Church Unity And Reality With Structure
Unromantic as it might seem church unity is a reality with structure. Psalm 68 speaks of God accompanied by his elect enthroned on high and receiving gifts from nations all around. Perhaps quoting a Targum that scholars tell us was available to him, Paul has the exalted one (Jesus) giving gifts rather than receiving them. (Peter speaks of such a giving and receiving when he speaks of Jesus who, precisely because he is exalted, pours out this that you now see and hear—the Spirit and all his gifts—Acts 2:33). Since Paul is proclaiming the God who has shown himself in and as Jesus Christ he wants to connect the exaltation of God in the psalm with the self-emptying that's seen in the incarnation and cross experience of God, so he includes Jesus' descent in the picture (4:9-10).
It's as if Paul is giving us two pictures of God. One from the OT and here in the NT. But he connects the two pictures with the one text (Psalm 68). The God who has shown himself in and as Jesus Christ is at one and the same time the victorious and exalted one and the self-humbling one.
The victory and enthronement of God in the psalm is worked out in the exalted Jesus Christ who is exalted precisely because he came down. This would surely have deeper force in a section that calls for meekness and love. And the gifts to the church are gifted people.
They are gifted people so they have no reason to be arrogant.
Gifted people so there are no grounds for worshipping them.
Gifted people so they need to be faithful to their ministry.
But they are gifted people so we do need to recognize them as called by God to function for the body
(and therefore the world).
The gifted ones in this section are more centrally concerned about bringing the word of God to his people
with a view to maturing and unifying them in their confession.
One of the blessings of the Reformation was the freedom from intellectual, religious and spiritual tyranny.Once our parents were chained and walked the line they were told to walk until some of them stood up and struck for freedom, saying they would have no more of it. The days are long gone when we will allow people to stick a verse up to our heads like a revolver and insist that we put our intellectual hands up. We won't go back to that.
But the Reformation wasn't all gain. With the loss of a single voice (if there ever was one) we finally got ten thousand, all claiming that full equality in Christ must mean everyone has been gifted to teach. Churches sprang up like mushrooms in the dark and church splintering continues to this day as teaching men and women draw away disciples after them. But "mutual ministry" (4:16) doesn't mean the whole body is a mouth! God gave some to be teachers and however we need to balance that, we first must gladly accept it as the will and work of God. And those who profess to be gifted by God for the ministry of the Word need to be obedient to their call and resist the temptation to be a "jack of all trades". It may be unromantic to think of church unity in terms of structure but it would be crass foolishness to think of a body as a single part.
It is perfectly true that there can't be many parts without a body but it's also true that there can't be a body without many parts. An eye is not a body and 1 Corinthians 12:17 insists on that. So there is no life or growth without some structure and there is no true imaging of God in a solitary part or function. We are glad our bodies have various parts able to do the needed things for the benefit of the whole. Our hands aren't jealous of our feet and our ears are pleased that there are eyes. Our inter-body diversity is a blessing that God has given us and is a means to bring about his even more glorious purposes.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.