|Posted on April 24, 2019 at 10:15 AM|
When viewed as a gathering of people loving others like Christ the church is a glorious picture of heaven on earth. The unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness together with the continual respect, encouragement, and support given in the power of the Spirit of Christ provides an atmosphere of grace needed for every believer to grow. When functioning properly as the body of Christ the local church offers a concrete and tangible expression of the character and ministry of Christ in this world. It is designed, empowered, and directed by Jesus to fulfill his plan for making disciples of all nations, teaching them their new identity in him, and instructing them to follow his leadership in their daily lives.
Sadly, we live in a world that opposes Jesus and his ministry through the church today. Being a realist Jesus warned his disciples saying, “In this world you shall have tribulation”. Such opposition today comes from both religious and secular sources just as it did when Jesus was present in this world. But perhaps the greatest opposition arises from within the body itself. Paul often warned about this opposition in his letters to the various churches exposing it as “strife and vainglory”, a “root of bitterness”, “the works of the flesh”, “envying, strife, and divisions” etc. Simply put, the greatest opposition to the work of Christ through his body is the self-centered attitudes and actions of the individual members who fail to believe the gospel for themselves and others around them.
The Lord’s answer to such opposition is found in his plan for true leadership in the body of Christ. While Jesus, himself, is the “Chief Shepherd” he has appointed “under-shepherds” to care for the body in the form of “apostles”, “prophets”, “evangelists”, and “pastor-teachers”. It is important to recognize these gifted men as servants of the church whose job is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry”. They are not self-appointed religious dictators, but overseers appointed by God to train and develop the members of the body to fulfill their ministry of loving one another. As such their goal is to foster an atmosphere of mutual love and respect among the members of the body of Christ seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
The mission Jesus sent his church into this world to complete may be summarized by the new command he left us to love others the way he loves us. Without this supernatural love for others whatever is said or done is pointless no matter how religious it may seem. It is the privilege of every member of the body of Christ to fulfill his or her calling to love others according to their own unique calling and gifting of the Father. That which is motivated by divine love will not only build up those who serve, but also reveal the true character of the Father to the desperately dysfunctional world we live in. In this way the local church truly functions as the body of Christ. Lord Jesus, give us the grace we need to experience the full dimensions of your love for us, and the power of your Spirit to love others around us for your glory! Amen.