FORMING THE BODY OF THE SERVANT OF THE LORD
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica. Used by permission.
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15,16)
The servant of the Lord is Christ—head and body. The ministries and gifts given to the saints are for the purpose of building up the body of the servant of the Lord. What the Christ, head and body, will do is described in Isaiah chapter 42.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (Corinthians 12:4-6)
Can you see that the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts? The Lord Jesus administers them. God the Father furnishes the power to operate the gifts.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. (I Corinthians 12:7-10)
Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous power, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues. Then we might add: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. I do not keep these four or five separate as some do. They all have as their purpose the building of the body of the servant of the Lord. Notice that Paul groups the ministries together with the gifts.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (I Corinthians 12:17,18)
We Christians are not to be passive about the spiritual enablements. We are to covet them earnestly that we may be able to build up our fellow members of the body into the fullness of the stature of Christ. Why is the Spirit of God upon us? It is because the Church needs to be built up in righteous behavior.
I tend to add “behavior” after the word “righteous,” otherwise people will think of ascribed, or imputed, righteousness. Imputed righteousness is given to us when we receive Christ in order to free us from the Law of Moses. But if imputed righteousness does not lead us to real righteousness, then we have received imputed righteousness in vain. God’s central purpose in the plan of salvation is to create righteous behavior in people.
God has chosen the Lord Jesus Christ and exalted Him because He loves righteousness and hates lawlessness.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Psalm 45:6,7)
I do not believe God has exalted Christ because Christ loves imputed righteousness, but because He loves actual righteousness of Being and behavior. I am pressing this point because of today’s overemphasis and misapplication of imputed righteousness.
When Christ comes to maturity in us, we will love righteousness and hate wickedness. Christ and His saints shall govern the nations with a scepter of iron righteousness. That iron righteousness is created in us as we choose to do God’s will at all times no matter how intense is the temptation to do otherwise.
God’s holy royal priesthood will govern the creation for eternity. They will enforce righteous behavior on all people, which is the purpose of government.
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)
The governments of this world often do not enforce righteous behavior upon themselves or upon those whom they govern. However, God demands that human beings behave righteously, and that is why we have government.
The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: “When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.” (II Samuel 23:4)
The reason God has anointed us with His Spirit is that we might serve as members of the body of the Anointed One. God has placed ministries and gifts in the body so we may build up each other until we are oaks of righteousness. Then we can serve as the royal priesthood, as the servant of the Lord, and govern according to God’s standard of behavior.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
God gives to each one of us a ministry and gift so we may build up those who “grieve in Zion.” The purpose is to make them oaks of righteousness. This is so they might display the Lord’s splendor to the world, leading all saved people to righteous behavior. The members of the servant of the Lord cannot possibly lead the saved people of the world into righteous behavior until they themselves have become “oaks of righteousness.” Can you see the sense of that?
Now we can understand why we must covet and pray for the gifts and ministries of the Spirit. It is so we can build up our fellow believers into righteous behavior, the end being that ultimately all the people that God saves to the new world of righteousness will please God by their thinking, speaking, and doing.
We can see how far we are from the scriptural pattern, when we think of what Paul said about the gifts and ministries, whose purpose is to build up the Church, and then compare it with the typical church structure and operation of our day.
We have not because we ask not. If every Christian would beseech the Lord earnestly and persistently, asking the Lord for a gift or ministry, for “bread” to feed his fellow believers, the churches would be flooded with the Holy Spirit. We would have a Christian revolution.
One great hindrance has been the current teaching that each Christian is an evangelist whose duty is to go out and “win souls for Christ.” Since this exhortation is not found in the New Testament, and since most believers do not have the grace to do this, they stagnate. They do not seek Christ for the gift and ministry God actually has for them.
If everyone were an evangelist, where would the body be? If in our own body every member aspired to be an arm or leg, we would have confusion. I believe the unscriptural challenge that every saved person is to go out and save others may prove to be one of the primary reasons for the spiritual infancy of numerous believers. I myself had quite a struggle to free myself from the obligation to “save others.” When I did put this bondage aside, the Holy Spirit was able to give me the ministry and gifts that God intended for me.
In our church, there is an owner of a drywall business. Suppose he received a call from a prime contractor who said, “I have eight two-story units that need drywall, like yesterday. Can you do it?” The boss answered, “We’ll see you bright and early in the morning.”
The following morning, his entire workforce got together and decided they were going to go out and drum up business. They did not check with the boss. It is a drywall business, isn’t it? Why bother the boss? So they all set out in different directions, going door to door to solicit business. They turned off their cellphones so the boss could not call them and spoil their day. When the boss came in to start the day and get the drywallers out to the development, no one showed up. The boss was really angry. “They must have gone out on strike. They can’t all be sick!”
The boss fumed all day. No other jobs were called in. The workers returned in the late afternoon, not having signed up one customer. They told the boss they had tried hard to get some business but with no results. When they saw the boss’ face they knew they were in trouble. The boss was furious. He said, “I had eight houses to drywall, I probably lost the bid because I had no one to send out to do the job. I did not hire you to drum up business, but to go where I send you.” He handed each of them a check. “Here is your severance pay. Get lost!”
This is the history of the Christian churches, to a great extent. “We are supposed to save souls, aren’t we? Why are we sitting in our pews when there is a lost and dying world out there? Lets go out and save souls from Hell!” However, the Lord Jesus knows whom the Father has given Him.
“For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:10)
The Father directs the Lord Jesus to those whom the Father has chosen. Then Jesus goes to them and invites them to receive eternal life and immortality.
The Christian churches have used many devices to entice people to come to church, promising them every benefit imaginable in the present world and a mansion in the next. Sometimes they do not tell them that in order to be a Christian, they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. The result is, we have churches filled with people who have “accepted Christ” but whom God did not call.
Let me add at this point that Christ said, “He who comes to me I will not cast out.” However, numerous people come to a church or to a theological belief. They do not come to the Man Himself! Am I correct?
Chaos is coming to the United States because of sin. In that day, I think the Christian churches will include only those whom God has called. The rest are Babylon.
Each genuine Christian is called to be a witness of God, His Person, will, ways, and eternal purpose in Christ. Each Christian has been given a gift and ministry so he may build up his fellow witnesses into the full stature of Christ. His task is not to go out and save the world, but to pray until he knows what his unique role is, and then to be sternly obedient to it, making the playing of it the highest priority of his or her life.
The Christian believers are the body of the servant of the Lord, the royal priesthood, the Church. Their home is the new Jerusalem. Through the Church, the servant of the Lord, God shall cause righteousness and praise to spring forth in the sight of the nations.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
Isaiah has much to say about the servant of the Lord!
Notice that Paul regards the body of Christ as the Church, and so it is.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church…”
(I Corinthians 12:27,28)
There appears to be a tendency in our day to consider the local church as a part of the community. It is not. It is the divine lampstand, the body of the Messiah, whose purpose is to bear witness of God and His Christ.
For Zion’s sake I am not silent, And for Jerusalem’s sake I do not rest, Till her righteousness go out as brightness, And her salvation, as a torch that burneth. And nations have seen thy righteousness, And all kings thine honour, And He is giving to thee a new name, That the mouth of Jehovah doth define. (Isaiah 62:1,2—YLT)
The body of Christ is Zion.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, (Hebrews 12:22,23)
A purpose of the local church is to show to the community the righteousness of God. Not imputed righteousness, because we cannot show imputed righteousness to anyone. Imputed righteousness is a legal state in the sight of God, not something that can be seen. It is the actual righteousness of behavior, the good works that proceed from the individual who has become a new creation in Christ, that is the righteousness of Zion that is to be seen by the nations.
If the good works created by God were to be seen in the members of the Christian churches, America would not be in the mess that is true today. We have had false teachings for a number of years that stress belief in Christ rather than obedience to Christ and His Apostles. Every sort of danger is approaching our country because the Christian Church does not have a reputation for righteous behavior, only for religious proclamations that do not help anyone. The world can see the filthy garments of the Christian churches. It does not see God and His Christ.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (I Corinthians 12:12)
In several passages of the New Testament, we are invited to partake of the divine nature, to be one with Christ and the Father. But in numerous instances, we recoil from this concept, preferring to maintain an uncrossable gap between us and Divinity. Because of this wall we have erected, thinking that while the Father and the Son are divine, we are merely the offspring of Adam, we imagine that we never can really be one with God, as Jesus taught. I suppose we think that although we can go to Heaven and live there forever, we never actually can be one with God.
We are mistaken here. The Gospel of John informs us we have been born of God. If we truly have been born of God, then we have a new divine nature. That is all there is to that! It is because of this new divine nature that we can overcome the lusts of the world.
This insistence that we will never be more than animals, and always will be different in kind from God and Christ, may prevent us from really perceiving what is said in the following passage:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (I Corinthians 12:12)
The human body has many parts. We never think of a member of our body as being somehow separate from us. If our stomach is bothering us we ordinarily say to the doctor, “I don’t feel well.” When the doctor records our visit, he does not write, “A distressed stomach came in today.” Rather, he writes our name. “So it is with Christ.” A member of the body of Christ actually is a part of the Anointed Deliverer.
“Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. It is a title, meaning Jesus has been anointed with the Holy Spirit in order to perform the works of God. He is the servant of the Lord.
We also have been anointed with the Holy Spirit that we might perform the works of God. We actually are “Christ,” in that sense. We are not the Lord Jesus Christ. We did not create the universe in the beginning. We are not to be worshiped as God, as Jesus is. Nevertheless we are of Christ in this sense. Now look at the verse again:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (I Corinthians 12:12)
“So it is with Christ.” The reason I stress this is so we will realize that the Christian Church is not a member of the local community. It is not of the world at all, but has been chosen out of the world to be the witness of God and His Christ.
I do not say this to get us puffed up out of all semblance of humanity, but to emphasize that we are to be holy. God is holy, and we are to be holy. We are to cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. We cannot see God if we are not holy. A survey of the book of Leviticus will reveal the emphasis God placed on the holiness of the people of Israel. God is holy and insists on holiness. This means that God is free from all unclean spirits and we are to be free from all unclean spirits.
Christ, the servant of the Lord, consists of the great head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and also the members of His Church, His body, the wife of the Lamb, the royal priesthood.
Paul always addressed us as “saints,” “holy ones.”
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. (I Corinthians 12:28-31)
Regarding speaking with tongues, this may apply to building ourselves up, using tongues as a prayer language. It refers also to being able to preach the Gospel to people whose language we do not know. The Christian Church was born when the believers spoke in different languages to their listeners. I would venture that the interpretation of tongues refers to understanding people of other races and languages.
We see therefore, from the above list of gifts and ministries, what a vast treasure of spiritual wisdom and power is available to Christian people.
The question is, why do we not ask for them? I think the answer is, we believers prefer to live according to our own abilities instead of living by the life of the Lord Jesus. Since living by the Life of the Lord Jesus requires that we turn away from our fleshly thinking, speaking, and acting, and behave in accordance with God’s will for us, we choose to live by our own life instead of the Life of Jesus.
Since this is the case, we believe we can serve Christ effectively by using our own adamic abilities, our own talents. Therefore the Christian churches appear to be well-meaning social groups, rather than the divine lampstand flaming with the miraculous revelations of the Holy Spirit.
I seem to perceive that the future for us Americans is going to be grim indeed. Our only hope of surviving, helping others to survive, giving an effective witness of the soon coming of the Kingdom of God, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit, is to have much, much more of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
The reader may have been a Christian for many years. Yet he or she may never once have asked the Lord for a gift or ministry. Why is this, do you suppose?
For myself, when much younger, I prayed earnestly for the working of miracles. The Spirit did not give me that gift, but He did provide me with an understanding of the Scriptures—so much so that I can see clearly how removed from the Scriptures today’s preaching is.
Any sincere believer ought to be able to see that the Apostle Paul never preached that divine grace is an alternative to moral growth in Christ, nor did Paul preach that God was about to lift the worldly Christians to Heaven so they would not be harmed by Antichrist or the Great Tribulation. Yet these and similar errors are proclaimed from numerous pulpits Sunday after Sunday without God’s people searching their Bibles to see whether this teaching is scriptural. Could any mature believer in his or her right mind believe that the preaching of lawless grace and escape-by-rapture are going to build up the body of the Messiah to the full stature of Jesus Christ? To become oaks of righteousness? That will never happen!
The Holy Spirit has given the gifts and ministries to us to build up the body of Christ to maturity. Today’s preaching and teaching, for the most part, will not build the saints into the body of the servant of the Lord.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 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 11-13)
Some interpret the passage above to mean that Christ gave these outstanding ministries for the purpose of equipping the believers for works of service, meaning to go out and get souls saved. I believe it means, rather, that God gave to some believers, such as the Apostles, the ability to be apostles, prophets, and so forth that enabled them to do works of service so the body may be built up. I do not see in the book of Acts that Paul spent time teaching the new converts to “do works of service.” It was Paul himself who had been given this ability, along with the other distinguished ministries.
If my understanding is correct, the emphasis of the New Testament writings is not “works of service” but on the Lordship of Christ and the need for righteous, holy being and behavior on the part of the believers.
I believe Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) has the correct interpretation of the Greek:
And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] proclaimers of good news, and some [as] shepherds and teachers, unto the perfecting of the saints, for a work of ministration, for a building up of the body of the Christ, (Ephesians 4:11,12—YLT)
Notice that by inserting a comma after “saints,” we change the meaning. Instead of “perfecting of the saints for a work of ministration,” it is “Perfecting of the saints, for a work of ministration.” Thus we have Christ enabling the ministries to accomplish three purposes: (1) the perfecting of the saints, (2) a work of ministration, and (3) building up of the body of the Christ. The outstanding ministries performed the work of ministration by taking care of the churches. This is quite different from stating that Christ gave the four ministries for the purpose of perfecting the saints that they might perform a work of ministration.
It is possible that the meaning is the outstanding ministries are to guide the believers into their own gifts and ministries. Unfortunately, the passage has been used to mean that the four major ministries are to make every believer an evangelist. Such an emphasis does not appear in the book of Acts or in the Epistles.
The following passage may gives us an idea of “ministrations”:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8)
In any case, the goal of all the ministries and gifts, then and now, is to build the body of the servant of the Lord until each member attains to unity in the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God and becomes mature. This work is to continue until each of us reaches the measure of the fullness of Christ, of the servant of the Lord.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)
What are we to do when Jesus comes as the head of the body? We will bring justice to the nations. That is remarkable, isn’t it? Did you ever hear anyone preach or teach that we are being built up in Christ so we can bring justice to the nations? Neither have I. But the many gifts and ministries given by the Holy Spirit, such as knowledge, wisdom, miracles, are to build us up until we are able to bring justice to the nations when Christ appears.
Do the nations need justice? As we read the news, we can see how the leaders of the nations crave power, fame, and money. As a result, the wealth of the nations is spent on ways to kill other nations. It all is so foolish, as though God created mankind so we could kill each other. We are blind, having our understanding darkened by Satan. We cannot see the absurdity of the behavior of man throughout history.
The earth is large enough that, if properly managed, there are enough resources to enable every man, woman, boy, and girl to live a happy, fruitful life. But Satan will not permit this. He derives pleasure when we are destroying one another and perverting the image of God.
No matter how admirable our intentions are, such as the Communist ideal of “to every person according to his need,” sin always wins out. This is true of all forms of government. Greed and selfishness prevail. We have had Utopian dreamers who have envisioned better social arrangements. But these always have foundered because of Satan and our own sinful nature. Truly, as Psalms tells us, we were born in sin.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)
This in spite of all the precepts of Humanism.
Only the return of Christ, head and body, will bring the righteousness, love, joy, and peace that we all long for.
We understand, therefore, that all depends on the forming of the body of the servant of the Lord. This formation will not result from most of today’s church activities. The Gospel has been perverted, perhaps due in part to the philosophy of Humanism in which man’s desires are viewed as more important than God’s desires.
The Holy Spirit stands ready to furnish us with the ministries and gifts that will bring the body of Christ to maturity, to divinely created righteous behavior. But we are going to need to ask for them!
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2)
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13)
(“Forming the Body of the Servant of the Lord”, 4028-2, proofed 20210906)