The Body of Christ (pt. 3)
21 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.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. – 1 Cor 12:21-27
There is no one more perfect than Jesus. He has never sinned, which means He has never done anything wrong, never thought anything wicked, never desired something that was impure, never acted out of selfish agendas, but always in every circumstance at every minute from all time done what is right. Jesus is very unlike us in this regard.
But, what do you think Jesus thinks about you? As He sits on His throne in Heaven, receiving the praise and adoration of the angels, sovereignly governing the affairs of the world, and His eyes “ablaze with fire” (Rev 1:14-15) turn towards your life…what does He think? What does He think about what you are like in public, around your friends, at work, talking to your kids, when you’re all alone and think no one is watching…? The question is, in a way, unsettling because we realize that much of our life is filled with sin and realizing that all of it is being done before the eyes of a holy God.
And, as we think about our life we see a lot of sin! What could Jesus possibly think of us? Dane Ortlund, in his fantastic book Gentle and Lowly, asks that question:
“How do you think about Jesus’ attitude toward that dark pocket of your life that only you know? The overdependence on alcohol. The lost temper, time and again. The shady business about your finances. The inveterate people-pleasing that looks to others like niceness but which you know to be fear of man. The entrenched resentment that burst out in behind-the-back accusations. The habitual use of pornography. Who is Jesus, in those moments of spiritual blankness? Not: Who is he once you conquer that sin, but who is he in the midst of it?” p. 91
Ortlund then cites 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” John writes his letter because he wants the church not to sin—sin will bring nothing but misery into your life. But, when we do sin—which we all do—who is Jesus for us? If you have not trusted in and submitted to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, Jesus will be your judge, doling out the precisely perfect, fair and just punishment for your sin. But if you will come to Jesus now and will submit to Him as King, finding forgiveness for your sins in His death and resurrection alone, then what does Jesus become for you? An advocate. What is an advocate? It is someone who stands up to defend another. And John tells us that it is when we sin, not after, not before, but when we sin that Jesus stands up before the Father and defends us.
Isn’t that amazing? In the midst of your sin, your failure, your compromise, your shame, Jesus not only loves, not only accepts you, but actively defends you! As Satan accuses you before the Father for your sin, Jesus stands and pleads your case. Yes, Marc totally blew it. He was selfish, lazy, insincere. But he has trusted in me and my work on the cross to forgive His sins. Total honesty, no blame-shifting, no excuses. But total acceptance, forgiveness, and pardon because of the great work of our Lord and Savior. Friends, Jesus is not tapping his foot, waiting for you to clean your act up before He will take up your case before the Father. It is in your sin—not after, in your failure—not your success, in your weakness—not your strength, when you are dead to rights guilty and Satan accuses you before the Father as one who is vile and worthy of Hell, that He stands up and says, “I will defend his case.” Why? Because your acceptance before God the Father has nothing to do with your righteousness and everything to do with Jesus’ and the sufficiency of His work. So, you are loved, you are accepted, you are stood up for. That is why the gospel is such good news!
Jesus is not waiting for you to clean yourself up before He will embrace you. Whatever murky bog of sin you have plunged yourself into, whatever pit of addiction, He wades into our filth, into our guilt, and picks us up, washes us, forgives us. Jesus is not worried that you will stain His white robes. Rather, His purity isn’t sullied by our impurity, but His righteousness cleanses us of our unrighteousness and makes us pure, though our sins be as scarlet, He will make them white as snow (Isa 1:18).
Blistered, leprous, filthy lips may touch the stream of divine love; they cannot pollute it, but shall themselves be purified. - Spurgeon
Now, that was all just my introduction. Here is the question I want to aim at: what kind of community does that gospel create? We have been discussing for the last few weeks how the gospel does not just create saved individuals, but a saved people: the church. We have been saying that the New Testament expects and requires Christians to be meaningfully attached into a church, the same way a member of a body is attached to the rest of the body. We today call that “membership.” If you are not a member here and would like to know more about it or how to become a member, feel free to talk to me or any of our other pastors here. But today, I want to spend the rest of our time thinking about what this community, the church, should feel like. When we have a group of people who all believe this truth, what does that community look like? 1 Corinthians 12:21-27 tells us that it looks like a community that relies on each other, honors each other, and loves each other.
21 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.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
What is this saying? You don’t have it all together. You cannot do the Christian life on your own. There are issues, sins, problems, temptations, trials, tasks, joys, and sorrows in your life that you will not be able to navigate on your own. If you do, you will be like an eye without a hand, or a head without feet. No, you need the whole body to walk through life. We need each part, performing its own unique function, with its unique skills and experiences. Even if we look at some people in the church and think: I don’t need them in my life. I can’t see how they would help me or this church. Paul goes so far to say: those people are actually the most crucial! They are indispensable! What does this mean for us? This means that we practice church membership as a way of identifying who our local body is. Remember, in the metaphor here you as an individual are not the body; the whole church is the body, and you are individually members of it (1 Cor 12:27). Membership is a way that we can identify who those individuals are and is a way to make a commitment to those members.
There are going to be issues in the church and in your own life that requires the gifting, perspective, and experience those other members have. So rely on each other. Expect other members in this church to serve one another. The gospel has baked into it all the humility we need to realize that we aren’t so impressive and so talented that we don’t need help.
On those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body.
As we look at the body and see those individuals in it who are different than we are, we don’t merely realize that we need them, but we honor them. We respect them as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, heirs to the kingdom of God who will one day, with you, be made fully resplendent with glory of the new creation, scrubbed clean of sin, and shining like the stars in the heavens. Lewis tells us, “It is a serious thing…to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship,” (The Weight of Glory).
Paul tells the Roman church to, “outdo one another in showing honor,” (Rom 12:10). There is Christian competition! We are working hard to go further and further in honoring each other. And when we do this, there are no divisions in the body. There is no such thing as the “elite Christians,” like the Navy Seals. There is no club of important church members who deserve honor, while the regular chumps have to grind it out at the bottom of the ladder. In fact, Paul makes it sound like the weaker you are, the more honor should be shown to you. This means that in the church there should be no superiority, no flippancy with one another, no presumption. We don’t grumble and complain about so-and-so behind their back because they are weaker. We honor them. Consider this verse that Paul applies earlier to divisions in the church in Corinth: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” 1 Cor 4:7.
that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
What an amazing command. The church relies on one another, honoring each other, avoiding all divisions…why? Because we love one another. We are to have the same care for one another. So, my goal as a member of this church is to aim at caring for all of the other members—not playing favorites or only caring about a few. We are to share such a united beating heart that when one of us suffers, we all suffer; if one member is honored, we all are rejoicing together! We weep and laugh together.
What does this look like?
This looks like a young married couple with no kids who have been saving up for a vacation to Europe choosing instead to give that money to another couple in the church who are trying to raise money to adopt a little boy from China.
This looks like one couple with several children, weeping with and praying for years for another couple who has struggled with infertility. And this looks like the infertile couple rejoicing through tears when the other couple announces that they are pregnant again.
This looks like inviting that really socially awkward church member regularly over for lunch and game night, not because it is easy or comfortable, but because you are fellow members and are called to honor and love one another.
This looks like church members rallying around another church member in the church when her husband suddenly leaves her, providing her a home to live in and a shoulder to cry on, professional counselors and lawyers in the church providing help that would normally cost thousands of dollars.
This looks like Acts 2:42-47:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
So friends, here is my encouragement to you: this kind of community does not happen accidentally. It is something that is brought about a group of people who have seen the magnitude of what God has done for them in Christ Jesus in loving them, accepting them, inviting them into the family, despite the fact that they don’t deserve an iota of that kind of love. And now, out of the overflow of that profound love, they now look to others who are different than them, maybe weaker than them, maybe stronger than them, and extend the same kind of love, acceptance, and commitment that they have been given in Jesus Christ. So, brothers and sisters at Quinault: jump in with both feet. Rely on each other, commit to each other, prioritize your relationships with one another. Outdo one another in showing honor. Love one another. Weep with one another. Rejoice with each other.