The Body Is One!

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32, ESV2011)

Have you ever felt a deep longing to be truly one with other saints of God? I mean one in heart, and one in longing for all that the Father has for each of us as we become members one of another IN Him. Since I came to Christ and was filled with His Spirit, my life has been a constant longing to know Him in His fullness, and part of that longing is to know Him as He is manifest in the members of His body, the true ekklesia of God (those who have been called out of this world and its seductions into Him). This has been a life-long struggle for me and I am sure for many of you. Whenever we found a group of Christians who were coming together in the love of Christ for one another, it wasn’t long until all hell broke in and divided that unity. As a result, many of us have been forced back into seclusion where we lick our wounds and pledge not to ever let religious divisiveness touch us again. The problem is that in our caution we can still remain divided from other members of Christ’s body.  Austin Sparks wrote,

Another thing that is basic to the Lord’s purpose is the necessity for an apprehension of the inclusiveness of Christ as to the church which is His Body. In those parts of the revelation given to us in the Word of God, such as the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians where the fulness of Christ is brought into view most definitely, the thing that is right before us is the church which is His Body. The ultimate thing, the great end, is the fulness of Christ but, unto that, the church His Body is brought into view. Does Ephesians bring in the vast dimensions of divine fulness in Christ? “Filled unto all the fulness of Christ“; “The fulness of Him that fills all in all“. What is connected with that? “The church, which is His Body“. The church is essential for the expression of the ultimate fulness of Christ. That means that unto the fulness of Christ we must have an apprehension of the inclusiveness of Christ in His church. That is the collective nature of the instrument, the vessel, which is to express the fulness of Christ. Over against that is the impossibility of an individual, or any number of individuals as such, ever expressing the fulness of Christ. The necessity is for a life of corporate relationship unto the fulness of Christ.

(…)

This is God’s way of illustrating what we have in the New Testament: “The body is one“. There must be an apprehension of the corporate, the collective life of the church, the Body of Christ, before we can go on to fulness. We demand this fellowship for fulness; it is essential. Limitation is always brought about by separation. The defeat of God’s end is always accomplished by breaking up the Lord’s people into fragments. Schism is a real device of the devil to frustrate God’s end concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus. He has pursued that course from the beginning. It is very impressive and very significant that when the fulness of Christ is brought into view in these letters, there is such a tremendous emphasis laid upon the relationships of the members of the Body one to another.

The Lord Jesus stands to suffer loss in the expression of His fulness when the saints are out of fellowship with one another; and we can strike the greatest blows at the adversary by a solid, determined stand, when on no ground save apostasy, will we be divided in spirit from our brethren. To fight for fellowship, to stand for fellowship, to refuse a break in fellowship, is the way of defeating some of the forms of Satanic activity. It is quite easy to take the other line. It is the most difficult thing to refuse spiritual division, because all the power of hell is out to bring that about. It is only as we see how much is bound up with fellowship, with relationship and the fulness of Christ, that we shall be able to move on toward that fulness, for the Lord counts upon it for His ends.

This is no organised one-ness. This is not the unity that is outward. This is not anything that can be brought about by agreements externally. This is not the uniting of the churches. This is not consenting to a common agreement of credal expression; this is the uniting of the Spirit. This works two ways. It is necessary for us to go on in the Spirit in order that we may have the fullest measure of fellowship. We do not mean that fellowship is impossible between the mature and the less mature. We must be very careful that we do not allow any larger measure of light (as we may conceive it) to interfere with our fellowship with those whom we think have not so much light. There ought to be fellowship between children and adults spiritually, but any kind of refusal of light, of the revealed will of God, is bound sooner or later to limit fellowship, so that unto full fellowship there must be a walking according to the light given. The other way round operates, of course, that as we walk in the light we have fellowship one with another. Going on in the light means an increase of fellowship, and that makes the measure of Christ to increase. (emphasis added) (1)

“It is the most difficult thing to refuse spiritual division, because all the power of hell is out to bring that [division] about. It is only as we see how much is bound up with fellowship, with relationship and the fulness of Christ, that we shall be able to move on toward that fulness, for the Lord counts upon it for His ends.” Yes, “as we see what is bound up in fellowship with the fullness of Christ,” we see our own limitations. Seeing this need can get us beyond our fear that leads us to isolation from other saints of God. The saying goes, “No man is an island.” How true. God has been teaching me in my own tendency for isolation from others. He speaks into my heart most often when He leads me into fellowship by the Spirit with other saints of God. I have found that many of my blog articles come from being in touch on a heart-to-heart level with one of His saints.

We are all familiar with Hebrews 10:25 being used to urge us to “go to church,” but let us read it in context:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith… And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:19-25, ESV2011)

Many of us have spent most of our Christian lives going to church “services” where we “meet together” hoping to have heart-to-heart fellowship, only to have the whole time dominated by a preacher or a teacher. Notice that in the context of this Hebrews verse it says, “We have a Great Priest over the house (Grk. oikos – family) of God.” It’s not talking about an auditorium setting here! Jesus presides over our fellowship by His Spirit so that we may “encourage one another to love and good works all the more so as we see the end drawing near.” This speaks of a gathering together of the members of His body who all function together under the anointing of the Holy Spirit to the building up of itself in love. Jesus said, “Where two or three of you are gathered together in my name [in His character], I am there in your midst.” The smallest gathering of the saints, “two,” is honored by our Lord with His presence.

I have experienced this from time to time and it has ruined me for the standard church service setting. I will continue to seek out my fellow saints on this interpersonal level — usually in a small home gathering and sometimes on the internet or even on a street corner– and I hope you do as well. We who are in the Spirit have God graces to edify and build one another up in Christ. We need each other and are being robbed when this doesn’t happen.

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (Mal 3:16-18, ESV2011)

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002858.html

Knowing One Another by the Spirit

Jesus baptism

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Cor 5:16-17, ESV2011)

How often we have heard it said, “Oh, how wonderful it would have been to be with Jesus as He walked the earth 2000 years ago!” There is one thing to remember here, though. We would not have been given the Holy Spirit by which to know Him and, like the Jews of that time, would only know Him and regard Him according to our natural man and not with spiritual eyes to see Him as His Father does. Isaiah prophesied about Him saying, “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Even his own disciple, Nathaniel, said of Jesus, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

Jesus was born into a poor family and grew up in a backwater town in Israel. He was a lowly carpenter’s son, so in the natural He was not highly regarded. It was by the power of the Spirit that people could recognize Him for who He was,  and now we can see Him as He is by the power of His Spirit in us. Many of us have studied the Bible hoping to come to know Jesus in a closer way. Yet without divine revelation we can never know Him after the Spirit. Isaiah prophesied:

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isa 57:15, ESV2011)

Jesus prayed:

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Luke 10:21, ESV2011)

Jesus said that we must become as a child in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. We who have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us know Christ after the Spirit, not by our fleshly desires for Him to be what we want Him to be for us. We often hear Him speak to us and some of us have even had Him appear to us in a personal way. Yet, Paul writes that we should have this same spiritual interaction (after the spirit and not after the flesh) when it comes to knowing our fellow saints.

One time some elders in a church I was attending were putting me down to the pastor. This man was different from most pastors I had encountered in my Christian walk. He said to them, “You don’t know Michael as I do, because God has shown me his heart.” Most of us are still a “work in progress” in the hands of the Lord and it is easy for us to be critical of our fellow believers if we only know one another “according to the flesh.” But God knows our final end from the beginning (see Isaiah 46:10). That thing that He has started in us, He has promised to finish! He invites us to pray and ask Him how HE sees and regards those around us who we encounter in our daily lives.

Little David was about to be overlooked by Samuel when the prophet was sent by God to the house of Jessie to choose a new king over Israel. Samuel was about to choose one of David’s big handsome brothers instead of him. David was the youngest son but he had a heart after God that none of His big brothers had. So God said to Samuel:

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1Sam 16:7, ESV2011)

In our natural humanity we are drawn to “the beautiful people.” We tend to shun people who are dwarfed or overweight or deformed or socially inept, but God looks on their hearts and invites us to know them as HE does. How quickly we judge and shun someone for their outward appearance or their awkward personality. Or worse, we look on the outward beauty of a person and desire it instead of getting to know them after the Spirit.

Once I was on a church “worship team.” I got to be up front of everyone as we performed. We would often practice a bit before the service and one Sunday morning as I walked into the auditorium, the Lord drew my attention to a deformed young man in a wheelchair who was severely handicapped. The Lord said to me, “What you have done to the LEAST of these you have done unto me.” Right then He was giving me an opportunity to really worship Him by spending time with and showing this person His love. He got so excited when I knelt down by him and sang a simple song to him about the love of Jesus. From then on I have remembered Jesus’ words, “Verily I say unto you, Since you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me… Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”