Unity in the Body
1 + Many = 1
Pastor Arn Buck
Heart Song Worship Center
"Weak things united become strong." - Proverb
What is the Body of Christ? How does the local church relate to the Body of Christ? Let's begin to answer the first question with a general definition. The Body of Christ is the accumulation of all true believers united by the power of the Holy Spirit under the headship of Jesus Christ. This definition is supported by the following scriptures.
1 Corinthians 12:27 (NLT) All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it.1
Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT) The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
Colossians 1:18 (NLT) Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.
Membership in the Body
Notice that the definition used the term true believers to describe the members of the body. I do not think that the Body of Christ includes all those who consider themselves Christians. Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 7:21-23.
Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT) "Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as 'Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. On judgment day many will tell me, 'Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name." But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.'
This is showing that many (verse 22) will be surprised on judgment. Going to church once a week, uttering the words of the sinners prayer, and calling yourself a Christian doesn't necessarily make you a member of the Body of Christ. The passage even states that even many who minister in His name our outside of the body. Notice that the decisive factor is whether they obey God. To truly be obedient to God one has to have more than an intellectual belief in Him. When Jesus prays for His church in John 17:20 he refers to those who believe.
John 17:20-22 (NLT) "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one-as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
The Greek word for believe in this passage is . Vine's Dictionary offers the following definition.
"to believe," also to be persuaded of," and hence, "to place confidence in, to trust," signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence.
The Body of Christ and the Local Church
There are in many who say they believe in Jesus. Using the definition of the English word "believe", this would be a true statement if they thought the Jesus existed. The extent of their involvement with Christ could be no more than an intellectual comprehension that Jesus existed and that He died for their sins. Except for their stated belief, they could be no different than any nonbeliever. Although they have applied the label of "Christian" to themselves, they live self-serving lives that do not bring glory to God. They are carnal Christians. For one to believe in, the sense of the Greek word, one would have to place their trust in and become reliant on Christ.
The Body of Christ is not defined or limited by the boundaries of local churches. The Body of Christ extends beyond the boundary of the local church. Most churches have a mix of true believers and carnal Christians. One church might have 25% of its members within the Body of Christ, another might have 82%, and yet another might only have 2%. True believers should always be encouraging carnal Christians to become of the Body of Christ. One of the most effective ways to do this is by setting a Christ-like example for them.
Characteristics of the Body of Christians
Since Jesus is the head of the Body of Christ it should reflect His nature. When done right this will bring glory to God and by demonstrating His love draw unbelievers to Him. The following scriptures list Christ- like characteristics that it should reflect.
Its members will show love for one another.
John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
Its members will show acceptance of one another.
Romans 15:7 (NLT) So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.
Its members will encourage and edify one another.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.
Its members will build up one another.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
Its members will honor and respect each other.
Romans 12:9-10 (NLT) Don't just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
Its members will be forgiving of one another.
Ephesians 4:32 (NLT) Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Its members will pray for one another.
James 5:16 (NLT) and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.
Its members will teach and admonish each another.
Colossians 3:16-17 (NLT) Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.
The Reality of the Local Church
All too often what we find in the local church is what is reflected in James 4:1-4.
James 4:1-4 (NLT) What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn't it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can't possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your whole motive is wrong-you want only what will give you pleasure. You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can't be a friend of God.
Remember that most local churches are a combination of true believers and carnal Christians. The latter impacts former. It clearly shows that it is critical that we help our carnal brothers and sisters join us in the unity of the Body of Christ. Encourage them by your example. Encourage them by testifying of God's goodness as you experience it.
Finding True Unity
Through out history many have made sincere attempts to become righteous in the sight of man and God. Most of these attempts end in displays of self-righteousness and judgment. However well intentioned we are, we simple do not have the strength to accomplish such unity without the transforming power of God.
An example of a group that started out with great intentions were the Jewish Pharisees. The Pharisees were founded two hundred years before the birth of Christ. They intended that everyone in Israel would achieve holiness through the study of the Torah. They started out with good intentions but yet ended up being accused by Jesus of being hypocrites appearing a white-washed. They looked pure on the outside but were filled with the stench of decay. Although Jesus forgave the outcasts of Jewish society and sinners, he often attacked the Pharisees for their perversion of God's law. They adhered to the letter of the law but lost missed the heart of the law.
Unity within local churches is important for the Body of Christ to impact the world. Our but hope of achieving the unity that Jesus prayed for and desires in His church is to individually seek oneness with Him and encourage others to do the same. As we are united in Him we will be united in each other and truly reflect God's love, faithfulness and power to the lost world.
Ephesians 4:4-6 (NLT) We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.
Approaching a oneness with God doesn't make things automatically work, but it does make things easier. It is easier to respect others as we observe their God-given gifts, abilities, and unique personalities that all add color and completeness to the local church. As we approach oneness there is a greater desire to face and resolve differences which helps to develop sincerity in relationships. As we approach oneness competition is replaced by encouragement. As we approach oneness with God, His love flows more freely throughout the body.