Throughout this study series, I have purposefully chosen to place the emphasis upon the necessity of the expression of the one body of believers. Odd eh, especially in light of a series title that seems to emphasize how we as individuals can contribute to the work of God upon planet earth. I’d like to use this next study or two to share what I was really getting at all along- the details of how you and I can help bring this about practically in our daily lives.
“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, thought they are many, are one body, so also is Christ” [1 Corinthians 12:12]
The reason for the one body emphasis is simple: If each any every Christian is truly united in spirit as the verse above denotes, that means that every decision in life you and I make as an individual ultimately affects each and every other Christian within the one body. The entire chapter above is more than adequate to prove this point is it not? In 1 Corinthians 12 we find these corresponding truths:
- The spiritual gifts and effects of those gifts vary; nonetheless they are all given by God for the common good of the one body. (verses 4-11) Therefore, spiritual gifts are not predominately for my good, but for the good of all.
- It was through the ONE SPIRIT (the Holy Spirit) that we were (past tense) spiritually baptized into this ONE BODY, whether formerly Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free- we were all (denoting those having been born spiritually into Christ) made to drink of one Spirit. (verses 12 & 13)
- God does not place the emphasis upon us as individuals (who we are in Him or our gifts) but rather upon the many membered body. (verse 14) Therefore, any time we tend as individuals to focus upon ourselves or other Christians and their gifts detracts from the one body emphasis.
Starting in verse 15, Paul begins to compare this spiritual “one body” with an actual physical human body. He shows how the individual parts are all necessary and how they must work together to function properly as He desires.
- Regardless of how one or more members may demean themselves or are demeaned by others, they are no less a part of the one body. (verse 15-17)
Then this very important verse 18:
“But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.”
If they are truly placed by God, then:
- No member can say they don’t need another member, and in fact will take note of the weaker members as necessary and honoring them. (verses 22-24) And why? So that there be NO DIVISION in the body, but that the members have the same care for one another. (verse 25)
Obviously the members cannot have the same care for one another if certain members or their gifts/abilities are made prominent or ministry service revolves around those people. In every such scenario, those people become the focus at the expense of both Jesus Himself as well as His one body. Then what happens? And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it……(verse 26)
It’s easy to view this verse in its plainer thought and yet lose the greater context. Yes, we are all called to suffer one with another as Christians, we are called to bear the burdens of others and to cry, mourn and share the hurts of those believers in our immediate sphere of influence or local assembly. But what we must ask ourselves is this? Am I the cause of suffering- suffering that affects the one body?
When any individual member acts without any consideration for the others members of the body (his own body) he makes those other body members suffer regardless of whether he or she realizes this or not. Does an abuse of alcohol, smoking or poor eating habits affect your physical body? Yes of course, we all know that is true. But do I dare ask, “Cannot these very same things have an adverse effect upon others who share in the one body of Christ? Does not my knowledge of a brothers alcohol abuse not hurt and grieve me? Does not a brother’s habitual smoking not leave a poor testimony in this world upon the saints at large? Does not a brothers or sisters refusal to curb their appetites not entice others to do the same? You see, we are much more united than we think!
“Now you (all and each together) are Christ’s body, and individual members of it. And God has appointed in the ekklesia…….”(27)
God has done something- that fact we must never forget. From beginning to end, true Christianity is all about the discovery of what God has done, an acknowledgment of this and an application of it- not merely an individual application such as a pursuit of holy living, but a mutual application and practice of the truth one to another AND among the one body.
In 1 Corinthians 12:18 this crucial truth is proclaimed about the one body Jesus is building:
“But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired”
Note that this “placing” has nothing to do with individual assignments within a local ekklesia (there may be those), but the context is the one body. The context is always the one body. Despite this, people everywhere make individual pronouncements such as:
- God has called me to pastor this church.
- God has called me to lead these people.
- God called me to this specific vision.
Sorry. No He hasn’t. God has never called you to perform some specific function for Him or for other specific saints- that is, outside of the revelation already given. His calling upon any believer is ALWAYS within the context of the one body. Does God call someone to be a shepherd or does He make them one? Does God call me to lead other believers or to simply display by my actions an exemplary Christian life? Does God call a man to tell other believers to follow a vision that he has received from the Lord? There is only one person who thinks we are this important and that person is us as INDIVIDUALS. We so desperately want and desire to think that God cannot do without us, that somehow we are a key instrument in His workings upon earth- AND WE ARE- provided we see those workings within their proper context. I must see as God sees, I must act as if I believe we really are one. That is what we so often fail to do as well as recognize.
If God calls a man to pastor a church as so many today claim, then what the Bible speaks about authority, titles, positions and actual Christian service cannot possibly be true. All of that is contrary to what the Bible speaks and prescribes.
If God has called any individual to specifically lead other people, that desire can only lead to one place- the followers following the leader. The only true scriptural leadership always leads people to Jesus and a dependence upon Him- it never relies upon man’s wisdom or understanding but always teaches others to seek God Himself as their aim, their all. This makes leadership temporary at best and in some cases, even unnecessary. Leadership is by example, it is not a position to be obtained or a destination which one can arrive at.
If God has called a man to a specific vision, that vision must coincide with the vision He has given to His one body. To think an individual has been given a specific vision that somehow usurps the truths in the Bible or is in addition to the revelation already made known is at best deluded, and more likely deceived or both.
The local ekklesia
I have often stated that the local ekklesia is the means (vehicle) through which all of God’s dealings with men are accomplished. Although God has allowed other means to flourish (such as church) that has never helped the cause of Christ but hindered it greatly. He has used His people at times within it, but never because of it. How can we know this to be true?
Members of man’s creation or members of you?
“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another” [Ephesians 4:25]
In days of old, the people of God sought out the prophets of the day for insight into how the house of the Lord might be built. In that day they understood that the true prophet spoke from God and announced the message that God wanted to speak to the people on any given day or in any given season. It was not for men to take matters into their own hands and devise their own means to accomplish God’s aims. The people waited to hear “the word of the Lord” and when summoned brought their gifts and various abilities to accomplish the task at hand. The word in season was “the truth” for those people at that time, it was the message that ultimately brought peace among those who claimed to know God.
An interesting passage with the above theme is found in Zechariah 8:9-16;
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built. For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for animal; and for him who went out or came in there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another.
‘But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,’ declares the Lord of hosts. For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all things.
‘It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.’
‘These are the things you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.”
The passage is filled with numerous parallels to the day we now find ourselves in. First, note that because of the people’s sin, God Himself set men against one another. Because of this obvious division among them they became a reproach and in God’s terms, “a curse” among the nations for which they were supposed to be a blessing. What ultimately changed this condition among them?
Simply two words, “I WILL,” spoken from the mouth of the Lord Himself.
We find ourselves in a very similar place in our day do we not? Men claiming to be prophets (or in the least spiritual leaders) claiming that what they have, or are building is the means (vehicle) through which the people of God will finally rise again. Each and every one fails to recognize what God has already done in establishing the perfect precedent and pattern through local ekklesias, the new and living house of living stones that He Himself has promised to build and is building. The curse remains upon those who fail or refuse to recognize this, who persist in attempting to establish foundations other than Jesus Himself. This said, the true remnant having left all of man’s machinery and trickery, are now free to be the blessing God originally intended for the nations to see and experience. The true prophets have arisen, the truth of the one spiritual house (body) is being spoken and righteous judgment is going forth upon all who would stand against the I WILL of the Lord.
There is nothing in us that warrants the mercy and grace we have received in seeing and participating as a remnant in the spiritual household of the saints- though their is great responsibility as an individual and as one member among many. That responsibility must harken to today’s prophetical word of the Lord and “being strong” in the face of any and every adversary that might hinder or oppose along the way.
If we desire the vine to yield its spiritual fruit, the land to yield its natural produce and the heavens with His spiritual blessings, then by all means brothers and sisters,
LAY ASIDE FALSEHOOD AND SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE WITH HIS NEIGHBOR. Pay close attention to yourself and your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation for yourself and for those who hear you.
May you inherit all things, as you abide within His I WILL.
-to be continued