1 Corinthians 12 – Honored Versus Humiliated

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The Roman Empire had an elaborate honor roll that classified people into either “honored” or “humiliated” status. They actually had two Latin words that were translated “honored” for some and “humiliated” for others.

Some people were born into the “honored” class and others received status from the military or money. The quest for higher “honored” status was so great that people paid to get there.

The justice system gave privileges to the “honored” group and denied them to the “humiliated” class.

Everyone in the Roman Empire knew their position in life. Most people understood that they would never leave the “humiliated” class.

A few people in the Corinthian church, especially the newly rich, sought to increase their status to be among the “honored.”

We no longer use the terms “honored” and “humiliated” to describe people in our churches. However, every church has some who feel honored, while others know they are far down the list on the world’s honor roll.

The “Body” Illustration

My feet and toes are “humiliated” members of my body. Every time I stand, they cringe under the weight of the rest of my body.

I have broken the big toe on my left foot on two different occasions. On those occasions, I genuinely realized the truth of Paul’s “body” illustration that follows. Even the most insignificant member of the body is quite valuable.

He wrote, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

“For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12.12-13).

God does not have an honor roll of “honored” or “humiliated” persons. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit active and living in their lives.

People whom society viewed as part of the “humiliated” class had the same Holy Spirit at work in them as the others. Paul made it clear that the honor roll classification in Corinth had no place in the church.

A Famous Illustration

Menias Agrippa was a Roman official, who used the image of the body to quell a farmers revolt over taxation.

Paul used a similar word picture to challenge the church to stop classifying some people as “honored” and others as “humiliated.”

He wrote, “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

“If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.

“And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body” (1 Corinthians 12.14-16).

The Bible does not allow us to look at someone who is a different race, a different gender, or in a different economic situation from us and deny the fact that God’s Spirit is within them and working through them.

Just as my broken toe reminded me that it was an important part of the body, every follower of Christ is necessary and valuable.

If God is willing to put his Spirit in someone, should we not see them as “honored” and worthy of our interest and appreciation?

God’s Logic

The “honored” persons in the Corinthian church invited similar “honored” friends to eat inside their homes for the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11), while the “humiliated” persons remained outside in the courtyard.

If the church were only comprised of the “honored,” it would be impoverished as Paul clearly described.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

“If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12.17-20).

The American church needs Paul’s message of unity. We are divided by doctrine, customs, race, politics, personalities and more.

When the news of angry and mean spirited Christians reaches the masses, they are scandalized by our behavior. The original meaning of “to be scandalized” is “to lose faith.”

No doubt, the divisions within the church and between churches are causing a watching world to lose their faith.

There are many reasons why the American church is divided. However, one of the reasons is the same issue as that in Corinth.

The pride of being right and the status of power seduce us into seeing other people and churches as less honorable.

Paul stated God’s goal for the church. He said, “But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another”

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Corinthians 12.24-26).

Pagan temples and Roman society may divide people into “honorable” and “humiliated” categories.

The church is to be an example of God’s kingdom and not pagan society. The Spirit of God is active in every Christian, both those of high status and those of lesser recognition.

Let’s follow Paul’s direction and see what kind of difference it makes in our lives.

May We Pray For You?

The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team is honored to pray for you. Please email me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. We will pray for you.

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