My message today is concerning the nature of the family of GOD. In New Testament times there were many huge problems in Corinth, and elsewhere, within the early congregation of Believers. It is somewhat sobering to realize that most of the New Testament Letters were written to correct either wrong teaching, or wrong conduct. If churches that had the benefit of apostolic ministry could still have divisions and deceptions, it is hardly surprising if similar things surface in our own local assemblies.
These early Believers set for us examples of error which had affected them both morally and spiritually. These were largely symptoms of one central cause: the Believers did not really understand the nature of the family of GOD. This came into sharp focus at the celebration of the LORD's Table in Corinth. Paul needed to say to the Believers that they failed to see that they were organically linked to each other and so, in 1st Corinthians 11, verses 27 - 29, he wrote them the words of our text above which picture fellow-Believers as part of His body.
Failure to see that they were all part of one Body, led to the following attitude: 'I am more important than you; I am independent of you; I can function instead of you.' Such a one could easily continue: 'I am really quite special, so spiritual and good; my talents are quite wonderful; I do all that I should; I'm gracious and kind and humble and holy as can be. It really is a pity that you are not like me.'
The Importance of Discovering our Place in the Body
Whilst it is true that some members within a Congregation that are followers of YESHUA, JESUS, have a more obvious and permanent ministry; it is often the more hidden ministries which truly count. One of the most wide-spread failures among Christians is that of not discovering where GOD wants them to function in the Body of Believers. Far from stirring up the gift that is in them, they are unaware what gifts GOD has given them in the first place. They have little, or no concept of what GOD has for them, or how He wants them to function for the good of the whole Body in the service of Messiah.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
'Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the LORD is.' (Ephesians 5, verse 17). He then goes on to say,
'Be filled with the Spirit.' Holy Spirit fullness has sadly become a subject for debate, rather than a dynamic reality of GOD's life flowing through His people. Just as in Corinth, the Holy Spirit's gifts are often exaggerated and distorted. The attitude is often: What experience can I enjoy? The fact is that GOD gives us whatever gifts are necessary to enable us to function where He wants us in the Body. Your place in It, is different from mine, and therefore, your gifts will be different from mine.
Paul makes it quite clear that just as the body needs hands and eyes if it is to work as GOD intends, even so Messiah needs people to fulfill various tasks in His Body. Question: Are we functioning where Messiah places us; or are we doing our own thing? One of the problems is that not only do we not function where GOD plans we should, but that we try to fill a place GOD never intended for us. Was that not part of Lucifer's problem?
'I will ascend above the clouds; I will be like the Most High.' (Isaiah 14, verse 14).
To accept GOD's place for us requires humility and discipline. We envy none their place, but rather, give thanks that they are where GOD wants them; and that we are where GOD wants us. Those who rebel against GOD's placing are like a cancer in the Body; a malignant growth refuses to keep in its place, but steadily invades the surrounding areas of the body. It is not subject to the laws of the body, but has a mind of its own. Great distress and pain is caused by this willful disregard for everything around, and it lives merely to feed itself upon anything and everything. The healthy functioning of the entire body is thrown into confusion and chaos, and unless dealt with quickly, death inevitably ensues.
These very elements were present in the Corinthian church, and Paul addresses these in strong terms in his Letters to them. Therefore, a healthy kehilla is one where every member knows where GOD wants him or her, and is happy to function there in obedience to GOD, and in submission to the other members of the Body; caring for one another in the same love as Messiah, YESHUA.
Praise GOD for diversity when it is part of the unified whole. However, beware of diversity when it is determined to do its own thing. How can we work together and grow together profitably? Nature itself supplies some answer to this important question. In the human body, the head is the great nerve centre. All activities are directed and controlled by instructions sent out along numerous channels of the brain. The head is in charge. Sometimes the nerve cords get damaged, or even destroyed, and then the many members are unable to respond to instructions as they should. This can and does happen in the church life too. Without doubt, this is where the importance of Bible-based ministry is highlighted. Paul, writing to the Ephesians in Chapter 4, begins by reminding them that they belong to one Body. He then says that ministry-gifted men and women, (my parenthesis), are GOD's gift to His people for the following purposes: 1) to prepare Believers for their particular ministries (verse 12); 2) to build up and strengthen the Fellowship, Messiah's Body (also verse 12); 3) to unify GOD's people, both in faith and knowledge (verse 13); 4) to bring the Fellowship (or Church) to spiritual maturity (also verse 13); 5) to protect the Body-Fellowship from harmful influences (verse 14); 6) to enable the whole Body to operate together under YESHUA, JESUS (verse 16).
GOD has not produced an army of clones. He has given us a wide range of abilities, and has endowed us with a variety of spiritual gifts. He has a particular place in His Body that He wants us to fill. If we function there as GOD intends, then we shall know His blessing, and also help others to fulfill their role.