The Crucial Importance of the Church

The Crucial Importance of the Church

The Church, the body of Christ, is the fullness of God.

….the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him [God] who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22–23, NKJV)

God the Holy Spirit baptizes (places) us into the body.

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13, NKJV)

He places us in the body as it pleases Him.

But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” (1 Corinthians 12:18, NKJV)

We then are one spirit with Christ. He is the head. We are the body and share His spirit.

“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17, NKJV)

We also have the mind of Christ.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16, NKJV)

We also are members of His flesh and bones. Our hands, toes and eyes are His flesh and bones.

For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” (Ephesians 5:30, NKJV)

We are therefore members of one another since we are part of the same body and share the same spirit.

so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:5, NKJV)

The Holy Spirit gives a manifestation (external evidence, gift, spiritual ability) to each Christian to be used for the profit of the other parts of the body for the overall health and growth of the body.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NKJV)

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:11, NKJV)

 

A body is healthy only when all its parts are there and functioning according to their design. When a part of our body is not functioning or is functioning weakly, our body is not healthy and not growing as it should. The same is true of the body of Christ. Every part has a function. Every part is connected to every other part and must be aware of the impact it would have on the other parts of the body if it does not function as it should. There are no individual parts of the body just floating out in space. All parts are interconnected and have the same life and spirit flowing through them.

from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16, NKJV)

But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And 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.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor… But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
(1 Corinthians 12:20–27, NKJV)

Spiritual Gifts Listed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12

Word of wisdom                                                                          Mercy

Word of knowledge                                                                     Leading

Faith                                                                                                Giving

Healings*                                                                                       Exhortation

Miracles*                                                                                       Teaching

Prophecy1                                                                                       Serving

Discerning spirits                                                                          Administration

Tongues*                                                                                       Helps

Interpretation of tongues*

Many of these characteristics, such as faith and giving, should be present generally among God’s people. But some are especially gifted by the Spirit in these areas.

There may be additional gifts not listed here, but many of these gifts cover a lot of areas. Gifts such as serving, faith, or helps have a broad range of applications.

God gives some men gifts to be used to equip others to do the ministry.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men…. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:7–13, NKJV)

And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers….
(1 Corinthians 12:28, NKJV)

The main point to remember is that you as a Christian have been given one or more of these gifts. God has given the gift to be used in and with the local body of Christ. There should be a consciousness and awareness of the rest of the body and how your gifts are serving for the edification of others so that the body is made stronger and healthier “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13). This is to be intentional. It does not just happen. Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about this when instructing them about communion. It wasn’t general secret sins that Paul warned them about resulting in “some are weak and sickly among you and many sleep,” it was not discerning the Lord’s body. The body of Christ, the fullness of God,  with its many members was right there among them and they didn’t see it. They were just interested in themselves and making sure their personal needs were met.

For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Corinthians 11:29, NKJV)

Questions each Christian must ask himself:

  1. What is the gift or gifts the Holy Spirit has given me?
  2. How am I using my gift in the church to serve the Body?
  3. Am I a healthy member of the body functioning and interconnected with others?
  4. How is my gift strengthening the body, building up others in the body and helping the body to grow and mature?

*We believe these were special gifts given to the church to authenticate the apostles’ message and are no longer widely active today. This does not mean that God cannot or does not use these gifts in some special circumstances today.

1By prophecy we mean the Spirit enabled proclamation of the truth of Scripture, not the foretelling the future.

 

Hymn for Today: Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery

VERSE 1
Come behold the wondrous mystery
in the dawning of the King.
He the theme of heaven’s praises
robed in frail humanity.

In our longing, in our darkness
now the light of life has come.
Look to Christ, who condescended
took on flesh to ransom us

VERSE 2
Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man.
In His living, in His suffering
never trace nor stain of sin.

See the true and better Adam
come to save the hell-bound man.
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
of the law; in Him we stand.

VERSE 3
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree.
In the stead of ruined sinners
hangs the Lamb in victory.

See the price of our redemption;
see the Father’s plan unfold.
Bringing many sons to glory
grace unmeasured, love untold.

VERSE 4
Come behold the wondrous mystery;
slain by death the God of life.
But no grave could e’er restrain Him;
praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance;
how unwavering our hope.
Christ in power resurrected
as we will be when he comes.

Why “Go to Church”?

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s admonition to the church in Ephesus in chapter 4. Last time we discovered that we are to walk or live in a manner that is worthy of who we are as called sons of God. The last thing we talked about was the fact that the Spirit gives unity to the body.  We are to maintain this unity as we live and worship together. Just as our spirit pervades our entire body and gives unity to it, the Spirit of God does the same for Christ’s body, the church.

I have a concern that we have developed and maintained a cultural view of the church. We hear people ask, “Where do you go to church?”  Sometimes people will refer to someone who has stopped “going to church.” Church is more like a club to join rather than a living body that has the life of the Spirit flowing through it.

Let’s take a quick look at what Paul writes in Ephesians 4. In verse 11 he tells us that God has given gifts to the church, namely apostles, prophets, evangelists and teaching-pastors. Why are these individuals given to the church? He writes that they are given so that the saints are equipped to do the work of the ministry. This tells me that there should be no fringe members. By fringe members I’m talking about those who show up for a worship service and leave again and are not involved at all in the ministry to one another that occurs within the body of Christ. I’m not just speaking about ministry that happens in the church building but among the members of the body throughout the week. The kind of ministry or service to one another that should occur within the body requires equipping or training. We all need to be taught how to minister to one another.

In any area of life where there are skills that need to be learned, we need to be taught and shown how to do it by someone who knows how – the teacher. Sometimes there are things we don’t know we need to know and so we are coerced in some way to be trained. This happens for children in school and it happens sometimes at the workplace. In the church setting, we rely on the working of God’s Spirit within the hearts of his people to seek the opportunities for the equipping needed in the local church.

The purpose of this equipping is so that the body will be built up until we call come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God with the goal of reaching the stature of the measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13). This is a lofty goal. And in this context it is not so much an individual goal as a body goal. He goes on to elaborate on this in the next couple of verses.

For our purposes today, let’s jump down to verses 15 and 16. Here we see in this edification and growing process we are to grow up in all things into him who is the head of the church, which means Christ.

But verse 16 I think is crucial for expanding our vision of the church and its functioning. The first words in verse 16 are “From whom.” The whom is Christ. From Christ, the whole body…. Now we need to access the English grammar part of our brain. What is the main verb of this phrase? And yes it is important to know this. From Christ the whole body causes the growth of the body, for the edifying of itself in love. So Christ, working throughout the whole body causes the growth of the body. The implication is that this occurs when the body is functioning effectively and properly.

How does it do this? First we notice it is the whole body, not just part of the body. That means everyone who is truly a member of the actual body of Christ, not those who simply gain membership in the local church. Next we see that it is “joined and knit together by what every joint supplies.”  Each part of the body is described as doing its part. “Every joint” is a phrase used to stand for each member of the body. But Paul makes this more explicit as he goes on to speak of the effective working as each part does its share. It is this functioning of each individual part doing its share that enables the body to cause the growth of itself. This is analogous to our human body. When each part is functioning and doing what it was designed to do, the body grows and is strengthened.

When there are “members” of a church that are not functioning according to the gifts the Holy Spirit has given them, the church will not be building itself effectively. It might be possible for individuals who are members on paper not to actually be members of the body of Christ. They may be members by profession but not in reality and practice. It seems to me that one of the things we as church leaders need to focus on is building the understanding necessary and the patterns and procedures that will enable and encourage a biblical view of church life. In such a climate, easy church membership without actual functioning in that role would not occur as frequently as it does now in many churches.

I believe that part of this process is establishing an effective and church-wide climate of disciple-making. If a church were to have a dynamic, effective and ongoing practice of discipleship so that actively engaged Christians were the ones admitted into membership, perhaps those who don’t really have an interest in growing together in relationship with others and who don’t have an interest in serving together in the local church would weed themselves out. But if people continue to see church membership as meaning merely somewhat regular attendance at a worship service, we will continue to perpetuate a non-disciple-making climate and the body will not be edified and the glory of Christ won’t be displayed the way God would have it to be.