The Church of Jesus Christ, or the Body of Christ is made up of every person who has put their trust in Jesus Christ as personal Savior. This great company of Believers, known as The Church, started on the Day of Pentecost. The Church continues to grow until this present day, and will continue to grow until the Lord comes back in the Rapture. The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of Believers who have died, and are in the presence of the Lord today, as well as those who are alive on earth today. The Body of Christ or the Church spans all denominations, and even some who are of no denomination. The only requirement for being a part of the Body of Christ is simple faith and trust in the Son of God, Jesus Christ as personal Savior.

Yes, the only requirement to become a part of the Body of Christ or His Church is to be born again. However, if you want to be an active, growing part of that Body of Christ, there are other things you must do! The act of doing these other things will not make you grow, or even make you an active participant within the Body. It is through obedience to God and His Word that spiritual change is effected within the life. When we obey, God gives the power to accomplish the act in a spiritual manner, whatever that act may be. This in turn produces spiritual growth within our lives and spiritual activity within the Body of Christ.

It is not the purpose of this series to study the doctrine of obedience by the Believer, and the subsequent results of that obedience. It is necessary for this series that we fully realize that it is our duty to obey, and it is God’s responsibility to produce the spiritual results from that obedience. By this time, you are probably saying to yourself something like: “Anyone knows that!” or “That’s elementary Mr. Watson.” Of course that statement would come from the older-set, because they would be the only ones who know anything about old mysteries. or maybe you are thinking that they gave me something in the hospital that affected my brain. Now you don’t have to worry about that, because for something to affect the brain would presuppose the fact that one existed in the first place.

I trust that all this nonsense has firmly pointed your thinking to the simple fact that there is more to the Christian life than being born again. You must be born again to be a part of the Body of Christ, the Church, but that is just the first step! You need nothing else than the new birth to receive Eternal Life and spend eternity with God. However, if you are going to enjoy and live that Eternal Life right now, there are other things required of you.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.

The writer of Hebrews, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, states that all believers should mature into teachers of spiritual things (not necessarily Sunday School teachers). However, many to most regress, and do not progress in this maturing aspect. One of the main reasons for this calamity is that these are still at step one in their relationship with Christ. They have never moved beyond the elementary principles of Christ. As a matter of fact, because they have not moved beyond the elementary principles, they have regressed to the point that they need to be re-taught those elementary principles.

1 Peter 2:1-5 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Hang in there with me. At this point, this is not a connected study. It will become that with a little time. I’m simply laying out some basic truths, that should be self-evident. These truths are a must if we are to get to first base in our understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ. Without these truths, the real concept of a local church will be missed all together.

Again, notice in our passage in 1 Peter 2, it is stated that we are to move beyond the first elements of Christ, only here that progression is likened to the natural growth of a baby. This growing like a baby is an illustration of personal or individual growth. Then in v.5 it speaks of collective growth and likens this collective growth to that of a building in progress, or the development of a priesthood. This collective growth is also stated to be progressive. v.5 states that we “are being built”. We were not complete in Christ at salvation, as far as our spiritual maturity and service are concerned. In some other aspects we are complete in Christ at Salvation.

Philippians 1:3-6 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

This work that was begun in us at salvation is a work in progress, and will be a progressive work as long as we are in this physical life, or until the day of Jesus Christ. We must keep in mind that we are either moving forward in this process, or we are regressing. This work which was begun in us at salvation and will be completed in the day of Jesus Christ is the transforming of our being into the likeness of Christ. Each of the passages we will be looking at over the next few weeks could be a lengthy study in and of themselves. For the most part, we have studied each of these passages in the past. Therefore, I will draw on those past studies, and only make mention of the information needed to advance our present study.

1 John 3:1-4 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.

Notice once again, John declares our Christian life to be a work in progress. Never is the receiving of this spiritual life, or the new birth indicated to be a process. You don’t get born again a little at a time. Acceptance of Christ as Savior, or being born again is a one time event. However, the living, development and maturing of that spiritual life which was begun at salvation is always seen as a process. John states in v.2 that right now we are something, however we will be something more in the future.

John also states in v.3 that even the purification of our life is progressive, and that process is based on a truth. That truth is call this hope in v.3. The hope that we will be like Christ when He returns to the earth. When Christ appears in His second coming, we will be changed to be like Christ. This likeness of Christ, as we see from other passages, is not to be like Him in physical form, but to be like Him in essence and/or character, or as stated in this passage, in purity. Our physical bodies will also be changed into non-mortal bodies. The ultimate fulfillment of each Believer’s life is to be like Christ, and all Believers will be like Christ at His coming. If every Believer is going to be like Christ at His coming, then why should we try and struggle to become like Him during this earthly life? Why not just accept Christ, live life the easiest way possible and wait for His coming to be like Him? That question and its answer is one of the reasons for this series. So hang in there, and I think it will make sense as we put all the pieces together in proper order.

1 Corinthians 15:47-58 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." 55 "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

What a blessed passage! For this lesson, the main truth we want to see is found in v.49. Notice, once again, the process -- We have and we shall. It’s not a matter that we might. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you will bear the image of the heavenly. This final transaction will take place at the rapture, when we will be changed in a moment in the twinkling of eye, at the last trumpet. This future fact should impact our life right now. Because we are going to be changed, we should be steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord. We can be all of these things, even in an unstable world, because we know that our labor, right now, is not in vain if accomplished in the Lord.

Philippians 3:16-4:3 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame-- who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. 2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

Like many of the others passages, we have looked at this portion in the past. I trust your memory is sharp enough to bring those things back to mind. We will only touch on some high points that will move us along in our present study. As in all of these passages, and many more, there is the accepted fact, and the assumption that the Christian life and maturity is progressive. Paul declares that we are to live at the level of maturity we have already attained. This statement assumes there has been growth to this point, and that it will continue. This passage in no way indicates we are to stay at some static level of Christian growth. It does tell us that we are not to wait until we get more knowledge before we live in the knowledge we already have. There were and still are many within the Body of Christ who do not live to the degree of knowledge and maturity that they have already attained. Here, as in Hebrews, we see that if we do not live in what we know and continue to grow spiritually, we will regress.

Those in Hebrews regressed to the point that they “came to need” the milk of the Word again. However, these mentioned in Philippians regressed until they became enemies of the Cross of Christ. The basic cause of the problem with both groups was that they were not living in the knowledge they had, nor were they progressing in their knowledge and spiritual maturity. Once we have the false impression that we have arrived in the process of Christian living, we become a very dangerous element within the Body of Christ, and we become our own worst enemy spiritually. Please keep in mind that any one of us can fall into this horrid state, and it can happen so quickly that we will not even recognize we have become an enemy of cross of Christ.

Romans 8:7-18 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors-- not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

For a clear understanding of this passage, you need to think back through a dozens or so lessons on adoption and other related subjects. Plus, you need to bring back to mind the four laws of Romans 7 & 8. Remember! No one passage of Scripture can stand alone or be fully understood on its own merit without the context of the immediate passage, as well as the context of the entire Scripture. For any accurate interpretation, all of these must be in perfect harmony without any contradiction. So dust off the cobwebs of your memory, and bring those facts to the forefront of your thinking as we quickly step our way through this passage. We have just studied the 4 laws of Rom 7 & 8 both in these morning lessons, as well as in the videos in adult Sunday School

The carnal mind, which is Law #3 The Law of sin, is enmity against God and His Law or Law #1. The term enmity often brings questions, and it is most generally answered with: It means we are enemies of God. That is certainly true, but that is not the full meaning of the word enmity.

enmity (Greek)
hostility by implication opposition with animosity or loathing

Enmity is the opposite of agape Love. By the way, Paul is talking about Believers in this passage. Believers can and often are at enmity with God and His Law. This is seen in their attitude of animosity and loathing. If you have never seen or don’t recognize such Christians., it may be because you are one of them. That is a subject for another time and place.

We are not walking in this fleshy enmity (vs 8-9) if the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Paul in his usual style uses or plays on words so as to bring out meanings that would otherwise take pages of text to explain. Paul clearly makes a distinction between having the Spirit in the life (v.9b), and the dwelling of the Spirit in the life (v.9a).

dwell (Greek)
to occupy a house as ones own residence; to dwell as a family.

This Greek word for dwell is the one that means to be at home, or to put ones feet on the hearth -- without your shoes on. When the Holy Spirit is totally at home in every aspect of our life, or is dwelling in our life as though it were His Own residence, then we are no longer operating under the system of the old sin nature. If Christ is in us (this happens at salvation) then we are no longer bound to serve the old sin nature v.10. Even if Christ is in us (therefore we are a Christian) it does not mean that we will not be serving the old sin nature, and we will be at enmity against God. But if the Holy Spirit dwells in us, or is at home in us (v.11), then God the Father gives spiritual life to our mortal bodies so we can serve God instead of being at enmity against God. This whole function and process is a great, and detailed study of itself.

If we live according to the flesh or Law #3, we will die. This is not a reference to losing our salvation, but we are no longer living by the Spirit, Who is life. When we live according to the flesh, we cease to draw our spiritual life from God, and are instead drawing our spiritual life from the old sin nature, which is dead in trespasses and sin. There are at least 7 different deaths mentioned in the Bible. This type of death is often referred to as carnal death. Please note, Paul has already established the fact that there is a difference in having the Holy Spirit in the life (that is the new birth or salvation) Ande allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in our life (that is the Spirit filled life). Ifyou didn’t catch that fact, then you will probably miss the next fact, also. v.17 says that if we are children (that comes because the Holy Spirit is in the life), then we are heirs of God. All who have accepted Christ as Savior have the Holy Spirit in the life, or else they are none of His v.9b.

Every Believer is an heir of God v.17a, but not every believer will be a joint heir with Christ. Notice v.17 carefully in light of what we saw earlier that there is a difference in just having the Spirit in the life, and allowing the Spirit to dwell in the life. There are two big ifs in v.17.

There is a difference here. All Believers will be heirs of God, but not all Believers will be joint heirs with Christ. The qualification for this second position is our suffering with Christ. This fact is further defined in the rest of v.17-18. Notice the that of v.17b. "That we may also be glorified together." v.18 says the same thing, only from a different perspective. Paul says the glory that we will receive is far above the cost of the suffering of this present time. If we suffer for and with Christ in this present time, we will be glorified with Christ as joint heirs.

Oh yes, all Believers will get to heaven and will be heirs of God, but those who, in this special way, suffer with Christ will have a special blessing and position for all eternity. So we see part of the answer to the question raised earlier: If we are going to be like Christ when He returns, why go through the struggle and suffering to live for Him now? Why not just live life in the easiest possible manner now, and wait until He comes again to be like Him? All Believers will be like Christ when He returns, in that we will be holy, without sin, etc. However, only those who have had that special relationship with Christ in His suffering here and now will have the special blessing of being joint heirs with Christ for all eternity. There are other reasons why we should struggle against sin in this life, also. Some of those reasons will be examined later. By just looking at this one aspect, I hope you see there is a reason and great value in living for Christ now even though there is also a cost.

That was all introduction. Now we are just about ready to start the lesson. I have tried to establish two major things with all of this wandering around. I trust that our study has brought out many more things than just these two points, but these two points are a must if we are to see the why of this strange local church called Manchaca Bible Fellowship. Those two points are:

We also established the fact that this spiritual maturating process has two separate but interlocking areas:

Now that we have established the fact of the process, how does God expect us to accomplish this humanly impossible task? God never gives a command to follow, without giving the empowerment to fulfill that command. Once again, the answer is simple:

That is a nice neat answer, but what is the solution that makes this answer a reality in daily living? It is the working out, or putting this answer into practical use that is often the hang-up. It is the putting the answer into practical everyday use that I refer to as the solution. The solution to God’s answer for spiritual maturity is found in the proper function of the Local Church. The proper function of the Local Church is the subject of this present series. We will see that not every Local Church should function in exactly the same manner. God does not want a bunch of cookie cutter type local churches. We will try to show the reasons why MBF has chosen to operate in the manner in which we do, and the whys and wherefores of our programming and style. That will take several lessons.

I want to close by glancing at another reference to God’s answer for spiritual maturity during this present time period.

Ephesians 4:8-16 Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." 9 (Now this, "He ascended"-- what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

That is a Biblical description of the proper function of a local Church.

© Clyde White, Austin TX, 2006