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 Edification of the Body, or Individuality

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TomL
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PostSubject: Edification of the Body, or Individuality   Sat Mar 22, 2014 4:27 pm

I have seen the body of Christ compared to an ocean, and we are all individual drops of water until we join the ocean.  Now, when an individual drop of water falls into the ocean, can you find it again?  So it is with the body of Christ.  

Individuality is a concept of the flesh, not of the Spirit of God.  I am convinced that Jehovah God does not see us as individual Christians, but as the one body of Christ, of which he does all things for.  

The principle goal of early Christians was the edification (building up) of the body of Christ. There were no individual rights. Everything was done for edification.

Romans 14:19 states, "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." - ESV.  Get that! Mutual upbuilding or edification. The building up of one another. This is what the early church did, and this is what they were told to do.

Romans 15:1,2 states, "We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up." - ESV.   "Build him up," or edify him.

I Corinthians 14:12, "So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church." - ESV.  Building up, or edification of the church.

I Corinthians 14:26, "What then, When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." - ESV.  Once again, building up, or edification.

I Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you are doing." - ESV.  Again, build up one another.

You can also read Ephesians 4:1-16.

So, scripture teaches, by doctrine and example, that Christians are to have all things in common, and that all things should be done for the building up or the edification of body of Christ.

We have no individual rights in the church. We are a community of believers. How is this established?

Acts 20:28 states, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood."  -  ESV.   Jesus obtained or purchased the church of God with His blood. That means He has ownership of the church. So, we who are in the church, belong to Him. And, since we are purchased equally, that is, He paid a common price for each of us, we have common value. None of us are more or less important than another. That is how it is established that we have all things in common. For we are commonly owned by Him who purchased us with His blood.

I Corinthians 7.26: "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men."

Have you ever considered the full ramification of these statements, that the church of God was purchased with His own blood, that you are bought at a price?

Let's say you are in the market for a house. You go look at a house. You like it. You decide to buy it. The purchase price for the house is $100,000. You pay the purchase price with your own money. You buy the house with all its individual parts. Does the house belong to itself? Of course not. You bought it at a price, you purchased it with your own money. It's your property. Do any of the individual parts of the house have the right to do what they want? For example, can the siding say, "I am leaving and going to be a part of another house"? Of course not.

Then why is it different for the church? Why is it that individual members can claim to have rights to do things as they want? We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to He who purchased us. We are His property. Certainly people in America understand property rights. Whether an individual member or not, we are His property. And just as the individual parts of a house work together to benefit the whole house, in the same way the individual members of the church of God must work together for the benefit of the whole church.

If we focus on the needs and liberties of individuals, what happens to the body?  And, since so much in the Word focuses on edifying of the body, if we focus on the individual, are we following God's plan?  Yet so many in Christianity today do focus on the individual.  I have often heard preachers preach sermons based on the concept of individual Christianity.  Problem with that is there is no such thing.  Jesus didn't die for an individual.  He died for a body, a church.  

Sure, Paul talked about the various talents that individuals would have.  But, the purpose for those talents is to serve and for the edification of the whole body of Christ.  Not to serve and edify the individual.  

The apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 15.31, "I die daily."  In Ephesians 4.22 Paul writes about laying aside the old self.  In verse 24, he says to put on the new self which is in the likeness of God.  What I am pointing out is that individuality is in the old self, not in the new self.

My understanding of this comes from the fact we are not our own, we have been bought at a price.  See I Corinthians 6.19&20.  See also I Corinthians 7.23.  See also Acts 20.28.

That fact is, according to Scripture, we are not our own, we have been bought at a price.  We have been purchased by his blood.  We belong to God through Christ.  God owns us.  But, it was not individuals that were purchased.  It was the church that was purchased with his blood.  

THE DANGERS OF INDIVIDUALITY

While we do have free will, unlike inanimate objects.  But, when we become part of God's house, we lose our free will.  We all collectively are conformed into the image of God's Son.  See Romans 8.29.  I say that because, I don't know anyone individually, including myself, that has been conformed to the image of Christ.  We all, individually, have flaws.  But, there is no reason why we collectively cannot be conformed to the image of the Son of God.  Collectively we can fulfilled the teaching of Christ in Matthew 25.31-46.  But, is that happening?  I don't see it.  And I think that's because of the teaching of individual salvation.

Think about this.  If we can be individually saved, we can be individually conformed to the image of the Son of God.  But, individually, that can't happen because we have a sin problem.  But, that can happen collectively since individual sins are not transferred to the whole body.  But there can be collective sins, such as there was with Israel.  What happens when there are sins of the body?  What happened to Israel?  The body comes under judgment.  

1st Peter 4.17 states, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" NASV, biblegateway.com

This is not at all individual, but it includes all members.  This is what I am seeing today.  The body of Christ is under judgment, if indeed there is a body of Christ today.  I do not see a body of Christians anywhere obeying the authority of Christ.  So, is there a body at all.  

Let me explain this way how devastating individuality is.

There was one church.  Then there was a split between East and West.  The West became the Roman Catholic Church, and the East became the Eastern Orthodox Church.  Why did this happen?  A group of people in the West decided to follow a particular individual, while the people in the East did the same thing.  It would be like a group of early Christians saying we are following Paul, while another group saying we are following Peter.  In fact, that did happen.  And Paul dealt with it in 1st Corinthians 1.10ff.  

Division is the result of individuality.  And, Paul said division is carnal, meaning of the flesh.  That is why I say individuality is of the flesh because it causes division.  

Nowhere is this expressed more than in the "Reformation."  Along came Martin Luther with the idea of "reforming" the Catholic Church, which is where the movement got the name.  But it didn't end there.  People divided up to follow individuals like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Menno Simons, Jacob Ammons, and the list goes on.  Thus we have the denominational mess we have today.  

In contemplation of this all, I realized we are not building up the body, but we are building up individuals.  It continues today.  Individuals like Joel Osteen, John Hagee and Joyce Meyer are being built up.  We have the human need to hold on to someone or something.  But, in the body of Christ, we must jettison those human needs and build up the body, and not individuals.

Individuality is also expressed in the term, "personal savior." Jesus is not a personal savior to anyone.  He is the savior of the body.  I believe this perception of individual salvation has caused a lot of harm to the body of Christ.  

When God went to Cain and asked where was his brother Abel, Cain replied, "Am I my brother's keeper."  That is the response of an individualist.  In fact, wasn't Cain's whole problem one of individuality.  Wasn't Cain completely focused on himself?  Cain wouldn't have thought of joining with Abel to worship God.  Oh no, he had to do it his own way, and, of course, we see the result.  That is how dangerous the doctrine of individual salvation is.  It causes disunity for any union.  It's why many marriages dissolve.

Other terms for focusing on the individual are pride and selfishness.

Consider 1st Corinthians 15.39ff. In this chapter, Paul is dealing with the importance of the resurrection. But then he goes into differences. The different flesh. The different brightness of the sun, moon and stars. Then he talks about the resurrection this way,
"So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
45 So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46 Howbeit that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; then that which is spiritual." ASV, biblegateway.com

What if, we are corrupt, in dishonor, a natural body, and the Spirit of God never dwells in us? Now that is another piece of the puzzle. And another piece is the Scripture that says flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of Heaven.

What if we are sown in corruption, and the Spirit of God never dwells in us? Will we be raised in incorruption? I should say not. We are dead in our sins and trespasses. And if our physical bodies die while we are still spiritually dead in our sins and trespasses, what happens? Nothing, we are dead. But, what if the Spirit of God does come and dwell in us, and our physical bodies die. All we have left is our eternal spiritual body. The flesh is gone. Remember, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of Heaven. So, the kingdom of Heaven is totally spiritual. There are no physical boundaries as there are in this physical world. In this totally spiritual where there is nothing physical, how is individuality to be determined?

That is why I used the drop of water going into the ocean analogy. The drop of water is nowhere to be found, although I am sure God could find it if He chose to. The same is true with the totally spiritual kingdom.

What I am saying is that for Christians, spiritually, we are already part of that totally spiritual kingdom. If the Spirit of God dwells in us, why wouldn't we be? And the New Testament is full of instructions of how the spiritual kingdom in us should be expressed in this physical world. Remember, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." He also said, "The kingdom is in your midst." Most scholars believe that Jesus was referring to himself when he said that. But, now since the resurrection, and Jesus became a life-giving Spirit, do we not have Christ in our midst? So, does that not make us a part of His spiritual kingdom, spiritually speaking? Well, that is the question that we have been grappling with. I believe Christians are part of that spiritual kingdom through Christ, and should behaving accordingly in the flesh.

In a totally spiritual kingdom, there is no individuality.

_________________
study - Do your best to present yourself to God as an approved worker who has nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth with precision. - 2 Timothy 2.15; ISV, isv.com
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