If the foot shall say, etc. - As all the members of the body are necessarily dependent on each other, and minister to the general support of the system, so is it in the Church. All the private members are intimately connected among themselves, and also with their pastors; without which union no Church can subsist.
If the foot shall say - The same figure and illustration which Paul here uses occurs also in pagan writers. It occurs in the apologue which was used by Menenius Agrippa, as related by Livy (lib. 2: cap. 32), in which he attempted to repress a rebellion which had been excited against the nobles and senators, as useless and cumbersome to the state. Menenius, in order to show the folly of this, represents the different members of the body as conspiring against the stomach, as being inactive, and as refusing to labor, and consuming everything. The consequence of the conspiracy which the feet, and hands, and mouth entered into, was a universal wasting away of the whole frame for lack of the nutriment which would have been supplied from the stomach. Thus, he argued it would be by the conspiracy against the nobles, as being inactive, and as consuming all things. The representation had the desired effect, and quelled the rebellion. The same figure is used also by Aesop. The idea here is, that as the foot and the ear could not pretend that they were not parts of the body, and even not important, because they were not the eye, etc.; that is, were not more honorable parts of the body; so no Christian, however humble his endowments, could pretend that he was useless because he was not more highly gifted and did not occupy a more elevated rank.
The apostle's words of warning to the Corinthian church are applicable to all time and are especially adapted to our day. By idolatry he meant not only the worship of idols, but self-serving, love of ease, the gratification of appetite and passion. A mere profession of faith in Christ, a boastful knowledge of the truth, does not make a man a Christian. A religion that seeks only to gratify the eye, the ear, and the taste, or that sanctions self-indulgence, is not the religion of Christ. AA 317.1
By a comparison of the church with the human body, the apostle aptly illustrated the close and harmonious relationship that should exist among all members of the church of Christ. “By one Spirit,” he wrote, “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 am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore 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.... God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor 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; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” AA 317.2
And then, in words which from that day to this have been to men and women a source of inspiration and encouragement, Paul set forth the importance of that love which should be cherished by the followers of Christ: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” AA 318.1Read in context »
It is a delusion of the enemy for anyone to feel that he can disconnect from agencies which God has appointed and work on an independent line of his own, in his own supposed wisdom, and yet be successful. Although he may flatter himself that he is doing God's work, he will not prosper in the end. We are one body, and every member is to be united to the body, each person working in his respective capacity.—Letter 104, 1894. 3SM 25.4Read in context »