I chose a long passage today, but it just didn't seem right to break it up. Paul has been telling us that Christ has come to save both Jew and Gentile and to bring us into one people. Remember, historically, they have not been one at all. Jews and Gentiles didn't associate. But this passage is how they are to live as one people and can be used to learn how all God's people live as one. Sometimes it is really hard to think of the church universal when we have denominations and buildings that separate us. It seems to take a Promise Keepers, Women of Faith, or Christian concert to remind us that we are part of something so much bigger than our local congregation. There is a vast community out there of our brothers and sisters. We are all running towards the same goal and should be working together more. But I digress....
"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
"'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.'
"(What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." NIV
Although this passage does mean to speak to the church universal, in most cases we see it lived out in our own congregation. We all serve one God and should work as one to do so. He gave us each our jobs to do through our individual abilities and talents.(vs 11-12) And if we hold together, living as one in the Truth, when untruth tries to sway us, we will see it for what it is.(vs 14)
I love the metaphor Paul uses in the last verse. We are the body of Christ, literally. Since His body is no longer here, we must be His hands, feet, arms, ligaments, heart..... And all working together, we grow and mature, becoming stronger and stronger. If parts of the body start turning on each other, the body will pull itself apart and die. Since we, as children of God, are aliens and strangers in this world, we must stick together to accomplish His purposes. Besides, it's much more fun working together.
Lord, forgive us for the times Your church has tried to pull itself apart. Holy Spirit, keep us unified in You and help me to do my part in the body.
- Read more on the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. (I love that this passage is followed by the love chapter, 13. Paul is reminding us that if we live in love, we will remain unified in the body.)
- Christ is the head of "the body." What happened at the moment of Christ's death to symbolize His becoming the head of the church. (Hint: see Luke 23:44-45 and Exodus 26:33)
- These principles can be used across the board on different groups we are a part of. What other "bodies" are you a part of? How can these principles be applied?
- What part of the body of Christ are you? Are you doing your part to unify the body and grow it up?