Yesterday I wrote about the mess I believe the local church is in and has been in for a very long time and I cited John’s 7 letters to local churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. My point is simple, the Body of Christ is to be found around the world and not simply in a localized place. The Church is not a physical location nor an organization although both of these may or may not be important. The Church is a living organism “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven. Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:18-20 NET2. The primary reason and strength of the Body of Christ is found in Jesus Christ, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 11:1-3 NASB.
The obvious weakness to be found in many local churches is simple, they seem to identify more with local individuals and traditions more so than with the One who is the Redeemer. My thought is also simple, Jesus IS the reason for the Church, the Body of Christ and no local church exists for itself alone, but this appears to be what has taken place. The song “Power In the Blood” is more often vocalized in small churches than the larger counterparts, but the power oftentimes does not rest in Jesus Christ, but rather in one or two people therein. The focus is often not upon Jesus, but rather which side of the building the new piano is to be placed. But, let us move on.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26,
“12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
19 If they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now there are many members, but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable,
24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
Paul stresses the strength to be found in the Body being composed of many moving parts. However, in verse 3 we find “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” It is the Spirit of God from Whom the Body gains strength. The Body is identified with Christ through His death, burial and resurrection. The Holy Spirit empowers the Body and the Father provides guidance and wisdom. The members cannot function without one another, but neither can the Body function if one member decides or is given authority. This is the purpose of the Pastor, the Shepherd.
In Ephesians chapter 4:7-16 we discover the purpose of several distinct callings of God upon individuals, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
What we know is simple: the local church is not about individuals, but rather about Jesus Christ, “the building up of the body of Christ.” v. 12. The mess in which many local churches find themselves happens because the Message of the Gospel is clouded by the one or two people who have become the ‘authorities’ of the local church and Christ has been pushed aside. The Body is well, the Body is one, and the Body is healthy. It is the local church that is a mess.
Jesus is Lord.