Sunday, October 14, 2007

Proof-Text Perversions: 1 Corinthians 12:13 (part three)

Understanding 1 Corinthians 12:13 isn't that difficult, but it's been complicated by the invention of the universal, invisible, mystical church theory. Because of the influence of Catholicism and then the Charismatic movement, people are confused about Spirit baptism. The twisting of this verse has been part cause. For this reason especially, it is important that you know what it means. So let's get going again.

More Words, Phrases, and Clauses of 1 Corinthians 12:13

"Are We All"

Universal church advocates point at the "we" here as their best evidence that 1 Corinthians 12:13 must be talking about Spirit baptism. Bill Combs, professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, uses the plural "we" to argue this way:
According to Rom 12:5, Paul was a member of the same body as the Romans: "so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." Notice Paul includes himself as a member of the same body as the Romans--"so we...." Paul had never been to Rome so he could not have been a member of the local church in Rome.

According to 1 Cor 12:13, Paul was a member of the same body as the Corinthians: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." Notice Paul includes himself as a member of the same body as the Corinthians--"we were...."
You might read this and say, "Dr. Combs certainly settled it with those points." Well, no. Just because Paul and the members of the church at Corinth were baptized into one body doesn't mean that they were baptized into the same body. Consider 1 Timothy 3:12:

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
If we apply the same kind of thinking to this verse as Combs applied to Romans 12:5, then Paul was instructing all the deacons in the church at Ephesus to marry the same woman. However, I think it is obvious to everyone that Paul meant that each deacon should have only one wife.
Paul said "we" because he too was baptized into one body, not the same body. If I said, "we all took the bus to the game," that doesn't assume that we all rode the same vehicle. Paul wasn't including himself in the same body as the church at Corinth by saying "we." If he was doing that, he would have said, "We are all baptized into your body." His point was that everyone who is water baptized, including himself, joins himself to one church, unifying himself with that church. Even though they are many members, as having associated by means of water baptism, they are all one body as well.
The term "we" often does not include the speaker in the group to whom he is speaking. In the same epistle, Paul writes in 10:20-22:

20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. 22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?
Look at v. 22. Was Paul fellowshiping with devils? Was he provoking the Lord to jealousy by doing so? So was he including himself with these Corinthians by saying "we"? I don't think so. Combs says that Paul puts himself in the same body by saying "we." We doesn't necessarily include Paul in the same body.
Consider Acts 2:8:

And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
First, was everyone hearing in the same language? No. Was everyone from the same country? No.
Consider 2 Timothy 2:12:

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.
Was it possible Paul was going to deny the Lord? No. Just because he used the pronoun "we," doesn't mean that he was including himself with that group.
If I say "We all bought one shotgun," I don't mean that we bought the same shotgun. If I say, "We all played one game," I don't mean that we played the same game. If I say, "We all caught one fish," I don't mean that we caught the same fish. If I say, "We all invested in one mutual fund," I don't mean that we invested in the same fund.
Because Paul wrote, "We all are baptized into one body," he didn't mean that he was baptized into the same body as the church at Corinth. What he meant was that he was baptized into one body just like those at Corinth were baptized into one body.
"One Body"
Both universal church proponents and local church only advocates would agree that the "one body" here is "the body of Christ." Where in Scripture is "the body of Christ" defined? This is crucial, because there is only one place that we get a definition of "the body of Christ." It is in v. 27 of 1 Corinthians 12. In this very context we have the body of Christ defined for us. 1 Corinthians 12:27 reads:

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
Paul says that the church at Corinth is the body of Christ. If the body of Christ is all believers, like the universal church people teach, then Paul would have said, "We are the body of Christ." He doesn't. I don't want to call the church at Corinth "the local church" because it is redundant. It is a bow to universal church doctrine. The church at Corinth is the church. The church is local only. It isn't all saved people. It is a body of believers that meets in a particular location, just like the human body is found in one location.
The members of a human body are all right where the body is. That is why Paul couldn't include himself when he was referring to their body. Their body was different than his body. All bodies have something in common---they're all bodies. Since they all have that in common, they could be referred to as the body. I could say, "The body is a marvel." I'm not talking about any body in particular. But if I say, "Your body is a marvel," then you know I'm talking about one in particular.
When Paul writes, "Ye are the body of Christ," he nails down the definition of the body of Christ. It is the local church. He was water baptized into the church at Damascus by Ananias. Those church members at Corinth were baptized into the church at Corinth. We are all baptized into one body. The many become the one through water baptism.


Michael M said...

I am still waiting for someone to please please please tell me what this Universal Invisible "church" is supposed to do?

Do they baptize invisible converts in invisible water, and teach invisible members the invisible word and collect invisible tithes and send invisible missionaries???

Somebody, help me, please help me! I'm fading....

Unknown said...

Wow... I'm not sure where to start. First, this whole post makes arguments over how to read a word like "we." You are right "we" in 1 Corinthians 12:13 COULD mean what you say it does. However, it COULD mean what the universal-church advocates say. Either one could theoretically work. You have applied a certain lens to it-- that of a local-church only view. When 1 Cor. 12:13 is seen through that set of lenses, it seems to say what you are advocating. If the lens of the universal church is applied, then it seems to advocate a universal-church idea.
Nevertheless.... I think you are taking Paul's words and using them in a way he did not intend. His whole purpose was to help the Corinthians understand that they are united in Jesus Christ (rather than divisions of Apollos, Peter, Paul, etc). Paul tells them what unites them throughout 1 Corinthians: early on he says that the gospel unites them, in 1 Corinthians 10-11, he tells them that partaking of the body and blood of Christ (Lord's table) is what unites them, and now he is telling them that they have various gifts that only work if they are united in Christ. He will then go on in chapter 13 to tell them that love is what is needed for this unity, this body unit, to work. You and the universal church people take Paul out of context when you begin applying his words to systematic theology. Systematic theology is an invention of the modernistic, enlightenment system-- a godless system. Stick with the intended message of the bible and you can't go wrong.
I'm sure you consider yourself a biblical literalist-- well, it doesn't get more literal than what I just stated. Arguments about these "theories" on what is the church is a non-biblical argument because the biblical writers don't ever seek to discuss such things. You will only find scattered verses that you will bend to your theory/lens. I would much rather bend myself to the scriptures lens.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Of course you and me see this the same.

Fresh Dirt,
I don't disagree with you that much. Paul wrote this for a particular church. That's why I don't think we should read into it something that isn't there, namely a universal, invisible something or other that isn't found anywhere in 1 Corinthians. I do think it is simple. I even agree on Systematic insignificant next to Biblical Theology. What does the text say? I do believe Systematic has led to the corruption of the plain meaning of this text. Regarding "we," I'm not arguing based on what I believe that word means. The universalists take most of their argument from that word. I am taking what the verse means based on the pre-, internal, and following context, as well as how the words are used throughout Scripture.


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree. Christ said in Matthew 16:18 that he would build His church on this rock. i am not advocting for Roman Catholicism, but rather for the singular, "my church." he did not say, I will build my many local churches. Also Paul talks about perecuting THE church of God. (Gal 1:13). This was mentioned as one church yet history tells us that Paul (Saul) persecuted many congregations and was on his way to another congregation when Jesus came to Him. Surely Paul didn't forget that. Also, in Eph 1:22, 5:25, and Col 1:18, Chirst is reffered to as the head of THE church. He Loved THE church. The Bible reffers to the Body of Christ, the church (Col 1:18). I do not see how you can get around the fact that we are all the son's and daughters of God.

Grace and Peace,


Randwulf said...

I have a copy of the King James Version published by Zondervan in 2011 as the "400th Anniversary Edition" (bought it for five bucks at WalMart!). It is an unaltered photocopy exactly the same as the pages of the KJV when they rolled off the presses in 1611, using the medieval script and old-time spellings and everything. In I Corinthians 12:13 it reads, "for by one spirit are we all baptized into one bodie..." So the original KJV translators used a small "s" on spirit. However, I'm not sure we can use that to conclude that they thought this was some other kind of spirit other than the Holy Spirit Himself. In 12:3 they captitalize "holy Ghost," but in 12:4 they use a small "s" on spirit when that verse is clearly part of a Trinitarian formula in verses 4, 5 and 6. So it may have just been some sort of stylistic thing with them. Further study is needed.

In regard to "the body of Christ," I'm familiar with the argument that the church in Damascus is the body of Christ in Damascus, and the church in Corinth is another body of Christ in Corinth. However, Ephesians 5:30 says "we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." The "body of Christ" is first and foremost that body that is sitting in the heavens at the right hand of God. When we become united to THAT body, we are "the body of Christ." I find it difficult to believe that Christ has many different bodies in various locations.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Interesting name, any relation to Beowulf? That is actually olde English.

"Body" is a metaphor to describe how the church functions. It functions as a body. Do you know of a universal body? The metaphor doesn't work as universal, the whole point is to show it is local. But there is one body, which is the church, in the generic sense. It isn't that Christ has several bodies. He has only one church, which is His church, as opposed to the other ekklesiai, which are not His church. The body is more than a physical entity but a spiritual one, as seen in Eph 5:30. I wouldn't dispute that.