Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Why The Christian Needs Church Body-Life
Ephesians 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."
As a runner, I have to make sure my body is working properly. The effect on how I run is felt whenever aches and pains appear. A sore muscle or painful joint can cause missteps or slower times. One of the things I have learned about the human body is how certain parts of the body will compensate to cover for a weak or malfunctioning part.
In running, reference is made to what is called "the kinetic chain", which runs from the base of the neck; down through the spine, across the back; arms and all the way through the chest; abdominal core; down through the legs and bottoms of the feet. All parts of this chain must be exercised to ensure pain-free running. Amazingly, if one has sore knees, it could be due to a strained muscle in the middle of the back. Why? Because the knees are having to take on extra work to compensate for that weakened muscle.
The body-life analogy as applied to the church
Whenever the Apostle Paul uses the analogy of the human body to describe the church - the organic relationship between parts of a physical body captures what ought to be the spiritual interrelationships between Christians in a local church. Elmer Towns writes about this Biblical analogy of the church as a body in his book: "Theology For Today", page 636:
"The picture of the body is the most used analogy of the church. The Bible represents Christ as the head, and the church as the body. The members of His body are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head (Eph. 4:15). In the husband-wife relationship, Christ is the head of the church, the Savior of the body (Eph. 5:23). Christ is to be placed first in all things because He is the head of the body, the church (Col. 1:18). Paul's sufferings for the Colossian Christians were done on behalf of Christ's body which is the church (Col. 1:24). Christ is also the source and supplier of all growth to the body (Col. 2:19). Christians are part of the body and part of one another."
Towns goes onto describe other metaphors which are used to describe the church in the New Testament: body, building, bride, flock, garden, family and priesthood. All of these serve to highlight a particular function of the church under the purposes of God as He empowers it by His Spirit to point others to Jesus Christ in the Gospel.
The need for body-life in the life of the Christian
Ephesians 4:1-16 is one of several verses in the New Testament that stresses the importance of body-life. Why is church body-life (that is, the ministry of the local church as so composed of truly regenerate church members who have followed through with believer's baptism) so important?
Jesus was the first to tie together the organic unity of Christians unto Himself. In John 15:5 we read: "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
Jesus lays out the blueprints for His church in Matthew 18 and prays for her unity in John 17. To say the local church is important to Jesus is the greatest of understatements. Truly we know the church is important to Jesus, since He paid for her by His blood (Acts 20:28).
When we consider Paul's statements about the importance of body-life in the Christian life, we can note three reasons from Ephesians 4:1-16, as seen in the brief outline below:
1. God calls all Christians to body-life. Ephesians 4:1-6.
Three times in the opening verses of Ephesians 4:1-6 we find reference to body-life as being a "calling" (see 4:1 and twice in 4:4). When God calls us, that means it is not optional - its required! But notice secondly why church body-life is important...
2. God calls all Christians to minister in body-life. Ephesians 4:7-12
We find in this section of Ephesians 4:7-12 three types of ministries to which the Christian is called to do in the body of Christ:
a. Minister by the over-flow of His presence. Ephesians 4:7-10
b. Ministry of attendance to His word. Ephesians 4:11-12a
c. Minister to bless others. Ephesians 4:12b
This means then that there is no room for a "me, myself and I" attitude in the local church. Then notice a third reason why church body-life is important for the Christian....
3. God calls all Christians to mature by body-life. Ephesians 4:13-16
This particular part of Ephesians 4 details the ways in which Christ has designed the local church to mature us in our faith. Note how we are to mature by church body-life:
a. Maturity in our doctrine. Ephesians 4:13 cf 1 Timothy 4:13-16
b. Maturity in our discernment. Ephesians 4:14 cf 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 and Heb 5:14
c. Maturity in our conduct. Ephesians 4:15
d. Maturity in our relating to one another. Ephesians 4:16.
The point of church body-life is to help me mature in my faith by what I know, where I go, how I act and how I treat others. We've observed three reasons why the Christian needs church body-life:
1. God calls all Christians to church body-life
2. God calls all Christians to serve in church body-life
3. God calls all Christians to mature by church body-life