God’s will is that all His created humans would choose to be part of His heavenly kingdom on earth. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Pe 3:9). We carry this glorious Gospel to all people, nations, and languages. We understand the Great Commission sends us forth to teach and call men to discipleship and bring them into the church as members of the body of Christ on earth. As this happens, we face the challenges of accepting each member, loving them, and making them an integral part of the body.
First Corinthians 12 speaks about the body of Christ being made up of many members. Verse 18 says, “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” Let’s consider what this means for congregations.
We must understand that it is God at work bringing people to our church that He wants us to minister to. He has a plan in mind. He has a place for them in His kingdom. He can use anyone who will surrender to His lordship and obey His Word. He works in mysterious ways, bringing more people into fellowship with Him and into His body.
He also has purposes for us in sending people to our church. at times He chooses to send us needy people to teach us compassion. Other times He sends intellectual people to challenge our thinking. yet again He sends us people of a different nationality to teach us acceptance of all men. In all of this, let’s never forget that God is at work building His Church!
The church must remain open to all sincere seekers of truth in our day. To think for a minute that we have some say over what kind of people we will welcome into our church must grieve the heart of our heavenly Father. To exclude people because of their past, their race, or their upbringing is not God’s plan for His kingdom.
We also must consider each member important in this body. Two bad attitudes that are forbidden in First Corinthians 12 are (1) because you are not like me, you are not part of the body, and (2) because I am not like you, I am not part of the body. Both of these attitudes will destroy the brotherhood.
Revelation 4:11, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Yes, every human was created for God’s pleasure. They are important to Him. He longs to have them grow up into His likeness. He longs to receive worship from them. So He sends them to our church, trusting us to help them to a closer walk with Him. If this is going to happen, we must see each person as important to God and welcome each sincere believer into our fellowship!
Another important part of our relationship in this body of Christ is our feelings toward others. First
Corinthians 12: 2526 says, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” This is a true picture of acceptance and love for one another. When we willingly share our happy times, we honor the body of Christ. When we reach out to the hurting and sympathize with them, we prove our commitment to this body.
Someone has said that Christ’s words are the law of sympathy; Christ’s life was the model of sympathy; Christ’s cross is the motive to sympathy; Christ’s Spirit is the power of sympathy. Truly sympathy will be found in the body of Christ, the Church.
We must also remember that we too were once aliens from God. We received mercy from His hand. First Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” We must realize that we have no more right to be part of the body of Christ than others have. We must lay aside our feelings that “this is my church.” It is God’s church, and we should be thankful that He welcomed us into His kingdom upon conversion.
We also note that the Holy Spirit endows members with gifts to serve the church. after listing various gifts given by the Spirit to the church, Paul says, “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1Co 12:11). Not only does God set the members in this body, He also equips them for working in this body. It is fascinating to watch God at work bringing members into His kingdom, and the Holy Spirit at work blessing this church with the gifts needed to minister to the people He calls us to reach out to. How precious a privilege we have to be a part of His kingdom!
With these teachings laid down, let’s turn our minds to a few practical challenges. First, we must dissolve our cliques, open up our tight circle of friends, and involve our church family in our close friendships.
Let’s make special effort to welcome visitors, “outsiders,” and those seeking fellowship with us. remember those who do not have family ties in our churches like we do. Think of the less fortunate, the struggling ones, and the weak ones. Jesus taught us to remember those who cannot repay us. We should willingly take up the challenge of building relationships with people. This will enable us to better minister to them in needs they might have. It will also open the door for us to receive help from them. It is God’s will that we help each other become more like Jesus. This involves laity and ministry alike.
We are laborers together in this vineyard. God delights in bringing more “plants” into this vineyard. Yes, He might send some needy plants, dried up stalks, bitter roots, angry shoots, etc. How strong are we for this work? What will we do for God with those He sends to us? How much will we allow God to shape our lives through this work? Will we remember how needy we were one day outside of Christ?
When God sees fit to send strange people to our congregation, can we accept them? When He sends someone with a critical spirit, can we relate to that without retaliating? When he sends someone with questions, can we answer them kindly? When it’s someone whose personality irritates us, can we learn to love anyway? Can we accept that God has set these members in the body to teach us something? Or will we shun them or try to run away from them?
God may also choose to send us people who have more talents than we have. He at times sends us people who are more mature spiritually than we are; people with greater convictions in areas we may be weak in. He may send us successful people who pass us in many ways. Can we acknowledge their strengths and our weaknesses? Can we humbly learn and grow? Or do we think our ways are just fine and they should fit in with us? Can we look at the Word together and grow to be more like Christ?
We should also prepare our hearts for the day when God sets members in the body in more prominent positions than He has for us. Finally, it is God that sets the members in the body. Dare we question His hand? Do we think we know better where people should serve? Will we allow Him space to set the members as He sees fit, or will we try to manipulate His hand in this process?
May God give us grace to continue to share the Gospel and invite others into the Church. May we be the kind of church that God can use to bring more souls into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. God help us to be faithful in our day, discipling all those who will come along with us to glory!
~ Fredericksburg, PA