THE BODY OF CHRIST

Pastor James J. Barker

Text: I CORINTHIANS 12:12-27




INTRODUCTION:


  1. The Bible uses different expressions for the local church. For example, in I Timothy 3:15, Paul refers to the church as "the house of God."
  2. You may recall back in I Corinthians 3:9, the church is called "Godís husbandry" and "Godís building."
  3. Another term used is the bride of Christ. This looks to the future when Christ the Bridegroom returns for His bride.
  4. Probably the term used most frequently is "the body of Christ" (cf. I Cor. 12:12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,22,23,24,25,27).
  5. There is much confusion concerning this term, the body of Christ. Some teach that it is a large invisible group of saved individuals from all over the world. This is the view of the Scofield Study Bible (pg. 1304).
  6. I have a problem with this. First of all, there are practical problems with this position. It is not usual to meet nominal Christians who disdain the local church but claim allegiance to some vague, mystical "invisible church." I heard J. Vernon McGee say that the invisible church people are the ones who are invisible on Sunday and Wednesday nights.
  7. Unfortunately many are invisible on Sunday mornings as well.
  8. It is hard for me to comprehend a church without officers, without ordinances, without meetings, without members, etc. Where do these invisible church people pay their tithe? (Answer: most do not tithe.)
  9. There is no accountability outside the local church. There is no church discipline outside the local church. There is no Scriptural missions program outside the local church. Soulwinning and discipleship cannot be carried out properly outside the local church.
  10. In addition to practical problems, there are doctrinal problems as well. The first reference to the church is found in Matt.16:18. I will not waste precious time debating whether or not our Lord was referring to a local church or an invisible church. Our Lord certainly organized a local church, with the two ordinances, and He gave them the Great Commission.
  11. Furthermore, the word "church" can be used in an institutional sense. For example, we speak of the separation of church and state. Which church? Which state? Perhaps our Lordís words in Matt.16:18 were used in an institutional sense.
  12. Certainly He was referring to the local church in Matt.18:17. How could an "invisible church" practice church discipline. So the problems with this invisible church theory are many, and the longer I am in the ministry, the clearer this becomes to me.
  13. There is a sense in which the Bible speaks of the unity of all true born again believers. All true Christians recognize this, though we may differ on our terminology.
  14. But the emphasis in the NT is always on the local church. Paul wrote the epistle of I Corinthians to "the church of God which is at Corinth" (I Cor.1:2) Ė in other words, to a specific local church.
  15. The word ecclesia is used 113 times in the NT and it always refers to local churches. Some would say that the body of Christ has a different meaning than the local church but this view is not supported by Scripture (cf. I Cor.12:27).

 

I. THERE IS UNITY IN THE BODY

    1. Although it has many members with diverse functions and duties, the human body is nevertheless one organism. A single life flows through it all.
    2. Likewise, the Bible says, "For as the body is one, and hath many members" (I Cor.12:12). There certainly is great diversity in the body of Christ. There are older saints who have been saved for many years. They have wisdom and maturity.
    3. There are new believers who are full of excitement and energy. There are Christians from various different countries Ė but "the body is one" (12:12). There is unity (cf. Eph.4:4-6).

 

II. THERE IS DIVERSITY IN THE BODY

    1. "For the body is not one member, but many" (12:14). Without a variety of human members you could not have a human body. There must be many members, each one different from the others.
    2. Each member works in obedience to the head, and in cooperation with the others. Christ is the head of the body of Christ, and we all work together in obedience to Him.
    3. J. Vernon McGee gave a good illustration about hurting his foot in a hunting accident. He asked the doctor how many bones were in his foot and the doctor said there were 27. McGee said, "I think I hurt all 27 of them," and the doctor said, "No, you only hurt one." The point Dr. McGee was making was that his whole foot was hurting (12:26).
    4. He gave another good illustration. Dr. McGee preached one night and afterwards was dining with a physician. The doctor asked him what he thought was the most important part of his body. McGee said his tongue. The doctor said, "No, the most important part of your body today was your big toe. If it werenít for your big toes you would not have been able to stand up there in the pulpit."
    5. I think you get the point. We need all of our members for the church to function properly.

 

III. THERE IS STRENGTH IN THE BODY

    1. I can probably preach without my legs but Iíd have a hard time going out soulwinning. Most of you here today would probably have a difficult time of it if you lost your ears or eyes or nose (cf. 12:14-24).
    2. The foot should not feel inferior because it is not the hand (12:15). The ear should not feel inferior because it is not the eye (12:16). A body with four hands or four eyes would not function properly.
    3. But with all the members working together, the body is strong and functions properly (12:17).
    4. God has placed you in the local church for a specific purpose and you must take your rightful place as the Lord (the head of the body) directs you (12:18).
    5. The point here is we should not be envious of others. Not everybody can be an eye or an ear or a foot or a hand but each member helps the other, and working together the body can accomplish much.
    6. Months ago a man told me that his wife wants to come back to our church because she was impressed by our kids passing out flyers for NBT. Our children are (small) members of the body.
    7. In the early days of BBC I had to do everything. Thank God it was only temporary (12:18-20). For the pastor to do everything is unscriptural (Eph.4:11-13).
    8. Another problem arises when one member has a haughty attitude and thinks he is better than others (12:21,22). There should be no big shots in the local church.

CONCLUSION:

  1. There is a place in the body of Christ for each and every Christian.
  2. If you are saved, you must seek your place in the local church. Several Sundays ago, Bro. Knickerbocker preached on the "ministry of helps" (12:28). Perhaps that is your gift.


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