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Hey everyone, welcome to OCBC on this first week of Advent, we’re glad you’re here. In today’s service, for the message, were having a little different emphasis, We have one week left in the book of Genesis, book we’ll put that of for next week (so join us next week for the exciting conclusion of PATRIARCHS) and although our worship focus this morning was the first week of advent, we’re not going to quite go there yet, because he have some family business to work through today. It’s going to be a bit of a special celebration of what Jesus is doing here among us, in the body of Christ at OCBC, with the baptism of two brothers later in the service.

To set the Word in front of us this morning, I’d ask you to turn your attention to 1 Cor. 12:

1Cor. 12:12   For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1Cor. 12:14   For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

1Cor. 12:21   The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

1Cor. 12:27   Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

This text is related to a portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in which he is teaching about gifts, supernatural experiences and spiritual manifestations among the believers. Some believers were elevating certain gifs and experiences over others, and so Paul is writing to preserve the unity of the church by laying down some basic principles regarding spiritual gifts and their use. The larger argument goes on for three chapters, and you would do well to study it, understand and apply it , but for today, I just want to focus on a couple of principles.

The Spirit Baptizes into One Undivided and Spiritual Body, of Which the Local Church is an Expression (Vs. 12)

Paul is here speaking of baptism by the Spirit into the spiritual body of Christ. This is the miracle of salvation, what Jesus referred to as being born of the spirit, born again or born from above. It is what Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1:13: 3 “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”. Paul’s favourite phase in that chapter is the two words, “in Christ” - that is when a person receives the spirt of God, having taken Christ by faith, he is spiritually placed into a new standing before God, being so immersed into Christ, that our lives are now hidden with “Christ in God.” We become a member of the body of Christ, along with all others who, believing, have received the Spirit of God and have been born again. Apart from the work of the Spirit, a person is spiritually dead, severed from Christ, and under God’s wrath. Yet Christ entered into the world, lived a holy life among us, and took our sins upon himself that we might be forgiven and united to God once again through Christ, as we turn from our sin and turn to him receiving the salvation he offers as a gift of grace. If you truly turn to him in faith and repentance, calling upon the name of the Lord, he will save you from you sins, and include you, immerse you, baptize you into his own self through his Spirit. It doesn’t matter your ethnic background (Jews and Gentiles), your economic background or class (slave’s and free), it doesn’t even matter what you have done, for his forgiveness and life is freely offered. 

And so, this body of Christ is made up of all believers, everywhere in the world, who are joined to Christ together by faith. This is sometimes referred to as the universal or invisible church. However, the universal church always has an expression, and as it is clear from the rest of the passage that Paul has in mind how the members of Christ relate to one another in the day to day, it seems clear that he has in mind the expression of the universal church that we refer to as local churches. The local church is not the totality of Christ’s body on earth, but it is a localized expression of Christ’s body on earth, so that we find our fit in the universal body of Christ on earth, by finding our fit and using the gifts God has given us in the local church. 

So again, while we are baptized into Christ through a work of the Spirit bringing us into Christ’s universal body, there is a tangible expression, water baptism, an act done openly and publicly, primarily through the ministry of the localized body of Christ, in which the local church gathered and assembled witness and celebrates the work of God in the life of the brother or sister, and strives to see them grow up and take their place in the body. 

The Diversity of the Body of Christ Requires Us to Receive and Accept One Another, Understanding our Need for One Another. The second principle, and perhaps the main point of the text, is that the spirit of God has placed us together within the body of Christ, that we might receive and accept one another in our different gifting, personalities, backgrounds, etc. and understand our need for one another. Paul first applies this to each person looking inward: 

1Cor. 12:14   For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

Paul is speaking to the people who might say, “no one will miss me if I don’t turn up.” “everyone is doing fine without me.” No, Paul says by the Spirit of God. God has placed you here in this body, in this congregation, for a purpose. He has led you here, to this place, to these people. And he has a reason for doing it. People sometime ask me about the value of church membership - this is one of the values: to remind yourself that we need you to see yourself as a spirit-gifted, spirit-led, spirit-placed member of this body. that God is fitting us together like a jigsaw puzzle - or better, like a body with its various parts, hands and feet, etc.

Paul then applies this to each person looking outward:

1Cor. 12:21   The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

We have to see that we need one another. Amazingly, Paul says, we need the weaker, unpresentable, lacking members of the body, and if those members are suffering or ignored or displace, the whole body suffers for it. Paul says, the weaker are indispensable. So many times we see our weakness and our troubles and our lack and we withdraw, we don’t want to be a burden on others, we don’t want to bring others down - no, Paul says! Your presence here reminds us that we are in this together. We can’t grow in love until we need to show love. We can’t grow in generosity until we need to show generosity. We can’t grow in charity, until we need to show charity. We can’t grow in patience until we need to show patience. However that brings us to the third principle:

The Members that Require Special Care, are not to be Despised, But Cared for With Honour: The theme that runs through these verses is that those who are weak, hurting, troubled or suffering. Paul uses the analogy of the body basically to say that the parts of the body that need extra care, or to be handled sensitively or treated with great modesty, we don’t cut them out or ignore them, but we do them the honour of extending special care to them. This means that the church, especially those who are currently strong in their faith and healthy in their bodies, must grow in their skills at caring for the weaker among them, so that everyone is giving and receiving care, and the body can grow up together. Finally: 

God Gives Various Gifts, People, and Ministries to the church for the health of the body and they serve and care for one another in love (vs 27-31). Some of these ministries are public church-establishing ministries, such as the role of apostle, prophets, teachers, and in other places Paul speaks of pastors and elders, and the role of older men and women, shepherding and teaching younger men and women. Others are ministries of service: helping, administration, or deacons, etc. He speaks of supernatural gifting distributed among the body - an in the chapter to come he explains how all these gifts work together to strengthen the body and build it up in love. Without getting too lost in the details of the various offices, ministries, people and gifts in the list, the point is clear: God gives a variety of people and gifting to the church that all may be built up, edified and strengthened.

Implications and Applications At OCBC

  1. Baptism and Church Membership: We’re grateful today to be able to witness the baptism of two brothers. We regularly do baptisms at OCBC, whenever anyone believes God is calling them to take that step of faith. We practice and teach believer’s baptism, meaning that we believe baptism to be a public declaration of the faith of an individual, and as we view baptism as the public profession of faith instituted by Christ, we instruct every Christian to be baptized upon coming to faith in Christ. Water baptism does not justify anyone, it is not a religious work that we do to appease Christ or to be better people, it does not unite one into Christ - that is the Spirit-baptism, however it is the tangible expression of spirit-baptism recognized by the gathered church, and as such we witness and celebrate together the work of God in the lives of these brothers. 

    Having been baptized, we instruct brothers and sisters to join themselves as members to the church. We take church membership seriously and as an act of faith that 1) the Holy Spirit has brought me to this place to be fit into this body of people according to His purpose and design. I need the weird people around me, just as they need me. We need one another as we grow together in Christ. If you consider OCBC to be your church family, then we ask you to join together with us as a member, that we might together commit ourselves to the care and encouraging of each other. Our membership list is kept current and ,managed by the church board, and we have a number of new members we will be welcoming next month. We do baptism and membership classes continually throughout the year, generally on a rotation or by request - we are hoping to being a new members course in January. If you are interested in baptism or membership, please speak to me at any time.

  2. Diversity of Ministry, Oversight and Care Every member of our church is encouraged to develop and serve one another using the gifts, talents, skills, and experience God has given them. Along with the pastor of each congregation, many brothers and sisters serve the church leading teams of others in ministry, administration and care. Just want to focus on three today. 

    1. Our Church Board of Deacons: We just voted on new members to our board of deacons who will begin their term this January. The church board oversees the entire church as one body. Activities that are shared by the congregations or affect the entire church are managed by the board. The board also acts as a mediator between the congregations should any issues arise, and support the entire church in its mission. OCBC board members are elected by the congregation and serve 2-year terms. Every member of the board must meet the guidelines for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8–13, with the board chair meeting the additional requirements for overseers found in 1 Timothy 3:1–7. The board should ideally reflect the multi-cultural makeup of the church

    2. Our Pastoral Team and EMT: At the same time, the pastors (me and Pastor David in the Chinese congregation) of each congregation work with an assembled ministry team who are able to focus on the particular ministry strategy and issues of their own congregation. Ministry team members are appointed by the pastor of each congregation as ministries develop. Generally, the people serving on the ministry team are invited to the ministry team because they are already leading ministries within the congregation. Can I have the ministry team members come to the front so you can see them?

    3. Our Care Team: Over the past few years we’ve been growing up a lot as a ministry and a congregation, and it started with some members of our ministry team maturing to the point at which they truly are loving and caring for the members of the congregation, and seeking to grow into a ministry of care, prayer and sharing some of the spiritual oversight with myself. A couple of years ago some core members of our ministry team began meeting online on Sunday night, to talk over any issue that arose over the course of ministry, and praying for members of our congregation and new visitor. Over this past year, the Sunday night became a bit more distinct from the EMT as members were added to each team, but not necessarily to both teams, and so the care team was born. We also began about a year ago praying through a list of members and regular attenders. And so each week, we try to contact 5-6 of you and ask you if there is anything we can be praying with you about, and then we bring them to that meeting Sunday and we pray for you, and pray throughout the week. It’s often through that meeting that we hear of people who need extra support or a special need. I have the list downstairs that you can look at and see if you are on it, and you can add your name to it any family lunch. (Print out sheets).

      This coming year, the care team is being asked to assist Pastor Dan in pastoral visitation of all members of OCBC. Pastoral home visitation is a practice long held in many evangelical churches, but in recent decades has fallen out of practice. The practice actually has its roots in scripture, in which the apostles and other church leaders went from house to house for the purpose of strengthening and caring for the believers. Paul says in his goodbye words to the leaders a the church: You yourselves know how I lived among you … how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public “and from house to house”. The purpose of these visits are five-fold:

      1) Getting to know their family story,  and their spiritual walk
      2) Ask about how OCBC can love and serve them
      3) Ask how you would like to use you gifts, see the church develop
      4) So that we can be aware of any items of care or urgent need among the body.
      5) We can pray for you!

      We will be starting with every member family, and hope to visit each member family once over the next year, for this pastoral visit (obviously, you can call me or the care team at any time - this is in addition to the visitation and care already being done!) The visits will generally be about an hour to 1.5 hours long and we hope to come to you for them, meeting in your house if you’ll have us.

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