Functioning Together as the Body of Christ
Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that the followers of Jesus as Lord are collectively the members of the Body of Christ:
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
"If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."(Romans 12:4-8, NIV translation)
Christ is simply the Greek word for Messiah, which means the “anointed one” or King. When we trust in Messiah Jesus as our Lord, we are spiritually placed into the Messiah. The New Testament calls this being “in Christ.” We share this position along with all others who have surrendered their lives to the Lordship of Jesus the King. We have been taken out of the spiritual realm of darkness in which we lived and we have been positioned in Messiah himself. We now have access to His life, His thoughts, His feelings, His wisdom and His power.
God did not design us to live alone, but in concert and in close relationship with other believers in Messiah. The local expression of believers in Messiah is called the “church” or ekklesia (called out ones) in the Greek. Paul tells us here in Romans that our lives not only belong to Messiah, we also belong to one another. We form one body and each member belongs to all the others. This has amazing ramifications for our lives. We can no longer live in isolation, but we are designed to live in close cooperation and relationship with our fellow believers in Jesus.
The first key to functioning as a member of the Body of Messiah is to know and believe the fully accepting love that God the Father has for each one of us. This truth is our foundation for spiritual growth. We are completely accepted and completely forgiven by God our Father. We are delighted in by the Father, not because of anything good that we have done, but simply because we are His creation. Let that really sink in. Nothing we can do can diminish the Father’s love for us and nothing we can do can increase the Father’s love for us. His love for us is unending and He will never leave us or forsake us. This sounds too good to be true, and that is why it is called the “gospel”, which means “good news!”
The second key to functioning as a member of the Body of Messiah is to build relationships of love, respect and trust with the other believers in Jesus that the Lord has joined you with. If you ask God and trust Him, he will lead you to a body of believers that are trying to function together as the Body of Messiah. The qualities you should look for are humility, love and serving – especially in the lives of the leaders of the group.
Leaders tend to reproduce their nature in their followers. Leaders are essential to the health and life of the church. God sets leaders in the church to facilitate and to equip the Body to function together. They are not there to show off their gifts or to dominate the meetings of the believers with long-winded “sermons.” Church is more than a series of meetings, it is a set of relationships centered around the Lord Jesus. It is a group of people who are sharing life together.
The third key to functioning as a member of the Body of Messiah is to discover what your spiritual gift is and then to cultivate that gift and begin to operate in it. In the Romans 12 passage which we read Paul outlines seven different spiritual gifts that are present in every local church body: prophecy, serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leading and showing mercy. Ask the Father which one of these gifts belongs to you. Then begin to study about that gift in the Bible and begin to cultivate the operation of that gift in your life. This is where your leaders can come along side to encourage you and to make room for you to exercise your gift in the life of the church.
As the members of Messiah’s body live in relationships of love and honor with one another, and as we grow in the operation of our spiritual gifts, then the local church body will be encouraged and the church will grow deeper spiritually. This is how we will begin to reflect the nature of the Lord Himself to the society around us.