In the first post on becoming a useful vessel, I identified six things we need (minimum) to be a useful vessel for the Master. In the last post, I address the point that we must be confessing and repentant of sin in our lives. In today’s post, I will expand on the fourth of those: We must be members of a body.
After being born again, we are immediately joined to the greater body of Christ as a member with many other members, making one body together. That is the automatic result of being born again that God does regardless of our physical place in the world. Many professing Christians today claim that they are part of the body of Christ yet have no desire or need to be joined to a local church. Is this God’s design for the body of Christ or is it necessary that we be joined to a local church?
To answer that question, we need to look to Scripture. For the purpose of keeping this writing an article and not a book, I will try not to make this an exhaustive study but try to highlight some main points on this topic.
We Must Know Those to Whom we are Joined
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul explains:
“…God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” – (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)
If God has joined us to others so that we would have concern for each other, how is it possible that we can have concern for those we have not met or have no personal relationship with? Indeed, we must know those we are joined to for this to take place. We certainly cannot suffer with or rejoice with those whom we have no relationship. I obviously cannot cry with a brother or sister who has lost a child that I am unaware of. I cannot praise God for a victory I do not know He has granted. So that we can engage in the sufferings and victories of others, it is important that we are joined with them in the local body.
We are Called to Serve Together
In the epistle to the Romans, Paul says this:
“Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” – (Romans 12:4-5)
He goes on to explain the different gifts (which we will discuss more in the next post) and functions of individual members of the body which work together to serve the Lord. We, by default then, must be joined to others with different gifts so that we can work together. The most obvious place this occurs in Scripture is the local body. We each have a job to do so that the body functions according to God’s will. We can’t do that job if we are not connected to and in tune with the local body where we are called to serve.
The Way in Which the New Testament was Delivered Affirms the Local Body
While the various epistles that help to make up the New Testament are for all the church universal, we see that they are written to individual and local bodies. Paul’s letters make up about half of the New Testament and over half of those letters were written to local bodies of believers in at least 7 different cities. This very fact should help us to see that the local body is important and the place which was set forth from the earliest days of the Church for the delivery and preaching of God’s word.
We are Told to Gather Together
The author of Hebrews tells us this:
“And let us watch out for one another to provoke to love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” – (Hebrews 10:24-25)
We are told to watch out for each other and provoke one another to good works. How is that even possible if we are not part of the local body of believers? To be sure we don’t somehow misunderstand, it goes on further and clearly tells us that we are not to neglect gathering together. We are even told that some are in this bad habit of doing so. The part I think many of us fail to pay attention to is the last part of the passage: “…even more as you see the day approaching.”
Most Christians I know would agree that we see that the day is only getting closer and seems like it will be within our lifetime that Christ will return. So why is it that many Christians are not gathering with the local body still and why not even more than previously? Why is it that many professing Christians are neglecting gathering at all? Why is it that many professing Christians are refusing to be joined to a local body? The answers to these questions are many and not the point of this article. Surely all the answers to these questions could fill a book. So, I will not attempt to answer them here. However, I will say that it is as important as ever before that we, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, be joined to and meet with the local body in obedience to Scripture.
The Local Body is Where Discipleship and Ministry Should Happen
In previous parts of this series, I have talked about the “Great Commission” found in Matthew 28:19-20. I want to revisit that briefly. We are told that we are to teach disciples to observe everything Christ has commanded (verse 20). This is key to discipleship. Later, Paul tells us where the teaching is to take place based on who is told to teach. We are told the “overseer” or “elder” is to be “apt to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:24). In giving instruction for how the local church should operate Paul says that teaching should occur from older women to younger women and from elders to disciples so that they can act rightly and teach others. (Titus 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:2) James says that “not many should teach” because teachers will face a stricter judgement. (James 3:1)
The teaching and instruction of disciples is to primarily be done through and under the supervision of the local body. Even the articles which I write, I do under the authority of my senior pastor. Should I be instructed at any time to stop teaching, I must recognize that I am placed under and am to be obedient to the local body leadership. Of course, the reasons I might be instructed to cease from teaching must be weighed by Scripture to ensure that the reasons are sound (i.e., If I am in unrepentant sin, my teaching is not doctrinally sound, etc.).
There are many more things that could be written on this topic, but I will summarize by saying this: if we are to be disciples of Christ which will be useful vessels for the Master, then we must be joined to and gather with the local body through which we are to be discipled and discipling others. God has ordained the local body for this purpose. We are not solo crusaders on a mission from God. He has placed us together in the body as many members to worship, praise, and honor Him and to teach others to do the same.
If you are not joined to and gathering with a local body, ask yourself, “Why?”. I can assure you that there are many answers to that question for different people, but the answer to the next question I want you to ask yourself has the same answer for every Christian. Ask yourself, “Should I be joined to a local body?”. The next step is simple: pray and ask the Lord to direct you in finding a local body where you can serve and honor Him in obedience to His will for His body.
I pray that each of you will take this subject seriously in your life and recognize the importance of being joined to and gathering with a local body through which we can encourage, love, pray for, instruct, and correct each other for the sake of honoring and glorifying God in us. In the next post I will discuss an important factor of how we do this through knowing what our spiritual gift is so that we might be able to know where we fit in the local body and what function we are to perform. I hope you will come back for that. As always, if you have been encouraged by this page, please be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom and follow this page to get email updates when new posts are published. You can also provide feedback through rating this post, adding comments, or contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.