Paul’s vision of the body of Christ is of a unity which consists in diversity, that is, a unity which is not denied by diversity, but which would be denied by uniformity, a unity which depends on its diversity functioning as such – in a word, the unity of a body, the body of Christ.
When we enter into the “in Christ” existence we become one with those who are in Christ. Eternal life is received individually, but it is lived out in community. And the community battles sin in the body by confronting sinners and by requiring spiritual accountability.
The Gift of Eternal Life by Ajith Fernando taken from The Supremacy of Christ by Ajith Fernando, copyright 1995, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org, p. 183.
On Sundays God wants us to do more than sing songs together and have wonderful worship experiences. He wants to knit the fabric of our lives together. For many, church has become all about me – what I’m learning, what I’m seeking, what I’m desperate for, what I need, how I’ve been affected, what I can do. We see ourselves as isolated individuals all seeking personal encounters with God, wherever we can find them. Sadly, this reflects our individualistic, me-obsessed culture. Rather than seeing ourselves as part of a worship community, we become worship consumers. We want worship on demand, served up in our own time, and with our own music.
Christians are not assembly-line productions, with every unit being exactly like every other unit. Consequently, no Christian can replace another in God’s plan. He has His own individualized plan for each of us and has individually gifted us accordingly. We are not interchangeable parts in Christ’s Body.
Every individual believer is to stay close to Jesus Christ, faithfully using his spiritual gift in close contact with every believer he touches, and that through such commitment and ministry the Lord’s power will flow for the building up of the Body in love.
I believe that one major reason that the church of Jesus Christ in the United States is very close to being in sheer chaos today is because so many people think themselves as individuals rather than as part of the body of Christ. Christianity is not “every man for himself;” it’s every man together for Christ.
Each congregation is a local manifestation of [the body of Christ], not a part of it (Peter T. O’Brien).
When the fruit of the spirit becomes characteristic of the church’s daily life, it becomes painfully clear whenever one person violates that spirit, and the body itself will work to take care of the irritation (Marshall Shelly).
This “personal walk with Jesus” makes a good point, but it has also caused great harm to the body of Christ as it fuels self-centeredness and a consumer mentality. We have a corporate walk with Jesus.
The Bible warns against being self-willed or creating factions. Furthermore, James tells us that when it comes in corporate worship, we should not play favorites or create distinctions among one another. Of course, we celebrate family and friendships, but Sunday morning is not to celebrate the people we like the most. It is to celebrate the oneness we have in Christ with each other. That’s what makes us different than the world. That’s what heaven is all about. That’s a biblical church with one accord with each other, not several factions splintered among family and friendship distinctions or at worse “toxic tribalism.” That gets celebrated outside the body, but not when the body of Christ gathers. Understanding the balance calls for discernment and self-control and love. It calls for Christian maturity.
In our battles with sin, we need a team of people. We need teachers to help us understand Scripture, prophets to help us apply it, interceders to pray for us, preachers to focus our eyes on Christ, encouragers to remind us of God’s grace when we feel like failures, wise men and women to discern when we are making foolish decisions, and people of faith to tell us that everything God has said is true in Christ. In other words, God’s gifts to us are people – not just one person, but the church. This is how Christ meets us. The reason we need so many people is that we need Christ Himself. Since His glory and gifts are so immense, we need many people, not just an individual person.