Good Thoughts on the Church and Functionality

Here are some good thoughts from Skip Moen relating to the Church, our function and relationship to one another as well as the institutional settings:

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV

You – What a lot of confusion is caused by the failure to recognize the difference between singular and plural? In this verse, Paul is speaking of the body (singular) of believers (plural), not of the individual (singular). Both the verb “do you not know” and the possessive pronoun “your” are plural. Paul is addressing the whole assembly, not each individual as independent from the assembly. Each case of “you” or “your” in the rest of the verse is also plural. It is simply impossible to suggest that Paul is saying that each individual person is a temple of the holy spirit. What Paul is saying is that the entire assembly of those who gather as followers of the Messiah is a, not the, temple of the Spirit. Obviously, when Paul wrote this the Temple was still in Jerusalem. What Paul means is that each assembly as a whole is a place where the spirit of God engages men and women. This is the same idea he relates to the Corinthians earlier (1 Corinthians 3:16). Why does he make this point if he is not speaking about each one of us? Because the assembly of the Corinthians was acting in ways that diminished the name of God. Because they needed to understand that their behavior portrayed unacceptable images of the God of Israel. Because they, as a whole, needed to address and rectify these things.

For centuries Christian churches have taught the singular application of this verse. Influenced by Hellenism, the Church shifted the Pauline sense of community to the individual. The Church viewed each one of us as if we were individually the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it follows that we independently must be pure, useful and available regardless of our connection or lack thereof to any other believer. In fact, some authors have gone so far as to say that God’s spirit makes a home in our individual bodies (and therefore we must provide Him with great bodies). But Paul isn’t Greek. He isn’t talking about the individual physical body of you and me. He is talking about the collective assembly, the “body,” that is the community of followers of the Messiah. Claims that God resides in your body based on the passages in Corinthians are incredibly bad exegesis. Claims that God somehow alters your individual physical body so that your body is now the dwelling place of the temple of the holy spirit are ridiculous. Can the fullness of God reside in a human body? Even Trinitarians are not so bold.

Does this mean that the spirit of the Lord is not really present in your individual life? Of course not! In some way, God’s presence is manifest in each of His followers. But not without community. The Shechinah does not descend into your human flesh. It never did—in anyone’s flesh. Who do you think you are? God? Paul’s point is that the assembly is responsible to the One true God. He is the “owner” of the body, and He sets the standard of member behavior. You, as an individual, are certainly not your own either. You have been ransomed. But that does not make you an independent contractor in the Kingdom.

For the body is not one member, but many. 1 Corinthians 12:14 NASB

Not one member – Everyone is familiar with Paul’s analogy of the body. In his letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul goes to great lengths to impress upon this rowdy bunch that their lives must reflect the compassion, grace and obedience of the Messiah. They need order, but Paul quickly adds, order in the body does not mean control by a hierarchy of superiority. Order means everyone doing what they were designed and chosen (by God) to do. Anything else in the assembly is a form of spiritual abuse.

According to the text, there is but one, and only one, head of the assembly. That one is the Messiah. Everyone else is just a member of the body. Not one of the rest is independently important, spiritually superior or designated as authority over the rest. That means that the Messiah and the Father make arrangements for each member to fulfill tasks required for the edification, instruction and continuation of the assembly. God’s spirit at work among the members leads each one to take up the assignment necessary for that particular person. This is the combination of passion, calling and worship rolled into one. Unfortunately, what typically happens to members of the church is assignment by the church for the needs of the church. It is rare indeed for a member of the body to be asked, “And how is the spirit of the Lord leading you to participate with us in this assembly?” It is far more common to hear, “Oh, we have a lot of things to be done and you’d be great at this one.” This form of abuse was clarified for me by my friend John whose work in the area of passion and purpose is foundational and excellent.

Consider the implications of Paul’s analogy. No one is less important, less necessary, less useful than anyone else. The pastor is not the head of the assembly. He or she is not above critique, not more “spiritual,” not the final word. Of course, in pagan hierarchies, he is, but we are not members of a pagan hierarchical religion (are we?). You and I are members just like everyone else. If a church “official” says something, does something or displays an attitude that does not match Scripture or that impugns any other member, we are to speak up, to defend what’s right, to remind that person that every member is equally important in the one body whose head is the Messiah. Far too often we have been taught that if we are not a hand, we have no value. If we are not a foot, we must be left on the sidelines. If we are not persuasive, articulate, intellectual, organizing or contributing, then we have no place except to sit in the pew and agree with everything. Paul would strongly object! So should you. When we begin to treat hands and feet as equally and uniquely important to us all, community will flourish.

ouk esti hen says Paul in Greek. ouk, the strongest possible negative in Greek. Not to be one, but polla—many. So what’s the problem? Scripture clearly asserts your equal position. The spirit of the Lord has chosen you to perform duties specifically tailored to your passions. You serve Him in this body. Why do you hesitate? Throw off the shackles of pagan hierarchy and do what God designed you to do. And if you discover the reprisal of silent discouragement, then you will know which religion dominates your community"

Original posts here:
http://skipmoen.com/2015/01/06/who-do-you-think-you-are/
http://skipmoen.com/2015/02/12/top-heavy/

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