Body Life Overview
Environment of Fellowship
chuck summers Nov 5, 2023
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
There is a tendency to think of our Christian walk in personal terms as individual believers – our personal Prayer Life, personal Bible Reading, personal Quiet Time, etc. but our life in Christ can really only begin to be understood when we see beyond ourselves and realize that we are all members of the Body of Christ.
I want the New Testament to be a How-To / Self-help book on how to live my best life now. But most of the books in the New Testament are not directed to individual believers and cannot be properly understood as God’s love letter to ME. Instead, we should see them as providing instruction on how We should live as part of something larger and more amazing than we realize. Each of us are members of the Body of Christ. Any thoughtful examination of New Testament teaching will reveal that a lot of the really good passages in the Bible are not about Me, but about Us.
We each have our own idea of what the church is. You’re here right now; I’m here right now; we’re all doing church stuff. But when we step back and try to wrap our heads around what we actually see in scripture, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a whole lot more going on than a simple two hour meeting on Sunday morning. The church is more than an organization. It is in a very real sense the visible manifestation of Christ in the earth.
I was thinking about this a couple of months ago and decided to take a stab at diagramming some of the fundamentals of Church Life (or as I like to call of it – Body Life). So I spent a few minutes putting down ideas in the form of a mind map (which you can see on the screen above and in today’s online sermon notes.
(A Mind Map is somewhat analogous to a visitor’s map you might get for downtown Austin. This Body Life diagram is not intended to be exhaustive. I’m sure you can quickly identify some missing pieces and give more descriptive names than the ones I’ve used. I’m including this diagram simply to emphasize that there are a lot of important areas that we won’t be addressing today.)
So, let’s take a quick tour the map before arriving at today’s destination.
Logistics would include things like when & where body life happens. I’m also tossing in areas of church government here. (You might want to move it somewhere else).
Elements cover the visible, liturgical aspects of Body Life experienced at a typical gathering.
What is the effect of Church on an unbelieving World? A generation ago atheists argued that Christianity wasn’t true. Today’s “New Atheists” like to state that it isn’t just false, but it’s bad. There is a very real world-view battle to be fought in this arena.
This will be our focus today. While the other aspects of body-life are important and have cause serious discussion throughout church history (not just church splits, but actual bloody battles) I personally believe Fellowship is the most difficult and arguably the most important aspect of body-life.
I haven’t done the math, but I think it’s safe to say that aside from Salvation by Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone, for the Glory of God Alone, the next most common theme throughout God’s Word is how to get along with the Godly believers on either side of you.
As it is written:
To dwell above with saints we love – Oh, that will be glory!
But to live below with saints we know – well, that’s another story!
Groups of various sizes for different levels of committed support, interaction, and mission. Each has it’s own special purpose and provides it’s own unique joy and blessing.
100 instances of allelon in New Testament. 59 are “one another” directives
· LOVE (10 instances of “Love one another”)
Just as the 613 laws of Moses can be summed up with
Mark 12:31..32 love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (… and…) love your neighbor as yourself.
So also all the directions in the New Testament for believers can be summed up in Jesus’ “New Commandment”
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
In the 4th century, Jerome recorded this oral tradition concerning the apostle John: “When he was living at Ephesus in his extreme old age, and was with difficulty carried into the Church in the arms of his disciples, nor could find breath for many words, he would say nothing time after time but, “Little children, love one another.” At length, his hearers being tired of hearing nothing else, asked him, “Master, why do you always repeat the same exhortation?” He replied in a sentence worthy of him: “Because it is the Lord”s command; and if this be done all is done.” ”
John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
2 John 1:5 And now I ask you, dear lady–not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning–that we love one another.
It’s interesting to see how many of the really meaty passages in Paul’s letters are presented in the larger context of fellowship, often being sandwiched between 2 slices of “one-another” verses:
· Romans 12 – Spiritual Gifts
· Philippians 2 – Christ’s Humility
· Ephesians 4 – Ministry to the Church
· 1 Corinthians 13 – Love
Christian love is the thread running through all aspects of Christian culture. Here are a few practical aspects of this love.
Romans 15:5-7 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Ephesians 4:1-3 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Acts 2:41-47 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Collosians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
James 5:13-16 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
I like to think that I score pretty high in all these areas. I also like to think that I’m a pretty good basketball player. Just don’t get me out on the court and expect me to execute a pick & roll…
I tend to forget that these are more than just religious sounding words taking up space in my bible. They are very real and important.
The one-another verses and other similar passages are written to us not just because they are important, but because they are hard and we need all the encouragement we can get to do these hard things.
I can confidently say that if you haven’t had to forgive me for an offense, or cover one or more of my sins with grace and love, then you just haven’t gotten very close to me. Just ask my wife.
We don’t like conflict, so in an effort to reduce conflict in the church, we’ve moved away from caring, committed, covenantal relationship. And that’s just with the folks we already know and love.
How am I going to respond when God really starts moving and people are added to His Church daily like in the book of Acts? What kind of people will He add? Sinners! And they’re not likely to be clean-cut, respectible sinners. They’ll be people with real probems who need real help from real Christians.
I was reading the other day about the kind of people who joined David’s church when he was pastoring at the Cave of Addulam:
1 Samuel 22:2 And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.
These are the very same people who later were known as David’s Mighty Men!
In Matthew 21, Jesus told the chief priests and religious elders
“Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you…”
Remember the recent Jesus Revolution move? That stuff really happened and I believe God is setting things in order that will be even more amazing. Will it be easy? Probably not. Will it be fun? Probably. After all, in John 13 when teaching his disciples to love one another and wash each others feet, he added
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
All of this would be truly daunting and discouraging if it were not for the fact that I believe God is committed to bringing this kind of fellowship about.
- First of all Jesus said that HE would build his church
- Second, Jesus personally prayed to the Father that we would all be one as He and the Father are one so that that the world would know that God sent the Son.
- Third, I’m seeing these very things taking form right here in front of my eyes – and I think many of you are too.
The Spirit of Christ changes us into His likeness and builds His church
– Fitly joined together
– God’s Building
– Rooted, Built up, and Established
– The glorious bride of Christ, holy and blameless, without spot or wrinkle
The church is God’s living epistle to a lost world. We are to be an object lesson of Christ’s love as we care for one another. The Salt & Light of our corporate has changed cultures in the past and can do so again.