Summary: The Church is the Body of Believers IN CHRIST, with many similarities, but also with much diversity.
One Body in Christian Community
We are getting into the “nitty-gritty” of being a follower of Jesus Christ in Romans 12. We are looking at the heart of the matter of being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ; we are not PERFECT followers or PERFECT disciples, but we are being transformed into the very Image of Christ, while we are doing everything that we can do to respond to the Grace of God in Christ and to be obedient to God while living in the reality of His Saving Grace. We trust in His Grace to save and in His Faith to forgive, and in the power of His Spirit to PLEASE HIM because we know that God alone deserves the glory of our lives.
And so Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God:
Romans 12:1: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you NOT to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment,(think soberly) as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
4 “For just as (or “even as”, by way of comparison or example) we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.”
I love it when people ask me questions about God’s Word, (RC Sproul wrote a great book answering hundreds of theological issues, “Now That’s a Good Question!”) and last week someone asked me this good question: “What do you mean when you say “the Body of Christ.”
1. He said that he thought about the Crucified body of Christ, and that’s right! At the Lord’s Supper we celebrate and profess the astounding biblical fact that Jesus offered His physical body to be crucified as the payment FOR sin for anyone who trusts in Him as their Savior. Colossians 1:18-20 makes that clear: “And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have ALL HIS FULLNESS dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” God appeared in the flesh and died in the flesh, the Crucified body of Christ. (John 1:14)
2. In Romans 12:1 we are told to offer OUR BODIES as living and holy sacrifices to God. Hmmmm. Jesus offered His body through death, so that individually, we might identify with His BROKEN body and then individually AND we offer our bodies BACK to Him through the new lives that He has given us. So YOU Dedicate Your Body to Christ in service to God. You offer ALL of your life, every part, back to Him to be used as He sees fit. We voluntarily relinquish our personal rights of ownership to Him, because He died for us. (Ours is an imperfect sacrifice!)
3. How do we serve Him? We serve Him wherever and whenever according to His design and commands, but first of all we serve Him by serving each other as The Gifted Local Body of Christ: The Local Church Community (That means that every individual body part, each one of us, has a part to play in the Local Church Body. Speaking to the Local Church leaders in Ephesus, Paul says in Acts 20:28: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Paul addresses the local bodies of believers in Rome, Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi, Galatia, Crete, Thessalonica, Jerusalem (every city where the Gospel was preached). This church “body” or community is visible and invisible. There is a physical and social aspect to it, but also a powerful spiritual presence of God within it.
4. SOME of the Gifted Local Body of believers are true believers and SOME may not be: God only knows for sure, but those who ARE part of the local church and who persevere in faith ARE also part of The Universal Body of Christ (the Church Triumphant.) Every believer in Christ who has ever lived in the past, present or future—is part of the UNIVERSAL Body of Christ. Christians may be physically separated from each other by the barrier of death, but they still remain united to each other in one Body, One Church. Ephesians 2:21-22 says: “In him (Christ) the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too (individually and corporately) are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”