For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office [function]: so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another. (Rom. 12:4,5)
For the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:12,13)
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him, who is the Head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in due measure of each several part, makes the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love. (Eph. 4:15,16)
To the one who lives for the Lord and is delivered from self, the most important part of his external life is that he might manifest his function in the church. Most certain is it that each member in the body of Christ has his place. If you as a member fail to express your function, it only proves that outwardly you have not lived for the Lord nor inwardly have you been delivered from yourself. Had you truly been delivered from your own self, you would have spontaneously exhibited your particular office in the church. You as a brother or you as a sister each have a measure or portion of a particular function in the church. However much you may feel you have been delivered from your self and are living for the Lord, your feeling is not only inaccurate but also a deception if you cannot manifest your function as a member in the church. If in fact you have been delivered from yourself and truly are living for the Lord, one thing in your life will be most certain, which is, that you will automatically manifest in the body that portion of a special function or office which you have as a brother or a sister.
Never for a moment think that because the grace you have received is so insignificant you therefore have no place in the church. As long as you are a member, you have a definite function. There is no one having the life of God who is not a member of the body of Christ, and no member is so small as to have no function of his own. The less than the least of the members still has his function in the body, and that particular function cannot be replaced by any other member. No matter how tiny is that function, no one else can substitute it. Not even the greatest function in the body can stand in for the smallest one: none can take the place of the other: you cannot be a substitute for me, nor can I be a substitute for you. Oh, if we could see this we would leap for joy!
In this connection, please notice that the Gospels of the New Testament are written by four different persons. When you read the Gospel according to Matthew, you see one aspect of Christ; in reading the Gospel according to Mark, you discern another side of Christ; in reading the Gospel according to Luke, still another aspect of the holiness of Christ is in view; and reading the Gospel according to John, yet another facet of the glory of Christ is seen. Moreover, if you read Peter's epistles, there is given still another presentation of Christ; and in perusing the epistles of John, you must confess that his description of the glorious beauty of Christ excels anything that has ever been written. From all this it must be concluded that our Lord is so great that it requires believers of all ages and from all nations to express Him. Do please understand that the outflow of life is the expression of Christ; and the body of Christ is where this life is manifested in all of its varied beauty and glory through the body's members.
Life, we must see, is a unit whole, but it is expressed by means of various offices or functions as it is manifested through different members. When this life of Christ flows to the earts, there is hearing; when it flows to the eyes, there is seeing; when it flows to the feet, there is walking; when it flows to the mouth, there is speaking; and when it flows to the teeth, there is chewing. This life is indeed one, yet the functions are many; and though of many functions, they are still from the one life. That which flows into you and into me is the same life of Christ, but the functions operative in you and in me are different.
Frequently, what one brother can do, no one else can do it in quite the same way. With respect to a certain matter in the church, you must seek out a certain brother; whereas with respect to another matter, you must seek out a particular sister. But just you change the brother or the sister and the result will be that that matter will not be done. As a particular member in the body, you have your specific office. And the office which is operative in you as the life of Christ flows into you is something which no other person can be a substitute for. Regardless of how small you as a member are, you have your place
Brethren may test themselves in this matter quite simply: If today in a local assembly you have yet to manifest your function - and not because of the smallness of your function but because your presence or absence in the church seems rather optional - then this is sufficient proof that neither outwardly do you live for the Lord nor inwardly is your life delivered from self. This is a very concrete test.
We ought to know that in order to spread His gospel, do His work, and fulfill His will on earth, the Lord must use His body. Neither His will nor His way can be realized through one person, since the Lord does not work through one man but through the church. The vessel God will use is the church, not an individual. The life and power of Christ find their richest manifestation through the body of Christ. For this reason, Satan takes great pains to try to effect the "disintegration" of the body of Christ. This becomes his number one task. If we take note of this, we will readily realize how severe is this Satanic work of "disintegration"; suspicion arises among brothers and sisters, misunderstanding is easily created. This is Satan doing his disintegrating work. One of us is blaming a brother, and the latter is murmuring against a sister. Yet if the cause is investigated, there is nothing serious about it at all. This too is Satan performing his work of tearing down the body. Satan introduces God's children to divide; he cause them to disintegrate as a body. The work of God is to make us one body, but the work of Satan is to cause us to be torn asunder. Satan uses our corrupted flesh, our stubborn self, and the world which we covet to carry out his work of destruction. Hence actually the serious problem here does not lie in our not having the flesh dealt with, nor in our not laying down ourselves, neither in our living according to the world - but it rests upon the fact that it is Satan who will use these weaknesses of ours to do the work of tearing and dividing. If these elements are permitted to remain in our lives, we clearly make room for Satan to work his work of disintegration.
What, in truth, is our understanding of oneness? Quite simply, oneness is God Himself. Why is this so? Because when all of us set aside the things outside of God and begin to live in Him, then God who is in us becomes the oneness. Oneness is when God has His absolute place in us. Oneness is when He alone is in all, when He fills all. When the children of God are filled with God, they harmonize with one another. As a matter of fact, Satan, in his attempt to effect the disintegration of us as a body, does not need to stir up opinions and strife among us so long as he is able to plant some impurity in us or something else which takes the place of God. As an illustration of this, have you ever noticed how people mix concrete? If there is some clay blended with the sand, the cement will not firmly congeal. Now for Satan to destroy our oneness in the body, he needs to no nothing but spread a little mud - that which is incompatible with the life of God in us - and we as a body shall disintegrate. Neither opinions nor strifes are necessary, merely the spreading of a little mud in us is enough. We continue to break bread and drink the cup, but we may be divided nonetheless.
The body of Christ is basically not a doctrine, neither is it a kind of arrangement, but it essentially is life. What is the church? The church is not just a doctrine according to the Scriptures; neither is it just a method according to the Scriptures; but basically it is a life, even the manifestation of the life in Christ. Oneness is not grounded in anything else but in life. Satan needs only to mix some impurities into us and into others secretly; so that though among us all there is not the slightest clamor of opinions or the slightest indication of strife, nevertheless, unknowingly the body is already undergoing disintegration. May the Lord have mercy on us by the filtering out of all impurities from us. O Lord, by the cross and the Holy Spirit, do filter us out!
How we all need to inquire as to what place does our own inclination and desires have in us: What place does our own goal have in us? Or do we let the life of Christ occupy the absolute position in us? Oh how we all need to return to God! We do not need outward revival. We have but one need, which is, to turn inwardly to God and let Him cleanse us and purify us with the cross and the Holy Spirit. By the filtering of the cross and the Holy Spirit, we hope and pray we may be cleansed from all the impurities which Satan has mixed into us. May the Lord have mercy upon us so that we may not put our confidence in ourselves, for even that sense in us of being right may be used by Satan to work the work of disintegration. We should learn to come to God for enlightening, we should learn to go among brothers and sisters for correction. We must be willing to pay any cost and accept the dealing of the cross in order that we may truly manifest our functions as members in the church.
Do we not continually say we love the Lord? Do we not say we have consecrated ourselves to Him? Then we must not preserve ourselves, neither should we be afraid of paying any cost; but we should allow the Lord to cleanse us from all the impurities which are incompatible so that the life of Christ may be expressed through us and that we may manifest in our life our various functions as body members as well as live out the testimony of body of Christ.