Part 4 - The Application of Faith
Edification to the Body of Christ
Love to the Church
Love, the fruit of abiding in Christ, is further expressed in love for God's people, the church. The church is called the body of Christ because God's people are united as one in Christ. Jesus Christ dwells in their midst and is Head. The church is a corporate relationship of members to members and members to the Head. This relationship operates correctly only through agape love. Each believer has been separated from the world and placed into the body of Christ through the sanctifying work of Christ. Corresponding to this separation is the consecration of each member to serve and build up the other members (see Part 2, Consecrated to Edifying the Body of Christ). This is a calling of God for the members to serve God by serving each other in love.
Glory in self versus glory in God
The desire for glory is a benchmark of sin. Self-glory reflects the self-centeredness of fallen man. The nature of the flesh is to elevate itself to the place of God and to seek attention and praise. To seek glory divides individuals and divides individuals from God. This is the opposite of God's calling where God is creating a group of people called the body of Christ to be united as one in love and to be united as one with God. Self-glory works against this. Satan fell from Heaven because of the desire for glory. Mankind fell by the same type of desire, that of seeking to be as God. The sanctifying work of Christ deals with this issue in order to create the oneness that God is calling mankind back into.
God is a God of glory. This is not an empty glory however such that mankind would seek. The glory of Yahweh has weight and substance to it. God's infinite splendor is glorious. God's power as the Creator of the heavens and earth is glorious. God's love, mercy, and grace shown through His works toward mankind are glorious. This is a glory that is His alone. Yahweh says, "I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images" (Isaiah 42:8). Again He says in Isaiah, "And I will not give My glory to another" (Isaiah 48:11).
That which prevents fruitfulness in Christ, quenches the Spirit, and brings disunity is the seeking of self-glory. God will not give His glory to another. Those who seek praise from God and fellow mankind that is based on one's works, wisdom, or possessions are in reality trying to take God's glory for themselves. This is a mistake of legalism. To present oneself as being something through accomplishments, worthy of reward and praise, is to presume glory upon oneself. Those seeking glory for themselves will find God withholding His help. Many are seeking God's kingdom and His righteousness but are failing, and wondering why God is not helping them succeed. But God will not give His glory to another, and for Him to give His help to those who will then use their success for their own glory would be to do so. Such would falsely glory in their own righteousness and service to God when it would have been God who had given them success. God allows the reality of the individual's self-insufficiency to manifest itself through failure. It is at the point of acknowledging one's insufficiency and the turning to God for help where God will readily show His glorious sufficiency.
Glory in God through the cross
The Apostle Paul said, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14). Paul's glorying was in Jesus Christ. An identification with the cross of Christ is an acknowledgment of the death of the natural self. If one had physically died with Christ on a cross that would have ended all aspects of one's life. There would be no more boasting in the things of life, no more accomplishments to glory in. Paul as a believer is accounting this to have happened in the cross of Christ. His boasting is no longer in himself.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Cor. 127-29). Those who see themselves as possessing wealth, wisdom, or power have something in which to glory, at least in their own eyes. Most of these will be offended in the cross of Christ, for it is a testimony that these things are in reality empty. King Solomon said of such, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Eccl. 1:2). In the end, those who glory in themselves will be brought to nothing. The illusion of glory will be dissipated.
Paul continued to the Corinthian believers, "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written, 'He who glories, let him glory in the Lord' " (1 Cor. 1:30-31). When one realizes that he is poor in spirit then he will readily glory in God when God works in and through that person. To such Jesus Christ will become all: "wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption."
God's Shekinah glory in the temple
Here is where the sanctifying work of Christ has made provision for the fullness of God to fill the believer: the body of Christ. The members of that body, both individually and corporately, are called the temple of God. At the individual level Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" (1 Cor. 6:19). Corporately also Paul wrote, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). The glory that all believers have is the glory of Yahweh who is present in the temple that is called the body of Christ. God Himself is the true possession that each believer has. He is the wisdom of each believer. He is the strength of each believer. The operation of the church, whether at the individual level or at the corporate level, is to be the operation of God working through the members. The glory received through that operation is to be glory that is accounted to God. The praise that God gives to the members is praise for allowing Him to fill and operate.
Romans states, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God" (Rom. 6:12-13). The believer is not to just consider himself as being an instrument of righteousness. This by itself is self-centered. The believer is also to consider himself as being an instrument that is presented to God that God will use. Paul wrote to Timothy, "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Tim. 2:20-21). The believer is to consider himself to be an instrument and vessel for God to use and do His work.
To give God the glory for what He does allows the Holy Spirit to work in and through the church as God intends. To recognize that the other members of the body are earthen vessels even as oneself is allows for longsuffering, kindness, and gentleness which are traits of love that the Spirit brings. To recognize that it is God alone who is to do the work through the members of the body removes the contentions, jealousies, and strife that are traits of the flesh. God is working within the church to build up each member to love and good works, and He does this by working through the individual members. To this end He has placed each member in the body as He pleases and has given gifts through which the Spirit operates.
The environment for growth and maturity
The body of Christ is the environment in which the believer matures and in which the believer ministers his gift for the maturing of other members. No one becomes a mature Christian based on his own work. Christ builds His church and does so by the operation of the Holy Spirit working though the individual members who build each other up. Paul wrote, "But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And 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.' No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary" (1 Cor. 12:20-22). No believer can glory in himself as being self-made, but rather must glory in God who through each member is building up the whole. Through attributing to God the praise and glory that is rightfully His comes the unity and love that the church is consecrated to.
The believer is able to love the members of the church when he sees them as
people with weaknesses, faults, and failures whom a loving God is building
up, and for whom God is using the believer to do that work of edification. The
believer is also able to love the church when he sees that his own maturity
in Christ has been built by the other members who have ministered their
gifts. In all the glory is God's who is dwelling in the temple called the
body of Christ.