8. What Every Member Supplies
Christ is a many-membered body. Each one of us has been immersed into that body by the Holy Spirit. Whether we believe it or not, whether we ever go on to see the life of this truth fulfilled in our lives or not, it makes no difference. When we asked Jesus into our heart, at that moment, the Spirit of God baptized us into the body of Christ and made us a member of that body. God made us a part of the lives of other people and made their lives a part of our life.
8. What Every Member Supplies
And He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying (the building up) of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12
Verses 15-16: But, speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
We are considering our transformation in this in-between, between when we are born again by the Spirit of God and the redemption of our bodies when we come forth in the full light of day as the revealed sons of God. During this in-between time, this development in the womb of the church, we need to understand what God is doing so that we can follow the Lord Jesus as He transforms us.
One part of that work is pictured to us by the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. This comes first through the renewing of our minds – changing the way we think. We think in the direction our eyes are set. We set our eyes upon God. We see Him and what He is doing in every situation. When we look on our own hearts, we see Him, not our enemies.
Keeping our eyes upon Him, we confess what He speaks about us and our situation and our lives in this world. We sing a song that says, “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’” This is what we are talking about. We don’t look with our natural eye, but we speak what God says about us. Let the weak say, “I am strong.”
As we come to understand the completeness of the redemptive work of Christ in our lives, we learn to be whole people. God wants us to be whole in our childhood, in our adult lives, and into our old age. He wants us to be whole.
That is one way God is working with us, as individuals. But there is a whole other process in this in-between place of development in the womb of the church. It is in the church, the New Jerusalem, where we live out our transformation. The spirit of God in Ephesians 4 is teaching us something absolutely essential to being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
Even though God is working with each one of us as an individual, He is also working with each of us as part of the whole body of Christ. He is working with that body of Christ as a whole.
We cannot be part of the whole body of Christ unless God is doing His work inside of us as individuals. But a significant part of the work God is doing in our lives cannot take place separate from our relationship with the body of Christ.
The culture in which we find ourselves in the world, and the way we live has so separated us from any concept of living as a community with other people. Many of us hardly know our neighbors. We drive far away to work. The children go in one direction; the husband and wife go in separate directions. The elderly are somewhere else, and the babies go to day care. Our culture is the opposite of the culture that God reveals in the New Testament that He has for His people.
We live in the American culture; we are comfortable in it because it is all we know. Yet we also know how disjointed our lives are. Modern culture is not God’s culture, nor is it the culture of the church of Jesus Christ. The New Testament reveals to us the culture the Spirit of God would have us live in; we are not here to be a part of this world. We are in the world, yes, but we are not of this world.
Before we look a little more closely at what Paul teaches in Ephesians 4, let’s go back to John 17, the prayer of Jesus to the Father in the hours before His crucifixion. Here you have a fully mature Son of God, the Redeemer, pouring His heart out to the Father. Here we have the center of what means everything to Jesus. I’m sure you realize that when you stand before death, suddenly things that are not meaningful vanish from your thoughts and the only thing that fills your heart is that which is most important.
If we want to know Jesus, then we realize that the things He says here are the things that are closest to His heart. No one can accuse Jesus of not believing God, or a lack of faith. We know that every word Jesus said in this chapter and in His life and ministry must be fulfilled and it must be fulfilled in the earth into which He spoke it and in the lives of those into whom He speaks it.
They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth(make them whole). As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sake’s I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. John 17:16
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I HAVE given them, that they may be one just as we are One: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
Now it is impossible to take these words of Jesus and put them into heaven. He squarely puts this desire of His heart here in the earth, “that the world may know.” We are sent as the witnesses of Jesus Christ. There are many ways by which we are that witness. I am convinced that the least of those ways is to go around telling people that they need to get saved. Though I am not in any way speaking lightly of those whose gift and calling is to do just that.
There is a way by which the world will be convinced that the Father sent the Son and that Jesus is the Messiah. The words of Jesus here must be fulfilled. Consider this – you can’t put this word into heaven to be fulfilled because He said, “That the world may know.” This word must be fulfilled. If there are not a people who walk in love in just the same way and in the same oneness that the Father and the Son are One, the words of Jesus fail, and the universe crashes into utter ruin.
This word will be fulfilled in this life, in this world, in this age. Now here is the question. If it is going to be fulfilled, then, “Oh God, don’t leave me out. Don’t leave me out. God, if you are doing something in the earth, then with all the cry of my heart, Father, do not leave me out. Make me a part of it. I don’t want any sidetrack; I don’t want any pony shows. God, I want that which is real. I want to be a part of whatever You are doing in the earth.”
Let’s consider what Jesus prayed. Any time you put two people together you’re talking about a culture. Culture is the ways in which we relate together as a society, as a group of people. This word, ‘the world,’ refers to that system by which worldly people relate to each other. Every time you put people together in a group, a system of relationships will develop. And that system of relationships is ‘the world’ unless the love of God is the basis of that relationship. If any group of people builds a relationship on any other basis than the love of God, it is the world system. And Jesus is saying here that His body, believers, those who follow Him, will come into a life relationship of love that will stand in the middle of this world as a testimony of a different way of life.
It’s not enough that when the world looks at God’s people, they see people who are filled with joy and hope. It’s not enough that they see people who are kind and who give themselves and who bless others.
Yes, many are drawn to dear believers whose life is a testimony as they walk though the ways of this world, in their jobs and relationships. But Jesus is speaking here of a testimony far greater than that, though that is certainly part of it. He is speaking here of a life, of a relationship between those who believe in Jesus, that when the people of the world see it and see how these love one another, how close they are, how much they support one another, their mouths are closed, they can no longer accuse God of being absent. But they will fall on their knees and say, “Surely, God sent Jesus into the world. I know it now, because I see a way of life that could not be happening unless God were present in the flesh.”
I’m talking about something real here. I’m talking about an alternative lifestyle. The church of Jesus is set in the world as an example of the kingdom of God, as an example of the life of the age to come.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
There is no relationship whatsoever between the American culture and the culture of heaven. If you see the will of God being done in a group of people you will not recognize their life together as ‘American,’ or as anything of this world because it is the life of the age to come. That is a part of our calling, to bring the life of the age to come and show it in this life to the people of this world. That’s what Jesus says here. He is asking the Father that the life of the age to come would be brought forth in its fullness inside of His people in this age in this world so that the testimony of Jesus Christ would be proven here on this earth.
Jesus is saying that this is the cry and the desire that fills His heart.
These two truths, first, the witness of Jesus Christ, and secondly, bringing the life of the age to come into this age as God brings this age to a close, are truths that I will develop later in these volumes. But in this volume, I am focused on our transformation. We must have the larger picture. We must understand that there is a way of life, a culture, a way of living that God has for His people that is different from the American way of living. There is a process; there is an essential ingredient to this process of our transformation called ‘the body of Christ.’
For as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of that body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink of one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
Verse 20: But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
Verse 25-27: That there should be no schisms in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
As believers we are members of one another. This is our life.
Verse 12 says that Christ IS a many-membered body. This is the word of truth. God doesn’t ask us to figure it out; He doesn’t ask us to fit it into acceptable Christian doctrine. He asks us to believe it.
The spirit of God, speaking through the apostle Paul, says that Christ is a many-membered body. Each one of us has been immersed into that body by the Holy Spirit. Whether we believe it or not, whether we ever go on to see the life of this truth fulfilled in our lives or not, it makes no difference. When we asked Jesus into our heart, at that moment, the Spirit of God baptized us into the body of Christ and made us a member of that body. God made us a part of the lives of other people and made their lives a part of our life.
Whether we like it or not, whether we ever live in the truth of it or not, it’s been done. We drink of the same Spirit as our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no possible way for us to say that we don’t need other people. Nor can we define what constitutes a part of the body of Christ and what does not. It is the Spirit of God that has placed the members into the body where He wants them.
Although we cannot alter the truth of what the Spirit of God did with us when we were born again, we are free. God never moves by compulsion. We are free to live our lives as we wish. The invitation into the Lord Jesus Christ and into the joy of His heart is always an invitation, it is never a compulsion. There is nothing legalistic about this truth. We do not enter into this relationship with other members of the body of Christ because of obligation.
When the Spirit of God came upon the church, there was a spontaneous movement as the body of Christ.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers . . . Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. Acts 2:41-47
Now when they (the apostles) had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. Acts 4:31-35
As the Spirit of God came upon the church in its birthing, the people moved in the life of the Spirit and the excitement of the moment. There was a spontaneous outpouring, an immediate fellowship of oneness. There was a sense of “I’m part of something awesome.” Everybody wanted to be together. They ate their meals together; they fellowshipped together; they sought God together; they worshiped together. They considered themselves members of one another.
This did not come to them through some legalistic teaching. It didn’t come from some formula of what the Christian life is supposed to look like. It came out of a spontaneous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Nobody told anyone to do these things, to sell their property, take their possessions, and give them gladly for the sake of the other members of the body of Christ. It just came out of their hearts. It came out of this wonderful river of love that was flowing through them.
The church was birthed in the experience of a life that was radically different than anything they had known in the past. The experience that happened there in the birthing of the church was an experience that not only changed them on the inside, but it set them into a way of living, a testimony of Jesus Christ, that was utterly different from anything they had known before.
We dare not draw from these verses some formula, some legalistic law on how God’s people ought to live together. It is first by the Spirit. It is first out of a spontaneous offering of love to the Lord Jesus and to His people.
Paul is building on this expression of life in 1 Corinthians 12 when he says, “That there might be no schism in the body, that all the members should have the same care for one another, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep.”
Throughout the New Testament, particularly through the letters of Paul, the focus of the Holy Spirit is upon our relationships with one another. The Spirit of God speaks continually concerning relationships in the church.
. . . walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1
Verse 32: And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you. Verse 5:1: Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Have you ever wondered why God says so much about being kind to one another, about forgiving one another? In the gathering together of believers in Jesus that takes place once a week for an hour or two, how on earth do you get the opportunity to be offended by your brother? If you never have the opportunity to be offended by your brother, what is the point of all this talk about forgiving one another?
Because you see, we are talking about the transformation, the development of this child in the womb of the church, being conformed to the image of Christ.
May I suggest to you that without the opportunity to forgive your brother, you will lack an essential ingredient in this transformation that God has for you.
You come together on a Sunday morning and you greet one another with joy. You haven’t seen each other since last Sunday service. Everybody smiles cheerfully. You feel a whole lot of love from everybody. You stand and worship God together. You sit under the word and everybody gets excited by what God is saying. You get up, and you feel like blessing everybody, and you go back to your car and drive home, and it will be another week before you see those same people for an hour and half on a Sunday morning.
When are you ever offended by any of those people?
Forgiving one another is a big deal in the heart of God. Yes, we have relationships throughout our lives, at work, with our own family, and in those relationships people offend us, there is no question about that. And we learn to forgive.
There is a forgiving of one another that is part of this transformation that God is doing inside of us that comes inside this relationship of the body of Christ – through the local body of believers, the very ones we stand together with and sing praises to God. The very ones we sit under the word with and hear what God is speaking. The very ones we walk out of that church with and greet before we return home. It is those God is talking about here. It is not the people at the job site, it is not even our family members, except as members of the body of Christ who worship and sit under the word with us. Yes, it includes them. But I believe this is speaking of the members of that local body of believers.
When God says “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you,” greeting one another on a Sunday morning does not fulfill this verse. The love we feel in our hearts once a week is not the love in this verse.
How can we forgive one another if we are never offended by one another?
I can assure you by many years of experience that when you walk together in an intimate relationship with other members of the body of Christ, working together, eating together, praying together, seeking God together, as we read about in Acts. Your discovery of just how offensive other members of the body of Christ can be to you will shatter everything you thought you believed about love.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again. We live in this American culture as Christians under such a false image of how much we love God and one another. John says in 1st John that the measure of how much we love God is how much we love our brother. We can get all excited about loving God and loving Jesus. But the one who loves God, loves his brother also.
It is in life together with other believers that the rubber hits the road. It is in life together with other members of the body of Christ that we become real.
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ - from whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies according to the effective working by which every part does its share causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15
Our transformation includes this truth. Every one of us has wonderful gifts of Christ. These gifts are found both in our humanity and in the gifting of the Spirit of Christ inside of us. God doesn’t separate one from the other, our natural gifts versus our spiritual gifts. A whole person will flow one to the other, back and forth without any division or separation, without any idea that my natural gifts are ‘of the flesh’ versus my spiritual gifts which are ‘of the spirit.’ That concept of dividing has no place in our lives.
Our humanity is created brand new. Old things are passed away, behold all things are made new. Our natural gifts and talents, as well as our spiritual giftings, that which we have to share, both come out of the same redeemed person, out of the same heart of faith. I look to the same Holy Spirit to anoint my natural giftings in the same way that I look to Him to anoint my spiritual giftings. And the growing of this body, the building up of itself in love, comes from what every member of the body supplies.
The effective working by which every part does its share.
We need one another.
God has placed us in a body. He has made our transformation dependent upon walking together as a body. I need what you have to give, and you need what I have to give. We need one another; God has made it so. None of us can say, “Well, I don’t need this one or that one.” We need one another.
One of the most important ‘just as’ verses is in Romans 15. Paul is talking about bearing with those who are weak.
Verses 5-7: Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
I quote from The Jesus Secret, Day 102
I receive my brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not judge my brother. I pursue the things that make for peace and the things that will build up and encourage my brothers and sisters. I please my neighbor for his good, so that he will be strengthened in the faith. I am like-minded with my fellow believers. I have one mind with them. I greet all those who belong to Jesus.
I receive my brothers and sisters. Each of them is unique and sees life differently from me. I receive my brothers and sisters. God made each of them differently; He is not boring. I receive my brothers and sisters in the same way that Jesus received me.
I delight in my brothers and sisters. I always delight in all the different ways and expressions that being with them so richly gives me. I delight in their dreams; I delight in the strength and goodness of Christ that flows from their hearts. I delight in all that they have to give to the body of Christ.
When my brothers and sisters are weak, I receive them. When they are confused, I receive them. When they don’t do things the way I would do them, I receive them. When they offend me, I receive them. When they do me harm, I receive them. I love them.
I receive my brothers and sisters in the Lord.
This is the testimony of the life of Christ inside of us.
It is important that we make a distinction. It is impossible for two to walk together unless they are agreed. Paul says that we endeavor to walk in the unity of the Spirit. But in this world and in Christianity in this world, there is every piece of nonsense that you could imagine. In His church God has many provisions for His people. I am not willing to commit myself in a substantial way to believers who do not share the same understanding of what God is doing in the earth, who do not have the same desire for the fulfillment of this word in their lives.
Yes, we need God to bring us together with people of like hearts and faith, to walk together in a close relationship with them. But unless there is inside of a fellow believer a heart for the same truth and the same Spirit burning in my heart, I am not willing to commit myself to a close relationship with that person, but nevertheless, I receive them.
In John 21, Jesus is telling Peter what he would experience in the future. Then in verse 20, Peter, turning around, saw a fellow disciple, and said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
We need to let Jesus’ answer to Peter sink into the core of our hearts. Without these words of Jesus governing our own religious inclinations, we cannot walk in a wholesome relationship with other believers.
Verse 22: Jesus said to him, “If I will he remain till I come, what is that to you. You follow me.”
Every member of the body of Christ, every individual person who has asked Jesus into their hearts, belongs to Jesus. They do not belong to me. They belong to Jesus; they are in His hands. He hovers over them with all the care of Almighty God. He knows what He is doing in their lives and quite frankly, it is not my business. They do not belong to me, and it is not my place to define how they are to walk. It is my place to receive them with the same joy that Jesus received me.
If there is not an agreement and they go one way and I go another, it is not my place to judge them or point the finger. What is that to me? They belong to Jesus; they do not belong to me.
My responsibility is to follow Him in the way He leads me.
So when we look at our need to walk in a close and committed relationship with one another, receiving one another just as Christ received us, we understand that it comes with a very clear qualification. God has no intention that we violate our own hearts by subjecting ourselves to walk in agreement with that which does not witness to us, that which we cannot give our hearts to because of some external requirement.
God has fellow believers who are hearing the same word we are hearing, who are longing for the same revelation of Jesus Christ that we long for. And God will bring us together with other believers in the liberty of the Spirit of Christ, in this relationship of love that comes spontaneously out of the moving of the Holy Spirit. It is not prescribed by some teacher, but it comes out of the overflow of the river of love that flows out of our lives.
God will bring us together with those members of the body of Christ He has chosen for us.
But even when we understand that we cannot walk together in that kind of a relationship with those believers who do not share that same vision, nevertheless they belong to Jesus. Their path is not our business. It is our business to receive them with all joy and to bless them in the love of Jesus Christ.
There is, in our relationship with those believers that God joins us to, an ingredient in our transformation that we must get from our brothers and sisters and can only come from them. And there is an ingredient that they must have that can only come from us.
God has made us members of one another. And He has put this requirement upon our conformation into the image of Jesus Christ; an essential ingredient in our transformation must come to us through other brothers and sisters in Jesus. And an essential ingredient in their transformation must come to them through you and through me.