These lessons are part of a series of bulletin inserts at Blainesburg Bible Church. The online versions contain minor edits for the expanded online audience. This lesson originally released on April 7, 2019.
Lesson 1 establishes who Jesus is, what he did for us, and how we are supposed to be in full communion with him as part of the Body of Christ here. Lesson 2 explained the need for producing fruit that demonstrates repentance as well as how we were bought back from eternal separation from God and belong to God and not ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Lesson 3 discusses Apostle Paul’s use of military references that describe how followers of Christ need to fall in line under the authority of Christ as the head of the church as well as understanding church hierarchical authority established by God and understanding the need for obedience and punishment of disobedience (2 Corinthians 10:6).
Shortcuts are a cultural trend in the United States. The ability to instantly search for information online along with our society-driven need to have everything fast has made us impatient. However, one does not put the roof on a building before the foundation and walls are built first. Spiritual development is the same. Our foundation is Christ, and our spiritual learning begins with the milk of the word (1 Corinthians 3:11, 1 Peter 2:1-3). The prior lessons laid the foundation for understanding body ministry.
There is a trend in the church to streamline, abbreviate and shortcut just about everything. Convenience is another word we can use to describe a lot of church doings. Some of these doings are great. Some are worthless. Water baptism started out as immersion. Now there are churches that sprinkle. Convenient? Certainly! However, what is lost in the name of convenience?
Salvation through Jesus has also been streamlined into getting people to recite a “Sinner’s Prayer” formula. A prayer to receive God’s gift of eternal life through Christ is wonderful, but Salvation is not just a few words combined with a few feelings and then going back to how things used to be. If you are truly saved, you will begin to demonstrate that in how you live your life. Salvation is a gift from God and not one acquired through works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but Salvation through faith is dead without your life in Christ producing actions that bear fruit (James 2:14-26).
You cannot just do works by themselves to earn points with God to get into heaven. John 14:6 makes it clear that Jesus is the only Way. On the other hand, if you put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, the bearing of good fruit naturally follows. If not, your faith is dead.
The story Jesus told about the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-6 shows us that people can come to faith late in the game. They still receive the blessing of Salvation through faith without having put in a set time working to carry out God’s will bearing heaps of good fruit. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with him that very day in paradise. This was just after the thief (Luke 23:39-43) declared his own and the other thief’s guilt, pronounced Jesus innocent, and then asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus reigns as King.
That thief produced much faith and fruit in the short time he hung on a cross next to Jesus. Most of us have considerably more time to demonstrate our faith and are able to produce much fruit meet for repentance (Matthew 3:7-9, Acts 26:20).
Paul talks about Gentile (non-Jewish) believers being a wild olive tree branch that has been grafted (connected) to the rootstock (Jesus) in Romans 11:11-24. Plant grafting is taking a branch from one plant and joining it to the trunk and roots of another plant. The new branch gets all of its life-sustaining nutrients from the plant it is grafted to. It is an analogy of how we non-Jewish followers are joined to Christ. In the body ministry analogy of Paul, we take our place as members of the body of Christ.
The grafting story is another analogy of working together in unity with Jesus that goes right along with body ministry taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches in John 15:5 (read John 15:1-17), which is yet another analogy of Jesus being the source of everything for us as Christians, which is the same in the analogy of him being the head of the body in Colossians 1:18.
Without him we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with him all things are possible (Luke 18:27, Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23)! That is, if we continue to abide in him as the vine or the head of the body.
Take a moment to read the main body ministry text of 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (NLT) written by Paul without the verse breaks. Here, with some emphasis from me, this passage reads as the letter (epistle) first presented to the church at Corinth would:
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’
In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”
God has put you right where he wants you as a living part (member) of the body of Christ (the church) here on earth. Have you ever felt you were not part of the body of Christ because you are not the part you think you should be? Have other members (parts) of the body tried to tell you that you are not part of the body because they disvalue you? Have you ever disvalued another believer?