An Extended Allegory
20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don't need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don't need you!”
It is inappropriate for one part of the body to assert its value over the other. Not only is it an inappropriate attitude, it is a ridiculous assertion. If the eye could minimize or delete the function of the hands, then it could SEE what it wanted but never be able to reach for it! A miserable and ineffective state, for sure.
25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Allow me to extend Paul’s metaphor…What if the rest of the body were to say to its feet: You are the closest member of the body to the ground. You are dirty, constantly in need of washing, and clearly representative of the sin in the body because you eat dust. Allegorically you reflect the cursed serpent that must crawl on its belly and “eat dust.” Because it was your part of the body that was “bitten” by sin you are polluted (allegorically speaking) and you must walk bearing the mark of sin’s effects. Now you are still a part of the body and allowed to carry us where we need to go. But you must accept your place in this age as the representative of the sin of man.
The rest of the body is above the ground, elevated and nearer to the head - clearly representative of our redeemed status in Christ. Jesus confirms this by teaching that even after baptism the feet still need to be washed, unlike the other parts of the body which, once washed, “have no need to be washed, as they are already clean.” But the feet are (by their function in nature) difficult to keep clean, so the perfect representation of sin.
Among the members then, how can we be sure what type of believer represents the feet? Let’s consider that it must be men, since they are physically strong by nature. They must be represented by the feet - the part of the body that bears the most weight. And besides, God said in Genesis, “The serpent shall bruise his heel” In addition, Paul himself says (Romans 5:12) “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” So it is men that must bear the representation of sin with in the body.
Additionally, as the feet are at the bottom of the physical body and rarely seen, so it must be in the spiritual body. They do their supportive work, but as sin’s “representative” they must barely be seen - just as it is in the body. They should suppress any impulse that they could help like a hand or perceive like an eye or speak like a mouth or exhort like a heart. They are the feet.
Now we will all concede this allegory has gone amok. This stand would not only be grossly incorrect, the thought is ridiculous! How silly (in light of Paul’s allegories) it would be of the body to designate one part of the body to represent sin. How ludicrous it would be for some members of the body to try to convince one believer based on physical characteristics that it was “representative” of that certain body part. What convoluted reasoning to ignore the fact that that the foot being willing to “eat dust” is WHAT lifts the rest of the body above the ground and keeps it moving. How self important to suggest that while it must perform its duties, it must do so bearing the shame associated with its representation of sin in the body. We would send such a body off for counseling!
In reality because the feet support the entire weight of the body and do indeed get dirty, we cherish them. We bathe them and comfort them. We find the correct protection for them and stop in our tracks when they are in pain. This wild extended allegory would violate the idea of a body being “one”. We know for a fact from the allegories we’ve just seen that the Bride is sanctified, and the Body is undivided in value and as a whole is the body of Christ. There is not in the true allegories even a hint that any part of the body represents sin or that any believer could be assigned the “role” of that representation by other parts of the body!
But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? … so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.