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Building Up the Body One Man or One Body

Building Up the Body One Man or One Body

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Published by Gregory Valentine

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Published by: Gregory Valentine on Jan 07, 2011
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04/15/2014

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Building Up the Body -One Man or One Another?
 
Jon Zens
 
THE NEW TESTAMENT PERSPECTIVE: PRIORITY OF THE BODY(1) The General Viewpoint: A Functioning Priesthood 1 Pet. 2:5,9 Eph. 5:18-21 1 Cor. 12:4-26 (cf Rom. 12:3-8)Eph. 4:11-16 (2) The Specific Practice: "Build Up One Another, Even As You Are Doing"(1 Thess.5:11)1 Cor. 14--"Each of you"Rom. 15:14--Nouthetic Interaction1 Thess 4:18; 5:11-14--Constant Interaction Heb. 10:24-25 -- Serious InteractionTHE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: PRIORITY OF THE "PASTOR" The Early Period The Medieval Period The Reformation Period Four-Office View The "Doctor" The "Ruling Elders" The "Deacons" The "Pastor" "The Power of the Keys" "Administer the Sacraments" "Read the Scriptures Publicly" "Rules for Examination" I have many things on my heart that I would like to share with you concerning the upbuilding of the church. In "The Local Church: The Pillar and Ground of the Truth" (BRR, Summer, 1977), Iset forth some broad principles regarding the importance of the local church in the believer's life.There I said, in commenting on Heb.10:24-25, "these verses involve much more than just sittingthirty to sixty minutes before the preached Word.... Something more is to happen when weassemble with the brethren.... preaching only is is not enough." Further consideration of thesematters, however, has led me to believe that there are some problems in our general outlook andpractice which simply militate against this "something more" being expressed. In what follows Iwish to explore some Scriptural and historical matters which bear on the manner in which thebody of Christ is to be built up. Traditionally and practically we have ended up focusing on oneman, the "pastor"; I submit that the New Testament focuses "on one another" in the upbuildingprocess.
 
If we are serious about Christ's truth, then we should not be afraid to bring our private and localchurch practices under the scrutiny of God's Word. John Owen made the following observationin 1689:For the most part, the churches that are in the world at present know not how they came so to be,continuing only in that state which they have received by tradition from their fathers (
The True Nature of a Gospel Church
, edited and abridged by John Huxtable [London, 1947], p.35).If there are things in our tradition which we do that are in conflict with the N.T. revelation, thenwe must correct our practice. I have attempted to speak in areas where clearness, not haziness, isevident in the N.T. The questions I raise, and the convictions I state may seem to be strong; but Iask you to consider these things in the light of Scripture, and if you believe there is Scripturalteaching I have missed, or perverted, please seek to correct me. I believe these matters are of utmost importance, and it is critical that we ascertain the mind of Christ concerning the place of mutual ministry in the local church. According to Eph. 4:16, we need that which every jointsupplies in order to grow in Christ.
 
THE NEW TESTAMENT PERSPECTIVE:PRIORITY OF THE BODY
o
 
(1) The General Viewpoint:A Functioning Priesthood 1 Pet. 2:5,9Just as there was a people of God in the old age, so now under the New Covenant there is an"Israel of God" (Gal.6:16). But this new people is not national, but spiritual in character --"living stones." That which was typified in geographical Israel has now come to livingexpression in "a spiritual house, a holy priesthood," which "offers up spiritual sacrifices" (v.5).This house is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ (v.4; cf. 1 Cor.3:11).Of special interest to us here is the conception of this family of God as "a holy priesthood....aroyal priesthood" (vv.5,9). Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant priesthood, and is building a churchin which every "living stone" is a "priest." There were many requirements for the Old Covenantpriesthood, and as a result only a relatively few men functioned in it. But the New Covenantpriesthood includes all saints.More importantly, however, is the fact that the Old Covenant priests had certain functions toconstantly perform. Peter focuses on this point: New Covenant priests function by offering up"spiritual sacrifices" (v.5). A non-functioning priesthood is an absurdity! What is included in"spiritual sacrifices" can be seen clearly in such passages as Rom.12:l, Heb.13:15-16 andRev.5:8.In Rom.12:l-8, it is important to see how Paul naturally links our priesthood (v.1) with ourfunctioning in the local church: "so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every onemembers one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us"(vv.5-6). Not "all members have the same office" (v.4), but all members are to-function in thebody (v.3b). It should also be clear that the functions Paul has in view involve (though notexclusively) the meetings where the church comes together (vv.6-8).
 
 
There are four things with reference to the general priesthood of believers I would like topoint out.
o
 
First, a functioning priesthood is essential and basic to the people of God.
o
 
Secondly, any church traditions and practices which in their practical outworkingsquelch the functioning of believers as priests must be rejected.
o
 
Thirdly, we must realize that people, not buildings, constitute the "house of God"(cf. 1 Cor.3:9). For example, well-meaning parents say to their children, "be quietand still, for we are in the house of God." However, "God's house" must not beidentified with any building, for this clouds the fact that Christ's people are a"spiritual house." The old covenant emphasis on places has passed away becausethe fulfillment of these types has come in a spiritual people (John 4:20-24).
o
 
Fourthly. in light of our priesthood, we cannot give credence to the historical"clergy/laity" distinction. Howard Snyder points this out by saying:The New Testament simply does not speak in terms of two classes of Christians -- "minister" and"laymen" -- as we do today. According to the Bible, the people (laos, "laity") of God compriseall Christians, and all Christians through the exercise of spiritual gifts have some "work of ministry." So if we wish to be biblical, we will have to say that all Christians are laymen (God'speople) and all are ministers. The clergy-laity dichotomy is unbiblical and therefore invalid. Itgrew up as an accident of church history and actually marked a drift away from biblicalfaithfulness.... It is one of the principal obstacles to the Church effectively being God's agent of the Kingdom today because it creates the false idea that only "holy men," namely, ordainedministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry (TheCommunity of the King [IVP, 1977], pp.94-95).The N.T., indeed, makes a distinction between leaders and people (cf. 1 Thess.5:12-13). But thisdistinction assumes the priesthood of believers, and does not swallow it up as the "clergy/laity"practice has in the past.
 
Eph. 5:18-21In v.18, Paul issues forth an imperative, "be filled with the Spirit." The fulness of the Spirit, then,comes to expression through the five participles which follow: "speaking to yourselves...singing... making melody... giving thanks... submitting yourselves one to another" (vv.19-21).The "Spirit-filled" life is not some nebulous, ecstatic experience. It comes to visible expressionin relationship with other people.Thus, a basic aspect of our priesthood in Christ is to be in a submissive frame of heart withreference to the other brethren. That is to say, wrapped up in our priesthood is a spiritualcommitment to others. Before Paul moves on to specific forms of submission (5:22; 6:1; 6:5),and specific headship responsibilities (5:25; 6:4; 6:9), he first sets forth the absolute necessity of mutual submission to one another in the fear of. Christ (5:21). Our Christian priesthood, then,means at least two things: (1) that we make a commitment of love to minister to our brother's

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