Part 4 - The Application of Faith
Abiding in the Body of Christ
A third aspect of abiding in Christ is abiding in the body of Christ. The body of Christ is the church. Into the church Christ has placed each believer at the time of regeneration. The word "church" means an "assembly" of "called out ones." It reflects one element of the sanctifying work of Christ: In the world Christ has called out and separated His people into a special group called the body of Christ. This is the place on earth where the believer is to dwell and remain in.
The church is called the body of Christ because Jesus dwells in His people and so they are the physical extension of Christ on the earth. Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). When Jesus said, "Abide in Me, and I in you," this includes abiding in His body, the church.
Abiding through the Spirit
The place of life in Christ involves life in the Holy Spirit. God's provision for abiding in Christ is the Holy Spirit. All right relationships are based on God's agape love. For believers to interact in a right manner requires the love that is the fruit of the Spirit. To try and abide in Christ through the flesh will result in the works of the flesh, some of which are hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, and envy (Gal. 5:19-21). But through the Spirit is possible a love based relationship that includes joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22). It is these characteristics that allow the body to work together as one.
The place of abiding in the body of Christ is part of God's solution for redeeming a person from a life of sin to a holy and sanctified position in Christ. It is in the church where the believer is edified, or built up. If a member of a physical body were cut off and isolated, it would die and shrivel up. That same member when joined properly in the body is nourished and flourishes. It both grows and enables the other members to grow. This is the picture that the Scriptures give of the body of Christ, and shows the importance of the members abiding together.
There is a fourfold relationship involved in the body of Christ. Two of these are relationships external to the church; the other two are internal. Externally, the church has a relationship to the lost and a relationship to God. Internally, the individual members have a relationship to each other, and individually and corporately they have a relationship to the head who is Christ. The believer only realizes full meaning in these relationships through abiding as a member in the body of Christ.
Jesus Christ is the Life, and life in Christ involves living and interacting with the other members of the church in love. The consecration aspect of sanctification is fulfilled in and through the body of Christ. The call to witness to the world is a corporate calling, one that is too large for any one individual to accomplish. All have not the same function, but every member's part is necessary. The call to worship God is also fulfilled in the corporate setting. Individual worship is necessary, but corporate worship of God by the church is more glorious and dynamic. The call to edify the body, and to be edified, is a corporate calling. The call to be joined to Christ as His bride is not an individual one but a joint calling to the body as a whole. It is in the body of Christ where a holy and sanctified life in Christ is lived.
Made perfect in one
To abide in Christ is to dwell with other believers such that corporately the church is the bride of Christ. As the bride of Christ, the church and Jesus Christ are joined together as "one flesh." The Bible uses marriage to illustrate the relationship that all believers have together in being the bride of Christ, and the relationship of the church to Christ. This is to illustrate the path to God: The church is one with Jesus Christ who as Mediator and perfect Man is one with God. Jesus prayed concerning the church, "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me" (John 17:21-23).
The fulfillment of Jesus' prayer that "they may be made perfect in one" only
comes about through the gathering together and fellowshipping of the body of
Christ. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts:
"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of
some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day