Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Four-Fold Purpose of the Church: Christian Fellowship (Part 3)

In this sermon, Pastor Babij continues teaching on Christian fellowship and how it works out in the local church. Using the human body as a metaphor (as did the apostle Paul) Pastor Babij explains the necessity for all the members of the church to work together for the common goal of glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ. Pastor Babij clarifies that no believers, no matter their individual gifts, have the privilege to act alone. Instead, each believer is to cooperate with all members of the body to edify the whole body and to glorify God.

Full Transcript:

Let’s take our Bibles and turn to two passages. The one we have been looking at is in Acts 2:42. And we’re also going to be in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. I may only get through half of that this week and finish the rest next week.

We have been looking at Christian fellowship; once we become believers, God brings a tremendous change into our lives that impacts the way we think, our actions, and the whole direction of our lives. God ultimately brings us out of the world and into the church. And then in the church we should be actually found together quite often because we have a new family. In many respects, our church family becomes closer and more intimate than even our blood family. The real indication that new divine life has come is that we draw together with God’s people. And the first thing we want is the Apostle’s teaching, the second thing is Christian fellowship.

When we review the definition of Christian fellowship, it includes a relationship, a partnership, a community of sharers, and a basis of new life. There’s an agreement that we are growing in the teaching of the Word of God. Christian fellowship is conditioned by walking in the light and that means confessing and repenting of our sin, and how we maintain it. Living with a new world view and goal for life is important.

The privileges of Christian fellowship are that we get to fellowship with the Father and the Son, which we did not have before conversion. Then we also get to fellowship with one another. Spiritual fellowship is not a luxury, but a necessary and vital to our spiritual growth and health. Just as these first Christians in the book of Acts who fellowshipped with one another had obstacles, we also have obstacles. Americans in particular have these obstacles because we self-sufficient, materialistic, and abnormally individualistic. We tend to protect our privacy where the quality of Christian relationships are sacrificed on the altar of our peace and quiet.

We as Christians should be aware that these and other cultural influences reduce our commitment to one another and the Church family. The Holy Spirit’s intention when He saves people and brings them into the church is to teach Christians by the Word of God that the church is different than the way those outside do things, who are cold and materialistic. When we were brought into Christ’s church, we were brought to His particular design, that Christians were designed to be in constant fellowship with other believers and to be strengthened by quality Christian relationships within the local church. So as members of Christ’s church, we are designed to live the Christian life in cooperation with one another, dependently, not individualistically.

Of course the purpose of Christian fellowship is to encourage one another and share our experiences. Scripture tells us to be caring and devoted to honoring, praying, sharing, rejoicing, and weeping with one another. We are to enlighten the weaker brother and exhort the backslider. We are to offer our fellowship to those who have a hard time remembering happier earlier times in their Christian walk, that we may be be able to bring them back to the Lord.

We are to strengthen one another. Even if we’re are doing well spiritually, we owe it to others to give fellowship to them, and in the process we are blessed as well. Why would you want to miss out on that? In fact, I can’t get blessed apart from you in that personal fellowship way. That’s the way God designed it.

To be absent too long voluntary from fellowship might mean that you aren’t redeemed at all, that you don’t in fact want any of this. One of the things I think Christians grapple with about signing up for stuff, is that you actually sign up to do work. God gave us spiritual gifts so that we can work. We’re created in Christ to be workmen and work for the night is coming when no one can work. So we have a short period of time on the earth where we can work for the Lord, so let’s give it all.

Labor Day is this weekend. People don’t realize if they have any day off during the week is because of the labor movement in the United States. When immigrants came to this country, they worked seven days a week, twelve hours a day, with no rest or vacation, low pay, and horrible conditions on the job. That’s how the labor movement came into existence. We celebrate this weekend because of work. Labor movements brought better conditions to United States and then other parts of the world caught on as well. Labor is important; if you don’t have working people in your society, it doesn’t work and you can’t have a better life.

I heard some stories about this. My mother’s father and father’s father were both coal miners. And both of them died of black lung because they worked in the mines with no masks, safety conditions, and breathed in that coal dust until their lungs became like stone and they couldn’t breathe. My father told me that his father would stick his head out of the window during the winter so that he could breathe. And if somebody died in the mines, they would take the body and throw it on the porch of the family, which was cold and callous.

In other words, we are celebrating a freedom and job security because of what they dealt with back then. They had to work and sacrifice so that we could have a better life. I don’t know in mind if I could have gone through what my grandfather went through.

But we also know that we cannot be Christians unless Chris accomplished what He did on the cross. We never would have known what it means to have a relationship with God who created Heaven and earth. And we have a future because of that. He wants to bless us and pour His grace upon us and He wants to be merciful to us every single day and it’s all because of the work of Christ. So that brings me to my passage of Scripture.

Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 12, which is really about working. It’s about the body working properly together to accomplish the goals that God wants. This morning I want you to realize that there are three Scriptural foundations that we find for Christian fellowship. You cannot have Christian fellowship unless you are working together. It’s part of God’s program and part of what we do.

The first one is that the Scriptures declare that there is only one Body of Christ even though there are many members in the body. This is the first foundational truth for Christian fellowship. You are really called into the church to work together to do God’s work. But we have to understand that there is only one body, and this is not about individuals.

Paul in this part goes to great lengths to explain to the Corinthians this design that God has given to His church. It’s in the Word of God for us today. The first thing we see under this heading is that the church is one organic whole. Look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

If you notice the term one used throughout these two verses point to the fact that the body is an organic whole. The Scriptures are using the human body to compare it to the church body. Just as there is unity in the midst of diversity that pervades the physical body, it also characterizes the spiritual body.

Francis Schaeffer in his book written on true spirituality, which is about substantial healing in the church, he says this: “The basic element in church is not organizational church, though that’s where we spend most of our time. The human body is directed by the head. The hands are not in direct relationship with each other. The reason they cooperate is because each of the hands and joints and fingers are in control of a single point, the head. Block the body from the head and it is spastic. For example the fingers could never find each other and uniformity of action would come to an end.”

It’s exactly the same with the church of Jesus Christ. The real unity is not basically organizational unity, but a unity in which each part is under control of the head and therefore functions together under that head. The unity of the church is basically the unity of the head controlling each of the parts. If groups of Christians are not under the leadership of the head, the church of Jesus Christ would be functioning like hands that cannot find each other and the whole thing would be broken and spastic and accomplish nothing.

So if Christians in any group fail to be under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the headship of Christ, that group will be spastic and accomplish nothing. But in the church of Christ, there is unity in which there are many parts that are working together under the head. Look in 1 Corinthians 12:14 where it says:

For the body is not one member, but many.

Each member of the body has a part of its own. Each part has a responsibility that can be handled by itself than by any other yet it remains a whole unit. Now if you notice the couplets in our passage, we have the foot and the hand, the ear and the eye, the head and the feet, which are the weak and strong members and are all included. Paul really wants to drive home to us an analogy so we can fix it in our mind that the church works just like my body.

He addresses a few problems in the church, and one of them was an inferiority complex. If you notice in 1 Corinthians 12:15 it says:

If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.

We have the foot who thought it couldn’t be part of the body because it was not a hand. Of course the hand is very visible and can perform many abilities like writing poems and songs, and building things. Feet generally cannot do these things and is unappealing. It is usually covered by a sandal or a shoe, and is not very visible. Feet are good for odor eaters.

So it concludes that some are not as visible and gifted as a hand and therefore are not needed. People actually think this in their minds. They don’t come to church to work, but to sit and then leave and we never see them again. That’s not what is supposed to happen. So they go by the default and think they are not in it to work.

The principle under this example is that no member can accomplish its own removal from the human body by complaining or depreciating its own importance. Therefore everyone has a responsibility to accomplish something towards the growth of the body no matter how inconspicuous their gift may be. So here is a Christian whose gifts are less conspicuous because he or she is never in the limelight and seldom gets noticed, so they get discouraged over their gift status. That’s what Paul is referring to in Romans 12.

Now you don’t need to turn there because I have it on the screen. After all this great theology in Romans, Paul tells the church not to look at themselves as higher or lower than they ought to but just the way God has gifted them. If you look at somebody else who is more gifted than you, then you will think you want that person’s gift, recognition, ability to teach, etc. That’s not God how designed the Church and it works as a unity when we follow God’s ways. It says this in Romans 12:3-5:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

See a person not discerning properly how the Lord has gifted him or her, can be a trouble to the body because he or she begins to grumble and allow themselves to become discontent and jealous of someone who has more visible gifts than themselves. So they fail to realize that every member is important no matter how hidden from view. The whole body is somehow crippled when one member is not functioning.

Christians need to realize that they have been given a spiritual gift that only they can actively use to edify the body. Sometimes we don’t think like this but if you look up at 1 Corinthians 12:11, look at what it says:

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

See that’s what God does. He’s giving to you at conversion, when you became new, a spiritual gift. Everyone has at least one. As a Christian you need to figure out what it is so that you can use it in the body. As we all use our gifts we can build up the body together. We all may have different measures of the same gift. Leave that with the Lord and He will take care of the rest of it.

If you notice in 1 Corinthians 12:16 it says:

And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.

The ear thought it was left out because it was not an eye. Eyes are visible and colorful and can be made very glamorous. Ears are usually covered and filled with wax and have ears growing out of them. They don’t really build ego so they think they are not needed.

The Corinthian church were caught up in the eye and hand gifts, therefore neglecting the other gifts. Many Christians have never known the joy of ministry and pleasing the Lord simply because they have not recognized their spiritual gifts. Maybe a crippling has taken place because of wrong thinking about spiritual gifts, which you do not hear much of today. I’m surprised when we get to the place about spiritual gifts in membership class and some people don’t know. That’s alright in the beginning, but it’s not alright five or ten years into it. We need you! That person may need the gospel again if they don’t understand!

In other words, Paul continues the analogy of the body to receive further counsel. We cannot be individuals and stand alone. Being self-sufficient is Satan’s philosophy, not God’s. No individual part in the body is equal to the whole. We must look at 1 Corinthians 12:17 which says:

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

Paul’s getting quite ridiculous here because he wants them to think of how absurd it is for them to think everything depends on them or that they are not useful at all. The principle here is that no organism can survive where only one member is involved, no matter how prominent. Paul takes a prominent member like the eye, and a less prominent one like the ear, and concludes that the body is limited without the hearing and the nose for smelling. There should not be spiritual loners in the body and no child should underestimate his own importance as a member of the body of Christ. They need not covet the prestige of another in God’s sight because His operation is just as significant. Anything we do for the Lord in the church is a significant thing. I just mentioned all that in this principle.

In God’s design, all are significant and have a proper place in the body. If that didn’t become clear to the Corinthians, then Paul mentions it again in 1 Corinthians 12:18, which says:

But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

In other words, God has planned this. We have not determined this on our own. As a matter of fact when we become Christians, we don’t know our spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are not simply talents we had before become Christians. It is not something that you are good at. When you become a Christian you get a spiritual gift that is divinely given to you for the building up of the body. It’s not primarily for you own personal use.

God has planned this, and we have not determined this on our own. God has appointed and assigned you a place and arranged those parts in the body just as He sees fit. By divine appointment, God has fit His body together so that there is a wisdom that lies behind the placement and ability of each member that cannot be disputed, because God is the One who did it. A Christian cannot select his own spiritual gifts or determine his place in the body. We cannot question the wisdom of God.

It was God’s pleasure alone that determines who gets what and what measure of gifts they get. Some get more than one, and of course the Apostles had many or all of them because they laid the foundation of the Church. Once the Apostles died, it’s our turn to keep building up the Church. If there’s no variety in the body, then there’s no body at all. This passage of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 12:19 says:

If they were all one member, where would the body be?

See if the body were all one member where would the body be? It is absurd to think of a body with only member. That would instead be a blob, if we didn’t have the variety of parts. There are two primary reasons why some Christians never become involved serving in the local body of believers.

The first one is that some feel they have no gifts or abilities so they sit back and let others do the work. These are described in the verses I just mentioned. They are really missing a blessing if they are not doing anything. Some think that they can just come as spectators when they go to church. Others feel that they are so highly qualified that they don’t really need the help of others to perform their ministry. We’re going to look at part of this message today and part next week.

What I want to stress in these two groups is that both are committing the sin of pride. If you think two highly of yourself that’s pride and we start looking down at people. But someone else can think too lowly of himself and conclude that God can’t use him. That’s pride on the reverse side. And we don’t often think that when we think lowly of ourselves, that is in fact sin and we need to repent of it. This sin is probably committed more than the first one because we evaluate ourselves and compare us to other people. We compare ourselves to those who have more education and who are able to speak well, then we decide we can’t do what they can. But that’s how God designed it.

The person that has speaking gifts needs to humble, and the person who has behind the scene gifts needs to be humble as well. Then there’s a unity that comes from the Spirit of God and the work of God really gets done. The elders and deacons can’t do all the work, we need the help of every single person in the body.

The sin of pride includes those who say they don’t need anybody. It includes those who say they don’t have any gifts, or others would say that they are so unimportant that they are invisible. If these people remain with this attitude, they become an affront to God and His wisdom. They stifle the body, just like some people don’t go to church because they don’t go to work. You need to ask where you can be used and where you can serve in the church. There’s nothing below us in the church. We need the nursery workers, the sound team, the organization of visitors, the internet and website. We need all kinds of gifts in the church so that God’s work can get done.

The second foundational truth for Christian fellowship is that Scripture declares that all members make up one body. We must work interdependently and not independently. We need to know that we need each other. We need other believers that have gifts that we don’t have. The body of Christ is composed of people that have a wide variety of gifts and capabilities. A few gifts are showing, but most are not. However all are needed for the body life to exist and continue as a unity. Now we have another problem, the superiority complex issue. Here in 1 Corinthians 12:20-26 it says:

But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Now I’m not going to mention what each gift is, because you can read what they are all. You have to ask yourself what gifts you have. The passage I just mentioned shows the danger of underestimating one’s importance and also overestimating one’s importance. The gifts here are in danger because they often show greater importance.

There’s always a danger for anyone stepping into the spotlight if one is not careful to begin to look down upon abilities and gifts that do not gain as much acknowledgement. I’ve seen it over again in the ministry with a first timer or the gifted and able. They’re given some authority and have response from others, and before you know it they make themselves the center of attention. They develop an inflated view of their importance and begin to use their gift without love. It becomes about them and because of their abilities and gifts, people gravitate towards them. That’s how cults begin, they are based on personality, and how someone is able to convince others to join them by their character. It becomes all about the cult leader, but in the church that should not be. They see themselves in an unbalanced way and if not checked, admonished, and even rebuked, it will lead to infighting, schisms, clicks, and factions within the church body. That’s why Paul told Timothy to not pick a new convert when choosing elders.

This is what it says in 1 Timothy 3:6:

So that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.

One sin the devil knows how to use is pride. He’ll either get you to look down at yourself or to think He can’t use you. Paul also tells the Philippian church to with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than himself. It further says in Philippians 2:4:

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

He’s saying that it’s not about you. God can remove you from the picture if He wants to. There’s nobody that is more important than another person no matter what gift you have because we are all part of the body. If you decide one day that you don’t really need your hand and you’re going to chop it off, well then you’re going to have a serious problem. But that’s like the absurdity sometimes that we bring into the body!

Bottom line is that whatever gifts God has given you, and He has given you at least one, whether they are quiet and behind the scene or more visible gifts, no one has the privilege to act alone. Our duty before God is to cooperate with all the other gifted Christians in the body so that it is built up and grows healthy. The church is interdependent with one another. Just like it says in 1 Corinthians 12:21:

And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

The superior organs need the inferior ones. The eye needs the hand and the feet and the head. We need the whole body. We can’t chop ourselves apart just because we don’t like some part. Now I’m going to pick up the rest of the passage next week. But I do want to say that we are to strengthen one another. And one way to do that is to remain our spiritual gift remains active and in service to the church body. We don’t have the option to put our gifts on the shelf.

If we consider the verse we started with, 1 Corinthians 12:12, which says:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.

The Church is the visible body of Christ on earth. The local church are hands to do His work, feet to run upon His errands a voice to speak for Him. The body analogy reminds us that certain things need to exist within a healthy body, which is efficient only when each part is functioning consistently and in the proper way. Also the parts of the body can’t act as if they are jealous of each other or remain ignorant of what they are to do. The body works as a unity and not in competition with one another. So all spiritual gifts that have been given to God’s church have an origin and a function that is to work in one common organism.

When the apostle Paul speaks about these spiritual gifts, he does so with the analogy of the body. When our body doesn’t work right, like when we slam our finger in the door, the rest of our body feels the pain. Everything focuses on the one source of pain.

You can read the passage of Scripture yourself, but ask yourself what can you do to serve the church body. If you know what your gift is, you should be using it. If you don’t know what it is yet you should be using it. Don’t put it on a shelf, because we all need it.

The theological concept for gifts and talents comes from several Greek words, one of them being charisma, which means the endowment of God’s grace. Then we might define spiritual gifts as abilities given to an individual by God in order that the believer might serve God in some particular way and build up the body of Christ.

You can check Romans 12:1-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Peter 4:8-11, and these all mention lists of spiritual gifts. Some of these gifts, I believe, have passed away and were only given to the founders of the church. But there are other permanent gifts that are still operative today.

A second thing is that there are some observations that we can glean about spiritual gifts, one being that some have more than one gift. Also, spiritual gifts are received at the moment of conversion. Although some are more needed in the church, some are more important than others in God’s eyes. We are to recognize the degrees of giftedness in different people. Some gifts were permanently given whereas others were more temporary.

The believer controls the use of his or her gift and is responsible for use or nonuse. Like natural abilities, spiritual gifts can be developed and matured. Many times, the gift we start with, God actually builds on it as we serve Him. Spiritual gifts can also be used with wrong motives, without love for others. And they are not the ability to work with a particular age group or place of service.

Some say that there are eight or night spiritual gifts and others say there are eleven or twelve permanent gifts. For example pastor/teacher, evangelism, exhortation, helps, ministering, ministry, administration, faith, knowledge and discernment, etc. There are many and you have one as a believer.

Experimentation is important. Give an attempt to serve in many various places of the body and make it a prolonged effort so that you can see. We always need help with every ministry and you can do it.

Then we have to ask the second question, which is where you can serve. God gives you a desire to serve in a certain area. If you use your timelines to discover your desires, ask what passions the Lord has given you when you became a believer. Maybe it’s to do evangelism in your family or in the world.

What you need to do after you get an answer to that question is to experiment and give an attempt to the spiritual gift. Most desires revolve around people and information, and that brings me to a third question you can ask, and that is what level can you serve in. As we grow in the Lord, we go through many phases. There is the seeker phase, that talks about little children and babies drinking spiritual milk. The second phase is the young man or woman phase as these people are young believers that use the Word to resist Satan and fight their sin and flesh. And the mature believer is the spiritual father or mother that just learns to live by faith. He or she knows the measure of their spiritual gifts and are not swayed too much by what’s going on in the world. They just do what God wants them to do and they are looking for Heaven.

Then you have to ask when you will serve. The greatest ability is availability. If you are never available, how can you serve. You maybe available to do everything you want to do, but what about God wants you to do? I know we knock from pillar to post with our crazy work schedules. People work when they are not even at work anymore. But in that vicious cycle of work, there’s got to be some availability. Either there’s 0-1 hours a week, light, 2-5 hours a week, moderate, 6-9 hours a week, strong, or 10 or more hours a week, which is major. We need all of it if we are going to get the work done, reach New Jersey, keep the church strong, and continue to teach the Word of God.

So where do you begin? Start somewhere! Real Christians desire true fellowship and true fellowship includes working with one another for the Work of Christ. We cannot enjoy fellowship if we are not using our spiritual gifts to build up Christ’s body. God designed it this way. Believe me, when you get in there and get your hands dirty for the Lord, it’s like you are transported to Heaven. You feel fulfilled and used by God. Your joy and peace increases, and you want to do more for the Lord. You learn how to deal with problems in a more efficient manner because God’s work comes first. Everything in the world gets minimized and God’s work gets pushed up to a higher priority.

So I just pray that if you don’t know your spiritual gifts, please sign up or the membership class because we have an evaluation tool there. The questions are about who you are and your desires to do as a believer. By the end of it, you can evaluate where you are in your spiritual walk and what you can do.

So when we need nursery workers or servants for the children’s ministry, I should never see no one respond when the emails go out. We should see people knocking each other over to get to serve. We need to think about this seriously because it’s in the Word of God and we need each other.

Let’s pray. Lord, thank You this morning. Your Word is clear and I must admit that we are not always obedient to it. But I pray that this would change for us today. I pray that we would sit down today and look at those passages that describe spiritual gifts. I pray that we would evaluate ourselves based on what they are and the desires You have given us since becoming believers. Bring us to a place of using those gifts in the body for the purpose of building it up. I pray that as we do that, we would not think that we are so important that we become prideful, or that we would think of ourselves so lowly that we cannot be used. Whatever measure You’ve given us of that gift, I pray that we would be thankful to be used in this lifetime to serve You in this way and that we can send our treasures ahead of us to Heaven by the use of our spiritual gifts in the body. I pray that You would bless us, that we would have workers and laborers for the field in these last days we live in. I pray that we would be used by You. Change our hearts today and move our will, give us a clear sight to our own selves so we can figure out where we are and how You can use us.

In Christ’s Name, Amen. Let’s stand together.