What Does It Mean? Pt.10
A Body Life Plan for Mutual Maturity
Study Guide , August 14, 2016
In medieval times the ‘Gothic arch’ was very popular. And what made it so popular was how strong and stable it was. And what made it so strong and stable was how the stones were placed in the arch. Each stone was leaned on the next stone in such a way that they became powerful supports for each other. Plus, by building the arch this way they could make it much bigger than they could otherwise have built it.
The church, or the body of Christ is like that Gothic arch in that the strength and stability comes from that connection and commitment to one another. In fact 1 Peter 2:5-6 puts it like this: “You also are like living stones, and God is using you to build a spiritual house. You are to serve God in this house as holy priests, offering Him spiritual sacrifices that He will accept because of Jesus Christ.” ESV This pictures God as the Builder, and He is placing His people together, placing us ‘living stones’ together for the purpose of serving His cause together. And one of His causes is to build us up in maturity so that He can also then use us to build His church collectively.
In our Membership Orientation we cover a part on Maturity. And one of the astounding things we point out is that it has been discovered that there are over 50 mentions of the phrase ‘One another’ in the Bible referring to believer’s interdependence in worship and service. That’s a good indication that it’s pretty important, right? We use the word ‘edification’ in connection with this ‘one another’ service and ministry. The Apostle Paul speaks of it when he said: Rom 15:1-3- “Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.” NASU And another version puts that like this: “We should not do what pleases us but do what pleases them and is for their good. We should do whatever helps the church grow stronger in faith.” ERV
So again, what we see from this about ‘maturity’ is that God has given to each of us this ministry of edification. Or, part of your purpose and my purpose in life is to carry out our ministry of helping each other grow stronger in faith. It’s a ‘body-life’ mindset with which we are to live. It’s what us ‘body parts’ are supposed to do; work and serve and minister and do life together in such a way as to ‘edify’ or to ‘build each other up’ in mutual spiritual maturity. So this concept of ‘maturity’ then is not just something that is to be thought about as something that is really good or helpful in our lives if it happens, but rather, maturity is actually a duty of ours; it’s a duty in our discipleship; purposefully helping others mature as fellow members of the body of Christ.
A frequent question and concern that many Christians have and talk about is “I wonder what my ministry is, or is supposed to be?” And although that will include some specific activities, one thing it includes for sure is that it includes this ‘ministry of edification’. So, wonder no more! God has given to you and to me this ministry of edification. That’s one thing we talked about in the first part of this study: Eph 4:15-16- “…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” NASU
So the question now is: How do we go about this ministry of edification that God says is to be our regular ministry? And that brings us to an interesting answer, because in order to rightly go about our ministry of edification we have to rightly carry about a Biblical identification. And again, in our last study we pointed it out, but now let’s draw some points out of it. And to do this we go to Rom 12:4-13- “Each one of us has one body, and that body has many parts. These parts don’t all do the same thing. In the same way, we are many people, but in Christ we are all one body. We are the parts of that body, and each part belongs to all the others. We all have different gifts. Each gift came because of the grace God gave us. Whoever has the gift of prophecy should use that gift in a way that fits the kind of faith they have. Whoever has the gift of serving should serve. Whoever has the gift of teaching should teach. Whoever has the gift of comforting others should do that. Whoever has the gift of giving to help others should give generously. Whoever has the gift of leading should work hard at it. Whoever has the gift of showing kindness to others should do it gladly. Your love must be real. Hate what is evil. Do only what is good. Love each other in a way that makes you feel close like brothers and sisters. And give each other more honor than you give yourself. As you serve the Lord, work hard and don’t be lazy. Be excited about serving him! Be happy because of the hope you have. Be patient when you have troubles. Pray all the time. Share with God’s people who need help. Look for people who need help and welcome them into your homes.” ERV
Isn’t it interesting that one of the main reasons that God has given spiritual gifts to the church is for the purpose of carrying out this ministry of edification? Or, the gifts of the church are given for the building up of the church as we carry out these various ministries or services to the church, or to our fellow Brothers and Sisters in the body of Christ. Now there are two main focuses here that are crucial to this ministry of mutual maturity. And one has to do with this ‘right identification’. We are to make a concerted effort to identify our Brothers and Sisters in Christ as actually body parts with whom we are connected in the body of Christ. And that involves seeing a fellow member of Christ not just as a part of Christ, but also as a part of you. God’s plan for our maturity is not individualistic.
The Greek word for this kind of fellowship and mutual ministry is ‘koinonia’. It refers to ‘a fellowship in common’. But what’s really uncommon about this ‘fellowship that we have in common’ is that what we have in common is this uncommon inter-connectedness of body parts which together make up Christ’s body, with Christ alone as the Head. And since Christ has connected us together as His body, that means that the key to ‘body living’ is ‘good connections’! Our focus with our fellow body parts in the body of Christ should be on making and maintaining good connections. Or we could say maintaining good ‘koinonia connections’! We are to make adjustments in how we think about our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to thinking of them each as those with whom God has already connected with you and with me. And thus, every one of them is both important and necessary in our spiritual maturity, both theirs and ours, whether we know that or not.
That is simply a reality of what being a Christian and being a part of the body of Christ means. Remember, the only complete Christian is the body of Christ. Praise God, we are each complete in our salvation in Christ, but we are to go on to becoming more complete in our maturity in the body of Christ. Jesus is the only individual who is complete in and of Himself. Today Jesus is present in the world in the body of believers. Only the body can be whole. Anyone who wants to be a complete Christian must realize that he or she is part of a body, dependent on others, and must begin to act accordingly. So remember, your spiritual growth depends upon helping others spiritually grow and then receiving from them whatever you need for your spiritual growth as well. And the way to further that growth is through making stronger connections. And stronger connections requires stronger communication.
Now, although that may sound a bit daunting, especially to us guys, since communicating doesn’t come all that natural for many of us, no worries…it’s not all that taxing. For example: What’s the most common question that all of us already use in communicating with others? Right, “How are you doing?” We just ask that to anyone in general. But now, for Brothers and Sister’s in Christ, all we need to do is to turn this most common question into some really helpful questions that we can use to strengthen our connections with the body of Christ and can also be a help to us as well in moving forward in mutual maturity. Here are some examples we can use in addition to the general question of “How are you doing?”
How are you doing in your spiritual journey?
How is your faith experience going for you?
How is it going in your Church experience?
How are things going in your Job?
How are things with your friends?
How do you think it’s going with our country?
How do you think things are going with our world?
How is it going with your Bible readings?
Now, of course, these are simply several examples of how we can use questions to better connect with our fellow body parts for the purpose of edifying, building them up, and allowing for some potential growth in both their maturity and ours. And one big reason we encourage you to employ the use of questions to make better and stronger connections with fellow believers is because that is exactly what Jesus so often did in connecting with others. He used this method of connecting with others through the use of questions. And if your attitude is one of humble honesty, a caring question is usually taken as a compliment by most people. Your sincere interest in moving into their world makes them feel important. And has been said, “Many people may forget what you said or did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Genuine questions from a genuine concern makes people genuinely feel important. One of the amazing impacts Jesus had on people was how important He made people feel. The Apostle Paul stated how we can engage in this ministry to others by putting it this way: Phil 2:3-4- “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” NASU
Plus, the more you move into other believer’s worlds the more you are delivered from your own world. It’s part of the discipline of the denial of self, which is one of the most powerful therapies for spiritual growth and the sense of well-being. As we move out of ourselves and especially more strongly connect with other parts of the body of Christ we receive the strength and the relief that God has designed to come to us through His body. You see, we need to trust the instructions of God’s Word and just get on with them. Remember, there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to what? Trust and Obey!
So what else can we do to make better connections with our fellow body parts in the body of Christ? As the Apostle Paul put it: “We should do whatever helps the church grow stronger in faith.” And then he gave us several examples of what we can do. The Bible often refers to them as ‘gifts’. And one really interesting thing about spiritual gifts is that they are usually discovered in the midst of believers getting involved in daily tasks. The point being, if us ‘body parts’ will just engage in whatever tasks that need to be done to help other believers grow stronger in faith, God will supply whatever gifts we need to exercise for getting the tasks done. If we just start giving ourselves in these different services that Paul listed God will direct us into what we need to focus on doing. In other words, It’s much easier to steer a moving truck than one that is sitting by the road. We just need to get our ministry of mutually maturing into motion, and God will steer us where He wants us to go.
We’ll wrap this up by giving those service activities that we can engage in with our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
Prophecy, or communicating the Will and Word of God concerning things to come;
Serving; Teaching; Comforting or encouraging; Giving; Leading; Showing Kindness;
Showing Love; Showing Patience; Praying; Sharing; Showing hospitality…
There are a lot of ways we can get on with our ‘koinonia connections’! Now, of course these activities are not exhaustive of the gifts nor of the ways in which we can connect with our brothers and sisters in our ministry of mutual maturity, but they are certainly answers to what God is looking for you and for me to be doing for the fellow ‘body parts’ that make up the body of Christ.
So what should we be doing to carry out this ‘Body plan for mutual maturity’? As the Apostle Paul put it: ‘We should be doing whatever helps the church grow stronger in faith.’ As we see, meet, talk with, think about, worship with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who actually are connected to us and us to them as the ‘body of Christ’, part of our continual focus should be on ‘how can I help them grow stronger in faith?’ And then we tap into these faith related activities and these faith related questions and we connect with our fellow ‘body parts’. And as we do so then this proper working of each individual part causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.