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Replay: Members of Christ’s Body

Posted by on May 25, 2013 in members, scripture | Comments Off

Replay: Members of Christ’s Body

Six years ago, I wrote a post called “Members of Christ’s Body.” During this time, I was studying the concept of “church membership” and comparing that concept to what Scripture says about “members.” What did I find? I found that the modern concept of “church membership” is completely different than the scriptural idea of being members of the body of Christ and members of one another.

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Members of Christ’s Body

 
“The Body of Christ” is one of the metaphors that Paul uses for the church. Believers are called “members” of Christ’s body. This “member” language is often stretched to include the modern concept of “membership” in a church organization. What does Scripture actually say about believers being “members” of Christ’s body? Let’s start by examining the Scripture passages themselves:

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5 ESV)

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27 ESV)

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25 ESV)

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:29-30 ESV)

Notice that the word “member” (gk. “μέλος” – “melos“) is also used to indicates parts of a person’s physical body. However, the passages listed above seem to be the only use of “member” to represent a believer’s association with the body of Christ.

What are some things that we can learn about the church from the metaphor of being “members of the body of Christ”?

  • We become members of the body through an act of God not because of something that we do or something that we choose.
  • We do not choose to be members of the body nor do we choose those with whom we are members.
  • We do not choose how we function in the body nor can we tell others how to function in the body.
  • We cannot be members of Christ without being members of one another.
  • Every member of the body is important; every member of the body is significant; every member of the body is necessary.
  • Being a member of the body of Christ has nothing to do with joining a church organization or having “membership” in a church organization.

Can we live as members of Christ’s body and members of one another? We cannot live in this manner if we continually separate ourselves from other members. We cannot live in this manner if we feel that we decide who are members of Christ’s body with us.

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Conclusion

Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 in community, members, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 3 comments

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Conclusion

As I explained in the “Introduction” of this series, I am stepping through the passages in the New Testament in which the authors (primarily Paul – perhaps only Paul) use the term “body” in a metaphorical sense. As I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What is Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

Now, the term “body” is found often in Scripture. It usually refers to an actual body… that is, a person physical body. But, there are a few times when the term “body” does not refer to a person’s physical body, but is used in a metaphorical sense. I’ve already discussed the usages of “body” in Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10-11, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians, Colossians and Hebrews 13:3.

Here are few observations based on my study of the metaphorical use of the term “body”:

1. The metaphorical use of “body” is primarily a Pauline metaphor (perhaps only a Pauline metaphor).

2. “Body” primarily refers to a group of believers as a community or corporate unity.

3. Typically, the “body” metaphor is used to emphasize the unity of the group in spite of the diversity.

4. The “body” metaphor is often used during a discussion of spiritual gifts, which is related to the diversity/unity aspects of the group.

5. The heady/body relationship (i.e. “Christ is head of the body”) is only used in a couple of instances when the author is illustrating Christ’s rule or source for the body. (In the “body” metaphor, “head” does not always refer to Jesus Christ.)

6. In a couple of instances, the “body” metaphor is used to focus on close association and the sharing of suffering, joy, etc.

7. Also, in a couple of instances, the “body” metaphor illustrates how different people rely on one another (like parts of a body rely on the other parts).

8. As with other metaphors (such as “yeast” or “lion”), it appears that the meaning if the “body” metaphor changes based on what the author is trying to communicate, illustrate, or emphasize. (Although the idea of a “community” seems to be consistent through each usage of the term “body.”)

So, in conclusion, in the New Testament the term “body” is used metaphorically to refer to several different aspects of the Christian community, with the aspects changing based on the author’s focus in that particular passage.

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Hebrews 13:3

Posted by on Oct 23, 2012 in community, members, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 1 comment

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Hebrews 13:3

As I explained in the “Introduction” of this series, I am stepping through the passages in the New Testament in which the authors (primarily Paul – perhaps only Paul) use the term “body” in a metaphorical sense. As I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What is Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

Now, the term “body” is found often in Scripture. It usually refers to an actual body… that is, a person physical body. But, there are a few times when the term “body” does not refer to a person’s physical body, but is used in a metaphorical sense. I’ve already discussed the usages of “body” in Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10-11, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians, and Colossians and in this post I’ll look at the use of the term body in Hebrews 13:3.

Here is the passage in its context:

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have… (Hebrews 13:1-5 ESV)

There is very little explanation about the use of “body” in this particular passage. The author wants his readers to “Remember those who are in prison… and those who are mistreated,” because the readers are also “in the body.” The connection with the phrase “as though in prison with them” is important, I think. It shows what it means to be “in the body” – it means that you are still connected with one another even though they are physically separated by prison bars.

While “body” here certainly points to a community or corporate unity as we’ve before, this usage is not really the “unity in diversity” illustration that we’ve seen in other letters. Similarly, there’s no indication that the “body/head” connection is in view in this particular metaphor, and the “body” is not specifically described as either belonging to Christ or resulting from being “in Christ” as we’ve seen before.

The “body” connections pointed to in Hebrews 13:3 is closest to the connections illustrated in 1 Corinthians 12:26 –

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV)

As far as I can tell, these two uses of the term “body” (1 Corinthians 12:26 and Hebrews 13:3) are unique among the various uses of the metaphor. Only in these two instances do the authors use the “body” metaphor to indicate a close emotional association between the parts of the community.

Finally, if you haven’t noticed before, this final use of the term “body” is found in the Book of Hebrews. The authorship of Hebrews is contested. So, since “body” is only used metaphorically here and in the letters of Paul, this would be a stylistic or linguistic indicator in favor of Pauline authorship of Hebrews. (Of course, you can’t build an entire argument for Pauline authorship of Hebrews on the metaphorical use of the term “body,” but it could be one part of an extended argument.)

So, in Hebrews 13:3, the author uses the “body” metaphor to point to the close personal connection between parts of the community, even if they are physically separated from one another (because one or more are in prison).

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Colossians

Posted by on Oct 22, 2012 in community, members, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 3 comments

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Colossians

As I explained in the “Introduction” of this series, I am stepping through the passages in the New Testament in which the authors (primarily Paul – perhaps only Paul) use the term “body” in a metaphorical sense. As I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What is Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

Now, the term “body” is found often in Scripture. It usually refers to an actual body… that is, a person physical body. But, there are a few times when the term “body” does not refer to a person’s physical body, but is used in a metaphorical sense. I’ve already discussed the usages of “body” in Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10-11, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians and in this post I’ll look at the uses of the term body in Colossians.

The uses of the term “body” in Colossians are very similar to the uses that we found in Ephesians, but with less detail:

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18 ESV)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church… (Colossians 1:24 ESV)

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19 ESV)

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body… (Colossians 3:15 ESV)

In the passages above, as we saw in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians, the “body” metaphorical refers to a community of people. When it comes to the community, the metaphorical “body” illustrates how the individuals members relate to one another (both in unity and in interdependence).

Plus, as in Ephesians, 1) the metaphorical “body” is associated directly with the “church,” and 2) the metaphor is expanded to include Jesus Christ in relationship to others as the physical head is related to the physical body. We’ve seen these last 2 items (#1 and #2 in the previous sentence) in Ephesians and now Colossians, but not in Romans and 1 Corinthians.

There is an added aspect of the head/body relationship (in the body metaphor) in Colossians 2:18-19. While the relationship of believers to Jesus Christ is emphasized in Ephesians, Paul goes further in Colossians by stating that those who are “insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind” are also “not holding fast to the head.”

Interestingly, Paul does not connect the “body” metaphor to the diversity/unity of spiritual gifts in Colossians as he did in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians. But, then, Paul does not discuss spiritual gifts in Colossians.

So, while the “body” metaphor in Colossians is very similar to the metaphorical use in Ephesians, there is some difference. And, as we saw in Ephesians, the use of the “body” metaphor in Colossians is quite different than Paul’s use in Romans and 1 Corinthians.

In Colossians, the “body” metaphor continues to emphasize the community aspect of the church (a corporate unity) although the diversity aspect is not as emphasized in Colossians. Similarly, Paul also utilizes the “body” metahpor in Colossians to emphasize the necessity of remaining connected to Jesus Christ (as the body must remain connected to the head).

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion

The Body of Christ Metaphor: 1 Corinthians 10-11

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 in community, members, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 1 comment

The Body of Christ Metaphor: 1 Corinthians 10-11

As I explained in the “Introduction” of this series, I am stepping through the passages in the New Testament in which the authors (primarily Paul – perhaps only Paul) use the term “body” in a metaphorical sense. As I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What is Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

Now, the term “body” is found often in Scripture. It usually refers to an actual body… that is, a person physical body. But, there are a few times when the term “body” does not refer to a person’s physical body, but is used in a metaphorical sense. I’ve already discussed the usages of “body” in Romans 12:4-5, and in this post I’ll look at the uses of the term body in 1 Corinthians 10-11.

The next instance (in canonical order) of a metaphorical use of “body” is found in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 –

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ESV)

Now, the term translated “participation” above (twice) is the same term often translated “fellowship” or “sharing,” and it is a very important term in this context. In this section of his letter, Paul is distinguishing between fellowship with Christ and fellowship with idols/demons.

While the first use of the term “body” above (in 1 Corinthians 10:16) could refer to either Christ’s physical body (paralleled with “blood”), or it could refer to a corporate unity or community as we saw in Romans 12:4-5. However, the second occurrence of the term (in 1 Corinthians 10:17) seems to refer to the corporate unity or community.

Again, there is a focus on the “many” and “one” characteristic of the Christian community, which is associated with the sharing of the body/blood of Christ. Without going into detail (which he will do in chapter 12), Paul still recognizes the diversity among the parts of the community, even though he also recognizes that they are unified – one.

The next occurrences of the term “body” are found in 1 Corinthians 11 –

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ESV)

Both of the instances of the term “body” above could refer to the physical body of Jesus (paralleled with “blood” again). However, it’s also possible that the second occurrence refers to the community in Christ, since the focus in the passage is the relationships (or lack thereof) among the believers in Corinth.

However, either way, this passage does not give us much new information about metaphorical use of the term “body.” Once again, though, we do not see Paul referring to a “body of Christ” as he will later. Instead, if the term is used metaphorically in these passages (1 Corinthians 10-11), it is once again referring to the community of believers who are both diverse and also unified because of their participation in (fellowship with) Christ.

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Romans 12:4-5

Posted by on Oct 16, 2012 in community, members, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 2 comments

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Romans 12:4-5

As I explained in the “Introduction” of this series, I am stepping through the passages in the New Testament in which the authors (primarily Paul – perhaps only Paul) use the term “body” in a metaphorical sense. As I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What is Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

Now, the term “body” is found often in Scripture. It usually refers to an actual body… that is, a person physical body. But, there are a few times when the term “body” does not refer to a person’s physical body, but is used in a metaphorical sense.

The first instances (in canonical order) of the metaphorical use of “body” is found in Romans 12, within a passage in which Paul is writing about spiritual gifts:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:3-8 ESV)

I’m sure that some will disagree with me, but Paul does not actually refer to a “body of Christ” (that is, “Christ’s body”) in this passage. Instead, he says that we are a body “in Christ,” which is different. According to Paul, he and his readers are a “body” together because they are all in Christ together.

So, this appears to be a more general metaphorical use of “body,” much like we find in other literature of the same time period. “Body,” in this case, refers to a “community” or “corporate personality.” (See my post “The Body Metaphor in Paul: Familiar and yet unique” in which I examine Robert Bank’s discussion of the term “body” in different religious, philosophical, and social contexts in the first century.)

In fact, there is no suggestion in this passage of Jesus’ relationship to the “body.” Paul does not refer to Jesus as the head of the body, which he will state in other passages. Instead, he only says that the body exists because “we” are “in Christ.”

In this passage, then, the “body” metaphor reminds the readers of their connection to one another because they are “in Christ.” The focus is on their unity with one another and their connection to one another. Similarly, Paul uses the “body” metaphor in this passage to remind his reader that their unity is made of a collection of diverse (different) parts. Their diversity does not damage or deny their unity. (We’ll find that Paul often uses the “body” metaphor to reinforce this idea of unity with diversity.)

So, in Romans 12:4-5, Paul uses the “body” metaphor to remind his readers that they are a corporate unity or community in Christ with one another even though they are different (specifically, even though they have been given different gifts).

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Introduction

Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in community, members, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 16 comments

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Introduction

While reading a chapter in one of my favorite books on the church, I was inspired to study the “body” metaphor in Scripture. (See my post “The Body Metaphor in Paul: Familiar and yet unique.”) While reading that chapter, I realize that I had never looked into that metaphor for myself. I don’t really expect to find anything different or unusual. But, since I want to study it more, I thought I would share what I found on my blog.

Metaphors are interesting… and dangerous. As a figure of speech, a metaphor is a great way to explain one thing by comparing it to something else, usually something more familiar. Of course, the danger is that it’s easy to press a metaphor too far or to assume that people using a similar metaphor making the same kind of comparison.

For example, Jesus uses leaven as a metaphor, but he uses it different ways. (Consider Matthew 13:33 and Matthew 16:6.) Also, it’s easy to take a comparison too far, assuming too many points of comparison between original point and the metaphor.

I wonder if Paul always uses the “body” metaphor in the say way, or if he uses it in different ways at different times, depending on the point he is communicating or explaining to his readers. So, as I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

(By the way, I mention Paul above because he is the only New Testament writer who uses the “body” metaphor. Well, there is one usage in the Book of Hebrews. Perhaps Paul wrote that, and perhaps he didn’t. I think he did, but it doesn’t really matter in this discussion.)

The word “body” is used many times in Scripture, often referring to a physical body. In this study, I’m particularly interested in those metaphorical usages of the term “body”… those times when we usually refer to it as “the body of Christ” even if the “of Christ” is not actually part of the passage.

As far as I can tell, these are the verses or passages in which the term “body” is used in that metaphorical sense.

Romans 12:4-5
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
1 Corinthians 11:27-29
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Ephesians 1:23
Ephesians 3:6
Ephesians 4:4-16
Ephesians 5:23
Ephesians 5:30
Colossians 1:18
Colossians 1:24
Colossians 2:19
Colossians 3:15
Hebrews 13:3

So, over the next few days, I’m going to step through those passages. I’ll probably combine some of the passages into single quotes. But, the longer passages will each require their own post.

I look forward to your input as I work through the “body” metaphor in Scripture.

To kick this off, I thought I’d ask you a question: What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase “body of Christ”? (And, if possible, I’d prefer to just a short answer… as short as possible. I’m not asking for a complete description… just the first thing you think about.)

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion

Replay: Why is one covenant (the new covenant) not enough?

Posted by on Aug 11, 2012 in community, fellowship, members | 14 comments

Replay: Why is one covenant (the new covenant) not enough?

Two years ago, I wrote a post called “What is one covenant not enough?” In Christ, we are all already part of the new covenant. Because of that covenant we are all now children of God and, therefore, brothers and sisters with one another. That covenant alone covers how we should interact with and treat one another. So, why do so many feel that we still need more covenants, i.e. a church covenant?

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Why is one covenant not enough?

According to Jesus, all of those who belong to God are now covenanted with God. For example, Jesus said that his blood represents this new covenant:

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28 ESV)

In the same way, Paul recognized that he currently served people who were under a new covenant with God:

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 ESV)

Finally, the author of the book of Hebrews explains how Jesus (as our high priest) is a better mediator of this new covenant:

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. (Hebrews 7:22 ESV)

So, all of those who are in Christ – who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ – are covenanted together with God… not based on their (our) ability to keep a covenant, but based on God’s promises (for example, see Hebrews 10:23).

We are in a covenant with God, and are therefore covenanted together with one another. Our covenant with God includes new familial relationships with others who are covenanted with God. Just as God is our father, his children (and all of his children) are our brothers and sisters. Our familial responsibilities toward one another are included in our relationship with God.

Thus, I cannot choose how I should treat someone who is in Christ. That relationship and those responsibilities are already ours because of our joint relationship with God.

So, the question that I’ve been struggling and wrestling with is this: If we are already covenanted with God and if we are already brothers and sisters with one another, then why do we need a separate “church covenant”?

A “church covenant” can only do two things: 1) It can remind of us our relationships and responsibilities which already exist, whether we have a covenant or not. And 2) it can specify with whom we share those relationships and responsibilities.

If we are relying on a “church covenant” for reason #1 above, then the “church covenant” is nothing more than a reminder of the new covenant in Christ. We are already covenanted with God through Christ, and therefore covenanted with all other people who are part of the same covenant. Thus, this is really not a “church covenant” but the new covenant.

The problem with #2 above is that our relationships and responsibilities extend to all brothers and sisters in Christ that God brings into our lives. If we use a “church covenant” to include some believers and exclude others, then we are dividing the body of Christ and making distinctions that only God can make. We are trying to choose who to love and who to serve. (Of course, this makes life much easier, but it doesn’t make it a life that lived according to the gospel.)

So, why do we need a “church covenant”? Why is one covenant (the new covenant in Christ) not enough?

Replay: The Interconnected Church

Posted by on Jul 14, 2012 in community, definition, fellowship, members | 5 comments

Replay: The Interconnected Church

Five and a half years ago (in January 2007), I published a post called “The Interconnected Church.” In the post, I used blog connections as a metaphor for the relational connectivity of the church in the New Testament. Today, unfortunately, the connections are more organizational, which reduces the unity and fellowship among brothers and sisters in Christ. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this form of relational connectivity among the church.

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The Interconnected Church

There is a list of blogs that I frequent on the right side of this web page. If I go to most of those blogs, they will also include a list of blogs that the author visits regularly. If you navigate through those links, you will find other lists of blogs. And the cycle continues indefinitely… well, not indefinitely, but for many, many links.

There are a few people who frequent my blog. They interact with me through comments. I occasionally visit other blogs and interact with them through comments.

Could it be that this is a metaphor for the church in the New Testament?

Consider a believer in the New Testament. Let’s call him Joe. Joe knows several other believers. He interacts with them through normal relationships: family relationships, neighborhood relationships, work relationships, civic relationships, etc. Since these people are believers, they also gather regularly. Now, they may not all gather together at the same time. Perhaps some gather regularly at Joe’s house. Others gather regularly at Sally’s house. Joe occasionally meets with those at Sally’s house because he knows most of the people there. Also gathering at Sally’s house is the Smith family. They do not gather with the people at Joe’s house regularly, because the Smith family does not know them well. However, since they love Joe, and want to interact with him more, they will meet at his house on occasion. Meanwhile, once in a while, Joe will meet with another group with the Smith family. In this way, the interconnectivity is strengthened and grows.

In this scenario, there is interconnectivity among the church based on relationships. There is the church in Joe’s house, and the church in Sally’s house, and a few other churches; but they all recognize that they are the church in their city – because of the interconnectivity of relationships. They also recognize that they are somehow connected to groups outside their city, also through the interconnectivity of relationships.

If this is a valid view of the church in the New Testament, then could we be missing something today? Usually, when we talk about churches being connected to one another, we speak in terms of leadership networks, associations, etc. In other words, those in leadership from one church are connected to those in leadership from another church. This connection is not based on natural relationships, but on associations intentionally created to make connections. Meanwhile, many people in each church (specifically, those not in leadership) may find that they have very little connections with those outside their group, even with other churches with whom their leaders “associate”. Why? Because instead of being interconnected, the churches consider themselves mutually exclusive.

Are there any scriptural indications that an interconnected view of the church is valid, or that this view is not valid? What are some problems that might be caused by taking this view of the church?

Is this the connection between love and membership?

Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in blog links, love, members | 9 comments

Is this the connection between love and membership?

I’ve written several posts on the topic of church membership as it is typically practiced today. Unfortunately, I think the concept of church membership tends to separate brothers and sisters in Christ from one another, and it tends to give us a false sense of unity when in fact we are quite divided.

Other authors have taken up this topic with much more eloquence (and often brevity) than me.

For example, Arthur at “The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia” recently published a short post called “A quick thought on ‘church membership’ and titles.” Without getting into the “titles” part of his post (which is good in itself), I simply want to point out two very short – but extremely important – sentences that Arthur uses to begin his post:

If you love one another, “membership” is completely unnecessary.

If you don’t love one another, “membership” won’t make a difference anyway.

Arthur said that he was paraphrasing this from something that he had read previously. Those are strong statements… and completely within the concepts of being “members together with one another” as we read in Scripture.

Yes, there is a strong connection between love and membership in the context of Scripture. And, I think Arthur’s statements (or whoever’s statements) above point out that “church membership” will not make up for a deficiency in love.

What do you think?