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Bible verses about Body Analogy
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Joshua 6:17-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Joshua 6 and 7 contain the tragic story of Achan's sin. Achan, one man, sinned by stealing a garment, 200 shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold during the heat of battle after having been instructed that all the booty from Jericho was devoted to God (Joshua 6:17-19; 7:1, 20-21). He had no accomplices, and no one saw him do it. Nonetheless, Israel's army became paralyzed with fear when they attacked the little city of Ai (verses 4-5). Joshua faltered and became confused (verses 6-9). Thirty-six men died—wives were widowed and children lost fathers. In the end, Achan's entire family was destroyed, even though they were innocent of his sin.

The whole nation was affected! When God analyzed Achan's sin, He saw it as a national sin (verses 10-12). The sin of one part was the sin of the whole. When one failed, they all failed. We need to pay more attention to this approach because it is part of the "one body" analogy. We should also notice that God was personally involved. It was after all, His nation, His church, and its conduct is of intense concern to Him. This story also contains a clear illustration of sin's leavening effect. Until a correction was made, it did not just lie there and die. Its effect increased.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

Joshua 7:1-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One man's sin! There were no accomplices. Nobody even saw him do it, yet Israel's army became paralyzed with fear. Joshua faltered and became confused. The whole nation was affected. Thirty-six men died. Thirty-six women became widows. And how many children no longer had a father?

One might say that the sin was somewhat atoned for. When they found out what Achan had done, Achan and his family (who were innocent of the deed) were put to death. When God saw it, however, He analyzed the sin according to different standards. He was dealing with His people, and He wanted to make sure that a witness was made—so that there would be information for those of His church in the end time.

God takes a personal interest in His people. Things happen out in the world, and He seems to do nothing. But when things happen within His church, He is concerned for the well-being of His people, and He takes action.

What we see here is a clear beginning of "the body" analogy that later becomes so important to the church in the New Testament. He shows us plainly that sin has a natural leavening effect. It increases; it will not just lie there and die. Corrections must be made to ensure that it does not spread, affecting others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Every Action Has a Reaction


 

Jeremiah 23:21-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is a great honor to represent God in the preaching of the gospel, whether to the world or to the church. However, there is an important principle here, that is, if one is going to do it, he had better be appointed to do it.

God is organized in what He does. Did He not create a human body that is organized? The human body is a type of His church, and in both, all direction comes from the Head. Does the hand take over and do the job of the eyes? Does the nose take over and do the job of the ear? No. The part only does the job that it is appointed by God to do.

And so it is in the church of God. God expects those whom He has appointed to perform a certain responsibility to do it. We bear that burden. How many times does the Old Testament contain the phrase "the burden of the Lord"? "The burden of the Lord" is the responsibility God gave to the prophets, and it is a burden in a number of ways. If a person is going to be preaching the gospel), he had better be appointed to do it and worthy to represent the One who appointed him—God the Father.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Avoiding Superficiality


 

Romans 12:3-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These six verses are all tied together by humility—that one should not think of himself more highly than he ought. God has put us each in the body as it pleases Him, so we should not think that we, as, say, the toe are better than the knee because the toe cannot do the knee's job. God thinks of the toe just as highly as He does of the knee, but if He has put us as a toe, why not in faith do the job of a toe because that is what God wants us to be? If He had wanted us to be a knee, He would have put you in the body as a knee, but He made us to be a toe, so be happy as a toe! Do a toe's work in faith!

Paul tells us to think soberly, logically, seriously, that as God has dealt to each a measure of faith, that we in faith can consider our place in the church and deal with it. So, whatever we are to do, do it! Do it with all the gifts and skills that God has given—but do not try to do another's job. It is his job to do diligently, not ours. God put us in the body to do a specific job, our job not his, otherwise He would have given us his job!

If we have been given the job to exhort, then we should exhort. If it is our job to minister and serve others, serve—but do not take another's job to prophesy. Paul is saying, "In lowliness of mind, be content where you are, because obviously God has put you there for a reason. If you do the job that God has given to you, you are fulfilling His will." The church, then, can be united because the members are not competing over each other's responsibilities.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Romans 12:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are to prefer others over ourselves. We, in humility, ought to abase ourselves and let him do his job, because in the scheme of things, we are to consider him as over us. Say, he is the knee, and we are the toe. The knee has a function, and when the knee needs to perform its function, the toe must follow. However, when the toe must do its job, the knee should take orders from the toe. We each have our areas of responsibility, and if we leave each other alone to do our jobs and give the other precedence in doing his job, then maybe we will all get the work done. We will not be stepping on his job, and he will not stepping on ours. When we need his cooperation, he follows us, and when he needs our cooperation, we follow him. There is no need to fight. Everyone just does his job. When we must follow, follow, and when we must lead, lead. That is how it works. We have no need to worry about other people's jobs. They will get done. If they are doing theirs well, and we are doing ours well, then the whole body, the church, moves forward.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

1 Corinthians 1:26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Grace eliminates for us the possibility of any boasting or any self-glory. Regardless of our material accomplishments—no matter how may doctorate degrees we may have, how much money we may have accumulated, or how many good deeds we may have done—no one can boast before God because, as verse 30 says, we are "of Him." Here is the key to understanding this. In spiritual terms, all that we have accomplished has been done only because of what He gave.

If we want to go back that far, it all began when He gave us life. In terms of spiritual life, we have to go back only as far as His calling. We would not have accomplished anything that we have accomplished spiritually—for instance, kept the Sabbath and the holy days—except that God called us and made us understand His truth. He led us to repentance. He impressed the importance of doing what He revealed on our minds so that we would do them, and so forth. The unilateral acts of God begin to pile up—grace upon grace. God is with us in this entire process.

What we have spiritually is only possible because we are "of Him," that is, because of what we have been given. This particular phrase—we are "of Him"—is describing a personal attachment. It is as if we are part of a living body, which we are, since the church is a living, spiritual organism. The picture that is in the apostle Paul's mind is that we are directly connected to Him, even as the toe is attached to the foot, which is in turn connected to the ankle and then to the leg. All of this is connected, and it receives its strength, life, existence, growth, repair, etc. because it is part of the body. So are we connected to God and receive all these things.

What does the toe have to boast for playing its role in the body? Even so, nobody can boast before God because of grace. We have what we have spiritually only because He has given it.

Further, if our spiritual lives and growth are going to continue, we can do this only within this same environment. If the toe is cut from the body, it begins to die immediately. A degeneration begins to occur immediately. We can apply the same analogy to our spiritual life.

So, there is no bragging, no boasting, before God for anything that we have spiritually. We have it because of our personal attachment to the living Jesus Christ.

Why is this important? Because it puts the relationship with God and fellow man into its proper perspective. Many theologians insist that what they derive from the Bible and from their own experiences in life, is that carnally, the underlying drive or motivation in all relationships is self-assertion, that is, the desire for recognition, pride. We want to be known for what we have done. "I have accomplished this." "I built that." "This is my place." "This is my spouse." The self basks in the glow of the fact that he exists and has and does things. It is a drive to be recognized, noticed, praised, rewarded, and even submitted to, because of who one is and what he feels he has done.

This has horrible ramifications for the relationship with God. Jesus' own counsel to His apostles—and His advise extends to us—is to go in the exact opposite direction and make ourselves of no reputation (as He did; Philippians 2:5-8). He says, "Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4). A child is of no value to society because he produces nothing, cannot do anything of value, and in a way, is nothing more than a parasite, as some cultures see children.

Notice, though, that Jesus says that becoming like a little child is the way to real power—in the Kingdom of God. It is the way to gain the right kind of recognition and promotion—the kind that God would give us by grace, not what we have earned on our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

1 Corinthians 3:16-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Suppose you lived during the time that the Temple in Jerusalem was in operation. As a faithful Levite, you were given stewardship to maintain the Temple and its grounds. How would you take care of that responsibility, knowing it was God's earthly dwelling place? Would you approach it in an irreverent, slap-dash, careless, lackadaisical, "I am too busy with other things" manner? Or would you be highly respectful and orderly and do whatever your hand found to do with all your might?

Spiritually, God has already given us this responsibility. In fact, it is a double-edged responsibility, both personal and corporate. In I Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul uses "temple" as a synonym for "church," referring to the whole body of believers. This is clearly an extension of his earlier use of the building metaphor. By it, he illustrates that each person, as part of the building, has some effect on the quality of the whole building by how he conducts his life. This metaphor ties all of us together as a team with the specific responsibility of doing all we can to build up and strengthen the church. Undoubtedly, the ministry bears the greater burden, but every member is involved.

Paul begins in verse 6 by giving himself and Apollos as examples. The King James Version makes the first part of verse 8 unclear: "Now he who plants [Paul] and he who waters [Apollos] are one." The Revised Standard Version clarifies this: "He who plants and he who waters are equal." They are not one as if they are identical or bound together like a set of Siamese twins. He means that they are equally important to the result.

Paul frequently emphasizes the team aspect. He writes in verse 9, "We are God's fellow workers." In verses 10-15, 17, he refers to "each one" and "anyone" frequently. No one has any room to think that it does not matter what he or she does or fails to do to make the body spiritually healthy. A great, dominant theme of Paul's teaching is the individual's personal responsibility for his life and that—somehow, somewhere, sometime—each will have to give account to God for what he has done.

How can Paul say the various parts of the body bear equal responsibility? This thought hearkens back to the Parable of the Talents. The master does not expect his three servants to produce the same quantity, but he expects each to be equally faithful in what he entrusted to their stewardship.

In verse 17, Paul uses "destroy" twice (see margin). It is a strong warning to those committing the sins named in other parts of the epistle—advocating false doctrine, strife, jealousy, sexual immorality, and other permissive compromises—that God would hold them responsible despite how matters appeared at the time. He would destroy them because the church is holy because it belongs to God, and He has separated it from the world. Through their false doctrines or sinful conduct, whether they were aware or not, they were seeking or being used to destroy the spiritual health of the church. Each member bears responsibility for keeping himself holy and therefore spiritually healthy.

To understand this, perhaps we need nothing more than a deeper awareness that, despite the way things may presently look on the surface, our worldview—how we look at life and all its jumble of events—is quite narrow compared to God's. Once we see things from His perspective, we can see we bear a major responsibility to the body of Christ because God has included us in His great purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part One)


 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The basis for our obligation to Christ could not be stated any clearer. He gives three reasons:

1. Verses 9-11 show what put us into indebtedness to make redemption necessary.

2. Verse 19 says that our body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit.

3. Verse 20 states that, because of redemption, we now belong to the One who redeemed us, and we must glorify Him in body and spirit.

Concerning our bodies being "the temple of the Holy Spirit," it is good to reflect on the Old Testament symbolism that God abode in the Holy of Holies within the Temple. Paul reminds us that God now lives in us (John 14:17, 23), and we are obligated to live with the utmost circumspection so that He in no way is defiled by our conduct. So it is with Christ: We are obligated to consider His demands in every area of life all the time and under every circumstance. What an honor!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

1 Corinthians 6:13-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Maintaining good physical health is a stewardship responsibility that comes with our calling. We owe this obligation to our Creator God just as surely as we have spiritual responsibilities toward Him. We may deem these physical responsibilities as less important, but that does not nullify them.

Paul uses "body" in a dual sense, as both the spiritual body—the church—and the physical body of each member. Sin works to destroy both, and God did not create us to sin.

The sin here is fornication, porneia, which includes a broad range of sexual sins that pervert the right, godly use of sex. Paul uses it to illustrate sin's destructiveness. Sin is somewhat like junk food: It may "taste" good to the senses for a while, but before it is through, it will come back and harm us with its destructive properties. Junk food may taste good going down, but all the while, it is depriving the body of life-giving nutrients it needs to be truly strong.

In Genesis 1:28, God gave mankind dominion and responsibility to rule over His creation. Our own lives and bodies are the closest and most specific areas of God's creation over which we are to rule. In Genesis 2:15, God commands us to dress and keep His creation, giving us more specific direction in this obligation. To dress and keep means we are to beautify, enhance, embellish, and improve the raw product, along with maintaining it and inhibiting its decay and degeneration. In Genesis 4:7, God admonishes Cain—and us in principle—that a desire to go contrary to God's desires will always be part of this mix. Sin lies at the door, He warns, but we must master it. In essence, we must stir up the spirit in us to discipline ourselves. In combining these major principles, we can see that God means our major areas of operation in His purpose are those closest to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)


 

1 Corinthians 6:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This usage points out how easily a person can be misled or confused by an inference in contrast to a direct, concrete statement. From this verse, one could conclude that, if he is joined to the Lord, then he is a spirit just as the Lord is. "He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." The hat-pin test disproves this very quickly. We are not a spirit, not the way the Lord is a spirit.

When we read it in its wider context, Paul reveals that he is not writing on the theme of spirit composition at all. His theme is "closeness of connection," which he illustrates by a man being "joined to a harlot." Unity emerges as the theme as he brings Christ into the picture, and in this case, a Christian's unity with Him is the highest, purest form of unity that a human being can be involved in.

Paul is suggesting, then, that a sheep may wander from the shepherd, a branch may be cut from a tree, a limb severed from the body, a child alienated from his parents, and even a wife from her husband; but when two spirits blend into one, nothing can separate them. So close is their unity that what affects one affects the other. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."

So, Paul concludes, do not involve Christ in sin. We should do everything in our power to affect that intimate spiritual relationship, that unity, for good. Our unity with Jesus Christ is spiritual and so close that, as God looks at it, it is closer than being joined in intercourse with a harlot! The reason for this is that, even in such a situation as that, the man and woman are, in reality, still two beings.

However, if we are in Christ, we are actually in His body, which is why Paul employs the word "spirit." We cannot see His body. It is invisible, but it is real! We are in Him! Are we truly aware of that? We need to be growing in the understanding of it. We are cells in His body, as it were, and as Paul explains in I Corinthians 12:26, when one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts. When one part of the body is strengthened, the whole body is strengthened.

We must begin to understand that, when God uses the word "spirit" in this way, it suggests a unity that is extremely close. It is a matter of the joining of minds!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 12:4-26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verses 4-11, Paul shows that each person God places in the body receives gifts for the benefit of the entire body. In verses 14-20, he explains that diversity in the body is necessary because, if the entire body was just one part, it could not function. The diversity in this context is in terms of gifts, not doctrine, nationality, sex, or race. Diversity enables the body to be much more effective, efficient, and versatile in performing its intended purpose. Each person has a specific function necessary to the whole.

In verses 21-25, Paul makes a veiled warning that we need to guard against both pride in our abilities and its opposite—equally vain—that we have nothing to give. We become useful members when we choose to set aside these vanities and begin doing what we should.

Verse 18, combined with verses 22-26, teaches us that God Himself has organized the body. We need to understand that the greatest Authority in all of creation has specifically placed us within it and given us gifts. If the body is to function as He has purposed, each part must recognize his individual dependence upon and concern for the whole. In addition, each must understand what the body is designed to accomplish. It is the responsibility of each part to subordinate himself to God to produce the unity that will enable the whole body to do its work.

God expresses these concerns for the body because He wants it to function efficiently and effectively in unity. Therefore, what happens to one part, or what one part does, affects the whole. What we do does indeed make a difference because we are individual parts of a living, spiritual organism. Our actions will produce an increase of good or evil, efficiency or inefficiency in the use of spiritual resources, effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our witness, and growth or backsliding in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

1 Corinthians 12:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If we are baptized by the Spirit of God, we are a part of that body, and we are responsible to Christ within it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

1 Corinthians 12:13-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Just because that part of the body says, "I'm not part of the body and have no responsibility toward it," it does not alter the fact that it is a part of the body. It seems to have slipped the minds of many that they do have a responsibility to the body.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

1 Corinthians 12:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can surely understand that, in the human body, every part was placed exactly where God wanted it to be. God put every single one of us in Christ's body with wisdom, with at least as much wisdom as He used to construct our own human body. We understand how wonderfully we are made. The church is put together just as wonderfully! Probably more so, because the stakes are so much greater.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

1 Corinthians 12:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The members of the church of God are Christ's body, and God has placed each of us just where He wants us in the body. It is not that He has just placed us in the body, but that He has placed us in a particular place in the body. He wants us to do the job He has assigned us and not try to do something that He did not give us the position or the authority to do. We need to be content with the wisdom of His placement of us in the church, letting Him exalt us in due time.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Countering Presumptuousness


 

Galatians 6:15-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Walk according to this rule means "understand and apply this principle."

After Jacob's name was changed to Israel, through the centuries Israel gradually became a code name for the called and chosen of God who had made a covenant with Him. Here in Galatians 6, that code name is transferred openly and clearly to the church, and Paul attaches the prepositional phrase "of God" to show possession to differentiate it from the physical nation also named "Israel." God is creating a new nation—a New Covenant people—whose citizenship is in heaven and whose people owe their loyalty to the Kingdom of God, its laws, and its purposes.

The Israel of God—the remnant, the elect, the vessels of mercy, the children of promise—is a spiritual body, the Body of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. In one sense, there is no nationality, for we are being transformed into a new "nationality"—the Kingdom of God! God is doing a new thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Ephesians 1:15-23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The subject of this paragraph begins with the Father and shifts to the Son. At the end, however, the church—its relationship to Christ and among the members—becomes the focus. The major theme of the book of Ephesians is unity. It tells us why we are able to have it and what we must do to maintain it.

Paul describes the church as "a body." This is essential to unity and to preaching the gospel, keeping us from not losing our focus. We have to have God's perspective of what we are. We are a body, meaning a living organism, or by analogy, the human body.

Any organism, like the human body, is unified. Each part cooperating for the good of the whole. Notice that Paul does not use a word like "team." The word "team" has some of the same associations as "body," but it is not as accurate. With "body," Paul not only gets across the concept of association within an organism to accomplish a common work, but it also the sense of a far closer relationship and more critical responsibility, in which each part responds to the will of the head.

We are so close to Jesus Christ that Paul describes us as "His fullness," that is, we fill Him out. We complete Him. Paul does this to relate both the closeness of our association with Christ and our responsibility to Him to do everything in our power to build the strength of both.

The church—we—are Jesus Christ's complement. This is the highest honor a human being can be given! There is nothing greater than to say that we are a part—we fill out, we complete—the body of Jesus Christ! It is as though Jesus Christ our Creator considers Himself incomplete until we become part of Him. He is a Bridegroom, incomplete without His Bride. As a vine, He is incomplete without the branches. As a Shepherd, He is incomplete without His sheep. And so also is He incomplete as a Head without a body, without members, through whom He works and is glorified as they cooperate and yield to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

Ephesians 1:22-23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is not the church Christ's Body? Can the church be in different organizations?

The answer is found in Ephesians 1:22-23. "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church [ekklesia], which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

In his discussion of these verses in Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Kenneth S. Wuest writes, "The Church [ekklesia] is described as that 'which is His body.' The word 'which' is hetis 'which is of such a nature as,' and has a qualitative nature to it." The nature of ekklesia in this context comes from the association with its head, Jesus Christ.

Of the word "body," soma, Expositor's says:

The word soma, which passes readily from its literal meaning [the human body] into the figurative sense of a society, a number of men constituting a social or ethical union, . . . is frequently applied in the N.T. epistles to the Church, . . . as the mystical body of Christ, the fellowship of believers regarded as an organic [living] spiritual unity in a living relation to Christ, subject to Him, animated by Him, and having His power operating in it. The relation between Christ and the Church, therefore, is not an external relation. . . . (vol. 11, "Ephesians and Colossians," p. 56, emphasis ours)

In other words, it is not bound by human convention. It is not bound by corporate laws that men establish, for Christ is in the ekklesia wherever its members may be.

Continuing from Wuest's:

The relation between Christ and the Church, therefore, is not an external relation, or one simply of Superior and inferior, Sovereign and subject, but one of life and incorporation [within Him]. The Church is not merely an institution ruled by Him as President, a Kingdom in which He is the Supreme Authority, or a vast company of men in moral sympathy with Him, but a Society which is in vital connection with Him, having the source of its life in Him, sustained and directed by His power, the instrument also by which He works. (ibid., pp. 56-57)

This is the usage of ekklesia in the New Testament. It is a mystical body with no external relations. It is something that is internal; it is something mental; it is something of the spirit. It is not bound by race, by language, by city or state or nationality. It is not restricted to the earth or to time.

The word mystical means "having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses [an external relation, sensed by the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch] nor obvious to the intelligence; involving or having the nature of an individual's direct subjective communion with God" (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1985, p. 785). The church, the ekklesia, consists of those who have been called out by God, summoned by Him, to receive His Spirit and have direct communion with Him.

Paul makes a similar statement to Ephesians 1:22-23 in I Corinthians 12:12-13.

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one bodywhether Jews or Greeks [transcends national boundaries], whether slaves or free [transcends cultural or social status]and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

The ekklesia is not a humanly defined corporation, but the mystical body of Christ, having the Spirit of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Ephesians 4:1-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The part we have to play is to walk worthy of our calling, and as the apostle goes on to say, our calling is to be one: one body, one spirit, one faith, one baptism, one hope, just as we have one Lord and one Father. We are to be one bride of Christ. He is not a polygamist; He will not marry many brides but one united bride.

We in the church can be disunified if we fail to practice verses 2 and 3: Without lowliness (humility), without gentleness (meekness), without longsuffering (forebearance or patient endurance), without love and peace, we will never have unity. As long as we are proud, easily angered and offended, jump on every little thing, lack patience, and treat each other hatefully—as long as we cause strife—there will never be unity. Even with all that God does (I Corinthians 1:4-9), it will not happen. He will not force unity upon us if we show that we do not want it. The natural order of things is that we will disunify further if we fail to show Him that we are working toward it. So, without these virtues, even with God deluging us with His Spirit, we will not have unity.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Ephesians 4:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice, Paul does not say, "by what every part or member supplies," but "every joint." For example, a rickety table, feeble in its loose-fitting joints, becomes too wobbly once more than two legs are loose. There may be nothing wrong with the table's legs and the table top. But a table's stability is provided, not by its individual parts, but by the quality of its joints. Unless the legs are affixed securely to the table top, the table is useless.

Staff
'By What Every Joint Supplies'


 

Ephesians 4:17-32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Most of us realize that the unity of the church of God courses through the book of Ephesians as a general theme. Paul illustrates the church as a complete body of which Jesus, though in heaven, is the Head, and the elect here on earth comprise the rest of it. Early on, Paul declares how God has planned the organization of His purpose from the very beginning, determining whom He would call, give His Spirit to, and perfect as His children.

In Ephesians 4, the apostle begins to clarify our Christian responsibilities regarding works. He appeals to us in verse 1 to make every effort to live a manner of life that measures up to the magnificence of our high calling. He then makes sure we understand that we must carry out our responsibilities in humility, kindness, and forbearance as we strive to maintain doctrinal accord in purity.

He explains that Christ has given each of us gifts to meet our responsibilities in maintaining the unity of God's church. Foremost among these gifts are teachers who will work to equip us for service in the church and eventually in the Kingdom. This same process will enable us to grow to completion, to mature, no longer wavering in our loyalties, certain in the direction of our lives, and not deceived by the craftiness of men.

With that foundation, the "therefore" in verse 17 draws our focus to the practical applications necessary to meet the standards of the preceding spiritual concepts. We must not conduct our lives as the unconverted do. They are blinded to these spiritual realities and so conduct life in ignorance, following the lusts of darkened minds.

Because we are being educated by God, the standards of conduct are established by His truths and are therefore exceedingly higher. We must make every effort to throw off the works of carnality and strive to acquire a renewed mind through diligent, continuous effort so that we can be created in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness (verse 24).

In verses 25-29, Paul moves even further from generalities to clear, specific works that we must do. We must speak truth so that we do not injure another through lies, as well as to maintain unity. Because deceit produces distrust, unity cannot be maintained if lying occurs. We must not allow our tempers to flare out of control, for they serve as an open door for Satan to create havoc.

We must be honest, earning our way so that we are prepared to give to others who are in need. We must be careful that what we speak is not only true but also edifying, imparting encouragement, empathy, sympathy, exhortation, and even gentle correction when needed.

In verse 30 is a brief and kind reminder that, in doing our works we must never forget that we owe everything to our indwelling Lord and Master. We must make every effort to be thankful, acknowledging Him as the Source of all gifts and strengths, enabling us to glorify Him through our works.

In the final two verses of the chapter, Paul delineates specific responsibilities concerning our attitudes toward fellow Christians within personal relationships.

This brief overview of just one chapter shows clearly how much works enter into a Christian's life as practical requirements that cannot be passed off as unnecessary. How else will a Christian glorify God? How else will he grow to reflect the image of God? How else will he fulfill God's command to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) except by faithfully doing those works that lead to life?

Through the whole process of sanctification, the Christian will make constant use of two additional works: daily prayer and Bible study, which must be combined with his efforts to obey God. No one who is careless about performing these works can expect to make progress growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ during sanctification.

Why? Without them, he will have no relationship with either the Father or the Son, and thus will not be enabled to achieve the required works. They are the Source of the powers that make it possible for us to do the works God has ordained. If we do not follow through on these two works, we will surely hear ourselves called "wicked and lazy" and be cast into "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:24-30).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)


 

2 Timothy 1:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Remembering that Timothy was a minister of the church of God, the gift was the power and authority to fulfill his responsibility within it. Though this book was originally just written to Timothy, it has application for all Christians. The principles in it involve every one who has the Spirit of God. Each has been given gifts by God to carry out his portion of God's work within the body.

Salvation is more than mere forgiveness of sin. Another part of God's salvation is that He gives gifts—abilities, talents, powers, authority—to do jobs within the church. Salvation requires a journey to the end of God's purpose. It is a way of life that leads to a goal. God gives every one of us the powers to succeed in reaching the end of the journey: gifts of the Spirit given to carry out our functions within the body.

Just as the apostle Paul used the human body in an analogous way, showing that every portion of the body has its function, so has every portion of the human body been given the power to carry out that function in behalf of the body. So with God's church: No matter how scattered it is, or how unified it is, God has given each Christian the power to carry out his function within the body. So Paul prodded Timothy to make good use of those gifts to help the church.

There is no indication within the context that Timothy was falling short in any way. It is clear from the verbal forms that Paul uses here that these were things that Timothy had done in the past and was continuing to do in the present. It could really be written more accurately in the English, "keep fanning the flame." He was stirring the gift, and Paul was saying, "Keep on stirring it!" Timothy was cultivating the doctrine, the major means by which one keeps or guards what has been given.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

1 Peter 4:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Greek word translated "minister" is diakonos, which is sometimes translated "deacon." It is most frequently rendered either "minister" or "servant."

Christian has received some gift in trust from God to be held and used for the benefit of the whole church. The gifts may vary widely, but the ministry or the service of each is to be according to the character of the gift. As in Paul's body analogy, the finger does not do the same job as the toe, but the fingers are a gift to the body so that the body can function. However, the toes are also a gift to the body so it can function better in another area. It contributes its part to the well being of the body, but it does not have the same characteristics as a finger does—or the nose, ears, eyes, or mouth.

Everybody has been given gifts by God, and He has given it to the person so that he can serve the Body, allowing the Body to function better than it would have otherwise if it did not have that part, or that gift, that God has given to it.

We are to do this as a steward, and above all things, a steward must be faithful. One cannot be faithful unless he has faith. This is where faithfulness begins—with faith, with a belief. Then we carry through. As we minister the gift to the Body of Christ, we become faithful—reliable, trustworthy, responsible—in carrying it out. Thus, each Christian is responsible to follow through faithfully in his service to the brethren.

William Barclay's translation of I Peter 4:10 reads:

As each has received a gift from God, so let all use such gifts in the service of one another, like good stewards of the grace of God.

A good steward is a faithful steward. A good steward, or a good servant, is one who follows through with his responsibility. Being a faithful steward of God's gifts can at least appear to be a discouraging responsibility, given our knowledge of how weak we are, but we will never be faithful if our beliefs are or remain mere preferences. We must be convicted of the rightness of what we believe, or we will never be faithful.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

 




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