The Reality of the Body of Christ
"For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but so to think soberly, according as God has dealt to each man a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office: so we, who are many are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another". Romans 12:3-5
"For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one spirit. For the body is not one member, but many". 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren". 1 John 3:14
The Body of Christ is a difficult subject to speak of with other Christians, because it is, primarily, an unexperienced subject. While I have yet to meet a professing Christian who does not agree with the existence of such a body, and can usually parrot the right sayings or words, very few express a knowledge of such reality through their actions. As pointed out in the preceding chapter, being in Christ is not a matter of what we say nearly so much as what we do, and that, friends, requires action. Christianity is not a religion, nor a philosophy, it is an expression of God. Jesus severely castigated the Pharisees for speaking of the things of God, but not doing them. He also did not just speak to us of His love, He did it by dying on the cross for us.
Love, as shown in the Word of God, is a doing, an action, an expression of the truth and life of God, and cannot be simulated or simply spoken of. Most of the time, when we speak of "the brethren", we refer only to those people we know in our immediate church circle, or to those with whom we are denominationally affiliated. Think on this for just a moment. Did Jesus die to give birth to His Church as found only in the Assemblies of God, or the Baptists, or the Moravian Brethren, or the Catholics, or etc., etc., etc.? If you truly believe that my friend, then I have a bridge for sale.
Membership in the Body of Christ, the True Church, is predicated upon only one thing, enumerated in scripture in John 3:16. While many have added to or taken away from that simplicity, the fact remains that belief in Jesus as the Son of God and atoning sacrifice for our sins, is the only pathway to God. Reams and books might be filled with what constitutes belief (Greek ³Pisteuo²), but we need only look to vss. 20-21 to see further. "For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be discovered. But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God". Here we see two things of manifest importance. One, that whoever believes (in his heart) in Jesus is not condemned, but has eternal life, and this makes them our brothers and sisters! Second, that the truth of believing is to be found in that which we do, because deeds require action, not speech. Tie this scripture together with Phil.2:12, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling..." and Jas. 2:22, "Do you see how faith wrought with his works, and by works was his faith made perfect", and we see that faith, or belief, begins in the heart, and that which is in the heart then comes forth by action into expressed deeds so that others may see (and not just hear).
With all of this understanding, how then can we, as "born again" Christians, show forth by action our genuine love for one another, when we don't recognize, accept, or have anything to do with anyone outside of our own local assembly or denomination? Friends, the world is watching us to see if we're a light unto the world, or in truth just a bunch of "dim bulbs", and quite frankly, the world doesn't like what it sees. Denominations continually putting down other denominations, churches competing with each other for members, or glory, or whatever, even strife and division within a denomination or local assembly. Such things are not of God, but are straight from the devil, and no one can properly point to the Word of God and say "right there, it says we are to act this way". Until such time as the churches start acting like The Church, the world will continue laughing and crying its way into an ever enlarging hell.
Now some of you might think that I am espousing a universal or one name church. Are we supposed to have only one denomination? No, I think not, primarily because of the scriptures quoted in Chapter 2 from Isaiah and 1 Corinthians. What we do need, though, is to start acting like mature Christians, obedient to the Word of God, and loving the brethren. Go to any community or area in the United States, and within that area you will find several local assemblies, usually of different affiliation. Sometimes, on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, they might get together for a single service, but in general each goes its own way, following its own agenda, and having nothing to do with the others.
Friends, our main concern should not be whether "my church" grows, but whether the Kingdom of God grows. Growing "my church" lends in small part to the growth of the Kingdom. Growing everyone's church lends in GREAT part to the growth of the Kingdom. The lost and dying world is our field of harvest, and that field looks askance at a "religion" that cannot get along with itself or others, and generally wants nothing to do with it. It is incumbent upon every truly believing church member, elder, deacon, pastor, or minister to begin acting upon the reality of the Body of Christ, and to stop petty bickering and disagreement. Remember friends, that each of us is responsible before Christ for how we act, and we will answer to Him for our victories AND our failures.
Ezekiel 33:1-9 speaks very pointedly to the subject of our responsibility, and the consequences of not living up to them. I beseech every one of you to take heed to these words, and to resolve in Christ to seek out and find ways to show the world, in conjunction with other churches, that Christ is One, and His Body is one in purpose, action, and result. Act upon the REALITY OF THE BODY OF CHRIST.