The Body of Christ
(Please look up the Scriptural references.)
When the Holy Spirit was poured out over fifty years ago, God brought into focus the infilling of the Holy Spirit with all His nine gifts. However, the gifts of the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, discernment of spirits, and miracles have been neglected in comparison to the gifts of speaking in tongues, interpretation, prophecy, and healing.
God has been moving steadily to bring together the members of the Body. There have been individuals and groups with the vision of the Body of Christ. But this is not enough, even though without a vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). Moses, for example, who had the true vision for forty years, could never possess his possession (Deuteronomy 32:48-52).
The plan of God for this last day is not going to be accomplished through an individual leader but through the members (1 Corinthians 12) of the Body fitly joined together so that no one can say to the other, “I have no need of thee.” We cannot afford to feel like Elijah, “And I, even I only, am left” (1 Kings 19:10). As God had His seven thousand then who had not bowed their knees to Baal, so He has those now throughout the world who have the true vision and are looking for the members of the Body, to be brought together for the Body-of-Christ ministry.
As Pentecostalism soon became another denomination, God graciously moved again in their ranks some 15 years ago in what came to be known as the Latter Rain. They had the vision of the Body of Christ and the ministry with the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, the enemy up to date has hindered the consummation of the bringing together of the Body. Then again, some eight years ago, God started moving among Episcopalians, and later on among other denominations. Joseph and Mary knocked at many doors to find an entrance for God’s plan, Jesus (Luke 2:7). The Lord has been trying to find an entrance for God’s plan, the Body of Christ.
Everything else before the bodily coming of the Lord failed: the sacrifices, the fastings, and the burdensome interpretations of the law. But when He came in His Body, the plan of God was accomplished. So up to now, churches, denominations, and organizations have failed. Only the Body of Christ can consummate His Perfect Plan.
Jesus’ example of yieldingness requires us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). When we have presented ourselves a living sacrifice unto God, upon the altar, we have given ourselves entirely to Him, for life. Only in this way do we become holy and acceptable unto God. This presentation means that we have been born again (John 3:7) and walk in all the newness of life and the light that he has given to us as individual members and to the church. Salvation and an honest heart purified by faith (Acts 15:9) are the prerequisites for being baptized with the Holy Spirit into His Body (1 Corinthians 12:13,14). Those baptized into His Body become the members who have denied themselves and the lusts of the flesh, thus being ushered into the supernatural of God, as the one hundred and twenty on the Day of Pentecost. Immediately those filled with the Holy Spirit began ministering in the Body-of-Christ, that is, doing that which had been and still is impossible to the unbaptized: they spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4). This supernatural move of God through the Body of Christ brought three thousand into the Body (Acts 2:41). The preaching of the Word after the manifestation of the gift of healing (Acts 3:12) at the Beautiful Gate added five thousand (Acts 4:4) to his Body. Peter, moved by the Holy Spirit, used the gifts of discernment of spirits, of the word of knowledge, of the word of wisdom, and of prophecy (Acts 5:1-11), and the apostles wrought many miracles (Acts 5:12).
Although a great number of believers today are dissatisfied with the programmed services offered in their churches, they do not know how and where to worship and minister in the way patterned according to the New Testament church. Others, who have left the man-organized and man-governed churches, move in supernatural realms without having proper teaching and without being fitly joined together with the other members of the Body. Therefore, many have suffered spiritual shipwreck and have brought shame on the true Body of Christ. They have not realized that satan has the advantage because they are ignorant of his devices.
The majority of “normal” church services today are entirely different from the services following the clear New Testament example. Today the worshipper is handed a printed program which he must follow and which leaves no room for the Holy Spirit to move. But even if the pastor asked the congregation to wait on the Lord for His direction of the service, they would not know how to, as teaching has been totally lacking. The Lord Jesus Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (the five-fold ministry) to His Body for the perfecting and building up of the members of the Body and for the work of their ministry until they come into the unity of the faith and perfection (Ephesians 4:11-13). Every single member has his part in the ministry of the Body. Through this five-fold ministry we receive the meat so that we grow up from being children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive us; into Him in all things to speak the truth in love. Only then are we truly directed by the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ our Lord, from Whom the whole Body is fitly joined together and compacted by every joint of supply, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:12-16).
As we look at the events in this final phase of our dispensation, we realize that no counterfeit, only the True Body of Jesus Christ will overcome the enemy and defeat his purpose utterly. Have you presented yourself without spot and wrinkle to the Bridegroom? Have you been fitly joined into His Body?
“He that overcometh shall inherit all things.”
We understand that there is not a single individual ministering, but the whole church; the brethren come together in unity.
We see then that in the true New Testament church the believers do not come together looking forward to the preacher’s message, the special song, or the pre-planned service. But rather they themselves gather to wait upon the Lord until the Holy Spirit operates in and through them for the glorification of the Lord and the edification of the whole church.
In recent years, we have seen glimpses of Body-of-Christ ministry and services that are truly directed by the Holy Spirit. A perfect church will have the five-fold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) and the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues, interpretation, prophecy, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discernment of spirits, miracles, gifts of healings, and faith) which are given for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ “till we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12,13).
All members of the Body participate in the service, each contributing his part, “for as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one Body in Christ, and everyone member one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching;” (Romans 12:4-7). This Scripture teaches us clearly that we are to wait on one another and not to go beyond the measure of faith we have or the unction of the Holy Spirit. To go beyond this measure, would be to enter into presumption and would open the way to the false supernatural. It is just as important to know when and where to start as it is to know when and where to stop, lest the Holy Spirit be grieved and quenched.
As our Lord knows our spiritual needs perfectly, He will supply them in each service accordingly. That is to say, by the end of each service, the church will have received whatever it needed; be it teaching, rebuke, comfort, exhortation, or revelation. It could also be a whole service of spiritual worship and adoration of the King of kings. Those filled with the Holy Spirit will at all times accept the spiritual judgments of the elders watching zealously for the good of the whole flock. It is not only essential to be tuned, that is, to be in harmony with the Holy Spirit, but also to be timed, that is, to operate the gift at the appropriate time. Thus, from the beginning of the service unto its end, the Lord will develop a theme into whose perfection all parts of the service are woven, the songs and prayers as much as the prophetic or doctrinal messages. Each service then will be blessedly different from others because He moves as He will.
From the beginning of the service unto its end, the Lord will develop a theme into whose perfection all parts of the service are woven, the songs and prayers as much as the prophetic or doctrinal messages.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8,9). Therefore, “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we pray for… but… He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26,27). In conclusion, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Amen.
At the time when Jesus was born, the wise men from the East had the true vision. They journeyed by faith and diligently sought the Christ. The prophetic word supported their vision (Matthew 2:5,6). Likewise, the shepherds did not question the angelic announcement of Jesus’ birth but went to Bethlehem in order “to see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us”—not: if this thing is come to pass…. (Luke 2:15)
In both instances, those who had the vision found the Christ only because they moved out by faith. In our time, there are those who understand the vision of the Body of Christ through the Word and prophecy. They too must arise by faith and seek earnestly the fitting together of the members of the Body of Christ.
Just as the Lord has given nine Holy-Spirit gifts to His Body, He has also given men to His Church who are endued with the ministries of the Holy Spirit. For this purpose, “the Lord gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11,12). Therefore, it is essential that these five ministries are exercised in the church if the Body of Christ is to be perfected.
From the Greek it may be maintained that there are either four or five ministries, depending on whether the last two are taken together or not. (The King James Version is literal even in the Greek parallelism.) What is the nature of these five (four) ministries?
Note that all ministries are in the plural. The men endued with the ministries are gifts to the church. Their calling is entirely of His Sovereign Will. The Holy Spirit ordains them. By their nature, none of these ministries can be confined permanently to one local church. The Holy Spirit designates place and duration of service.
Our next step then, as a part of the Body of Christ, is to pray and fast together and wait on the Lord that He might separate individual members for the work whereunto He has called them. “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord that though fulfill it.” Amen.
Only carnal minds cannot understand the perfect and necessary blend of the spiritual and natural aspects of the Christian life. When believers are off balance, they usually do not possess this blend of the natural and supernatural. Someone called to the ministry of the Word is not more important, more spiritual, or more precious than the other member of the Body of Christ who is called to the ministry of the needy and, among others, the administration of the Lord’s Supper. The chosen deacons (or servants, or ministers) have to meet very high requirements: they must be “of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom.” Stephen, for example, was “full of faith and power and did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (Acts 6:8) It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the spiritual and natural harmony in the church had God’s richest blessing upon it: “and the Word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)
When the Christian church spread throughout the Mediterranean countries and contact with the first local church at Jerusalem became less frequent, “the office of a deacon” (1 Timothy 3:10) was a firmly established and accepted part of every local ecclesia.
Let us consider—without indoctrinated prejudice—what the requirements for a true deacon are! According to Acts 6:1-7 and 1 Timothy 3:8-12, deacons must be: (1) of honest report, (2) full of the Holy Spirit, (3) full of wisdom, (4) grave (i.e., commanding respect), (5) not double-tongued, (6) not given to much wine, (7) not greedy of filthy lucre (i.e., craving wealth and resorting to dishonest methods of getting it), (8) holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, (9) proved and tried first, and admitted to the office when found blameless, (10) husbands of one wife who is – a) commanding respect, b) not a slanderer (gossiper), c) sober, d) faithful (trustworthy) in all things, (11) ruling their children well, and (12) ruling their houses (households) well.
Even if the husband fulfilled all his requirement, his wife and children must also be considered before he can be chosen as a deacon. What a difference to the standard of modern-day, denominational deaconry! There must be always more than one deacon in every local church.
The only other church office is that of an elder. He is also called bishop or overseer. (Acts 20:17,28; 1 Peter 5:1,2) What a pastor does for the whole church consisting of many local churches, i.e., the work of feeding her, is the task of the elders in the local church. There must be more than one elder in every such congregation, just as there must be more than one deacon. (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5) Church officers are chosen under Holy Spirit guidance and ordained by laying on of hands through the ministers (i.e., strictly: men who have one of the five ministries—apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and pastors).
The requirements for a bishop, or elder, are very high. According to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, elders must be: (1) blameless, (2) husbands of one wife, (3) vigilant, (4) sober, (5) of good behavior, (6) given to hospitality, (7) apt to teach, (8) not given to wine, (9) not strikers, (10) not greedy of filthy lucre, (11) patient, (12) not brawlers, (13) not covetous, (14) ruling well his own house, (15) having their children in subjection with all gravity (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?), (16) not novices (lest being lifted up with pride they fall into the condemnation of the devil), (17) have a good report of them which are without (lest they fall into reproach and the snare of the devil), (18) having faithful children, not accused of riot or unruly, (19) stewards of God, (20) not self-willed, (21) not soon angry, (22) lovers of good men, (23) sober, (24) just, (25) holy, (26) temperate, (27) holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught (that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers).
The main reason for the failure of all denominations is that they are not patterned according to God’s Plan. Even if man-ordained elders in some churches were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, they would not automatically fulfill the requirements quoted above. And even if they fulfilled all the requirements, they would still need Holy Spirit ordination for this most important office in the church.
Elders are to be highly respected by the church (1 Timothy 5:1,17,19; 1 Peter 5:5). Doctrinal disputes are settled by the apostles and elders (the highest ministry and highest office—Acts 15:2,4,6,22,23, 16:4, 21:18) and they decide financial matters of the church (Acts 11:30). The elders then are in charge of the local church: they guard the body of revealed truth against error, false doctrine, seducing spirits, and they condemn and correct fleshly and satanic counterfeits of the true manifestations of the Holy Spirit. They judge all spiritual matters concerning the church, watch over the conduct of all members and supervise the orderly and decent worship services. The elders are also ordained to pray for the sick with the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, according to James 5:14.
Paul not only taught and practiced these spiritual truths himself but also appointed others to do the same, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5).
Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). Note here that He did not say, “By their gifts ye shall know them.” According to Matthew 7:21-24, “the workers of iniquity” asked the Lord whether He did not know that they had used gifts to “do wonderful works.” Yet the Lord answered them that he had never known them despite their many works. In other words, the operation of gifts is not the evidence that we are known of the Lord, but the fruits which are the outgrowth of an abiding, crucified-with-Christ life are proof that we are known of Him. The fruits cannot be hung on a tree like Christmas tree decorations; rather they must grow and ripen during the process of our being transformed into His likeness. Only those who are “partakers of His Divine Nature,” that is, those who walk in the Spirit, can bring forth the fruits of the Spirit which are not sanctified flesh fruits but purely products of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us.
Therefore, it is erroneous to call the fruits “gifts.” God does not give us goodness, love, or meekness, for example, like someone would pin a medal on us, but rather they grow in us and out of us and “if we have these things and abound, they make us that we shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). The kind and amount of fruits, then, determine our spiritual status. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul speaks very plainly about the difference between gifts and fruits. Love is indeed the greatest fruit because it must always be the ruling principle in the gift ministry.
This, however, does not mean that the fruits rule out the gifts or vice versa. First of all, gifts are not natural talents or naturally-developed skills or abilities. All spiritual gifts are entirely supernatural and given “severally as He will.”
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (1 Corinthians 12:1). In our day, many Christians are ignorant and often willfully so, about spiritual gifts which “we should earnestly covet” (1 Corinthians 12:31). A spiritual gift is a divinely-given ability to perform an act which is impossible for the natural man. The true church of Christ, His Bride or Body, needs all nine gifts because the warfare she carries on is a supernatural one and cannot be fought and won in the natural. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Throughout the book of Acts, we see the apostles and other members of the church using the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God. When the lame man was healed (Acts 3), or Ananias and Sapphira were exposed (Acts 5), only the use of the gifts could accomplish these miracles.
When the nine gifts are in operation in a local church, there is no problem and no situation which cannot be met victoriously in God’s way. What a shame it is for the Church that some of its members are under psychiatric treatment for years without any hope of complete cure. Would it not be to the glory of God if someone in the church using the gifts of discernment of spirits and miracles delivered such unfortunate people in the Name of Jesus? What if the church again used the gift of prophecy to go before kings and rulers? There is a famine in the land; a famine not of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord (Amos 8:11).
Do you earnestly believe that the present-day churches fed on the husks (when there is a banquet in their father’s house) can victoriously and gloriously meet the needs of the nations without Holy Spirit Power? Where are the prophets for our day? We do not mean those who utter some weak prophecies in a cozy group, but those who will prophesy to the nations with a divine commission, prophets who can truly say, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Has the Christian church lost its savour, or do the saints still want to be the salt of the earth? What will happen to the rest of the world when our nation goes under? Our youth is being dragged to the pit by many hellish devices! Only a church which is equipped with the Power of God and the gifts of the Spirit can withstand the onslaught of the world and of satan.
“And the God of peace shall bruise satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:20)
- Revelation gifts:
- the gift of the word of wisdom
- the gift of the word of knowledge
- the gift of discernment of spirits
- Utterance gifts:
- the gift of prophecy
- the gift of tongues
- the gift of interpretation of tongues
- Power gifts:
- the gift of faith
- the gift of miracles
- the gift of healings
The gift of the word of knowledge is the God-given ability to bring forth a word of knowledge, that is, a revelation concerning a person or a thing you could not humanly know anything about. The word of knowledge is always given to help and build up a person or a group.
The gift of the word of wisdom is the God-given ability to bring forth a word of wisdom, that is, revelation how to handle a difficult situation. At times it accompanies the word of knowledge in order to apply it with wisdom.
The gift of discernment of spirits is the God-given ability to detect the presence and ascertain the identity of spirits, both of the Spirit of God and evil spirits.
The gift of prophecy is the God-given ability to bring forth in your own language a message from the Lord for edifying, exhorting, or comforting the church. Prophecy is not premeditated or foreknown. It does not exist until the moment it is given. Prophecy is as much “news” to the prophet or prophetess as to those who listen. The gift of tongues is the God-given ability to bring forth a message from the Lord in a language not learned or understood. The gift of interpretation of tongues is the God-given ability to interpret (not translate!), that is, to bring forth the sum and substance of what has been spoken in an unknown tongue. The operation of the last two gifts is equal to the gift of prophecy.
The gift of faith is the God-given ability to believe for the humanly impossible to come to pass. The gifts of healings is the God-given ability to heal all manner of diseases. The gift of miracles is the God-given ability to perform a miracle, that is, something which is entirely contrary to the laws of nature.
You might ask where these gifts were operated in the New Testament church. Immediately after the first believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, they exercised the gifts: Jews from fifteen foreign nations who had come to Jerusalem heard the preaching of the word in their own language because the disciples spoke in other tongues. Later at the Gate Beautiful, Peter and John exercised the gift of faith and the gift of miracles to heal the lame man who had been begging at the temple gate all his life.
In Acts 5, we find Peter using five of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to handle a problem in the church. Through the gift of discernment of spirits, he detected and identified a lying spirit in Ananias which made him lie to the Holy Spirit. Through the gift of the word of knowledge, Peter knew that Ananias and his wife Sapphira had agreed to keep back part of the price of the land. He could not possibly have known about this secret agreement. The way Peter handled Ananias and especially his wife, when she came in three hours later, shows the use of the gift of wisdom. Peter prophesied her end. The prophecy was fulfilled instantly. The operation of the gift of faith is most clearly seen in Peter’s faith that the miracle of Ananias’s sudden death would be repeated with his wife.
The effect of the use of these Holy Spirit gifts was that “great fear came upon all the church and upon as many as heard these things. But of the rest durst no man join himself to them.” The disciples were known as men who turned the world upside down because of the power manifested through them—after they had obeyed Jesus’ command to wait in Jerusalem until they were imbued with power from on high. Today, the Lord is restoring to us the years that the locust has eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar and the palmerworm.
The disciples were known as men who turned the world upside down because of the power manifested through them.
If ever there was a day in which the full power of the Holy Spirit was needed—it is today! All pleading and reasoning would not have freed the people of God from Egyptian bondage. It was the performance of miracles through Moses that not only broke the opposition of Pharaoh but destroyed Egypt. In our day, there are so many forces or evil at work to enthrone Antichrist that the conventional type of preaching and conducting services will not do—and indeed has not done! We must preach the Gospel in the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit! Healing the sick and casting out of devils as well as speaking with new tongues are the signs that must follow the preaching of the Gospel, according to the promise of Jesus in Mark 16:17,18. We must do greater things than Jesus, because He has gone to the Father!
God is willing to give us more than adequate Holy Spirit power to meet the demands of our day. Why do so many believers deny the healing power of Jesus Christ for us today? Because they have never witnessed a healing miracle in their midst. Why are so many bored in their “worship” services? Because they have to go through a stereotyped performance each Sunday. They are never taught to move in the Spirit, to worship in spirit and truth! If the congregation gathered in the Spirit to worship the Lord Jesus Christ and sit at His feet, they would stay in the House of the Lord all day long, as they do in the churches Bakht Singh organized in India; there the believers spend nine hours and more in fellowship with the Risen Lord on the Lord’s Day.
The vision of the Body of Christ is not a pet theme, a daydream or wishful thinking: there will be a conquering, overcoming church, the Bride of Christ for Jesus Christ not only died for our sins but “also loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might present it to Himself a glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).
“If MY people, which are called by MY Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek MY face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
There are many Christians who know that God has a Plan. They may even have a revelation of His Plan and a clear vision, but still never be in it. To be a spectator or “expert” on spiritual matters is not enough. God never purposes to entertain the believers when He gives them insight into His Plan, but rather invites them to take an active part in glorifying Him in the carrying out of His Plan.
God determined His Plan before the foundation of the world. Its purpose is first the redemption of fallen man through the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. But what is to become of the company of the redeemed? Are they to live as redeemed, sanctified, baptized-in-the-Spirit people without any preparation for ages to come? Or are they to grow spiritually until they have come into the fullness of the stature of Christ? There is a consummation of God’s Plan which will come in the fullness of times. This glorious consummation is the union, or marriage, or Christ and His Bride, which is His Church, His Body.
Have you ever meditated on the Body of Christ? Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:23 that the Body of Christ is the fullness of Christ. Do you truly grasp what this means? It means that Christ is being brought to His completion by the growth-to-fullness of His Body. Head and Body are one, not two separate entities. This still means that Christ is all-sufficient.
To Paul, as one of the holy apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:5) was granted the revelation of the mystery of Christ which had been extant but hid in God until Paul’s time. Through the unveiling of this mystery, the Church of Christ has been made conscious of her high calling and destiny: the Body is the fullness (completion) of Christ, the Head. Without the Body, Christ cannot be complete. The absolute, all-inclusive and most glorious completeness of Christ will be achieved when the one body of many members will become one with the Head (1 Corinthians 12:12). The oneness will be consummated when the Father will gather together in one all things in Christ, by the marriage. The fullness of His Body will provide the habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).
You may ask yourself, “Where is this Body of Christ?” The Body of Christ is a spiritual Body consisting of many members who are born of the Spirit of God. The members are set (placed) in the Body according to God’s purpose and pleasure (1 Corinthians 12:18). That is why it is so important that the members of the Body of Christ know their function in the Body and not try to be something they were never called to be. Have you thought that you are a “more feeble member” of the Body of Christ? Read in 1 Corinthians 12:22: “They are necessary!” Just because you are not called to be an apostle does not mean at all that you have no part of the Body of Christ. “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonor? That He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:20-24) Also read in 1 Corinthians 12:23. Are you functioning as that member of the Body of Christ which He called you to be?
As membership in the Body of Christ is based on the spiritual birth, race distinctions cannot matter for those who are “in Christ.” Jew and Gentile, therefore, are “of the same body” (Ephesians 3:6), “quickened together with Christ, raised up together, made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5,6). Both Jew and Gentile “have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:14,18).
As the fulfillment of end-time prophecies is highlighting the coming to a close of this dispensation, the Gentile Christians must be especially careful not to be blind to the role of the Jews in the Plan of God for the Body of Christ. The born-again Jews were blind to the role of the Gentiles until the Lord opened the door to them through Peter at the house of Cornelius. Christians today need no revelation or vision like Peter had in order to understand the importance of the Jews in God’s Plan because the Holy Scriptures plainly declare that the Jews are not cast off by God, but rather that they were given the spirit of slumber (Romans 11:8) which is the veil upon their hearts. Let us pray fervently and faithfully that the Lord will again pour out His Spirit upon Jews everywhere so that they may turn with their hearts to Jesus Christ. The veil is not upon their hearts so that they might not believe, as some suppose; rather, the veil is immediately lifted when the Jews turn to the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:16).
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
As Israel at the time of the early church was blind to the role of the Gentiles in God’s Plan, Gentile Christians have been no less blind to the role of the Jews in the Body of Christ. Who has done this? An enemy has done this! There are Christians who see that a handful of Jews have come into the church, but the majority of Christians do not understand that a large ingathering of Jews is necessary for the completion of the Body of Christ.
The union of Jew and Gentile in the Body of Christ is the fulfillment of the Plan of God. Satan has stirred up nation after nation to destroy national Israel from the face of the earth. Many Gentile Christians act as if the Jews had been cut off from God’s Plan. Not so! For “if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15)
From the time of the patriarchs down through the ages to our day, the Lord has always had a remnant, spiritual Israel, within national Israel—even during times of national idolatry, during the Babylonian captivity, and in the present dispersion. In our day we observe that “even at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace,” just as it was revealed to the apostle Paul (Romans 11:5).
When national Israel rejected Messiah—our Lord Jesus Christ at His first coming—their rejection of Him brought blessing to the Gentiles. It was to national Israel that God ultimately “sent His Son, saying, They will reverence My Son.” They refused their last opportunity when they said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.” (Matthew 21:33-46; cf. also Acts 3:12-26; 7:51,52) The rejection of the Son closed the door to Israel, but opened a door to the Gentiles.
Following their rejection of Messiah, “some of the branches were broken off.” This means that the unbelieving portion of Israel was broken off the good olive tree. The remnant, or spiritual Israel, remained in the good olive tree. (Romans 11:16,17) In place of the broken-off branches, the Gentiles, who are branches of the wild olive tree, were grafted into the good olive tree. But that does not mean that God has cast away His people forever. The fact that “blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in,” proves that this part-blindness will end after a certain space of time. (Romans 11:25)
Since their grafting in, the Gentiles have partaken “of the root and fatness of the olive tree” which is to say that they, who “were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in this world” (Ephesians 2:12), entered by faith into the promises and blessings of Israel. In Ephesians 2:19-22, we are taught that the Gentiles are no longer “strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints (Israel) and of the household of God. We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (who were all Jews), Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. In Him all the building fitly framed together growth unto an holy temple in the Lord”—the Body of Christ—“in whom WE ALSO are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” That is to say, the Gentiles came into God’s Plan as foreigners and were naturalized by faith through the Blood of Jesus.
However, we must remember that the Gentiles never took the place of national Israel in God’s Plan. Israel has yet to come into his own “and so shall all Israel be saved.” (Romans 11:26)
The unbelieving portion of Israel was “broken off because of their unbelief,” and was diminished “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:12,20,25)
If Israel’s unbelief brought salvation to the Gentiles, what will their faith in Jesus Christ bring to the world! How glorious it will be when this mystery, hidden because of ignorance for nearly two thousand years, will be unveiled! (Romans 11:15,25)
Even though the Israelites became “enemies of the Gospel” for the Gentiles’ sake, Israel’s election has not changed. They are still “beloved for their fathers’ sakes, because the gifts and calling of God are unchanging.” (Romans 11:29)
The Gentiles, without meriting mercy, and while still in unbelief, received mercy because of Israel’s unbelief. For this reason the Gentiles must not be high-minded but are to fear, for they were only grafted into the olive tree, which supports them (Romans 11:29,20,18). Surely the Lord will not spare the wild olive branches, grafted into the good olive tree, unless they bear fruit, for neither did He spare the natural branches (Romans 11:21-24).
We dare not boast against the broken-off branches (Israel in temporary exclusion) but rather continue in goodness lest we also be cut off (Romans 11:18,22). Let us ask the Lord to put upon us strong cries and intercession for the Jews, that they may turn with all their heart to the Lord Jesus Christ and be awakened out of their slumber. Without the fullness of the Jews, the Body of Christ will never be complete. This also means that God’s Plan can never be complete without them. “For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear bruit upward.” (Isaiah 37:32,31)
According to God’s mysterious plan, the Israelites who do not believe now, are to obtain mercy through our mercy. Therefore, we must not be ignorant of this mystery (an apostolic commandment!) but rather intercede for Israel so that they will obtain mercy and have the veil which is now upon their hearts removed. “Oh the depth of the wealth both of the Wisdom and Knowledge of God! How inscrutable His judgments, how trackless His footsteps.” (Weymouth, Romans 11:33)
Many of you must be wondering where this Body of Christ we have been writing about is actually in operation. We can well understand this because we hear people talk about the Body of Christ, write about it, and preach about it; but where can we find the reality or even the beginnings of the Body of Christ?
The Body of Christ is not a new denomination but rather the calling out of the overcoming believers from all the man-made denominations. In our group, for example, we have believers who have come out of nine denominations: we have former Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Mission Covenant, German Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and independent Evangelicals. We do not confer formal membership but we insist upon regeneration (according to John 3:3,5) as the imperative and the minimum condition for participation. All of us are tithers. We meet three times a week: on Sundays for worship services lasting from 3 to 4 hours; on Mondays for Bible studies and teaching; and on Tuesdays for prayer, intercession, and deliverance ministry.
We believe that as we go on in our preparation time, the Lord will add to our number not only such as should be saved but also those who will be elders and deacons according to New Testament standards and the four ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 so that we will be a fully-functioning, local New Testament church.
During its time of preparation, God is not putting the Body of Christ on public display and does not permit it to make any fair show in the flesh. This does not mean that the members of the Body of Christ are waiting passively for future perfection, but rather that they are actively engaged in their preparation spirit, soul, and body, and they press the battle to the very gates. We can compare the preparation in our day to the time of Noah who preached for 120 years, while “the ark was a preparing” (1 Peter 3:20). All who heard Noah’s call had an opportunity to prepare themselves for God’s next move, the judgment of the flood. But once the flood had come upon the unprepared, it was forever too late to repent or to enter the ark: the time of preparation had passed for them.
So it is in our time. The Lord by His Spirit is calling out a people for Himself. Those that heed His call will “come out of her” (Revelation 18:4) and submit willingly to the workmanship of the Lord so that He may fit them into their appointed place in the Body of Christ. This coming out can never be a weekly sneak-out under cover to attend a prayer meeting where the gifts of the Spirit are manifested and where these spiritual adventurers can get a whiff of the reviving wind of the Holy Spirit to relieve the tedium of their dull denominational services. One cannot participate in the Body of Christ on a part-time basis but it means to be in the workshop of God’s preparation all the time. The grind of the workshop is not popular with carnal Christians because its purpose is hidden from the wise and prudent.
When Solomon was building the temple according to God’s plan, he fulfilled in type God’s present fitting together of the Body of Christ which will be His habitation through the Spirit.
We read in 1 Kings 6:7, “And the house, when it was in the building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither.” That is to say that every stone and part of the temple was put through every phase of workmanship until each was brought into entire conformity to its peculiar place in the Master’s design. Only when each part fits perfectly with all its adjoining parts is it fitted into the temple: first made ready, and then brought forth. The Scripture declares furthermore, “that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.” When all parts of the temple were completed in the workshop, they were joined on holy ground without any further work or adjustment. As a result, after the temple was finished, “the cloud filled the house of the Lord. So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord filled the house.” When Christ in all His glory fills His church, all labor of man will cease and no flesh shall glory in His sight.
While the ten virgins were in the time of preparing themselves for the coming of the Bridegroom, only half of them made themselves ready for His coming. When the “cry was made, Behold the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him,” the five wise virgins went in whereas the five foolish virgins had spent their time of dealing and preparation and had burnt up their portion of oil so that at the most crucial moment “their lamps had gone out.” Upon their desperate cry, Lord, Lord, open to us!” He answered, “Verily, I say unto you, I know you not” (Matthew 25:1-13).
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:22). The members of the Body of Christ who are going through the preparation in God’s workshop are hidden from the world, “till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
“Lord, who has believed our message? Faith then comes from a message heard, and the message from the lips of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Yes, indeed: To the whole world their voice has sounded forth and their words to the bounds of the earth” (Romans 10:16-18, Weymouth). Amen!
By Hannah Lowe