The Body of Christ
This is part two in our “Relationship Series”. In this blog I am going to do my best to explain our relationship to God as Christ’s body. Even more than that, I'm going to talk about the state of the body and how we can help it become more unified. I’m going to pull a lot of scripture from 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. If you aren’t familiar with these chapters, I highly recommend reading those in partner with this study.
Paul begins chapter 12 by saying that there are many gifts that come from the Holy Spirit, but they are all given by the same Spirit. That one Spirit gives many gifts, but he is still one Spirit. In order to understand the importance of his statements we have to look a little deeper into the church of Corinth.
The Corinthians were known for paganism. They worshiped “many speechless idols” before becoming Christians. This allows us to conclude that Paul is focusing on the fact that in Christianity there is only one Spirit to differentiate from their previous religion. He didn’t want them thinking, for example, that there is a spirit for healing and a different spirit for words of knowledge. I believe he was trying to bring unity while showing that the same Spirit that works in us is the one that worked in Jesus.
Understanding that the purpose of this chapter is to bring unity is important because it reminds us that we are all part of the same body. It’s ironic that a chapter that was meant to bring unity has caused so much division through different denominations. (I will address that more in a moment.)
The rest of chapter 12 is about spiritual gifts and how we are the body of Christ. All the parts of the body have a place and they are all important for it to function in a healthy way.
Alright, so what does it mean to be the body of Christ?
The first thing we need to know about the body is that Christ is the head.
He is the single most important thing that holds the church together. In everything we do, he is meant to be the driving force. Just as our head tells the rest of our body what to do, we are meant to listen to him and move when he directs us to.
One part of our own body doesn't function totally apart from the rest of it. The body of Christ is the same. We are meant to compliment one another, not be in competition. We need to act as one unit. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts to edify one another and to help other people get to know Jesus.
Continuing forward, I would like to shift gears and share a few of the questions that I've had about spiritual gifts, followed by what I believe to be true.
What is a gift of the Spirit, anyway?
A gift is something that is given to a believer that they wouldn’t have apart from the Holy Spirit. God’s power is shown the most in our weakness. So, a gift isn’t necessarily something that you have excelled at your entire life. For example, I haven’t always been the most outgoing person in the world. Before I became a Christian, it made me nervous to approach people that I didn’t know. I could be checking out at a grocery store and I would get anxious about interacting with the cashier. Granted, I was on drugs and super paranoid, but I believe my insecurities came out the most in that point of my life. Even today, every time I approach someone to share the Gospel, I have to rely on the Holy Spirit to give me boldness. Once I begin to share I feel more comfortable than ever. If I decided that I wasn’t meant to share, because I’m not naturally gifted with boldness, then I would have missed out on something that God has called me to do. It’s the same for me no matter the gift. In my natural state it terrifies me to pray for healing, but when I rely on the Holy Spirit, I see people get healed by him. If I were already good at the stuff that I’m gifted in then I wouldn’t need to rely as much on the Holy Spirit. In areas I’m weak, his gifts are the only thing that allow me to fulfill God's will. I trust him to fill the gaps in my life with whatever gift I need at that moment.
Should we label gifted people within the body?
This question has been a big learning point for me recently. I want to make sure that I don’t just pursue what I’m gifted in because it’s where I’m thriving. I want to constantly check in with God and make sure that I’m not closing doors to new opportunities that he has for me. When someone says they are called to be a teacher, for example, that doesn’t exclude them from walking in other giftings. One of the biggest failures I’ve seen in the church is when we take a gift or a calling and we make it someone’s identity. Our primary identity is "child of God". Everything else is secondary. There are people who even get business cards with “Prophet so-and-so” or “Evangelist such-and-such”. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t wrong in itself, but it’s treading murky waters if you ask me. I won’t go super deep into this, I will just refer you to Matthew 23. Jesus actually told his disciples not to find their identity in their role. He said not to call themselves father, teacher, or rabbai; that they all had one Father in heaven, one Teacher in him. They were all meant to consider each other equals. He didn't want them ending up like the pharisees; spending all of their time trying to make themselves seem important.
What is the most important part of the body?
At the end of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, Paul says we should all desire the spiritual gifts that are the most helpful. Then he says: “But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” He begins chapter 13 by saying that any gift we walk in without love is pointless. Even acts of service without love gain nothing. Then he explains what love is. (I’m telling you, this is good stuff, go read it if you haven't) Love is the glue that holds the body together. If we were to compare the body of Christ to our own body; on a cellular level, love would be the energy that binds everything together. The most important part of the body is love. Jesus said that true love is laying down one’s life for a friend. I know I’m constantly talking about selflessness, but without it none of the gifts matter.
If you don’t know what you are gifted in, then begin with loving others. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the gifts you need and begin to take action. We don’t need another personality test, we need to start loving each other.
How can we restore the divide between denominations and make the body whole?
We can start asking Christians we don’t agree with to share their beliefs with us and love them anyway. We can try to understand where they are coming from and find common ground. Apart from beliefs that create exclusion or aren’t Biblical, I don’t believe we can go wrong by hearing people out and putting each other before ourselves. One of my best friends, Josh, and I barely ever see eye to eye. We both agree that Jesus is the savior of the world, but as we move forward from there we hardly ever agree 100%. That doesn’t push us apart, it helps us sharpen each other. We can love each other and disagree, because our foundation is the same. If you can’t agree past Jesus being the Messiah, then stay there. The church needs to find common ground instead of arguing over differences. The body needs less debate unless its accompanied by acceptance. (I'm not saying acceptance of sin. I'm saying acceptance of people. There is a difference.)
This might not be the direction you expected me to go with this blog. I just wanted to address a few different things. If you want me to write another post giving examples of the relationship of a head and body on an anatomical level, I can do that. Just let me know. If you have any questions I would love to answer them. Leave a comment or email me directly. As always, thanks for reading! Next week we will look at the relationship of servants and friends.