The Functioning of the Body of Christ

 

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

December 8, 2002

The Functioning of the Body of Christ

Romans 12:3-5

In our study of Romans last week, we looked at the
foundational principle that is to guide us in our relationships
with one another in the church. In fact, it is the foundational
principle that should also guide us in our relationship God and
all other people.

Paul says in Romans 12:3, "For through the grace given
to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of
himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound
judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith."

As I pointed out last week, this is not an option for the
Christian for it is a command given on the basis of Paul’s
authority as an apostle. The Christian is to think rightly of
himself and not to become proud. At the same time, the Christian
is to boldly step out to do whatever God asks because of a
confidence that God can and will work through him or her to
accomplish His will.

Sound judgement in evaluating my self-worth comes in
recognition that man has value only as a result of being made in
the image of God for the purpose of God’s glory. Proper
self-esteem is based in knowing that though I am a sinner and
deserving nothing but God’s eternal condemnation, God
extended His love to me in mercy and grace to redeem me from my
sins through Jesus Christ’s atonement for my sin. He then
graciously imputed Jesus’ righteousness to me on the basis
of faith in Him, and has made me part of His family and
Christ’s body, the church. Through His Holy Spirit he has
gifted me to serve Him, and in doing so, I fulfill His will and
bring glory to His name. I have no other value except in that.
That is the reason that God created me. Therefore if I want to
have greater value, then I must be faithful to fulfilling
God’s will for my life and bring Him the maximum glory that
I can. I step forward to use my gifts in confidence that God will
fulfill His promises and enable me to serve Him to my maximum
capacity.

Paul’s command here is set in the context of having sound
judgement regarding how you are to regard yourself as part of the
church, the body of Christ. Paul says in verses 4 & 5. "For
just as we have many members in one body and all the members do
not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body
in Christ, and individually members one of another
."

In the coming weeks we will look at the issue of Spiritual
gifts including a study of the particular gifts mentioned in the
Bible so that you might better understand how God may have
equipped you and how to use those particular gifts, but for
today, I want us to concentrate on understanding what the church
is, and in particular, what it means that every Christian is part
of the body of Christ.

There are many metaphors used in the Scriptures to try and
describe the Church. The word "church" is from the
Greek, ejkklhsiva / ekkl’sia,
and means "called out ones." The church is that group
of people that God has called out from all people to Himself.
Let’s look at some of the metaphors used to describe the
church.

1. THE TEMPLE OF GOD. The analogy of a building used for the
worship of God is used by both Paul and Peter. Paul says in
Ephesians 2:19-22, "So then you are no longer strangers
and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are
of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of
the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner
stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is
growing into a
holy temple in the Lord; in
whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in
the Spirit."

Peter says in 1 Peter 2:5 "you also, as living stones,
are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to
offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus
Christ."

This metaphor describes the Church as a building, the Temple
of God, which is built to worship God. Its cornerstone is Jesus
Christ (1 Cor 3:10,11), and its foundation the Apostles and
Prophets who communicated to the us the doctrines of God.

We are the "living stones" of the building. The text
says we are the "livqo"
/ lithos" or "worked stones." These would be
stones chiseled to a certain shape to fulfill a certain purpose.
We are then "fitted together" to form the
building. We are not just any old stones taken from where-ever
and piled on top of each other. We were carefully chosen and
crafted to be joined to other stones to build a living, growing
building.

The purpose of this building is to be a "holy temple in
the Lord," "being built together into a dwelling of God
in the Spirit." We exist to bring glory and honor to God. We
exist to serve Him and not ourselves. When people look at us, the
church, they should see us as a community where the Spirit of God
dwells and the worship of God takes place. If each of us is
fulfilling our role, we will inspire others to come and worship
with us. If we are not, we will be unstable and others will be
hesitant to join us lest the building collapses on them.

#2. A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD – The metaphor that we are a royal
priesthood flows out of the metaphor that we are the Temple of
God. Peter used the analogy of the church being a "spiritual
house" in 1 Peter 2:5. In verse 9 Peter adds, "But
you are a │¬Ëœchosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a
people for God’s own excellencies of Him who has called you
out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a
people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received
mercy, but now you have received mercy."

God called us to Himself in salvation for a specific reason
and it was not so that we would escape hell and live happily ever
after. Escape of hell is a by-product of salvation, not its
purpose. He saved us so that we would be His own people. People
who by His mercy had been given light to receive God’s own
excellencies. Though Christians come from every race we are made
into one people, God’s own people. Just as Israel was chosen
and set apart from among all the nations to be His own, and they
still are, we are also chosen out from all nations to be grafted
in (Rom 11) as God’s own people. Our purpose is to be a "holy
nation,"
and a "royal priesthood." It
becomes incumbent on us then to fulfill that which we were chosen
to do.

What is the function of a priest? First, to worship God. As
verse 5 says, we are to "offer up spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
Rom. 12:1 says
we are to be "living sacrifices."

The other function of a priest is to be a mediator between man
and God. We are to bring those who are still in the darkness into
the light by proclaiming the good news of Lord Jesus Christ to
them.

These two metaphors speak to the purpose of the church in the
worship of God and evangelism of the lost. The next metaphor
speaks of our relationship to Christ.

3. THE BRIDE OF CHRIST. This analogy is referred to in several
different passages in several different manners. It is in a sense
the continuation of the metaphor used of God and Israel in which
Israel is portrayed as being God’s wife. In Rev. 19:7-10 the
account is given of the marriage of the Lamb and the Bride which
is Christ and the Church. This occurs prior to Christ’s
second coming. But other passages also infer the Bridal analogy.
In Eph. 5 Paul speaks of the relationship that a man and woman
are to have in marriage. The groom is to love his wife "just
as Christ also loved the church."
In verse 32 he adds, "This
mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and
the church."
The Bride’s response is found in vs 24
"But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the
wives to their husbands in everything."
We are to
respond to Christ in that way. We are to be subject to Him, and
that submission is easy because we know that He loves us and is
looking out for our best interest. Jesus is certainly fulfilling
His role as the groom, but how are we doing in our role as His
bride? Do you bring honor to your beloved savior by your behavior
toward Him?

4. MISCELLANEOUS METAPHORS.

There are several other metaphors used of the church. In John
15 and Romans 11 an agricultural analogy is used. In John 15 we
are branches which draw our lives from the vine. In Romans 11 we
are wild olive branches grafted into the cultivated Olive tree of
Israel. We draw our lives from Christ. Without Him we perish.
Feeling shriveled up as a Christian? Maybe you had better check
to make sure you are drawing your life from Christ and not some
other source.

Another metaphor is that of Shepherd and sheep. Jesus is
referenced as a shepherd (John 10:11) and those who believe in
Him are called His flock (1 Pet 5:2). This gives us some
understanding of the nature of believers and the relationship the
church has with its leaders. Shepherds lead, feed, guard and
protect. Paul charged the Elders at Ephesus to shepherd the flock
that "the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,"
(Acts 20:28). Peter says the same thing in 1 Pet. 5:2 "shepherd
the flock of God among you."
The term "pastor"
(Eph 4:11) is simply the Latin word for "shepherd."
The church is seen as sheep who need shepherds. Christ is the
chief shepherd (Jn 10:4), and He has given the flock
undershepherds, Elders, to carry out His work among the sheep.

Now lets turn our attention to what is the most significant
metaphor in describing the nature of the church, especially in
how it functions. It describes not only the relationship of the
church to Christ, but also of individuals within the church to
one another and how they all work together.

5. THE BODY OF CHRIST. This analogy is used by the Apostle
Paul in four New Testament books (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, Eph 1&4,
Col 1&2). In Colossians 1:18, Paul simply points out that
Jesus Christ is "head of the body, the church."
In Col. 2:19 he adds that Christ is the head that supplies what
the body needs for it to grow, and that growth is from God.
Interesting to footnote here that even in biology, the hormone
that stimulates growth comes from the pituitary gland which is
located in the head!

Here in Romans 12:4,5 Paul simply says, "For just as
we have many members in one body and all the members do not have
the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ,
and individually members one of another."
That is, a
body is made up of many individual parts that all fit together.
So too is the body of Christ which is made up of many different
parts which all fit together. Paul goes on to describe some of
the spiritual gifts which fit together to make up the body of
Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gives the greatest explanation of
this body analogy. He starts in 1-7 stating that all spiritual
gifts, the ministries in which they are used, and their impact on
people are all given by God according to His own will.

Verse 4, "There are varieties of gifts, but the same
Spirit."
The Holy Spirit is the same for all Christians,
but He gives different gifts given to different people. Every
Christian is given a spiritual gift or gifts by which they are to
serve the Lord. There are all sorts of spiritual gifts including
teaching, administering, helping, showing mercy, giving,
exhorting, leading and many more.

Verse 5, "there are varieties of ministries, but the
same Lord."
The Lord is the same for all Christians, but
He will use those different gifts in different Christians in a
variety of ministries as He chooses. To use the gift of teaching
as an example, there are many ministries in which the people who
have this gift use it. It could be used in some specific ages –
children, youth or adults. Or in different settings – Worship
services, Sunday School, Mid-week program, home Bible studies,
prisons, hospitals, or other outreach efforts. It can be used in
different formats – preaching, interactive discussion, story
telling, drama, music, puppets, art, and writing.

Verse 6, "there are varieties of effects, but the same
God who works all things in all."
God is the same for
all Christians, but the effectiveness of those different gifts
used in different ministries will also be different – ACCORDING
TO GOD. My gift of teaching used in preaching is used by God for
all of you. Others of you here use your gift of teaching in a
small group, or maybe just one to one in discipleship. There are
also those like John MacArthur, Charles Stanely, Chuck Swindoll,
James Kennedy, etc. whose gift of teaching is used by God on a

national or even international scale.

The bottom line is that God has gifted you to serve Him, but
the gift given, the ministry that the gift(s) is used in, and the
effectiveness of the gift is up to the Lord, not you. Verse 11
states it, "But one and the same Spirit works all these
things
distributing to each one individually just as He
wills
."

In verses 8-11, Paul describes some of the gifts given by the
Spirit. We will be going into detail about all the gifts in a few
weeks, but for the rest of this morning, look at the description
of church Paul gives in the rest of the chapter.

Starting in verse 12, Paul stresses the necessity of all the
parts of the body of Christ working in harmony with one another.
This is the same thing he said in Romans 12:4,5. Verse 12 "For
even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the
members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also
is Christ.

The analogy of a body is a fitting description of the Church.
We all easily recognize that the body is both diverse and
unified. The body has all sorts of parts to it – arms & legs,
hands & feet, a waist, a chest and a head with eyes, ears,
nose and mouth. Yet all of these parts together make up one
entity, a body.

The church is the visible manifestation of Christ in the
world. The church is the body of Christ. It is one entity, yet is
made of up many different parts. Just as the head isn’t
attached where the feet are, so the people who make up the church
live in different places. Just as each body part serves a
different function, i.e., the big toe doesn’t do what the
ear does & vice a versa, so God gives believers different
gifts. And just as you can do more with one of your hands than
the other, so God gives different ministries and different power
to the saints that make up the church. Yet with all this
diversity, the church is still just one entity, the Body of
Christ.

The reason for this unity is seen in verse 13. For by one
Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or
Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of
one Spirit.
Regardless of our genetic, cultural or economic
background, all of us who belong to Jesus became part of this
body in the same way every believer is indwelt by the Holy
Spirit.

Now before I go on, I want you to make careful note of this
verse and this passage because it corrects a lot of the nonsense
that goes on in charismatic churches concerning the baptism of
the spirit and speaking in tongues. Pentecostal and charismatic
theology teach two tiered Christianity. The first level is
salvation. The second level is being baptized by the Holy Spirit
which is evidenced by speaking in an unknown tongue. This verse
along with Romans 8:9 ("But if anyone does not have the
Spirit of Christ, he is none of His"
) makes it plain
that unless a person is "baptized by the Holy Spirit"
they are not Christians, and every Christian is indwelt (made to
drink, cf. John 7:37-39 & 1 Cor. 2:12; Gal. 3:2) by the Holy
Spirit. The passage shows that the manifestation of the Spirit
could be in any of the spiritual gifts. Don’t ever let
anyone tell you that you are not "baptized in" or do
not have the Holy Spirit because you do not speak in tongues.
That claim is in direct violation of the Bible, and anyone saying
such a thing is either quite ignorant of the Scripture or a false
teacher. We will look at this more closely as we talk about the
different gifts of the Spirit over the next few weeks.

In verse 14-20 Paul restates his thesis and then goes on to
illustrate the absurdity of one member of the body thinking they
are not part of the body because they are not the part they
wanted to be. For the body is not one member, but many. If the
foot should say, │¬ËœBecause I am not a hand, I am not a part
of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part
of the body. And if the ear should say, │¬ËœBecause I am not an
eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason
any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye,
where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where
would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members
each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if they
were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are
many members, but one body . . . "

Obviously when we look at our own bodies we realize that every
part is needed in order to make up a whole body. Every part is
needed in order for the body to function. Everyone in the church
is needed for the church to fulfill its God given purposes. There
are no "small" or "unimportant" gifts or
ministries. No one in the church should refrain from getting
involved because they do not think they can do anything
important.

Paul makes ludicrous statements in verse 17 in order to bring
that point out. Imagine if the whole body were one big eye. You
would make the National Enquirer, the Midnight Star and be
featured on television talk shows, but it would do you no good
because you could not hear, walk, talk or eat. Same thing would
be true if you were one big ear, or one big nose or any other
body part. The same is true in the church. If everyone was a
preacher, who would minister to the children. If everyone worked
with kids, who would help the sick. If everyone helped the sick,
who would repair the facilities, etc. Paul’s outrageous
illustration gives us a clear focus that everyone in the church
is needed, and as he says in verse 18, God equips and puts each
person in the body just where He wants them. There are many
members, but one body.

Paul goes on in verses 26-27 to stress the need of every
person using their gift. He starts out by saying that there is no
room in the church for prideful people who think only what they
do is important. Verse 21, "And the eye cannot say to the
hand, │¬ËœI have no need of you’; or again the head to the
feet, │¬ËœI have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is
much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker
are necessary.
Again Paul uses an absurdity to bring out his
point. The eye needs the hand and the head needs the feet. It
takes every member of the body for it to function properly. The
same is true in the church. Tragically, there are those that
would think their particular gifts and ministries are the most
important ones, and so they look down on other people. But the
truth is those things which are often thought of as the most
important because they are out front and visible are not as
important as what is behind the scenes.

For example, in terms of our physical bodies we give a lot of
attention to things like our face, hair and general appearance.
Cosmetic advertisers would make you think that those things
determine your self worth. We also give a lot of honor to our
hands and their ability to accomplish tasks. But lets be honest
about it. Could you get by if your hair color wasn’t
perfect? Ladies, can you survive even if your lipstick is not the
right shade to match your clothes? Can you live a wonderful life
even if your face is getting older and starting to take on the
characteristics of a prune? Of course. Could you make it if your
were missing one of your physical faculties such as sight,
hearing, smell, taste or the use of your legs or hands? It would
be more difficult, but certainly you can live and succeed. But if
you are missing one of the body parts not thought of often, your
"weaker" or more "feeble" parts, and you will
find out quickly how necessary they are. How long can you make it
without a heart, lungs, kidneys or liver? In fact, when was the
last time you gave serious contemplation to the care and well
being of your liver or pancreas, hypothalamus, or adrenal gland?
Yet all of them are necessary because without them, you are dead.

So it is in the church. The preacher is probably the most
visible person in the church, and after those who minister in
music. But you know something, the church can get along without
me. The church can get along without music. The church can get
along without this building. But you know what this church cannot
get along without? Faithful people praying. Faithful people
telling their friends, neighbors and co-workers about Jesus
Christ. Faithful people calling one another to encourage and help
one another. Faithful people discipling younger Christians.
Faithful parents instilling in their children virtue and the
knowledge of God. All of those are absolutely necessary for the
church to exist.

Take away the preacher, the music ministry and the building
and the church will be hindered from what it could be, but it
will survive and continue to accomplish God’s purposes. This
has been the case for the body of Christ under the severe
persecution that has existed in the Communist countries. But if
these more hidden ministries do not exist, the church will become
sick and eventually die. Such has been the case in so many of the
mainline churches which can have great orators, wonderful music
and beautiful buildings, but the body itself is either extremely
sick or dead. God gifts each individual Christian with spiritual
gift(s), and if they are not used, the whole body suffers. The
"unseemly" gifts, those which are behind the scene, are
often the most important.

Paul goes on to say in verse 23, "and those members of
the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more
abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more
abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have not need of
it. But God has so composed the body, given more abundant honor
to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in
the body, but that the members should have the same care for one
another."

Don’t get lost in the words "seemly and
unseemly" or "comely and uncomely" in the KJV.
Paul is simply referring what is exposed and what is covered with
clothes. In our physical bodies most of our bodies are covered
by, or at least should be covered by clothing. Only a small
portion is exposed. In the church, there are ministries which are
public and get a lot of attention. There are also ministries that
are done behind the scenes and get little attention. Paul point
here is simply to stress that there should not be any division in
the body, and that every member should be cared for.

We are all in this together, and as Paul puts in verse 26, "And
if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one
member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are
Christ’s body, and individually members of it."

That brings out the final aspect of this body metaphor. We are
all nit together. What I do affects you, and what you do affects
me. What each of us does affect the body’s ability to serve
the Lord. Every member is important and no member can be
prideful. If you are a true Christian, then God has equipped you
to serve Him in some way. If you are not using your gifts, then
at best, you still leave this body handicapped. The body
functions improperly. We limp along when we should be running. At
worst, you leave this body sick to one degree or another. Your
failure to use your gift could be a nuisance such as a cold
usually is to our physical body, or it could be a distraction
such as a sinus infection might be, or it could be life
threatening, such as a serious injury or disease might be to the
physical body.

My challenge to you this morning is to start praying about how
God can use you. God has gifted you. Do you know what your gift
or gifts are? More important, are you using them? Every member of
the body is important. You are either helping the body fulfill
its purpose in glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ, or you are
hindering it.

We will be looking at the subject of spiritual gifts in the
coming weeks in order to learn how we can better use what God has
given to us for his glory.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * *

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply
God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear
during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at
lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following:
1) Count how many times "body"is used in referring to
the church and how many times it is used referring to the
physical body. 2) Discuss with your parents what the nature of
the church and how you fit into it.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing
the sermon with others.

What does it mean to have "sound
judgement" in Romans 12:3? Set it in context of verses 4,5?
What does the word "church"
ejkklhsiva / ekkl’sia, mean? Explain the meaning of the following
analogies of the church: The "Temple of God" (Eph.
2:19-2, 1 Peter 2:5); A "royal priesthood" (1 Peter
2:9); The "bride of Christ" (Rev. 19:7-10; Eph. 5:32);
Branches (John 15); Sheep (John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:2; etc.). What
are the functions of a priest? What Bible passages use the
analogy of a body to describe the church? What are the spiritual
gifts listed Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. What gift or gifts
do you think you have? What are some of the various ministries in
which that gift(s) could be used? What are some of the
"effects" or "powers" by which that gift(s)
can be used in the various ministries? Who determines the
ministry, effect and gift(s) of each Christian? How is the
physical body analogous to the church? How is a person
"baptized" into the body? When does this occur? What
sign(s) indicated a person has been so baptized? Can any one part
of the body exist apart from the rest of the body? Why or why
not? What are the "stronger" and weaker parts of the
body? What are the stronger and "weaker" parts in the
church? How important is each part? What are the results if you
do not use your spiritual gift? Are you using it (them). If not,
why not and when will that change?).

Sermon
Study Sheets

 

The Functioning of the Body of
Christ
Romans 12:3-5

Review

The Temple of GodEphesians
2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5

Royal Priesthood – 1
Peter 2:9

The Bride of Christ – Revelation
19:7-10; Ephesians 5:32

Misc. Analogies

Vine and BranchesJohn 15, Romans 11

Shepherd and flock John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28

The Body of Christ – Romans
12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 1, 4; Colossians 1:18

Varieties of Gifts, but the same Spirit (1 Cor.
12:4)

Varieties of Ministries, but the same Lord (1 Cor. 12:4)

Varieties of Effects, but the same God (1 Cor. 12:6)

Determination of all gifts, ministries and
effects (1 Cor. 12:11)

Baptism of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12,13)

Absurd Analogies (1 Cor. 12:14-20)

The necessity of the "Weaker" (1 Cor. 12:21-27)

A Crippled Church

Do you know what your gift or
gifts may be? Are you using them? If not, why not and what is
needed for that to change?