Lesson 23 | Sabbath, 4 December 2021
“God has made His church on the earth a channel of light, and through it He communicates His purposes and His will. He does not give to one of His servants an experience independent of and contrary to the experience of the church itself. Neither does He give one man a knowledge of His will for the entire church while the church–Christ’s body–is left in darkness. In His providence He places His servants in close connection with His church in order that they may have less confidence in themselves and greater confidence in others whom He is leading out to advance His work.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 163.
1. With what do the Scriptures often compare or represent the church?
Colossians 1:18. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Ephesians 5:23. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Colossians 3:15. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
“Since His ascension, Christ the great Head of the church, has carried forward His work in the world by chosen ambassadors, through whom He speaks to the children of men, and ministers to their needs. The position of those who have been called of God to labor in word and doctrine for the upbuilding of His church, is one of grave responsibility. In Christ’s stead they are to beseech men and women to be reconciled to God; and they can fulfil their mission only as they receive wisdom and power from above.” –Gospel Workers, p. 13.
“There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence. They seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly esteem the judgment of his brethren, especially of those in the offices that God has appointed for the leadership of His people. God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for he who does this despises the voice of God.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 163, 164.
Members of one spiritual body
2. Just as different organs are part of a physical body, what do the various members of the congregation form? How do we know that different organs do not form different bodies? What does this mean?
Romans 12:4. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office.
1 Corinthians 12:12,13. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
Ephesians 4:4. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.
“Dear Brethren: As all the different members of the human system unite to form the entire body, and each performs its office in obedience to the intelligence that governs the whole, so the members of the church of Christ should be united in one symmetrical body, subject to the sanctified intelligence of the whole.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 16.
“The Lord has not qualified any one of us to bear the burden of the work alone. He has associated together men of different minds, that they may counsel with and assist one another. In this way the deficiency in the experience and the abilities of one is supplied by the experience and the abilities of another. We should all study carefully the instruction given in Corinthians and Ephesians regarding our relation to one another as members of the body of Christ.” –This Day with God, p. 154.
3. What would result if each organ existed and acted independently of the body? In the same manner, why is it inconceivable for the church members to act independently of the church body?
1 Corinthians 12:14-16. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
“We are all members of one body and are complete only in Christ Jesus, who will uplift His people from the low level to which sin has degraded them and will place them where they shall be acknowledged in the heavenly courts as laborers together with God.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 202.
Different parts and different functions
4. Do all organs have the same function and position in the body? What would happen if all of the members performed exactly the same service in the church? How readily do we accept and correctly value the gifts and service of others?
1 Corinthians 12:17-20. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20But now are they many members, yet but one body.
“Because men are not of the same stamp of character, this is no reason why they should draw apart. If we are children of the heavenly King, we shall not be at such variance that we shall stand in one another’s way.
“It is by the Lord’s orders that His servants have varied gifts. It is by His appointment that men of varied minds are brought into the church, to be laborers together with Him. We have many different minds to meet, and different gifts are needed. God’s servants are to work in perfect harmony. I thank the Lord that we are not all exactly the same, while we are all to have the same spirit–the spirit that dwelt in Christ. The apostle John was not the same as the apostle Peter. Each was to subdue his peculiarities and soften his temperament, that they might help each other, through belief in and sanctification of the truth.” –This Day with God, p. 262.
5. Explain how every church member is necessary and helpful to the others, just as every organ needs the others. How dangerous is it if a person does not appreciate or even despises certain people with their gifts?
1 Corinthians 12:21-24. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
“Those who are inclined to regard their individual judgment as supreme are in grave peril. It is Satan’s studied effort to separate such ones from those who are channels of light, through whom God has wrought to build up and extend His work in the earth. To neglect or despise those whom God has appointed to bear the responsibilities of leadership in connection with the advancement of the truth, is to reject the means that He has ordained for the help, encouragement, and strength of His people. For any worker in the Lord’s cause to pass these by, and to think that his light must come through no other channel than directly from God, is to place himself in a position where he is liable to be deceived by the enemy and overthrown.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 164.
No schism in the body
6. How important is it for everyone to believe wholeheartedly and accept the fact that members in the church are like the body’s organs? Why are the spirit of independence or schisms between brethren very dangerous?
1 Corinthians 12:25; 1:10. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another….1:10Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
2 Corinthians 13:11. Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
“The church as a body is to do all in its power to promote union and prevent schisms. If unsound doctrine is introduced, the safety of the flock of Christ will be endangered; and it is the duty of those in authority, who are jealous for the truth as it is in Jesus, to make a firm, decided protest.” –Review and Herald, January 16, 1900.
“If one member of Christ’s household falls into temptation, the other members are to look after him with kindly interest, seeking to arrest the feet that are straying into false paths, and win him to a pure, holy life. This service God requires from every member of His church.” (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.)–This Day with God, p. 147.
7. When one accepts others as necessary parts of the same body, what will happen if one member suffers? At the same time, when one person rejoices, who will also join with him in rejoicing?
1 Corinthians 12:26. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Romans 12:15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
1 Peter 3:8. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.
“We are not to allow our perplexities and disappointments to eat into our souls and make us fretful and impatient. Let there be no strife, no evil thinking or evil speaking, lest we offend God. My brother, if you open your heart to envy and evil surmising, the Holy Spirit cannot abide with you. Seek for the fullness that is in Christ. Labor in His lines. Let every thought and word and deed reveal Him. You need a daily baptism of the love that in the days of the apostles made them all of one accord. This love will bring health to body, mind, and soul. Surround your soul with an atmosphere that will strengthen spiritual life. Cultivate faith, hope, courage, and love. Let the peace of God rule in your heart. Then you will be enabled to discharge your responsibilities. The Holy Spirit will impart a divine efficiency, a calm, subdued dignity, to all your efforts to relieve suffering. You will testify that you have been with Jesus.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 191.
For additional study
“The Lord in His wisdom has arranged that by means of the close relationship that should be maintained by all believers, Christian shall be united to Christian and church to church. Thus the human instrumentality will be enabled to cooperate with the divine. Every agency will be subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and all the believers will be united in an organized and well-directed effort to give to the world the glad tidings of the grace of God.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 164.
“There is a work for us to do. We must begin here to cultivate the meekness of Christ. There are stern battles for us to fight against our traits of character that lead us to decisions that make it hard and unfavorable for others. We are not commended by God for a zeal that savors of pharisaism; for this is not of Christ. We are not to go to an extreme in false charity, neither are we to follow a course of unbending severity in cases where kindness and mercy and love would have a telling power. The ax must be laid at the root of the tree. True conversion is needed. Heart work is essential. The nature must be renewed after the divine image, until the work of grace is completed in the soul.” –Review and Herald, January 16, 1900.