Opinions on faith and life

The Body of Christ

2010-02-11

Read these few passages on how the community of believers in the Jesus who rose from the dead are to arrange themselves:

1 Cor. 12:4-6 There are various gifts but the same Spirit; there are various services but the same Master; there are various actions but the same God works in all of them. To each one is given expression of the Spirit for the common good.

1 Cor. 12:12-23 Just as there is one body with many parts (although there are many parts, there is only one body), so it is with the Anointed One. For in one Spirit we were all immersed into one body, whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. So the Body has many parts. If the foot should say, “Since I am not a hand I am not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Since I am not an eye I am not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If it were all ears, how could it smell anything?

So God has placed each part in the Body as he decided. If it were all one part it would not be a body! But in fact, there are many parts in one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”, or again, the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” In reality, those parts of the body that seem weaker are more necessary, and those parts that we consider nothing we actually treat with more honor.

Eph. 4:3-7 Make an effort to keep the unity of the Spirit, tied together with peace. Be one body and one spirit, just as you were also called into one hope, one Master, one faith, one immersion, one God and Father who is over, through, and in all. Yet each of us was given grace according to the measure of the gift of God.

Eph. 4:15-16 Now to be honest, we should make everything grow in love into the Head, the Anointed One. The entire body grows out of him, connected together and united at every contact to the supply. Each part does its work to make the body grow and build itself up in love.

This is one Body, not many, though the parts are many. One substance, not many, though the gifts are many. One Lord, faith, and baptism, not many, though the secondary matters are many. Therefore, any teaching which would divide that Body is to be rejected (Titus 3:10), because it is quite literally heresy. And I’m not talking about disagreement over secondary matters, but the deliberate teaching of divisions based upon the flesh or social status or tradition.

This is so simple, so clear and easy to grasp. So why do we go around, and around, and around, and around again on divisive doctrines such as what some parts think other parts should or should not do, precisely how the Trinity “works”, or whether free will is just a cruel hoax? Why can’t we move beyond these entanglements (Heb. 12:1), in spite of the fact that from our vantage point in history, we can see that they never go anywhere?

Like a dog chasing its tail, we become oblivious to the futility and silliness of it all and never actually make any progress. And this is a pervasive human phenomenon, extending to the realm of politics large and small as well. The governments of the world care nothing for our protests or threats or feeble attempts to reform, because they only recognize brute strength. Likewise, the Christian community never moves beyond petty bickering or centuries-old squabbles because we have forgotten to run the race and keep our eyes on the finish line (Gal. 5:7).

The Bible is very clear that there is no hierarchy between adult believers, and that it is the Spirit, not us, who distributes gifts. We are to work together as the left and right hands, or the two eyes or ears. This cannot happen while we try to make one the boss of the other, or demand that all the parts have exactly the same perspective. Our non-negotiable doctrines center around who our Savior is, what He expects from His own, and how we can introduce Him to the lost. Everything else must conform to those principles, even if we think a passage here or a verse there tells us otherwise.

I would be so bold as to say that for these past two milennia, the Body of Christ has truly been divided, and that only a remnant is ever really acting like a body at all. This is such a tragedy, because while we’re chasing our tails, the world marches on toward the edge of a cliff.

So I would just like to make a challenge: that we all take a step back and look at whether we’re contributing to the furtherance of the Gospel, or just hashing and rehashing the same things over and over. Surely by this time we should be settled on the pertinent facts about any given puzzle in scripture, such that anyone who is undecided can study them and decide for themselves. I realize that this information can be hard to find, especially for those who are new to a given controversy, but we would do well to point them to resources that would answer their questions instead of re-inventing the wheel all the time.

Seriously, how many blogs does it take to present the case for egalitarianism? How many message boards do we need in order to see that the old earth/young earth debate will never end in this life? Why can’t we put our heads together and come up with a coherent body of literature that educates instead of confusing? The more we run in circles, the harder it becomes for anyone to navigate all the mazes we Christians love to invent. And this unity can never be at the expense of divine truth.

I don’t know how to solve this problem, but maybe identifying it is a first step toward solving it. I hope so.

4 Comments

Lin

"The Bible is very clear that there is no hierarchy between adult believers, and that it is the Spirit, not us, who distributes gifts."

This was an absolute freeing belief to me. How did I ignore it for so many years?

" would be so bold as to say that for these past two milennia, the Body of Christ has truly been divided, and that only a remnant is ever really acting like a body at all."

YES! And you can just see it all through history..men vying for power whether it be through the state church or now with our "Christian" business enterprises we call church. I simply cannot stand it anymore. It is as if we mock our Lord and His Word.

I have been praying for unity in the Spirit with some true believers. It would be nice to find some close to home to pray and study with.

Paula Fether

I understand, Lin. Fellowship seems like a pipe dream most of the time these days. But remember the Beatitudes, and that’s why we care nothing for this life but only live for the next.

Mabel Yin

Without fail, every time I attempted to speak for egalitarianism, someone would warn me against causing division. My stock answer: " I’m not dividing the body, I am trying to tear down the existing division." Hierarchy is divisive, egalitarianism is unifying. Case closed. By reading various blogs on the issue, I am beginning to understand why the Pharisees would not believe in Jesus even when they witnessed Lazarus being raised from the dead, Peter healing the man crippled from birth, etc. Never under estimate man’s desire to cling to position/power in order to feel superior/entitled. Scientific research has proven that people would do unbelievably cruel things to other human beings when given "orders from authority". Most Christians find it easy to agree rather than disagree. It is not easy to cultivate a discerning spirit. Even though I often times feel like a loner in my church, by staying there, I think I do have some influence on other leaders in this area. My weakness is I don’t know how to be gentle about it:-(

Paula Fether

Yep. People like the divisions where they are and don’t want anyone moving them, even to get rid of them. They gloss over scriptures like Rev. 2:6, 15 which make it clear that Jesus HATES people "lording over" other people and setting up a chain of command. People are afraid of the cognitive dissonance that arises when their "givens" are challenged, and they lash out at whoever causes it. And sometimes there really isn’t a gentle way to confront the teaching of division.