Lessons in Growth Meditations: 24. The Body brings the Kingdom
Rom 12:5 in Christ we, though many, form one body
1 Cor 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Eph 1:22,23 God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body
The ‘Body of Christ’: The key to understanding how Christ, ruling at his Father’s right hand, works through us to being in the kingdom on earth, is the concept of ‘the body of Christ’ which comes up numerous times in the writing of the apostle Paul, especially in the three books from which our verses above come. Now what are the key things about this body?
First: To do the Father’s Will: First, it is the way Jesus continues to bring the will of his Father to the earth. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” Heb 10:5-7) It was through a human body that he expressed his ministry – teaching, delivering, healing, setting the captives free (Mt 11:5, Lk 4:18). When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost a new body was formed, the church, the ‘called out ones’ who were called to do the same things Jesus had been doing (Jn 14:12, Mt 28:18,19).
Second: Multi-Gifted: The thing about the body is that it is multi-gifted – both in terms of ministries: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service,” (Eph 4:11,12) and spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:12:4-11) and more general gifts (Rom 12:6-8) and we are each gifted differently as the Holy Spirit enables us and we need each other with our differences (1 Cor 12:12-26) and all are essential.
Third: Growth Goal: God’s objective for the body is that it grows: “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:12-13) and “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Eph 4:15,16)
Fourth: Growth Determinants: Now note those characteristics for growth.
- First, “From him.” Life flows from Jesus and it is life that enables growth. It is through a living relationship with Jesus that the body grows. I’ll say more on that in a later study.
- Second, “held together by every supporting ligament”. What are the things that hold us together? Real relationships.
- Third, “in love”. Love is the cement that binds these relationships together; love is the unique characteristic of the body of Christ. We see it in the Gospels as Jesus cares for and accepts the unlovely, the tax-collectors, sinners, prostitutes – you and me!
- Fourth, “as each part does its work.” A healthy body is an active body and that is as true of the church as it is in personal daily life. We are each designed to play a part.
- Fifth: The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) God knows what He has on His heart for each of us and us collectively. Jesus taught, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deedsand glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16) Those “good works” or “good deeds” are God expressing His goodness through us. As we have said before, our righteousness is shown as we conform to the teaching of the New Testament and also as we are led by the Spirit, but often it will be seen as acts or words (“speaking the truth in love”) of love and goodness
- Sixth: The Head: Earlier we read, “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” The thing about the body, (any ‘body’) is that it will be directed by its head and for the ‘body of Christ’, the church, its head is Christ himself, seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
And Us? Now in all honesty, I wonder when we look at the Church, can we say that it (and its individual local expressions) can be clearly seen to be directed by Jesus? You see it occasionally when a local church clearly gets guidance to launch out in a particular direction and you know it is under Jesus’ leading because the fruit of obviously there; the local expression is clearly and obviously expressing Jesus as the fruit of the Spirit is clearly manifest, the gifts of the Spirit are exercised wisely and in love, individuals are growing, prayer is a vibrant part of the body, and others are being saved and added, revelation and power are expressed and the neighbourhood is impacted. THIS is a body where the kingdom is being expressed and God being glorified. In such a body we will grow. May it be seen more and more in these days when so often the world considers the Church irrelevant.