The Body of Christ

Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Our Verse of the Day is from a passage of Scripture the Apostle Paul wrote regarding the metaphorical concept of the Church functioning as the “physical” body of Christ in the world after His ascension into heaven. This metaphor of the body of Christ is referenced in the general teaching of the apostolic writers; however, I feel that Paul developed this understanding in more practical detail for us. It serves as a great reminder of the interdependent nature of our relationships with other members of the local assembly and the Body of Christ at large in the world. We do not all have the same level of theology or understanding. We do not all have the same spiritual giftings or talents. We do not all have the same ideas or approaches for gospel engagement with the world. But what we all DO have is a sovereign, loving Lord and Savior … Christ Jesus … who is head over all the Church.  It is He who brings us into unity of faith and purpose through His Spirit within us! We are His “called out ones,” and we have been joined together to love one another and to submit ourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Cf. Ephesians 5:21) We see these concepts clearly portrayed throughout the New Testament epistles of Paul:

Romans 12:1-16 (NIV)

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Ephesians 4:1-16 (NIV)

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When He ascended on high, He took many captives and gave gifts to His people.” (Quoting Psalm 68:18) 9 (What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (NIV)

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 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!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 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. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

Paul will continue into 1 Corinthians 13 to teach that regardless of your position or gifting to serve in the Body, love is requisite for its significance or value. Without sincere love as the mindset of serving within the church, the role a person brings to the table is pointless … perhaps even harmful to others if exercised without the intent expression of love. Paul wrote: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Cf. Colossians 3:12-15)

During the Passover meal on the night He was betrayed, Jesus taught His disciples (by personal example) what it means to submit to each other … to humble ourselves and to serve one another: “When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (Cf. John 13:12-17) Later, before they departed for the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would tell His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35)

So, it is clear from these texts that to serve in the Body of Christ requires us to love one another first and foremost. They convey what serving the church as a member really means; how we should serve and why should we serve. To be sure, there is no “status” or “greatness” to be attained through ministering to one another; rather, there is only a releasing and sharing of what the Lord has purposed (in His grace) for each one of us to contribute to its vitality and effective functioning. Maybe the Spirit of God is calling us today to re-examine our own hearts and attitudes in this regard. Each of us needs to discover our unique giftings and placement within the Body as God has determined for each of us.  Yes; perhaps the Father wants us to reset our mindset and to look more deeply at the example that Jesus embodied for us. So, I will conclude with this final thought:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; 7 rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Pursuit of Humility…

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

We have read and discussed this passage before.  It ties well to the theme that we have been studying this past week; and it challenges us to view the command to love one another through the lens of humility.  To be humble in our interpersonal actions with others is another way we emulate and facilitate the love of God.  Again, we have Jesus as our role model. And it is actually His example that Paul will reference as the spiritual standard for humility. He urges us to have the same attitude (mindset) as Christ Jesus.  Here is the larger context for us to consider:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

Here are where my thoughts go when I read this passage:

1.         Our mindset is to be the same as Christ Jesus.  Our motivation … our drive … our passion is to be like Him.

2.         Though God is Spirit, we understand His nature as God through Jesus in a physical form … made in human likeness.

3.         We, made in the image of God and also in human form, are to take on the nature of a servant just as Jesus did.

4.         We have been “saved to serve,” and it is this humble nature that equips us to do so with love.

5.         Obedience is the mechanism through which we achieve this humble nature to walk in love.

So our lesson is to develop an attitude … a mindset … a servant’s heart and nature … that will value others above ourselves.  We should not only consider our own interests, but focus on the interests and needs of others. And I love the exhortation Paul wrote to Titus in this regard:

Titus 3:1-8 (NIV)

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Colossians 3:12-13

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Peace Through Faith

Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed with life or the distresses going on in the world right now, I encourage us as believers to keep perspective.  God, the loving Father who created us, knows what is going on with His people.  And He will cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him – who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28) And so, we need to trust in God … more than we trust in government or man-made systems to resolve our situations. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying in this regard. To be sure, God will use His people to address and engage in the suffering that occurs in our fallen world, but God’s people are aligned with God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven … and I believe that is the major difference.  When we rely on God … when we take refuge in Him … when we trust Him for our needs … His supernatural power is released! Yes, the Spirit of God works in and through His people to accomplish His will….

1 Corinthians 12:4-12 (NIV)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as he determines.12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Romans 12:3-18 (NIV)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the othersWe have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people who do more menial work. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

You see, living in this world is the will of God. And though it is fallen because of sin, God wants us here to achieve His purposes according to His own counsel and will.  And I believe the greatest purpose our Father has in mind is relationship with the special creatures He made in His own image.  All other creation was spoke into existence in the beginning. But God purposely “made” us from the dust of the earth. Our human existence is differential and intentional.  As David reflected:

Psalm 139: 13-18 (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, that I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts concerning me, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

And so God invites us to trust Him.  Because when we put our trust in Him, our minds become steadfast … we rely upon the truth of His Word.  And we experience something great in our inner being.  We call it “peace”.  We call it “rest”.  We call it assurance, confidence, and steadfastness.  We call it “faith”!  Indeed, Christ Jesus was sent to this world by the Father to bring us to faith … a saving faith … a serving faith.  And this is what Jesus commanded, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35)

God is Love! Love is how God works! “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And our work, our labor of love, is to serve as the Body of Christ in this world.  Being Jesus to others is HOW God works all things for the good of those who love Him … for those who are called according to His purpose.  We need not fear; rather, we need to be courageous in these times and days. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)  Let’s use these gifts to make a difference in our chaotic and fallen world! For God will keep us in perfect peace … complete peace … whose faith is fastened on Him….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Gifts Without Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

This is a passage that most of us are familiar with … and I think it is a timely word for us to pause and consider.  1 Corinthians 13, often called the Love Chapter, is Paul’s exhortation about the virtue and preeminence of love in all relationships.  Paul asserts that everything we do within our relationships with others should be motivated and guided by love.  But I think we should review 1 Corinthians 12, which precedes this discourse, because Paul addresses the spiritual gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and their exercise and operation within the Church (Body of Christ).  It is within this context that we need to understand how love itself us should govern how we interact with one another.  I believe the point that Paul was trying to make here is that regardless of our spiritual giftings and talents; regardless of the offices or roles God has appointed some within the Church; regardless of the abilities and anointing people have received to minister to the Church … if these are not offered or fulfilled with love as the sole motivation … then we have missed the will of God for His diverse appointment of gifts, designed for the mutual edification and unity of purpose of His Church.

Now with this perspective in mind, look at the following verses:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Do you see your spiritual gifts or talents … your offices or roles within the Church … your anointed abilities in light of these qualities of love?  Are you patient and kind with others in the Church? Are you envious of others’ spiritual gifts? Perhaps, worse, are you boastful or filled with spiritual pride because of the spiritual gifts you were given by the Spirit as He has determined? Love is not self-seeking; rather, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Cf. Philippians 2:3) Love does not dishonor other people or present them in a negative light.  Love does not provoke nor is it become easily angered.  Love forgives and you have been forgiven in Christ Jesus.  Yes, love always seeks the highest good so that we conduct ourselves with this overarching principle … to love as we ourselves have been loved by God (Cf. John 13:34; 15:12) and to glorify Him through every relationship brought into our lives.

With Valentine’s Day approaching this week, we will probably think about the Love Chapter and its instructions regarding love. Many of us will probably recount the vows we made to our spouses at an altar – or maybe as prompted during romantic occasions or anniversary celebrations.  But I encourage you to revisit 1 Corinthians 13 and to consider its application for other relationships … especially those within the Church.  As Paul observed, if we do not have sincere love as the motivation and intent of our hearts, then no gifting or anointing … no talent or ability … no role or office … will hold any value in the eyes of God.  Love is the reason and purpose behind any and all spiritual gifts because the Lord Jesus gave them for the benefit of the Church and for the glory of God the Father.  As the Apostle John wrote, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (Cf. 1 John 4:8) So, without the “excellence” of love in operation, there is a deep flaw in how we approach our part … our role … in ministering to others with the Body of Christ as well as reaching those we have been commissioned to proclaim the Gospel.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!