4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Romans 12:4 is parallel in meaning to v. 5. In v. 4, we are one body with many parts and different functions. In v. 5, we are many members forming one body in Christ. The body is one body in Christ because of the different parts. Without diversity (different parts—foot, arm, neck, arm, etc.), the one body will be a monstrosity (one big foot or one big head). With diversity, the one body is a picture of beauty.
We learn two things here. First, we are members of the body of Christ. Since we are part of the body of Christ, we belong to each other. Second, since we belong to each other, therefore, we depend on each other.
Paul illustrates it well in 1 Cor. 12:14-26.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should 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. 16 And if the ear should 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. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 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.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
The few cannot do it independent of the others. Each one depends on the other. Each one functions with the other. No one can function without the other. Therefore, each one depends on each other.
The body picture is applied to the local church as a community. The church as the body of Christ is therefore not hierarchical. The church is not a few people who are independent of other people in church. Rather, the church is communal. The church is each one depending on the other in the body. Each one is doing his part for the good of the body.
We should resist doing church in a hierarchical way. The hierarchical way is a few people doing ministry. The many rely on the few. Because the few are the only ones moving, they become more important than many. But that goes against God’s plan. That is “anti-body.”
We should do it the communal way. The communal way is everyone doing her part in the body of Christ. Because each one has an important function in the body, everyone is therefore important. The whole body functions as each part functions. The body is healthy and strong.
How then should the church function as one body of Christ? Each different member must do its part. Each one must use his or her God-given abilities in the body.
This brings me to my third point.