Body Life by Ray Stedman
Never heard of Body Life? It's in the Bible! You are living in a body right now, unless you have died already or are inanimate. You may need to get connected to your Creator and not be a Zombie.
Interpersonal relationships have been important in the world since Adam got to know Eve in the Garden. We’re social creatures who entered the mainstream of life on the planet as helpless babies. The world is not exactly user friendly, and most of us found that out early in life. Many of us grew up with a bevy of brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and perhaps god parents. There can serious bonding issues with family but we are quite helpless as babies and must trust someone to feed us, change our diapers and keep us clean.
When he was here on the planet children were attracted to Jesus. He did not turn them away but let them jump up on his lap, chiding his disciples for chasing them away. Whether we’re kids or grups, we all need to know that Jesus is a friend of all of us sinners and has loved us each since the day we was born’d. His call to us is universal and applies to young and old alike.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Body Life: We don’t live now, however, in the Garden in Eden but in a very broken world. The Owner, and our Landlord (God) is active in healing, repairing, and gathering for Himself a forever family! The body we live in is the most broken part of who we are right now. At great cost to Himself, God has made a way of escape from death so that we are able to live forever--healed, whole, restored, and equipped with brand new bodies. The collective ensemble of those who know Jesus as Lord is called the "body of Christ."
Every follower of Jesus Christ has been given one or more gifts from the Holy Spirit. They are not the same as natural abilities and talents. If you have been serving God, you are probably doing so using your gift without realizing it. Finding your gift(s) is best done in a small group such as a home Bible study. A full list of the gifts of the Spirit is here: The Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Families are a template for all that God is doing to fix our messed up world. But the very mention of family life is a turnoff for many who grew up in abusive families, were raised by a single parent, were orphans, or raised in a foster home. Some very lonely people have no friends because of childhood trauma or entrapment by fear. Arrested Emotional Development is all too common. God is actually a loving Father but in today's culture few of us are well-bonded with a father. Gender confusion is a big deal these days because of their parents' marriages being far removed from Biblical norms.
Some suppose that joining a fraternity, or a church, or a country club will activate their dormant social skills. Sports and outdoor events do help some of us to come out of a sheltered life. Psychotherapy and counseling bring lots of people (like me) to the point where they are willing to trust Jesus.
A fascinating passage in the New Testament describes the intimate new family Jesus is calling together now—to be members of His body, and members of one another.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.“ (Ephesians 4:4-16)
Let's unpack this passage further. The central message here is that every follower of Jesus is connected directed to Jesus Christ Risen from the dead. Jesus is in charge of the entire family, and He is the Head of the true church, which is "His Body." As a malfunctioning liver, a headache, or an upset stomach can ruin our day--so that we are of no use to God or man, temporarily--we Christians are connected to Jesus 24/7. Our private conduct matters as much as our public lifestyle. Our motives matter a lot, as we don't know ourselves very well. Family and friends often can tell others who we really are better than a resume or a bio. And, Jesus knows us way better than anyone. He identified with us intimately on the cross (outside of time) when He traded places with us on the Cross.
Few Christians today have discovered that we are also connected to one another in the one Body of Christ. Also, each of us was given at least one spiritual gift (a supernatural endowment) so that we all have a role to play in relationship with one another--and in the family of God. This is because we are as intimately connected and interdependent as the parts and systems in the human body. Many important parts of the human body are invisible but necessary, for example the liver, the kidneys, the brain.
Traditional churches following the Old Paradigm ignore all this! The early church, before Constantine (~320 AD), knew only real body life, and caring concern for one another. There were no church buildings nor any distinction between clergy and laity. Everyone instinctively fell into his or her place exercising what spiritual gifts he or she had. One big change was instituted 500 years ago by reformers like John Calvin. Troubled by excesses in the Roman Catholic Church they came to believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit (except pastor) had ceased after the original Apostles died. Wikipedia has good summaries on Cessationism and Continuatism which are important for us to be aware of these days.
Ray Stedman openly taught that the Spiritual Gifts were all still being given--though he did not believe any new revelation was being given these days. That is, there were no primary Apostles today, and some gifts such as Tongues were easily misused. See The Gifts of The Holy Spirit and Body Life.
The recent lockdown related to the Covid virus closed many Old Paradigm Churches. But much of these closures are surely coming from the hand of God because we have strayed so far from Body Life as it's taught in the New Testament. Chuck Missler (a disciple of Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa) learned from experience how dysfunctional most churches in America had become. A group of us mentored by Ray Stedman gathered together weekly in the home of Gerhard Dirks, a Silicon Valley pioneer, to discover what later became practical Body Life. See History of the Wednesday Brothers of Thunder.
The human body has natural life (zoe) but Christians also have added to them the vast resources of Jesus indwelling each member as well. The work of the ministry is therefore everyone's calling: not only for paid professionals (who constitute a special class we call "the clergy.") One of the oldest heresies in the Bible, Nicolaitanism, is maintaining a clergy, or priests, over the separate group, the Laity. "Body Life" can not survive when there is a denial of the church being the Body of Christ (with all the members having spiritual gifts), and where "servant authority" is followed. See Leadership Papers.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." (Colossians 3:1-4)
If you’d like to read ahead, check out Ray Stedman’s classic book, Body Life. Think healing, wholeness, fulfillment, and dreams coming true—because God IS love. Think community and fellowship and loving your neighbor as yourself in a protected, safe environment. When he wrote the book "Body Life" about 1970, Ray gave a limited illustration of the ensemble of followers of Jesus as a body having four main systems. He called attention to 1. The skeletal system and muscles, 2. The digestive system, 3. The nervous system and 4. The circulatory system. In context of who Ray was and his fresh new approach to teaching the Bible, Ray's biography Portrait of Integrity is very good. Don't miss reading Authentic Christianity.
In an era when most preachers did topical teaching, Ray championed the lost method of Expository teaching. His Single Messages are nevertheless of great weight and value. Early in his 40-year tour of duty the church elders felt Ray should spend half his time away from home teaching at Bible conferences--especially pastors' conferences in the U.S. and overseas. For this reason he was not able to leave us with Expository Studies of the entire Bible, book by book.
But beginning in 1964 Ray taught through the entire Bible covering one book of the Bible per Sunday evening service. This classic series, Adventuring Through the Bible, later became a best selling book. The online series is available in audio or html formats. See On Expository Teaching to appreciate that this method of equipping the people of God has a long and illustrious history.
At this late hour in history, Bible illiteracy is at an all-time high. In this regard Ray spoke of Dangerous Times:
"In other words, Paul says that the primary cause of these repetitive cycles of stress and danger is the hypocritical lives of Christians who outwardly look pious, religious, committed and devoted, but are actually unchanged inside and have no power to overcome evil in their lives. Hypocritical Christianity -- that is the bottom line in these times of stress. I do not think any of us really grasps the revelation of Scripture about the nature of the church. The New Testament everywhere seeks to convince us that the church is the most important body of people in the world. God builds society around what happens in the church. The church is in control of history. "You are the salt of the earth," Jesus said (Matthew 5:13a RSV). If the salt loses its savor, becomes saltless, without flavor, the whole world will go to pot. "You are the light of the world," he said (Matthew 5:14a RSV). If the light dims, the whole world will sink into darkness. That is what the Scriptures tell us. Immorality in the world is caused by insincerity in Christians. Darkness among the nations is an outgrowth of ignorance and darkness in the church...I am saddened and depressed by the biblical ignorance of church members. There is a terrible biblical illiteracy across the face of this apparently Christianized nation. People have only the most superficial knowledge of the Scriptures.
Professing Christians ...holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:5 RSV)
Sometimes this can be observed in the ignorant answers they give to biblical questions. One man said, "I thought Dan and Beersheba were husband and wife, like Sodom and Gomorrah." Worse than that, they understand nothing of the great secrets of life which the Bible reveals, such as to how to handle their lives, how to understand humanity, and what is happening in the world. That kind of ignorance results in immorality, not so much the blatant, open, sexual type (although that is increasing in the church), but much worse, an inner hardening of the spirit, a manifestation of totally godless attitudes.
Remember that this terrible list, although very similar to a list at the close of Chapter 1 of Romans which describes conditions in the world, is nevertheless really only a description of what is going on in churches and among Christians who have a "form of religion," of "wholesomeness" (the word is godliness, as it has been translated many times in these letters of Paul to Timothy), "a form of godliness but denying the power thereof."
Let us take a closer look at this analysis by the apostle. It falls into four groupings: The first one flows out of that first term, "lovers of self." That is the basic sin of humanity. Self love, the worship of another god, is the vilest form of idolatry. It deprives God of the worship due to his name, and it places a rival god, oneself, on the throne of an individual life. That is where some Christians are, Paul says. They have not really been changed, they are still lovers of self.
When this condition obtains in the churches, it will also be much more clearly and widely exhibited in the world. Today, we have what is known as the "Me" society. The focus is all on "my" -- my rights, my needs, my views, is all we hear about on every side. The first question that is asked about anything is, "What am I going to get out of it?" Christians oftentimes point the finger at non-Christians, saying, "Look how selfish they are," but the apostle points his finger, and says, that is what is happening in the church. People are not changed, they are "lovers of themselves."
That is the way many people live -- a self-centered existence. Out of this flows all the other things in the list...But it is not persecution that destroys a church, it is prosperity. The churches of western Europe have been wide open for anybody to attend them, but they are virtually empty because they have been destroyed by the love of money, materialism, and sensuality which have gripped and possessed the Christian people of Western Europe. This is the fate that awaits us in the United States if we continue to move along these lines.
Out of this grows another word: "proud." The word is boastful, braggarts. It bothers me to hear churches brag about how many millions of dollars they set aside for missions every year. I welcome the fact that the money is given, but to advertise it, to print it up in brochures that are handed out to others -- I do not know what this does to non-Christians who read it. I am sure it does not impress them very much. They see it as nothing more than the empty boasts of people who are trying to draw attention to themselves rather than to their Lord. That is an outcome of this loving of self.
The word that immediately follows is, "arrogant." Proud people are arrogant people. They have a secret contempt for others; they regard themselves as above them. This is the attitude frequently displayed in many churches and by many Christians today. It often takes the form of a self-righteousness is that looks down its nose at people who have fallen into open, blatant sin. Such Christians use derisive terms for homosexuals, for whoremongers, for prostitutes and pornographers. They gather their robes of righteousness around themselves and pronounce judgment with the same attitude of scornful cynicism revealed by the Pharisees in our Lord's day. That is why Jesus spoke so sharply to the Pharisees and so warmly to the prostitutes.
"Abusive" is the next term. This word describes people who use insulting, pejorative terms that put people down. This is the manifestation of an unhealthy, unwholesome, unchristian spirit within the Christian church.
Then there follows a second grouping that centers around family life. This seems to be addressed primarily to younger Christians. The first term is, "disobedient to their parents." Today there is a total breakdown of the home and a rebellion against parental authority. I read a shocking article this past week about the murder in Milpitas that awakened the concern of the whole nation. Teenagers who knew about the murder of a young girl, were actually taken by the murderer and shown her body. They were indifferent to this, seemingly apathetic about it, and failed to report it to the authorities. The reporter who wrote the article found that, as she talked to these young people, many of them expressed the fact that they deliberately carried on basically deceitful lives. One of them said to her, "What we do is act goody-goody at home so we can get out and smoke all the pot we want, sniff cocaine, and have sex any time we like." That is basically deceitful. The young person who said that had no consciousness that it was wrong or hurtful to act that way. This is what the apostle is talking about.
With this Paul links the word "ungrateful." He is referring to younger people, particularly, who are uncaring about the hours of labor their parents have gone through to provide a home and opportunity for them...The next word is "unholy." This word means an unwillingness to observe even the basic decencies of life. It is a flaunting of ungodly actions, a kind of shamelessness that takes pleasure in doing shocking things to provoke reactions from people. With that is linked the word, "inhuman." This means lacking in normal affections, brutish, beastly, cruel. With that is the word, "implacable" -- meaning beyond reason, unappeasable, having a bitter, unrelenting attitude that nobody can talk to or soften in any way.
All of these attitudes occur within the framework of a Christian profession -- of people who say they are Christians, and act as such on Sunday, but during the week, at home and in business, have an entirely different outlook and attitude. They are cruel, vicious and implacable.
Then the list moves to those areas that touch what we call 'interpersonal relationships.' The next word is, "slanderers" -- literally, devils; "profligates" -- people who are ungovernable, who have to satisfy their lust and their passions immediately; "fierce" -- savage people; "haters of good" -- that was our Lord's charge to the Pharisees, that though they were morally respectable, within they were opposers of God and haters of good, and they proved it by putting to death the best man who ever lived; "treacherous" -- the word is used of Judas, the betrayer; and "reckless" -- careless of what happens, entering headlong into things, impulsively reacting without fear of the consequences. Then the last thing, "swollen with conceit," which literally means, swollen-headed, people who think of themselves more highly than they ought.
Finally, the last grouping deals with the religious pretensions of such people -- "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion [the outward form -- the word is eusebeia -- of godliness, or wholesomeness, a Sunday morning godliness] but denying the power thereof." Why? Why should people who are exposed to the Bible, who profess the truth, sing the hymns, and go through the ritual that is being carried out in thousands of churches across our land today reflect during the week the attitudes described here in such a way that destroy the fabric of society? The answer is in this one phrase: "they deny the power thereof."
We do not have to guess at what that power is. The Apostle Paul tells us very plainly in First Corinthians, where he says, "The word of the cross ... is the power of God," (1 Corinthians 1:18 (RSV). When you let the cross have its effect upon you then you will experience and realize the power of God released. It is the denial of the word of the cross that constitutes this kind of Christianity without Christ, godliness without God, spirituality without the Spirit. The word of the cross is that which puts to death the natural life -- denies self, in other words.
Jesus put it very plainly: "If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me," (Luke 9:23, Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34). This is saying that until we are willing, as Christians, to say "No" to what the cross has denied, what it has put to death within us, we cannot enter into that eternal life that is available to us now. Unwilling to deny self means that we are unable to experience life from God. That is the problem.
That is why we lay constant stress upon the fact that we must practice what we preach. We must say "No" to all the risings of the flesh within us in order that we might lay hold of the supply of power and life and vitality which enables us to walk with God in righteousness and truth. Otherwise we contribute to, nay, even cause, these terrible times of stress that repeatedly come upon humanity.
Dr. R. C. Sproul...has pointed out that the Bible divides life into four divisions of humanity: The first group is those who are not saved and know they are not saved. They are the godless, the pagans, we call them, the people who do not profess any form of religion, the atheists, the agnostics of our day, who have no interest in the things of God, and say so openly. Then there are those who are saved, but they are not sure of it. They really have come to Christ, they really do love the Savior, they know they have been born again, but, because they have not been taught properly, they do not understand the promises of God. For one reason or another they think that they will lose their salvation if they slip or fall in any way. When they do, they succumb to despair for weeks and months in a painful condition of uncertainty. This group is not sure of anything about their faith. Then there is the group who are saved and they know it. These are the ones we would call the strong, mature Christians who are growing, evincing a new, changed life. Though they have the normal struggles of everyone else, they show from year to year evidence of progress and growth in these areas. They know they belong to God; they have no doubts about it.
Finally, there is a great group, which Scripture faces, of those who are not saved but think they are. That is the group that is being confronted in this passage. Jesus said, "Many shall come to me in that day and say 'Lord, Lord, have we not done many mighty works in your name, and cast out devils in your name, and preached in your name?' And I shall say to them, 'Depart from me, I never knew you.'" (Matthew 7:22-23). They are the cause -- think of it -- of the times of stress that come upon humanity, times such as we are going through right now...
When you read the Great Awakening stories about the Whitefields and the Wesleys of the 18th century you see that these men, though they preached to huge crowds, did not gather them by sending out press agents and advertising in the newspapers. They merely went out on the street corners, even the fields, and began to talk to a few people about the gospel. But the whole English nation was so hungry, so empty, so lonely, miserable, and depressed that they began to flock to hear these men. The word so spread that whenever they started preaching people would come running to hear them. John Wesley and George Whitefield often found that, though they began by speaking to just a few people, before they were through they would be addressing a crowd of ten thousand or more. I think that is what we are headed for in the future. Times of stress are also times of great opportunity, when God uses the devil's very deceitfulness to outwit him, and to prepare the hearts of people for a genuine pouring out of the blessings of God.
Remember, then, that hypocrisy and insincerity in the church is what was produced the times of crisis that are described here. We are living heirs today of the lukewarmness of the churches of the '20s and '30s of this century. God's righteous judgments always are based upon reality. He knows what is in the heart. If we think we are fooling God by our coming to church, by singing hymns, by faithfully attending Bible studies, but not allowing the Word to get at our self-indulgent lives and change us, we will awake sooner or later only to find we are fooling ourselves. These are strong, searching words from the apostle's pen. He goes on in the next section to tell us how to oppose these conditions, what to do in the midst of them, how to live in these times of stress.
The first and primary expression of it is in the next words, "lovers of money." Why are Christian people such materialists today? Why do they, like everyone else, seek a constantly increasing standard of living, a much more luxurious lifestyle? It is because money is a way of indulging ourselves. Instead of using it as the Scriptures exhort us to -- to meet the needs of others, to be ready to quickly respond to human need around us, and to delight to use our excess to that purpose -- we oftentimes merely plan to use it to increase our own possessions, to add to our own enjoyment in life..." (Dangerous Times by Ray Stedman)
And the LORD said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. “So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. “And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.” So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, “keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. (Exodus 34:1-8)
My friend Chuck Missler grew quite disillusioned with traditional churches which were less and less about our Lord Jesus Christ and more and more about money and power and social standing in the community. The problem is not new and is associated with countless church splits since the protestant Revolution 500 years ago.
What is most important to see is that all followers of Jesus have already been placed into Christ, made members of His body, and members of one another. Each has been given one or more spiritual gifts, or enablements.
Romans 12 says much the same thing:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
The True Church, the Glorious Church
Hierarchhy in the Church in New Jerusalem
Body Life by Ray Stedman
Dispensations: The Management of the Nations
The False Church
Spiritual Gifts and Body Life
City Hall Churches
Churches as Cabals
Christ in You
Born Again and Adopted
The Normal Christian Life
The Exchanged Life
The Great Generational Disconnect
The Wife of Yahweh, The Bride of Christ
Your God is Way Too Small
Nekrosis and Thanatos (Dying and Death)
Jezebel and Athaliah
Email is welcome.
December 4, 2020, August 11, 2022. September 22, 2022. November 10, 2022.