The church is a body
What differences come to mind when you think of the words building and body?
Yesterday there was a gang of guys at my place helping me with an addition on the back of our hours. There was a lot of lifting, nailing and climbing, and I am a little sore. My body talks to be, sometimes singing, sometimes shouting, when I do projects like this.
When I say the word BODY, what comes to mind? [health, workout, diet, fitness, pain, etc]
Over the past few weeks, Len shared about the leadership God has for the church, the signs of a disciple and so much more. One of the passages that we have been referencing regularly is in Ephesians:
11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. // Ephesians 4:11–13 CSB
So, there are at least a dozen sermons in this passage of scripture alone:
- Equipping others
- The work of the ministry
- Unity in the faith
- The knowledge of Jesus
- Growing to maturity
- Being like Jesus
- Gifts from God
The list could go on and on. We might look at some of these in the weeks to come, but as we start a new season as a church I want us to start by focusing on this one:
Being the Body of Christ [the church]
The book of Ephesians is written to the church in Ephesus about what it means to be the church. As a pastor, I do not get to do much church shopping. I am VERY grateful for this! But it makes me very curious to know what people look for in a church, and why they would pick NCF. What do you look for in a church? [bible teaching, good music, small groups, friendly, programs for my kids, etc] note: most of these you will probably NOT find in the Bible.
IN our Ephesians passage, Paul refers to the church as the “body of Christ”.
In one sense, this idea of a body can be vague, like a body of water, body of believers. It can speak about a large group or mass of people. And that is certainly an appropriate use of the term here. In this case, the “body of Christ” is the church, everyone who has called on Jesus to be saved from their sins. There is no denomination, no specific orthodoxy, no membership classes. If you belong to Christ you are a part of the body of Christ, amen? So that would include most of us here, today right?
The problem with being part of the masses is that you lack identity, purpose and specific direction. You can just exist and show up and be a part of the mass.
In some of Paul’s other writings he gets a lot more specific about the concept of the body.
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. // 1 Corinthians 12:12–27 NLT
In this passage, Paul is writing to the church in Corinth. And he is spending a lot of time writing about the way the church should treat each other and what a healthy church looks like. In the passage we just read he says that the church is a BODY. Let’s unpack some of these things:
The body of Christ is diverse [vs 12-14]
a. We may have different back grounds, education, ethnicity, but we are all part of the same body
- Officer / enlisted
- College education / completed some high school
- Black / white / tan
- Rich / poor
It is not these things that make you a part of the body, it is Jesus and the gospel. It is the forgiveness that comes through faith is Jesus as our Rescuer that makes us a part of the body and gives us the same Holy Spirit. God has desired diversity in his body. He is not an elitist God, he is an inclusive God. He desires that everyone take him up on his offer to be reconciled to Him. Everyone.
Thinking you are not does not negate the fact that you are! [vs 15-16]
b. You might think you are not good enough – you ARE through Jesus
c. You might think God cannot use you – he CAN because of his Spirit
d. You might think you have nothing to offer – it is not what YOU offer but what God offers you.
Just because you believe that you are not needed or not a part of the church does not make it true. I can look at my water bottle and say it is not a water bottle, but the reality is… it’s a water bottle. That is the point Paul is trying to make. You can deny whatever you want, but that does not change he reality that if you have a relationship Jesus you ARE a part of his body.
God determines what part we are, and he places us [vs 17-19]
- He gives us gifts & abilities
- He gives us passions
- He leads us to a location / local body
You don’t get to pick your nose. Well, maybe you do in once sense, but… you and I do not get to choose which part of the body we are. God may grow us and gift us to be a certain part, and the cool part about God’s body vs our physical bodies, is that it is possible to become a different part. God might need you as hands in one season and ears in another. But GOD picks, which is awesome because it means I am the way I am on purpose! Remember, the church is Jesus’ body – let the godhead determine where it wants you.
We need each other [20-21]
- Just because you *think* you don’t need others does not mean it is true
- Others need you, too!
We live in one of the most disconnected cultures in our history that says you don’t need anyone else, look out for number one. As long as our enemy, Satan, has the church believing this, we will be ineffective, unsatisfied and unfulfilled. MAYBE you don’t WANT to be part of the body? Maybe you want to be a solo Christian. You cannot. Maybe you think that you can live your life in isolation, that your faith is a personal thing and you have been disillusioned with the church. It is not an option!
We define weakness as needing others. That is a lie from Satan. We were designed by God to need Him and others.
If you are unable to admit that you need help, to ask others to pry for you or to be willing to share that you have struggles, that is pride and that is sin and you need to deal with it by confessing it to God and then find a brother or sister that you can share your needs with.
9 Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10 For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? 12 And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. // Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 CSB
Every part is important, and no part is more important than the others [22-24]
- You do not have to be a pastor to be important
- Using YOUR giftedness to serve others, honoring others, determines your value
Pride. It kills. To say that you are more important than others is a sin and is not the example we have in Jesus who humbled himself and died for you and me. When we think we are more important than others in the church we need to go back to the gospels and read where Jesus was baptized by John, where Jesus washed the disciple’s feet and where he gave the ultimate example of giving up his life on the cross.
Our lives were meant to mesh [25-26]
When we are connected to each other, our lives collide. We are impacted. Think about it. When you break a bone, your whole body is weaker while it tries to funnel energy to that part to heal. A migraine does not just affect your head. A good workout does not just impact your biceps. Eating a good steak does not just impact your taste buds.
We are designed to do life together. A church cannot function if is it disconnected: imagine if your hands were in Lewis County, your legs were in Jefferson County and your head in the Bahamas ? . Dismemberment of the body leads to disability or death. Why would we think it any different with the body of Christ? Our lives were meant to mesh with each other’s so that when one hurts, we all hurt. When one is in need it is a natural desire to help meet that need. When one person has something to celebrate, we celebrate with them.
Up to that point Paul just points out the obvious about “the” body of Christ, then in 27 he convicts us all: You are the body and individual members of it!
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. // 1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT
I love the way the NLT puts that!
- We are to be connected to each other
- We need each other
- We are affected by each other
- We are meant to live for others.
I asked you at the beginning what you think of when you think of a body, and what you look for in a church. Paul is saying they are one in the same. As I have been praying about our new reality of God leading Len to Clay NY, I had to ask God if I needed to leave my full-time job, if we needed to hire another full time elder, or what?
God has been showing me that what we need is to embrace the calling we have, to be the body of Christ and figure out how to function as one big mass/unit to do his work.
All of us. Every one.
The rest of 2018 and perhaps the rest of our lives together will be spent learning to be the connected body of Christ that is doing the work of Christ. It will look different from church as we know it. I MUST look different because the modern church is not a body.
- You and I cannot GO to church
- You and I cannot DO church
- You and I ARE the church – you and I get to be the church.
I want us to grab a few concepts from this message:
God HAS MADE you a part of Christ’s body. It’s done. You are in.
- You may not think you are a part of the body, but you are
- You may not think you are an important part of the body, but you are
- You may not think that you need others, but you do
- You may not think that others need you, but they do
Jesus WANTS you to join him in doing the Father’s work, to be his hands and feet (body)
- Say this out loud, “[your name] is the body of Christ.”
- Now look at the person beside you and say, “YOU are the body of Christ.
- Now one last time, say “I AM the body of Christ”
I want you to do something. I want you to slow down long enough to pray, today and each day, that God would show you what it means to be His body. I don’t want you to sign up for something, I am not asking you to start any new program, just pray.
“God, show me what part of your body I am. Teach me what is means to “be” the church in my family, workplace and community. “
Just start with that prayer. This week, each day, pray that simple prayer. And listen to what God tells you. Will you do that? Can you commit to praying with me for one week?