- ABOUT US
- Calendar and News
- READING PLAN
- The Chosen
What We Believe
The Church: The Body of Christ
As we continue through our series on what we as Christians say we believe in, we’ll be looking at a number of different doctrines, or teachings, of the church. And it is my hope that everyone will not only grow in their understanding, but also in their ability to apply them to their lives.
Today, we’ll be examining what the Bible says about the church, or as it is described as the body of Christ. Let me begin by saying that the local church, that is, those houses of faith located within each community, is the hope of the world.
In Foursquare’s “Declaration of Faith,” which is the denominational affiliation of our own church, Living Waters Fellowship, it says this concerning the church.
“It is the sacred duty of the believer, whenever this lies within his power, to identify himself with, and labor most earnestly for the upbuilding of God’s kingdom with the visible church of Christ upon the earth; and that such visible church is a congregation of believers, who have associated themselves together in Christian fellowship and in the unity of the Spirit, observing the ordinances of Christ, worshipping Him in the beauty of holiness, speaking to each other in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, reading and proclaiming His Word, laboring for the salvation of souls, giving their temporal means to carry on His work, edifying, encouraging, establishing one another in the most holy faith, and working harmoniously together as dear children who are many members but one body of which Christ is head.”
Unfortunately, there are those who claim to be Christian who do not believe this way. They have given up on church attendance claiming either a bad experience, or that the church is run in such a way that misses the biblical mark.
One man struggled going to church for 35 years claiming he was an introvert, and said that God wasn’t asking him to make church attendance a priority. He says that from the time God showed him this, he’s had tremendous peace living his life free to follow God in whatever way he saw fit.
Now, while it might sound great, it falls short of what the Bible, or God’s word teaches.
Another person gave quite a lengthy list of why they no longer attend church. He said, “I don’t go to church because those people think they’re better than me. They manipulate people to get their money. And with all these church splits and infighting of those that attend, they are a bunch of phonies. I’d like to find God, but I also hope He’s not like the “church.”
I can understand this person’s frustration. I didn’t want anything to do with church because of my experiences with a few of them with their cliques and their need of always wanting money. I’ve also been involved in several church splits that have turned my stomach.
But God never called me to be like the people of the church or to keep my eyes on them. Instead He called me to be like Him and to keep my eyes on Him and off the others. He’s called me to make a difference through what He has ordained, that is, the church.
For those who have been hurt by the church through some bad experience, I am truly sorry. Someone has rightly said that the church not only shoots its wounded, but also buries them before they’re dead.
But before I go any further, let me state categorically that going to church doesn’t save anyone, and that going to church doesn’t make someone a Christian, the same way as a rock in a garage doesn’t make it a car.
The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
Now, while I’ve gone through much of what these people say in my own church experiences, what I have learned is that my coming to church has everything to do with God and His calling upon my life, not on what other people say or do.
What I have come to learn and experience is what King David and the writer of Hebrews found out and wrote down for our instruction. Let me take this time then and share with you what the Bible says, and what I’ve found to be true.
Church Attendance is a Blessing
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ … Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 122:1; 133:1 NKJV)
There is a blessing when we come together to worship God as a family, and to hear His message from His word for our lives. Coming together as a church body should be the highlight of our week.
Listen to how King David felt about this.
“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10 NKJV)
And please understand, there were just as many problems back in the early church as there are today. There is no difference, because as the Bible says, there isn’t anything new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). But to be in God’s house, there truly is nothing better where we focus on Him, worship Him, to partake of His word.
For Michaela and I, when we do go out of town we try to find a church to attend, and have been blessed every time we go.
When I was relatively young in the Lord, there were times that I was tired, worn out, and hurting from everything that was going on in my life. Now, I could have easily stayed home and no one would have blamed me, but I was glad I didn’t. When I went to church, the worship, word, and fellowship left me blessed and encouraged to face another week.
This leads me to my second point and what I found and experienced through church attendance.
Church Attendance is an Encouragement
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
Christianity is lived out in community, not in isolation. Think about it this way, the Lone Ranger was never alone. He always had Tonto.
Consider a fire. Have you ever noticed the coals? When they are together they feed off each other and keep each other red hot, or even white hot. But if you take a coal from out of the fire and set it by itself it begins to cool off, becoming black and eventually cold. But when you put it back into the fire, the other coals heat it up once again.
That’s what coming together in fellowship does. It stirs us up; it heats us up to love God with the whole of who we are, and our neighbors as ourselves. Plus, we encourage one another to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.
But before I move on, I admit people have reasons for not attending church, but here’s the kicker, God never condones any of these reasons. Instead He says that we aren’t to forsake these gatherings, as some do saying it’s okay. Instead we need to encourage one another to come and participate, especially as we see the reality of how our world is getting closer to the end.
Now, getting back to my original assessment of what we believe, I said in the title of our message that the church is the body of Christ. This idea of the church being the body of Christ is something that is frequently brought out in the Bible, but what exactly does that mean?
The Church: The Body of Christ
Likening God’s church to the human body is interesting. It’s called a metaphor. It’s where one thing acts like or represents another. And so saying that the church is the body of Christ is meant to convey an image of how God wants us as believers to come together and function.
But why use a human body to describe the function of the church? This may be seen in God’s original design of humanity. God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness … So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them … Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 1:26a, 27, 31 NKJV)
What is being said as the church being the body of Christ is that the church is the image and likeness of God. The church is made up of many members, but it is still unified. This is seen in that man, or humanity, is made up of both male and female, but also in the Godhead, where God described Himself as being ‘us,’ and ‘our.’ And this is where we see God referring to Himself as being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And we see that this was a good thing in the eyes of God, and therefore God’s intent was that the church would be something that was good as well. You might say that it is God’s perfect design as it operates and functions with Jesus as the head of the church, as Paul brings out in Ephesians 5:23.
As believers we are not to operate independently, doing what we want the way we want it. God has a design, a pattern for the church, which is brought out in Acts 2:41-47. Look at verse 42.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42 NKJV)
What made the church so irresistible, and that which caught the eye of God, was that they continued steadfastly, that is, they were committed to come together as a way of life, to teach God’s word, to participate together in God’s calling, to remember what Jesus did through the outward acts of communion and baptism, and to pray, not only for one another, but to seek God and His way.
What we see from this account is that the church was in this together.
The Church is Unified
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple.” (Acts 2:46a NKJV)
Now, it’s not that they were riding around in the Honda Accord that made them one, but rather they were unified as one.
Speaking of the church as the body of Christ with Jesus as the head, the Apostle Paul said,
“From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16 NKJV)
The first part of this passage literally reads, with Jesus Christ as the head, the church as the body of Christ is joined together and united. The words “knit together,” means “to bring together in order to unite.” And so, there is an interconnectedness that exists within the church where we are knit together supplying the needs of all.
This is also seen in the Apostle Peter’s illustration likening the church to a building under construction.
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5 NKJV)
The church is living and active. It is alive and not some dead structure built by man. This is seen not only in the word, ‘living,’ but also in the word used for ‘stones.’ It’s the word used for stones that have been worked upon, that is, they have been hewn and shaped to fit perfectly together to make a structure.
What this is saying is that each of us are living stones, that is, we’ve been hewed out by God through our salvation, and shaped by the working of the Holy Spirit to fit together, to be that spiritual house known as the church. In other words, the Lord is fitting us together to make His church and to do His work.
But does this mean that we’re all the same? No, which leads me to the second point …
The Church is Diversified
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 12:12 NKJV)
While we are one in purpose under the headship of Christ, we are also each different. The church as the body of Christ comprises all facets of humanity, race, creed, gender, color, and walks of life. There are also differences in what we do within the church, but all with the same mission as Paul says “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-5 NKJV)
This diversity within the church as the body of Christ is best brought out in Paul’s letter to the Roman church.
“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:4-5 NKJV)
And so, from these two aspects about the church, what we can surmise is that within the church there is …
Unity in Diversity
The ministry of the church is the ministry of the Holy Spirit who has divided amongst its members various gifts who then contribute to the work of the Lord through the local church.
What comprises God’s church then are individuals who bring with them those gifts and talents that have been so graciously given by God for the work of His ministry. And when they fulfill this calling, they complete and bring to wholeness the body of Christ, or the church.
It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece is necessary for the whole to be fully realized. But when pieces are missing, the picture begins to be less distinguishable, and when enough pieces are missing, that is, not taking their proper place, then the picture is no longer recognizable.
As it relates to the church, when enough people don’t come, when they absence themselves thinking that it isn’t all that important, or that they are not needed, then the church literally becomes a husk of what it is meant to be.
So how has God created you?
God has brought you here to fulfill His calling upon your life. And part of that calling is to be missionary, that is, to fulfill the Great Commission. It is to bring others within your sphere of influence into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, hence into the body of Christ.
Look again at the first church. When they became that church of living stones, God’s spiritual house with Jesus Christ as its head, then the result was a great revival, a great awakening for those who had been lulled to sleep by religion. Look at the end result.
“And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b NKJV)
The problem is that the church today has become complacent. It’s all about letting others or the leadership do the work. But this isn’t biblical. As leaders we are charged by God to equip the believers for the work of ministry, not to do the ministry, and to build up, that is, to edify and encourage the church (Ephesians 4:12).
Let me say that in whatever way someone serves within the church, they are an active participant of what God is doing, and whoever comes to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, they have had a hand in it. Whether it’s cleaning the restrooms, greeting people, helping with the goodies and coffee, calling or writing letters of encouragement, taking care of the kids in children’s ministry, leading or hosting a home fellowship, or making a difference in our community for Christ, everyone has had a hand in bringing people into the kingdom of God.
Now some people have gotten tired over the years. They’ve done a lot, and to them there seems to be no end. But instead of looking this negatively, it really should be looked upon with great enthusiasm and joy. Again, look at how King David viewed it. “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Isaiah 84:10b NKJV)
And nothing should be below us. Even Jesus illustrated this very thing when He washed the disciples’ feet. This is a job for the lowest slave in the household. Jesus, however, said that since He was not only their teacher, but also Lord, that they, and by extension us, should then do the same thing towards each other (John 13:14).
In other words, there is no job that is too low, or ministry that is not beneficial. In fact, God literally gives greater honor to those parts of the body that are not as forward or as glamorous (1 Corinthians 12:23).
Now there are those who think that they really don’t have that much to give, but that is not true. Moses thought like that and God had to correct his stinking thinking. Moses didn’t think to highly of His ability either, and so the Lord asked him,
“What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2 NKJV)
God doesn’t ask us to use what we don’t have, rather He asks us to use what we do have. God used Moses’s staff and did great miracles through him, and He wants to do the same through us.
So, what is in your hand? What do you have to give? What are your gifts?
God has a great calling for our church and He wants us to use what we’ve been given to make a difference in this community for Christ, and then by extension to go and do the same in this world.
And to do this He has called us to be unified and come together, united in our diversity with our various gifts and talents and become the church that He delights in.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study