T 1.7 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 7, The Apostles Taught the Body of Christ Energized in the Spirit

The epistles are packed with references to the body of Christ.

For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot would say, “Because I’m not the hand, I’m not part of the body,” it is not therefore not part of the body. If the ear would say, “Because I’m not the eye, I’m not part of the body,” it’s not therefore not part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body, just as he desired. (1Co 12:12-18 WEB)

We are not actually the physical ears, eyes, feet, hands, elbows, and knees of the physical body of Jesus Christ.  This is an analogy.

Google defines an analogy as “a comparison between two things, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification.”  Here a physical human body is used as an analogy of how Christ’s church works.   A body has many parts like the eyes, ears, hands, and feet mentioned above. It’s just a partial list, we know there are many more; arms, elbows, knees, lungs, liver, on and on.  We are going to see below a comparison of how the body with a list of these parts is like our great church with its parts and we will see a lot of these church parts or roles mentioned.  We will see verses with these parts of Christ’s church; apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, miracle workers, healers, leaders (governments), helps, speakers in tongues, and interpreters of tongues.  This also is a partial list as there are more church roles talked about in Scripture, but we will see verses with these offices below in the article.  These church roles are comparable to how the different parts of a human body consist of different parts with each one having unique functions and all of them being important to the essential operation of a human body.  All of the roles listed for the church are just as unique and important for the essential operation of the church.

In this analogy, the inference of, say, “Because I’m not the eye, I’m not part of the body” is that the help can’t say, “Because I’m not the apostle, I’m not part of the body.”  And, just like God set the hand to be the hand, he set each office, the help, the prophet, the apostle, the speaker in tongues, etc., where it is.  If God sets something up, who are we to change it, or to say it is changed because we don’t see it or agree with it for whatever reason?

And one point from the above verse I want to focus on now is that we are baptized into this body in one Spirit, and that same spirit energizes us as a body.  Paul emphasizes the Spirit as both the driving force and the glue! We are baptized in one Spirit and we all drink of that same Spirit.  Above these verses, we read some about how the Spirit works.

No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” but by the Holy Spirit. Now there are various kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are various kinds of service, and the same Lord. There are various kinds of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all. (1Co 12:3b-7 WEB)

Simply put, these verses just say that there are different kinds of gifts, different kinds of service, different kinds of workings, and there are those awesome manifestations. These are all different things. In other parts of Scripture Paul elaborates more on what those spiritual things are. For example, Paul writes specifically about gifts:

But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore he says, “When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to people.” (Eph 4:7-8 WEB)

THE gift of Christ is the gift we all receive when we accept him as Lord when we are baptized in the same Spirit; holy spirit, eternal life, new birth, Christ in us.  But beyond that, there are other things that are taught in Scripture as gifts:

He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16 WEB)

Here’s more scripture about these gifts given to the body as well as some other roles and functions discussed:

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. God has set some in the assembly: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, and various kinds of languages. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle workers? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with various languages? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. (1Co 12:27-31a WEB)

The apostle Paul used the analogy of a body to describe how this wonderful church of ours works with its apostles, prophets, helps, miracle workers, and the like. This section talks about how each believer is a member with specific roles and functions. The last point that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 12:12-18 above is that God has set the members! God sets us where we are! We need to accept how he has set it. We’re not to mess with how God has set up the roles and functions of each member.  In this simple analogy, it’s easy to see how a foot needs to be a foot and an ear needs to be an ear. So, by the same token whatever role and functions that God has set up it’s not up to us to change it because of what we think.  The role of help is to be a help and not a miracle worker, apostle, or evangelist.  The role of government is to provide oversight and administration, but that government role is not the role of a prophet or healer.  The prophet’s job is done by the prophet and the miracle worker is done by the miracle worker.

And we should not feel left out if we are not an apostle, or prophet, or healer, but our role is a vital part of the body of Christ.

Paul writes about the workings, operations, services, gifts, and manifestations of the spirit in the body. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers are listed as gifts. You can see that because it says, “He gave” in Ephesians 4:11. When something is given it is a gift. However, these gifts are not to that person, they are to the body of Christ. Some people call these gift ministries, they are gifts to the body to minister to them. You can see that because of the purposes listed for the gifts, the perfecting of the saints, the work of serving, and the building up of the body of Christ. These gift ministries are given to keep we believers from being tossed about by every wind of doctrine.  They are gifts to the body.

It must be noted that while the gift ministry is given to the body, it is work for the believer who is given the ministry.  It is a blessing to the body, and the minister himself is blessed with the rest of the body as he/she ministers, but it is a gift to the church.

Notice that the particular verses above specifically say apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers when it comes to who God has set up to help the individual believers grow up to adulthood. It doesn’t say it is the healers, miracle workers, bishops, or governments and the other gifts talked about in other places in the epistles. Those are important functions in the church too but they accomplish other things. Those five gift ministries do the main work of the perfecting of the saints, and other things as mentioned in the verses above.  It’s not that people without those gift ministries don’t teach some, prophesy here and there, maybe take care of people, and so forth, they do, but in order for saints to be perfected, built up, and led to be full-grown believers God sets some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers who are the real driving forces in their roles.

These scriptures are talking about the uniqueness of roles.  Just like hands, feet, ears, eyes do different things in our bodies different members of the church do different things, they are unique in their function.  The foot can’t say it is the eye!  Just like the eye, ear, hands, and feet are unique with their own distinct function and role so the apostle, prophet, teacher, leader, administrator, and aide have their unique function and role.  And they are not interchangeable.  The role of the prophet is different than the role of the director which is different than the miracle worker.  You can’t substitute one for the other.

But and this is a big but.  There are people with multiple gifts. In fact, it is not uncommon in scripture or in life.    David was anointed king and he was a prophet.  Some are pastors and teachers. Paul was an apostle, a teacher, and he prophesied. So, while the shepherd role is different than the teacher, one person could be gifted with both roles if God chooses, and more than that, we can desire that;

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. God has set some in the assembly: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, and various kinds of languages. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle workers? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with various languages? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. (1Co 12:27-31a WEB)

The above verse ends with “earnestly desire the best gifts.” We are charged to desire the gifts.  Each of us is a part of the body and we have been set into a certain place by God.  In the above verses, Paul talks about a number of ministries; apostles, prophets, and teachers, miracle workers, gifts of healing (healers), helps (assistants, aides, ushers, staff), and governments (leaders, administrators, overseers).  Again, Paul is not listing all of the ministries available here, just some of them. And he ends with the point that we should earnestly desire the best gifts!  That means we have some input into this. God does the setting in place of these roles, but we can desire for certain gifts, not necessarily just for us, but for us to have contact with where we are in our group of believers.

So, apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors, miracle workers, healers, helps, administrators, overseers, are the eyes, ears, mouth, legs, liver, lungs, hands, and other parts of the body. We see that in the above verses because of the first sentence where it says you are the body of Christ and members individually and then it talks about these different functions.

Let’s talk a little bit about what these functions are.

Apostles are sent by the Spirit to do something, to administer something as God’s representative. Apostle is apostolos in Greek, G652 in Strongs, and means delegate, a sent one, a commissioned one.  Did you know that the word missionary comes from the Latin word missionem (to send) which corresponds to how apostle comes from the Greek word apostello ( to send)?   Missionary and apostle are synonymous words. The original apostles were sent by the Lord to start the church age in Jerusalem and outward from there. Paul’s apostleship was the administration of the mystery, that the Gentiles were joint heirs of the same promises as Israel.  Paul was sent to the Gentiles.

if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that grace of God which was given me toward you; how that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in few words, by which, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; (Eph 3:2-4 WEB)

Prophets speak for God; they are God’s spokespeople. They not only speak God’s word they confirm God’s word. And they judge whether what people say is of the Lord or not.

And let the prophets give their words, but not more than two or three, and let the others be judges of what they say. (1Co 14:29 BBE)

Now, really all believers are supposed to do that perhaps on a small scale, but prophets are really empowered to do it big time.

If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord.  (1Co 14:37 WEB)

Prophets also build up believers with words of exhortation and comfort.

Evangelists are empowered by the spirit to reach unbelievers with the message of God’s word. They are preachers, frequently traveling.  All believers are lights, and hopefully, that light reaches unsaved people within their sphere, but evangelists have a Spirit-empowered calling where you see people being reached and saved on a regular basis. In the Bible Phillip is the only named evangelist. And it says he “he preached the Good News to all the cities.” (Acts 8:40b WEB)

Pastors, also called shepherds, shepherd the flock. They care for people spiritually; they look over them. Teachers are empowered by the spirit to teach the rightly divided word of God and explain things by the spirit so that it makes sense to people and reaches them.

Miracle workers, healers, helps are pretty self-explanatory.  Governments include people who administer: overseers (bishops), deacons, and elders.

Now maybe in your experience, you haven’t seen a lot of these roles. That sounds all great and good for these believers in Corinth, but does this really apply to believers in New York, Kansas, or Botswana?  I mean this was a letter to those believers in Corinth that were missing the boat on so many issues at the time of Paul, right? Well, let’s just take a quick look at the beginning of the letter:

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the assembly of God which is at Corinth; those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours: (1Co 1:1-2 WEB)

Yes, this is a letter to Corinth. But Paul doesn’t just say that he is addressing the Corinthians with this letter. He writes “with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place.”  In fact, as Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians he charges us believers to follow the Apostles’ traditions as contained in the words and letters of the apostles:

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

So, yes, this teaching of the body of Christ and how it is to work applies to all believers in every place. And, there is no one-generation time limit stated anywhere in these letters. In fact, we know that Paul was writing to believers about what would happen after his death when he gave warnings like in Acts 20.

Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore watch, remembering that for a period of three years I didn’t cease to admonish everyone night and day with tears. Now, brothers, I entrust you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up, and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Act 20:28-32 WEB)

Paul is warning that after he departs there will be wolves from outside the church but also teachers from the flock (“from among your own selves”) that will teach perverse (twisted) things.  That means that his teaching isn’t just for his time, but carries on after his departure.  The end date for the administration of the church that was given to Paul is the return of Christ, not Paul’s and the other apostles’ deaths.

So, this teaching about how the church works as a body with all the different roles and functions applies to all believers in the church age including now.

So, this is what the epistles teach about how the body of Christ is to operate.  It is different from a lot of peoples’ experience in their Church.  But, our experience is often not as much revelation about God as much as it is an indicator of what is happening in the world.  A lot of people can’t visualize churches with apostles and/or prophets, miracle workers, healers, and the like.  Some can’t recognize the spirit in the church, not only in the ministers but in the people around them.  But, as Peter proclaimed on Pentecost God has wanted to pour out his spirit for a long time as prophesied in Joel.

But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘It will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams. (Act 2:16-17 WEB)

God wants people to be filled with the spirit and to manifest the holy spirit. God has wanted that since the beginning. Getting people to be filled with his spirit into manifestation is a desire of God and God’s leaders. Look at this section:

But two men remained in the camp. The name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the Spirit rested on them; and they were of those who were written, but had not gone out to the Tent; and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran, and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!” Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his chosen men, answered, “My lord Moses, forbid them!” Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all Yahweh’s people were prophets, that Yahweh would put his Spirit on them!” (Num 11:26-29 WEB)

Look at that, the great Joshua was shocked when a couple of Israelites prophesied in the camp. He actually said to Moses, “forbid them”.

How much of the time in the Old Testament do you think prophets were well known to be around? The answer is only a minority of the time, and part of the reason can be inferred from the verses above. People may be shocked when they hear someone prophesy. People may be uncomfortable that someone prophesies. Not only that but there were different times in the Old Testament when people were taught that prophecy had ceased like after Malachi and after the age of the apostles some people started teaching that prophecy and other workings of the spirit had ceased.

But God has always been in business. God has always wanted to manifest himself to people. God has always desired to pour out his spirit. But also God will only manifest himself to people who look for him.  God doesn’t respond to unbelief.  God responds to belief.

It is available for people to manifest spirit now just as years ago in the time of the apostles. In response to 1 Corinthians chapter twelve, no, not all are apostles, not all are prophets, not all are teachers, not all are miracle workers. But all believers can manifest spirit:

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all. (1Co 12:7 WEB)

That verse says “Each one is given”. That means all believers are given the manifestation of the spirit. Not only that it says these manifestations are given to profit all, the whole church. The next verses talk about what the manifestations are:

For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages. But the one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing to each one separately as he desires. (1Co 12:8-11 WEB)

There really is so much in here. First of all, it lists nine manifestations; word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith or believing, gifts of healings, workings of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of languages (speaking in tongues), and interpretation of tongues.

To manifest means to display. Spirit is not something that you can see of itself in the natural world. The way that spirit is seen is in displays, and manifestations. The word of wisdom is being informed what to do about something. Word of knowledge is being informed by the spirit of some knowledge that isn’t available by natural means. Believing faith is the spiritual power to accomplish things spiritually. Gifts of healings are the spiritual ability to cause healing through means that aren’t natural, they’re supernatural. Miracles are when things happen supernaturally like walking on water or drying up a fig tree. Discerning of spirits is the supernatural ability to ascertain the presence of spirits, either holy or unholy. Speaking in tongues is the ability to speak the languages of men and of angels without training as a means of perfect communication with the Father. And the interpretation of tongues is the supernatural ability to interpret what has been spoken in an unknown tongue.

If God is displayed to men in any way, it is by way of one or more of these manifestations by themselves or in combination. The manifestations themselves are a subject that needs a thorough investigation to understand.

If you are a believer, you may have already experienced some of these manifestations without being able to identify their names. I know people who have known God has told them something, and he did, and that was either a manifestation of a word of knowledge and/or a word of wisdom. Or in a circumstance perhaps, people have looked to God and have been miraculously delivered from something or given something. Their faith manifested the working of a miracle, they just didn’t know how to explain it that way in scriptural terms.

So, wrapping this up, the Apostles taught that the church is one body. All believers are members together in this one body having been baptized in the spirit in their new birth and continued drinking in the spirit in the spiritual life. God has set people in this body. The analogy explains believers and their roles as eyes, ears, feet, and so forth. But it also explains that God gives gifts, specific functions, and roles to believers as he sees fit. He has designed the body this way and that is how it works best. He designed the body to be built up by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. He empowers people as healers, miracle workers, leaders, aides, and a host of other functions. He empowers people with abilities of mercy, generosity, and other aids to the body. Each role or office is important and useful within the body. On top of all that, each believer is empowered with the manifestation of the spirit and while different believers may be more capable in different manifestations than others, all are profitable. We are warned to not think that if we don’t like our function then we are not of the body. But we are also encouraged to seek the best gifts to help the body.

The church operating as a body with all these gifts, services, workings, and manifestations is how original Christianity worked and is part of the apostles’ tradition that we are charged to follow.

God has always wanted to pour out his spirit upon all flesh. With Jesus’ death, he paid the price so that men can once again have spirit, and God has designed the church to be a body united spiritually so that all the members minister to each other.  If you want to experience this and haven’t yet, these words in the Scriptures say that you can. If your church doesn’t look like this one-body model then look for one that is more like the biblical model.

The Word says that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.  Seek and you shall find.

last revised 1/9/24


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