W W W W World Wide Web Witness Inc. Home Page Contents Page for Volume What is New
THE BODY OF JESUS CHRIST: HOW DOES IT GO!
FACT, FAITH, FORM AND FUNCTION
- Ephesians 4:11-16 esp. v. 16
Christ has given Himself: and being resurrected, by His Holy Spirit services His Church, brings in new children by adoption, and testifies of the truth (cf. Ephesians 1:11-14). One of the truths which today is our fare, is that of the body of Christ. It has no more to do with 'church attendance' than does a cricket team to do with 'attending the cricket afternoon.' You need to play, and in this case, act in the most co-operative fashion.
"In Him also we have obtained an inheritance,
being predestined according to the purpose of Him
who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation;
in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory" (cf. Romans 8:23 which speaks of the 'redemption of the body').
In the team of Christ, the body of His choosing, each is regenerated, each gains an inheritance, each is sealed by the Spirit as a guarantee of this, each is redeemed, each will be resurrected. Sports and spies, visitors from another realm, they may inhabit the precincts, but they have no part in the body (cf. John 6:70).
What then of the body of Christ, the functional collection of all believers ?
1. FUNCTIONAL and STRUCTURAL FACTS
Let each of the verses speak of its topic'
a) Verse 11 Here exposed to view are some of the gifts for the team. There are gifts for functionality, to perform specialised tasks, for apostles, prophets, teaching, for pastors, for evangelists ... There are others such as giving, showing brotherliness and supervision, involved in this way and that (Romans 12:7ff.).
b) Verses 12-13 A holy purpose for the body of Christ is now exposed. It is a matter of laying down the initial structures of the church, in people and propositions, in power and growth of vitality. It has an objective of unity for many in a matured faith and a life well-understood in the presence of Christ, Himself the Son of God, and prototype in perfection of the life of godliness while in the flesh.
c) Verse 14 The pitfall avoided for His people now comes into focus.
This is the fickleness of small comprehension, susceptibility to the plagues of deceivers, the toils of tricksters, crafty in cunning, lofty in discourse, agents of Satan (as in II Corinthians 11), like wolves lying in wait (Acts 20:29). Sects, spiritual seditions*1, such as liberalism, and the whole host of its latter-day spawn and colleagues are all involved, as is prosperity Christianity, where taking up your cross becomes a most prosperous proceeding and seems more like an airlift than anything which could be associated with a hissing, hooting or mocking crowd, while one is debased before one's fellows because of the love of Christ and the hatred of this world for His way (cf. John 16;:2-3, 15:20-22).
Consider for example the last word of Christ just given.
"Remember the word that I told you, The servant is not greater than his lord.
If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;
if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
"But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake,
because they do not know Him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them,
they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin..."
Just as Paul surveys the scene, so it is, and just as deceivers and tricksters in spiritual things were on display then (cf. II Corinthians11), so the more now as the apostle predicted (I Timothy 4:1ff., II Timothy 3 and especially II Timothy 4:1-4). The time will come, says Paul in the last segment noted, when they will not ENDURE sound doctrine, but will heap to themselves teachers of what is unsound, having itching ears, which long for the tittivation of non-truth from non-Christian sources with nondescript nothings and somethings gained from anywhere, and practised with guile.
Such is the apostolic account and so it has come to be. There is an intemperance, not only to be found in sects, but in sections, in approaches, in the very atmosphere and energy of spirit of dynamically misled man, and like a fast-spreading fungus, it swiftly seeks out the very interstices of the bread of life, which for those who love the Lord, is not exposed to this air-borne carrier!
Scorning the scorn, and bibulous with the draught of this world's appreciation, many follow the mind, the heart, the emotions, the success stories, the aims of this world, either in CEO or General's power plants at the personal leadership level, or in masses of human creeds compositing the thoughts of men, or in human philosophies, declaring the hearts of those who know not God, or combining this and that, like beach combers who play with the toys they find on the sand. They have philosophies to distance God, to induce Him into some kind of portability as in a mass, or as in the ideas which re-write the scriptures, or to bring Him so close that you become god, as in mormonistic thrills of self-development which end precisely where Eve began, or into feeling as in existentialism.
The body of Christ however has the Lord Jesus Christ as active, resurrected, immutable Head, equipped with all the power of God, since God He is, and the Bible neither knows nor admits any lesser 'god' (cf. Isaiah 44-45). God knows none! He tells us, and all of them are but idols (cf. Psalm 96). With God, you have it, or you don't. Infinity beyond time and space, beyond creation and over all, it is not a thing tossed about, like surfers on waves. It is illimitable, illustrious, sublime, supreme, and in Him is the Word of Life, and as trinity, He exists and works, to BE and to EXPRESS and to DIVULGE and DYNAMISE.
It is like a mountain stream from a lake: the lake is water and so is the stream which coming forth from it, declares its nature; and in this parable, the Holy Spirit is like the electricity which is generated at the Falls of the Cross, available in the homes of thousands, at work where the way in has been established through faith and the house is built by the Lord. Always there, the Spirit of God is now moving in the New Covenant in intimate and direct, extensive and Christ-focussing wonder, not speaking on His own authority but impelling to faith, to the results of it, to the fruit of it (John 16, Galatians 5 cf. John 16:7,13-15).
d) Verse 15 The Process in Contrast to that of Corruption. TRUTH is paramount, and love is its mode of expression. We recall "whom I love I chasten" (Revelation 3:19), however, and realise - even as parents or teachers - that love is no synonym either for laxity or indulgence: yet it does keep in mind and heart the good for the loved one, the vision for life for that one, and the spiritual zest needed to obtain it. Thus does the body grow up into the Head, the metaphorical body into the Master who is Head. Often when a person's head swims, he is said to be in confusion; here the Head never swims, but sometimes the members of the body are slow to swim through whatever torrents and cataracts the word of God may command, conscience dictate and duty call to overcome.
The Head - it needs to be consulted! He is the truth, and His living power can move any mountain (Mark 11:23ff.). This is a matter of experimental fact, as well as historical declaration as you see throughout the Bible, as the word of the Lord and the happenings to come matched as in a tartan; and do so to this hour, from the same biblical source (cf. SMR Chs. 8 - 9, The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet). A good reference in this regard is The Story of the Light that Never Went Out, by Augusta Cook and W. Stanley Martin, a classic of many years standing and enormous detail!
Let us now consider some practical outcomes for the individual.
2. A CONTEMPORARY WORD OF WITNESS TO THE WORKING
in Christ's Body
The Bible School to which my wife went for three years, in New Brunswick, Canada, cited something of point, pith and value, It helps us to realise the force of Paul's words in a modern setting, I am going to present this before we examine the next verse.
It begins like this.
"EVERY ONE ... A BELIEVER;
EVERY BELIEVER ... A DISCIPLE;
EVERY DISCIPLE ... A SERVANT;
EVERY SERVANT ... A MINISTER" -
this last indicating one actively engaged in seeking to meet the needs of others. The Bible School note continues in this way.
"A statement like this also raises a number of personal questions for each of us.
First and foremost is the question, "Are you a believer ?" More than likely , if you are reading this bulletin it is because you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and you have an interest in spiritual things. It is possible, whoever, that you are not yet a believer.
You have not yet received the free gift of Christ's death, burial and resurrection as payment for your sin. If you have not received the salvation won't you call out in prayer
to God today, believing on Him by faith thereby trusting in His redemptive work on your behalf ? There is only one Way to God. Notice what Jesus Christ had to say concerning salvation."
He then cites John 3:16, and John 14:6, the former detailing the motivation and purpose of God, and the provision of free salvation, the second indicating that the number of other options is ZERO.
"The second question," he resumes," implied in this statement is "Are you a disciple?" Our Lord Jesus Christ, in John 8:31 clearly stated, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." A disciple is one who remains under the influence of God's Word. Are you behaving according to the Word of God today ?
"The third question for us is "Are you a servant?" The biblical concept of servanthood for the believer is simply one who has willingly placed himself under the authority of God. The servant is solely occupied with his master's agenda, not his own. Are you occupied with the Will of God today ?
"The final question is "Are you a minister?" A minister is one who has believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, is under the influence of God's Word, is occupied with God's will and is actively engaged in ministering to the needs of others. Are you engaged in the Word if God in your local church today?"
3. FORM AND FUNCTION IN THE BODY - verse 16
In Verse 15, we learned that we were to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the Head, not some monster but Christ.
The next verse is remarkable. One good and careful translation might be this: following Christ:
"of whom the whole body being fitted (or compacted) together
and brought (or held) together
through every assisting joint,
according to the proportionate working together of each part,
produces the building up of itself in love."
In this account of the body, stressing synthesis of parts, proportionate supply for organic needs, structural felicity and organisational complexity and provision, there is a resultant stress on growth and love. It is as if the body's parts and schemes and procedures nestled, the one into the other, in an integral wholeness which leads to movement towards the strength of maturity. This is assured, certified and secured in the Head, which is Christ Jesus, into whose felicity and strength you grow up.
In spiritual terms - for it is an image for teaching purposes, an illustration: you can see how each one bears part of the total burden with another, through a close-knit and intimate, a designed and delightful alliance, where love is the key and the integral meaning of the whole is governed by the Head. Notice the intense mutuality and corporate teamwork, not given grudgingly, but in unison with the very spirit of the enterprise. It is not atoms, but organs, they are not thrown into the air, but compacted in a synthetic specialty; nor are they merely mechanical, but bound up into a tissue which moves the body, as the Head directs. Thus is the Church!
Innumerable parts in mutual regard and assistance are linked to the Head who has oversight in co-ordinating multiplicities. It rather reminds one of Revelation 7:16-18, the ultimate outcome, where the sheep are pastured and led to water with a gentle dexterity. So here do these vignettes exhibit just how far the people of the Lord talk together, act together and co-ordinated by grace, achieve growth at the Church level.
Here is a picture of a living church: not a spiritual garage for Sundays, but a living body*2.
But does a body clean and composed, result if the kidney should accuse the liver of dereliction of duty, and write biological letters of protest in acrimonious terms and unrelenting militance ? or does the urethra assist the due bearing of burdens mutually, if it goes on strike and refuses to attend the body because of what it deems excessive use of needlessly demanding fluids, albeit ones not in themselves unhealthy ? such as streams of Puritan literature, or exposes of spiritual poisons, themselves not poisonous ? Does it accommodate itself by the integral vision of all parts as they co-ordinate in gracious correlation, when the parts argue about what is NOT in their mandate, NOT in their constitution but desired by this or that part anyway, because of boredom, as when the ears itch and desire more aural food that is distasteful to the spirit and reckless and renegade in spirit and approach, as when they invent new doctrines of creation invisible in the Bible, or new ideas of Christ, contrary to it!
Does the last century and one half in its lurid substitutes for learning and State pre-occupation with disruptive, dispersive, neo-communist, supra-socialist, humanist machinations and inflictions on the young in the delusive name of education: does this make the body healthy ? Does it assist growth in grace and knowledge, when Christian (or indeed any other) children given total immersion in this ? Yet it is now the case in multiplied thousands of State-run schools, and in many so-called church schools! (cf. Beauty for Ashes Ch. 3, TMR Ch. 8 and contrast TMR Ch. 1).
This is the more obvious when one independent Schools speaker declared that OF COURSE they were toeing the line for evolutionary dynamics in their high-charging courses! Where is the backbone then ? is it a forgotten organ that it bends as if a sapling ? or snaps like stake grown rotten in its heart!
When bodies still sporting the name of 'churches' invent immorality as a mode of religion and practise it to the point of the pulpiteers' own declared involvement whether in principle or in practice (II Timothy 1:10), so that war on God is declared, by biblical definition (Isaiah 8:20), is this Head-directed helpfulness ? or is it to declare, Lord! Lord! and not to do the things that He has said! (Luke 6:46). Is there to be decapitation in the modern mode of revolting barbarity, instead of crucifixion of the relationship to Christ! of the Head in its mastery!
What then of such sexual licence and administrative revolt ? Is this to do justice to the reproductive phase of human life, so that its design is treated as if delusive, and man is made into some kind of a god, or something akin to a mutant spirit, able to delete design or declare independence from the Author of his physical assemblage! Is this that mutual regard of what is growing up into the Head! Is this not to head off the head, and what is that but decapitation!
Again, if bitter discourse and personal talk which is undifferentiable from slander slips into a church like a 6 foot brown snake, and lurks in the shadows of deluded minds, so that function is not furthered but forsaken because of it, and postulations come about this or that report which is unverified, unsubstantiated and not even partially proven, is this not precisely the case Paul denounces in II Corinthians 12:19-13:7. Let us consider this.
"We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.
For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be
outbursts of wrath,
backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;
lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you,
and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before
and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness
which they have practiced.
"This will be the third time I am coming to you.
'By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.'
"I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time,
and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before,
and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare -
since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me,
who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.
"For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God.
For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.
"Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-
unless indeed you are disqualified.
But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified."
When justice bows to unsanctified spiritual slander from spirits grown sleazy, for they do not bother to differentiate but follow every odour on the breeze like an undisciplined dog: Is the body then in harmonious fulfilment of its charter ? Were not 'stories' of Christ circulated that He had a devil ? This - did it disqualify Him except in the eyes of those whose ears were siftless, and spirits shiftless ? Or as to their report of His eating and drinking with sinners, which no doubt could be adorned, was this not sufficient for the sluggish in heart, to disqualify the Saviour Himself! And when this is done, how is the sinner saved!
Disqualify Christ and where is your salvation ? Anoint yourself as a speaker in contradistinction to His words, and where is your life ? Is it not your own! If Paul warned Corinth, does the word of God not now warn many, for there is no difference, and god-invention can come by many ways. The gods invented, however, they are idols; for the God who is invented us, and told us His will in words, first to the body in the DNA and related modes, and then in the Bible, which explained the first and described the disasters of disregarding His design whether of body or for soul! (cf. Proverbs 1).
If Paul had visited some of our 'churches' today, and he made known his concern at the distempers mentioned in this passage in II Corinthians in the might of the Master, as he did, what would be the result! Many a body calling itself a church, we can find from Revelation 1-3 and the conditions shown in the letters there to the churches, is in the most severe liability for removal from the light-bearing function! What light comes from darkness, and what radiance from rebellion! (cf. Isaiah 8:20, I Samuel 15:2-23).
Then Samuel said:
"Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king."
What is shown there in regality, must be seen in reality in many modes!
If they do not speak according to the word of God, Isaiah declares, there is no light in them! The word of God allows for righteous indignation; but this is not searing slander, nor doctrinal deviation nor yet again is it lax lassitude, as if love were sentimentality and truth were a fiction crucified and left there!
Sometimes, there are revivals*3 as in Wales, in Scotland in the 19th century, yes in the USA, and in many lands; and these revive bodies moving increasingly to act like holiday resorts from the Gospel, from the word of the Lord, instead of work camps for its actualisation in life!
These revivals can and do sweep in ways astonishing and move with marvels, generating by the power of the Spirit, the conviction, the conversion of many nominal members, the broken hearts of the proud and the repentance of the rebellious; but at other times, churches continue to abide, and to attest, to find the cordial graces of God, the lovingkindness of His Spirit in action and exhibit not a half-cancelled letter of grace, but a living epistle from the divine writer, who writes on our hearts His laws and ways (Hebrews 10:16-17, Jeremiah 31:31), ennobles the mind and activates the spirit (Ephesians 3:16), while His commands call with a clarity which no bugle can imitate.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs, like that just cited, leaves no doubt of the doughtiness of those who delight in the Lord! Such tests are often horrid in evil conception, just as the devious devices for making spiritual delinquents are horrible in design*4; but the result is a test which attests the truth, not only in spirit but in word and and wonder.
It is the Lord who anoints those who suffer for Him, with the Spirit of grace and glory (I Peter 4:12-14). That is a wonder of grace and a work of glorious compassion, more real than Autumn leaves or Summer sands, and more excellent that the surging surf; for it is the work of love in a world which given liberty, exercises talons, and given love, seeks sex, given government by God exercises rebellion by giddily gyrating its grant, which founded in order abounds in disgraceful disorder, and given time, ignores it!
Time however, as in any other examination, at the end, is up; and that word: Time please! it comes even if the preceding three hours went on almost like a life-time. It is time to awaken. It comes; and then it goes, and it takes much with it. It has been so in empires, in predicted nations fulfilling the prophetically appointed course; and it is true of the world which whirs and whirls into the eventual annihilation foretold by Peter in II Peter 3, where it dissipates in enormous noise and heat! Such forecasts come like Autumn, at their time, and the time is seen to be approaching the faster, ever since the atomic bomb: but this time, this Autumn, this woeful Winter that surpasses any Summer:it comes but once!
In the meantime, rejoice whoever you are (unless the devil), that it has not come yet, that it will come and that when Christ is the Head and you are in the body through the entry of faith and the objective reality of the Procurer in redemption, Jesus the Just One (Ephesians 1, John 10, Romans 3:23ff., Acts 3:14ff.)! Then is the time of the end (Matthew 24:12); and it is for those out of the aura and body of Christ, awry in rebellion an examination which cannot be borne; for then it is a purging of evil works which no more lurk. Yet it is also the institution of a haven beyond all that man may hope, in the creative construction of the God of creation, without whom nothing would be the result of nothing, and nothing would be.
It is then that the body of Christ, being in its final resting place finds the reality of Revelation 7:14-17. Yet then, those who are so found with Him, they have been with Him all the time or like the thier on the Cross, from their time of coming and all who have been known as His own from the first (Ephesians 1:4), these are there on that same Gospel in that same grace which was the focus of Christ and the feature of mercy. This glorious end, like that amazing creation, it is His word; and the ultimate, it is simply a new haven under the same management, known ever so well for so long beforehand (cf. John 10:27-28, Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Wonderful are His ways, marvellous is the knowledge of Him; and small wonder is this, since He both has made us and provided redemption for the folly of misfashioning our lives with our liberty, so precious to obtain, so staggering to regain.
*1 On this, see ...
The Frantic Millenium ... Ch. 9 , Ch. 2, End-note 1A,
Things Old and New Chs. 9,10 Epilogue, Appendix (sects, politics and philosophies, their tedious, torturous tapestries); Ch. 7;
verbal sects (Barbs... 2).
News 79, Wake Up World! ... Ch. 1, p. 15,
Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 9 incl. p.126 (esp. Mormons - also see News 74 and News 46, which also touches the 'idealism' of the Olympics and the nature of it sometimes shown);
Bright Light ... Ch. 10, *4 , Journey to God or Fantasy's Flight to the Infernal Ch. 2, (Mormonism);
Biblical Blessings Ch. 12, Appendix I, II and III (esp. Seventh Day Adventism);
Galloping Events Chs. 1, 2 , 3, 4, 8 (British Israelitism and other insurgencies);
News 78, End-note 1, 79; ; SMR p. 701,
Lead Us Not into Temptation Ch. 5, pp. 192ff., End-note 50;
Spiritual Refreshings Chs. 3, 11; 15 (Christ, the assessor, in the infinity of deity),
Answers to Questions Ch. 6 and TOAN 2, 5 , Appendix;
Joyful Jottings 14 (esp. J.W., but many others in category);
Acme,Alpha and Omega ... Ch. 9, Tender Times for Timely Truth Chs. 7, 8 - TTT 8, review with reference to Satanic plan;
News 121, 122; The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet Ch. 2, Beauty for Ashes Ch. 3 (world-wide);
BAB Appendix III; SMR p. 701, Know ... 31 (freemasonry).
The thing forecast is the thing now seen. This spiritual diversion, divagation, looting, lusting, this poisoned cornucopia of abundance: it is epidemic in proportions, pandemic in spread, ideologically intemperate, rationally exempted, spiritually seductive and passionately pursued. It incorporates false prophecies of old, in new formats, old philosophies in transition to synthesis with modern variants, haunting of the spirit, hunting of souls, the original Eve work of seeking for man a place in the arena of God, instead of in the aura of being created.
See The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 3.
More Marvels ... Ch. 10, Wake Up World! ... Ch. 7 , Cascade of Truth ... Ch. 9, Overflight ... Ch. 1, Red Heart ... Ch. 9, The Impregnable Tower ... Ch. 3.
Consult: Dastardly Dynamics Ch. 6. The divine oversight is seen at length in the fascinating and edifying, indeed the magnificently impactive book of Job. For exposition on this, see
TRIALS, TESTS and TRIUMPHS in TEMPTATION.