Body Language in the Church
'To prove his love for her, he swam the deepest river, crossed the widest desert and
climbed the highest mountain. She divorced him. He was never home. - Rose Sands, The
Saturday Evening Post.
We have begun a series on church membership. And to understand what that is really about we need to think in terms of ‘the human body’ and ‘devotion.’ When we talk about “church membership” we are talking about devotion to a local body of believers and what that means. What devotion means is obviously not always clear!
Read Romans 12:1-13.
Church ‘membership’ is body language.
What should I see when I look at myself?
Paul is using ‘body metaphors’ to describe our relationship to other Christians.
I am to picture myself as a Christian as being part of a body – the body of Christ. (body image)
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. – Romans 12:4-5
Paul elaborates on this picture in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
Bottom line: We need each other more than we realize!
'In March of 1981, President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr., and was hospitalized for several weeks. Although Reagan was the nation's chief executive, his hospitalization had little impact on the nation's activity. Government continued on. On the other hand, suppose the garbage collectors in this country went on strike, as they did not long ago in Philadelphia. That city was not only in a literal mess, the pile of decaying trash quickly became a health hazard. A three-week nationwide strike would paralyze the country. Who is more important--the President or a garbage collector? In the body of Christ, seemingly insignificant ones are urgently needed. As Paul reminds us, "The head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable" (I Cor. 12:21-22). - David Parsons
Church membership is as clear in the NT as the doctrine of the Trinity.
Is Church membership biblical?
We can’t find the phrase ‘church membership’ in the Bible.
We don’t see a clear command to officially join a church.
Neither can we find a clear statement of the doctrine of the Trinity but we argue based on clear implications in Scripture.
But there are clear indications that a real, conscious commitment to one local body of believers is the implied expectation that Christ has for every believer.
To be devoted you have to have something or someone to be devoted to.
What does devotion to other people imply?
In the context of the body metaphor, Paul calls Christians to be devoted to one another.
This must mean be devoted to a particular local body of Christ which points to the universal body of Christ.
Application: Marry (commit yourself to; devote yourself to; all that you have and all that you are to one local church for the long haul) a church!
There are many strains of evidence in the NT that support this implied truth of church membership.
Let me summarize them under five headings.
The word for ‘church’ means ‘assembly’ in the NT.
Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? - 1 Corinthians 14:23
The life of a believer is described as a life with other believers in the NT as more than just a casual, undefined relationship.
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. … praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. - Acts 2:41-42, 47
The ‘one another commands’ are best understood and practiced in a local church setting, especially those regarding serving and showing grace.
This I command you, that you love one another. – John 15:17
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; - Romans 12:10
Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. – Romans 15:7
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. – Romans 16:16
so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. – 1 Corinthians 12:25
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. – 1 Thessalonians 5:13
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, - Hebrews 10:24
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8
Be hospitable to one another without complaint. – 1 Peter 4:9
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Galatians 5:13
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. – 1 Peter 4:10
with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, - Ephesians 4:2
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32
bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. – Colossians 3:13
Submission to leadership and the leaders' accountability for people requires some kind of membership in a local church.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. – Hebrews 13:17
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:1-3
The concept of accountability and the practice of church discipline requires some kind of church membership.
And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. – Romans 15:14
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. - Matthew 18:15-18
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. - 1 Corinthians 5:11-13
Church membership is love to Christ and others.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2
What does it look like to present yourself to God to do His will?
It looks like presenting yourself to a local body of believers to serve with your gifts and to love them as Christ calls you to love them.
In the context, the immediate, visible application of this, in Paul’s argument, is a commitment to the local church (body of Christ).
We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. - 1 John 4:19-21
Are you resting in Jesus?
You can’t be a church member if you aren’t forgiven and in union with Christ.
Are you hoping in God?
You won’t be a church member if your hope is in the things of this world.
Are you pursuing love?
You can’t pursue love without being a church member.
But the pursuit of love in the local church is a beautiful and wonderful thing to behold!
'At a meeting of the American Psychological Association, Jack Lipton, a psychologist at Union College, and R. Scott Builione, a graduate student at Columbia University, presented their findings on how members of the various sections of 11 major symphony orchestra perceived each other. The percussionists were viewed as insensitive, unintelligent, and hard-of-hearing, yet fun-loving. String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and unathletic. The orchestra members overwhelmingly chose "loud" as the primary adjective to describe the brass players. Woodwind players seemed to be held in the highest esteem, described as quiet and meticulous, though a bit egotistical. Interesting findings, to say the least! With such widely divergent personalities and perceptions, how could an orchestra ever come together to make such wonderful music? The answer is simple: regardless of how those musicians view each other, they subordinate their feelings and biases to the leadership of the conductor. Under his guidance, they play beautiful music. - Today in the Word, June 22, 1992.
To hear more of this, listen to the teaching and message from January 15, 2017.