Our bodies are a marvelous, miraculous collection of cells, tissue, organs, and organized systems that cooperate and function together to make us the people that we are. The human body is a wonder to behold. Maybe that is why the Psalmist said,
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV)
I don’t want to turn our study this morning into an anatomy and physiology lesson because I don”t know much about either topic, but both fields of study can give us incredible insight into Paul’s lesson about how the Body of Christ is supposed to function. If you would like to know more about the wonders of the human body from a brilliant Christian surgeon who relates anatomy and physiology to God’s creativity and the Body of Christ then you should order Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. It will blow your socks off!
I mentioned that our bodies are made up of cells, tissue, organs, and systems that function and cooperate together to make us who we are. We rarely stop to consider the marvel that is our body unless we are in class studying the human body. Think of this for a moment. Each and every one of us began as a single cell. A single cell, and look at us today! In his book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Dr. Brand writes about how some simple organisms like amoebae can cooperate for the purpose of reproduction then he contrasts this simple process with the miracle of human reproduction.
In contrast, the human body grows from the fertilization of a single egg. In The Medusa and the Snail, Lewis Thomas muses about why people made such a fuss over the test-tube baby in England. The true miracle, he affirms, is the common union of a sperm and egg in a process that ultimately produces a human being. ‘The mere existence of that cell,’ he writes, ‘should be one of the greatest astonishments of the earth. People ought to be walking around all day, all through their waking hours, calling to each other in endless wonderment, talking of nothing but that cell.’
Over nine months these cells divide up functions in exquisite ways. Billions of blood cells appear, millions of rods and cones–in all, up to one hundred million million cells form a single fertilized ovum. And finally a baby is born, glistening with liquid. Already his cells are cooperating. His muscles limber up in jerky, awkward movements. His face recoils from the harsh lights and dry air of the new environment; his lungs and vocal chords join in a first air-gulping yell.
Within that gray-colored, wrinkled package of cells lies the miracle of the ecstasy of community. His life will include the joy of seeing his mother’s approval at his first clumsy words, the discovery of his own unique talents and gifts, the fulfillment of sharing with other humans. He is many cells, but he is one organism. All of his hundred trillion cells knows that. (Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancy, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Zondervan Publishing. 1980)
I wish that I had the time to read the entire book to you this morning, but we must move on. I do want to point out to you that in Dr. Brand’s book you get the overwhelming sense that each cell in our body is intricately and specifically designed for its unique function within our bodies. Each tissue, each organ, the organization and cooperation of the organs is masterfully, intricately designed for the overall health and well-being of the person.
As we continue to make our way through the twelfth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome we have seen how Paul has encouraged the believers to offer themselves for the Lord’s service. He told those who follow Jesus to refuse to allow the pervading culture to mold and shape them, but instead to be transformed by the renewing of their minds through the power of God’s Spirit. He said that as minds are transformed the followers of Jesus will clearly see that God’s plan for each life is better than good, it is perfectly in accordance with His will.
In the Scripture that we studied last week we learned the lesson that Paul taught to the folks in Rome, a lesson that is still so relevant for us today. Paul told us not to think too highly of ourselves, but to keep in mind the grace of God. It is God’s Sovereign grace that has knit us together in our mother’s womb, sought us with passion when we were living life with no thought of God whatsoever, and blessed us in a myriad of ways throughout our life.
Have you recognized a progression in Paul’s lesson during these past three weeks? He began with a view of God’s mercy, moved to our response to that mercy, and then progressed to how we should relate to those around us. This week Paul will develop even further our relationship with those who are followers of Jesus. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning found in Romans 12:4-8.
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4-8 NIV)
We are the Body of Christ–a collection of cells, tissue, organs, and systems within the Body of Christ if you will. Designed and created by the gracious, glorious hand of God for the purpose for which He created us. Just as we learned earlier about the make-up of the human body so we should study and learn the make-up of the Body of Christ. Paul says that just as the members of our human body do not all have the same function neither do the members of Christ’s body. There is a beautiful diversity, created by God, within the Body of Christ and yet this diversity is for a united purpose. God has claimed us as His own; He is in the process of renewing our minds and shaping us into the image of His Son for His glory and the building up of the Body. We are God’s chosen instruments to do His will in this world.
There is a great story that has been told through the years. I don’t know if it is true. I’ve checked the story and some say it is an amalgamation of stories passed down through the years, but the story as I’ve heard it goes like this.
After World War II ended, a group of German students volunteered to help rebuild an English Cathedral in London. It had been severely damaged by bombing. They did their work in restoring most of the Cathedral, except for one statue that had been shattered into many pieces. It was a marble statue of Jesus. The statue had originally stood in front of the cathedral with Jesus’ arms held open wide towards all who entered the cathedral. The inscription under the statue of Jesus read, “Come unto me.”
The students who were working on restoring the statue were able to find most of the pieces except for Jesus’ hands. And so, when they finished their work they had a statue of Jesus with outstretched arms, but no hands. They couldn’t decide what to do. Should they make new hands? Or leave it as it was? They decided to leave the statue as it was. The one thing they did change was the inscription underneath the statue. No longer does it read, “Come unto Me.” Today it reads, “He has no hands but ours.”
We are the Body of Christ. We are His hands, His feet, His eyes, His ears–we are His people called to do His work in this broken and weary world. Just as there is incredible variety in the human body to help enable it to do what it was designed to do so there is incredible variety in the Body of Christ to enable us to do what God has called us to do. The variety in the human body and the variety in the Body of Christ are a gift, a blessing. As varied as the parts of our body are and as varied as we are as the Body of Christ there is something that unites us, something that keeps us working for the common goal for which we were created. It is our “spiritual DNA.” Let me share with you just one more example from Dr. Brand’s book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made that powerfully illustrates the “spiritual DNA” I am talking about by explaining the unity of the diversity of our cells and their work together.
What moves cells to work together? What ushers in the higher specialized functions of movement, sight, and consciousness through the coordination of a hundred trillion cells? The secret to membership lies locked away inside each cell nucleus, chemically coiled in a strand of DNA. Once the egg and sperm share their inheritance, the DNA chemical ladder splits down the center of every gene much as the teeth of a zipper pull apart. DNA re-forms itself each time the cell divides: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 cells, each with the identical DNA. Along the way cells specialize, but each carries the entire instruction book of one hundred thousand genes. DNA is estimated to contain instructions that, if written out, would fill a thousand six-hundred-page books. A nerve cell may operate according to instructions from volume four and a kidney cell from volume twenty-five, but both carry the whole compendium. It provides each cell’s sealed credential of membership in the body. Every cell possesses a genetic code so complete that the entire body could be reassembled from information in any one of the body’s cells… Just as the complete identity code of my body inheres in each individual cell, so also the reality of God permeates every cell in [Christ’s] Body, linking us members with a true, organic bond. I sense that bond when I meet strangers in India or Africa or California who share my loyalty to the Head; instantly we become brothers and sisters, fellow cells in Christ’s Body. I share the ecstasy of community in a universal Body that includes every man and woman in whom God resides. (Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancy, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Zondervan Publishing. 1980)
The wide variety of the cells in our bodies get their marching orders, their direction, their design and purpose from the DNA. And so it is with us. God’s Word and His Spirit are working within each of us to recreate us, mold us, and direct us in God’s will for which He created us. Our brain cells don’t function for the glory of the brain. Our heart cells don’t beat their own drum. Our kidney cells don’t pour forth their own praise. No, all of these and all the rest do what they do for the glory of the body! And so it is with the “cells,” you and me, within the Body of Christ. We serve, we teach, we show mercy, we organize and administer, we lead not for our glory, but for the glory of God!
In Romans 12, Paul lists some of the variety of the functions of the Body of Christ. Turn to Romans 12:6-8 with me and let’s read.
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8 NIV)
Paul lists seven “gifts” or functions of the members of the Body of Christ here in Romans 12:6-8, but don’t think that this is an exhaustive list of the functions of God’s people within the Body of Christ. Let me show you some others. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12:27 and let’s read.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:27-30 NIV)
Here, Paul lists eight different functions of the members of the Body of Christ. In Ephesians 4, Paul gives us another list. In this list Paul recognizes five different functions of some of the members of the Body of Christ. I want you to pay special attention why these parts of the Body do what they do. Read along with me.
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV)
Why? Why do these five differently gifted parts of the Body do what they do? It’s quite clear isn’t it? It’s not for their own praise and glory, but it is for preparing God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.
I want you to know that these lists, combined, do not exhaust the list of the gifts that God gives to His people. They do not exhaust the functions of the various parts of the Body of Christ. All of these lists come from the pen of Paul, but Peter has his own list. Turn to 1 Peter 4:10-11 with me.
10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV)
If you speak, then do so as if you were speaking the very words of God. Isn’t that interesting? What purpose can your speech serve? Well, you can encourage folks with your speech, you can teach people with your speech, you can show mercy with your words, and the list goes on and on. Peter also says, “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
There is a tendency among God’s people to want to codify things–to put them into some kind of legalistic structure. People who like this kind of thing will take all of the functions or gifts listed and write a book or create a website called, “Spiritual Gifts” and want the rest of us to try and find our particular function within the Body from their list. Well, I’m not one of those folks. These gifts that we’ve read are some of the ways that God has gifted His people, but there are many other functions, or gifts, that aren’t in any of these lists. I want to give you an example of what I am talking about. Turn with me to Exodus 35:30-35 and let’s see how God has gifted His people in ways that fall outside of the lists in the New Testament. This Scripture details for us how God gifted people so that the “tent of meeting,” the place where God would meet with His people, might be built. Read along with me.
30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts– 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers–all of them master craftsmen and designers. (Exodus 35:30-35 NIV)
Look at the wide variety and the common purpose of all of these that God gifted! In another Scripture, 2 Samuel 23:1, we see that God gifted David to sing and write music. That’s not a gift He has given me!
1 These are the last words of David: “The oracle of David son of Jesse, the oracle of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel’s singer of songs: (2 Samuel 23:1 NIV)
Here at Britton Christian Church we are seeing the manifestation of the wide variety of the gifts that God has given His people. We are the Body of Christ in a local setting. God has a purpose for this church and He has gathered people from across this city that possess unique gifts which perfectly fit into this Body. Why has He done this? So that we might be able to do what He has purposed us to do. Let me give you just a sampling of what I am talking about.
As I was writing this lesson on Thursday I got an email from Herman about a Care Calendar for one of our members. There are those who signed-up to take meals once they get out of the hospital following surgery. Is making a meal for someone a gift? Not only is it a gift to the person, but it a function within the Body of Christ, it helps us to be what God has called us to be.
At Thanksgiving we give folks an opportunity to help us provide 500 turkeys for the Britvil Food Pantry so that families in our community who are struggling financially can have a good Thanksgiving. The turkeys are $10 each. Is buying a turkey a gift, a function of some of the parts of Body for the purpose of bringing glory to God? In Romans 12, Paul says, “if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;”
Each week elementary school and middle school kids come to this church to receive help with their homework and encouragement for their daily life. Those adults who come to this church and help kids are gifted are they not? They are teaching, they are encouraging, they are performing their function, and they are using their gifts, for the glory of God and the building up of the Body of Christ.
Each Wednesday night there is another group of people who come to this church to lift their voices in song. Those people are gifted by God and they are using their gift for the glory of God and the blessing of the Body of Christ.
We have a team at this church called the “Chesed Ministry Team.” The folks who are part of this team work with those who are grieving, shut-in and unable to get out of their house, and in the hospital. The wonderful people who are part of this team are serving for the glory of God.
We have a group of folks who, during the week, spend their evenings preparing their lessons for the Bible classes they teach during the week. Some of them may not visit hospitals, some may not be able to cook a meal, but they are functioning in the place where God has gifted them for His glory. Thank you teachers for what you do!
Some of our high school kids periodically go down to The Refuge and work with that wonderful ministry that seeks to meet the needs of those who are struggling in downtown Oklahoma City. Our community is different. There are many in this community who are the “working poor.” They have jobs, but still find it difficult to make ends meet. We are able to help those who come to us who find themselves in a tight spot through our “Work Program.” There are those in our community who get behind on their bills, oftentimes their electric bill. Through the work program they can work and earn the money to pay their bill and keep their electricity on. We send a check to OG&E to be applied to their bill. Is that part of our “function” as a church? You better believe it is.
Families visit the medical and dental clinics that were started many years ago. At the King’s Klinic there are Christian doctors, dentists, nurses, and support staff who see their abilities as a gift from God to be used to bless people and glorify God. Thank you for serving out your calling for the blessing of God’s people.
There are times when families find themselves in a tight spot and they go to the BritVil Food Pantry that was started years ago to help those who are hungry. BritVil was started by folks who took Matthew 25 seriously. Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.” Later in that chapter He said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Every year we take a group of about 70 kids from this neighborhood and from this church to a camp called Kids Across America in Branson, MO. It is a great camp, but most of the kids who go with us wouldn’t be able to go if it weren’t for the generosity of others who underwrite that trip. Are those who contribute to help kids get to camp gifted by God? Paul says they are.
I could go on and on citing for you all of the wonderful ways that the Body of Christ is working together at Britton Christian Church. How does all of this happen in such a small church? It’s quite simple really. God has gifted His people. He has called people from all over this city to this place so that our gifts might fit together, diverse as they are; they are used for one purpose, for the purpose of bringing glory to God and the blessing of people.
Oh, can’t you see? Can’t you see that God has a purpose and a plan for your life? Before we come to know Jesus we are just ambling through life doing whatever we think is best, but when Jesus opens our eyes and we cry out to Him to come live in our hearts, then He redirects our course. No longer do I view my gifts as mine, they are His, to be used for the purpose for which He has given them to me. Once again, it all starts at the Cross. When we come to Jesus our life begins to take on added meaning and definition that we never knew before. If you don’t know Jesus as Lord of your life this morning then won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
August 5, 2014