Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:
‘Are You Part of the Church or the Body of Christ?’
© August 16, 2015 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship – Responsive Reading #620:
The Church (Matthew 16, Ephesians 5 and 2, 1 Corinthians 12, Colossians1)
Opening Hymn #470: Onward, Christian Soldiers; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings;
Today’s Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 and Colossians 1:15-29
1 Corinthians 12:4-31 (ESV)
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
One Body with Many Members
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Colossians 1:15-29 (ESV) The Preeminence of Christ
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[a] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation[b] under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Paul’s Ministry to the Church
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Let us pray…
Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s mid-August Praise and Worship Service for the third Sunday of the month.
The lesson for this morning is worded as a question: Are You Part of the Church or the Body of Christ? On first blush, you may conclude that the question posed is a trick question with two valid answers, but that was not the intention of the question. Many Christians perceive themselves as strictly members of a Church, while others consider themselves connected spiritually to the Holy Spirit of God.
If you were paying attention to this morning’s Responsive Reading, you will recall that the answer to the question is found in the final paragraph of that reading: that we are in fact both part of Christ’s Church and part of the Body of Christ, as we read in the first of today’s Scripture Verses, Colossians 1:15-18 (ESV), which has the sub-heading; The Preeminence of Christ:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church.
The Apostle Paul, while seemingly uses the “Church” and “Body of Believers” interchangeably, there some aspects where the two terms differ. The church is often viewed as a group of people who worship together in a building. Sadly, some people identify with either the building or the denomination.
How often do we reply to the question: “Which church do you belong?” with the answer: Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, knowing full well that Christ views his Church as the people and not a building. Sometimes, people will answer the question with the Denomination of their church, rather than indicating they are a part of Christ’s Church.
We have in two additional Scriptures where the Apostle speaks of first of the Lord’s calling as described in Galatians 1:11-24 (ESV):
Paul Called by God
11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.[a] 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born,[b] and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to[c] me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;[d] 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
We know that our faith conversion, where we acknowledge Jesus as Lord in our lives and with the confession of sins, that our faith’s reward is the baptism by God’s Holy Spirit and the gifts that the Spirit gives us, as we see in Paul’s Epistle to the Church of Rome or, more accurately, to the people of Church in Rome. Romans 12:3-8 (ESV):
Gifts of Grace
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members,[a] and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,[b] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
It is important to note that the gifts given to the members of the Church differ and are meant to be used together in a complementary manner. To clarify how Jesus defines his Church, let us look our Wikibits reference from gotquestions.org:
Question: “What is the church?”
Answer: Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says “… greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.
The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until Christ’s return.
The body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:
1) The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. The universal church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
2) The local church is described in Galatians 1:1-2: “Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—what we call local churches. A Baptist church, Lutheran church, Catholic church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church—but rather is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised of those who belong to Christ and who have trusted Him for salvation. These members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church.
In summary, the church is not a building or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Local churches are gatherings of members of the universal church. The local church is where the members of the universal church can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12: encouraging, teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we, as members of the body of believers encourage, teach and build one another in the knowledge and race of the Lord?
We may find a perfect example of the body of the church working together at the BLCF Café community Dinner every Wednesday. Just like parts of a body, we see volunteers working together throughout the day cleaning up the church, preparing meals, setting up tables and chairs, the sound system, preparing beverages, cutlery and dishes, instructing and briefing new volunteers – all for some 100 to 150 guests. Then guests are greeted, meals are served, music and a message/testimony shared. After the guests finish their dinner and fellowship, the cleanup begins, and we begin to prepare for next Wednesday’s meal.
Just like the parts of the body, if volunteers cannot prepare the food. Without beverages or music, the meal is not complete. We cannot serve 150 guests without tables or chairs. Every Wednesday since January 2008, the BLCF Cafe serves the Lord’s Gospel by way of a meal, a message and manner by which we serve.
As our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, both Christian and non-Christian, the former have an opportunity to share the Gospel with other volunteers as well as with the guests. Fortunately, the Lord sends His Spirit to all who are involved, which infuses the dinner with the blessings of a unity of purpose.
Let us recapitulate, that the Church of Christ consists of a Body of Believers, whose members are united by faith and by a common Spirit. Each member receives one or more a variety of gifts from the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit differ from one member to another, forcing each of us to work together in unison, as a team. This is part of God’s plan to depend upon one-another and to help each other achieve His goal of growing the Lord’s Church by sharing the Gospel of Christ.
Paul uses the parts of the body to illustrate how each of us serves a different function, with none being of greater importance than the other. Our body’s strength comes from the variety of its parts working together in harmony to achieve a common goal. The Spirit gives the diverse members of the Church Body strength and stamina, by enabling them to work together in harmony. In this way, the members achieve far more together, than is possible to achieve alone. With the Spirit, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
Though Jesus described Peter as the one foundation of His Church, with Christ the important cornerstone, each of us hold an integral member, who combine to make the Church complete. A church that is both built and operates according to Lord’s plan.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #200: The Church’s One Foundation
Benediction – (Galatians 1:3-5): Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.