Before we can discuss the Body of Christ, two points must be made exceedingly clear. First, the term “Body of Christ” is used so often and with so little thought or explanation that it has become relatively meaningless among believers in this day and age. Like the person who has heard the gospel all their life and never gets saved because the heart has become hardened to the rhetoric, believers tend to be dull of hearing about the Body because it is such an often-used expression. It is used so generically that by now it has little more meaning than to designate a group of people who believe in Jesus. Generally, believers put their hearts on “auto pilot” when the topic comes up because they seem to believe that they already understand whatever there is to know about it. As we shall see, the present results of this lack of understanding have been disastrous.
The true understanding of the Body of Christ is really by revelation, and when once we see the mystery of the Body, our spiritual lights go on just as when we first recognized Jesus as Lord. Perhaps we heard about Jesus for many years, but not until the moment of personal revelation did He become a Living Reality. So too, we have heard about the Body for years. Open your hearts. Do not assume that there is no further understanding to be gained. Read as though you have never heard before, and pray for that precious and only Illuminator to speak to you.
The other point which must be made is that the revelation of the mystery of the Body is one of the most essential and critical understandings in the Spirit. There comes a point in our walk when we must grasp this truth and walk in its reality or we cannot go on. This is as fundamental to the faith as the blood is to the remission of sins. I cannot impress upon you enough the importance of pressing in for this truth. As always with the things of the Spirit, him with an ear will hear.
In I Corinthians II, Paul recounts the Lord’s Supper. He quotes our Lord as distributing the bread saying, “this is my body which is broken for you.” But curiously enough, if we read the gospel accounts of the Passover feast between Jesus and His disciples, Jesus nowhere said His Body was broken. He said “given” (Mat. 26, Mk. 14, Lk. 22). He who had emphatically stated that He was the Bread of life (Jn. 6) was among His disciples just before He was betrayed and broke bread with them, requesting them to do likewise whenever they came together in His memory.
We know that Jesus is the Bread of life, the main Substance and the life-giving Force of all who partake. His body was given and His blood was shed for the remission of sins. But the bones of the body of Jesus of Nazareth were not broken. When the Roman soldiers came to the cross to break His legs, they did not do so, seeing He was already dead. That none of His bones were broken, in fact, was the fulfillment of Scripture. Psalm 34 tells us plainly that no bones were broken.
Strange then, that Paul, writing by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, was now apparently misquoting the Lord by saying that His body was broken. It is clear from other scriptures that Paul could not have been referring to the literal body of Jesus of Nazareth. To what then, was he referring? Paul was telling us that the body of our Lord was broken, but not broken down, or broken apart, or broken asunder. This body is now broken AMONG a many membered body.
The body of Christ is no longer the bones and muscles and ligaments of Jesus of Nazareth. His Body, in which His Spirit dwells, is now WE who partake of it. Have you not read that even Jesus said that greater works we would do than even He? How could we do greater works than Jesus Christ? Why did He say this? Greater, because now, being broken among many members instead of confined to one earthen vessel, the world would be turned upside down.
The lack of revelation about this comes as a result of seeing the Body of Christ as some kind of poetic idea or philosophical concept so that we can strive to achieve what we consider so-called unity of the faith. We are forced to acknowledge the Body of Christ because it is plainly scriptural, but we have lost the understanding because we have not taken it literally.
We speak often of being filled with the Spirit, yet curiously refuse to recognize that this spirit filling LITERALLY makes us the actual Body of our Lord. There is rhetorical religious lip service to Christ being the Head of His body, and yet this has sunk to the shameful state of theory as well. Lost in the man-made power structure of the church. Christ has become the FIGUREHEAD rather than the LITERAL HEAD of His body. Small wonder then, if we will not even permit Him to be the real Head of the Body, that we should also disregard and trample under our feet the reality of the Body. If we will not allow the Head to do as He wills in our midst, surely we will never receive the Body!
There is much endless talk about body ministry these days. What a grand idea, that every one of us should have a psalm, a song, a doctrine, a revelation, a prophetic word. What a marvelous concept that the Body should edify itself in love. But just try to act upon this! Step out of your church pew and offer to pray for the sick, or walk to the front of the church and declare that you have a prophecy. Better still, tell the pastor you have a teaching to share from the Holy Ghost and see what happens.
You will most likely be pulled aside and informed that you are out of order. You will probably be told that if you are a faithful church worker for a few years, then perhaps you might minister some small thing with the pre-screening of the higher-ups.
Can you see how the Body of Christ has become only a theoretical concept when it is intended to be a day to day living reality? Do you see how the hand has said to the foot, “I have no need of thee?” We acknowledge that we are all filled with the same Spirit, but only a select few are allowed to minister on certain occasions.
This dangerous and fleshly practice of respecting persons has left the Body of Christ torn apart, suffering and wasting away. God has given gifts by His Spirit severally as He will, not as man wills, so that the entire Body may profit.
You do not earn gifts of the Spirit. You can earnestly desire or be zealous for spiritual gifts, but you can no more earn them than your salvation. God decides. God chooses. God distributes, not the presbytery. And once distributed, that gift is resident within that part of His Body and He will NEVER take it back. Whether your walk is carnal or committed, the gift remains resident. This may baffle our darkened unloving minds, nevertheless it is true that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance.
However, since we cannot fully seem to accept this idea, we seem to feel that we must decide who is spiritual enough to operate in a gift. WE will decide when, where, and how. If you are fortunate enough to be recognized as having a spiritual gift, then you will be allowed to minister.
But this recognition is precisely the problem. The Church has long taught the evil of exalting man or glorifying a member of the Body. And this is a true teaching and scriptural. However, in our ardent zeal to stamp out this evil, we have also refused to recognize Christ in our members.
We are afraid that it might go to Mary’s head if we acknowledge that she has a gift of healing, and since we don’t want Mary to get puffed up, we never ask her to pray for the sick. We will not acknowledge the gift or the Giver, and we do not understand that if Mary gets puffed up, the Holy Ghost will deal with that. Hence, the Body remains sick because we have had respect of persons, judging her to be too weak to flow in the Body without falling into pride.
God never asked us to evaluate whether so-and-so is worthy to have a gift resident. We are asked to recognize that Christ is in His Body. We are asked to humble ourselves and partake of the Body. Whether we like Mary or not, we will recognize Christ in His Body. Many are sick, the Bible says, and even sleep (dead) because there is a refusal to discern the Lord’s Body.
There is a maturing that takes place with the operation of a gift, but how will it ever grow except that it is exercised? Why is the hand deciding when the foot shall be used? The HEAD should be deciding where each part is placed, how it responds, when it is needed. Christ is the Head, not church leaders. Church leaders are members of the Body as well, and not the Head.
Now, we must also put into perspective that these spiritual gifts in the Body are temporal. There will eventually come a day when they will not be needed. When we have all come unto A PERFECT MAN, these manifestations of the Spirit will no longer be necessary.
Likewise for the so-called five-fold ministry. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are given a temporary space in the Body for this purpose and this purpose alone: the edification of the saints and the perfecting of the Body. These offices are to actively support, strengthen, and encourage the spiritual growth of the Body. They are really the servants of the Body, not lords. They are to under-gird, intercede and assist the Body. They are to groan and travail for Christ to be formed in the Body, not to make decisions about who has worked hard enough for the gifts and when they should operate.
Letting everything be done decently and in order is a simple exhortation meaning that we should not interrupt one another in the corporate flowing of the Body, which would naturally cause confusion. But as the human body moves with perfect synchronicity and coordinated movements, so we too know that EVERY joint supplieth, each in his turn, forbidding none.
As we have said, this gross failure to recognize Christ in our members and to allow its flow has often quenched the Spirit to the point where church consists of a religious routine of two or three songs and some preaching (always from the same person). This false teaching, that only a few special ones have operational gifts of the Spirit has given the church the idea that God is a respector of persons.
Unfortunately, it has also caused some to associate the anointing of God to minister with some kind of magic, or randomness. Body of Christ, there is no magic. Every one of you has a psalm, a hymn, a revelation. God has been liberal with the distribution of His gifts.
If you are aware that God has given you a gift, then you must allow it to come forth from you. If you are aware that God has given a gift to another, then you must submit to it. For it is not the man you are submitting to, but Christ. He did not give gifts to you so you could pack it away in your mind until “the right time.” He did not give them to hide under a bushel. The Body is in need NOW.
You see, if we truly recognize that it is only CHRIST in us that heals, or performs miracles, or has a revelation, then how am I boasting to declare that it is resident in me? I can take no credit. It is His gift to profit withal, so that those who are sick, those who are broken-hearted, those who need to hear from God may be fed, until we all come unto a perfect man.
Press into God and find out what He has given you. I did not say “if,” I said “what.” Stop letting one or two members of your church bring the spiritual feast. Ask God what He wants you to minister that will edify His Body in spiritual matters. You are members one of another. Everyone is vital and necessary. Get a psalm! Get a song! Get a teaching! Ask the Head of the Body how to flow in His Body. You are really, literally, actually the Body of Christ. You are really, actually the mouth and the feet and the hands of God.
Even as Jesus was moved and directed in His earthly steps to this person or that one according to the Father’s will, so too we who are now His Body can receive the direction of the Head about where to go, who to speak to, who is sick, who is cast down.
God, who is a Spirit, desires to express Himself to the world through a body, and WE ARE that Body. There is no magic; there is only yieldedness. We are all called. The chosen are simply those who have answered the call. And that call is simply this; to be led by His Spirit so that the works you do are nothing more and nothing less than the outward manifestation of the very will of God.
You are that Body, filled with the Spirit, speaking only the words of your Father and doing only the works of your Father; whose steps are under the complete direction of the Head. If you are completely filled with the Spirit, how could it be otherwise? It is for this Body that all creation groans, and is through this Body that creation will be set free.
Why do we press on? Why should we edify each other? What possessed Paul, who had such fullness of the Spirit, to groan and travail that Christ be formed in the Body? Surely Paul had it all in the Spirit, even the power of an endless life.
Just after the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River, the land was divided up each according to his inheritance. But the book of Joshua says that no one actually settled his own land or entered into his own inheritance as long as his brethren had Philistines or Hittites on their land. As long as one child of God had an enemy in his territory, no one could enter into the reality of his inheritance, though it was already possessed by faith. (Joshua 1)
Paul found himself in a similar dilemma: longing to pass from this life to be with the Lord (to enter his inheritance), or to stay behind and continue with the Body. Why did he stay behind? Certainly it would be far better to go on to be with the Lord. But Paul knew that while the Body of Christ still wrestled with its enemies, he could never fully enter into his inheritance.
In the race we run, there is only One winner, who is Christ. Paul stayed behind, encouraging the Body to go on to the finish line, anxious for the birthing of that one perfect man so that he, with his brethren, could enter into the inheritance. That is why you feel burdened for others, why you intercede in the late night hours for your brethren. For though we are many members, we are the one Body. And though we are one Body, we are many members.
If you are led by the Spirit, you will NOT be out of order. You may be out of MAN’S order, but you will not be out of God’s. If you are led by the Spirit, you need not fear the rebuke of man, though you will certainly receive it. It has become easier for our church leaders to control rather than to comfort; to give orders rather than to encourage; to rule rather than to serve. And the Body of Christ has allowed this, not understanding that if you are led by the Spirit of God, YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD.
Jesus stood accused of blasphemy because he would not deny that He was the Son of God. The church leaders of His day fell into horrible offence at the idea that this man said He could be filled with and led by the Spirit. He declared Himself to be one with the Father (Jn. 10). And yet, is this not what “led by the Spirit” really means? Are we not saying that we are under the direction of God Himself? And if under the direction of God Himself, then are we not one with God? And if one with God, are we not the sons of God?
But, like “Body of Christ,” this phrase “led by the Spirit” has become anemic, watered down and meaningless. It has become the religious talk of our day to speak of being led by the Spirit. It is ordinary, loose jargon and high sounding rhetoric.
Body of Christ, know this: when you say you are led by the Spirit, you are declaring that your mind and purpose and will are under the direction of God. You are declaring that you are one with the Father. You are declaring yourself to be a son of God. If you mean this, then say it unashamedly, for truly this is His purpose. If you don’t mean this, then don’t say it. But it is not loose religious conversation to convince others of our spirituality. It means something very specific. And if you are willing to press on and pay the price to be led by the Spirit, then know what you are really saying, for you will be accused of blasphemy by those whose understanding is not enlightened. You may TALK about being led by the Spirit, they say, but you may not really be serious about it to the degree that you believe yourself to be an actual son of God.
This Body of Christ of which we now speak is even now under the careful instruction of the Holy Ghost who is causing us to grow up into Jesus, the Head of the Body. He is causing us to be filled with His very Spirit. He is bringing us to a place of total surrender so that this literal Body will be led by and directed out of the Head.
I was recently in a Christian bookstore glancing through some of the books, something I rarely do. I was amazed at the number of cookbooks and exercise manuals available. I came away astounded to realize that to some, being the temple of the Holy Ghost has taken on this very natural meaning: don’t eat too much sugar, join an exercise class, stay away from caffeine, and wear your seatbelt. Amazing! This profound spiritual truth that we are to be the holy habitation of God has been watered down to mean “take care of your physical body,” despite the exhortation that bodily exercise profits little indeed.
Jesus said He would build His temple in three days. Three days speaks of a completed and perfected work. In this day of completion, God will dwell in a temple not made with hands, not made by might or power or programs to preserve the flesh. God will dwell in the temple of His Body. He has chosen, ordained, decided, and set His face to create an eternal dwelling place for Himself. Not a box, not a temple as glorious as Solomon’s, not even any longer in one earthen vessel called Jesus of Nazareth. But it has pleased Him to make His habitation a many membered body, whose voice is the sound of MANY WATERS (Rev. 1:15; Rev. 14:2)
John was not the only one who saw the glorious vision of this many membered body, for Daniel’s vision was equally magnificent. Listen:
“Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words LIKE THE VOICE OF A MULTITUDE.” (Dan. 10:5, 6)
Do you see? This is clearly a dramatic vision of Christ, a many membered body containing His Spirit – a multitude!
Yes, some will say, but Jesus is the only BEGOTTEN son of God. Therefore, He is a son in a different way than we are sons. We are adopted, and not begotten, they say.
There is a ten year gap between my birth and my brother’s. For ten years, I was the only begotten child of my parents. But after David was born, I was not the only begotten, but I was then the first begotten, even as Jesus is the firstborn among MANY BRETHREN.
“Begotten” means born out of. We confess we have experienced the second birth; we admit He is our Father; but we refuse to acknowledge that we are “being born again, NOT OF CORRUPTIBLE SEED, BUT BY THE WORD OF GOD.” (I Pet. 1:23) We are born of, or begotten of, His Spirit. There was a time when Jesus was the only begotten of the Father.
But as the kernel of wheat fell into the ground and died, and thereafter a mighty harvest (Jn. 12), so we ARE that harvest. Each kernel in the exact likeness of the first. Is the harvest the exact same kernel as the one which fell into the ground? Who could differentiate? Who could tell one from the next? No one, for each kernel of the harvest is in the EXACT IMAGE AND LIKENESS of the first. The first had to die. Jesus, the Sinless One, had to die so that there could be any harvest at all. That is why we worship Him. That is why we exalt Him: because His sacrifice made the harvest possible.
Without the death and resurrection of Jesus the Firstborn, there could never be the harvest of the sons of God. But do not be mistaken: there IS a harvest. They have been begotten (born) by the Father in the second birth just the same way Jesus was begotten of the Father: by the word of the Father.
This business of being adopted, by comparison, is simply understood because the Bible states clearly, “we ourselves do groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom. 8:23) When we get saved, our SPIRIT is instantaneously quickened (made alive) and joined with the Holy Spirit. Thereafter, the long process begins of being saved “from glory to glory,” which is the redemption of the soul, the restoration of the SOUL to its proper alignment of obedience to the Spirit. Our SPIRIT is immediately made alive; but our SOUL, which is the seat of emotion and self-desire and sin, must be continually dealt with until it is in obedience to the Spirit.
Although our soul is corrupt, God will redeem it as we yield to Him. However, your mortal body is simply so corrupt that it can never inherit the kingdom. God will one day give you a new and glorified body. Your spirit is begotten of His Spirit, but never so with your physical body. This can only be “adopted” so to speak, by one day giving you a new one.
And now, begotten of the Father, they are become the literal holy habitation, the actual tabernacle, the eternal dwelling place of the most High. It is not robbing God of His glory to declare that we, the sons of God, are His holy habitation. He Himself has chosen this habitation! He Himself is raising it up! The real blasphemers are those who deny it!
It is ALL THE MORE to His glory that He has chosen to take up His abode in us, to be made flesh and dwell among us, to give unto the sons of God a NEW NAME (Rev. 2:17) which is discerned only in the Spirit. And that new name is JESUS, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, HE DWELLS IN THEM. Hallelujah! These are the sons of God, those who are led by the Spirit, those who are filled with the Spirit, those who have received HIS NAME AS THEIR OWN. These also, who have overcome, have been made pillars in this temple of God. (Rev. 3:12)
The Body of Christ is the COMPLETENESS of Christ. We know we are complete in Him, for Scripture tells us exactly this: “And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power.” (Col. 2:9, 10) But can we begin to also understand that He is complete in us?
Ephesians says this startling thing: “God has put all things under His feet, and has appointed Him universal and supreme head of the church, which is His body, the COMPLETENESS OF HIM who everywhere fills the universe with Himself.” (Weymouth). The King James says, “God hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head of the church, which is His body, THE FULNESS OF HIM that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 1:22, 23)
The Body of Christ is the completeness of Christ, the temple that Jesus promised to build again by the third (complete) day. And in its ultimate unity of the Spirit, the sons of God become the Son of God, for in one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.
The experience we call “born again” is what Paul refers to as “the common faith.” (Tit. 1:4) But there is a prize of the HIGH CALL, which is more than that you should be saved from eternal separation from God. The prize of the high call is that you should be a Son of God, a holy habitation of God Himself, the Body of Christ. What amazing love this is indeed, that in the fullness of times He will gather ALL THINGS in Christ in ONE, the Head not being separated from the Body, but one with the Body. (Eph. 1:10)
The Body of Christ is what Jesus called “my Father’s house,” the place prepared for us with many mansions which is likewise His dwelling place in us. Jesus prayed that we would be one in Him IN THE SAME WAY that He was one with the Father. (Jn. 17) Read it again for yourself. We are the Father’s house, and this is the REAL communion: that we partake of Christ the Bread IN EACH OTHER, for he who would see Jesus must (not might, or should, or ought to), but MUST see Him in His Body, for these two have become one.
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (Hebrews 3:5-6).