|Posted on April 19, 2019 at 12:45 AM|
The identity of the church Jesus promised to build is the very identity of Christ. That’s why he connected the first mention of building the church to the question he asked his disciples, “Who do men say I am” in Mathew 16. Just as he told Peter that the Father had given to him the revelation of his true identity as the Christ, so we may expect the true identity of the church as the body of Christ to require divine revelation as well. Faith in that revelation from the Father is what motivates us to not only look for his church but also be the church today.
Over the years I have found the best way to be certain of a truth revealed by God is to act on it. This is especially true concerning matters of personal identity. To be sure of my new identity in Christ I must act like who God says I am in Christ. The sure way to know I am loved is to love. The best way to be certain that I am one with Jesus is to “be Jesus” to others. The same applies to identifying the church. The best way to see the church as the body of Christ is to “be the church”. Like the sign over the exit of a church said, “beyond this point you are the church”.
So how are we going to “be the church”? Identifying the church as the body of Christ Paul insists that we are “members of the body” and each have a specific and vital function. Here is where the confusion of the church Jesus is building with religious organizations is really damaging. In the traditional religious systems only the recognized “minister” or “clergy” has the authority to represent Christ. Everyone else is to remain passive. But Christianity was never intended to be a “spectator sport” and the body of Christ involves the participation of every member. The life of the body of Christ is not restricted to formalized church services but continues to flow through each member 24 / 7.
In 1Corinthians 12-14 the apostle gives us a detailed description of the functioning of the church as the body of Christ. Two points emerge from this description as the most relevant to identifying the church today. First, every member is vital to the functioning of the body of Christ. Having been set in place by God and given a unique service each member is empowered with gifts needed to fulfill their purpose. There is no such thing as a non-vital or unimportant member. All are individually empowered and coordinated by the head, Jesus Christ. Second, the ultimate purpose of every member’s function is to display the love of Christ to those around them. No matter what the gift or calling may be, it is given by God to equip the individual members to be Christ to others at home, on the job, or in the community.
To recognize the church Jesus is building today we must look beyond the trappings of religious institutions and professional clergy to see the love of Christ displayed by the members of his body. Where two or three are gathered in his name (identity) there is Jesus. And where Jesus is there is love being displayed through the members of his body. To experience the church Jesus is building is simply to love others in his power and direction as a member of his body.