(5) A BODY
THE human body is a wonderful unity, not merely because of the physical connection of its parts, but by the presence in all parts of One Pervading Life. This may be less obvious in relation to a company of believers, but it is equally true—in fact the unity between member and member is far more wonderful, by reason of the fact that here the pervading life is the Spirit of Christ— “in one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." The objection that this refers to the church universal does nothing (even if valid) to destroy the local application, for " now are ye the body of Christ " implies that an assembly should be the expression of what is universal, fn any case since the Spirit of Christ is in all believers, they have a corporate spiritual life in one all-pervading and unifying element.
To injure a member, then, is to injure the body. To injure one is to injure all. “We are members one of another." More solemn still, when we injure a member of the body we injure the Head. Saul of Tarsus learned this never-forgotten lesson when challenged by the risen Lord, not with persecuting ' My people,' but " why persecutest thou Me?" We should as little think of insulting or slighting a fellow-believer as we would of insulting Christ—it is the same thing. “When ye so sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ." This sobering truth has its other side—a service rendered to a member of the body is also rendered to Christ. Turning from responsibility to privilege, we next note that hi the body
Each Member Has His Place.
“Now hath God set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased HIM."
Few would venture to suggest any improvement in the arrangement of the physical body—most admire the divine wisdom which has placed the members where they can function with maximum efficiency for the benefit of the whole organism. So in the spiritual body, there is a divinely-appointed sphere for each believer, and we may be quite sure that what pleases God is wisest and happiest for us all. An assembly can function at its highest spiritual efficiency when each member is able to discern his appointed sphere, and is willing to fill it cheerfully and devotedly for the glory of God and the blessing of his fellows.
If one does with his whole heart what lies nearest to his hand, it will not be long before he reaches conviction as to his niche, and discovers that for his niche
Each Member Has His Gift.
The importance of this point may be judged from the fact that it is made clear in all of the three principal passages which take up the figure of the body:—
“According as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom. 12. 3); "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. . . dividing to every man severally as He will "(1 Cor. 12. 7, 11); “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph. 4. 7).
The gifts are bestowed by the risen Christ but they arc distributed according to the Spirit's will. This is something more than natural ability—it is spiritual equipment to enable one to fill his appointed sphere. In these gifts there are diversities, but they are all divided out by the one Spirit, so that it is not a question of human attainment, although we have a responsibility to exercise them properly—not to “neglect " them, but to “stir them up." God is a God of unity but not uniformity—perhaps we would like our brethren to conform to little patterns of our devising, but God prefers to give each his distinctive individuality and endow him with his own gift.
Nevertheless, “diversities of gifts" might lead to confusion were it not that
Each Member Has His Function.
“There arc differences of administrations”; “There are diversities of operations "; "All members have not the same office."
It is foolish to ape someone else. By attempting to mould ourselves upon another's pattern, we are not only attempting the impossible, but what, if we could succeed, would merely duplicate what God did not want duplicated, whilst "at the same time depriving the body of something necessary to its completion. Even greater harm is done when a dissatisfied member attempts to usurp the proper function of another—it results in confusion and unhappiness. In the natural body our ears render a unique service which no other members can, or attempt to, perform. If the eyes abandoned their office to serve as ears, the body would be rendered blind without any corresponding improvement in hearing. On the other hand the body has amazing powers of adaptability, and, to some extent at least, organs seem to have the ability to compensate, by increased sensibility or skill, for the failure of another, but the process involves a strain upon the unfortunate individual. Similarly some assemblies are afflicted with those whose determination to occupy a sphere to which they are not called (and therefore not fitted) renders them unwilling and unfit to perform their true function, and so there is imposed upon others the strain of trying to make up the deficiency.
It would be interesting to consider in what respects individuals can be to the assembly what the members mentioned in 1 Cor. 12. 15-17 (feet, hands, ears, eyes, etc.) are to the body, but we must pass on to the fact that
No One Member Is Sufficient.
The most gifted member, albeit the most godly, can never be adequate to the need—a member he can be, an important member no doubt, but no more. The eye is an invaluable organ in the body but “if the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?" “And if they were all one member, where were the body?”
The most prominent and, indeed, what we might regard as the most useful members are not the most vital. Arms and legs, eyes and ears, are invaluable to us and we could regard the loss of any one only with dismay, but the body can survive the loss of them, whilst the loss of other hidden and forgotten organs would spell death. An assembly can get on without gifted men, but it cannot survive without spiritual men.
However feeble some may appear,
Each Member Is Necessary.
“Those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary." “The eye cannot say to the hand, ' I have no need of thee.' "
We used to be told that certain organs in the body were redundant and now performed no useful function, but medical science—impressed by the marvels of anatomy, revealed by intensive research—is far less ready than formerly, to dismiss any organ as useless. Although their purpose may still remain obscure, the conviction is growing that greater knowledge will reveal the contribution they make to the body's health. Are we to judge a person's value to the assembly merely by the degree of prominence his gift secures him? Is no value to be put upon the gracious, perhaps indefinable, influence exerted by an obscure saint who brings the spirit of Christ to the gathering? It may well be that his is the greater contribution. Are we not safe in believing that many a humble soul who, alas, may come and go almost unnoticed, renders the assembly a signal service by his (or, more likely, her) prayerful support ? Such may not ' enjoy ' the dubious honour given to more prominent individuals, but if we were wise enough to discern their worth we would “bestow more abundant honour upon them."
Members Are Inter-dependent
Hands and feet are dependent upon " The whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth "—never forgetting, of course, that, even so, everything depends upon " holding the Head."
The successful evangelist will gladly own that, in the battle for the souls of men, much depends upon saints who kneel in the closet before he stands on the platform. The busy teacher, who thanks God for the refreshment of spirit often granted in his ministry, knows full well that his word had power because he was supported by unknown intercessors. Much time, money, effort and efficiency are lost by overlapping, but there can only be untold gain from that loyal co-operation which supplements the efforts of one another. We have chosen as our illustrations the more obvious cases, but who does not know how the assembly becomes happy and vigorous when all are able to tiring their distinctive contributions to its life and service?
Surely the truths we have been considering make it clear that there is
No Occasion for Jealousy.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God."
This impressive suggestion of the unity of the Holy Trinity in the operations of the assembly should create that atmosphere of awe and reverence where jealousy would be unable to raise its ugly head, but we cannot afford to ignore the wickedness of our deceitful hearts. But why be jealous of your brother? True—he has a place and a gift you have not; but, equally so, you have a place and a gift he has not. The same Spirit which imparted to him his gift, imparted yours, and seeing it is according to His will, and neither yours nor your brother's, your part is cheerfully to embrace the Spirit's purpose, so that by the operation of the same God in you both, the Lord may be glorified and His people blessed. What higher privilege could there be? Guard your own gift as a sacred deposit and “wait on “your ministry. If your brother's gift involves him in greater prominence, it also involves him in greater danger and, instead of envying his seemingly greater responsibility, you should fear for him as one who “shall receive the greater condemnation “if, alas, he should fail. Whilst you foolishly envy him, perhaps he would be thankful if he could with a clear conscience accept a less perilous sphere, (rive him your prayerful co-operation and earn the Lord's commendation.
But if there is no occasion for jealousy, there is certainly No Occasion for Pride in one's own gift. If you are conscious of having been entrusted with a gift, how foolish to boast as though it were your own doing. "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?”
Paul did not meet the Corinthians' foolish boasting by denying or belittling their gifts—rather he thanked God that they came “behind in no gift." What he did say was, "Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it."
A man is not to ape mock modesty and deny that he can be of any help, but a man is “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think." It is no credit to a man who for the number of years he has known the Lord should have reached something approaching spiritual maturity, if he cannot discern in what way the Lord is pleased to use Him, but he must “think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the- measure of faith." Humble thankfulness for the exquisite privilege? Yes! A due sense of accountability? Yes! But pride? There is no surer way of destroying the usefulness of the very gift in which he glories! To what end is all this?
(a) The Welfare of the Body.
The communion of the body of Christ should express itself in a wholesome regard for fellow-members—" there should be no schism in the body . . . the members should have the same care one for another." “Whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it." How often have tried and troubled saints found their sorrows easier to bear because the love of Christ has been expressed to them in the sympathy of their fellows. There is no need to descend to unwholesome sentimentality, but the virile love of Christ can be shown in being “kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love."
But we are exhorted to something even harder than suffering with those who suffer—we are to rejoice with those who are singularly blessed. If “one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it." Can we thank God and rejoice with a brother when his prayers are answered and ours seem not to be? If his service is blest and we seem to toil in vain, do we so recognize the oneness we have in the body that we feel we have been honoured because a fellow-member has been?
(b) Usefulness to Christ.
“Now ye (the assembly) are the body of Christ." Have we lost the vision of what the local assembly could be, as an organism through which Christ could express Himself? If your assembly were a healthy body, every member energized and controlled by the one all-pervading Spirit, its many gifts in gracious exercise, its activities all co-ordinated to the master-plan, its operations under one divine supervision (" all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit"), could it not be a wonderful body which Christ would be glad to use for the blessing of your neighbourhood? Paul's desire for the Philippians was that they should “stand fast in one spirit with one soul, striving together for the faith of the gospel." The idea here is that the church in its service for Christ should present such an appearance of unity in its various operations as to suggest that all were possessed of but one soul. Instead of lamenting that so few show promise of rising to this height, let each of us resolve that we, “holding the Head” should at least be a channel of " nourishment' to the body, that it may be “knit together " and " increase with the increase of God."