Sermon Audio & Review
Pastor Matt Walker
- Category: Holidays & Special Services
- May 15, 2016
The Necessity of Interdependence to the Spiritual Life.
Special Speaker: Pastor Matthew Walker from College Park Baptist Church in Cary, NC.
God has ordained that the Christian life is to be lived not in isolation, but in conjunction with the community of saints. So how is it that Christians, particularly here in America, have become used to amputating limbs off of the body of Christ (which is the local church)? In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, the Apostle Paul refers to the Corinthian believers as being eyes and ears and noses—body parts. This is the same kind of language that Paul uses in Romans 12:5 when he writes that we are members one of another.
The Bible teaches that Christians are to be mutually reliant upon each other. This doctrine is incredibly important and should be a major heading in our ecclesiology (doctrine of the church). However, it has been almost entirely lost in American evangelicalism. Possible reasons include the American way of life that emphasizes independence and the rejection of denominationalism. American Christianity has become a complex collection of isolated congregations and an even more divided and isolated collection of Christians.
The New Testament provides literally hundreds of examples of why this is wrong. Here are some examples:
- Acts 4:32, Romans 12:15, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, 2 Corinthians 8-9
- Philippians 1:5, Galatians 5:13-15, 26, Colossians 2:19,
- 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15, 1 Timothy 5:9-10
- 2 Timothy 1:8, 15-18, 4:9-22, Titus 2:3-5
- Philemon 1:1-7, Hebrews 10:32-36, James 2:1-13, 1 Peter 2:4-5
If you were stranded on a desert island and only had 20 pages of the New Testament, you would be able to prove interdependence over and over again.
Before he writes Ephesians 4, Paul has already laid the ground work for our understanding of the church using two metaphors: a body and a building. (See Ephesians 1:22, 2:19-22, and 3:6.)
In chapter 4, Paul identifies two important connections necessary for spiritual life.
The first connection every Christian has is to Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15). The verb in this verse is translated “may grow up.” It is active. This growth is contrasted with immature believers who are open to being deceived or shipwrecked (Ephesians 4:14). Christian maturity out of infancy is to “grow up into Christ.” This is what verse 13 means. It is a restatement of 1:22, that Jesus is the Head of the church. Head means both source and authority. The church derives its origination and its orders from Jesus.
The second connection every Christian has is to other Christians in a local body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16). Notice what Paul writes about the “body.” God puts the right parts in the right place. Each part is concretely held together in place. Each member (body-part) is gifted for use within the body, including pastors/teachers and all maturing saints. The body works in close unity and harmony so that there is no division. As we benefit from each other’s spiritual growth, this results in the body growing large (mature).
Interestingly, the sin list in Ephesians 4 includes many “body” sins. Lying, stealing, uncontrolled (sinful) anger, corrupt words, and bitterness all impact church unity.
These connections define your Christianity.
They determine how you treat others who are struggling financially. (See Acts 4:32-33.) The result of the prayer meeting in Acts 4 culminates in the congregation being filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:29-30). This filling led to three important qualities. Believers spoke the word of God with boldness (verse 31b). There was unity among the believers (verse 32). Their testimony of the resurrection of Jesus was empowered (verse 33).
Verses 34-37 is a recapitulation of point 2—the unity of the believers. This unity resulted in a divestment of personal ownership. This is not communism as an economic system—this is important! This commonality is explained in Acts 4:34-37.
Your connection with Christ’s body determines how you treat others who are struggling emotionally. (See 1 Corinthians 12:26.) Paul points out that the possibility of lack occurring within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:24). Members can be split up by suffering. This is unnatural. Rather, body parts care for each other.
It determines how you treat others who are struggling spiritually. (See Galatians 6:1-3.) Paul explains how love is a controlling element in the Christian’s life in Galatians 6:6, 13-14, 22¬, and Galatians 5:6. The outworking of love—a product of Spirit-control—is explained in chapter 6. A person is caught by surprise in doctrinal heresy. The spiritually stronger believers are to restore that one. This word carries the idea of mending fishing nets. It could also be used of setting broken bones. Paul describes this as bearing the burdens of others (verse 2). This is fulfilling the law of Christ—love one another.
We have a choice is to live in independence or interdependence on each other. These are the kind of things an unbiblically independent Christian says:
“He has financial problems because he’s lazy or greedy or foolish with his money.”
“She needs to grow up and handle her problems like an adult. Everyone has setbacks—get over it.”
“He needs to stop listening to the world about life and start reading his Bible more—he needs to mature spiritually.”
You can treat fellow members of the body that way. Or, you can recognize that when one person is struggling, we are all struggling. The way God has organized the Christian life is that we live it together.
- Are you connected to Christ? Is He your authority and the source of your life?
- Are you connected to other believers in a local church? Do you know which part God has given you to play in the body?
- Do you avoid people who are hurting? Realize that not only are they dependent on you, but you are dependent on them as members in the body of Christ.
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore
- John 15:1-11, 1 Peter 2:6 – Jesus as source and authority of the Body.
A Hymn to Encourage: "How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place"
How sweet and awesome is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?
Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”
’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.
Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send your victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.
We long to see your churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing your redeeming grace.