The Church, the Body of Christ
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Acts 20:17, 18, 27-29
The word elders is plural and the word church is singular. We know that the church in Ephesus had more than one pastor. Luke asked them to come to Miletus to meet with him.
There is a doctrine that teaches that the church consists of all believers who also form the body of Christ. It is popular because we have listened to inter-denominational people teach the Bible. The Bible clearly teaches that all believers do not form the body of Christ. The local church is the body of Christ. We have developed a total misunderstanding of what the term the body of Christ means.
There are three titles given in the Bible for the position of pastor.
The fourth chapter of Ephesians refers to the title of pastor, which means shepherd.
The second title for that position is the title elder, meaning protector and feeder of the sheep. It implies that a pastor should have experience and that he should be able to counsel and lead wisely.
The third word is the word bishop, which is the word for overseer. It is his job as the bishop to oversee all the work of the ministry of the church.
The church at Ephesus was a large church. It was the church to which other churches looked for leadership and guidance. It had several pastors. Paul called for the elders (plural) of the church (singular). This could not be the invisible church, because it had elders. The flock spoken of here was the church members. The word overseers, in the Greek, is the same as the word bishop. God says to feed the local church over which the Holy Ghost had made them the overseers. These men or pastors could not have overseen every Christian in the whole world. It is not talking about all Christians. It is talking about the local church at Ephesus. So it is speaking in this passage about one church, not a worldwide invisible church.
Note what is said about this church in this passage.
1. Jesus purchased the church at Ephesus with His own blood. That does not mean that Jesus did not die for everybody. In this passage He is referring only to the church at Ephesus. There are so many things that happened on Calvary. We will never know all of them. For example, our healing was on Calvary. The Bible says: By his stripes we are healed. We know that Jesus died for all sinners. He also paid the penalty and shed His blood for the church at Ephesus. You cannot refute that.
Paul called for the elders of the church in Ephesus and told them to take heed that they feed the church of God, which He had purchased with His own blood. He was referring only to the one church. Jesus purchased that local church with His blood. This was not a reference to all Christians, although He did die for all people. He also died to purchase the individual church.
2. He chose to call the local church His body.
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:22, 23.
This word church is the word ekklesia, which means a called-out assembly. All believers have not yet been called out and assembled. They will not be assembled until the rapture when the church of the firstborn will be assembled in Heaven and all believers become a church. All believers are not now a church. He is referring to the called-out assembly or local church in the city of Ephesus.
He calls it His body because Jesus purchased the church, so He owns it. He calls it a body. The word body means, a complete instrument. Jesus was talking about ownership. It is His body. He owns it. He purchased it with His own blood. The local church is not the body of Christ in the sense that it is His arms and legs. It is the body of Christ in the sense that He bought it and owns it. So, the church and the body are the same.
The same thing then is true about each individual local church. Each church on earth is His body that is to carry out the work of God. That is why we should do His business. It is His church. We have no right to organize it like we want to organize it. We have no right to do things we should not do. We have no to make His church into a social club. It is a place where God's people come to be strengthened to go out in the world and tell the people about the Saviour.
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Colossians 1:18
Since Jesus owns the church, and it is His body, He should be the own who gets the preeminence in all things. He should have preeminence in the choir. He should have preeminence in the church-school. He should have preeminence in the college. He should have preeminence in the youth program. He should have preeminence in every single ministry of the church.
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Colossians 1:24
This is referring to the church at Colosse, one church. Again in both of these verses, the word church is the word ekklesia, or a called-out assembly. Again, the Bible refers to the church as the body of Christ. He owns it. Jesus owns only one body. He owns only one organization. He does not own any other institution except the church. It is His body.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Ephesians 5:25
If anything refutes the invisible church, this is it. Jesus compares Himself and His church to a man and wife. Consequently, if there an invisible church, then a man has an invisible wife. Jesus does not love an invisible church. He could have chosen another relationship to compare it with. He could have chosen angels because they are invisible to us. He could have used spirits or souls, but He chose to use the visibility of a man and his wife. Jesus is talking about a visible organization which is His church and His body.
Here are several observations in light of these things.
1. His body is His called-out assembly.
2. He purchased it with His own blood.
3. It is His only body.
4. He loves it dearly.
It is a tragedy how many Christians place outside Christian organizations over their own local church. I have seen it happen all over the country. If Christ feels the way He does about the church, then each one of us should likewise recognize its importance. Many Christians are more offended when their pastor tells the truth about the decay of a parasite organization than they do when a similar organization criticizes or speaks ill of their local church. The New Testament church is the institution He loves, and we are to love it and be an active part of it.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. I Corinthians 12:12
A called-out assembly is the same as the church. The church is the same as the body. The body, called-out assembly, or local church has many members, and all members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. We do not belong to the body that He purchased just because we are saved, because He purchased the local assembly. What difference does all of this make? It makes a big difference because there are many Christian people who are not a part of a local church. There are Bible colleges where most of the faculty and students are not actively involved in a local church. I am not talking about liberals. I am talking about fundamentalists. They believe that the church is not as important as the college.
You are as right with God as you are with the institution for which He died. All over the country there are Christian people who minimize the importance of the church, His body. Hyles-Anderson College has a right to continue to live only as long as it stays under the thumb of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because Jam not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because lam not the eye, Jam not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. I Corinthians 12:13-23
What does it mean by one spirit? Are we all baptized into one body? He is talking to the church at Corinth, and telling them that the Holy Spirit immersed them into that church.
People like to say that we should go to the church of "our choice." That is not right. We should go to the church of the Holy Spirit's choice. The Holy Spirit is supposed to lead us where we go. People choose to leave churches for the wrong reasons. The Holy Spirit puts
us into the body. The ekklesia, or called-out assembly, is His body. He purchased that body with His own blood. The Holy Spirit will show us what body we are to go to and will immerse us into that body.
Each of us has our own place in the body. Each part of the body has a particular function. Each part is important to the overall functioning of the body. No part should look at another part as being of less importance. I cannot say to the PA man, "I have no need of you." I cannot say to the organist and pianist, "I have no need of you." I cannot say to the custodians, "I have no need of you." Each of us has been placed there by God. That means that it is important that we be where God wants us to be. We have need of every single person in the church. Every person in a church needs every other person in a church. God has put us there.
The part of the body which is the weakest is the one that needs our attention the most. If you cut your finger, you will suddenly pay more attention to that finger. In the church we want to cut off the finger. If a member backslides, we cut him off. We treat him as if he were not worthy to be in the body. None of us is worthy to be in the body.
When a part of the body is less attractive to us, we should give the most attention to that part to help make it more attractive. We should not ignore it. We do not need to pamper the part that is working right. We need to pamper the part that is not working right.
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. I Corinthians 12:25-3 1
We have been influenced by this invisible church idea. We need to get back to the fact that the local ekklesia is the called-out assembly, and that all believers have never been a called-out assembly. All believers are not members of the church. If people are going to be reached, it will be through the ministry of local churches.
The military of this country is a good example. When a man joins
the army, he does not go visit a camp in North Carolina this week, a camp in Wyoming the next week, and then a camp in Virginia the next week. No. They put him in a working unit, and that unit is a body of soldiers that belongs to the United States Government. It is the body of the army, and the individual fighting unit. If you allowed soldiers to go where they want to go, you would never win a war. Men are placed in a division, in a battalion of that division, in a company of that battalion, in a platoon of that company, and in a squad of that platoon. That is the way you win battles, and that is the way you win wars.
The church is God's institution, for which Christ died. He purchased it to be His body. It is that body to whom He has given the responsibility to take the blessed Book and spread His message to a lost and dying world. That is the way to get the job done by being a part of the local body, called the church, for which He died.
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