Identifying A New Testament Assembly
Compiled by Lonnie Ford for the Nepali Brethren
Chapter: XII. THE FUNCTIONING BODY
- The One Body (1 Corinthians 12): Paul, in this passage uses the analogy of the human body to set forth some important truths concerning our relationship in the Lord's body.
- The principle factor, around which all of this is built, is that of the necessity of unity in the body for there to be functional order.
- So Paul shows, by the use of the human body as an analogy, that the first and most important characteristic of a healthy body, is that every part performs its function for the good of the whole -- not for its own glory.
This concept of unity clearly distinguishes the Lord's assemblies, as living organisms -- not organizations.
However, that first and most important characteristic of body unity is tied together with a second, which is, that though the body is unified it does not have uniformity -- all the parts of the body are not the same, and being joined to the one does not make us all the same.
- If the members of the physical body are not working in unity, then there will be a chaotic existence at best.
- So the importance of unity is emphasized in this chapter.
- Like the physical body, so also within the local Assembly there is variety, with differing gifts and differing functions.
- In verses 3-11, Paul spoke about how there are great diversities, in gifts and in the work of the members, but they were all given by the Same Spirit and all for the good of the body.
- Then in verses 12-13, we read; "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."
- In Verse 13, Paul gave us one of the most famous pictures of the unity of the local Church ever written.
A body consists of many parts, but there is in it an essential unity in the diversity of the Body.
The first characteristic of body having to do with unity, is tied to the second having to do with the body being unified without uniformity leading to a third characteristic which is, that all the divers parts are one entity.
- Men have always been fascinated by the way in which the different parts of a physical body cooperate.
- For example, if we drop something on our foot we do not say, "My foot has a pain," we say, "I -- am in pain."
By that he is saying that what the 'I' is to the physical body, Christ Jesus is to the local independent 'Assembly.'
- There is an 'I' -- a personality, an individual, an entity which gives unity to the many and varying parts of the body.
- Although there are many members, Paul said it is still just one body, --- But then he said; --- so also is Christ.
Drop your eyes down to 1 Cor. 12:27 where Paul says, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."
- There is that individual, that entity that makes all the parts of the physical body become one body.
- So it is that all the diverse parts of the Lord's assembly body, find their unity In Christ.
- Christ is the entity, the individual, the "I" of the Spiritual body.
- What one does to the Church body, they do to Christ.
- So, when Saul went forth persecuting the church, Christ could say, Saul, Saul why persecutest thou me?
Beloved, there is a tremendous fundamental principle here.
- Please note that Paul didn't say you are 'a part' of the so called mystical body or the Universal body.
- NO, NO, he said you (plural collectively) are 'the body of Christ.'
Literally, we are the body of Christ, -- He chose that we are to be His hands, His feet, His eyes, His mouth piece - to do His work.
- Christ Jesus is no longer in this world 'in a physical body.'
- Therefore if He wants a task done -- He has chosen to find a person to do it.
- If He wants His people taught, He has chosen to share the task with His body members -- to teach them.
- If He wants a wandering sheep brought back into the fold, He finds compassionate body members -- to do His work.
- If He wants His story told, He uses men to tell it.
What kind of a 'member' of the 'body' would you be if you did not 'serve Christ,' because you were busy serving 'self?'
- This is what is meant when it says that we are made -- able ministers of the New Covenant.
- We are the Feet to run His errands, -- we are the voice to speak His words, and we are the hands to do His work.
- That is what a local assembly of people is, 'the Body of Christ' in that community where God has put them.
Now, we have yet a fourth characteristic of the human body to illustrate for us -- truth of the Spiritual body.
- What kind of member would you be if you refused to 'work for the Lord' at all?
- Or if you want only that part of 'service' that puts you up front where you can be noticed and admired.
- Then whose 'glory' are you seeking?
- What would you look like if certain 'members of your own body,' refused to do their part -- if they refused to cooperate?
- If they refused to do anything except those things as might draw attention to themselves?
- This one is found in verses 12-13, we read; "For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."
- In verse 12, keep in mind that Paul is using the analogy of a physical body, to teach truths about the Lord's assembly bodies.
But he also shows us that in a living organism there are no useless members, and that all the members need to be joined together to be a living organism.
- He has shown us the essential unity of the Body.
- He has shown us that this unity is without uniformity, because there is a diversity of members.
- He has shown that the Physical body has many members, but they all together make up one body or one living organism.
God's design -- then -- is that we not live to ourselves.
- He teaches here that Christ made this body life possible -- for all, whether they be Jew or Gentile, bond or free.
- That we are all united together by the Spirit into a unified living organism.
It is God's design that the Local Assembly be a loving environment, in which His children are nurtured, and disciple.
- Trying to live independent of the body produces selfishness, stagnation, sterility.
- Such living is in complete contradiction to the life that Paul's elaborate allegory sets forth.
It is with this in mind that Paul speaks in verse 14, where he states; "For the body is not one member but many."
- The most important lesson of our spiritual education is to learn to think and to act unselfishly as part of the Body.
- This means we must put off the selfish tendency we have as a separate individuals.
Some are less beautiful or feebler than others, but none are unnecessary. Paul spoke about this in 1 Cor. 12:22-23, lets read this; "Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness."
- So, although the body is one, it has many members, yet all those members are by design -- different.
- First Paul spoke about those parts of the body that are feeble.
Next, Paul spoke of parts less honorable -- like say the finger is not as honorable as the whole hand.
- The word feeble -- means without strength.
- But Paul states that just because it is without strength, does not mean it is not part of the body, or that it is not necessary to the body.
Then he spoke of the uncomely parts of the body.
- If you had to make a choice between losing one of the two members -- you would choose the finger over the hand.
But, because they are not beautiful, does it mean that they are not important? Of course not! Try getting along without them!
- There are parts that are not as beautiful as other parts.
- What about the liver -- is it beautiful? You would not want it hanging on the outside for everyone to look at.
- What about the heart -- same thing.
Paul said in verse 24; "God has tempered the body together."
- This is all part of the design of the organism; -- every part is important.
- So, these individual parts or members -- have been welded together to make up a body or an assembly.
The beauty, usefulness, and purpose of the human body are in its diversity.
- The assembly could not function without them.
- And any member of the body for whom Christ died must not be treated with -- haughty indifference.
When all the body members are perfectly coordinated in grace, and when there is harmony of movement, there is great attractiveness, obvious power and indispensable usefulness.
- For example, a person may have; let's say, beautiful hands, but if that hand becomes severed from the body for very long, it becomes repulsive -- the beauty is lost.
- It becomes dead and useless - detached, broken off, lost, cast aside, rejected; yea, worse: decaying, corrupting, putrefying.
- But a complete, living healthy body, with all its parts functioning smoothly together, has beauty and usefulness.
- This can only happen as all the members remain in subjection to the one Head -- Christ Jesus.
Why is it so hard for believers today to realize this great truth -- that -- No single member can be a body by themselves:
- This is God's design for each Local Assembly.
- The Local Assembly body is the vehicle that God has designed for our maturity and for our service.
- Therefore the body is the vehicle, the means or the method that God uses to prepare us for Kingdom life.
- It does not matter how accomplished, how skilled or how wise the hand may become, it is not a body of itself.
- That is Paul's point there in verse 21, where he said; "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you."
- Beloved, none of us can stand alone.
We must, like Paul, think, live, move and breathe as part of the Body.
So in 1 Cor. 12, Paul presses home the point that there should be no schism (division) in the Body.
- We may, by unavoidable force of circumstances, be confined to lonely isolation, like Paul shut up in prison.
- But we are still part of the Body.
Life itself teaches us that division in the body creates chaos and pain for the body.
- Read 1 Cor. 12:25-26, "That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."
It is for this reason that Paul went right on in his words with the exhortations found in 1 Corinthians 13:
- Also we know from experience that the loss of one member, even a small toe, can seriously affect the balance of the whole.
It is important that we recognize that these thoughts, are a continuation of what we see about body life in Chapter 12.
Isn't it amazing how easily and quickly our spiritual perceptions can get out of line!
- He said in 1 Cor. 13:4, that "LOVE suffers long."
- Then in verse 5, he said that "LOVE thinks no evil."
- What about verse 7, "LOVE bears all things, hopes all things."
- Oh yes, back in 1 Cor. 13:6, we read; "LOVE keeps no score of wrong, does not gloat over other men's sins, but delights in truth."
- For example, are not our prayers frequent and fervent for the fellow-shipping body members? And well they should be!
But how often do we make mention in prayer, of others, who are body members whom have fallen off the right path.
- And we feel one in spirit with those in fellowship with us.
Dare we ask? Is this the attitude set forth by Paul in these words that we have been reading?
- How often do we come along side to help?
- Most often we only speak of them to find fault?
Lesson 2 on the Functioning Body -- Dealing with Division.
- Or was this attitude of our Lord and Savior?
- In Psalm 133:1 the Psalmist exclaimed, "How good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity!"
- In the 12th chapter of I Corinthians we noted that this whole analogy of the body is built around UNITY.
- One of the marvels of the functioning body is this unity in diversity.
- There are many members, but all under the direction of one head.
- And so, when love, peace, and harmony prevail in the Lord's assembly, it is one of the most beautiful experiences of life.
But unity is important not simply because it is fulfilling and satisfying to us.
But it is important, because it brings us together to accomplish what we could not do alone.
- It seems -- that the Psalmist knew that harmony in relationships, especially 'among brethren,' is one of life's greatest rewards.
We cannot carry this out as we should if there is division among us.
Another reason why unity is also important is because it rates high on God's agenda.
- We as the Lord's assembly have been given a very serious commission to carry out.
Also in John 17, we should consider the Lord's prayer on behalf of His disciples, and all those who would follow.
- It gives us serious pause, when we read in Proverbs 6:16-19 that there are six things that the Lord hates, in fact seven that are an abomination to Him.
- The final item on this list of things abominable to the Lord, is when someone "stirs up dissension among brethren," (Prov. 6:19).
In verse 21, He also prayed for all of us, "That all of them may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent Me."
- It should not surprise us that our Lord felt compelled to pray for His disciples in John 17:11, that they may be one, as we are one.
So, as members of the Lord's assemblies, we are living proof that Christ is the son of God when oneness prevails among us.
- Only as we submit to Christ as Head, is this oneness possible.
- Jesus prayed that by our oneness, -- by our unity; -- we would show the world that Jesus was sent by the Father.
One would expect that the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus would display unity.
- So, this Oneness or unity must be a major item on our agenda.
- If we are to be an accurate reflection of Him to our world, then we must dwell in unity.
- After all, the Assembly is a people -- built on one foundation.
Also, the Assembly should be in unity because it is made up of people who share the same faith!
- In 1 Cor. 3:11; we are told; "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Then in Eph. 1:22-23, we read; "and has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all."
- In Phil. 1:27, we read; "Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you all stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel."
- So, as body members, we are to be of one mind -- striving together for the faith of the gospel.
In Eph. 4:1-6; "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord beseech you that you all walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called 2 With all lowliness and meekness with long suffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all and through all, and in you all."
- So, all the members of the local Assembly can be unified, because we have the same Head over us and that is Christ Jesus.
And so, in the Local Assembly we should expect unity.
Yet, in spite of all this oneness, -- division does exist.
HOW ARE WE TO DEAL WITH DIVISION AMONG US.
- Here we are told that we All have - the same hope, the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, the same God and Father.
- These are things that unify us, but we must all -- endeavor to keep this unity of 'the Spirit' -- We must work to keep unity.
- The fact that divisions existed in the Corinthian assembly, is apparent to anyone reading the books addressed to them.
In 1 Cor. 1:10, Paul pleads with the members of the local assembly with these words, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you all be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
- That this was a matter of great concern, is also evident from the contents of the book and the spirit in which it was written.
From these passages, it is evident that Paul had heard of division among these members.
- o Also let's read 1 Cor. 3:1-7 RSV; "But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? 4 For when one says "I belong to Paul" and another, "I belong to Apollos," are you not merely men? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."
- "For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it," (1 Cor. 11:18).
Paul was very concerned about this issue and -- deals with it several times in the book.
- Some were proclaiming themselves followers of Paul, still others of Apollos, some of Cephas (Peter).
- Then as if the Lord were to be equated with these human servants of His -- some were calling themselves followers of Christ.
Paul's concern is seen in that he writes concerning the communion of the body, in ch. 10 and 11. Then as he writes concerning the functioning body in ch. 12 -- which we studied in the previous lesson.
In 1 Cor. 12:25, the Apostle Paul -- speaking to the Corinthian assembly -- stated "that there should be no schism in the body."
- He knew that divisions in the assembly would hinder the assembly from fulfilling its God-intended purpose.
- The word 'that' in this verse is a conjunction of purpose, and it therefore means "in order that."
But beloved, There will be division at times!!!
- In other words, all that Paul has taught previously is for the purpose, "that -- there should be no schism in the body."
So the way to resolve division is for every member to have the same care for EVERY other body member -- not just some.
- So, Paul tells us the antidote for such schism or division.
- In that very verse he says: "but that the members should have the same care one for another."
So, he is not advocating getting rid of those who are weak, or lacking -- so that we can have unity.
Rather, he is showing that our goal is to strengthen each other.
- Now, he said this, just after he makes it clear that there are members that naturally receive more attention in a physical body.
- These are listed as the weak, the less honorable, and the members that are not comely.
- And it should also -- be so -- in the Assembly of Believing ones.
In that phrase where Paul said, there should be no schism in the body -- the word "schism" comes from the Greek word scisma, which speaks of "a tear in a garment or a crack in a stone."
- To get involved in lifting up the weak, in helping those who are off the right path to get back on, so that we all together might share in God's great kingdom purpose.
In the same way the Assembly is made up of many members.
- We may illustrate the meaning of this word -- by saying that if the thumb of the hand refused to agree with the other fingers in grasping a pen, we would have an analogy of what Paul calls 'A schism.'
- You see, it doesn't mean that the thumb or the fingers are not in vital union with the head.
- However, it does mean that it is not obedient to the head.
A member, who chooses a path of disobedience, is out of step with the body, and not in subjection to the head.
- These members are individuals with separate wills and minds -- capable of obeying Him or of refusing to obey.
- If they choose the path of disobedience, -- they are in need of being ministered by those that are spiritual in the body.
- But also, a member that is critical, refusing to serve their brethren in the hour of their need, is just as out of step with the body and not in subjection to the head.
- Paul's point in the analogy of 1 Cor. 12, is that the members of the physical body would naturally reach out to the one in need.
- So Paul uses this truth to teach that the way to avoid such schism in the assembly, is for the members to help every other member.
In Verse 24, Paul taught that God has tempered the body together.
This passage reveals that there are members who are as -- distinctly different -- as the eye is to the hand, or the head is to the feet.
- God has given every member gifts that enables them to minister to the weaknesses or wounds of the other members.
- So, the unity of the body does not come through cutting off, it comes through serving, helping, encouraging.
Paul goes on to teach that the care of the members of the body for each other ought to be impartial: "that the members should have the same care one for another," (1 Cor. 12:25).
- There always have been and there always will be differences.
- But he also stressed that God placed these differing members in that particular body.
- And though -- they are different, they are -- all necessary for the function of the body and the fulfillment of its purpose.
- Differences don't make division among us.
- Wrong attitudes and dispositions toward one another make division.
- A better translation would be, "that the members may care in the same manner one toward another."
Paul shows from the context that although the members are different, they are equal and important -- in the sight of God.
- The first words we want to note here are to "care in the same manner one toward another."
Paul indicated, however, that believers are beset by this sin of favoritism toward certain fellow believers.
Paul, when speaking about having no division among us, was not talking about ignoring false doctrine or ignoring immoral issues.
- Peter, when he visited Cornelius, stated as recorded in Acts 10:34, that -- "God is no respecter of persons."
- God cares for us without respect of persons.
James put it in these words, "If ye have respect of persons (favor certain individuals), ye commit sin," (James 2:9).
That's how factions are formed.
- He was talking about not being divided over who we serve or fellowship, and who we do not serve or fellowship.
The truth, as set forth, is that the individual members are different, however, this difference has to do with -- 'difference of kind,' not a difference of value.
It is also illustrated that though these difference of kind do exist, they exist -- for the functional unity and harmony of the whole body, not as points of division or contention.
All of this is given to illustrate, that the 'body' protects and cares for all its body parts . . . Especially for those that are -- the weak, the less honorable, and the members that are not comely.
- God's people begin to gather around 'a strong personality,' or around those they like, or those that make them feel good, and they follow them instead of following the head of the Body -- Christ Jesus.
- Paul speaks of this as a given fact -- something to be expected.
Paul is saying that God made each member of the Assembly.
Whether weak or strong, presentable or less presentable, honorable or less honorable -- they are all members of the body.
- Paul put it in these words, "And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it," (1 Cor. 12:23-26).
Here, Paul spoke of the need to be of one accord, of one mind.
How is this possible?
- With that understanding, we are to respect each other; to be thankful for the God given ability and necessity of each member.
- God didn't make the body members all equal -- in the sense -- that they have the same ability.
- However, He gave to each one those characteristics, that would best fit them to serve 'the body' as a whole and to carry out the purpose of the Body.
- Therefore -- each member, according to God's design, adds to the ability of the Body to function according to divine order.
- The eye is not to favor the hand and then to treat the foot with disdain.
- Each member must recognize its particular function in the body, and serve all the other members without favoritism.
- We don't look up to our favorite members and down on others.
- Nor do we look down on those that don't do as we think they should.
- We look up unto the Lord and esteem all others better than ourselves!
- This is what Paul tells us in Phil. 2:1-7; "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men."
Each one who has their eyes fixed upon their own wants and importance -- will overlook his brother or sisters needs.
- Only as we let nothing be done through strife or for selfish glory.
- Only as we humbly esteem others better than ourselves.
- Only as we look not on our things, or what we want, but look to the good of all, to the good of others before ourselves.
Moving on, another thing that will aid in keeping us from showing favoritism and being prejudicial, is that we must not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
- So we need to remember that God made us and He placed us as body members.
- "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith," (Romans 12:3).
This is a very important issue, because how we esteem ourselves is going to affect how we interact on every level of life.
- If our view of ourselves is inflated then we will think less of others.
- If we get the idea that God's special and exclusive favor rests upon us, over others in the Assembly -- such an attitude is bound to produce a schism in the body.
- First it will affect how we interact with Jesus Himself, who is the Head of the body.
- The first thing that the Lord listed in Prov. 6:19 that are -- an abomination to Him is -- 'a proud look.'
- Pride -- keeps men from approaching God in the right spirit.
- So, a misconception of our 'position' and privileges in the body, will create a schism between us and Christ.
- The second relationship that will be affected by our inflated ego, is that relationship between ourselves and other body members.
- First, because we will not be willing to serve those that we believe to be below us.
Secondly, an inflated ego will keep us from having a proper attitude and spirit towards all the body members.
- Yet Jesus commanded us to be servants, not to seek to be masters like the world does.
- In Luke 22:26, we read; "he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that serves."
For example, because I am the pastor, if I believe that my position in the body is above others, so that I will not dirty my hands to do what I might consider as the menial tasks, -- thinking that such tasks are for others of less importance -- am I not being partial?
- In other words, if we feel that our position is so important in the body, so that we look down on other members -- Are we not being partial -- in the sense that James speaks against?
James said all such is sin.
And last, a puffed up estimation of ourselves will affect the way that we interact with the outside world.
- Is not such thinking rooted in a -- respect of persons?
- Is it not rooted in a high esteem of self that makes us prejudice?
- If we think of ourselves as above those less fortunate sinners, then we will not be affective witnesses.
Paul was effective in his ministry of the gospel, because he was not -- puffed up or arrogant.
- Paul stated in Phil. 3, that if any man had where-in to boast, he did more than all.
- Yet -- He counted all these things that were gain to him materially, as loss, so that he might win Christ.
- He described this same attitude in 1 Cor. 9:22; "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
We read in Romans 1:14-17; "I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; both to the wise and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.
- Rather he saw himself as a debtor to all men.
Now this is what the statement, "that the members should have the same care one for another," found in 1 Cor. 12:25 -- is all about!
- You see if we highly esteem ourselves, it will affect our interaction with others.
- So, right thinking about ourselves is very important.
None of this is possible unless we all build on the foundation of submission to the head and to one another.
- We are called in loving service to care for every other member.
- This whole passage deals with the service each member should render to the others -- not just to some of them.
- It deals with how all the members of the body, need one another's help if the whole body is to enjoy health and harmony.
- None of it is possible either, -- unless we have a heart to serve.
It follows -- that if any single member refuses to render service, then the whole body suffers loss to some extent.
- No individual member exists merely -- to serve itself.
- Each member is placed in the body by God -- for the benefit of the other members.
- For example, the eye is intended to see in order that the whole body may have light and know proper direction.
- The ear hears for the guidance and instruction of all the members.
- The foot walks and the hand works, in order that the whole frame may move where the head wishes and gain what the head wants.
- Imagine a hand, a foot or any other organ, refusing to serve the body and obey its head!
- Say, a foot refuses to move unless it has on an expensive shoe.
- It then not only ceases to be of any use, but it is a hindrance to the body.
- Then it needs attention, and if it will not be helped and restored to function with the body, it must be cut off.
- But to cut it off, without first trying to restore it, would make the other members as disobedient to the head as this member.
What a radical yet practical commentary on (John 15:2), "every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away."
- A carpenter who had injured his thumb went to a surgeon and asked if he could remedy the stiffened joint.
- They tried different kinds of things, including physical therapy.
- However, finding it's restoration to be impossible, he said, "Then cut it off, because it's in the way and hinders my work."
Now beloved, this matter of having the same care one for another necessarily includes the need to edify one another.
For our edification to be affective, we must be in fellowship.
- This is true, but the cutting off only takes place after nurturing it, to try to get it to bear fruit.
- A member that is not functioning with the body and will not submit to the Edification of the body, must be severed from the body.
- It is only as we maintain fellowship, that we can carry out our duties as body members.
- Concerning the duties of each member, the Scripture gives one aim for them all and that is the "edification of the body."
So brothers and sisters, let us by Love edify one another, and thereby promote the spiritual growth of the members of the body.
This will happen as we understand the interdependence that Scripture places on all the members in obedience to the Head.
In 1 Cor. 12:26, "whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."
That is the way it is in our physical bodies.
- In 1 Thess. 5:11, "edify one another."
- In Eph. 4:16 Paul said, "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
- The scriptures also speak of the attitude and method for attaining this increase of the body, through edifying and that attitude and method is: love.
- In Gal. 5:13, "By love serve one another."
Every member that sacrifices their own selfish desires for the sake of the others will cause all to gain.
For example, if your hand blocks a blow to the eye, or your fingers remove a thorn from the foot, all the members of your body rejoice in relief.
This is what Body fellowship is all about; sharing in the life of the body.
Let each one of us, if we are real living members of the body of Christ, make the Apostle Paul's aim, as recorded in Phil. 3 12 our own aim; Paul said; "I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus."
And what is it that we should be following after like Paul? It is that we should be "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones," (Eph. 5:30).
And Members are tempered together by God, so that there should be "no schism" in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
Lesson 3 -- The Functioning Body -- Body discipline.
- A toothache makes the whole body react in sympathy.
- When that ache stops, the whole body gives a sigh of relief.
- "For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives. 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? 8 But if you are without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby," (Heb 12:6-11).
- The Lord's people sin -- we all do!
However, often there is sin in our lives that is not evident.
- Generally speaking this is evident, because we can see our sins and the sins of others.
- When we see and recognize sin, then it can be dealt with by the provisions of Christ, the High Priest of the House of God.
There is that old saying -- which says; Hot water does not make tea -- it only brings out what is in the bag.
- Yet, these things must be exposed for us to deal with them and get right.
- The Lord in love takes us through experiences, even trials of life, that are designed to expose our nature.
When sin is exposed in our life or the life of a brother or sister -- it does not show that we are not saved or no longer in the game, but it reveals -- that there is a need for help.
How we respond to that need shows what is in our hearts.
- This is also true in our lives. The Hot water of life, the trials and difficulties we face -- brings out our true character.
- When we go through trials, our responses to each situation shows what is in our hearts.
- Generally we do not like what is exposed.
Remember how Jesus illustrated who is a neighbor and what it was to be neighborly!
- This is true both of the one in sin and of his or her fellow body members.
- How do we react when we are caught in sin? Do we repent?
- Also, as fellow body members, -- Do we reach out in love to help those in their hour of need?
- He told the story of the Good Samaritan.
But there are few like the Samaritan, who will be a neighbor, who will come along side to restore the one wounded by sin.
Remember that Jesus said there in Luke 10 at the end of this parable; "Which now of these three, do you think, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise," (Luke 10:36-37).
So, God's children are to be like this Samaritan, in healing the wounded.
- There are many like this Priest, who as they journey see the needs of others, but pass by on the others side.
- There are many like this Levite, who also see, and will at least take a look -- but then just go on in their journey.
- But few there be that will make the sacrifice to be a servant to their brothers and sisters -- in the hour of their need!
But, few are those that realize that to be a disciple of Jesus, is to minister like Jesus -- to reach out and be a part of the solution.
Beloved, when sin is exposed it reveals areas of ministry.
I know that no one likes their sins to be exposed, but we should be thankful that God still exposes sin.
- There are many who stand by and point out the faults of others, but they fail to help.
- There are many who can point out how much one deserves the mess they find themselves in!
Beloved, I am convinced that the Lord wants His Church body, to both recognize the sin in the life of a fellow members and to come along side to help that one get right.
- When our sin is exposed -- if -- we still recognize it as sin, then we know that it is exposed by God and for our good.
- Only God will make these things become apparently wrong, so that we are repulsed by them and want them out of our life.
- Only God is willing to expose the things in our hearts that are hindering our fellowship with Him.
- He does not expose our sin to trip us up, or get us cut off.
- No, No - He does it so that we can repent and be restored.
- So we should be thankful when these things are exposed, because it reveals that the Lord is still working with us.
Beloved, it is always easier to cut someone off for their sin than it is to come along side and try to help win them back again.
- I am also convinced that the Lord does not want His assembly to stand back and criticize -- when they see the sin.
- He does not want them to be critical and exclude that person (under the heading of keeping the body pure,) -- when there has been no genuine loving effort to reconcile them.
Every member of the body is responsible for every other member of the Body.
- However, how can a Church body claim to be pure, if they do not have enough love in their heart to sacrifice whatever it takes to win back those who are gone astray.
- Paul taught the Roman assembly -- "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another, (Romans 12:5).
The motive behind discipline is love -- we love one another.
The 1st goal in discipline is to win and edify the erring one.
A second goal is to keep the body pure and in unity.
- We belong to one another, therefore, we all have a responsible ministry to every other member.
So, what is our responsibility, individually and collectively?
- Sin divides and destroys our fellowship and the free working of the Spirit among us.
- The Church does have a responsibility and has been given the authority to be involved with the conduct of its members.
As a result, we as disciples of Jesus are always under His training, which is administered in many ways.
The very Scriptures themselves are to be an instrument of training, -- of discipline.
- To belong to the Lord's Church requires adherence to the standards of conduct required in the Scriptures.
This being true, then the scriptures should be taught "with all authority" according to Paul's instructions in Titus 2:15.
Breaches of the Biblical standards of behavior -- require some form of discipline resulting in guidance, and correction.
- "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works," (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
- In other words, all the scriptures are profitable for our discipline, -- for our training -- to bring us to maturity.
However, sometimes God's children do not listen and get caught up in some kind of sinful behavior.
- Some discipline is administered in the form of teaching, and instructing, -- not just preaching but admonishing one another.
- We all experience this as the Lord teaches us through His Word.
Thus, every believer needs to be disciplined (corrected, admonished, rebuked, etc.) at one time or another.
Whatever kind of correction is given, it must always be done in a spirit of love and with meekness.
- Then more sever forms of discipline are needed.
- Some of you have experienced and profited by that correction.
In our text in Heb 12:6, we are told that "whom the Lord loves, He disciplines."
Our Lord stated to His churches as recorded in Rev. 3:19; "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent."
- However, there must also be a tenderness of consciences on the part of the recipient for any of it to have an effect.
Let's read again in our text in Heb. 12:6-9; "For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives. 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? 8 But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?"
- Keep in mind as you consider these verses, that Discipline is a form of training and instruction in the holiness of God, and has our full redemption as its goal.
- First, let's be clear about the meaning of the words Chasten and Scourge, because God makes it clear that He will chasten and scourge every son that He loves and receives.
- The word chasten means to train up a child, i.e., educate, or (by implication) discipline in view of instructing or teaching.
- Most think of that word only in the sense of punishment.
- This depreciates the significance of the word.
- The word actually means "child-training" or "instructing."
- The idea of punishment is necessarily included in the word, but with special emphasis to the education of children.
- The same word translated chasten here -- is translated instruction in 2 Tim. 3:16, where we are told that the holy Scriptures are 'profitable for instruction in righteousness.'
- The second word, scourge, means to flog (lit. or fig.).
- This word does carry the idea of the punishment, -- the rod.
- Many of our trials or difficult situations in life come as Chastening for disobedience.
- So the chastening and scourging are needed and necessary, when they are administered in Love.
However, God's purpose in the chastening of His Covenant sons, is defined in Heb. 12:10 as being: "for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness."
- Now neither one of these sound to be pleasant to the flesh, and that is exactly what the scripture says about them.
Clearly, this passage teaches that the Lord is in the business of disciplining His children.
- Then in verse 14, he tells us that without this; "holiness . . . no man shall see the Lord."
- Then in Heb. 12:11; we learn that God's purpose in the chastening of His Covenant sons is further defined as having to do with -- ". . . yielding the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
So, yes, God chastens and scourges His children.
- It also emphasis that this discipline is all because of love and that it is for our ultimate good.
- That is why we are called Disciples or -- disciplined ones.
- This does not mean, however, that members of the body may leave all disciplining 'to the Lord,' thus forsaking their own responsibilities to one another.
We do not have the right, to overlook clear violations of God's moral or ethical standards that violate the spiritual love and unity of body life.
- o We are members of His body and He gives us a responsible part in this matter of body discipline.
But beloved, If you Love God, you will manifest that love by loving His people in the body.
And, you show that love by being a loving servant, especially to Body members in need.
- We will all be held responsible for the overall function of the body.
- There are many who stand by and point out the faults of others, but fail to help.
- There are many who can point out how much one deserves the consequences of the mess they find themselves in!
Now, I want us to look together at several verses that teach the responsible ministry of love that the members have one to another.
- Paul speaking to the Galatian assembly stated, in Galatians 5:13; "For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."
- Turn to Romans 12:10-13; "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality."
- Paul is talking to those in the Lord's assembly and instructing them about their lives in relationship to others.
- In Verse 10, he teaches us to be devoted to one another in love, preferring one another -- that is what true love does.
In verse 13, he speaks of 'distributing' -- to the needs of the saints -- practicing hospitality.
- True love sacrifices self -- for the good of others.
- True love ministers to heal the wounded, to lift the fallen, and to strengthen the weak.
Hospitality is a disposition of life that is open to receive and minister to others.
- Hospitality doesn't necessarily mean fixing a meal or having guests over.
- Hospitality has to do with being approachable and accessible by others.
Remember, these thoughts on hospitality followed his comments on "contributing to the needs of the saints."
- It is the desire to be there for others and to respond to their needs.
- This is an important part of body fellowship.
- How committed are you to that?
Paul said there in Romans 12:13 that -- the heart of true affectionate, preferring love, is a matter of contributing to the needs of the saints with a hospitable heart.
Paul again and again emphasized this matter in his writings.
- At the root of the word distributing or contributing, is the word 'knononia,' also translated 'fellowship.'
- This matter of sharing together as copartners is defined here as distributing.
- It has to do with sacrificial sharing, doing for others like the Good Samaritan.
- Do you do that? That is body life, body fellowship!
- Remember when Jesus said, "go and do likewise," he was saying that we should be neighborly to our brethren by actively working to heal their wounds.
- "Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits," (Romans 12:14-16).
"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another," (Romans 14:19).
- Note here the active involvement as humble servants in the lives of one another.
- Our Lord has so tied us together, so that -- what happens to others -- is like it is happening to us personally.
- This illustrates to us that 'knononia' -- 'fellowship,' which has to do with sharing together, by going through something with someone, and by sharing in it with them.
"We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me," (Romans 15:1-3).
- What comes to your mind, when you read that?
- What does it mean to edify one another -- to do so in a way that makes for peace?
- That word edify means to build up -- that is our work.
- That is the work of every body member.
"That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular," (1 Cor. 12:25-27).
- Do you see here the unselfish sacrifice of the body members.
- In that Christ pleased not himself -- should not we also give ourselves to build up and bear up one another.
- These passages cry out a message of loving involvement.
This is what we have been called to as body members.
- Here in 1 Cor. Paul speaks of body life and body consciousness.
- He speaks of feeling with the body, having the same care one for another.
- He speaks of being living members, conscious of one another -- caring, sharing, preferring, edifying, lifting up one another.
- This again illustrates to us that 'knononia' -- 'fellowship;' that going through something with someone, and sharing in it with them.
Beloved, being disciples of Jesus is not just learning about Jesus, -- it is learning to minister to others like Jesus did.
- We have been called to the Fellowship (knononia) of His Son.
There is nothing that can be substituted for the whole Assembly functioning according to God's order.
- "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you are called in one body; and be you thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him," (Col. 3:12-17).
- In verse 13, those words, Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you: -- tell us that there will be difficult times in our relationship with one another.
- In verse 12, and 14, we are told what we must 'put on,' if we are treat our brothers and sisters as recorded in verse 13.
- We must put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering along with forbearance and forgiveness; but most of all we must put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
- When we have put on these things, then we can minister to one another with the resources supplied by God.
- The resource to edify and admonish is found in verse 16 -- "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
- We are to be actively teaching and admonishing one another.
- To what end? So that the peace will rule in our hearts and that together, we might lift our voices in praise and thanks to God.
- In 1 Thes. 5:14-15, Paul admonished that Assembly to: " .... encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men."
However, there will also always be special needs among the members that must be met with special care.
- As members of their local Assembly, each was to accept responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the others.
- Every member has the responsibility of all, to be patient with them all -- he said.
But also, it is all to be done in a right spirit; don't render evil unto any man; "but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men."
The practice of discipline in the Assembly is a matter of love.
- So we are to encourage the fainthearted, help the weak.
- When it is practiced right it will have good results.
All sin brings alienation from God and from our brethren.
- It will not always win the erring brother and sisters.
- But it will edify the body, deter sin in the lives of others.
- And maintain the purity of the Assembly.
In practice, the only place where Disciplinary Action will ever work properly, is in a body that loves one another.
- All discipline (training), must aim at the higher goal of RECONCILIATION and of FREEDOM within the Assembly.
Examples of functioning Bodies dealing with division and sin.
- For discipline to be effective it needs good soil in which to take root.
- Discipline needs a climate of loving concern to foster its healthy growth.
- It needs a community where people not only know one another very well, but where they TRUST, RESPECT, and LOVE one another enough to level with each other, so that by speaking the truth in love they might all grow up into Him who is the head.
- I pray that no one conclude from this that I am speaking against discipline, or even against the ultimate discipline in removing the rebellious from the body.
- However, I would ask, how putting someone out who is wounded, cleans up the body, if there is still a critical spirit, or lazy indifference to the wounded within the body?
- There is a simple, common sense lesson that we must all learn.
Another lesson we need to learn, is that the assembly does not exist in order to keep the Truth pure.
- It is a lesson in serving others, Jesus said He came to serve not to be served.
- It is a lesson in humility, patience and faith among other things.
However, the assembly -- does exist -- to help impure men and women (with imperfect beliefs and impure ways) to move toward purity, even if their progress is slow.
There is no point in an assembly existing if it does not understand and confidently accept this duty.
- The Truth as communicated from God cannot be anything but pure!
- If "perfect purity" (i.e., non-contamination) is all the members of the Body desire, then the best course would be to disband the assembly.
- As long as assemblies are made up of people and as long as they add new members -- there will be impurity.
But in that isolated condition, how would you exercise yourself in the love, the joy, and the fellowship of the body life which you once enjoyed.
Consider again Paul's beautiful inspired allegory:
- But beloved, even if you were to chop The Body into a hundred separate pieces, and isolate each piece in an airtight container -- so that no one could touch you or get near you -- still you would have your impure self!
- The One Body! "fearfully and wondrously made. . . .
- We cry with the Psalmist as recorded in Psalm 139:14 -- "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knows right well!"
- The Lord's Local Church bodies, like the physical body, are not some kind of sterile laboratory experiment, existing in a fragile regulated environment, behind locked doors!
Like a hospital, with its Great Physician at its head, it is constantly working even in its imperfection to heal its diseased members and to strengthen its weak members.
- The spiritual Local Church Bodies of Christ, like the fearful and wondrous physical body, is much more akin to a hospital.
The Letters of our Lord to His seven assemblies in Asia, give us excellent examples of how Body of Christ should function in dealing with other churches and dealing with division within.
- And so it must continue, until its work is finished and the One Body -- perfected at last as the general assembly of the first born -- is glorified with its Head for a joyful eternity.
What fundamentals are set forth here and how do they apply to us today?
- The letters to the angels of the seven assembly's in Asia Minor, are the only messages sent personally by Christ to his assemblies.
- They are very important in molding the outlook of our assembly and framing the philosophy by which we function.
- These examples are given for churches of all ages, and are fundamental in their application to present-day situations.
- a. The first fundamental truth we find illustrated for us in these letters to the seven (7) churches, is that each local visible assembly is treated as being responsible only for its own affairs.
The Second fundamental truth we find illustrated by these seven (7) churches, is that each assembly has Christ as its head, and are therefore Christ's Domain.
- Even when the Spirit comes to the decidedly lukewarm, almost lost Laodicea, even then there is no call upon the other six assemblies to interfere with this erring group.
- Also, note that each of the seven assemblies was "in fellowship" with the other six, despite internal problems.
The Third fundamental truth we find illustrated for us in these letters to the seven (7) churches, is that each assembly does not stop being Christ's assembly as long as there are a few faithful in that assembly, looking to Christ as their head.
The Fourth fundamental truth we find illustrated for us in these letters to the seven (7) churches, is that none of this is given as apologies for the sin in the lives of the unfaithful!
These examples are given as the worst possible position to which an assembly might fall without losing fellowship with God.
In whatever area that the assemblies were going off the right path -- they were being dealt with by the Lord, and they were still the Lord's.
- In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength, (Rev. 1:16).
- "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands," (Rev. 2:1).
- Clearly, the assemblies are Christ's domain; and he has warned that no man can pluck them out of his hand.
- The Lord speaking concerning His sheep that make up His flock, His assembly, stated as recorded in John 10:27-28; "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; 28 and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand."
- Even more to the point, each of the "seven stars" are in Christ's right hand in spite of their apparent doctrinal and or functional errors.
Now with these fundamentals in mind, lets look at some examples given us in scripture that illustrate these truths.
- They were warned to give ear -- to hear the words of the Lord.
- First, consider the special situation in Sardis: Rev. 3:1-6 -- "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: "The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead. 2 Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. 3 Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
- Mark the words of the Lord, where He told this assembly -- "You have a name that you live, but really you are dead. . . ."
- Men knew the reputation of the Sardian assembly.
- But God, the possessor of the seven stars also knew their state.
- He said, 'I have not found thy works perfect before God.'
- Jesus watches and discerns their developments.
- Then He warned them to: Be watchful, and strengthen those things that remain, that are ready to die . . . this was still possible because he went on to say, that there were a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments . . . They are worthy . . ."
- 'Become watchful' is the exhortation of Jesus Christ, who is not only the Savior, but the head of the assemblies.
- Watch and pray through a dark and dangerous night, -- watch for and be prepared to combat the "wolves" that attack the flock, (John 10).
- "Strengthen those things that remain" -- Build up what is left.
- Jesus said, "Thou hast a few names in Sardis."
- The few names, or faithful remnant, -- let it be noted -- are still a part of the assembly and they have not defiled their garments.
- How can this be, if they remain part of a defiled assembly?
- Many would claim that this minority would be 'defiled by association.'
- However, that is not the judgment of the Lord, as long as that few are functioning according to due order, the Lord will fellowship with the few that still hear His voice.
- As long as the few have judged that sin and are working to restore those who have fallen away, then God works through them in His precious body.
- So, let the judgment of Christ stand sure; He said, "THEY ARE WORTHY" -- despite their "unsavory associations."
- What right do we have to make any other judgment than what Our Lord, the head of His assembly has made?
- From this we learn that a faithful member in a functionally dead assembly, will not interfere with their individual acceptance by God.
- But even then, in all of Revelation 2 and 3, Christ gives no hint of a command to any one assembly to withdraw fellowship from any of the others, not even Laodicea.
- The reason may be easily determined: The avowed basis of faith and fellowship of each assembly was basically sound, despite internal problems (which could not and should not be judged at a distance).
- Christ himself firmly holds the prerogative to punish or cast out erring assemblies -- not man.
- Do we really believe that Christ rules today in His assemblies, that He walks among the seven lampstands? (Rev. 1:13).
- If we do, then consider this: Christ warned the seven first century assemblies of their possible removal due to apostasy, (Rev. 2:5).
- They are not in existence today, because they did not continue to heed the exhortations delivered through the Apostle John.
- It was not persecution that removed these light stands; it was their failure to honor God.
- Can we not also have the same confidence today that Christ has control of every situation, that Christ can handle such matters as he did in the first century, without our imperfect meddling and second-guessing in matters too difficult for us?
- We must keep firmly in mind two rules when dealing with matters of passing judgment on the Lord's people.
- First, in matters of judgment concerning our sister churches, we must understand that they are the Lord's and they stand or fall before Him; according to His judgment, not according to ours.
- For our own part, we will not venture to judge that any who holds -- the One Faith -- are dead or unworthy.
- As for wholesale condemnation of any of the Lord's assemblies as being 'dead', we would not venture so to judge even of those which appear most negative.
- Let us also remember 1 John 2:19; "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us."
- If they have gone astray -- and the Lord has removed His candle stick from them, then the example given -- is that they will go out from among us, not that we need withdraw from them.
- When our Lord gives his verdict concerning any assembly, undoubtedly there will be some dreadful consequences.
The ultimate object in this discipline is to restore the erring one 'in the spirit of meekness.'
- Secondly, concerning judgments of members in our own local body, if any member continues in sin after they have been nurtured of the body members, then that local assembly must make the judgment to cut them off from fellowship.
If any member refuses the help which the assembly makes available to them, then exclusion or amputation is the only course.
- A secondary purpose in the discipline process, is for body members to mature as disciples with the same mind as Christ, in dealing with the weak and unruly ones in the body.
- It may perhaps be argued that when gangrene sets in, amputation becomes an urgent necessity if life is to be saved.
- Precisely! Gangrene (like cancer) is a condition in which the damaged or faulty member, is not willing to receive and use the healing influences which all the rest of the body, via the blood stream, tries to bring to bear.
- Instead, it is an aggressive evil which, left to itself, will certainly bring death.
The letter to Thyatira is, if possible, even more pointed in setting forth these fundamental truths that we are illustrating, (Rev. 2:18-25).
- On the other hand, to take off a toe because the nail is ingrown, or to gouge out an eye because a splinter is in it, is plain folly.
- In such cases, the body puts up with the defects and takes what action is advisable to restore normality to the defective member.
Other letters to the Churches emphasize these same lessons.
- Thyatira had a false prophetess Jezebel, who had already been openly admonished regarding her evil teaching (whatever it was): 'I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.'
- Included in the Lord's rebuke of this assembly is the reproach: 'Thou suffers that woman Jezebel to teach and to seduce my servants. . . . '
- Even so, Thyatira was not deemed unworthy of fellowship with the Lord.
- We do not find any requirement placed on the faithful to separate hemselves from those contaminated with Jezebel, rather the exact opposite is explicitly laid upon them: "But unto you I say, and unto the rest that are in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come."
- They are encouraged to continue, to hold fast and not to depart.
- Such words need no explaining, because they tell their own story.
Diotrephes -- (3 John).
- For example, the assemblies like Smyrna and Philadelphia incurred no reproach from the Lord of any sort.
- Yet if they had a duty to judge their sister churches and cut off those in err, so that they could maintain a 'pure fellowship,' then both Smyrna and Philadelphia were sadly at fault in that they had not broken off all fellowship with Sardis, Thyatira, or Laodicea.
- Asia was one of the most highly developed areas in the Roman Empire, and these cities lay on its main arteries.
- These sister assemblies knew about the vexing problems existing that each other faced.
- Yet in spite of the intercommunication among these churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia continued in uninterrupted fellowship with assemblies which the Lord himself rebuked.
- The Scriptures do present at least one picture of mass disfellowship, but it is in a bad light, and instigated by an entirely undesirable character.
- During the last generation of the first century, the "fellowship situation" can best be described as chaotic.
- Paul's last writings are far from optimistic and this was also true of John's letters.
Such a man was Diotrephes - who is mentioned to represent a certain un-Christ-like spirit within the assemblies.
- John's letters show an elderly apostle, the last of his generation, contending against the practices of men who scarcely if at all deserve the name "brother."
Notice that John is not calling for this assembly to disfellowship any individual, but rather is pleading for the acceptance of "the brethren," (v. 5).
Where there is intolerance and wherever we find conditions imposed upon brethren, which Christ has not clearly set forth; and fellowship is cut off on this account, there is a spirit there which is not of God.
It was no accident that we find Moses putting himself as a would-be sacrifice on behalf of his blind and erring countrymen, (Exod. 32:30-33).
Neither is it to be thought unusual that Nehemiah, David, or Daniel and the other prophets, showed no sign of dissociating themselves from Israel, no matter how wayward their countrymen. (And even when Jeremiah ceased praying for his brethren, it was God's decision and not his! - (Jer. 14:11).
Beloved, please consider these words in the spirit that they are given.
- Diotrephes was domineering, self-assertive, and arrogant.
- Defying the loving authority of the aged John, he "cast out" of fellowship (contrast John 6:37) those associating with the apostles, or for that matter, anyone of whom he disapproved.
- Wherever the assembly was to which Diotrephes belonged, it included as members both those who rejected these preacher brethren, and those who welcomed them.
- The conflict expressed is that: Gaius received the brethren; Diotrephes refused to receive them.