In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church we find his message about the body of Christ.
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (1 Cor. 12:27).
Just prior to saying this he has emphasized the vital importance of each member. The foot, the ear, the eye, the hand… God has set them all in the body “as it hath pleased Him” (1 Cor. 12:18). His intention is that these, functioning together in harmony, enable the One inhabiting the Body to do what He wants to do, and express Himself as it pleases Him to do so…
…Just as in my own body, the purpose of all the members is that I may do what I want and express myself as it pleases me to do so. It’s all about me, you might say. What would I think if someone, hardly conscious of me, marvelled at my hand and how dexterously it ministered to the needs of the other members of my body? “Oh what a wonderful hand,” they exclaim, wide eyed. Or my ear with its capacity to hear, or my eye to see, or my foot to step… they marvel at these and are hardly conscious of me—the person in that body.
I long for the day when we are consciously aware of Christ Himself in the body of Christ, and it takes our breath away—we recognize that it is actually Him we are seeing. At present, although at times we are aware of a measure of His Presence, we are more or less focused on the members themselves. It is exciting beyond words to anticipate that this will not always be so. For, our Lord Jesus Christ is going to reveal Himself.
But it is going to take every member of the body of Christ knit together in the Spirit and functioning harmoniously before we see Christ Himself revealed. Do we really want to see Him revealed? If we do, let us be prepared for the devastation it will mean in the way we now do church. For, this will take a kind of church order in which the Head is given His total lordship, and all His members are given liberty to express what the Head has in mind—which is the revelation, the unveiling, of God Himself.
This means a tremendous responsibility for those who are called to “the ministry.” It is their God-ordained objective to foster and encourage the development and growth of the saints so that they become vital participants in the functioning of this many-membered Man. You might say that if the ministries do their job well, they minister themselves out of a job, for, it was never God’s intention that they be ministering week in and week out forever. God has an objective in mind, and once reached, the job of the minister is done. Yet sadly this is pretty much the expectation week after week in our present-day churches. The minister will minister, and the people will sit and listen.
There is another problem. They, the ministers, are servants of this Man. But sometimes God’s people get their focus on His servants.
This is what had happened in the Corinthian church. The saints had become enamoured of their favourite minister—Paul for some, Apollos, or Cephas for others. It grieved Paul that they were exalting him and the others like this, and he wrote them about it.
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?” (1 Cor. 3.5).
We are just the servants here, he reminded them, it’s not about us, it’s all about you.
Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (1 Cor. 3.22,23).
What a statement! What did Paul see, that he held forth so high a thing for the saints at Corinth, telling them it was they who were the very centre of God’s interests? Oh that they might get their eyes off him and Apollos, and see, “ordinary” members of the body of Christ though they were, what they were part of! Which was?
Ye are the body of Christ…
Does that little statement mean for you and me what it meant for Paul? The phrase “body of Christ” has been so overused that it has become very bland to the palate these days. But there is nothing greater than to be a member of the body of Christ. Oh that this one statement–“Ye are the body of Christ”– would grip us all—but especially those in what is called “the ministry.’ If those in ministry were burdened with the same burden that was in the heart of the apostle Paul, it would break their hearts the way Paul’s was broken, and would revolutionize the way we “do church.” Paul—a servant of Christ—spent himself, his whole life, in the hope of the realization of a Certain Man he had seen on the Damascus Road, the same Man the prophets of old saw in vision—the New Man, the new creation Man, the Man in whom God and man are one—the corporate man—something that each and every child of God is part of. This is why Paul laboured so intently, so intensely—to see that Man revealed in all His fullness in “the church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).
As he wrote to the Corinthians:
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ (1 Cor. 12:12).
Not, “so also is the body of Christ,” but “so also is Christ.” Christ is a many-membered Man, and we, if we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, baptized into Christ, are members of that Man.
The ministries of the church cannot reveal this One in all His fullness—never were intended to do so. It takes a many-membered body functioning in the liberty and lordship of the Spirit to reveal Him. And so may we all—those in the ministry and those who are tempted to laud them—apply God’s eye salve to our eyes so we can see God’s intent in His ministries, and in those they minister to. God’s intent in His churches is not great ministers, but a great Man.
And so, Lord, help us to get our eyes off the servants in Your House… who, if they are true servants, long for the day when the glory of the Lord fills the House of God and they can do nothing but lie on their faces weeping for joy… no longer able to minister… and no longer needing to. Amen.