We have taken a little time-out from our regular series to look at why we exist as a Local Body of Believers. MBF has goals and standards that differ considerably from many local churches. We are different not because we feel that the other local churches are necessarily wrong and we are right. Therefore, I thought it would be good to go back over the distinctives, or if you prefer the peculiarities of Manchaca Bible Fellowship. If we do not have something to offer that the church down the street doesn’t, then there is no reason to have two churches, for we are wasting good money and precious time. MBF is unique. If there are not good Biblical reasons for that uniqueness, then we had better cease to exist. Therefore, this series to examine those reasons, if they exist, and if there are no good reasons for our unique existence, then we can make plans for our demise.

In our first lesson we reviewed the truth that being born again is a one time event. However, the spiritual life that results from this new birth is a process that is either moving towards maturity, or it is regressing back into spiritual childhood. There are many passages that inform us of this process, its glories of growth and maturity, and its dangers of neglect and regression. We looked at a few of these passages last lesson. Let’s take a glance at some of them again in review.

Philippians 1:6 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 process has a starting point as well as a completion date, the day of Jesus Christ. In the mean time, we are to grow in grace and the knowledge, and no longer continue as spiritual babies and children.

1 Peter 2:1-2 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,
Ephesians 4:11-14 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,

Paul summarizes the areas of growth for the Christian life in this passage. We are to grow:

Philippians 3:16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

We are to be walking in the spiritual level we have already attained. We are not to imitate the walk of another. Our walk is to be based on what we have already attained. That tells us something. People in the church will be at different levels in this spiritual maturity. However, it doesn’t mean we are to stay at the static spiritual level we have attained. We are to continue to grow and mature.

Hebrews 5:12-14 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.

Christian growth and maturity is not always progressive, even though it should be. Depending upon our use of the Word of God, we will either progress to a greater degree of maturity, or we will regress to a lesser degree of maturity. Paul tells us in Philippians 3:8 that some even regress so far that they become enemies of the Cross. In light of these things, we can understand that:

It is clear that there is to be personal maturity in the Christian life. It is equally clear that there is to be collective maturity.

Ephesians 4:15-16 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.

Because the Believer is to grow and mature in the two areas of personal and collective maturity, Christ ordained the established local churches.

You who have been around me very long know I don’t use many stories in the teaching process, but occasionally a well placed story throws light on the subject and illuminates as nothing else can do. This story was told, as true. For most of you, this story happened in antiquity. I mean real ancient antiquity. Even before the 1930s. You know, just a little after the Garden of Eden scene. Some of you have heard this story before, but y’all have such bad memories that you probably won’t remember it anyway. Plus, I only have so many good preacher stories, so I have to recycle them occasionally.

A fellow bought a Model T Ford, and was as happy as a peacock with all his feathers, but lo-and-behold, one day that Model T just quit running, and he was way out in the middle of nowhere and of all times on Sunday. The fellow took off his suit coat, of course he left his vest on. After all, it was Sunday, you know! He rolled up his sleeves above his elbows, opened the hood, which in itself was an interesting phenomenon on a Model T, and went to work, pulling at this, and poking at that, tapping something over there and then stepping back and wiping his brow with the back of his dirty hand. After a few hours of this mechanical endeavor, the white shirt no longer white, the vest unbuttoned, and flapping in the breeze, this gentleman conceived the technical act of genius, He began to kick the tires.

Coming upon this scene was another man in top hat and full suit with tails, also driving a Model T. This gentleman carefully debarked. In a Model T you had to debark, you couldn’t just get out. This new gentleman carefully surveyed the situation. Then moving over behind our first friend, who had left the technical procedures of kicking the tires and was now busily engaged in make-believe mechanical endeavors. Our new man on the scene, summarily clasp his hands behind him, looked over the shoulder of the would-be-mechanic, and calmly stated that if he would simply clean and reconnect two little wires under the mag, the car would run fine.

That was the crowning blow to our now very frustrated mechanic, who was grease from head to toe, to say nothing of the rivers of sweat running off his face. With that little bit of unwanted information, our now totally exasperated mechanic turned to his new found friend and offered some words of advice to him. Words that should not have been used on Sunday or any other day. So with these words of advice ringing in his ears, words that stated if he wanted to breath anymore of this nice country air, he should remove himself from that area and do so post-haste, which advice this new comer thought was very timely, so he acted accordingly.

Several more hours were invested in this tapping, pulling, kicking and swearing project. To top it all off, the sun was now very low in the west. So our budding mechanic decided to clean and reconnect those two little wires under the mag. To his surprise, his great delight and his aggravated disgust - all at the same time - the Model T started and ran with its normal rhythmic chugging. Our friendly mechanic made his way home a full half a day late for lunch. Some time later, our now much more experienced mechanic discovered that the man in top hat was none other than Henry Ford, himself, the inventor and builder of the Model T.

The Church was designed by God, ordained by Christ and functions through the power of the Holy Spirit. God had a Service Manual written so that this new and different organism might run properly and effectively. Yet, when we find ourselves under the hood of this marvelous vehicle of God’s own making, The Body of Christ, we have the uncanny ability to try everything else, but to follow the simple instruction given by the Creator, Himself.

It is not unusual to hear from those who come to fellowship with us such things as: “I didn’t know there was such a church anywhere around!” “There is such warmth, such a spirit of love and unity, and the Word of God is taught in such clarity here.” “This church has really focused on what is needed today!” “This is just what we have been looking for!” etc. Oh yes, I hear that all the time, and sometimes the reports are even more glowing. I’m thrilled and very glad to hear these comments, and I’m sure that most are made in sincerity. However, I hear these comments with a bitter sweet taste in my mouth, because I know, after 40+ years of experience, these who give such glowing accolades will often be the same ones that will soon say: “You know, in the church I was in before...” (Of course that church split twice, and every business meeting was a fight, the people hated each other and the Word of God was very seldom taught, etc.) “In that church, they did things differently, and I think we should try to adopt some of those methods.” Sometimes I wonder about the quality and quantity of the powers of reasoning that some people possess.

In that same vane, I have come to realize, by experience, that often those who are most vocal with their praise, become the Brutus or the Judas who plunge the sword or give the kiss of death. Quite often these actions are brought about because of procedures of operations, or programs that are different than those from where they came, or that they are not familiar with. You see, it is the procedures, programs, etc. that have spawned the qualities here at MBF that they were so attracted to in the first place. Keep in mind, I am not talking about the sincere compliments which should be given, both for the benefit of the receiver as well as the giver. Every action has a counter action. If we want to adopt the procedures and programs of those successful churches (successful in having all of the above mentioned problems, plus many more), if we are going to accept those procedures and programs, then it will not be very long until we too will be like them.

For the continuation of a Biblical local body of Believers, there are many components which are necessary. Three of which are very hard to come by:

These three, not necessarily in that order, are vital if a Biblical Local Body of Believers is to be formed, and if that Body is to continue.

There is no Biblically declared or set procedures for the government and operation of a local church. The Holy Spirit gives us a pattern or patterns to follow, but within those patterns there is a great deal of leeway. As we study the scriptures in this area, we will find that this union of Believers with Believers and with Christ is so unique that the Holy Spirit uses many illustrations to help illuminate these truths. Some of those illustrations include:

The illustration that is described in the greatest detail, in the Scriptures, is that of the Body. The illustration of the Body does not replace or eliminate the other illustrations, it simply complements the others, and we need all of them to help us see the total picture of the church’s function and relationship. If we do not understand what the Body is and how it is to function, we will be tempted to revert to the humanistic corporate method of governing, which will make our actions far less than Biblical. This brings us to our subject of the body concept of the local church. Please keep in mind that corporate methods are not always wrong, especially in the business world. A church should be responsible and business like, but not like a business. A business is an organization, and a church is supposed to be an organism. There are some similarities, but there are some vast and unique differences, also.

The local church is to be a microcosm of the universal church. So therefore, we can and should apply all aspects of the body concept to our local church, except when direct reference would prohibit such application. Especially in Romans and 1 Corinthians, the body concept is presented in conjunction with spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:27-13:1 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

To illustrate that in the Church there are many different and diverse gifts, yet the function of the Church should not be different or divisive even though each member functions within that church in a different way from all the others members, and to demonstrate how this unity through diversity can take place, Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses the highest form of all creation, the body. This illustration of the body becomes more and more understandable with each passing day as science uncovers the integral workings of that amazing organism. As with the physical body, so in like manner is the spiritual body. There is only one life flowing through the body, and that one life flow feeds and cares for all members in that body, even though each one of those members has very special needs and functions very differently. No one member can operate outside or apart from the body, and that member still be part of that body. Yet, the body can still function with many of its parts missing. It may not function as well, but it can still function.

There are always a few who with religious indignity say, “This word church is speaking of the universal church, and not the local church. So therefore, I don’t need to be a part of a local church, and be under its guidance, care and function. After all I am a member of the universal church, and I have the liberty to operate and function as I please, without the restraining force of some local bunch of Christians.” I hate to disrupt such shabby Biblical interpretation, but Paul was writing to a local church at Corinth, and he said that those things applied to the assembly in that local place, and to those local believers. Just as it applied to that local church at Corinth, so it applies to this local church in Manchaca.

I have had people tell me that the reason they won’t be an active part of a local assembly is that they have been hurt by other local assemblies. For that I apologize and I sympathize, because there is far too much hurting caused by some local churches. But I cannot tell you that you have the biblical right to act in a wrong manner, just because someone else acted in a wrong manner first. We normally call that a childish and immature behavior.

1 Corinthians 12:24-26 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

In God’s design, so that there should not be any schism or division, we “should have the same care for one another”, and that includes suffering with members who suffer. This is one of the methods of spiritual life within the body that make it grow and become solid without divisions. We will see some of this in future lessons. Suffering within the body is not the worst malady of the church. Far worse than suffering is pride of position, and the lack of understanding of the importance of each position within the body.

At the end of chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul concludes this aspect of his presentation of the church function with v.31.

1 Corinthians 12:31-31:1 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

Paul says that the normal function of the body is amazing and beyond the comprehension of most Believers, but there is a way that is even far beyond just the normal Christian life. Paul often uses the phrase “much more” after he has presented some wonderful truth of Christian living. He is saying that what he had just presented was great, but there is far more than what is on the surface. Paul presents a level of spiritual life which most of us have not given serious thought to attaining. Then Paul says, “Hey! That is just the starting point. There is so much more!” That is what he says in verse 31 “yet I show you a more excellent way”. [more]

excellent = (Greek) A throwing beyond others; To throw beyond the usual mark; It always betokens pre-eminence.

This Greek word is also used in 2 Corinthians 4:17.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,

In our passage in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul has just concluded a declaration of some great and mighty gifts of the Spirit. But each member has a different gift, or actually a different mixture of gifts. Not all can do or achieve the same thing, nor should we try to imitate the other’s ministry! However, there is something that each and every member can possess which can take that member, no matter how obscure or how prominent, to heights of distinction and commendation that are far above the normal of even the greatest spiritual gift. The Body of Christ is designed to make each member of that Body as good as they can be through the Word of God, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the help of the other members. Proper function within the church is not a competition to see who can be better than or equal to someone else. It should be a cooperation of all members so each member becomes the best they can be by working and ministering within the area they were placed by God. In that way, the total Body of Christ may function in such a manner that the world will know it is the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:14-16 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.

Don’t imitate others, or desire to serve in the same place that they serve. Don’t try to imitate others, because when you try to do so, you simply leave your God given post unattended, and you hinder the ministry of the one or ones you are trying to imitate. In the world, there are very few, if any originals.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

Because of that fact, if you are to be somebody (in the world), you must imitate someone or several someones. It is a very natural thing, this trying to imitate others in the Body of Christ, but it is such a useless thing, because in Christ you can be your own person. Only in Christ can you be your own person! It is such a sad thing to see sincere Christians trying find themselves, or trying to gain their freedom through the world’s system. God has already given the Believer freedom. God has given each Believer a place in history, as well as a place in the future.

Even though in the natural, there is nothing new under the sun, within the spiritual, God specializes in new things!

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
1 John 2:8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
Revelation 3:12 "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.
Revelation 21:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."

If we are willing to be the new thing that God made us in Christ, He has promised that through the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, everything that we do will be new and eternal.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,

If you can’t speak well, or organize your thoughts, or communicate properly to others don’t try to imitate a Sunday School teacher, and thereby hurt the ministry, and leave your new ministry undone. If you can’t keep time, don’t imitate a songleader. If you can’t carry a tune, don’t imitate a singer, etc. When we imitate some other member in the Body of Christ, we are trying to take over God’s job, Who said that He has already placed each member in the Body where it pleased Him. Not only are we trying to do God’s job, we are leaving our job undone. This causes the body to malfunction, and brings division to the Body of Christ instead of unity.

The major reason we try to imitate others in the Body of Christ is to receive some type of human glory. This glory seeking is an indication that our focus is way off base.

Galatians 6:14-16 But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

If our focus is wrong, as in the case of seeking human glory, we can be sure our motive is wrong, also. If our motive is wrong, then any works we might crank out will also be wrong. The prevention and correction of this type of situation is one of the reasons God provided the local church.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up (provoke) love and good works, 25 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 approaching.
© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998