Calvary Road Baptist Church

“The First Benefit Of Being A Church Member:

A Member Of The Body Of Christ” Part 1

Colossians 1.18

 

The title of this message from God’s Word is “The First Benefit Of Being A Church Member: A Member Of The Body Of Christ.” This will be the first of a series of messages emphasizing the benefit to you of being a member of this church. Notice that I did not suggest the benefit of attending church, though there is great benefit to attending church. I speak of the benefit of being a church member. As well, do not make the mistake of thinking that the benefit of church membership that I will be focusing on today is the most important of spiritual benefits. Being a member of the body of Christ is the first benefit of being a church member only in the sense that it is the first of the benefits that I am dealing with in this series of messages.

Though my intent is to deal with the benefit of being a church member, let me begin by directing your attention to a broader subject in the New Testament. It is related to an oft-mentioned phrase in Christian circles these days, “the body.” There are three general ways in which the phrase “the body” is used in the New Testament. Unfortunately, the way the phrase “the body” is used by most Christians these days does not reflect the Bible’s perspective concerning the phrase. I hope you have your Bible in hand because we will read a good number of verses this evening.

First, the phrase “the body” is used in connection with the human body of our Lord Jesus Christ, His flesh. Please turn to and read the following verses with me to see how the phrase “the body” is used when the human body of the Lord Jesus Christ is being referred to:

 

Matthew 27.58-59: “He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth.”

 

Mark 15.43: “Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.”

 

Luke 23.52: “This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.”

 

Luke 24.3: “And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.”

 

John 19.38 & 40:      38    And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. . .

40    Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

 

John 20.12: “And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.”

 

Romans 7.4: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”

 

First Corinthians 10.16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”

 

Hebrews 10.10: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

 

Except Romans 7.4 and First Corinthians 10.16, the phrase “the body” is used with our Lord’s given name, Jesus, and clearly refers to His fleshly human body. Paul is distinctive in that he uses the phrase “the body of Christ.” But the context clearly shows that Paul is also referring to the human body of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the two verses, we have just read which were written by him. Hebrews 13.3, very obviously refers to the body of the Christian, the reader who identifies with the suffering of those the writer to the Hebrews refers to. Read with me:

 

“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”

 

It is important to note that, with the exception of Romans 7.4 and First Corinthians 10.16, the Apostle Paul used the phrase “the body” in connection with the word “Christ” to refer not to the Lord Jesus Christ’s human fleshly body, but to “the body of Christ,” which is the local church. Please hang on that distinction: “The body of Christ,” which is the local church. Turn to First Corinthians chapter 12, and read verses 12-28 with me:

 

12    For 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.

13    For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

14    For the body is not one member, but many.

15    If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

16    And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

17    If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

18    But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

19    And if they were all one member, where were the body?

20    But now are they many members, yet but one body.

21    And 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.

22    Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

23    And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

24    For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

25    That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

26    And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

27    Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

28    And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

 

It is quite obvious from this passage that Paul intends the phrase “the body of Christ” to be understood as the congregation of the Corinthian Church and not as a reference to all Christians everywhere . . . for the following reasons:

 

 

 

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”

 

More on this point later.

 

 

 

These things seen, we now consider four other verses in which Paul makes reference to churches by using the phrase “the body of Christ,” referring to an assembly of Christ’s baptized believers rather than the human body the Lord Jesus Christ inhabits:

 

Ephesians 4.12: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

 

Ephesians 4.16: “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

 

Ephesians 5.23: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”

 

Colossians 1.18: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”

 

We have now read the most important verses in the New Testament that deal with the phrase “the body,” so I will recap and summarize what you can study more fully at home:

 

First, THE BODY OF CHRIST IS SOMETIMES A REFERENCE TO CHRIST’S FLESH

 

Whenever you read the phrase “the body” in the four gospels, you can count on the phrase being used in connection with the fleshly body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the body God prepared for Him that He might become the sacrifice for sins and shed His blood on Calvary’s cross.

When the phrase “the body of Christ” is used by Paul, in Romans 7.4 and First Corinthians 10.16, and when the writer to the Hebrews uses the phrase “the body of Jesus Christ,” in Hebrews 10.10, the contexts clearly show the physical and fleshly body of our Lord Jesus Christ to be in view.

Thus, the phrase “the body of Christ” in several places in the New Testament has a strictly literal meaning rather than a derived meaning.

 

Next, THE BODY OF CHRIST IS SOMETIMES A REFERENCE TO THE CHURCH

 

Only the Apostle Paul makes use of the phrase “the body of Christ” in the Bible. And except for Romans 7.4 and First Corinthians 10.16, he uses the phrase “the body of Christ” in a metaphorical sense to denote a single congregation of believers, a church. He never uses the phrase in an inclusive sense concerning all Christians everywhere. The notion that “the body of Christ” refers to all Christians everywhere is a widely believed invention that is simply not found in the Bible.

Consider Colossians 1.18, a verse that is crucial to a right understanding of the connection between the phrase “the body” and the New Testament concept of the church. In that verse, Paul asserts, “And he is the head of the body, the church.” Notice that the verse reads, “. . . the body, the church.” Paul is said here to place the phrase “the body” and the phrase “the church” in what is called apposition.[2] What is apposition? Apposition is when two words or phrases are placed side by side to show that they have identical meanings.[3] This tells us that Paul is, in Colossians 1.18, showing that “the body” and “the church” are the same. So you see, it is appropriate to interchange the phrase “the body” for “the church” and “the church” for “the body,” since they mean the same thing. The problem with most professing Christians is not that they use these two terms interchangeably, but that they attach erroneous meanings to both of these two terms.

 

Finally, THE BODY OF CHRIST IS NEVER A REFERENCE TO ALL CHRISTIANS

 

How can “the body of Christ” refer to all Christians, when entrance into “the body of Christ” is not by Spirit baptism, but by means of immersion in water, as First Corinthians 12.13 shows us?

How can “the body of Christ” refer to all Christians? Paul pointedly indicated that the Corinthians were, literally, “you are a body of Christ,” distinguishing them from other bodies of Christ, other congregations.

How can “the body of Christ” refer to all Christians, when the following condition applies, according to First Corinthians 12.26?

 

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”

 

I do not suffer when a Christian in Sumatra is persecuted, or when a Christian in Syria or Iraq is martyred, beheaded by Islamic terrorists. I am sad when I find out about it, but since most martyrs suffer and die for the Lord Jesus Christ without the outside acknowledgment or awareness of anyone but God, how can their deaths directly affect me? Thus, how can this verse possibly refer to all Christians everywhere? Quite simply, it cannot be a reference to what it is not.

 

Sometimes, always in the gospels, and twice in the Pauline epistles, the phrase “the body” refers to the physical body of our Lord Jesus Christ that was crucified on Calvary’s cross and is now risen and glorified. Almost always in the Apostle Paul’s writings, the phrase “the body” refers to neither the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ nor all Christians everywhere, but to congregations like ours, churches comprised of born again people who were immersed by the authority of their churches after they were converted to Christ. Why, then, are there so many who are convinced that the phrase “the body of Christ” refers to all Christians everywhere, what they think to be the universal church? I am not positive, but I have an idea why so many are in error on this matter:

Folks, it has taken some 1,500 or 1,600 years to persuade Christendom that baptism is by the immersion of the believer. If it took that long to persuade folks of something so simple, so obvious, and so easy to see as believer baptism, is it any wonder most people remain thoroughly confused about “the body of Christ,” which is the local church congregation?

This is decidedly Baptist stuff we are dealing with. And though there are quite a number of people who are called Baptists, and who call themselves Baptists, there are not nearly so many who rightly divide the Word of truth and believe the Bible doctrines that make thoroughgoing New Testament Christians in belief as well as in practice, who I term Baptists.

The reason I have spent so much time showing you that the church is “the body of Christ” is so I can more easily show you some other things later. But it can easily be seen by what we have discovered today that if you are a part of the church you are a member of “the body of Christ.” Is there blessing in that? Is there benefit in that? Think just a moment, before we conclude. Would there be benefit in being one of a company of individuals owned by the Lord Jesus Christ, identified by His name, associated with His cause, as opposed to not being owned by Him, not identified by His name, and not associated with His cause?

In a very general sense, in an abstract sort of way, there is obvious benefit to being a member of the body of Christ. And that benefit accrues to those who are members of a good gospel preaching church who would not express themselves as I have this evening. What do I mean by that? I mean that the benefits that are enjoyed are enjoyed even by those who are members of a church who do not think their congregation is the body of Christ. Next time, the Lord willing, I will show you some very specific blessings and benefits associated with being a member of the body of Christ.

__________

[1] See my analysis of 1 Corinthians 12.13 to this assertion substantiated, http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.church/sermon.php?sermonDate=20150308b

[2] A. T. Robertson, A Grammar Of The Greek New Testament In The Light Of Historical Research, (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1934), page 243.

[3] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 103.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org