The Church: Body Parts Working Together
Study Guide, September 5, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
Historically, September has been a ‘start-up’ month…the start-up of new projects, the start-up of the school year, the start-up of new programs, and so on. So we thought it would also be a great time to start-up a renewed emphasis on the wonder and the working of God’s church. So here we go.
It’s always refreshing to go back to the origins of things and see how and why they got started. Don’t you love that passage where Jesus says: “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matt 16:18 NASU There is nothing in this world that can stop Jesus building His church. No government, no terrorists, no persecutors, no anything on Earth can stop Jesus from building His church on Earth! And here Jesus is talking about His universal church from every tongue, tribe, and nation. And don’t you love it when you get to John describing the scene he sees before the throne of Heaven and he says, “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” Rev 5:9-10 NASU
That’s a preview of the future of the Earth right there! God’s people from every walk of life, living as one people, one race, the redeemed human race, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, reigning and ruling with their Lord and Savior upon the Earth. And by the way, there has never ever been anything such as ‘races’ upon the Earth. So many people are so completely confused and twisted in their thinking about that. There has been and will ever only be one race…the human race! It’s like what the Apostle Paul explained to the men of Athens: Acts 17:26-28- “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…” NKJV
God created one human race. It’s humans themselves that have falsely divided it. The falsehood that there are ‘races’ of humans is a lie from Hades. There is only one human race. What God intended in His creation was for people to celebrate the variety of all God’s creatures, from plants and animals to people, whom God created in the image of God. He intended that all of us would embrace the beauty and wonder of this variety, especially in each other; those of God’s created human race. And one day we will celebrate it all, but even now, God’s church was and is designed to be the picture to the world of Christ’s one body, with all of its great variety in their human creation and all of its great unity as fellow Brothers and Sisters in their spiritual re-creation in Christ! Wherever there has been repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, there is a fellow eternal Brother or Sister of yours, a fellow member of the Body of Christ! And each one is to be carefully and considerately treated as a member of the body of Christ, whom God loves as He loves each of us.
So that is Christ’s ‘Universal Church’ that Jesus is building. And yet, another fascinating thing about this is that Jesus has chosen to build His universal Church through the working together of His local church…or His local churches. That’s why much of the instruction of the New Testament is centered around Christ’s local churches worshipping and serving and working together. So, in tag-teaming with Pastor Robert’s really helpful teaching on the Body of Christ from Romans 12 we’ll now turn to the Apostle Paul’s other instructions to the Church, to us, from 1 Cor 12:12-28. Let’s first examine verses 12 and 13: “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. 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.”
So here is the revelation of the fact that as believers in Jesus Christ we have essentially become the ‘body of Christ’. Of course, we also know that ‘the body of Christ’ is synonymous with ‘the family of Christ’. But Paul uses ‘the body’ concept to especially help us to understand how intricately bound together we are with one another, and how essential it is then that we function as such; or work together as such. But also, verse 13 is the revelation to us of just how God formed us together as His body. Notice again: “…by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” Baptized? When we see or hear the word ‘Baptized’ we tend to think of the ceremony of ‘water baptism’, like we are observing after the service today. We think of the baptism of the Great Commission, where baptism is an outward dedication of the inward regeneration of the person who has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But Paul is teaching us here about ‘Spirit baptism’. And he reveals that this Spirit baptism is what placed us into God’s family or identified us with Christ’s body.
Also notice that, whereas water baptism is our dedication to follow Christ as His disciple, Spirit baptism is God’s regeneration of us whereby we are made both a member of His family and placed into the membership of His body. When you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you experience this ‘Spirit baptism’ in your soul. It is part of the ‘New Birth’ work of the Holy Spirit in which God causes our spirit that was dead, in trespasses and sin, to be resurrected to new life in Christ, and causes us to now be identified, or baptized into the very family and body of Christ. Again, this Spirit baptism of 1 Cor. 12:13 is related to our regeneration as a born-again child of God, whereas water baptism is related to our dedication to follow Christ as a disciple of God. It is very helpful and important to understand this distinction.
So now that Paul has revealed that part of the saving work of the Holy Spirit is to baptize or place us or connect us to the body of Christ, he then reveals how we each are to now function as parts of the body of Christ. And whenever I say that word, I will probably forever think of that VBS song that goes: “Give me umption in my gumption, help me function, function, function.” We have pointed this out before, but again, we all could use more ‘umption’ in our gumption, don’t you think? Maybe you could add that to your prayers, of: “Lord, please give me more umption in my gumption so that I may better function, function, function.” That’s power praying right there!
Now, let’s notice verses 14 through 26: “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because 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 says, “Because 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. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I 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; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 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.” NASU
Well now, sounds like we have new names to add to our identities…hand, ear, eye, feet…That would be a surprising addition to our own names. Some churches have name tags that they use when they come to church. The church I attended in college had boxes on the wall, and when you came for the service you would pick up your nametag and wear it. It was really helpful. Sometimes a friend of mine and I would be scheduled as Greeters for a while. His last name was ‘Potter’ and so we would often introduce ourselves as “He’s the Potter, and I’m the Clay.”
But really, what a fascinating passage! Sounds like we have our marching orders! Now, in the continued context of this passage, the Apostle is also explaining how the gifts of the Spirit are distributed throughout the ‘Body’ of the church and how they work together as God’s people work together. But one of the essential teachings in of all of this is that since God has made each of His spiritually re-born children to be a working part of His body, that each re-born child or each body part must do his or her part in working together with God’s body, God’s people, God’s church.
Each of us children of God, each of us ‘body parts’ has both a worship to offer and a work to do… ‘a worship to offer and a work to do’. And just like the health and strength and proper functioning of the physical parts of a body are dependent upon their connection and circulation with the rest of the body, so the health and strength and proper functioning of the spiritual parts of the body of Christ are dependent upon their connection and circulation with the rest of the body of Christ. And that connection and circulation and worship and service is in the context of Christ’s local churches.
And certainly, we have been going through an extremely difficult time for local churches because of the world-wide pandemic, but this design for the body of Christ in worshipping and serving together, as each one is able, has not changed. Thankfully, during this disruption and this interruption in the ministries of local churches, the church has been blessed to have this additional ‘Online’ connection in order to continue to worship together with one another, and even to worship together with those we wouldn’t have otherwise had that privilege, due to the distance between us. We have been blessed to worship with our foreign missionary families, like from Mozambique to Germany and from France to Bangkok (which is where our own children and grandchildren are) to local missionaries and other members who have moved to various parts of the state and country, to even my own sweet Sister Carol and dearest niece Kelly who often join in our worship from Idaho, and we have been able to make new connections with Brothers and Sisters in Christ around the county. What a blessing that is, indeed!
That’s why we said, ‘as each one is able’, because there have been many reasons that many have not been able to worship and fellowship and serve together in a local Bible believing, discipleship making, body of Christ; like for health-related reasons and such. That is understandable. God understands that, of course. But the goal is for ‘when you are able’ to then make it your goal to connect with your local Bible teaching/Gospel sharing church to worship and fellowship and serve together. It even behooves you to do so. And who doesn’t love that word ‘behoove’? So, it behooves you to move to interacting and serving in a local body of Christ. Remember, as a body part, your spiritual welfare is, in part, connected to what you receive through the circulation with other body parts in Christ’s local church. That’s just how God designed it. Now, again, when you are not able to act on this holy habit of fellowshipping with the body, God certainly compensates for that and helps you in your need. Sometimes a believer, for health reasons, is physically not able, and sometimes in our false gospel society, believers are just not able to find a Bible believing, Born Again teaching, Great Commission church. But when you are able, then just like the Apostle Paul pointed out, “…the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” Believers need to be active in a local church, whether they think they need to or not. There is a circulatory strength that works through the various spiritual parts of the body of Christ that each believer needs as much as the parts of the physical body needs the other parts. Again, it’s just how God designed His church to function.
Remember, the church is God’s idea. He calls for His universal church body to gather in local church bodies just like a universal army gathers and trains and serves in local camps together. And especially as we see the day drawing nearer for our King’s return. In fact, that’s just how God put it in Heb 10:23-25- “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” NASU
What a picture that is! It’s like God rallying His troops together in local training camps for further instruction and training and edification and inspiration! God is calling His people, those who are able to do so, to make assembling together to be a holy habit of their lives in order to worship together and fellowship together and serve together, not forsaking this habit, but making it be their habit even more so as we see the day of our King’s return drawing nearer. And Brothers and Sisters, do we ever see the day of our King’s return drawing nearer!
So for the sake of our King, for all Brothers and Sisters in Christ, for all parts of the body of Christ, for all who are able to do so, it’s time to connect or re-connect with a local body of Christ that shares the Gospel of grace of the New Birth, and celebrates the centrality and authority of the Scriptures, and worships and serves the King of kings and Lord of lords together.