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I submitted this brief vignette in preparation for the first denominational conference I was to attend after being licensed to preach by the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC).  To my surprise this article became the front page of their July/August 1991 denominational newsletter ("Foresee" Vol. 24, Number 4). This message contains the seed verses of my personal beliefs in regard to the ministry of the saints and the local church.  It also has application for the Church-at-large and the individual Christian as well.  

Life in the Body of Christ: Privilege and Responsibility...

In our modern society membership in the right club or organization is frequently an important and coveted achievement.  The importance of membership in the right group is, perhaps, most acutely felt among teens and younger adults.  Being a member of the football team, the cheer leader squad, or the right clique will likely be a higher priority in determining a teen's social status than good grades and a pleasant personality.  And the perceived benefits of recognition in the right groups lasts well into our adult lives.  Other areas also influenced by our organizational ties are job promotions, housing opportunities, and financial advancement, to name just a few.  Taking advantage of this social phenomena, an old advertisement for a well-known major credit card used to end with the statement, "membership has its privileges."

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and again to the Ephesians, the apostle refers to the church not as a human institution, nor mere religious organization,  but rather as the "body of Christ" (1Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:12).  Certainly membership in this body has its privileges!  As believers of the gospel we are members of a chosen community saved by the vicarious death of God's own son on our behalf.   We are recipients of God's indwelling Holy Spirit.  We are a people destined to eternal life, and not in our present, pitiful condition, but conformed to the glorious image of God's own son, Jesus Christ!

But along with its many privileges, membership in the body of Christ also carries with it a number of responsibilities.  As members of Christ's body we are, among other things, instructed to "pray for one another" (James 5:16), "encourage one another" (Hebrews 3:13), and to "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2).  And though our responsibilities begin with the saints they certainly do not end there.

The New Testament image of the Church as the body of Christ emphasizes the church's role as the focal point of Christ's present activity in the world--as was his physical body during his earthly ministry.  Just as Christ became "the Word made flesh" so the church is to continue as Christ's body on earth--"fleshing out" the gospel He came to proclaim!  The apostle Paul alluded to this idea in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 when he wrote,

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by
everybody.  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry,
written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone
but on tablets of human hearts." -NIV

As individual members of Christ's body we each bear the responsibility for putting hands and feet upon the Christian message of love, hope, and forgiveness, possible only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Our heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom, has ordained the ministry of His Son to be carried on, throughout the ages, by the members of His body, the church.  Yes, membership has its privileges, and its responsibilities!



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