citizenship is in heaven and not in this world. God knew that by sharing in the suffering of others, we would be better prepared to endure such trials, and that we would strengthen the whole Body and fulfil His Word.” (Source: VOM Canada website) That is why organizations such as Voice of the Martyrs work to inform us in America of the sufferings of Christians worldwide.

a)      Rom. 12:5 “we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another.” (cf. Eph. 5:30)

b)      Calvin: "We [the church] are not a mere civil society... but truly members of one another..."

c)      Are there any ways our church is suffering because one of our members is suffering?
Watch for signs of suffering in other people and show care for them before the pain grows to affect the whole body!

3.      On the flip side when one member is honored, all the members of the church should rejoice together with them because we are interconnected.

a)      Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice…” cf. Luke 1:58, Phil. 2:17-18

b)      "Honored" is literally in the Greek "glorified."

a.       The only other place in the Bible where it talks of Christians being “glorified” is Romans 8:30, where it speaks of glorification as the end of God’s salvation process with us, so it's possible that he could be speaking of rejoicing in the completion of a believer’s life, knowing that they are in heaven,

b.      although I expect Paul is probably using the word here in 1 Cor. in the more general sense of any kind “prosperity and happiness that we should rejoice in when other people experience it” (Calvin).

c)      Chrysostom wrote, "When the head is crowned, the body shares the honor."
Do you feel honored when someone else in the church is honored?

d)     Illustrations: At the end of each school year my best friend Robert Welch would always get awards like the Martin Snook Spiritual Leadership Award or the Cross Country team's MVP award. I always found it a little hard to clap when Robert went forward for these be­cause in my heart I was thinking, "Why didn't I get that award?" That's pride; that's "I have no need of you" thinking. If anyone deserved those awards, Robert did, and I was (and still am) proud of him for the righteousness and wisdom that he led me and my friends into when we were around him.

e)      When Dr. Linville got tenure, and when Pete and Carl and Josh got their promotion to Cap­tain, I rejoiced with them because that meant our church gained honor among men and would therefore have greater opportunities to witness to the glory of God.

f)       Practice rejoicing with others. Practice considering yourself so much a part of the church that when another member is honored, you consider the whole church, including yourself and Jesus Christ honored.

I)       I’d like to close by reading the vision statement from our church visitor’s guide. Dream with me of our church being a place where membership is taken seriously and the weak and the strong can abide together and benefit from each other in community as God intends: Envision

A)    A refreshing church atmosphere where everything is done according to the Bible and honors God in every respect.

B)     Brotherly love, encouragement, and prayer helps each member through every challenge in life.

C)     Families enjoy being together and doing ministry together with godly leadership from the head of each household.

D)    Each household is a center for ministry according to its unique mix of gifts and interests.

E)     Support and like-minded fellowship encourages many soldiers and families at Fort Riley.

F)      There is real partnership with many local churches in prayer, worship, and witness.

G)    Every person in the Manhattan area has a chance to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.

H)    K-State students and our own children are effectively discipled and begin building the kingdom of God in their vocations.

I)       Mercy ministry through the church meets needs and equips people for long-term success in life more effectively than welfare.

J)       Grandchildren fill the earth with the glory and praise of God.

K)    Artists fully harness the arts toward the glory of God.

L)     New churches are continuously planted locally and around the world.

M)   All the members of the church fully exercise their spiritual gifts in a complementary way to build up the body of Christ.

NOTE: This is not a list of things that currently describe us, but rather ideals toward which we hope to make progress by God’s grace, and we will, if we hold to the necessity and indispensability of our weaker members.

Order of Worship (NASB text)




Welcome new members Carl and Alyssa Fisher and Mike Hernandez.

Josh 3:9b "Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God."


Psalter 119X – ensemble accompany


1 Corinthians 15:3-4 & I Timothy 3:16


Mark Acell (introduce and let him give greetings)


Dan 9:17-19 "So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name."




Not What My Hands have Done – Paula on piano

OT Text

Numbers 12 (lector)


Thomas McKay

NT Text

1 Timothy 3:1-13 (responsively)


“Grace Be With You All” by Michael Card (piano by Nate)


1 Cor. 12:21-31 -




There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood #253


John 6:40-54 "this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven." They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down out of heaven'?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day... Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh… He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.


Soon and Very Soon


Philip. 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Psalm 72d