What is the Church?

Lesson 10, Part 4

5/8

The Body of Christ

What does the Bible reveal about the way the Church is organized?

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ … But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body … Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:12-28).

To do the work God has given it to do, the Church is organized to function as a unit. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul compared it to a human body made of many different parts with different functions, each being necessary for the smooth functioning of the whole. Paul even calls the Church Christ’s Body (Colossians 1:24). Members of the Body should all “speak the same thing” (1 Corinthians 1:10) and do things decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Who is the head of the Church?

“And He [Christ] is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

Paul explained Christ’s leadership role in the Church, not only as the head of a body, but as a husband who “loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

Christ nourishes and cherishes the Church; He made the ultimate sacrifice for it. The Church, in thankfulness and appreciation of His sacrifice, serves Him.

What are some of the serving responsibilities that were established in the Church?

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

These serving responsibilities were given for the benefit of the whole Church, to help equip, edify and unify the Body. A person ordained to such responsibilities is generally called a “minister,” a word that means servant . In the Scriptures they are also referred to as elders .

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God’s righteous law will be the foundation and standard for all who reign as kings and priests in the Kingdom of God.

How are the elders to handle their responsibilities?

“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder …: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1-3).

Following Christ’s example of service would prevent the misuses of power that occur naturally in human governments (Matthew 20:24-28; Luke 22:24-26). Leaders in God’s service are commanded to work for the benefit of those they serve in an atmosphere of mutual love and respect.

What part do all members play in the effective working of the Body of Christ?

“But, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

“But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

God calls and places each member individually in the Body where he or she can best grow and serve for the benefit of the entire Body.

What other analogies show how God supports and nurtures members through the Church?

“… The Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit … Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:1-8).

God, through His Church, cares for each of His children. Paul referred to the Church as “the mother of us all.” As a mother feeds, clothes, teaches and comforts her children, the Church is to give the spiritual care that each member needs.

Jesus also compared this relationship with a grapevine. Each member attached to the vine draws nourishment and support from the vine and so can produce good fruit. But if that close-knit relationship is severed the branch will wither. Whether the comparison is to a body or a vine, the message is the same: Members of the Church must be connected to Jesus Christ and one another to grow and thrive. The Church is one of the greatest blessings God has given His children!

Are members to be active participants in the work and functioning of the Church?

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? … And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’ ” (1 Corinthians 12:13-21).

When God gives us His Spirit, we become members of Christ’s Body, His Church. He expects us, since we are members of His spiritual Body, to serve Him, to participate in its example to the world and its work of spreading the gospel. He also expects us to know, love and serve one another. He tells us, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

We can do this only if we are active participants in His work and service. The Scriptures admonish: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Christ expects the members of His Body to be actively working together, cooperating to accomplish the mission He gave His Church.

God's Church is Like a Loving Mother

God's love is like a mother's love for her children, but God's love goes much deeper. God's true Church conducts herself as a caring mother toward her children.

The Scriptures describe the characteristics that set apart God’s Church as unlike any other. Part of its uniqueness comes from the unconditional love of God present in its members: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

God’s love is like a mother’s love for her children, but God’s love goes much deeper. God’s true Church conducts herself as a caring mother toward her children.

Old Testament Israel was thought of as a mother and her citizens as her children. The Bible uses the term mother to illustrate the love of God for His sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you …” (Isaiah 66:13). Describing the way he and other elders had served the Church, Paul wrote, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

Paul symbolically characterized the Church of God as a mother (Galatians 4:26). In Revelation 19:7 the Church is seen as the betrothed bride of Christ. Clearly God, through His merciful, loving instructions, has provided His children with a nurturing environment through the Church.

The Church of God has the caring characteristics of a loving mother. A mother has an innate desire to nurture and protect. However, those nurturing and protective abilities are limited by the fact that she is human, made of flesh. Members of the Church of God know and understand, however, that God is the source of the Church’s spiritual love. The apostle John equates God with love: “For God is love” (1 John 4:8). He defines what God’s love is: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

The Ten Commandments, recorded in Exodus 20:1-26 and Deuteronomy 5:1-33, summarize how we are to love God and our fellowman. Jesus distilled them into two great commandments: “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matthew 22:37-39). These two great commandments embody the love of God. They are exercised in an outgoing and protective way. Members of the Church of God strive to practice this godly love.

The Church’s members follow the example set by their Savior, Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:38-48). They are concerned with two great priorities: placing God first in their lives and loving their neighbor as they do their own lives (Matthew 22:36-40). Though not perfect, members of the Church of God live by and reflect the love of the Eternal God. They teach the love of God—His outgoing concern for others—embodied within the gospel of Christ.

We eagerly await the time when all human beings will experience the love of God in this way. Until that day, the day God’s Kingdom comes to earth, we encourage and welcome you to share with us the love of God as expressed by and in His Church.

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