The Characteristics of Christian Behaviour
(d) Understanding The Church
Having dealt with areas of personal surrender to God in v1-3, Paul now comes to examine the relationship of the Christian to the Church. A key aspect of this chapter which deals with Christian Behaviour is the teaching concerning the use of our gifts for the benefit of the Church family. Before we can begin using these gifts with success, however, it is necessary that we understand what the Church is. There is a sense in which we will fail in our service for God if our ideas concerning the Church are flawed in any way.
1: The Unity of the Church
The Church is united in the body of Christ. The metaphor of the body is a common biblical image instructing us as to the nature of the Church. The body to which we belong is Christ’s body. Therefore the body must be united because Christ is one, even as our own bodies are one. We may belong to many earthly organisations but there is no movement or society whether religious or secular which can be called the Body of Christ. Therefore the Church must be set apart and sanctified in our thinking. There is no room for a party spirit in the Church. A congregation which bands together into cliques and factions has failed to appreciate that every Christian is part of the one body of Christ. The Church therefore cannot deal with problems as an earthly organisation would confront its difficulties. As the body is spiritual the church must be governed and administered spiritually with every aspect being subject to Christ, who is the Head.
In Ephesians 4:4-6 Paul sets forth 7 distinctives of the unity of Christ’s body. There is one body. The local church and the denomination is not the Church. We are part of the body, we are in the body, the denomination and the local congregation is the visible expression of the Church in our lives. The body of Christ, however, transcends all denominational boundaries; it contains all God’s people and all fellowships where Christ is confessed.
There is one Spirit. We were made part of the Church not when we signed a card and were formally admitted into the assembly. We became part of the body when we were born again of the Holy Ghost.
We enjoy the one hope, we worship the one Lord, we confess the one faith, we believe in the one baptism and we are subject to the one God.
We therefore have a solemn duty to behave in such a way that we reflect the unity of the Church. To be disunited, to be harsh, to be bitter and to show a lack of grace towards one another is to destroy the picture of Christ’s body being a united body.
2: The Diversity in the Church
Within the Church there are many members. There is variety within the body of Christ, as there is variety within the human body.
As each aspect of the body has an important and necessary function, so each member of Christ’s Church is important and has a role to fulfill. Paul stated that all members have not the same office.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul expounded this truth in more detail. There Paul set forth important principles which helps us understand this diversity.
(a) It is God who gives each member the particular talent and opportunity that is unique to them, v18, 28.
(b) We should accept our role in the Church with gratitude and we ought not to be jealous of the work to which another has been called, v15-16.
( c) We should not despise the gifts of others nor are we to despise our own gifts, v22-23. Every member of the Church is important and necessary for the good of the body. Let us therefore thank God for one another and seek our place in The Master’s Work.
3: The Interdependence within the Church
Despite our diversity, we remain one body. Paul stated that we are “members one of another”. We belong to each other. Therefore we use our gifts not for our own good but for the benefit of the entire body. One person cannot do the work of God alone. As an eye or an ear does not constitute the human body so one gift does not constitute the Church, 1 Corinthians 12:17. As each part of the human body relies on other members so we in the Church need to rely upon each other and appreciate each other, 1 Corinthians 12:21. Paul will go to teach in the following verses that the members of the Church should use their gifts to enrich each other so that the work would be strengthened.