Don Styles
Principles of Ecclesial Life

Every Member Important

You are an important brother or sister! The other person is an important brother or sister! Each is vital to the maturation of the community to its intended potential.

"...even Christ from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:1516).

This is an essential principle of ecclesial life and is conveyed several times in different ways by scripture.

The broad distribution of spirit gifts

At Pentecost

The indications are that the Holy Spirit filled all 120 of the ecclesia.

"...the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty ... And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place ... And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit ... this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh... " (Acts 1:15; 2:1,3-4,16-17).

While Peter. and John were the chief spokesmen for the ecclesia, the broad distribution of spirit-gifts negated any idea of an elite hierarchy for: "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and * on my handmaidens 1 will pour out in those days of my Spirit..." (Acts 2:17-18).

To gentile converts

As the gospel spread to the Gentiles, apparently every ecclesial member was given some aspect of the Holy Spirit gifts.

"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, which is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance... " (Eph. 1: 13-14 NIV). "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ ... [he] gave gifts unto men ... and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets ... according to the effectual working in the measure of every part..." (Eph. 4:7-11,16).

The effect of such a policy would be threefold:

  1. all members would feel included as important individuals within the ecclesia;
  2. every member would want all of the others to participate so benefit could be realized from the gifts possessed by others;
  3. the ecclesia would only function to its optimum potential when all members fully participated.

1 Cor. 12:6-11 confirms the spirit gifts were dispersed widely and a careful reading of the verses further indicates that, in the first ecclesias, every member was given some spirit gift.

... it is the same God which worketh all in all ... But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal...dividing to every man severally as he will."

The individual received a gift of the spirit to "profit withall' (v.7). Each person would thus be under pressure to participate fully in the ecclesia that the whole group might be benefited thereby. If he did not, then the ecclesia would lose his input of teaching, administration, healing, tongues or whatever his gift might be.

In today's ecclesia

The same is true today. While we do not have a gift of the Holy Spirit, we each have unique contributions we can make to ecclesial life. If we are not fully involved, we deprive the ecclesia of that benefit others can derive from us. What can we do for the ecclesia?

The lesson of the human body, 1 Cor. 12:14-27

No matter how unique he may feel, every believer is part of a community of believers;

"For the body is not one, member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?..." (vs. 14- 16).

A variety of individual contributions are essential to the proper operation of the whole.

"If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?..." (vs. 17-20).

No person can say other believers are unnecessary to him; every member is important;

'the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee..." (vs. 21-23).

Every believer should have the same care for all members alike:

"but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another" (vs. 24-25).

One believer's problem should be a concern to the entire ecclesia;

"And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it..." (v.26).

As the lessons apply to individuals within ecclesias, so they can apply to ecclesias within the brotherhood. For example, a small ecclesia that feels inconsequential compared to those which are large and well-known, can be a valuable training ground for young brethren. And they can be an example to others if they diligently send their young people to ecclesial functions in larger ecclesial centers.

The lesson of the stones, 1 Kgs. 5:17; 7:9-11

The great stones used to build Solomon's temple and associated buildings represent believers in the ecclesia.

"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded... " (Eph. 2:20-22).

The ecclesia is likened to a temple in the process of being built. In the figure, the corner stone speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, the foundation stones represent the apostles and prophets and the other stones the rest of us. That much is plain. What may not be so evident is the allusion to the stones in Solomon's temple complex contained in the phrase "fitly framed together."

Fitly framed together

The Greek word is sunarmologeo used only here and 4:16 ("fitly joined together") and means, "to frame accurately together" (L-S). The word alludes to I Kings 6:7:

"And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building. "

Some of the stones weighed thousands of pounds. God's instructions forbade making any final adjustments to the stone once it was moved on to the temple site. Certainly, no one wanted to haul these stones into place and be forced to haul them out again because they did not fit properly. Great care would thus be taken with each stone so that it would fit perfectly when put into its final spot in the project.

God's instructions applied whether the stone was a highly visible one or whether it was to be covered over with wood never to be seen again once it was in place (1 Kgs. 6:18). Great care would be expended to make every stone right, every stone was important to the master designer.

The message to us is clear -- we are represented by those stones; great care is being taken with us to mold us that we might be fitly framed parts of the dwelling place of God. We may not be prominent, highly-visible stones, but we are important to the great builder.

Costly stones

The stones were fitly framed and they were described as being "costly."

"And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house ... All these were of costly stones, according to the measures of hewed stones, sawed with saws, within and without ... and the foundation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of ten cubits, and stones of eight cubits" (I Kgs. 5: 17; 7:9-10).

A person reading I Kgs. 5: 17 could think three different categories of stones were in mind -- very large ("great") stones, precious jewels ("costly stones") and stones that required cutting ("hewed stones"). Upon reading IKgs. 7:9-10, however, we see that all three descriptions apply to the same stones. They were very large (up to 12' by 15'), they were hewed with stone-cutting saws and were spoken of as costly.

"Costly" -- Hebrew is yaqar, "precious, rare" (Young's); describes God's love for the upright in Psa. 45:9 -- "Kings' daughters were among thy honorable women," and for the Messiah in Isa. 28:16 -- "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone... " cf. I Pet. 2:6.

The contour of Jerusalem required that many of these "costly" stones be used to provide a level platform for the erection of Solomon's complex of buildings (see illustration and note I Kgs. 7:8-9). Most of those stones may, seem unimportant to us but to God they were "costly, precious." In like manner, we may feel we are an obscure member of the ecclesial building; we may think our work is unimportant but to God we are "costly precious."

Note, too, the great effort in carefully preparing these costly stones for their appointed place. The sawing and shaping may have been a time-consuming, laborious and sometimes painful process (cf. Heb. 12: 11) but it was done with great care by the builders for each of the stones was precious to the great builder.

Lessons from the second temple, Haggal 1 and 2

Realistic encouragement, 2:34

The returned exiles had recommenced work on the temple when God's word came through Haggai:

"Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now: is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?" (Hag. 2:3)

Was this a discouraging remark? Not if we know the divine perspective. Whether or not a project is glorious to man is wholly irrelevant to God. While this temple project was not magnificent, God accepted it. He realized their limitations; the message was, "Don't be discouraged but "work."

"Yet now be strong ... saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you saith the LORD of hosts" (Hag. 2:4).

God realizes our limitations in talent and resources; He knows our physical difficulties and natural responsibilities. What He wants is for us to put our hearts into His service, to hands to the work and He will be pleased, in fact, He will be glorified bv such conduct.

The work that glorifies God

"Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and 1 will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD" (Hag. L8).

There was nothing glamorous about the task at hand: cut the wood, shape it, haul it and do it with your own hands. Here was not a call to prominence but to simple hard work. Yet look at what would be accomplished. The great God would take pleasure in their willing diligence and would be glorified by it. (The "it" in 1:8 was not the temple, which would be four years in building, but the labor of working thereon.)

We need to remember that the Lord Almighty is not glorified by the splendor of a great cathedral or the chords of a majestic organ; He is glorified by the humble work done in respect of His will. That would be hard to remember when struggling up the mountain under a load of wood, but here is conduct in which God delights.

All involved in the work, 1:12,14; 2:2,4

Of 38 verses in the entire prophecy of Haggai, 4 of them stress the same important point: Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest and all the remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God. Not just the leaders were involved, not just the people did the laborious chores, but all gave themselves to the work. Through the prophet, God made it clear that His delight would come from everyone personally doing arduous routine labor on a project that was not magnificent.

Every member of that community was important. Every work done according to His will glorifies Him.

Today there are various humble tasks we do that give God pleasure:

The brother cleaning the hall may not have the talent for platform duties but can glorify God none the less in his ready labor.

The young couple prevented from doing mission work by family care and physical infirmity can give God pleasure by ministering in their local ecclesia.

God realizes the limitations of sickly members and takes pleasure in what they can do.

He sees the countless hours spent at preaching work which seem to yield no fruit and is glorified by the effort.

We may be limited by talent, resources and ability and our contribution may be small but God's view is not man's view. He is the one who put this treasure in earthen vessels. He is the one who has called not many mighty, not many noble, not many brilliant people. But every one He has called is ,important to Him and the work done according to His will gives Him pleasure.

Every member a joint ruler

Everyone found faithful will share in ruling the world with Christ.

The promise is not limited to apostles, prophets and elders.

It is not restricted to brethren or to sisters with many children.

Every believer who overcomes and keeps Christ's works unto the end will share his throne. Therefore:

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