Lessons from the Body of Christ

Christ is the Head of the church

(Eph 5:23 NIV)  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

What does the head do that the rest of the body do not?

It thinks and sets directions. No part of the body moves by itself. Every movement is on instruction of the brain.

This gives us a clue as to how God wants us to move in ministry. We move only in response to what the head tells us to do.

The early church behaved like this. Before they embark on any venture, they would pray to God for leading first.

(Acts 13:2-4 NIV)  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." {3} So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. {4} The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.

When we do the Lord’s work in ministry, we sometimes do the reverse. We do the planning, then ask God to bless our plans. What we should do is to ask God for directions, then do as the Lord instructs.

Unity in the midst of diversity

(1 Cor 12:12-13 NIV)  The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. {13} For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Tolerance of diversity

The body is made of many differing parts. The hand is very different from the leg. Likewise there is a lot of diversity in the Body of Christ today. There are Baptists, Methodists, Charismatics, all behaving differently. Understanding the concept of the body allows us to be more tolerant of other denominations. Are we guilty of contempt towards others of other denominations?

Diversity is not just restricted to differences in denominations. There are other diversity such as giftings. Do we become intolerant of people who do not seem to be exercising the same spiritual gifts as us?

There could also be diversity in the area of character. One person could be well organized while another unstructured.

We should recognize that the Body of Christ IS diverse and be tolerant of other people who are different from us.

Strive for unity in the midst of diversity

The other thing to note is that while there are many different body parts, there is only one body. The different body parts have to behave as if they are all part of one body. Have you seen someone with the left leg going one direction and the right leg going another direction?

Unity in the church is very important. We cannot move in any direction unless we move in unity. How do we achieve unity in the Body of Christ?

We must pray to the Head for directions. If every body part takes direction from the head before acting, there will be no disunity because the same head cannot give out contradictory instructions.
We must submit to God’s appointed authority over us. We cannot expect God to speak to us in every small detail. There will be many small operational issues that we face everyday. We don’t have to pray and fast over what time to have the meeting, how many chairs to put up, etc. That is why God has appointed leaders over us so that we can still have unity if we submit to the leader.

Interdependence in the Body

(1 Cor 12:21-26 NIV)  The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" {22} On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, {23} and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, {24} while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, {25} so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. {26} If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Do not look down on other body parts

When we look at our own body we see that one body part depends on another. The heart, the lungs, the stomach, every part is essential for us to stay alive. When we apply this analogy to the Body of Christ, we see the same thing. Every body part is essential for the survival of the body. That is why the Bible says even those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable (verse 22).

Are we guilty of looking down on other believers in church or on their ministry? Do you look up at people who do “important” work in church like pastoring, leading, etc and look down at people who are ushers, chair arrangers, etc?

Remember that we are to treat the weaker members with special honor (verse 24). What can you do to give special treatment and honor to the people in your church that are doing less glamorous tasks?

Every member has a bodily function

It is tempting for some people to think that they have no spiritual gift at all and no function in the Body of Christ. That way that person does not have to do anything!

The analogy of the body debunks that myth. If we look at our body, no part is useless and fulfills no purpose.

(1 Cor 12:7 NIV)  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Each one (that means everyone) is given at least some kind of spiritual gifts to edify the common good of the Body of Christ.

If you want to have a healthy body that is functioning effectively for the Lord, you need to get every member to realize this truth and to realize their own spiritual gifts.

A body part that is not used wastes away

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" But what if the Body of Christ persists in this error. What if a function of a body part is not acknowledged and used. What if you deny that the eye has a function and you choose not to use it? We know if we lock someone is a dark place for a long time, his eyes will lose its function. He will become blind.

A body part that is not connected to the body dies

Just as a finger would die if it is cut off from the body, so we cannot expect to grow spiritually if we isolate ourselves from the rest of the body.

That is why the Bible exhorts us to always stay together.

(Heb 10:24-25 NIV)  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. {25} Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Depend on each other

Verse 24 says that God has combined the members of the body. The body works only when all the parts are working together. If you want to get a drink, your leg takes you to the refrigerator and your hand pours the drink into the cup. But when it comes to the ministry, the hand tries to do everything by itself.

Let’s see how we can depend on each other in the ministry. The first step towards this is to know the function of every one in the group. For example, this person has the gift of intercession, this person is good in apologetics, this person has the gift of giving, etc. So when you want to take on a task, see if the task can be better accomplished by working as a team, as a body. Do not work as an isolated body part.

Likewise if you know your own gifting, you can offer yourself to help out someone in his area of ministry. For example, if God has called you to intercede, offer yourself to intercede for your members in specific areas.

Eliminate suffering in the body

Because the body is so interlinked and one part is dependent on another, if one part suffers the rest of the body suffers. Even if we get a cut in our little finger, our whole being feels the pain. We can’t say because only a little finger is hurt, we don’t feel very much. We find that even simple chores become so difficult with a cut finger. How can we expect to do difficult tasks with one part of our body hurting?

 If we don’t take care of that little finger, infection sets in and we are in for serious trouble. If we let even “insignificant” members of our church carry on hurting, very soon the whole church will be affected, in accordance with the law of the body.

That is why it is so important to care for the members of the church. Sometimes the church is so occupied with “more important” things like winning souls that it has no time to care for hurting parts of the body. “Don’t slow us down” is the signal we send to them. But like it or not, it will slow us down unless we pay attention to hurting members.

An example of “body” lifestyle

(Acts 2:42-47 NIV)  They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. {43} Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. {44} All the believers were together and had everything in common. {45} Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. {46} Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, {47} praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Study the Word of God

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching….

Fellowship

…and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread…

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…

They meet in a big group setting (temple) and also in small group settings (home).

Prayer

…and to prayer.

Praise

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, {47} praising God…

Transparency

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…

Spirit of giving

The believers met each other’s needs in a tangible way. They do not just pray for one another and stop there.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. {45} Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

Grow the group with new souls

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Unity mindset

All the believers were together and had everything in common.

Submission to leadership

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching…