Members of Christ and One Another

January 31, 2021 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: The Church: Members of Christ and One Another

Topic: The Church Passage: Romans 12:3–8

Today, we are starting a new series on the church. Specifically the local church and what it means to be the body of Christ locally. Theologians have typically spoken of the church in two ways - the universal church church and the local church. The universal church is every person, everywhere, at every time who has ever or will ever believe in Christ. The local church is churches that gather locally, serve one another and communities in a local context. 

In the next several weeks, we are going to take a look at what it means to be a faithful, committed member of the body of Christ - taking different statements from our RLC Covenant statement (all from the bible). We are a consumer-driven people. We consume and we look for the best deal on the most appealing product. We cannot approach the church that way. When it comes to the church, Christ the Lord calls us to commitment. He calls us to give ourselves to Him and His church in a local context. 

Out of love for Christ and his love for the church. Jesus doesn’t just love the church in its entirety (which he does) - he also loves all of its constituent parts. He loves local bodies, local churches where his work is carried out in local contexts - think of the seven churches that Jesus addressed in Revelation 2-3. As we grow in our love for Jesus the Head of the Church, we will love his church and we will give ourselves to real, on the ground involvement as living members of a local body. 

But this morning I want to look at a text that lays out for us what a church is in its essence. It really gets to the heart of the identity (the fundamental identity) of the church - of course the universal church, but also to each true, local church. Let's read Romans 12:3-8.

There are two main points: The church’s identity is found:

1) In Christ: A local Church is “one body in Christ

2) With one another: A local Church is “individually members of one another


Identity “In Christ”: We are “One Body In Christ” - verse 5

So we, though many, are one body in Christ (v. 5)

A Church fundamentally identifies with Christ. It does not first and foremost identify with a tradition, a political party, a country, an ethnicity or race. Our identity as a church is that we are “one body in Christ”. 

We are united “in Christ”, through Christ, because of Christ. Jesus Christ creates a unity among his people that we cannot create ourselves. Think of how often you call another Christian a brother or sister. That is because of the unity we have in Christ. Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers. He has brought us into the family of God and therefore we are united as brothers and sisters - children of God. Galatians 3:26-28 says,

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ through faith. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

The point of these verses is not to absolutely remove all human distinctions - like male and female for instance. The point is our unity in Christ. Think of the supernatural nature of the church. It is not just a human institution. Martyn Lloyd Jones said that the church is “super-human and super-natural. It is a spiritual society.” And it is united in Christ.

But I think there is more to this phrase, and I want to key in on the two words, “in Christ”. This points us to the biblical truth of our union with Christ - I heard it said this is “the most important doctrine you haven’t heard of”. There is a universe of riches in the phrase “in Christ”. If somehow you could monetize every square inch of real estate in the entire cosmos and put a dollar amount to it, it could not compare to the riches contained in these two words, “In Christ”. John Murray in his book Redemption Accomplished and Applied said the following: 

Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation… it is not simply a phase of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption.

This is so central to Paul’s definition of what a Christian is - a man or woman “in Christ” (160 times). To be in Christ means that when we trust in Christ as our Lord, Savior, Treasure a union is created with him so that all that can be shared with us is “in Christ”. Listen to how Martin Luther put it:

Faith unites the soul with Christ, as a bride is united with her bridegroom.  From such a marriage, as Paul says, it follows that Christ and the soul become one body, so that they hold all things in common, whether for better or worse. This means that what Christ possesses belongs to the believing soul, and what the soul possesses belongs to Christ. Thus Christ possesses all good things and holiness; these now belong to the soul. The soul possesses lots of vices and sin; these now belong to Christ. Christ, the rich, noble and holy bridegroom, takes in marriage this poor, contemptible and sinful little prostitute, takes away all her evil and bestows all his goodness upon her! Sin can no longer overwhelm her, for she is now found in Christ.

This is why Paul can say in Ephesians 1:3 that every spiritual blessing is given to us “in Christ”. Think about that. Here is a sampling of all that is ours “in Christ”: 

  • There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1)
  • We receive grace in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4)
  • We are made new men and women in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • We are sanctified and being sanctified in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • We are redeemed in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • We are justified in Christ (Philippians 3:9)
  • We are forgiven in Christ (Ephesians 4:32)
  • We receive eternal life in Christ (Romans 6:23)
  • We were chosen in Christ before the world was made (Ephesians 1:4)
  • We cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:39)
  • We are adopted in Christ (Galatians 4:4-6)

These are unspeakably glorious truths. And so now, what does this mean for us as a body? What does it mean that we are one body “in Christ? Well, all of these things are true of us together as a body! We experience all of these things together. 

We are free from condemnation together. We are grace-soaked people. We are a new people together. We are being a sanctified, growing in Christ-likeness together. We are the redeemed people of God together. We are a people justified fully through Calvary’s blood together. We are fully forgiven people together. We are recipients of the free gift of eternal life together. We are a people with the Spirit of adoption together. We cannot be separated from the love of God together. All because we are “one body in Christ”. 

It is no small thing to be a part of the body of Christ. It is no small thing to be vitally connected as an integral member of a local body. Christ died to obtain the church - Real Life Church - with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Christ spilled his blood to unite us in Him and bestow such riches upon us! 

So we identify with Christ. We are one body “in Christ.” But we also identify with one another. We are “individually members one of another.”


Identity “with one another”

… and individually members one of another. (v. 5)

Notice how there is a dual emphasis here. We are individuals. In other words, there is quite a lot of diversity in a healthy body. Individually is valued in Christ. Paul could have said we are “one body in Christ and members of one another…” And that would have been true. He emphasizes that we are individuals… 

Of course, we are not just individuals. We are individuals who are members of one another. We serve no purpose outside the body doing our own thing. What is the purpose of my right hand? It is not to do its own thing. My right hand finds its meaning, its God-given purpose, in serving the good of the rest of my body. In washing my face and picking up a fork to bring food to my mouth. And so it is with you and the body of Christ. The way God has made you cannot be fully known except in serving the other members in the body as you rely on Christ. In verse 6 this is drawn out, or these two things are brought together. 

Having gifts that differ (individual) according to the grace given to us (unity - same grace), let us use them.

Let us use them. Peter says almost the same thing in 1 Peter 4:11: “as each one has received a gift, use it…” Use it. Or in NASB, “employ it”, put it to work. Let’s use the abilities God has given us. To what end? For the good of the body. So that the body is built up and strengthened. Listen to Ephesians 4:15-16:

15 speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

That’s the point. United in Christ - individuals working together, serving one another in the strength Christ provides, so that the body of Christ is built up in love. So that we are strong. So that we are faithful. So that we represent our Lord well. If you are not actively working for the building up of the body of Christ, you are like a lame hand or foot. 

I want to end this morning, by thinking about some reasons why your vital connection to and commitment to the body of Christ in a local context is vitally important. 


Why Is This Important?

Why is it important that you are a connected, committed, integral member of the body? Why is it important that you identify with Christ and with a particular people in a local context? Let me give you three reasons:

1) Worship

We exist to worship. And the preeminent purpose of the church is to worship. fundamentally, it all starts here. Why did God call the Israelites out of Egypt? What did he want them to do? Worship! Westminster Shorter - “What is the chief end of man?” And together we are to glorify God. Listen to Romans 15:5-6:

5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What I’ve laid out today in understanding the church is vital to our worship.


2) Fellowship

More than hanging out, watching football, drinking coffee. The word fellowship “Koinonia” in the NT meant. It meant a sharing in life together. Acts 2:42-45 (“they had everything in common (koinos). We see a glimpse of how important this was to the persecuted Christians the book of Hebrews was written to. Hebrews 10 (compassion shown to those in prison - probably food and other survival items while in prison). The local church was a lifeline. 

More and more this is going to be important for us. Don’t forsake the fellowship. It is vitally important that you remain in fellowship. It is for your life, your protection, your sanctification and growth in godliness.


3) Witness

Just as we use our bodies to accomplish tasks, so the Lord carries out His saving work through His body - his hands and feet so to speak. Think about the book of Acts. What can account for the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the Roman empire in merely 30 years? Well, of course it would be right to say the Holy Spirit’s work, right? But there is another way to answer too that is equally right. It was the body of Christ, full of the Spirit going and sending, preaching and serving, contributing and showing hospitality, showing mercy and speaking truth to power. 

Jesus tells us that our corporate life is an apologetic and a witness to outsiders: 

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." ~ John 13:34-35

After Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, we see what happened in this newly formed church. Three thousand believed and were baptized. And what was the effect? 

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. ~ Acts 2:42-47

The Lord added. Amen. We are “one body in Christ… and individually members one of another.” This is vitally important, not just that it be a spiritual truth we mentally adhere to, but a reality we live out in experience here at RLC.

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