Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where we belong in this world. We can find ourselves tossed aside by society if we’re not pretty enough or cool enough for the world’s standards. We have to meet the criteria of whatever group we’re looking to be accepted by in order to have a shot. But in God’s family, there’s always room for the outcast or the downtrodden.
In fact, sometimes it takes feeling the rejection of the world for us to turn to God, and when we do, we find a Father who has His arms open wide. There are many churches and many denominations and it’s not accurate to say that all of them are as accepting as Christ is, but in general the church is where we find a home where His love is shown. The fellowship of believers is where we can find the love, encouragement, motivation, kindness, and correction the world lacks. Each believer is equipped to minister to others in some way, and everyone has a place where they fit in.
God’s overall plan is fulfilled through His Church (outwardly) and the body is meant to minister to each other (inwardly) for this plan to be accomplished. Our mission isn’t just to go “out there”, but also to tend to those “in here” so that each of us can be better at what we’re called to do. Healing, hope, and love are found in Christ’s Church. This was His plan.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
The Church – we are many, but we are one – united in Christ. Though the Church is made up of many individuals, each has his or her own part in making up the body of Christ. Each member is like a part of a body, fulfilling a specific purpose to the greater purpose of the body as a whole.
Why do we gather as a church? To carry out the work of Christ in the world. To bring glory to God. He has commissioned us to go out and do His will and bring about His purposes. When we unite as one, we have strength in numbers, we have unity, we have a greater plan. In our unity, God works in us and through us, just as He works in and through us as individuals.
In each of us, He gives skills and abilities. In the corporate body He puts those skills to work, directing us right where He wants us. Often we pair with someone whose skills complement our own and our effectiveness is doubled, as two strands of rope are far stronger than one (even better with a third – God).
United as a body, we are an unstoppable force in the world for the cause of Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
You and I have work to do. We’ve each been given a calling to fulfill, a mission to accomplish, and that requires our physical bodies. It’s our job, then, to maintain the vessel God will use.
One of my only hobbies is running obstacle course races. They range from about 3 miles to somewhere near 12 miles and there are any number of various obstacles to tackle along the way. Sometimes a course is fairly easy, other times I come home barely able to walk for two days. People always ask me why I put myself through that. My answer is twofold.
First, having a physical goal ahead of me motivates me to stay in shape, to get ready for the event. That’s about the only thing that gets me exercising sometimes. Secondly, I like to sign up for these challenges because they’re uncomfortable and outside the norm. I want to push myself physically to do things that I’m not sure I can actually do. I end up praying a whole lot while I’m running the course because I need all the help I can get. It reminds me that I’m dependent on my Creator to do anything. I believe that brings Him glory.
Now, let me wrap all this physical stuff in with the spiritual aspect we’ve talked about. I have a calling to love God more than anything else, giving my body as a living sacrifice. In order to carry out His purpose for me, which includes loving other people, serving them, and all other sorts of things that require a physical body, I’ve got to keep my body operational to the best of my ability.
My body is not my own. Your body is not your own. We’ve been bought with a price and now we’re to bring the Lord glory through our bodies. We can’t neglect the physical in exchange for the spiritual. They need each other.
How are you taking care of your temple? What do you need to do to improve?
Romans 12:4-5 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Probably one of the most common metaphors for the Church is that of a body. Ask anyone if they know of a comparison to something given in the Bible to the Church, and they will likely answer that the Church is like a body. And rightly so, because this is used many times in the New Testament.
The problem, though, when something becomes common, is that we lose sight of what it really means. You’ve heard that the Church is like a body, but what does that mean? Does this apply only to the local church or to the global church as well?
Though we are many, scattered throughout the world, all believers in Christ are one body. Every member of the body is like a physical member of a physical body, each with its own particular function. I can’t do what you’re called to do, and you can’t do what I’m called to do.
As Christ followers, we belong to Him and He belongs to us. Beyond that, we all belong to each other. As Paul says, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Think of the body and how each member cares for the others. This is how we’re meant to be as the Church.
Ephesians 2:18-22 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
If the local church is a family, then the worldwide church is one great big family. All who put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation have been adopted into the family of God. That means that it doesn’t matter where you live on planet earth, we’re all one in Him.
This whole notion of a global Church is built on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. It’s in Him and through Him that the Church exists. If we’re in Him, we’re united as one. Regardless of language, worship style, Bible translation, or type of building, we share one thing in common: our Lord, Jesus.
This beautiful depiction of the church given in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us all we need to know about the Church. Through Jesus we’re given access to the Father. We’re in one Spirit. We’re all citizens in the household of God, Jesus being the Head over us all.
If, instead of the Church being so divided, we’d come together, we’d see miraculous results. We’ll discuss further the idea of God’s people being built together into a dwelling place (living stones), but in the meantime take a few moments to re-read Ephesians 2:18-22 and really savor what it says. The global Church united under Christ is a thing of beauty.
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours
It’s one of the fundamental questions that every Christian must ask. What is the Church? Is it a building? A group of people? A movement?
The Bible is rich with descriptions of and metaphors for the Church. There’s no limit to wide array of illustrations given. The Church begins with the children of Israel in the Old Testament, carries on into the New Testament, and is ultimately commissioned by Jesus in the flesh.
This thing, this “Church,” is worldwide, local, immediate, and imminent. One thing is for sure, the tie that binds those who are called the Church is Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. Those who call on His name are His people. He is theirs and they are His. The Church is His.
In the following weeks we’ll be looking deeper into what God’s Word has to say about the Church. What do you say that it is?
Ephesians 4:15-16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
It’s clear throughout the New Testament that God expects us to grow spiritually once we’re His. It’s not acceptable for a professing follower of Christ to just remain a spiritual infant. He must grow into maturity, and we must then help others to do the same.
The Church is called the “body of Christ” many times and this is not to be overlooked. There are very interesting parallels between a physical human body and a church of believers. Every member must do their part in order for the body to function and the body must grow in order to become mature. A physical body that does not grow is not normal and something is wrong which must be corrected. It is also true that without a head the body does nothing. Without a head the body cannot properly grow either.
Look at this in regards to the Church. We can’t grow individually or corporately as a body without our Head, who is Jesus. We can’t expect to become mature if we do it in our own power, apart from His giving of life. Though every member has his or her own function, talent, and calling, we’re all subject to the Head. In Him we grow, in Him we function, in Him we find unity, and in Him we find life.
If His love flows throughout the Church, there is growth. If there is a lack of love, there is no growth. There is turmoil, not unity. There is disfunction, not a living out of calling. But with His love, all things are in order, all things are functional. The body grows in love.
Ephesians 3:14-15 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
When we pray, we don’t do it as a chore that’s required of us to please a deity that doesn’t care about us personally. When we pray we approach our loving Father, who cares about us. He’s not distant from us, He’s only a prayer away.
All too often we neglect to pray in the context of a family. If you’re a child of God who has been adopted into His family, then every other one of His children is your sibling. Families think about what’s best for every member, and Christians ought to do the same. We’re called to be part of God’s family, to project His image into the world, and to carry out His purposes — together.
That means when we pray, we should be thinking about the greater context of God’s family. What’s best for the overall purposes of God? What will best benefit all of His people? Who can we pray for right now that’s
-weak and needs strength
-lonely and needs comfort
-sick and needs healing?
What does the Father want for me in the context of everyone He’s called to be His own? Does He want me to pursue something that makes me uncomfortable? I should pray for His guidance. Does He want me to reach out to someone? I should pray for boldness?
When you bow your knees before the Father, do so in a way that keeps in mind your place in His family, among many other children.