Rom 12:3-5 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (4) For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: (5) So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (KJV)
1 Cor 12:12-14 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (13) 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. (14) For the body is not one member, but many. (KJV)
In order for this study to have merit we must understand this one point very clearly. When we are born again we become the temple of Jesus (1Cor 6:19), and we become part of the body of Christ. Even though the Church has many members it is still one body. We all are active members of the body of Christ even though our attitudes say otherwise.
During this study we will ponder the some of principles necessary in order to mature in us the revelation of the body of Christ. These body principles are grouped into four basic categories; they are the Goal of our body life, our Gifting in the body, our personal Growth and maturity associated with the body, and the Grief we cause the Holy Spirit when we fail to discern the Lordís body (1Cor 11:29).
Eph 4:1-6 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, (2) With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (3) Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4) There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (5) One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Paul exhorts us to walk worthy eternal call we have received from the Spirit of God. The call is the same for all Christians throughout human history, we are called to be active members of the body of Christ.
The goal for all Christians who are part of the body of Christ is to work for the unity of the body. All Christians share the same responsibility for corporate unit in the body of Christ. We often think that unity in the local congregation is the responsibility of the Church leadership. This belief is partially correct, but unity is the responsibility of all members. We all know that our spiritual goal is not heaven, and we all know that our primary responsibility is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The point we fail to understand is the fact that the image of Christ is found in a united body. With this though in mind let us never forget that our goal is to build the unity of the body.
Paul, in these verses, emphasized four characteristics necessary in all believers in order for unity to have a fertile field to grow in.
Ps 25:10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. (KJV)
All four of these elements come from two basic roots of mercy and truth. We are taught that all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, therefore we cannot arrive at our spiritual goal of unity in the body of Christ without following the path of mercy and truth. We cannot have true humility and meekness without truth, and we cannot have patience and forbearance without mercy. These two principles always go together so that we might "ÖEndeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Eph 4:7-13 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (8) Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (9) (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
Paul continued in his exhortation with a technical description on how the unity of the body of Christ will be nurtured and developed. To every believer is given grace to function in the body according to their spiritual gifting. We all have gifts given to us by Christ in order that we might serve the body with these gifts. We read that Jesus gave to His Church the five fold ministry (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers) to nurture in each and every member of the local congregation the giftings of the Lord. This nurturing process will encompass three avenues of ministry.
The goal of the five fold ministry is to nurture our personal gifting along these three avenues. We might discover that our emphasis of gifting is centered in the working of the ministry, or in the need to build the local congregation, or even to function as part of the perfecting process. In order for the unity of the body to be maintained and developed we all must discover our gift and avenue of ministry.
Why do we allow our personal gifts to be developed? The answer to this question is found in the unity of the faith. Remember, our spiritual goal is the unity of the body of Christ. The unity of the faith does not include a doctrinal agreement. Faith is not doctrine, it is action upon the revelation of Christ we have experienced. We allow our gifts to be developed in order that we might unit in our action not our doctrine.
Eph 4:14-16 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Spiritual growth is the fruit of our spiritual gifting being nurtured and matured in the unity of the faith. Paul emphasized three areas that our spiritual growth will manifest.
In order to grow in the revelation of the body of Christ we must yield to the truth that the body is in need of our supply, and our attitude of individualism must be crucified with Christ.
Eph 4:17-32 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, (18) Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: (19) Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (20) But ye have not so learned Christ; (21) If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: (22) That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; (23) And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (24) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (25) Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. (26) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (27) Neither give place to the devil. (28) Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. (29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (30) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (KJV)
Paul concludes this chapter with a sober warning that itís possible to grieve the Holy Spirit and to frustrate the unity of the faith. Lets conclude this study with some thoughts on how we frustrate the unity of the body.
These various elements frustrate the unity of the faith and grieve the Holy Spirit. Consider with me the possibility that the devil can only have place in our local congregation to the degree we give him place, through the grief we cause the Holy Spirit.
Paul concluded this chapter we with an exhortation to be kind and tenderhearted to one another, forgiving each other, even as God for Christís sake has forgiven each of us. This simple state returns us to our established goal of unity in the body of Christ. These attitudes cannot be developed in our lives without humility, meekness, longsuffering, and forbearance. All of these qualities require that we follow the paths of mercy and truth. The unity of the faith is found on this path.