Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Observations on the Body of Christ

The Body of Christ- Jesus and His People

1.    It’s local- Being a member of the universal church without being a member of the local church is like being a member of the swimming world without actually being the member of a local pool. You can swim. You may even be able to swim in local pools. However, you do not have the benefits of membership. You have to sign in as a guest and you are neither required to perform the duties of membership nor are you a recognized member. You can come and go as you please with no commitment other than a day pass. You cannot swim on the swim team, come to the community gatherings, or sit for or vote for board membership. You are there but barely. Your membership in the swimming fraternity means nothing when it comes to participating and competing for your local pool.
However, once you join the pool, you can vote for the board, you can even run for board membership. You can swim on the swim team. You can come to member parties.
How much more important is the church than the local pool? If you are a member only of Christ’s universal Church, then your local visibility, accountability and access to benefits, are slim to none. You are here but barely.

2.    You must be a part of it- The Lord does not leave us the option of being in the body or not. If we are in Christ, we are in His body. But He tells us to honor those who serve in the Word and Sacraments. He tells us to submit to those who rule over us. We cannot do this if we do not know who they are. This can only be a reference to the local church and not the universal church.  So, joining a local church is not an option. It is required of you for your good and for God’s glory.
Heb. 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
1Pet. 5:1  The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:  2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;  3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

3.    More important than your own family- This is a good corrective for us. I do not believe that I have ever taught that the family is more important than the Church, meaning the local church. But I can see how our emphasis on marriage and family could be confused and the emphasis can shift. I see this shift practically when families choose to miss church for various family related issues. The issue really becomes the answer as to where your primary loyalties are located. Is it in your own blood family? Or, is to Christ and His Church? I have argued that it should be the latter. So, when we choose our own blood family over the family of God, we have revealed where our allegiances lie. Many times, this does not create a conflict if our immediate family's desires and activities align with Christ. However, we see where the allegiance is misguided when we choose with our family against Christ and His family.
We see this happen in many ways. How do you spend your Lord’s Days? Do you spend them primarily as another day off for the glory of your family? Or, is it a day set aside for the glory of Christ and His people? Again, these two things may go together well when the family is lined up with the Church. But what if family members do not want to attend church? What if they want to play soccer, or baseball or lacrosse on that day? What if you have extra work and see that time taken from Church as the answer to your prayers? Now, you have a choice to make. How are you doing on those choices?
What if you have family from out of town visiting over the weekend? What does it say to them if you skip church? It says that they are more important to you than Jesus and His people. That is entirely the wrong message to send them. Invite them to church. If they do not want to join you then let them know that you will be back at eleven. I think you would be surprised at the power of this. Many of your family members would actually join you for church. The others would be impressed that you have increased your commitment to Christ and His Church. This might be a profound and life changing event for them. But to stay home and visit with them for another hour on Sunday morning will not change their lives.

4.    Structured as Christ and His people for the salvation of the world- Why is the local church so important? Because it is God’s vehicle for the salvation of the world! God is building His kingdom through His Church. In both preaching and discipleship, the primary place for these things is within the scope of Christ’s Church. Again, I remind you that His Church is Jesus and His people. This does not all need to happen at church on Sunday morning. But it does happen through God’s people as we gather for worship and then go out into the world to gather in people from every tribe and tongue and nation. The Church’s ministry is healing to the world.

5.    Is eternal- Christ’s church is eternal. The family is not eternal. Even marriages are not eternal. The marriage covenant on Earth can be broken. Marriages and families disintegrate. But God’s Church lasts forever. Jesus and His people are eternal. So, they take precedence over the temporal family. By temporal, I mean time bound. Now, there is a sense in which the local body is also time bound. Providence Church will not last forever in the remade Heaven and Earth. But the collection of Christ’s people will last forever as a community and our local body will always be a part of that larger body.

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