This morning we continue our series titled “Church Basics”. We are discussing some of the fundamental Biblical truths regarding the church. Our primary purpose is to further develop our understanding of what the church is, what its purposes are, why it is important, and how it should operate. By knowing these things, hopefully we will be better equipped to serve God in the manner that He desires.
A metaphor is figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in "a sea of troubles”. Perhaps you are currently in or have previously been in a troublesome situation in which you’ve had many pressing concerns occur simultaneously. While in these moments you might certainly be engulfed by troubles, you are not literally in a sea of them. However, by using a metaphor we can develop a picture of comparison that helps us to better understand the seriousness of the situation.
Today we're going to examine a metaphor which is frequently used in the New Testament, most often by the apostle Paul, to describe the church. This metaphor is “The Body of Christ”. Following Jesus’ physical death, He bodily rose from the dead, and later bodily ascended into Heaven where He currently sits at God's right hand. He will return some day in bodily form just as He left. So that leaves us the question - if the literal body of Christ is seated in Heaven right now, why is the church here on earth called “The Body of Christ”?
Over the next thirty minutes we will consider several characteristics of the church which lead us to call it “The Body of Christ”. These tend to be concentrated upon the issue of how the church should function.
I. THERE IS ONE BODY - 1 Corinthians 12:1213
Biology teaches us that the human body is one complete organism consisting of many differing parts. The hands, the feet, the arms, the legs, the eyes, the ears, and so on are all individual pieces that are joined together to make the whole. In the same way individual Christians with different backgrounds, ethnicities, races, social statuses, ages, and so on are all members of a single church - the body of Christ.
The common bond that unites all Christians into a single body is the Holy Spirit. When a person receives Jesus as their Savior, the Bible teaches that immediately they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the moment of their conversion. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is the source of life for the Body of Christ as a whole and for its individual members.
II. THERE ARE MANY MEMBERS - 1 Corinthians 12:14-18
The body is made up of many members. Each of these have distinct features and specific functions. They are intended to work together for the benefit of the entire body. So also, the many members of the church are each uniquely different from one another. The have different gifts, passions, talents, personalities, and experiences. They work performing various and often separate tasks, yet together these serve for the edification of the entire church body.
Sometimes, if we are not careful, jealously and envy can infiltrate the body of Christ. We begin to wish that we were someone else, or that we served in a different way. The foot wishes that it was a hand, or the ear desires to be an eye instead. Somehow we think of ourselves as less important than others, and we long for the role that they play in the body rather than our own. But God assures us that He has placed us exactly where He wants us to be in His body, and that we are all equal members. While from our perspective some members might seem more significant to God than others, from His viewpoint we are all equally valuable and loved.
When I was in the high school band years ago, I played the Alto Saxophone. I absolutely loved playing that instrument and was in band from my 6th grade year through graduation. There were occasions early on when I became upset because the cornets/trumpets always seemed to have the melody line in the music. Most of the time the saxophones played harmony, often in the background. Only when I became older and more knowledgeable did I finally realize the importance of the bass lines and harmony lines. Apart from them, the songs would be far less beautiful to the ears. In the same way, if every member of the body of Christ played the same part, the body would be incomplete. God creates us all differently on purpose, so that through our diversity the body of Christ can be made whole. As such, we should delight in our differences and not aspire to become exactly the same as one another.
III. THE MEMBERS NEED EACH OTHER - 1 Corinthians 12:19-24a
The head needs the feet. The eye needs the hand. They are dependent upon one another in order to successfully accomplish the work of the body. For example, each week I type up sermon notes in preparation for the message Sunday. I use these notes when I preach as a guide or outline to keep me on track. As I compile them, I use my eyes to see the letters on the keyboard as I type and my fingers to press the keys. These two body parts work together to produce the final product.
In similar fashion, the individual members of the church need each other. The tasks that God has called us to are much greater than one person or even one group can accomplish alone. It will take all Christians everywhere working together as one body to successfully achieve God’s purposes for the church. As such, we should recognize and appreciate our dependency upon one another and not consider any to be less honorable, less presentable, or seemingly weak. Every member is a necessary part of the Body of Christ.
IV. THE MEMBERS SHOULD CARE FOR EACH OTHER - 1 Corinthians 12:24b-26
While we as people may not always appreciate the contributions or value of some members of the body, God has purposely bestowed more abundant honor upon those which lack, so that there would be no division among the body. The church should not be divided, but rather united as one family bound by the common bond of Jesus Christ. There are few things more devastating to the spiritual well-being of Christians than a contentious church split. Various factions and cliques within the church are a sign of unhealthiness.
When I smash my finger with a hammer, it affects my entire body. When I am able to hear clearly, it improves my ability to understand what is being said. The condition of one member of the body affects the condition of the others. As such, we as individual church members should show concern and care for one another, realizing that we are interrelated one with another. When one suffers, we all do. When one rejoices, we all should. The Body of Christ should be characterized by brotherly love and compassion among its members.
V. JESUS IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY/CHURCH - Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18
Jesus is the head of the church. Pastors and church leaders are to manage the church under submission to His authority. Members of the body are to esteem the headship of Christ over any and all others. Just as the brain makes it possible for the human body to operate and function properly, so also Jesus Christ should be the One directing the decisions and activities of the church.
When I was younger and would do something foolish, my dad would sometimes say “Use your head son!” When we act without thinking or use faulty logic to make decisions we tend to make mistakes. This same principle applies to the church. When we as His body operate without the leadership and direction of Jesus as the head, we often fail to accomplish the things that He desires. We must seek and do His will.
The New Testament often speaks of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. We are one body, unified by the Holy Spirit, consisting of many diverse members each working together for the edification of the whole. As such, we need one another and should exhibit concern and care for one another as fellow members. Finally, we should submit ourselves to Jesus Christ, who is himself the head of the body.
Jesus came to earth as a man who had a physical body. While in His body, Jesus taught about and demonstrated God’s love visibly and boldly. He shared the message of salvation with the lost world and ultimately died on the cross of Calvary. Now that He is ascended into Heaven, the church continues to proclaim the gospel message and share the love of God visibly and boldly as He did. For this reason, the church is called “The Body of Christ”.