Acts 9:4-5 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
This famous story of Saul’s “Damascus Road Experience” has a great deal to think about and learn from. What strikes me most at the moment is the way Jesus identified Himself so strongly with the Church. We forget that calling the Church the Body of Christ is more than just a figure of speech. Being told this by Jesus is probably why Paul used the figure of a body so much, in 1 Corinthians 12 and elsewhere. There are many, many implications to this. We need to realize that Jesus lives and acts through the Church, and by extension, through local churches and individual believers. The Roman Catholics have codified this, but there are many dangers to that. In the first place, setting up a human organization instantly sets up a barrier to responsiveness to the Holy Spirit. Then, that organization establishes a hierarchy of who is important and who isn’t, and that generally ignores God’s opinion completely. When Jesus said that Saul was persecuting Him, He wasn’t talking about an organization, but about an organism. As Paul later stressed, we are related to one another the same way the different organs in our bodies are related, and are just as important to one another. (Sometimes I wonder if I’m analogous to an appendix!) With this established, we understand that not only are those who persecute the Church persecuting Christ, those who honor the Church are honoring Christ. We aren’t to worship human institutions, certainly, but we disrespect the Church, and even local churches, to our peril.
I use this terminology fairly frequently, especially in interdenominational settings, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily grasp it fully. I need to remember it more consistently and let it shape how I relate to this local church. I’m the pastor, but I’m not the church! I am to ask and to expect Jesus to build His Church, just as He said. (Matthew 16:18) I am to remember that I am never the final authority, He is. That’s not to say that I’m to run from responsibility, but rather that I am to seek His will, His plan at every turn. I’m not to be paranoid about that either, but trust Him to make Himself as clear as necessary to me, and to the church as a whole. I am to trust and expect Him to provide for His body, while holding nothing back myself. I am to expect, with joyful anticipation, that He will manifest Himself through us, for His glory.
Father, thank You for this very encouraging Word. Help me communicate it to others as You give opportunity. Thank You for the opportunity I’ve just been given to speak at the interdenominational prayer breakfast on the 16th. May I indeed be Your agent in building up the Body of Christ, not just then but all the time, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!