Discerning the Lord’s Body

What is our relationship to the Savior? How are we connected to Him? What does this connection mean to us in our daily life?

The apostle Paul gives us some food for thinking when he said, "But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not discern the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick and a number sleep" (1Cor 11:28-29).

Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, but these principles apply to all believers, both in a physical and spiritual way. We should therefore give some careful thought as to how we discern the body of Christ, because a lack of proper understanding brings on serious consequences: For this reason many among us are spiritually weak and spiritually sick and yes even some of us are as spiritually dead people (example in Rev 3:1).

I think we can make this spiritual application can’t we? Especially if we view, in total, all the splits under the banner of Christianity, as well as observing all the recent turmoil in some of the Sabbath keeping churches of God, with which we are familiar.

Now, in context, Paul is discussing the proper methods of observing the death of the Messiah, and it is important for us to take into full consideration why Jesus qualified to be our Savior. He was the Son of God, the spokesman for the Father, who created the heaven and the earth and all living things upon the earth, including you and me. He then chose to become the Son of Man and come to this earth to live, to suffer and to die for all the sins of mankind, past present and future. And because He was the beloved Son of the Father, His shed blood was worthy to make this full payment, and therefore His death justifies us in the sight of the Father and opens up the door for full reconciliation.

Therefore, in seeking to discern the body of Christ rightly, we can never bypass His death, for it is the foundation and fundamental to full fellowship with the Father.

But Paul seems to be amplifying the basic fact about the suffering and subsequent death of our Messiah when he focuses our attention on the discernment of the Spiritual body of Christ, which is alive and active today.

In 1Corinthians 10:16-17, Paul clearly uses a three-way metaphor comparing bread and wine to the body of Christ and to the church. He continues this discussion in Chapter 12, specifically in verses 12-27. In verse 27 he says, "Now you are Christ’s body and individual members of it." As an analogy, this concept of "being the body of Christ" is not new to us. However, this may be part of the problem. We may not have proper discernment. If we consider it just another interesting analogy, and are not really applying the practical statements in 1 Corinthians 12 to our discerning the body, then we may not be learning what we should.

How do we really understand this relationship? How do you personally discern the body of Jesus Christ, of whom you are? For the purpose of this article, we will look at two concepts from 1 Corinthians 12:

1) These verses lay the groundwork for our relationship to each other, in Christ Jesus, and how we should be seriously concerned for the welfare of each other. It is foolishness to suggest that we would physically take a gun and shoot ourselves in the foot, on purpose. But this type of activity seems prevalent in the body of Christ today: one member injures another member and the entire body suffers the effect. In many cases we are spiritually weak and confused, spiritually sick and twisted, and even spiritually dead, existing as if there is no Life in us. Even though we may be very busy in our religious circles, the flesh is all too prominent in our works.

2) God has no unused members in the Body of Christ. If we are in His body, we have a purpose! "But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body just as He desired" (1Cor 12:18). Part of "working out our own salvation" (Phil 2:12) is to comprehend what our individual "place" is in the body, and then fill it. (This understanding can come more quickly with prayerful meditation in the Scriptures, and applying the five most powerful words in the book, "Ask and you shall receive.") It is also part of discerning the body rightly. "Now you are Christ’s body, and individual member of it" is a statement of fact and not an analogy.

We are not only one body with Christ, but also one spirit: "But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (1Cor 6:17). Ephesians, chapter four tells us "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph 4:4-6).

In the same chapter Paul also lists some specific functions and responsibilities given to some within the body, all of which are for the purpose of equipping us for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ until we get to know, personally, the Son of God and attain full maturity, that exact maturity which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

This type of Spiritual growth comes by seeing (discerning) who we really are in the body of Christ and the privileges that already belong to us as His body. According to First Corinthians 2:12, as His body, we have already received the Spirit who is from God so that we might know the things freely given to us by God. But because the church at Corinth seemed to have had difficulty grasping the magnitude of being the body of Christ, the Spirit was quenched and less able to penetrate their fleshly hearts.

In the very beginning of 1 Cor inthians, Paul tells this group of believers what is already available to them "In Christ Jesus". "I thank God always concerning you, for the grace (ability) of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift..." (1Cor 1:4-7). However, not discerning the body of Christ, some members of the church of God at Corinth were unable to utilize what was freely given them in Christ Jesus. Paul began his letter to them with these factual blessings, before addressing the multitude of fleshly problems they were experiencing.

Today, it seems that most Church of God groups have even less spiritual gifts than the Corinthians. We have few obviously miraculous healings—brethren who are still young are sick or sometimes die. We have almost no one whom the Eternal speaks through, either by direct inspiration (prophecy) or in tongues (with a significant interpretation). Also, Church of God groups are much more divided than the Corinthians. It appears that all of the Corinthian brethren still met together and acknowledged each other as brethren, though they wrongly favored one of a few leaders over the others. Today, there are hundreds of groups, most of which never meet with the others, and many which would not acknowledge the others as brethren.

A prayerful study of this first letter to the Corinthians can give us an insight into some of the problems and solution in today’s church, by deepening our discernment of the body of Christ. "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body" (1Cor 6:19-20).

Self-examination (2Cor 13:5) in light of the Scripture, is always in order for the believers who desire to glorify God.

—Jerry Laws

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