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Bible verses about Church as Body
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 17:2-4

The Israelites were only too happy to receive liberty from their bondage to Egypt. But were very unwilling to obey God, complaining loudly, even rebelling in the wilderness, accusing Moses, Aaron, and by extension, God Himself, for the hardships in the wilderness despite the liberty they received from God through these men.

Being in the church is no different, in that sense. We have become part of a body, a nation, the body of Christ, a royal priesthood. God looks at us both as individuals and as a body, and He leads and guides that entire body. He expects those who are now part of the body through baptism and the receipt of His Holy Spirit to be willing to endure whatever the body goes through. Israel was unwilling to do that.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 2)


 

1 Corinthians 1:26

Grace eliminates for us the possibility of any boasting or any self-glory. Regardless of our material accomplishments—no matter how many 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 advice 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 12:18

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


 

Ephesians 1:10

We say that we are "in Christ." We say that there is "one church." We say that there is "one Body," "one Family," "one Kingdom." What is said here in Ephesians 1 is where God is headed with all this. He will unite everybody who has ever been born and makes it into His Kingdom into one—one family, the God Family—one kingdom, the Kingdom of God. The church is simply the beginning of an awesome process—a tremendous project—that will eventually cover the 50 or 60 billion people who have ever lived on the face of this earth.

We who are now begotten children of God are at the prow of the ship, as it were, cutting the water as we forge ahead. It is our calling to have gotten in on the ground floor, the very beginning of the process. We have entered the process even before all of the great men and women we have read about in the histories of the nations. They will get their opportunity, but we are way ahead of them.

Why has God had to do this? The basic cause is what happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve sinned. Sin is disruptive; it divides, and it divided our first parents away from the one Family. As Paul says in Romans 5:12, "All have sinned." We have all sinned—maybe not exactly as Adam and Eve did, but everybody has sinned. We have followed our parents in becoming separated from God. Sin divides away from God, and man from man. The world has been shattered by sin. One could say, then, that the central object of salvation is to reunite all mankind into one Family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Ephesians 1:15-23

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)


 

1 Peter 2:5

Notice the phrase "being built up." It is active and dynamic, indicating that the building is being done by somebody else.

Peter calls us living stones. Step away from the idea of human beings and imagine stones out in a field or a pile of bricks. Peter's illustration is of a construction job. In his mind's eye, as he was writing this, he saw a literal building being built by a stone mason, God, with His Son Jesus Christ.

We are "being built up." The stones are not taking themselves out of the field, shaping themselves, and fitting themselves into the building. Somebody else is picking up the stones, knocking off the rough edges, and fitting them exactly into the place where the Builder wants them to go. Peter is describing a building that is not being constructed haphazardly but according to an intelligent plan, as if the Builder is working according to a blueprint drawn far in advance of construction.

"Chief cornerstone" is mentioned in verse 6, and like the chief cornerstone, each of us, as living stones, are being individually set apart from all of the other rocks in the field, then prepared and fitted into what is called "a spiritual house." The word "house" simply means a dwelling place, and since this is a spiritual house, it implies "a dwelling place for God." The picture Peter wants us to imagine is that each one of these stones is chosen individually and pulled out of the field, fitted and shaped, and put into the building.

We see sanctification at work in this. In Peter's illustration, the stone mason looks over a selection of stones in a field, but only chooses certain ones, which he then crafts to His specifications for its place in the building. It shows Christians being transformed into a suitable dwelling place for God—individually and as an institution, as a church. This begins to place responsibilities on each of the living stones that are set apart and made a part of the dwelling place for God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)


 

 




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