f The Wittenberg Door: Members of Christ – Part 3

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Members of Christ – Part 3

Rev. Leach continues from part two . . .

There are at least six components to the Biblical argument for membership in Christ’s body the church. The first of these comes directly from this morning’s passage (I Corinthians 12:1-31). It’s the analogy of the members of a body. You’re in a bad way when your toe is amputated. But your toe is worse off than you are! The members of the church are integrated, connected to the Head of the church and in a derivative sense at least to one another. This is the point of verses 26 and 27:

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

We need one another, which is the burden of most of the rest of the chapter. A nonmember of the body doesn’t share in the life of the body, though it be placed alongside the body ever so closely for ever so long. If I were to go for days without changing my socks, I can guarantee you it won’t be long before they begin to take on some of my characteristics! But they won’t be me, won’t participate in the circulation of life coursing through my veins. In a very rough analogy, it’s not uncommon for friends who visit the church for months or years to take on some of the (hopefully sweeter, more fragrant!) characteristics of the body. But without the commitment, without the public profession of faith, without the baptism that sets us apart as belonging to Christ and to one another, we fall short of our calling, and short of the blessing. This probably doesn’t need much more elaboration.

The Requirement of Public Confession

A second part of the Scriptural argument for membership in the body of Christ is the requirement of public confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. In Matthew 10:32 and parallels we find our Lord Jesus Christ speaking about discipleship and saying . . .

Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I also will confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I also will deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

And John 12:42-43 describes the shame of failing to confess Christ publicly. Many rulers of Judaism believed in Jesus. Did you know that? It’s true! Even the rulers. Many rulers of Judaism believed in Jesus . . .

. . . but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

Confessing Jesus openly before men seems to have the open approval of God, doesn’t it? It’s not uncommon for this to take some dramatic forms, as for instance when confessing Christ costs one his family, or work, or wealth, or life. Don’t believe for a moment that because we live in 21-century America this doesn’t happen anymore. It happens every day. And it always has. In Acts 19:18 we have a record of the changes wrought by Christ in the lives of those who confess Him publicly. The magicians of Ephesus, now converted through the preaching of the Gospel from the cult and culture of Artemis, pile up their books of the black arts and make a bonfire of them right under the nose of Artemis, a bonfire costing to the tune of 50,000 drachmas, or about 150 years’ wages for a working man. The equivalent of the life earnings of three men, up in smoke. That’s what the public profession of faith is Christ is worth to these men delivered at last from the power of darkness.

And of course Romans 10:6-13 leaves no room for doubt about the public nature of the Christian profession. With the heart the Christian believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. The first letter of John tells us not only that Christians confess Him publicly, but what we believe about Him. Examples abound. Members of Christ, those who share in His life, confess Him publicly.

Stay tuned for part four!

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