One Body, Many Members

You never know how much you need a part of your body until it stops functioning as it should. I bruised my ribs a month ago. I thought for sure they were cracked or broken since they hurt so much, but it turns out they were “only” bruised or strained.

Somehow the ribs are involved every time you bend down and stand up, lie down and get back up, lift, carry, twist, or when you happen to need to breathe. All these things became unusually obvious to me because they became painful.

I noticed a term recently while reading my bible I hadn’t given much thought to before. In fact I wasn’t really sure what it meant.

Ephesians 4:25 says “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”

“Members one of another.” The term puzzled me. I discovered that the same term is found in Romans 12:4-5: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

It occurred to me that I wasn’t thinking of the term “members” properly. I was thinking about membership in the way that we think of members of a club or gym. But that isn’t the kind of membership God has in mind. God is talking about members as body parts. Specifically, many individual parts, joined as one, and making up “one body in Christ.”

There is another important section in Ephesians 4 about this. Ephesians 4:15-16 says “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

The picture here is fascinating. God has equipped the body, which 1 Corinthians 12, makes clear is His church, with different people, or parts, who have different gifts “for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:6)” of the entire body. This body is joined and held together by “every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly” in order to grow up into the likeness of Christ and “build itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).”

Colossians 2:16-19 makes it clear that you shouldn’t allow anyone to “pass judgment” or “disqualify” you who is “insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head… ” That is, not holding fast to Christ “from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God “(that’s the rest of verse 19).
God has described the church as His body, and the head being Christ. He speaks of its people as beings joints and ligaments (as seen above), as well as feet, hands, eyes, and ears (1 Corinthians 12:14-21).

1Corinthians 12:19-21 says “If all were a single member where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 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.'”

Wouldn’t that be the height of lunacy- to look at one of your body parts and say, “What’s the point of this one? I don’t need it!” Or “As long as I’ve got my eye sight I’m good. Who needs hands?” You would either be an insane human, or in this case, a really arrogant eye ball.

You usually don’t appreciate a part of your body, especially a part like a tendon or a joint, until something is the matter with it. Then you realize its crucial. Then you see that without it you are somewhat crippled. You don’t appreciate your ability to breathe effortlessly until breathing is difficult.

Ephesians 4:16 really pricked my heart, saying that “when each part is working properly, (Christ) makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

“When each part is working properly…” I find that to be a sobering verse. That tells me that every part has a function, or a purpose. Every part is needed, or in other words, no part is useless.

There are many things the “body” of Christ should be doing and as you can see, I’m doing a very brief sketch and broad sweep of this. But the crucial matter I want to point out is that the body of Christ should be loving one another- worldwide, yes, but especially and most practically in the local body- your church. My church.

The phrase that puzzled me at first, that we are “members one of another,” simply means that we belong together, or that we belong to each other. We are united together in Christ and so we should have mutual care for each other as one body.

The weaker parts, who may be weak for various reasons, God calls “indispensable (1Corinthians 12:22).” Depending on how you evaluate yourself today that is either tremendously encouraging or else pride crushing. Perhaps both. What does God want?

“That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1Corinthians 12:25-26).”

Do we do that? Do you do that? Would you tend to ignore a broken bone? Would you say “Oh this useless broken bone! I never needed it anyway! I don’t have time to deal with this. I don’t have patience for its healing. Cut the limb off!” Or would you find out how to rest it, how to heal it, how to ease its’ pain?

Hebrews 12:12 says to believers: “Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” I can’t help but think, as much as you would seek the Lord to do this for yourself, would you do it for a brother or sister in Christ? Would you help to strengthen and heal the drooping, weak, or lame member, or would you let it be put out of joint?

I think of Paul’s loving concern for a rebuked brother in the church of Corinth, where he encourages the church to now “turn to forgive and comfort him or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him (2Corinthians 2:7-8).”

Do we do that? Or do we always remember our brother’s sin? Do we picture it as if it were always hanging over him, or do we rejoice with him that the blood of Jesus has taken it away?

At this point there are probably hundreds of applications we could point at. You don’t need to look far to find a bible verse about loving one another in the body of Christ. I’ll close with this scripture, and leave it to you, the reader, to study and seek God on this topic, one that I think is very dear to His heart.

Galatians 5:14-15 “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, that you are not consumed by one another.”

 

 

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