The Body of
My Dear ______:
There is another question, now demanding your attention, connected with the body of Christ. On the day of Pentecost, an entirely new thing - in the unfolding of the counsels of God - took place; viz., the coming of the Holy Ghost. Up to that period, He had wrought upon the earth; for in every past dispensation there had been quickened souls, and "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1: 2 1) ; but until the Lord Jesus was glorified at the right hand of God, the Holy Ghost as a Person was not on the earth. This is no new theory, but is a matter of distinct statement in the Scriptures. Thus when Jesus stood and cried, on the great day of the feast of Tabernacles, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," it is explained, that He spake this "of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7: 37-39). The Lord Himself spake to the same effect: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you," etc. (John 16: 7. Compare John 14: 16, 17, 26; 15: 26, etc.) Passing now onward to Acts 2, we find there the historical record of the descent of the Spirit of God: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing migh wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (vv. 1-4). Thus was fulfilled the words which the Lord spake to His disciples after His resurrection, "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." And again, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Acts 1: 5, 8).
Now it was by the descent of the Spirit that the Church - the Church of God as found in the New Testatnent - was formed; and it was formed in two aspects; viz., as the house of God, and as the body of Christ. (See 1 Timothy 3: 15, and Ephesians 1: 22, 23). It is the latter of these two aspects which I desire to bring before you in this letter. Two scriptures will clear our way. In Col. 1: 18 we read, "And He is the head of the body, the Church": in 1 Cor. 12: 13, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free," etc. It thus appears that, on the day of Pentecost, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, believers were baptized into one body, and that thus the body of Christ was formed. Let me, then, now inquire of what or of whom the body of Christ is composed. "As the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ" (1 Cor. 12: 12). The term Christ, as here used, includes Christ Himself and all the members of the body, looked at as a complete whole. Hence the body of Christ includes Himself as the Head, and all believers on earth who have received the indwelling Spirit; and consequently every child of God who can cry, "Abba, Father," is a member of the body of Christ. The apostle thus says, "We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph. 5: 30).
This is the point I would press upon your attention; for vast numbers of God's beloved children are in ignorance of this wonderful place and privilege. Thus, in a visit I made some time ago to a dying believer, I said, "Do you know that you are a member of the body of Christ?" The answer was, "No; I never heard of that"; and I shall not soon forget the joy that overspread that dying countenance as I unfolded the scriptures bearing upon this subject. Let me, then, ask you to consider what being a member of the body of Christ involves.
First, and foremost, it teaches us that we are united to Christ - to Christ as a glorified man, at the right hand of God. For inasmuch as He is the Head of the body, every member is vitally and (may we not say?) organically united to Him. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor. 6: 17). See then the vast extent of the grace of our God! It is not only that our sins are forgiven, that we are justified by faith, that we are brought into the perfect unclouded favor of God, that we are risen with Christ, that we are seated in Him in the heavenlies; but even, as down here upon the earth, encompassed by weakness and infirinity, it is given us to know that we are united to Christ in glory. We can look up to Him where He is, and say, "We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." How could there be discussions upon the question, whether we may know our safety now, if this truth were known in power? And what strength it would give us all, in the presence of trials or dangers, never so great, if we had this thought before our souls, We are united to Christ. And oh, what a revelation it gives us of the nearness and the intimacy into which we are brought with Him! for we are made to know that we are one with Himself, that whatever touches us touches Him (see Acts 9: 4) ; and therefore that we are inseparably, indissolubly, connected with Himself for ever.
Secondly, we are taught that being members of the body of Christ, we are also members one of another; and it is essential for us to apprehend this truth, if we would understand the character of our relationships with all the children of God. The same bond, then, that unites us to Christ, unites us also to all believers; for the same Spirit that unites us to Christ has united us also one to another. This is what is meant by "the unity of the Spirit" (Eph. 4: 3); i.e., the unity of all the members of Christ which has been formed on the earth by the Spirit of God.
If you will now turn with me to 1 Cor. 12, you will see the wonderful character of our mutual relationships, arising out of our being members one of another. You can read the passage from the 12th to the 27th verse, at your leisure; in the meantime I will point out several distinctive points in its teaching.
First, it is carefully insisted upon that "the body is not one member, but many"; and that every member has its own place in the body. Hence the apostle asks, "If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?" And he is careful to show that the peculiar place which each has in the body is the result of the sovereign act of God; and he is also careful to guard us from forgetting, that while there are many members, it is yet but one body (vv. 14-20). If we had no further instruction, what a fruitful theme for amplification. But I will only call your attention here to two points; viz., our obligation or responsibility to maintain the diversity of the members (v. 14), and secondly, the unity of the whole (v. 29); and I venture to add that it is impossible to maintain either the one or the other, excepting you are gathered, apart from all denominations and human systems, to the name of Christ outside the camp.
The second thing is, that every member of the body needs all the other members; for "the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you"; and he tells us that God hath thus "tempered the body together," etc., "that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another" (vv. 21-25). He then reminds us that the relationship between the members is so intimate that if "one member suffer, all the members suffer with it"; and that if "one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it" (v. 26).
You will see from this scripture, that the term "the body of Christ" is no mere figure of speech, as is so often alleged; but that it expresses a realitythe reality indeed of our union with Christ, as also of our union with one another. And I am sure that you will see that our responsibilities to Christ as the Head of the body, and our responsibilities to our fellow-members, cannot even be understood, much less discharged, if this truth is overlooked or ignored. But, on the other hand, when it is known, not only have we the joy of conscious union with Christ; but we can also rejoice in our union, our indissoluble union, with all the members of His body in all parts of the world. It leads moreover to very practical results. For example, if I am asked to connect myself with any of the denominations around, I instantly reply that I cannot do that which denies, plainly denies, this blessed truth. "You ask me," I should say, "to join a certain number of Christians who agree upon certain things; but I am united to all believers, and I need them all, and I cannot therefore accept a ground of union which excludes any." Again, if it is proposed to me to unite with a number of Christians irrespective of denominations, I should answer, "I am a member of the body of Christ; and I cannot therefore make any ground of union apart from that of the body. I must be on God's ground or upon none at all." Until therefore I know the truth of the body of Christ, I cannot understand the place which the Lord would have me to occupy upon the earth.
But I will now leave the subject for your own consideration; for I am sure that if you search the Scriptures, in dependence on the Lord, He will guide you by His Spirit into His own mind respecting it. In my next letter, God willing, I shall bring before you another subject, closely related to this; viz., that of the Lord's table.
Believe me, dear ______,
Yours affectionately in Christ,
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