The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 12:12 Explained

1 Corinthians 12:12

KJV: For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

YLT: For, even as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the one body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ,

Darby: For even as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.

ASV: For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.

What does 1 Corinthians 12:12 Mean?

Verse Meaning

The apostle spoke of this comparison in other epistles as well ( Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:19). He probably adapted the idea of the body politic, an essentially secular but commonly understood concept, to illustrate the church. There can be unity in a body without uniformity. Here the apostle stressed the fact that diversity among the members is an essential part of a unified body. Evidently the Corinthians were striving for unanimity and did not appreciate that there can and must be diversity in a "spiritual" church.
"One of the marks of an individual"s maturity is a growing understanding of, and appreciation for, his own body. There is a parallel in the spiritual life: as we mature in Christ, we gain a better understanding of the church, which is Christ"s body. The emphasis in recent years on "body life" has been a good one. It has helped to counteract the wrong emphasis on "individual Christianity" that can lead to isolation from the local church." [1]

Context Summary

1 Corinthians 12:12-19 - Many Members In One Body
The use of gifts must never be dictated by personal ambition or the desire for selfish gain. As every member of the physical body is united to the head by two sets of nerves, the afferent, which bring to the brain the slightest sense impressions, and the efferent, which bear to the extremities the commands of the mind, so is every member of the Church, even the feeblest and most distant, bound to his glorious Lord. The head of the swimmer is in one element-the air-and the members may be in another-the water-yet the head is able to control and co-ordinate them; so with the unseen Christ and His visible Church on earth. He must direct and use us. We have nothing to do with the work He confides to others, and must concentrate on that which He wants to achieve through us. If this means co-operation with other members or service to them; if it means hidden obscurity or temporary disuse, we must be equally content. It is for Him to do as He will. There is no room for envy or jealousy; they must give place to loving fellowship and mutual help, and the quiet peace and rest which come from recognizing the good pleasure of the Creator. [source]

Chapter Summary: 1 Corinthians 12

1  Spiritual gifts,
4  are diverse,
7  yet to profit all
8  And to that end are diversely bestowed;
12  as the members of a natural body tend all to the mutual decency,
22  service,
26  and helpfulness of the same body;
27  so we should do for one another, to make up the body of Christ

Greek Commentary for 1 Corinthians 12:12

So also is Christ [ουτως και ο Χριστος]
One would naturally expect Paul here to say ουτως και το σωμα του Χριστου — houtōs kai to sōma tou Christou (so also is the body of Christ). He will later call Christ the Head of the Body the Church as in Colossians 1:18, Colossians 1:24; Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 5:30. Aristotle had used σωμα — sōma of the state as the body politic. What Paul here means is Christ as the Head of the Church has a body composed of the members who have varied gifts and functions like the different members of the human body. They are all vitally connected with the Head of the body and with each other. This idea he now elaborates in a remarkable manner. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for 1 Corinthians 12:12

Romans 6:6 The body of sin [τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας]
Σῶμα in earlier classical usage signifies a corpse. So always in Homer and often in later Greek. So in the New Testament, Matthew 6:25; Mark 5:29; Mark 14:8; Mark 15:43. It is used of men as slaves, Revelation 18:13. Also in classical Greek of the sum-total. So Plato: τὸ τοῦ κόσμου σῶμα thesum-total of the world (“Timaeus,” 31). The meaning is tinged in some cases by the fact of the vital union of the body with the immaterial nature, as being animated by the ψυξή soulthe principle of individual life. Thus Matthew 6:25, where the two are conceived as forming one organism, so that the material ministries which are predicated of the one are predicated of the other, and the meanings of the two merge into one another. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
In Paul it can scarcely be said to be used of a dead body, except in a figurative sense, as Romans 8:10, or by inference, 2 Corinthians 5:8. Commonly of a living body. It occurs with ψυχή soulonly 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and there its distinction from ψυχή rather than its union with it is implied. So in Matthew 10:28, though even there the distinction includes the two as one personality. It is used by Paul:-DIVIDER-
1. Of the living human body, Romans 4:19; 1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
2. Of the Church as the body of Christ, Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:18, etc. Σάρξ fleshnever in this sense. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
3. Of plants and heavenly bodies, 1 Corinthians 15:37, 1 Corinthians 15:40. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
4. Of the glorified body of Christ, Philemon 3:21. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
5. Of the spiritual body of risen believers, 1 Corinthians 15:44. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
It is distinguished from σάρξ fleshas not being limited to the organism of an earthly, living body, 1 Corinthians 15:37, 1 Corinthians 15:38. It is the material organism apart from any definite matter. It is however sometimes used as practically synonymous with σάρξ , 1 Corinthians 7:16, 1 Corinthians 7:17; Ephesians 5:28, Ephesians 5:31; 2 Corinthians 4:10, 2 Corinthians 4:11. Compare 1 Corinthians 5:3with Colossians 2:5. An ethical conception attaches to it. It is alternated with μέλη membersand the two are associated with sin (Romans 1:24; Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 4:10-12 Romans 7:24; Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5), and with sanctification (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:19sq.; compare 1 Thessalonians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). It is represented as mortal, Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 10:10; and as capable of life, 1 Corinthians 13:3; 2 Corinthians 4:10. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
In common with μέλη membersit is the instrument of feeling and willing rather than σάρξ , because the object in such cases is to designate the body not definitely as earthly, but generally as organic, Romans 6:12, Romans 6:13, Romans 6:19; 2 Corinthians 5:10. Hence, wherever it is viewed with reference to sin or sanctification, it is the outward organ for the execution of the good or bad resolves of the will. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
The phrase body of sin denotes the body belonging to, or ruled by, the power of sin, in which the members are instruments of unrighteousness (Romans 6:13). Not the body as containing the principle of evil in our humanity, since Paul does not regard sin as inherent in, and inseparable from, the body (see Romans 6:13; Romans 7:5,; 2 Corinthians 7:1. Compare Matthew 15:19), nor as precisely identical with the old man, an organism or system of evil dispositions, which does not harmonize with Romans 6:12, Romans 6:13, where Paul uses body in the strict sense. “Sin is conceived as the master, to whom the body as slave belongs and is obedient to execute its will. As the slave must perform his definite functions, not because he in himself can perform no others, but because of His actually subsistent relationship of service he may perform no others, while of himself he might belong as well to another master and render other services; so the earthly σῶμα bodybelongs not of itself to the ἁμαρτία sinbut may just as well belong to the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:13), and doubtless it is de facto enslaved to sin, so long as a redemption from this state has not set in by virtue of the divine Spirit” (Romans 7:24: Dickson).DestroyedSee on Romans 3:3.He that is dead ( ὁ ἀποθανὼν )Rev., literally, he that hath died. In a physical sense. Death and its consequences are used as the general illustration of the spiritual truth. It is a habit of Paul to throw in such general illustrations. See Romans 7:2. [source]

Romans 6:3 Baptized into [εἶς]
See on Matthew 28:19. The preposition. denotes inward union, participation; not in order to bring about the union, for that has been effected. Compare 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 Corinthians 12:27. [source]
1 Corinthians 10:17 Who are many [οι πολλοι]
The many. We all (οι παντες — hoi pantes). We the all, the whole number, οι παντες — hoi pantes being in apposition with the subject we (ημεις — hēmeis unexpressed). Partake Have a part with or in, share in. See 1 Corinthians 9:12; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 5:13 (partaking of milk). Of the one bread (του ενος αρτου — tou henos artou). Of the one loaf, the article του — tou referring to one loaf already mentioned. One body Here the mystical spiritual body of Christ as in 1 Corinthians 12:12., the spiritual kingdom or church of which Christ is head (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23). [source]
1 Corinthians 10:17 Partake [μετεχομεν]
Have a part with or in, share in. See 1 Corinthians 9:12; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 5:13 (partaking of milk). Of the one bread (του ενος αρτου — tou henos artou). Of the one loaf, the article του — tou referring to one loaf already mentioned. One body Here the mystical spiritual body of Christ as in 1 Corinthians 12:12., the spiritual kingdom or church of which Christ is head (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23). [source]
1 Corinthians 10:17 One body [εν σωμα]
Here the mystical spiritual body of Christ as in 1 Corinthians 12:12., the spiritual kingdom or church of which Christ is head (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23). [source]
Galatians 3:27 Were baptized into Christ [εἰς Χριστὸν ἐβαπτίσθητε]
See on Matthew 28:19. Not in relation to Christ (Meyer), but into spiritual union and communion with him. Comp. Romans 6:3(see note); 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 Corinthians 12:27. Paul here conceives baptism, not as a mere symbolical transaction, but as an act in which believers are put into mystical union with the crucified and risen Lord. Comp. Romans 6:3-11. [source]
Ephesians 4:25 Members one of another []
Compare Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. Chrysostom says: “Let not the eye lie to the foot, nor the foot to the eye. If there be a deep pit, and its mouth covered with reeds shall present to the eye the appearance of solid ground, will not the eye use the foot to ascertain whether it is hollow underneath, or whether it is firm and resists? Will the foot tell a lie, and not the truth as it is? And what, again, if the eye were to spy a serpent or a wild beast, will it lie to the foot?” [source]
Colossians 1:18 The head of the body [η κεπαλη του σωματος]
Jesus is first also in the spiritual realm as he is in nature (Colossians 1:18-20). Paul is fond of the metaphor of the body (σωμα — sōma) for believers of which body Christ is the head (κεπαλη — kephalē) as seen already in 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:27; Romans 12:5. See further Colossians 1:24: Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 1:22.; Ephesians 4:2, Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:30. [source]
James 3:5 A little member [μικρον μελος]
Μελος — Melos is old and common word for members of the human body (1 Corinthians 12:12, etc.; Romans 6:13, etc.). [source]
1 Peter 3:13 If ye be [εαν γενηστε]
Rather, “if ye become” (condition of third class with εαν — ean and second aorist middle subjunctive of γινομαι — ginomai).Zealous of that which is good (του αγατου ζηλωται — tou agathou zēlōtai). “Zealots for the good” (objective genitive after ζηλωται — zēlōtai (zealots, not zealous), old word from ζηλοω — zēloō (1 Corinthians 12:12). [source]
1 Peter 3:13 Zealous of that which is good [του αγατου ζηλωται]
“Zealots for the good” (objective genitive after ζηλωται — zēlōtai (zealots, not zealous), old word from ζηλοω — zēloō (1 Corinthians 12:12). [source]

What do the individual words in 1 Corinthians 12:12 mean?

Just as for the body one is and members many has all now the members of the body many being are so also [is] - Christ
Καθάπερ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα ἕν ἐστιν καὶ μέλη πολλὰ ἔχει πάντα δὲ τὰ μέλη τοῦ σώματος πολλὰ ὄντα ἐστιν οὕτως καὶ Χριστός

Καθάπερ  Just  as 
Parse: Adverb
Root: καθάπερ 
Sense: according as, just as, even as.
σῶμα  body 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Neuter Singular
Root: σῶμα  
Sense: the body both of men or animals.
ἕν  one 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Neuter Singular
Root: εἷς  
Sense: one.
μέλη  members 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Neuter Plural
Root: μέλος  
Sense: a member, limb: a member of the human body.
πολλὰ  many 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Neuter Plural
Root: πολύς  
Sense: many, much, large.
δὲ  now 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: δέ  
Sense: but, moreover, and, etc.
μέλη  members 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Neuter Plural
Root: μέλος  
Sense: a member, limb: a member of the human body.
τοῦ  of  the 
Parse: Article, Genitive Neuter Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
σώματος  body 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Neuter Singular
Root: σῶμα  
Sense: the body both of men or animals.
πολλὰ  many 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Neuter Plural
Root: πολύς  
Sense: many, much, large.
ὄντα  being 
Parse: Verb, Present Participle Active, Nominative Neuter Plural
Root: εἰμί  
Sense: to be, to exist, to happen, to be present.
οὕτως  so 
Parse: Adverb
Root: οὕτως  
Sense: in this manner, thus, so.
καὶ  also  [is] 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: καί  
Sense: and, also, even, indeed, but.
  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Χριστός  Christ 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Χριστός  
Sense: Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God.