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One Body, Many Parts

Living with chronic back pain is a real pain! My life was one continual struggle of pain management for about a year since re-injuring my back in November of 2003. Maria and I have learned a lot about the causes and prevention of back pain over these last few years.

Modern chiropractic care in America began in 1895 when a holistic practitioner named Daniel Palmer made a simple “spinal adjustment” on his clinic’s janitor. The man had previously been deaf for 17 years! After Palmer manipulated his spine, the janitor regained full hearing! Today we know that the spine is very vulnerable to misalignments caused by injuries or emotional and mental stress. These misalignments can then impact the nerves leading from the spinal cord to different parts of the body, such as we saw in the case of a deaf janitor–the lower back mysteriously effecting the ear!

Often times, when one part of the body is not working properly, it effects another part of the body… sounds interestingly like Scripture doesn’t it! We have been tremendously helped and challenged by the writings of Watchman Nee in this regard. Personally, I feel what he has written in What Shall This Man Do? (Ch. 7-9) is one of the best on the subject today! This e-article looks at three of Nee’s laws governing the Body’s life. I heartily recommend reading the whole book for more “foundational functioning” principles.

Functioning Law #1. “Use what you have been given”!

Now the body is not made up of one part but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body ” 1 Cor. 12:14-16.

“Because, because, because…” Here is the first law of functioning which, according to Nee, seems to be written to the “lagging-behind-members” who tend to make excuses! The clear call from Paul is to take responsibility with what the Holy Spirit has given you and don’t compare yourselves with others.

Which is more important to you: your hand or your foot? Often we tend to think we are somehow inferior because we are different, which make us inclined to “sit on our hands”! This kills Body life. “The Church is suffering not as much from the prominence of the five-talent members as from the holding back of the one-talent members. The life of the whole Body is hampered and impoverished by the burial of those single talents” (Nee; cf. Mtt 25:14-30)

We need to be genuinely satisfied and earnestly committed to edify the body of Christ “when we gather” with what we have been given. NEVER say in your heart: “I do not belong here”. You do belong and are desperately needed for the whole body to properly function and be built up!

Functioning Law #2. “Leave room for others to function”!

The second law of functioning, interestingly enough, says just the opposite and seems to be written to the “too-far-forward- members”. (Nee)

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? (vs. 17-19)

“Where, where, where…?” Here the call is to leave room for others in your spiritual family to bless you with what they have been given from the Holy Spirit. Life in the body is not just “all eye” (read all ‘I’). Some feel “called” to lead the meeting, serve the food, begin the singing, greet the visitors, bring the teaching, pray for the sick, etc. But a BODY has many members: hand, nose, foot, elbow, toe, ear, finger and so on…

We are not one part, but many! (1 Cor 12: 12, 14, 20, 27) Church, when you come together:
Let “Body Life” happen!

Are all eyes/apostles? NO! Are all ears/prophets? NO! Are all mouths/ teachers? NO! So, when we come together, we need to serve each other with all our heart and soul and then stand back and ask “Where?” are the others who need to function and serve us as well, with all their heart and soul!

Let’s not try and be “All things to all men…” when it comes to serving and edifying the body of believers! For ‘evangelism purposes’ YES! (Paul’s context), but not for “When we get together…”. Discipline yourself to limit yourself to your God-appointed sphere! As you build up others, also gladly receive from different ones what God has appointed them to give.

Functioning Law #3. “Watch out! You need the ‘unseemly members’ more than you realize”!

The third law of functioning underlines the contribution of the weaker, less honorable and unpresentable members!

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty. (vs. 21-23)

Watchman Nee tells of a major turning point in his life when he discovered the power of this law! Early on in his work, he was sent off to a very remote corner of China for evangelism amongst a poor, rural people. All the while he carried a great personal burden concerning the issue of the “fullness of the Holy Spirit” for his ministry:

“But where was I to find [help]? True there was a handful of simple believers, country folk, among whom I had been staying, but I felt they knew so little of the Lord that they certainly could not help me in the great problem I was facing. They would scarcely even have a sufficient foundation from which to pray intelligently for me in it, and certainly not enough to bring me through… At last I reached an impasse… So at my request those simple brethren came to me in my need. I told them what I could of my difficulty, and they prayed – and as they prayed, light dawned! The thing did not need explaining. It was done, and done in such a way that it has never needed to be repeated!” (Nee)

In closing, I would like to bring in Paul’s magnificent words to the Ephesians, the best letter ever written on the “Heavenly church”. (1 Corinthians is the best letter ever written on the “Earthly church”. I suggest we linger long in both letters!).

“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Eph. 4:16)

Yours for the Bride – each part doing its work– without spot, stain or wrinkle,

Jeff Gilbertson

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