“The First Benefit Of Being A Church Member: A Member Of The Body Of Christ”
1. Our text this morning is 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.”
2. Although the verse before us describes the Lord Jesus Christ, giving several reasons why He should be recognized as being preeminent in all things, it is the first half of the verse which is of interest to us today. “And he is the head of the body, the church.”
3. The church mentioned in this verse is not a universal church, but a congregation, like ours. There will someday be one, grand church, comprised of all church age believers, but that will be when we all get to heaven.
4. Hebrews 12.22-23 refers to that church and that time in the future: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” For now, Christians are gathered into congregations called churches of Jesus Christ.
5. We learned last week that the phrase “the body of Christ” is another name for a church congregation. Thus, Calvary Road Baptist Church is a body of Christ, just like other churches that are constituted in the New Testament fashion are bodies of Christ.
6. Some of you here today are members of this church, while others of you are not members of this church. To state the matter in another way, some of you are in “the body of Christ” and others of you are not in “the body of Christ.”
7. What benefit accrues to an individual as the direct result of being a church member, of being in the body of Christ? Surely, there are some benefits that are not so much enjoyed by that person who is not a member of the body, who is not a member of the church, as those of us who are members? How, then, are you blessed by God for being in this body of Christ?
8. Allow me to rehearse six benefits with you this morning, associated with being in this church, the body of Christ.
1A. First, IN THIS CHURCH IS WHERE GOD HAS PLACED YOU
1B. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to actually belong, to know where it is God wants you to be? If you are a Christian who has been baptized and have become a member of this church, then that sense of belonging can be yours, as it arises from the truth of God’s Word. If that sense of belonging is not yours, it is your fault.
2B. Listen to what First Corinthians 12.18 says: “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” Do you realize what that means, church member? It means that you are a part of this congregation because God placed you here. Because God placed you here you belong here.
3B. Please understand that God makes use of various means to get a sinner saved, and baptized, and into a church such as ours. But no matter the means used, so long as it is Scriptural and honoring to God, it is God Who is doing the setting of the various members into the body.
4B. To state the matter again: You are a part of this congregation because God has placed you here. This is where He wants you to be. You belong here. Sadly, most people live out their entire lives without any real sense of belonging, and without any credible basis for believing they belong some place.
5B. But you have the testimony of God’s Word that reflects God’s love for you in such a way that He has given you a place, this church, where not only do you truly belong, but where you can feel that sense of belonging.
2A. Next, IN THIS CHURCH YOU ARE NECESSARY & IMPORTANT
1B. Southern California Christianity is all about revolving door memberships in Churches, with folks approaching church membership the way they do restaurant dining; picking and choosing what they want rather than submitting to the revealed will of God.
2B. But notice what Paul seeks to impress upon the Corinthians he wrote to, in First Corinthians 12.19-26:
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.
3B. My friend, the point that Paul was making in this passage, among other things, is that each and every one of us is different, having a role to play in the proper functioning of our congregation. True, some are more prominent than others. But none of us are without importance. None of us are unnecessary.
4B. Truth be told, we are so intimately linked together that when one of us is having a rough time of it, it affects us all. So, because we each play an important role in this church’s ministry, each of us “should have the same care one for another.”
5B. What does this boil down to? It boils down to this: You may not get many attaboys, but that does not mean you are unimportant. You may not feel like you are important, but that does not mean you do not play a vital role in our church’s life and ministry. Think about it. Whether others are smart enough to realize it, or are spiritual enough to realize it, you should realize that because God has placed you here it is important for you to be here. And it is important because you are important.
6B. Where could you go, and what could you possibly do, to be as necessary and as important as Paul in God’s Word shows you to be here at this church? I’ll tell you where. Nowhere.
3A. Next, IN THIS CHURCH THERE IS MEANINGFUL MINISTRY
1B. Ephesians 4.12 clearly shows that you are a significant factor in the growth of this church: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The saints, which are church members just like you, who are “perfected,” or trained, are so prepared for the work of the ministry. It is the work of the ministry, which you do, which results in the edifying, or the building up, of the body of Christ. In short, this church grows as a result of what God uses you to do.
2B. I get very irritated at the decisionist approach to evangelism, because it is so at odds with what the Word of God teaches about things related to salvation. In this regard, decisionism has come to be a religious system that has set up certain people as so-called super soul winners, as though salesmanship skills are somehow related to the miracle of the new birth. That’s just so much bunk. The art of persuasion, that leads to many false professions of faith, does not result in real conversions.
3B. When that sinner is hopefully converted to Jesus Christ, he is then baptized and taught to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded. Formal instruction and training is accomplished most frequently by the pastor. But there are innumerable opportunities for each member of the church to guide and instruct by the examples that you set, by the encouragement that you give, and by the support of that hopeful convert that is provided by each and every one of you.
4B. Do you not see how important what you do here is? Every wink, every nod, every smile, every gesture, every prayer, every kind word, every invitation to come back to church, every time you volunteer to do something, or to help someone. In this church you have ministry that is meaningful!
5B. Some of you obviously have ministries that are more formal than others. Our deacons, and our music director, and our choir, and our ushers and greeters are quite prominent. But no one’s role is without meaning, without purpose, without effect. So, for the person who wants his life to count for something in addition to being important, to have an eternally meaningful position to occupy, no better place can be found than in this church of Jesus Christ.
4A. Fourth, IN THIS CHURCH THERE IS FELLOWSHIP
1B. We see this concept of fellowship in “the body of Christ” in First Corinthians chapter 12, but let me direct you to Ephesians 4.16, because Paul is more concise in that verse: “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.”
2B. When I speak of fellowship, I speak not of how a person feels, but of what is, of fact, of reality. Fellowship has to do with having something in common with others, with being joint participants with them in an enterprise or in an experience. And is that not what we have in our church? Of course it is.
3B. When you are in a church with other brothers and sisters in Christ, when your life and your commitment is to serve God alongside them because “the whole body” has been “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth” as a result of God’s plan and purpose, then there is a level of fellowship that is accompanied by feelings and experiences shared with those other church members that is unknown outside the church.
4B. The military, law enforcement, the fire department, and such types of work have something approaching what can be found in a church, which is why such occupations have so few people who are committed to really serving God in a church. They get an approximation of this church camaraderie at work.
5B. The tragedy with those uniformed occupations is that such camaraderie as they have is not spiritual, is not godly, and is emotionally and intellectually superficial. But even so, it substitutes in the lives of so many in those occupations for the deep and fulfilling camaraderie, the real and profound communion, that God desires members of this church to enjoy.
6B. Of course, the fellowship of which I speak, the camaraderie that I am talking about, comes only from men and women who have banded together to serve God in His great gospel enterprise. For you see, only this type of involvement counts for eternity. Only this type of involvement requires spirituality and personal holiness. Only this type of involvement calls upon God to co-labor with us in matters that are His declared causes and concerns, not those issues and items that interest only you.
5A. Fifth, IN THIS CHURCH THERE IS GROWTH & LOVE
1B. You have already seen, in Ephesians 4.12, the reference to “the edifying of the body of Christ.” Notice, also, the last phrase in Ephesians 4.16: “maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Both verses touch on “the edifying of the body of Christ.”
2B. Where else but in your church is there a promise of spiritual growth for the child of God? Oh, there are other passages in the Bible which speak of a Christian growing and maturing. But when rightly understood such growth, not only numerically but by the maturation of the individual Christian, takes place best in the church.
3B. Why does Christian growth in maturity take place best in the church? There are all sorts of reasons, from the oversight of the pastor, to the discipline of the church, to the exhortation of other believers. But the reason that Paul connects to those passages mentioning “the body of Christ” is love.
4B. Read from Ephesians 4.17 with me, and see how the love that is mentioned in verse 16 is put into the actions of the following verses:
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But ye have not so learned Christ;
21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
5B. My friends, there is no place on earth where you will be treated better and with more love than the place where people are challenged to behave toward you in the ways we have just read. Where you are truly loved you will really grow. As imperfect a place as this church is, it is a place people are loved with a God-given love.
6B. Thus, you see, those who want no part of the church, those who want no part of this church, are those who have no personal commitment to their own spiritual growth, #1, and who have no yearning for the love of their brothers and sisters in Christ here, #2. This is alarming, because of what the Lord Jesus Christ commanded:
John 13.34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
John 13.35: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
John 15.12: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
John 15.17: “These things I command you, that ye love one another.”
7B. Can you love me if you leave me? Do you love me if you leave me? Will you love me if you leave me? Are you loving me if you leave me? Love and personal growth as a Christian come together in the local church.
6A. Sixth, IN THIS CHURCH THERE IS CHRIST’S DELIVERANCE & GUIDANCE
1B. Notice the last half of Ephesians 5.23: “even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” Notice Colossians 1.18: “And he is the head of the body, the church.”
2B. I do not rightly know how to reconcile the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior, Who is to be trusted, and at the same time those who trust Him are promised persecution and even martyrdom. I can only accept what Paul says in Romans 8.17: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
3B. Suffice it to say, the Lord Jesus Christ is quite capable of delivering anyone from anything at anytime, whether it be an individual Christian or an entire congregation. But Ephesians 5.23 suggests that there is an aspect of our Lord Jesus Christ’s deliverance that applies to a church congregation.
4B. Perhaps this is accomplished when church members exhort each other and encourage each other during times of difficulty and discouragement. Many of us have experienced such in our Christian lives from fellow church members.
5B. More prominent in these two verses, however, is the idea of Christ’s headship. The head provides guidance to the body. The head provides direction to the body. The head provides wisdom and insight that is valuable to the body. And what the head does for the body it does not do for those outside the body.
6B. Thus, there is the benefit of the guidance of the Lord Jesus Christ, the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the wisdom and protection of the Lord Jesus Christ, for those who are members of this church that is not guaranteed those who are not a part of the body.
1. Many people think there is no benefit to being a member of a church. Of course, a church does a person little good if he is not truly converted, except afford him the benefit of sitting under the preaching of God’s Word.
2. If he comes to Christ, it is a blessing to him to be here. But if he refuses Christ, that same opportunity he has by being here becomes a curse to him. But that is the person who attends church but who is not converted.
3. The benefits for the child of God who is a church member are many and varied. Today we have looked at only one aspect of church membership, being in “the body of Christ.”
4. God places Christians in the body. Since God is good and gracious, that means a Christian is blessed thereby. It should surprise no one, then, that because God places a Christian in a church he would, therefore, be important and necessary in that church, whatever appearances to the contrary might suggest. Then there is meaningful ministry, fellowship, growth and love, and deliverance and guidance.
5. Each of these benefits is declared to be directly associated with “the body of Christ,” which is the church. Some of you derive benefits from this church, even though you are not converted and are not a member of this congregation. Imagine, then, what benefits would directly accrue to you if only you actually knew the Savior of the body and the head of the church, Jesus Christ, instead of just knowing about Him, and became a member of “the body of Christ?”