"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV
Does this mean that the spirit of the Lord is not really present in your individual life? Of course not! In some way, God’s presence is manifest in each of His followers. But not without community. The Shechinah does not descend into your human flesh. It never did—in anyone’s flesh. Who do you think you are? God? Paul’s point is that the assembly is responsible to the One true God. He is the “owner” of the body, and He sets the standard of member behavior. You, as an individual, are certainly not your own either. You have been ransomed. But that does not make you an independent contractor in the Kingdom.
For the body is not one member, but many. 1 Corinthians 12:14 NASB
Not one member – Everyone is familiar with Paul’s analogy of the body. In his letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul goes to great lengths to impress upon this rowdy bunch that their lives must reflect the compassion, grace and obedience of the Messiah. They need order, but Paul quickly adds, order in the body does not mean control by a hierarchy of superiority. Order means everyone doing what they were designed and chosen (by God) to do. Anything else in the assembly is a form of spiritual abuse.
According to the text, there is but one, and only one, head of the assembly. That one is the Messiah. Everyone else is just a member of the body. Not one of the rest is independently important, spiritually superior or designated as authority over the rest. That means that the Messiah and the Father make arrangements for each member to fulfill tasks required for the edification, instruction and continuation of the assembly. God’s spirit at work among the members leads each one to take up the assignment necessary for that particular person. This is the combination of passion, calling and worship rolled into one. Unfortunately, what typically happens to members of the church is assignment by the church for the needs of the church. It is rare indeed for a member of the body to be asked, “And how is the spirit of the Lord leading you to participate with us in this assembly?” It is far more common to hear, “Oh, we have a lot of things to be done and you’d be great at this one.” This form of abuse was clarified for me by my friend John whose work in the area of passion and purpose is foundational and excellent.
Consider the implications of Paul’s analogy. No one is less important, less necessary, less useful than anyone else. The pastor is not the head of the assembly. He or she is not above critique, not more “spiritual,” not the final word. Of course, in pagan hierarchies, he is, but we are not members of a pagan hierarchical religion (are we?). You and I are members just like everyone else. If a church “official” says something, does something or displays an attitude that does not match Scripture or that impugns any other member, we are to speak up, to defend what’s right, to remind that person that every member is equally important in the one body whose head is the Messiah. Far too often we have been taught that if we are not a hand, we have no value. If we are not a foot, we must be left on the sidelines. If we are not persuasive, articulate, intellectual, organizing or contributing, then we have no place except to sit in the pew and agree with everything. Paul would strongly object! So should you. When we begin to treat hands and feet as equally and uniquely important to us all, community will flourish.
ouk esti hen says Paul in Greek. ouk, the strongest possible negative in Greek. Not to be one, but polla—many. So what’s the problem? Scripture clearly asserts your equal position. The spirit of the Lord has chosen you to perform duties specifically tailored to your passions. You serve Him in this body. Why do you hesitate? Throw off the shackles of pagan hierarchy and do what God designed you to do. And if you discover the reprisal of silent discouragement, then you will know which religion dominates your community"