I Belong (3): Belonging to One Another

Think about your body – bones and muscles, brain and spinal cord, heart and arteries, white blood cells and lymph nodes, and all the rest. Your body was fearfully and wonderfully made, and each part contributes to your well-being (Ps. 139:14).

Think about your right big toe. Not the most glamorous part of your body, but it’s great. Your big toe bears much weight and helps maintain your balance. Walking, gymnastics, and skateboarding are thrilling in part because of big toes.  

Think about your eyebrows. Why eyebrows? Well, who likes burning eyes? Eyebrows keep sweat out of our eyes. They also communicate emotion to others. They’re up. You’re surprised. One is up. You’re skeptical. Both are down. You’re not happy. What would theater be without eyebrows?

I think we all sometimes take our health for granted. We lose sight of how blessed we are when our bodies and their many parts, organs, and systems work together. Physiological harmony is a blessing.

Think about the church. To be united to Christ is to be united to the other members of the body of Christ. Belonging to Christ means belonging to the church. In Romans 12, Paul compares the church to a body. Paul said:

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom. 12:4-5)

Paul made a profound point. The church is similar to your body. We should not think about our salvation in individualistic terms. Our salvation is corporate in nature. Belonging to Christ means belonging to the body of Christ which is the church of Christ. If you’re a Christian, you’re a vital part of the church and have a vital function for the well-being of the church. You and I are quite different as are the millions of other “body parts” all around the world, but we all compose the one body of Christ. It’s magnificent. We are, indeed, individually members one of another. John Calvin said:

for we are called for this end, that we may unite together in one body, since Christ has ordained a fellowship and connection between the faithful similar to that which exists between the members of the human body; and as men could not of themselves come together into such an union, he himself becomes the bond of this connection. [1] 

Brothers and sisters, Christ is our inseparable bond. Who would dare think they could live well outside of a local body of believers?   

As I mentioned in episode 94, there professing Christians who refuse to be active members of a local church. They believe they can be united to Christ without being united to his visible church on earth. How odd. How unbiblical. How sad. They are essentially claiming to be part of the body and yet living apart from the body. What if there was a severed finger lying alone in the woods? That’s a gross thought. That’s what it’s like for a person to confess Christ and yet live apart from the life and vitality of a local church and God’s means of grace in that church. Oftentimes, as the severed finger lies alone on the ground, it thinks it’s alive and well, doesn’t realize it’s bloody and dying, and also doesn’t realize the body it’s severed from is in pain because of its detachment. The finger needs to be quickly stitched back on. Okay, that’s enough of that gross finger analogy; you get the point.    

Paul went on in Romans 12:6-8 to describe how each member of the body of Christ has different gifts. These gifts are graciously given to each member for the benefit, blessing, and well-being of the entire body. Sanctus Real is exactly right when they sing, “Oh, oh, we need each other.” Paul said, “let us use [our gifts].” How gracious of God to give each of us wonderful gifts and then use us to bless the entire body.  

One of the most devastating realities of a confessing Christian who lives apart from a local church is that they don’t actively use their gifts or receive the blessing of other members’ gifts as God intends. How does your body feel when some part isn’t functioning properly? Think about how good you feel and how thankful you are when every part of your body is working properly and together. It’s great! That’s how the church works, too.

We confess in the Apostles’ Creed “the communion of saints.” We should smile big when we confess that truth. What does it mean? Heidelberg 55 explains:

First, that believers, all and everyone, as members of Christ, have communion with Him and share in all His treasures and gifts. Second, that everyone is duty-bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the benefit and well-being of the other members.

Westminster Confession 26:1 says of the church “being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces.” [2] This is such a wonderful and glorious thing. When we truly love one another, when we use our gifts to bless one another, we enjoy true and lasting communion and oneness. To be loved and to love this way is unlike anything on earth. Who would want to miss out on this unrivaled goodness and grace?  

I would not thrive planning meals for the church, keeping financial records, or bearing the sole responsibility to talk to everyone on a Sunday morning. I’d be stressed out, anxious, and heavy with guilt. But when I see my brothers and sisters using their gifts in these and other ways, I’m so blessed and thankful for them. It’s quite sad when professing Christians don’t think they have anything to offer or who keep their gifts to themselves or who never really commit to or give much to a local church. Not only do they miss out, many others miss out as well. This point is often missed.   

Would you give some thought to this question? As a member of your local church, how are you actively using your gifts to benefit the other members? How are you working alongside the other members? How are you benefitting from the gifts of the other members? Are you fully committed to using whatever gifts God has given you for the blessing and well-being of the body of your local church? Maybe you’ve been dragging your feet over becoming a member of a local church, belonging to a local body, or submitting yourself to a local church. If so, would you consider committing yourself to a local church and beginning to use your gifts in an intentional way because you want to obey God and truly bless others who know you? You should belong to be known to serve and to be served.

When we honor God by committing our lives to a local body of believers, God will bless and enrich our lives in myriad ways, and if we have trusting our God along the way, we will never regret the love, commitment, and gifts we have given the church, nor will we fully realize the blessing other members have been to us.

[1] John Calvin and John Owen, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 458.

[2] The Confessions of Our Faith, Fortress Edition, ed. Rev. Brian W. Kinney (Fortress Book Service & Publishers, 2007), 13. 

Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism and creeds are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism: True Comfort for Life & Death (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021), 395. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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