Intro: Truth is simple. Eph. 4:4 – “…There is one body”. When I view the enormous division in religion today, and see the vast number of denominations that claim solidarity with Christ I am distressed. But the truth is still the same. There is one body.
I. What is the One body? – The word used here appears throughout the NT, used both literally and metaphorically. It denotes the physical body (of flesh) and metaphorically a corporate unit, or sound whole. It is not difficult to see what it refers to here. Earlier in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul identified the body as the church.
- Ephesians 1:22-23 – 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. The truth is simple, and simply stated. There is one church. We understand what it means with reference to one God, one Lord, and one Spirit. It means exactly the same thing when it is used to refer to one body.
A. On several occasions, the Bible affirms that oneness of the church. Jesus said, “…upon this rock I will build my church…” (Matt. 16:18). The word “church” is a singular noun. Jesus said “church” and not “churches.”
B. It is important that we think of the church just as it is defined and described in the N.T. The word church (ekklesia) means assembly, and always refers to just people. It is used in the N.T. as a collective noun, such as flock or herd. The church of Christ are people who belong to Christ.
1. Not a denomination or collection of congregations. It was not a part of something else. It was, and is, a body of individual Christians related to Christ.
C. The Bible clearly indicates that the church as Christ established it is an integral part of God’s eternal plan. It is therefore very important to God. Ephesians 3:10-11 – 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
1. God purchased the church as His own possession. Acts 20:28 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. Surely it is important enough to need appropriate identification. One doesn’t just flip through the yellow pages or just drive up and down the street, looking for a church (people) that suits me.
I. One Body -One Head; The oneness of the body reflects the oneness of the head. If there is ONE body, then there is ONE Head; if a member of a body follows the direction of that ONE Head, then it is in that ONE body. Thus, the One body (church) is defined by its single allegiance to the Head. Return to our opening scripture:
A. Eph. 1:22-23 – 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Jesus is the head of the body. Have you seen these photos where one person’s head is put on another person’s body? (My head on Superman’s body). Some are easy to spot – you know that it is a forgery. Others are more difficult. The body of Christ can be distinguished by how closely they match their Head. Some churches do not resemble Jesus at all.
1. Jesus said in Matt 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
2. Acts 11:19-26 – 19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. 22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
3. Possibly the best description of a Christian is found from Jesus’ own words in John 10:27– My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
4. There has never been an apostle, college of apostles, pope, eldership or any group of men who has ever been the head of the church that is from God. (local or universal)! Our allegiance is to Jesus alone. The only creed that Jesus’ church pays attention to is the inspired teaching of the apostles and prophets contained in scripture.
• Eph 2:19-22 – Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. The church of the Lord still continues in the apostles’ doctrine in regards to its worship, work, and organization.
II. One Body – One Origin: The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus established His church 50 days after His death & resurrection. The record of this is found in Acts 2. On Jewish feast known as the day of Pentecost the power of the Holy Spirit was poured out supernaturally upon Jesus’ apostles, and for the very first time in all of history, they began to proclaim the basic facts of the gospel message:
- Jesus had been crucified for the sins of humanity,
- He had been buried in a tomb.
- Three days later, he arose from that tomb,
- then, forty days later, ascended back into heaven to be at the right hand of God. He now reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords over His kingdom.
A. Peter, speaking through the Holy Spirit, declared that those listening were guilty of the sin of crucifying their Messiah. Acts 2:37-38 – 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Luke tells us they who gladly received Peter’s words were baptized, and there were added together. (v. 41)
B. Six months before His death Jesus had said, I will build my church.” This is the fulfillment of that promise. From the day of Pentecost on, in the book of Acts, we read that the church is in existence. And so, we conclude that the church was established at that time.
1. Notice carefully what distinguished (or established) them? Acts 2:41-47 “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
2. Those who became the church were:
a. Those who “gladly received his (Peter’s) words”… who repented and were baptized.
b. Those who continued in the apostles’ doctrine.
c. Those who fellowshipped one another, praising God in worship, giving to each other freely.
d. Those who were being saved (The Lord added them to the church). This marks the kind of persons who were added to the group. The church was the group (flock) of those who were being saved, by submitting to the allegiance of Jesus, the King & Christ.
e. Who would be so bold as to instruct a person to respond to the gospel of Jesus in some other way than this? Who would dare tell someone that any part of their response was unnecessary or inconsequential?
3. This beginning speaks to the church in a universal sense – all the saved of every place and time. The word church is also used to describe local congregations of Christians that emerged as individual members of the Lord’s church gathered together to work and worship.
III. One Body – One Mission: If there is anything that sets God’s church apart from the modern churches of today it is the focus or mission of the church. Churches today are oriented toward attracting the “unchurched” with entertainment and social programs. There is little or no talk about sin or righteousness. The story of the gospel is replaced with the story of ourselves and what we want. (The desire to be rich trumps any desire to be holy)
A. In Ephesians 4 Paul describes the growth process that God designed for the body of Christ. (A body that is not growing is dying). Eph 4:11-16And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
1. The church is dedicated to speaking the truth in love so that each member of the body will grow up to the measure of the stature of Christ. Just as in the physical body, the whole serves the head. The body acts and reacts together toward a common goal – to grow to the stature of Christ. The body is completely influenced by the Head. – Eph 3:16-19 – that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
2. The renewed character of the members of the body is a testimony to the power and person of the Head. Christ lives in His people, and His character becomes their character. Col 3:10 – “…put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, “
B. 1 Tim 3:15 – 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. In the church’s pursuit of spiritual goals there were a few things that prominently set the Lord’s church apart:
1. A mutual Concern for Other Christians (the practice of brotherly love): The original Christians were willing to give generously to others. Acts 2:44-47 – 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
2. A commitment to Evangelism: They went everywhere preaching the word. In Ephesians 4 Paul calls on the church to build up the body of Christ through the teaching of the truth in love.
3. An emphasis on the authority of apostolic teaching: The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 1) W must continue steadfastly in it.
4. A priesthood of believers: Every member equal before God. There is no clergy-laity distinction in the Bible. There is diversity of roles, some of headship and subjection defined by God. But all are individually responsible and answerable to Christ alone. Gal 3:26-28 – For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Conclusion: In Ephesians 1:23 Paul says the church is “the fullness of Him that fills all in all.” If in Christ’s body all men are filled, how can men say a person can be saved outside of it? This also forever distinguishes the church of God from every institution of men. It also forever separates the work of God’s church from every other church or religious institution. No human institution (even those made up of Christians) is the fullness of Christ.
Paul prayed in Eph. 3:18-19 – 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“to be filled with the fullness of God” – Colly Coldwell states that this phrase means “perfect participation in all of God’s gifts and complete blending of our lives into His characteristics.” It is to be like Jesus in every compartment of our lives – His fullness fills us up. That is what it means to be in the ONE body of Christ. Unlike the churches of men, this is not a social or religious affiliation – it is a spiritual relationship that even the gates of Hell cannot prevail against.
Are you in the One Body?