Tuesday, June 05, 2018
The Organic Body of the Christ
Who doesn't like structure ( of some kind )? Even the most ( seemingly ) disorganized person usually has a method to their madness! We may not appreciate their methodology, but, even if they're the only one that can make any sense out of it, most, if not everyone strives for some kind of structure in their lives. Too often, sin lays wait at our door when those who perceive that their lives are ordered correctly try to show those that they perceive don't have their lives ordered correctly how to correctly structure ( organize ) their lives. Then, when the one taught fails to structure their own life as the teacher sees fit, problems begin to surface, usually because, among other reasons, every person is different & individual situations vary, often greatly. This is not to say that the teacher has nothing to say to another, for often, a different perspective can greatly improve any given situation, but when any teacher says that his or her students must all organize their lives to exactly mirror his or her own, one must exercise great care!
Jesus did say that, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.' ( John 8:31 ) Of course, we must understand the immediate context of His words here & though they bear some universal truth, we should understand that Jesus was speaking to Jews that had been adherents of the so-called Mosaic Law all their lives. To understand His Word & what it entailed is equally important; the Gospel that He & His disciples preached was that the Kingdom of Heaven was within, not without. Jesus' Word to those Jews in the first century was that rather than the word spoken by Moses, He was the Word of Life, the Living Word!
It is when we come to the Church, what the apostle Paul calls, 'the Body of Christ' ( II Corinthians 12:12 & 27, Ephesians 3:6, 4:12 & 5:23, Colossians 1:24 ( Hebrews 10:5 ) that we tend to run into what is, in the opinion of this blogger, the biggest problem! Although any theologian worth his or her salt can find at least one proof-text ( probably more ) to support 'the theory of the local church', I cannot find one that is irrefutable. No doubt, there are local iterations of the Church, but even so, the Church is not, nor was ever meant to be, an institution!
DenomiNATIONALISM is really just an extension of the old Judaistic trinity of Phariseeism, Sadduceeism & Essenism! It is, in essence, a natural ( not necessarily good ) part of the human condition: this one cannot get along with that one because the other believes erroneously concerning a certain ( man-made or otherwise ) doctrine which he or she believes him or herself to hold to correctly. Don't get me wrong, beliefs are important, but when they threaten to divide the Body of Christ, they must be closely examined & if necessary, thrown out!
There are not, as has been supposed for centuries, two Churches ( one spelled with a capital 'C' & one with a lowercase 'c'-sound familiar? ), one local ( some call it 'visible' ) & One universal ( 'Invisible' ) As individual congregations, local assemblies were termed 'churches', mostly for convenience' sake. For instance, in ancient times especially, but even in more modern times, travel was not so conducive as it is now, so it was usually not feasible to have just one assembly, particularly as people began to grow in numbers & spread out. This actually, in my understanding, is where the term 'pagan' originated. There is One Church ( Body of Christ ), but like its members ( I Corinthians 12:12 ), there are many different congregations. Though they may have differing, even erroneous doctrinal stances, they are a part of the One Church! ( We must note here though, that individual members of any given congregation may or may not be members of the Body of Christ, or the Church! )
What is it then, to abide in His Word? As stated above, Jesus was/is the Word of Life; so if we abide in Jesus, we are His disciples. To abide in Jesus, contrary to what seems to be the popular opinion, is not simply to trust in Jesus, to believe what He said, but to follow in His footsteps, obeying His Law of Love, doing what He did ( John 14:12 ). In essence, to be the Christ, the Messiah ( or 'a messiah', if that makes you feel better ); as Jesus was to the Jews, or Hebrews, so are we to our 'world'!
To truly understand this blessed reality ( not everyone does ), it is helpful to have those with the gift of revelation ( not everyone does ), it is helpful to have differing gifts, leadership where leadership is necessary & love always. Structure ( organization ) is a good thing; everything should be done in order, not necessarily chronologically speaking, though that may be advantageous, but with order, not haphazardly, but with purpose. With this purpose in our hearts then, whether we gather in a specific building at a specific time, on a specific day of the week, let us not only do what Jesus did, but also strive not to do what Jesus didn't do, which was to organize the Body into separate ( individual ) denomiNATIONS, even separate 'churches'. Let us purpose to bring to Light the Kingdom of God, not hiding it under all the trappings of business.
Charles Haddon Shank