Thesis:We are to learn the most crucial implications about our diversity/unity from our physical bodies.
Introduction:In our last two studies, we focused upon the one factor that has the most potential to destroy what God wants to do in our midst: an ignorance regarding God's place in how we function that leads to a relationship destroying pride regarding our place in how we function. At the root, it is God's "love" that motivates our true function, and it is God's "persuasion" that provides the necessary guidance. We have never been, and never will be, the source of true love or faith and a proper perception of that will produce the humility to actually serve one another.
Now, with that understood, we are taken by Paul into the next major conceptual foundation for our growth: the issues involved in our diversity/unity as the people of God. Our study this evening will be focused upon Romans 12:4-5.
I. The Physical as the Door to Understanding the Metaphysical.
A. Paul begins his presentation of this next major conceptual foundation with a word that he alone used in the New Testament and that he used in only eleven contexts.
1. The word means "according to the standard of what is in an 'opposite' place" when "opposite" simply means something like the image that is in a mirror.
2. We can get its meaning if we understand "as" in the sense of "exactly like".
B. The paucity of his use is likely caused by the fact that most physical realities have some things about them that cannot be carried over into the metaphysical realm.
1. This is the "problem" with "parables": there are some things that confuse the issue if they are taken too literally.
2. The fact is that the physical realm is limited in its ability to express the infinite metaphysical realm in most cases.
C. But, in this place, Paul presses the physical into a "just like" form so that we may grasp his point.
II. The "Likeness".
A. The physical body is "one" with "many parts".
B. The "many parts" each have their own distinctive "praxis" (the act of putting an idea into action).
1. The word "praxis" is only used three times by Paul (making it another rarity for explaining Truth), but it is used in enough contexts (six, all told) for us to get "the idea": the "method" by which men handle the issues of their functional existence.
a. This is clearest in Matthew 16:27 where "reward" is according to "praxis", not "works" per se.
1) The reason for the use of "praxis" here is that it is more inclusive than simple "works" and the Judgment that leads to "reward" is not simply what is done, but includes why it was done.
2) This is not the "standard" biblical formulation, but it does, by its uniqueness, allow us to see that its meaning pushes us beyond just "what is done".
b. When Paul used this word in Romans 8:13, he strongly declared that the "praxis" of the flesh has to be addressed by the Spirit Whose most fundamental contribution to our efforts is not "work" but "motive" (our problem is not work as an exercise of energy; it is work as an expression of the Love/Faith complex).
2. What Paul is declaring is that the many parts of the single body have their own "goals" and "methods" under the reality of harmonious contribution.
a. There is, in this, the reality that there is a lot of "sameness" to the physical reality.
b. But, out of that "sameness" come many distinct and often unique contributions.
C. At this point, Paul switches back to "thusly" (the weaker comparison as an adverb).
1. The switch does not weaken his argument, but focuses it at the level of methodology.
2. Paul is attempting to get us to see two very profound and obvious truths.
a. There is an indestructible unity of our being in Christ.
b. There is a readily seen distinctiveness to our contributions to one another.
III. The "Issue".
A. Believers are to "commit" to their "sacrificial commitment to God" as a "commitment" to what He has established as a "body" in Christ.
1. This means that we are to be wholeheartedly committed to God's intentional prescription of unity without any willingness to "settle" for less except as "longsuffering" is involved in an imperfect practice of reality.
a. Just as the body utilizes all of its parts in the processes of pursuing its goals, believers are supposed to be unified in their mutual efforts.
b. And just as the body immediately responds to threats to this unity, believers are to be on guard against any who attempt to break away from the unity.
2. This means that the local group is to be committed to God's order and practice.
a. This cannot be done beyond the level of a local group.
b. It often is not done even at the local level, but it is supposed to be.
B. Believers are to understand that their individual perspectives and abilities are to be used to serve the body, not to pull it into pieces.
1. Beneath Paul's summons to sacrifice and warning against pride is the continuing reality of the dictates of God's Love.
2. One focus, however, must be maintained: the focus of "love" wherein those relating to this many-members/one-body/multiple-function reality are completely focus-consumed by those upon whom the impact of their actions fall.
a. Within this consumed focus there must be a distinction made between the various "targets" of their actions with the realization that what brings "benefit" to one may well bring "disaster" to another.
1) God's love is "election-determined" with some terrible consequences for certain "vessels of wrath", but this is the nature of the reality.
2) In the same vein, God's "election-determined-love" often spells some seriously negative consequences even upon the "beloved" for the sake of "other" beloved (is this not the message of the Cross -- a seriously negative consequence -- for Christ so that we -- the "other" beloved" -- may live?).
3) Those who truly love do not "mind" these realities, but those who do not love find them terribly onerous (John said it this way: "... and His commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3))-- those who love find it so; those who do not love find this declaration offensive.
b. And within this consumed focus there must be a healthy dose of realistic thinking about one's place in the intent to bless.
C. Believers also are to understand that this entire reality has its roots in "T"heology in that God is presented in the Bible as "One" while being "multiple" in personality.