Pastor Hal   Bekemeyer

We Are One - A Study in Organic Dynamics

The Organic Union

We live in an age when individual rights, self-reliance and independence is greatly valued (at least in word if not always in substance). People everywhere are “doing their own thing.”

This attitude is also pervasive in the Church, the Body of Christ and manifests itself in many forms. One form that many of us might recognize goes something like this; “I have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit and I don’t need anyone else.” As you read this you might even think “I don’t feel this way” and this might be true in some sense, but in another sense many of us practice this autonomous philosophy in a reverse sort of way. In word we may deny this attitude yet subscribing to it by practicing it in reverse.

To explain, we might recognize our dependence and need of other believers but we fail to acknowledge that others are equally dependent on us.

"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. {13} For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

There is a truth in the Scriptures that concerns the organic unity of the Body of Christ. In organic, by definition, we mean “being made of parts that exist together in a seemingly natural relationship that makes for organized efficiency.” The text above lends itself to this definition as it employs the illustration of the human body; a marvelously intricate and coordinated organism. One might ask the question concerning the human form; “is it a single organism, or is it a composite?” The answer is “yes”.

To deny the practical implications of this doctrine damages our relationships with other believers and deprives us of the true joy, and privilege, of enhancing joy in others. Our denial also serves to blind us to our true identity “in Christ” and the significance of being “members” of His body. The truth of the matter is that not only do we become members of Christ through the “operation of God” (Colossians 2) we also become members “one of another” (Romans 12).

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; {26} That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, {27} That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. {28} So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. {29} For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: {30} For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. {31} For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. {32} This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5:25-32) 

Ephesians five is often cited as one of the greatest texts concerning marriage, and this is, indeed, true. However, to view this as a marriage passage only is to miss the intended duality of the author. Paul writes of the marriage union, and of all the mystery associated with it, but pointedly says “I speak of Christ and the church.” What we discover here is that our union with Christ is like the union of man and wife. Two becoming “one flesh” is a joining that results in a shared identity that speaks to mutual esteem, provision and protection. This is true of marriage or our union in Christ. There is much to be learned of spiritual union with God by examining our physical union in marriage.

The Organic Design

"And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; {22} And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. {23} And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." (Genesis 2:21-23)

In the first marriage we see God’s design for this union. When God created Adam He did so with a purpose. (Genesis 2:15) "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Adam was to serve as an adornment testifying of God’s creative power and he was to “keep” (protect or preserve) that portion of Eden relegated to him. It is in this context that God said of Adam; (Genesis 2:18) “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." God purposed that Adam should not serve alone in his responsibility and made provision in the form of Eve, his wife. This first family unit was a key element in God’s design to fill the earth and “subdue” (take back) the earth; reclaiming that which had suffered from the rebellion of Lucifer, and they were to do it together.

"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. {10} For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. {11} Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? {12} And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

It is true that the first family failed miserably in their duty, but this was not because of a flaw in God’s design. Mankind was not created as a solitary being. Ecclesiastes four speaks to the fruitfulness, assistance, comfort, and defense that are the product of the combined efforts of two people, and that the addition of a third party is better still. The principle of community is established on a sound Biblical base.

The same principle is a component in God’s design, and purpose, for the Body of Christ. Please note the following scriptures;

"But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: {16} From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16)

"But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. {19} And if they were all one member, where were the body? {20} But now are they many members, yet but one body. {21} And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. {22} Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: {23} And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. {24} For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: {25} That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. {26} And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. {27} Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (1 Corinthians 12:18-27) 

It is said that the world’s largest single organism is a stand of Aspen trees. Each tree appears to stand alone and yet each is a member in an intricate symbiotic web of life organically bound at the roots. So, similarly, is the Body of Christ. Each believer is one member of a complex organism with a corporate life that emanates from its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. In our union in Christ we find nourishment, fruitfulness, aide, comfort and safety.

The Organic Effect

There are consequences when we live in light of our shared identity in Christ and in accordance with God’s design for the Body of Christ.

There is balance and unity. Ephesians Four speaks of our being “fitly joined together” and this founded in the seven unities (the ingredients of balance) found early in the chapter. Our union should be manifested as a unity in purpose, attitude and truth (Philippians 1:27; 2:1-2). The apostle Paul was intensely interested in the organic effect as demonstrated when he said; "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10)

There is edification. Our text in Ephesians Four also notes that the Body of Christ is “compacted together by that which every joint supplieth” which refers to the mutual support and fruitfulness that results from the participation of each member. Throughout the Pauline Epistles we find exhortations to edification.

• We are to seek to excel at edification – 1 Corinthians 14:12
• We are to pursue the things that edify – Romans 14:19
• We are to recognize that edification is more important than personal agendas – Romans 15:1-2
• We are to comprehend that edification is more vital than our personal liberty – 1 Corinthians 10:23
• We are to follow God’s design for edification – Ephesians 4:11-16

The Application

On the basis of Romans 12:9-10 we should come to the place where we live in the context of “it’s not me that counts, but we.” This means that we never reject others because of our differences, or their shortcomings, but are accepting. Paul writes; "Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God." (Romans 15:7) This doesn’t imply that we approve of bad behavior but it does signify that we value people in the same way God receives us. How does God receive us? He receives us just as we are and on the basis of the gift of His Son for us.

It is a valuable exercise to become familiar with the “one another” citations in the Pauline Epistles. There are many, and they come in both positive and negative connotations. Paul exhorts believers to be kindly affectioned one toward another, to prefer one another, to love one another, to edify one another, to be like-minded as God in patience and consolation toward one another, to receive one another, to admonish one another, to tarry for one another, to have the same care one for another, to serve one another, to forgive one another, to submit to one another, to teach one another, to comfort one another, to forbear (be patient) for one another, and to restore one another. Unquestioningly, Paul stresses the need for us to be mindful of one another, and how vital this is in our life together in Christ Jesus.

Interestingly, our apostle also creates panoply “do not” admonitions as well. He says do not judge one another anymore, do not be puffed up for one against another (to take up someone else’s offence), do not go to law with one another, do not bite and devour one another (to backbite), do not lie to one another, and do not show partiality one toward another. These admonitions and exhortations are all founded in our shared identity in Christ and in the fact that we are members “one of another”. He makes these warnings that our relationships, and our lives, would not be consumed in petty self-interests and constant turmoil.

The Conclusion

"So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? {13} Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. {14} If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. {15} For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. {16} Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. {17} If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:12-17) 

The apostle Paul often described himself as a servant to God and men. In this he followed the example of the Savior, who taught that true happiness is only discovered when we esteem the needs of others above our own. The thought of the Creator kneeling on a floor to wash feet is a humbling one, and it boggles the mind that in doing so,He finds happiness. If believers would follow these examples of service one to another they might find the joy that seems to elude so many.