First Corinthians 12:14-21 says, "For the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body...If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were the hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, even as He willed. And if all were one member, where would the body be? But now the members are many, but the body one. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." Verses 28 through 30 go on to say, "And God has placed some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then works of power, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all have works of power? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret tongues?"
There are many members in the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit dispenses all kinds of gifts and ministries to them according to the need of the Body. The Lord grants the members different kinds of gifts and ministries for the purpose of supplying the need of the whole Body. The Lord knows that He will not make the whole Body the eyes or the whole Body the ears. The Lord gives the members different gifts and ministries to supply the whole Body. As the human body needs all the members, so the church needs the different kinds of gifts and ministries for its spiritual service. Some serve in the ministry of the word. Some serve by performing works of power. Some exercise the gift of healing. Some render helps. Some speak in tongues and some interpret tongues, etc. The church must provide ample opportunity for all the brothers and sisters to serve. All the members, including the uncomely ones, are useful in the ministry of the Spirit. It is impossible to have a useless member in the Body. Every brother and sister is a member in the Body and every member has his or her function and service. As long as you are a Christian, you are a member of the Body of Christ, and as a member in the Body, you must have your own service before God. We must honor such a practice of universal service. Every Christian must have his or her respective function and must serve the Lord according to this function.
Every member in the church should find a place to serve. Everyone should serve and there should not be any monopoly. A member or a few members should not replace all the members in doing everything. Any system that does not provide opportunity for all the members to function is surely not of the Body. In the physical body, the eyes, the mouth, the feet, and the hands may all be very busy. Yet they do not contradict each other. Something is wrong if only the eyes function while the mouth, feet, and hands do not. If the eyes, mouth, feet, and hands all function together and coordinate as one entity, we have the body. If some serve and others do not or if only one or a few serve, we do not have the Body of Christ. We must be very clear about this principle.
Romans 12:4-8 says, "For just as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. And having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or service, let us be faithful in that service; or he who teaches, in that teaching; or he who exhorts, in that exhortation; he who gives, in simplicity; he who leads, in diligence; he who shows mercy, in cheerfulness."
Another matter which requires special attention in the Body is that both the grace and the gift that everyone receives are different. The passage in 1 Corinthians 12 emphasizes the ministry of the word and the miraculous gifts. The passage in Romans 12, in addition to speaking of the ministry of the word, includes ministries of other services in the church as well. Some give, some lead, and some show mercy. All these can be considered works of the Levites. They are services that pertain to practical affairs.
Romans 12 shows us that everyone who is gifted must function according to the gift which God has given him, whether it is in the ministry of the word or in the ministry of service. He who prophesies, let him prophesy. He who serves, let him serve. He who teaches, let him teach. He who exhorts, let him exhort. He who leads, let him lead diligently in the church. In other words, everyone should serve. Everyone should have his or her specific service and should be faithful to this function. Everyone should know what he can do before God and what gift he has received from the Lord. This knowledge should direct him to function in a specific way. No one should go beyond his own function to take over the service of others. No member should take the place of another member, and no member should relinquish his own function. All should serve together, and everyone should fully apply himself to his own work. In this way the Body of Christ will be expressed.
The Body cannot allow one member to neglect his duty. The whole Body is in darkness if the eyes do not see. The whole Body cannot walk if the feet refuse to walk. The eyes should see and the feet should walk. Even though the gift that you have received from God may be small, you should not hide your gift. Even if the gift you have received from God is just one talent (Matt. 25:14-30), you should not keep it or neglect it. Whether one’s gift is big or small, whether it is "five talents," "two talents," or "one talent," he should exercise what he has and serve accordingly. If he refuses to give himself to his service and instead buries his "one talent," the church will suffer. If a few members in the Body refuse to function, the Body will suffer great loss.
It is not easy to find five-talented ones in the church. Yet every child of God, no matter how small his gift may be, has at least one talent. If all the one-talented ones will rise up to serve, they will be more effective than the few who have five talents. If all the one-talented ones will rise up to serve, the church will surely flourish. All those with one talent should rise up to serve. Whether or not the church will prosper depends on whether the one-talented ones will rise up to serve. If only a few people are laboring and working, we do not have the church. If all the brothers and sisters are working and laboring, it will be the church serving and the Body functioning. A few members no longer will take over the function of the whole Body. We hope everyone who has "one talent" will dig out his talent from the earth. Everyone who has the "mina" should realize that the handkerchief is for wiping sweat, not for wrapping up his mina (Luke 19:20). We must learn to serve according to our ability. When everyone rises up to serve and no one passes his responsibility to someone else, we have the church.
(New Believers Series: Body of Christ, The #24, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)