Recently, I started watching a new show on Netflix entitled: Manhunt. The show chronicles the last few years that the FBI tracked and ultimately apprehended the UNA Bomber. If you remember, the UNA Bomber alluded the FBI for close to 20 years as he carried out a serial mail bombing campaign. The turning point in the case was when Ted’s brother turned in a tip to the FBI after the UNA Bomber’s Manifesto was published. He believed the language in the Manifesto sounded similar to that of his brother’s. That tip and the letters they provided that Ted wrote them gave the rookie agent Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald the material needed to link Ted K. to the UNA Bomber. A link he formed through linguistic analysis.
While the show primarily follows “Fitz” and his journey to catch the UNA Bomber, what you discover is that he didn’t do it alone. He wasn’t a one man show. He was just one of hundreds of agents assigned to a task force that worked together to bring Ted to justice.
In a similar way the body of Christ — the church — is made up of many different people. In order for the church to accomplish its mission to make disciples, all its parts must work together, just like all the parts of the FBI task force had to work together to bring the UNA Bomber to justice. Why is that?
Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?
In order to answer that question, the first thing we need to understand is that:
(1) All Christians are Members of the Body of Christ (vs. 12-20; 27)
Paul writing to the church in Corinth says in chapter 12 starting in verse 12,
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12:12–13)
Skip down to verse 27,
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Co 12:27)
So by the very nature of our salvation, we are all members of the body of Christ. We may be from vastly different backgrounds, but in Christ we form one body.
The body comprises both the universal and local church.
The universal church is basically all those who have professed Jesus as their Lord and Savior in the world.
The local church is comprised of those who are a part of the universal church, but they form a local expression of the universal church as they gather together in covenant community with one another for the purpose of worshipping God and making disciples.
The local church to which Paul is writing in chapter 12.
We know that is the community to which he writes because his letter is directed to a particular church. The Corinthian church, which is a local church. In verse 14, he continues when he says,
“…the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Co 12:14–20)
The local church is a body.
The body metaphor Paul uses is genius because it’s something to which we all can relate. Almost every task we do — whether it is eating, drinking, dressing ourselves, playing a sport, driving the car or tractor, whatever it may be — our entire body is active and working together to accomplish that task. You see, it takes more than a foot to drive a car. Our legs, trunk, harms, eyes, brain and more all have to be engaged in the act as well. Just as our body parts form one body and are all needed to accomplish our daily tasks, the many different parts of the universal church form a local church that must work together to accomplish it’s God given tasks.
There is no such thing as an isolated disciple of Jesus.
You see, the church, the local church, has many members, which means we can’t form a church on our own, nor can we be a church unto ourselves. We need one another.
When I was in high school, I played soccer for the school I attended. Talent wise the team was really split. There were about half of us who really wanted to play soccer and half who were required by the football coach to play a spring sport to keep in shape for football.
I don’t want to dog on those guys too much. I mean they were just doing what the football coach required. But, as you could probably imagine, the football players who didn’t care anything about soccer, but just played because they had to, weren’t very good. But even though those guys weren’t very good, even though those guys often let us down, we needed them. We wouldn’t have been a team without them. Even if half of us were all-stars when it came to dribbling and scoring, there is no way we would have won a game because there would be no defense, no goalie, no one to pass the ball to when we were trapped by the other team.
Just as we needed the rest of the players on the soccer team, no matter how good or bad they were, we need the body of Christ. We need one another. You see, there is no such thing as an isolated disciple of Jesus.
Now, that doesn’t mean that people don’t isolate themselves from the body of Christ. They most certainly do. There are a lot of people out there who think all they need is Jesus and their Bible, and maybe a podcast or two. But we need more than that. We need each other. And that’s what Paul is really hammering home here.
Why do we need each other?
Well, we need each other because we all have been given different gifts. Starting in verse 28 Paul mentions these gifts,
“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Co 12:28–30)
Now, we don’t have the time to go through each of these gifts, but what I want you to see is that no one person possesses all these gifts, which means that we all have a part to play. We must play that part in the context of the local church with others who compliment our gifts.
The reason we all have different gifts is because that’s the way God has designed it.
Look at verse 18 again. Paul says,
“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (1 Co 12:18)
In His infinite wisdom and providence God designed us to depend on one another. I believe this design not only originates in the mind of God but in God Himself. Just recently we have been studying the Trinity on Wednesday nights. Throughout that study we have learned that the Father, Son, and Spirit have existed in an eternal interdependent relationship with one another. Within in that interdependent relationship, each member of the Trinity — though all are God — have different roles that they fulfill. Those roles compliment the other members.
In some sense, the local church is similar in that design, which means that you could say that the local church is an earthly expression of the interdependent nature of the Trinity. So just as the Trinity depends on one another to fulfill different roles, those in the church depend on one another to fulfill different roles as well.
The local church, then, exists as an interdependent body because God has designed it that way.
A design that seems to mimic the very nature of God Himself.
God has not only designed the local church, He also builds the local church.
In His providence, God takes members of the universal church and specifically places them in a local church based on the gifts He has given them. I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but that means you aren’t at the church you are at by accident. God led you to and placed you in that specific church at this specific time. He placed you there because your gifts compliment others in your church. In other words, He has given you to your church because you are needed. When you aren’t there. When you don’t play your part, it is felt. Look at verses 21 and 22,
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” (1 Co 12:21–22)
In the immediate context of the Corinthian church, Paul is seeking to unify. But as you can see, he also tells us that we all must play our part. Each one of us, then, are indispensable to one another and to the mission that God has given us.
Question for Reflection
- Do you believe you are God’s gift to your church and the church does not operate properly without you?
Post developed from my sermon: Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?