Series: The Corporate Christ
Sun am 27 May 2018 – Kobus Swart
Eph. 1:10 (Phillips); Eph. 5:25-32; Matt. 16:13-20; John 12:20-25 (MSG); 1 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 4:13; Heb. 2:9-11; John 17:21; Rom. 8:19-22; Acts 1:10 (MSG); Acts 3:21 (MSG); (John 7:10-15); John 14:13-14, 18-20 (MSG); Matt. 8:20; Eph. 4:15-16; Zech. 10:1; Heb. 10:24-25; (Matt. 23:39)
For God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfilment in him (Eph. 1:10 Phillips). The word ‘consummated’ in Christ is a deep word. When a couple gets married, their marriage is consummated in intimacy. When Paul talks about husband and wife, he is referring to the marriage between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:25-32). Being consummated in Christ also refers to being completed in Christ. In the Afrikaans Bible, it says “om verenig te word.”
Jesus spoke to Peter personally, who had the revelation of who Jesus was (Matt. 16:13-18). The meaning there is ‘Petros’, a chip of a rock. He says, “You are Peter and upon this rock”– not upon Peter. This is where we have to see the difference between the individual and the corporate. A rock consists of a lot of stones or chips in one corporate rock. So, this is referring to the plural and not the individual. He builds His Church on the corporate but every individual in the corporate body must have an individual revelation of Jesus Christ. God’s vision is not centred so much on the individual, as on the Church, nor are His mighty works done through the single member, but through the body. We have to realise that the days of the super man or woman are over. If you take this wider, God is not going to necessarily select an individual church to rise up above the rest. God is concerned about His Church – the Church of Christ – the body of Christ worldwide. That is where God’s heart is. However, we must understand the difference. When Jesus spoke more of the individual than of the community, it was because the first thing necessary was to restore true individuality, without which true community is not possible. He spoke a lot about the individual because it is very important that each individual has the revelation without which the true community it is not possible. The community needs the individuals before they can be a community. There is the difference between individuality and individualism. Individualism is a problem: it means you isolate yourself as “I know everything.” That is an ego trip.
Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over (John 12:24 MSG). A grain of wheat is single – an individual; for it to multiply it has to die. Jesus is the pattern Son and He gave us an example. The individual in us has to die to become part of the corporate expression. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal (John 12:25 MSG). Jesus sacrificed His personal body on the cross. He was the SEED that was planted to reproduce Himself, now called the body of Christ.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, we talk about Christ in the following way: For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). So Christ is a many-membered corporate body. This should be at the heart of every one of the five-fold ministries operating in the body of Christ to bring the body to the unity of the faith till we all come unto a perfect man. That perfect man is a corporate man (Eph. 4:13). This is the full stature of Christ. Presently too many are still building their own networks. We are called and mandated to build and bring everybody to the perfect man – the full stature of the Christ. I know it is not an easy job, but by the Holy Spirit, it will have to be done.
Through that inner integration, that holiness which is wholeness, we are liberated from self-centeredness in order that the Head of the body can share with us His body consciousness. Jesus is body conscious. There are two extremes we must avoid. One group emphasizes bringing individuals to Christ. There is nothing wrong with bringing individuals to Christ and discipling them. The tremendous emphasis placed by the New Testament writers on the relationship of the individual to Christ justifies us in doing the same. It is not just preaching to the crowd and getting a crowd response; we have to work with individuals, but it cannot end there! We must move on the see the individual’s integration into the body. The other extreme is people becoming overanxious to explore external unity without first being concerned with the spiritual condition of individuals. Each individual must have a revelation of who Jesus is, and then that integration must take place into the local body. If people have a true relationship – a living union with Jesus Christ – they will also have a living relationship with each other. I want to encourage greater and more depth of fellowship amongst us. We have to see that integration of the body of Christ.
One of the major purposes of Jesus dying and being resurrected was to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:9-11). When will the world believe the gospel? What the world is seeing now is thousands upon thousands of churches and denominations. Where is the demonstration of the corporate body of Christ? Is the world only seeing individual Christians? That does not mean you cannot be salt and light in your community. This must be one of the primary burdens of Jesus, His most powerful intercessory prayer: “Father make them one, as You and I are one so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). The world will be sceptical as long as the Church is divided, as long as believers are not integrated into the life of Christ.
We are actually talking about the beginning phases of the second coming. We constantly postpone things, but we need to realize something is busy unfolding. The Feast of Tabernacles is busy unfolding. What the prayer of Jesus means is an interpenetration of God and man. That is what the world will see, and then they will believe. That is why even creation is groaning to see the manifestation of the sons of God, meaning the Son in the sons. It is a corporate expression of the Christ in the earth. Even creation is groaning! (Rom. 8:19-22).
People could see and touch Jesus in His earthly ministry and eat with Him, before the crucifixion. Only those in His immediate environment could see Him. Jesus was one person in one place. That changed when He was taken up. People can see Jesus now wherever they are on the earth. He is no longer limited in one physical place in one physical body (Matt. 23:39; John 12:20-25).
They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared – in white robes! They said, “You Galileans! – why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly – and mysteriously – as he left” (Acts 1:10 MSG). That word “mysteriously” says it all. Many people think Jesus was taken into the outer universe where heaven is. No, He was taken into a cloud and the possibility is that He was taken into the cloud of witnesses. That cloud is not millions of miles away – it is another dimension. That cloud is here! For the time being Jesus will remain invisible (Acts 3:21 MSG). That is what happened at the Feast of Tabernacles when Jesus remained invisible. He remained out of sight, until the middle of the feast when He stepped into the temple and started speaking (John 7:14). There is a lot of prophetic significance in that picture.
“I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment (that moment is now) you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you” (John 14:18-20 MSG). That does not refer to two thousand years, or however long it might take. The truth is that God’s heart is to be integrated with His Church (His body), and He has given another helper, the Holy Spirit, to facilitate it. The Holy Spirit has a function; the Holy Spirit will share Christ with us. Jesus said, “He will not speak on His own initiative, He will take of Me and will share it with you” (John 14:13-14). When He says “you” He does not mean you alone, but you as a group. In that day we will know that the prayer of Jesus is fulfilled – oneness has become a fact to be seen and witnessed by the Gentile world. But He will not lay His head on that which does not represent Him and does not have the same DNA (Matthew 8:20). This is where the delay is. Jesus is looking for somewhere to lay His head, in other words lay His headship, over the body of Christ, of which Jesus is the head. That means, what is missing is growth – spiritual growth. For you and me to grow, we need to be in a spiritual environment where there is Word, where there is Spirit. You cannot grow if you are in a place somewhere alone. You have to die first, and then come alive. Growth means from the blade, to the ear, to the full corn. That spiritual growth is also called development. How can people develop if they only feed on milk? Your baby will never grow if all you give him is milk. There is a stage for milk, but then we need solid food and meat.
Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supply, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph. 4:15-16). There is the final picture. That is how we get to the perfect or the corporate man, and then the world will believe when they see that. Seeds planted will grow, and then they will get to a stage where they desperately need rain for the final maturing process – the latter rain. I believe the body of Christ at the moment is in desperate need of rain – the latter rain – the final maturing process (Zech. 10:1). Let us pray through whatever resistances there are in the spirit realm. We want to see an outpouring of spiritual rain.
In the charismatic season, God poured out His multiple gifts of the Spirit. Unfortunately, these varieties of gifted persons ended up building their ministry around the gift – a prophetic group, or an apostolic group, or an evangelistic group. It is diverse and there is nothing wrong with it, but that is not the final picture. All things must be consummated – things in heaven and earth – must be consummated in Christ (Eph. 1:10).
From many must come ONE: all of the variety of gifts must bring forth Christ – consummated in Christ. We all have varieties of gifts in the Spirit, but do not build a ministry around that gift; bring it into co-operation, into the corporate Christ. We must awaken to the fact that there is still something needed in the body of Christ. We need to see a corporate baptism.
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. How? With personal interaction! Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Heb. 10:24-25). It cannot just happen on a Sunday morning. We need to have fellowship in the week as well, and that is why we strongly recommend that you each one find a place in a home group, where you can stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Do not neglect the fellowship and the assembling of yourselves. Encourage one another and all the more when you see the day drawing near. The world wants to see that church is a corporate family.
Let us not delay the final phase of the second coming. Let us prepare and long for that appearance. He will come in the same mysterious way as you have seen Him leave. He is coming for a (corporate) Bride without spot or wrinkle!