Summary: Encouragement for Christians who wonder what their role is in the church of the Living God.
THE BODY OF CHRIST, AND YOU
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Many Christians know what the Bible teaches, but this knowledge does not necessarily mean that we who bear the Name of the Master eagerly embrace the instruction of the Word. Thoroughly indoctrinated in the mindset of the world, modern Christians frequently resist divine truth in order to do what “feels” right. We have convinced ourselves that personal desire is the final arbiter of the validity of both attitudes and actions. Our comfort level is of greater importance in determining what we do than is obedience to Him who calls us to life. Thus, our actions and attitudes often demonstrate that the teaching of the Word concerning the Body of Christ is poorly understood, if at all, or worse yet, we have rejected it as authoritative for our own lives.
Contemporary evangelicalism is more accurately defined by popular concepts reflecting a broad consensus of what makes us feel good about ourselves than it is defined by what is written in the Word of God. We have weak commitment to truth, though we have strong commitment to what we feel. Consequently, we witness weak commitment to the Body of Christ, in part, because we do not know what that Body is. Christianity is being reduced to an expression of individual feelings instead of being a corporate expression of obedience to the revealed will of God.
If we will please God, and if we will enjoy the power of the Spirit of God among us, we must faithfully adhere to the teachings of God revealed in His Word. What I feel, what you feel, what we feel, is of ultimately of little consequence in the Kingdom of God. What God says is vital if we shall present acceptable worship. Therefore, if we will build a strong church, and if we will honour the Lord Christ as Head of the church, we must turn to His Word in order to understand what His will is for us as a congregation.
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOD DOING? In order to understand what God is doing, we need to see the big picture. Often, as we study the Word or listen to a sermon, we become so focused on the immediate passage that we fail to see how the particular fits into the general. If we fail to remain focused on understanding the Lord’s will, the tactical will ultimately supplant the strategic, and we will become confused.
The church of the Lord Jesus is often thought of as an organisation to join, rather than a Body to which we are united by the Spirit. Consequently, the emphasis of many of our peers is less on responsibility within the Body of Christ than it is on privilege for those joining. The evidence for this is the requirement for ever more complex constitutions that assume greater authority over the members than does the Word of God. Other Christians picture the church as a great, universal, invisible entity that has no authority over their lives. They assume that they are free to take what is pleasant from this catholic entity without any practical allegiance to it. Perhaps we would have a better understanding of God’s design if we considered the verse under scrutiny in context.
In our text, the Apostle Paul addresses a congregation that was treating the church as though it was merely a platform permitting individual Christians to promote themselves. For many of the Corinthian Christians, the church was treated as though it was a self-improvement society. The attitude that many in the church lived by was “every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.” A “me first” attitude was evident in worship, and even prevailed at the Lord’s Table!
A number of people came to church for what they could get out of the experience instead of coming to participate in the life of the Body and to build up the Body. They sang songs, but they did not worship. They said prayers, but they did not pray. They clamoured to deliver a prophecy, but they did not have a message from the Lord. They spoke ecstatically, but they did not recognise the presence of the Lord. The emphasis of many of the Corinthian saints was to draw attention to themselves; the emphasis of too many was securing power for themselves and not upon what they could give.
Because the attitude of so many within the Corinthian congregation was dysfunctional, the Apostle was compelled to remind them of the purpose of the church. Throughout this letter, Paul speaks of the corporate character of the church. He identifies the congregation of the Lord as a garden in which God gives the growth, though His servants labour through planting and through watering [1 CORINTHIANS 3:5-8]. He then spoke of the congregation of the Lord as a building [1 CORINTHIANS 3:9-11]. Paul compares his work among the Corinthians to that of a “skilled master builder,” implying that those who teach and preach must always take care to build only on the secure foundation of Christ Jesus the Lord [1 CORINTHIANS 3:12-15]. Then, he speaks of the congregation of the Lord as the Temple of the Lord [1 CORINTHIANS 3:16, 17]. Where the Lord is at work, the membership is being built into a great temple dedicated to praise and worship.