Friday, February 27, 2009

So If We Are The Body...

But if we are the Body
Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
(Casting Crowns)

Good question. What is the problem with “The Body of Christ”? Why does it not seem to be doing a very good job of what its Head, Jesus, left it here to do?

Is there a problem with the Head?

Is this whole Christian thing just a bunch of nonsense and what we see is merely a reflection of what happens when people make up a religion?

No, the problem is most certainly with people!

I think a good question to ask ourselves is what exactly makes the body the body anyway? And who is part of it? Is it possible that what is being described in the song is largely not the body at all, and that is why is it is not functioning?

The body is another metaphor that Paul used to describe the church – both local and universal. It is a telling and helpful metaphor because it is very descriptive of what the people of God are supposed to be doing with Jesus physically absent.

I believe it was our dear Anglican brother John Stott who was discussing God’s problem of invisibility: God, in a sense, does have this problem. He cannot be seen or touched or detected by the five senses, as He is a spirit. How did He solve this problem? By becoming human – God in the flesh – Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father.” (John 14:7).

But wait – there’s still a problem. Jesus was visible and could be touched and heard, but He left almost 2000 years ago, so we are back to the same situation.

Simply, God solved the problem with the church – it is the physical, visible, touchable body of Christ in the world.

But, you protest, look at the church! Hypocrites! Judgers! Lazy, good-for-nothing gluttons and materialists who mimic the culture around them! In defense of the church, we are at our best redeemed sinners who are in the sanctification process. But still, anyone who is paying attention to the church (in the West at least) has to admit the situation is far from ideal. What can explain the sad lyrics I posted?

I hinted at above, and let me share with you, loyal blog readers, my theory: Much of what we are calling “the body” is in fact not part of Christ at all. Like a prosthesis, it looks something like a real limb, but is dead. Its function is limited at best and detrimental at worst.

I know, I am so harsh…

I believe that the pathetic dumbing down of the gospel over the last several generations, primarily by Evangelicals (the supposed guardians of sound doctrine) has produced churches full of lost people who think they’re saved because they prayed a prayer to keep out of hell. Or to have a more fulfilling life.

Lest you think I’m picking merely on Evangelicals and/or conservative Protestants, theological moderates of the Mainline Protestant persuasion, not to mention theological liberals, have done even worse. They tend to define “body” as anyone who was ever baptized or in any way associates themselves with Christianity. Their “gospel” tends to be much more about temporal social change than about God’s wrath being satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ so that sinners could be reconciled to their creator and truly, fully redeemed.

So, what exactly makes a person part of the body?

Are Catholics part of the Body of Christ? What about Methodists? What about theological liberals? What about Baptists? They’re all part of the body, right?


Let’s take a look at Scripture…

“You were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Who was Paul talking to? The Corinthian church – far from a model body of believers. He describes them this way, however: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (I Cor. 1:2 ESV). THEY were baptized by the Spirit into the Body.

So there’s our first clue… in order to be part of the body, one must be baptized by the Spirit into it. The Spirit immerses us into the body of Christ (which does not involve water, with all due respect to my Lutheran brothers and blogging buddies). This is called regeneration. In order to be in the body, one must be regenerated, or made alive in Christ. Also known as being Born Again or Born from Above. If one is not regenerated, one is not part of the body.

So are Catholics part of the body? The ones who are regenerated are.

Are Baptists part of the body? Ditto.

What about Lutherans? Every regenerated Lutheran is part of the body, as is every regenerated Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Anglican, Methodist, Wesleyan, Anabaptist, Mennonite, non-denominational Christian or whatever. Heck, even Emergent guys who are regenerated are part of the body! Denomination was not a criterion when God invented regeneration! It does not determine our body status.

I submit to you that the reason the “body” tends to function so poorly is because many people call themselves Christians who are not, at least not by any biblical definition of the word. They are “dead in their sins and trespasses” (Eph 2:1) and try as they might, cannot do the works God requires (John 6:29; Eph. 2:10). They are not attached to the vine and so can bear no fruit.

Let us then go back to preaching the whole, hard and beautiful message of the cross. Apart from the true gospel is no power to save, and people become false converts. If we preach the whole message of the cross, we might be surprised at what happens…

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Anonymous Steve Martin said...

Nice one, Steve!

Surely we are the body!

The Head is still in charge! He controls the body.

This might seem an odd question, but what if the body was exactly where the Head wanted it?

What if everything was going exactly how the Head wanted it?

But to us, the success oriented, upward and onward, rugged Americam just doesn't seem enough.

Like the cross itself. That didn't look too good to us at first, either.

I don't know the answers to those questions, but maybe they are worth a second look.

February 27, 2009 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Oh, God is sovereign for sure. The Head is in charge/

But I think He is also grieved by the often-disobedient American church. It's a bit of a mystery, admittedly.

I was in Africa last year and saw much that I think the American church has lost. We are too self-satisfied and prosperous.

You do have a good point about how American individualism can taint our theology. God defines success differently. However, significant parts of the church are not successful by God's definition, I would argue.

February 27, 2009 at 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Steve Martin said...


I think God is grieved by our performance in general.

The American church may be fatter and lazier than some. But God will do what is necessary to get His will accomplished.

He knows what we are all about, at heart...ourselves.

Those guys in the upper room didn't get it either. And most of them didn't set the world on fire.

But the Lord will raise up those to do the jobs that He needs done.


February 27, 2009 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Thank you, brother.

And He will purify His beloved bride, too. Ultimately, we will be presented without spot or wrinkle. I guess God will get out the celestial iron and go to work on us.

I think about the parable of the wheat and tares. Until the end, there will be tares among the wheat - so that's a given. But what I think is bad is when we are responsible for planting tares with a careless "gospel".

You know, I use this blog as part of my teaching strategy for my high school and especially college groups. I appreciate you, brother, because you enrich the discussion and challenge my students to think (both here and on your blog).

Keep up the good work!

February 27, 2009 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

OH - and so often, though God chooses to work through frail people, I think He often accomplishes His purposes in spite of us!

February 27, 2009 at 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Steve Martin said...

"OH - and so often, though God chooses to work through frail people, I think He often accomplishes His purposes in spite of us!"

Well said!!

Amen, Steve!!

February 27, 2009 at 10:22 PM  
Anonymous Nina-Marie said...

Hey Steve,

the key to understanding who members of the body are is hermeneutics. You hit the nail on the head when you said we dont see the body at work b/c many claim to be regenerated and aren't.

Also, Casting Crowns isn't describing the body at all. If you don't see arms moving, they are either dismembered or paralyzed, and that is not the body of Christ. The body of Christ shall be a healthy one.

February 28, 2009 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Ike said...

The "evangelical" church in America is 3000 miles wide and 1 inch deep. The glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ has been reduced down to a few spiritual laws that you must know and a superstitious pray.

Ultimately all that matters is the glory of God (Psalm 57:5). And God has ordained that He will recieve most glory through His bride, the church (Ephesians 3:21). Restoring sound doctrine concerning the nature of conversion is foundational to being a church that brings God the glory He deserves!

March 3, 2009 at 6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That one was long past due.

I mean the body of Christ needs to get "real" with people and truly exemplify the "Head" at all times.

If people coming into the American church don't see the "Head", something's really wrong.

This verse really lays out what we are to be saying to those who are lost.

"And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And the let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (NIV).

That's what it's all about, leading others to the "Water of Life", to our Lord Jesus Christ!

March 3, 2009 at 4:18 PM  

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