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.
Each of us as a Christian has a relationship with Jesus Christ, a personal intimate relationship− at least we can have such a relationship if we are willing to take care of it. That relationship however, is not just for our personal benefit; it is also for the building up of the Body of Christ, the church. According to Paul, we actually belong to each other. Each one of us has a role to play in the Body of Christ, a role developed and assigned by Christ Himself, or as we often say, “He has a plan for each of us.”
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 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. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
In these verses we gain a bit more insight into this process; we have all been given one Spirit “to drink”, the Holy Spirit who indwells us. The Holy Spirit will manifest Himself in each of us in different ways to build up the Body of Christ, the church, and none of us are a whole body in ourselves. We are “complete” in the Body of Christ as each of us does our part. Therefore, we must not only have relationship with Jesus on our own, but also in community with other believers, and obviously we call this community the church.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 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.
Paul takes us another step forward in these verses. Note that it begins with the mention of 5 manifestations of the Holy Spirit; we call these manifestations “spiritual gifts”. Notice also that they (and all of the other spiritual gifts) have a purpose greater than any one of us: The building up of the Body of Christ, the church. Through the building up of each of us into the Body of Christ “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature. We do not attain these things as “loners” and we really mustn’t let ourselves be fooled into thinking otherwise; it’s the Devil’s lie!
Here’s the really awesome part: When that happens, and only then, will we attain “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”.
Do you see how this works? No… do you really see it?
It begins with salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It continues with our relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit, and as we grow in relationship, we begin to see the Spirit made manifest in and through us in some way as we begin to be built up in the Body. We continue to serve in the Body as we continue to grow in maturity. We attain unity, understanding, healing, sight, wholeness, cleansing, love and justice; our lives are transformed. This is the “movement” that is the church, or at least what the church is supposed to be.
Are our local church bodies like this? To be honest and fair, I must say that some are and some are not; actually, since I said I’d be honest, most are not. Having made a study on the subject, I can report to you that there are three main reasons that a local congregation finds itself in the “not” column. The first reason is that it has become too rigidly institutionalized, yet even within an institutional structure, a local congregation can be transformed if its members will learn to think of church differently. The second reason is that a local congregation will be stuck in the way they’ve always done things with the result that form triumphs over substance. The form is “doing church”. The substance is relationship and community. Can this be corrected? Yes, when the members learn to think differently about church and relationship. The third reason is that the members of the local congregation think of relationship with the Lord as being just for them, and not in the framework of sharing and serving in the Body of Christ. This can be overcome by a leader in that congregation who will allow the Spirit to work through him (or her) to show the congregation they must cast their view outwardly instead of inwardly.
Here is a trustworthy saying of my own invention: Whatever the challenge may be, nothing is ever changed by the same old lazy thinking.
Here endeth the discussion I wanted to have with you; I hope you’ve found it interesting, even if you don’t agree; maybe it has challenged someone to think a little differently, and God willing, maybe someone might find it to be a catalyst for transformative action. In any case, I’d love your thoughts; please share them with the “Body” here on Word Press…
Next time, I’ll post a little epilogue just for the blogging community.