[b]The Body of Christ[/b]
[i]by Arthur Katz[/i]
The Body of Christ is an eternal masterpiece, and I do not think we have sufficiently appreciated God's intention for it. We do not show the respect and esteem that the Body deserves. We seem rather to look at each other inadequately. This must have something to do, in part, with our inability to discern the Body, where there is a kind of matter-of-fact, lackadaisical attitude of disrespect. We do not esteem Christ in His people nor do we esteem the variety of God's people with all of their inherent differences. We are selective, and are more responsive and partial to those who are like ourselves. We miss seeing, therefore, the fullness of Christ in His Body.
It requires a revelation, and here again, we stand in danger of taking something very holy and making it a commonplace. We can glibly speak the phrase "The Body of Christ," but does that mean we have a true understanding of it? For me, the revelation of the Body came out of the struggle with my own wife in trying to reconcile the Jew and the Gentile, male and female. There are multitudes of contradictions represented right there, but the glory of God is most revealed in the taking of two antithetical persons and making of them 'one new man.' It is in the antagonism, the friction, and the issues of reconciliation that one begins to glimpse something of the genius of what the Body is as a living organism. God desires that we become 'one' as the Son and the Father are one even in, and especially in, all of the diversity and differences.
There is even a colossal friction between the different, legitimate callings within the Body of Christ, for example, the teacher and the prophet. A teacher sees things as "line upon line and precept upon precept." He is very fastidious about the word of the Scriptures and rightly so but a prophet operates in a different way. He will employ the Scriptures, but sometimes he will go beyond its literal meaning, or seize on something as obscure as a ketchup label! This offends the teacher's soul to the same degree that the prophetic soul is offended by what he perceives as the teacher's narrower vision. God Himself has established these differences, knowing that there is going to be an inherent tension or antagonism.
And so, if God will not do anything outside His Body, in any nation, in the concluding of His Last Days' purposes, then we need to have a greater respect and esteem for this phenomenon of the Body of Christ. It is not to be mistaken for the institutional use of that word, or even in charismatic and evangelical churches where an institutional mentality and mindset often prevail. On account of the casual manner of our language and the lack of discerning the Body, we even talk now about unity in the Body of Christ as meaning some kind of ecumenical coming together of Catholics and Protestants, or different denominations coming to some common organizational agreement. I do not have a word sufficient to describe that distortion. It is certainly a caricature of the divine intention, and it stems from the error of mindlessly using the phrase "the Body of Christ." The Body is a living organism in the intention of God, sacred and holy, and only in that form does it have a life that flows out from the Head to which it is joined. Such an authentic Body, unobtrusive and unrecognized by the world, has always been, and will always be, an object of collision and opposition to that which is institutional.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12). It is little wonder that the institutional Church, by whatever name it is called, does not respond hospitably to God-sent apostles and prophets. Institutions demand that you go through a credentializing process through the attending of schools and seminaries. You are labeled "evangelist," "pastor" or "teacher," and get fitted into the institutional framework, but that does not mean God recognizes or authenticates your service for Him. The true Body of Christ will recognize and receive what is organically fitted for itself and will reject the thing that is organically alien. The opposite is equally true; the institutional thing cannot accommodate and receive the organic thing for they are diametrically opposed.
The purposes of God that pertain to His Coming, His Kingdom and His eternal glory will only be performed through His Body, and yet this organic entity, by its very nature, requires such a painful process in attaining the fulness that God is wanting. Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph. 4:13-16).
Verse 15 begins with the phrase, "speaking the truth in love," which, in the Body, is an absolute necessity, but it can be avoided in any fellowship that is not the Body, but rather, an institutional formality. You can go to meetings in such a fellowship for a lifetime and never once be required, or be given opportunity, to speak the truth in love; but once you come into the Body, then it becomes virtually a daily necessity. The process of being edified and built up comes by what we ourselves provide in the working of every part, causing growth for the building up of itself. To build up means to bring about the actual formation and the coming into being. The supply comes from the Head to whom we are joined, but how does it find its working? There is no problem from the Head, but as liberal as the Head is in wanting to impart life to the Body, this life can be stopped up, coagulated and blocked.
We are more restricted and minimal with each other than we think. Our time, our attention, our interests, our gifts and our finances are measured out in 'spoonfuls.' What the Lord is looking for and that fills the house with the fragrance of Christ is a lavish overflow of the Body, because we esteem the Head to which it is joined, as being one Divine organism. I am always asking people, "To what expression of the Body are you joined?" This is different from asking, "What church do you attend?" The church you attend may be the place of your ministry and service as a mission field. We may sit in a church building, but if it is not an expression of the Body, then we are losing the flow of life from the Head to which only a Body is joined. And we cannot, therefore, build ourselves up by that love and life and by what "every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part."
I am suggesting a prescription that is totally opposed to passivity. In the conventional situation, we sit inactive, and only punctuate the proceedings now and then by our "amens" or "hallelujahs." In the Body, however, this posture is altogether unacceptable. "When you assemble," Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:26, "each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation." That is how the life of the Body is expressed to the Body. But where are we ever encouraged to "each one having"? Rather, we have been compelled to a passivity, and to looking up to trained men to conduct the service. Furthermore, we are only too willing to pay the cost of it that we might be absolved from the spiritual responsibility of having to share a hymn, a psalm, a tongue, an interpretation, a prophecy, a revelation or a teaching! The Body is therefore emaciated, being inadequately fed. We cannot grow, and we are therefore limp, disjointed and anemic. We are left weakened if this life-giving provision does not come out of, and into, our midst. There can be no excuse to justify our inactivity and passivity. When we come together, we should have prepared ourselves already in the place of prayer, fully expecting that God is going to quicken and bring something through us.
When Paul came back a year or two later to those places where he had established churches, he had only to appoint elders. It was not some capricious choice but a recognition of the ones whom God had already promoted. He saw the maturity that was already evidenced in certain men. He saw those who had risen to assume responsibility so as to oversee and shepherd others, and he laid hands on them and prayed for them before the Body, and, by that act, he recognized and established them as elders. The expression of the Body in those localities grew and matured during Paul's absence because each one had a psalm, a teaching, etc.
(Excerpt from "True Fellowship" - Chapter 1)