#9) Are you more comfortable inside or outside the church?

September 29, 2008

“I know there are some who say, ‘Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to any church.’ Now, why not? ‘Because I can be a Christian without it.’ Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? There is a brick. What is it made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.” –Charles Spurgeon

I enjoy the above quote from Mr. Spurgeon as practical biblical truth has exposed any intent of the human heart or excuse it attempts to provide concerning the local church. It appears that not much has changed concerning this since the 19th century [or the 1st]. I posed the question, “Are you more comfortable inside or outside the church?” not to pompously prove one point, but to prove many points from one perspective concerning the [religious] affections and desires of the heart to either be with and serve Christ’s people, or not.

First, the purpose of the local church must be defined. It may be easier to first define what it is not. The local church is not [necessarily] a building. Its purpose is not to be attended only on Easter Sunday, Christmas or other major holidays. It is not a place to get free coffee or to be treated as a place to ‘hang out’ once a week. When observing and meditating upon the epistles of the Apostle Paul to the churches throughout the Mediterranean world, the purpose of the local church becomes clear. It is to demonstrate and proclaim the Gospel by the gathering of believers in a local body [part of the Body of Christ, which includes every Christian in every nation of all times] to serve and edify one another using the spiritual gifts that God has provided each for the ultimate glory of God [simplistic].

Concerning the professing Christians that do not attend church [or worship] at all, they are not even mentioned by Paul. In fact, they are generally called pagans. Of all immoralities and perversions committed within the church, the believers are compared to people “outside of the church.” There is no defense for them in the Scriptures, for believers outside of the church do not exist. If one has been truly born-again of the Spirit, then one has received at least one or more spiritual gifts to contribute to the local body or church, i.e. the Body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:27]. Paul lays it out in a systematic manner:

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Paul teaches that the particular individual is not the one with power, but ‘the same God working all in all’ [v. 6]. Nevertheless, ‘the Body’ is the primary example used to describe the church. He also uses the simple yet elaborate spiritual paradox of comparing the human anatomy of a body to the spiritual body of Christ [or the church]. He was not necessarily a doctor or an anatomist, but one who has received this revelation from God, who made the Body of Christ and also the human body. As individual physical parts separate themselves from and thus affecting the physical body, it contrasts into the spiritual body when individual spiritual gifts contribute to the entire body of Christ.

“For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing [ears]? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling [nose]? But now God has set the member, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”
1 Corinthians 12:14-18

Because born-again Christians are part of the Body of Christ, they are grafted in or sealed for the day of redemption [Ephesians 1:13-14]. Since you are sealed into the church by the Sovereignty of God in the enacting and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then you are particularly gifted to serve as part of the Body, in the church. One may be gifted in prophecy or discerning of spirits. Another may be gifted in knowledge or interpretation of tongues. In contrast, one may be a nose and another, a foot. One may be an eye and another, an ear. The purpose of the analogous example in comparing the spiritual body with anatomy is that once grafted in or sealed, it is impossible to be detracted without affecting the body. Also, one cannot say that the nose is more important than the ear, for they each comprise an important and necessary part of the body.

“And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’: nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.”
1 Corinthians 12:19-22

Charles Spurgeon’s example of the ‘good-for-nothing’ brick seems like a harsh example to one who may say, ‘Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to any church.’ When such a statement is examined in 1 Corinthians [e.g.] of how Paul describes the local church as being members of the body of Christ, one who makes such a statement is simply lying. If one claims to be a Christ-follower, then according to 1 Corinthians 12, they are part of God’s family. Thus, if one is a Christ-follower, being part of God’s eternal family, then they are specifically gifted to serve God’s people in the local church for the edification of believers. They are a nose, hand, eye, ear or foot [have acquired certain gifts by the Holy Spirit]. To make such a proclamation of following Christ while having no desire or do not intend to give themselves to a local church is committing a fundamental biblical fallacy and ultimately sinning against God. It is impossible for a separated foot to call itself part of the leg. It is the same with a separated hand calling itself part of the arm. If they are completely detached from one another, then they clearly do not serve the exact purpose of their existence. The arm can lift itself, but it cannot grab without a hand. The leg can take a step forward, but it cannot plant without a foot. The foot detached from the leg is useless just as the hand detached from the arm is useless. Spurgeon ended with, “you are much to blame for the injury you do.” It is true that if you profess Christ and do not regularly attend a local fellowship or congregational gathering, you are injuring yourself spiritually as well as the local body.

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