A Stunning Body- (A Vision of Jesus Christ part II)

Posted on March 25, 2011

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This is part II of a two part blog series about the essential vision of Jesus Christ that the church desperately needs today. If you haven’t yet read part I, let me encourage you to read that before reading this article any further. Click here to read part I.

As mentioned in the last article, we don’t simply need a new church ‘model’, rather we need an accurate vision of the person of Jesus Christ. This includes both Jesus’ head, and His body. While the last article focused on Jesus as the head, this article will focus on Jesus’ body.

In the scriptures, Paul lays out the mystery of Christ through the analogy of a human body. He does this several times throughout His epistles to the churches. There are some profound riches in this analogy as well. When we begin to get a vision of Christ’s body, this vision begins to radically affect three areas…Our identity, our affections, and our methodology. Let’s begin with our identity.

Identity

It has been said that almost all problems people face in life can be traced back to issues of identity. Satan’s number one tactic is to bring assault on our identity. Whatever we believe about ourselves will not only affect us, but will affect how we treat those around us as well. I’m convinced that most Christians today have an invalid view of themselves.

For the majority of my Christian life, I viewed myself strictly as a wretched sinful person who loved Jesus, and who was trying to obey His commands. I tried to live by WWJD. When reading the gospels, I could relate to the disciples who were trying to follow Jesus, yet just kept missing the point of His teachings. They were doing their best to learn from their spiritual leader. He was the master, they were the students. All of this was before the cross, resurrection, and Pentecost, however, which changed everything!

I love reading the gospels, but it is important to note that when reading them, you are seeing simply an individual expression of Jesus Christ. You are seeing Jesus as an individual, and His disciples as separate individuals. Jesus predicted, however, that a better day was coming. He told them that it was better if He left. He also said that they would go on to do greater things! That used to perplex me, but now I agree with Jesus. It is better that He left!

When Pentecost happened, something absolutely breathtaking also happened. They went from being external students of Christ, to actually becoming expressions of His very own body! This was the power and work of the Holy Spirit. Christ went from being a single individual Jewish man from Israel to becoming a body who would now be expressed by many members! In the New Testament scriptures, the phrase ‘In Christ’ is used almost 200 times to describe you and I! This is why understanding Christ from the entire perspective of the New Testament is necessary, not just the gospels.

We are no longer external students of Christ simply trying to ‘obey’ Him, we are now ‘In Him’! We express Him! We exist inside of Him. We are absorbed in Him. Scripture says that our lives are now hidden in Christ. We no longer exist separate from Him. As a matter of fact, nothing can separate us from Him. Doesn’t that simply knock your socks off?

The sad reality is that most of the religious system has no concept of this. Most of institutional Christianity teaches and operates from a vantage point of a pre-pentecost reality. The majority of teaching that I have had in the religious system has come from this perspective. It is a filter. I call it the ‘separation’ filter. The sad reality is that the majority of us who operate in this ‘filter’ don’t know we are operating in this filter until after we realize the ‘filter’ exists. That was certainly the case with me. The good news is this:

We are NOT just external followers and disciples of Christ anymore!

We are His very body! Scripture could not be more clear about our new identity as the body of Jesus on the earth. He is His head, we are His body. The implications of this are quite significant. If the church does not believe that they are the very body and expression of Jesus Christ on the earth, they will operate as someone they are not. The people whom I have known who seem to consistently struggle with issues of sin and bondage have been people who haven’t grasped the reality of their new glorious identity.

Believers who lack a correct identity in Christ will also treat one another like something, or someone, other than Jesus Christ. This is why there is so much carnage in the body of Christ. This is a tragedy. I’m also convinced that we, as the church of Jesus Christ, need to stop giving theological ‘head nods’ to this radical truth. We need to begin dwelling on this glorious truth more and more. The affects will be revolutionary!

Affections

Seeing one another as the very body parts and expression of Jesus Christ will cause a revolution in our love relationship with Christ. Think about it. Someone can hear about you, read about you, and even talk to you on the phone, but people don’t really begin to experience the depths of who you are until they interact with you in person.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. When I was 14-15 years old, a friend introduced me to a girl. No, not in person, but over the phone. As most teenagers do, we began to talk quite frequently. I would look forward to those times to share who I was with my friend, and also to find out just who she was as well. She lived in a different part of town from me, and I was too young to drive, so needless to say we were not able to meet personally. Our relationship developed over the phone for months. Finally, we agreed to meet.

Let me just say that it was the craziest thing to meet someone, (whom I already knew and had a relationship with for a length of time) for the first time in person! Although I knew my friend, it certainly was the introduction of a whole new dimension to our relationship to say the least.

You know what? The same thing has happened to me all over again. I have known Jesus for years, but I have not interacted with Him personally until just recently. Although I have been a Christian since I was 18, I never knew that I could interact with Jesus physically! I always dreamed of what it must have been like for the disciples to walk and eat with Jesus. I would read about John reclining on the chest of Jesus and I would get jealous! They were so lucky.

Something has changed for me however. The more the Lord has been opening my eyes to the person of Jesus Christ, the more I have realized the vastness of Christ’s multi-membered body. My new identity is that I am no longer my own person, but I am a member of Him personally. I am a body part of Jesus! The good news is that I am not the only body part of Christ, He has other body parts as well.

I never knew myself, or others, as Christ’s body because I was not taught to see Christ’s body in a way that went beyond the standard theological ‘head nod’ of the fact that we are Christ’s body.

Although scripture is clear that we are not to view ourselves or others through the lens of the flesh, the religious system continually reminded me of who I was in the flesh. As a result I viewed myself, and other body parts, through a fleshly lens which prevented me from seeing and interacting with the beautiful body of Jesus Christ. I simply saw people through their flesh and, like a good religious person, I condemned them. Don’t worry, I did it in a way that seemed like I loved them was trying to ‘correct their issues.’

Like I mentioned earlier, being introduced to someone physically unveils a complete different dimention to the relationship. Seeing my brothers and sisters in Christ in this new way has caused me to see Jesus in angles and dimensions that I never knew. I am falling in love with Jesus all over again because He looks stunning through my brothers and sisters. They are an unique expression of a body part of Christ. By interacting with them, I am interacting with Him!

My brothers and sisters in Christ express His beauty in a tangible way. It is no longer just some mystical theological idea. It goes way beyond just an experience in an emotionally charged church service as well. My brothers and sisters are beautiful, not because of what they do, but because of who Christ is in them. They really are His body!

I would like to say that His body has always been beautiful, even if I had no idea. Nothing has changed about my brothers and sisters. Yes, they still have their flesh, and yes, I could find issue and fault with each one of them. The difference for me is that I am viewing them differently. My eyes have been opened to the Christ in them, and me, which is the hope of glory as Colossians 1:26-27 so wonderfully states. This has made all the difference.

The condemning religious system is such a crime because it causes us to miss the beauty of Christ in our brothers and sisters. This in turn causes us to be blinded to Jesus Himself as He exists on the earth today. If there is one person we don’t want to miss, it’s Christ. He is beautiful. He was meant to be lived with and interacted with physically.

Methodology

Here is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. What I have just said is really hard to argue with. Most people would not object to these truths that I have just shared. Where it gets murkey, however, is when it comes to allowing these truths and values about the person of Jesus Christ to affect how we live life through our church methodology.

There is no doubt in my mind that these truths about Jesus Christ must be reflected in the tangible way we live out church life. Understanding the headship of Christ, and the non-headship of man, will change the clergy / laity dynamic completely. Understanding the identity of individual believers being individual parts of Jesus Christ with function will change the way the church interacts with one another both corporately and individually. When I say change, I am simply referring to what we have been used to calling ‘church.’ The ‘methodology’ I am suggesting is not new, rather it is very old. It goes back to God’s original intention for His church.

The Weekly Corporate Church Gathering

While the New Testament does not have a cookie cutter model that mandates what the corporate church meeting should look like, it does communicate some intrinsic values that are a must for gathered church meetings. We can see both, biblically and historically, that the corporate church meeting is important for every local church community. Those who would minimize the importance of the gathered church meeting are simply ignorant of this. Here are some values about the gathered church meeting that need to be examined in this conversation:

1. The Word must be proclaimed

There are numerous passages in scripture in which the mandate is given to proclaim the Word. Remember, scripture says that the Word is a person named Jesus Christ. Basically speaking, the person of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed. This command was given to communities, most of whom were illiterate, who didn’t even have the scriptures in their possession. The New Testament had not yet been written anyway. You know what is amazing? The Word could still be proclaimed because the Word is a person! I have good news…the Word has not changed. The Word of God is still Jesus Christ, and He must be proclaimed in our church meetings.

Because of our institutional experience and filters, we would envision this to mean a guy standing behind a wooden pulpit explaining things out of a book week in and week out, while an audience passively listens and then tries to ‘obey’ the teaching throughout the week. This actually violates a major Biblical value of what the gathered church was meant to be. That brings me to my second point.

2. The proclamation of the Word (Jesus Christ) in corporate church meetings must NOT be selective to only a few.

This is where our institutional filters are going to be challenged. Scripture is clear what the purpose of the gathered church is. Let’s consider these passages of scripture:

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another;…” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

So we can see from this passage that the purpose of assembling together is to ‘stimulate’ one another. I absolutely LOVE that word ‘stimulate’ because it communicates so much. This is why we should not forsake gathering together with the body of Christ. While the weekly corporate church meeting should not be the only expression of the life and community of the church, this meeting should not be an exception to the heart of Hebrews 10:24-25. This meeting has the same purpose of any other church meeting and gathering.

So, here are a couple of more questions we should ask? WHO should do the ‘stimulating’, and HOW do we ‘stimulate’ one another? According to Hebrews 10:24-25, WE should be the ones who stimulate one another. ‘One another’ means us! Not just a few selected people on a stage. (I know that is a revolutionary thought).

HOW do we ‘stimulate’ one another? Great question. Paul tells us how in his letter to the Ephesians. Consider these passages:

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love…Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:15-16, 25)

Wow, what a rich passage of scripture. Each one of us has a job to do according to this passage. We are to SPEAK TRUTH to one another. Did you know that TRUTH is actually a person? Yes, His name is Jesus. Don’t believe me? Read John 14:6 and you will see that I am correct. Jesus is the Word of God, and He is also the personification of truth. We are to be speaking Him to one another. This happens in and out of church meetings. There is no exception to this passage.

Don’t let anyone tell you this passage doesn’t apply in the corporate weekly church gathering envisioned by the New Testament. The whole purpose of the gathering is to ‘stimulate’ one another, and since ‘each one’ of us are vital body parts of Christ Himself, each one of us has a role to play outside of the church gatherings, and inside of church gatherings as well. (It is more than just running sound or powerpoint) In 1 Cor. 14:24-31, Paul instructs ‘each one’ in the body to bring something to the church meeting to contribute. Words like ‘each one’ and ‘all’ are used repeatedly.

This is not just my interpretation. This was the standard practice of the New Testament church because they were clear about WHY they gathered together for meetings, and HOW Christ would be fully manifested. Each part had to function. There was no room for passivity. Don’t take my word for it. We can look at history.

John the apostle had a co-laborer named Polycarp. Polycarp then influenced an influential man in the church named Irenaeus who significantly influenced the church in the secondary century through his writings. In Irenaeus’ writings, we can see an account of what a typical church gathering was for them in their day.

In one particular account, Irenaeus describes a typical late first century, early second century weekly church gathering in which believers were questioned at the entrance of the places where the gatherings were being held. They were asked if they had come bringing their contribution of Christ to the gathering. If the answer was no, they were turned away! They knew that Christ must be proclaimed, and they also knew HOW He would be proclaimed! Can you see an institution operating in this way today?

I say all of this, not to make the entire church community all about what happens during the weekly meetings. There is so much more to church life than what happens during formal meetings. I bring this up to expose a commonly used ‘smoke screen’ which claims that people like me are being legalistic and are simply arguing over meetings and form.

I am talking about the how Christ’s life and body are manifested both in the formal meetings, and out of them as well. When a community receives this revelation of Jesus Christ and learn to live by His life, affection, and community flow in abundance as a way of life. This will reveal the Son of God, and affect the world around us as well. The formal church meeting was designed to be huge encouragement toward that end. We must not minimize discussion about the methodology of the weekly church meeting as a way to appease those who throw out ‘smoke screens’. The expression of Jesus Christ is at stake, so it is no small matter. We must continue to look much deeper below the surface to see where the real opposition is.

Conclusion

Do you know what the pillar of the institution is? It is built upon the assertion that church leadership is hierarchical. It is not. Yes the church has leadership, but that is different than ‘headship’ and ‘hierarchy’. This false understanding of the nature of kingdom leadership is what is keeping the unbiblical clergy / laity divide alive. There is only one head of the church, and He has not delegated that in theory, or function. I will go into much more detail about the ‘methodology’ of church leadership in light of the fact that Christ is the only head of His church. This will be the subject of my next blog posting next week. I hope you will tune in. Thanks for reading.

May Christ be gloriously expressed through His body,

Jamal Jivanjee

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