Description: Are uniqueness comes from us being a part of Christ. He lives in us and we in Him.
Mystery of Christ’s Unity & Oneness with Us No.1
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you take a Bible, please, and turn to Ephesians 5, and if you’d just look back a few verses
from the verse we are studying today, you would see that Paul is talking is talking about marriage.
Ephesians 5:28 Paul says, “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who
loves his wife loves himself.” So he says, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
“For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.” That is the verse, “We are members of his body.” And so Paul is
saying, Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies, just the same way as Christ loves the
church. And that is the analogy that he is making throughout this chapter, that Christ’s attitude to
the church is the same as a husband’s attitude should be to his wife.
And then he slips this little verse in that, of course, we have talked about already, for, “We are
members of ‘his’ body.” And he is obviously identifying the church with the body of Christ when he
says that, because he says, “As Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” And it
has just come to me so strongly, and that is why I’ve shared it with you before, that I suddenly
realized that we are all the victims of, [sings] “The Church’s one Foundation is Jesus Christ…” The
hymn is great, but its very strength emphasizes the mighty world church and all the glory and all
the ceremony connected with the church. And so when we talk about ourselves as members of the church
and then as members of Christ’s body, strangely enough that whole, almost impersonal, mighty
attitude taints our understanding of those words. And if you think of it, we think, “Oh yes, we are
members of his body. Yes, yes, we…” – I’ve said this before to you, “We’re all members of his body.
That’s right, that’s right, all of us! We’re just one great big body. We’re just one great big
corporate entity. So we won’t be on our own. We won’t be alone. We’ll be with everybody else.”
And then of course it is emphasized even more because of the apparent emphasis in this chapter on
gifts and on ministry, and the way it even ends, where it says, “Are all apostles? Are all teachers?
Are all…?” We get the feeling that this is a great chapter, but it’s primarily concerned with the
mighty world church, the great organization that we’ve all come to know. And it is concerned also
with the operation of that church, and how the ministers are divided up into different functions
that they perform. And so we tend to lose the very, very touching and delicate and most important,
truthful emphasis of the whole chapter which is we, ‘we’ are members of him, of his body.
And you know we’re using the word “member” there… It is unfortunate, because it is really meant by
the translators in the early days to be just the old term that was used in those days for ‘limbs’.
So they talk about this [indicates his leg] as a ‘member’ in my body. This leg is a member. We, of
course, know them as ‘members’ of the golf club, and most importantly, the members of the church.
And so we hear that and we say, “Yes, Yes, we’re members. We are certainly members. Now Campus
Church is different from ordinary churches, but we are ‘members’ of that.
And of course, it is not that at all. The Greek actually translates, “We are the limbs of Christ’s
body.” “We are the limbs of Christ’s body.” We are parts of Christ himself. And that is what has
slowly dawned on me, that we are being utterly unreal when we put the emphasis on, “Yes, yes. I’m a
member. We’re all members, and it helps me to remember that I’m part of a corporate thing. I’m part
of Christian Corps; I’m part of the great Body of Christ and part of the church of Christ.”
And he was first through us, each one of us, “Abide in me. Abide in me. As I am in my Father and my
Father is in me, so I am in you and you are in me.” And we tend to say, “Yeah, yeah. We’re members
of your body. We understand that.” And he says, “No, no, I feel you.” [Pastor thumps on his leg.] “I
feel you. I can feel you. You’re part of me. Just as you can feel your leg, I can feel you.
You’re part of me. You’re a dear part of me. That’s why you were able to die with me. That’s why I
was able to bear your sin. That’s why I was able to feel what you do and what you have done. That’s
why I’m able to save you, because you’re part of me, and my Father is preserving my life despite my
death. And so he’s preserving you in me and with me.”
And I think we miss it. We miss the intimacy of it and the reality of it and the closeness of it.
And of course it ties up with the rest of what Jesus says. Actually if you will notice the verse,
“He nourishes the body.” He nourishes the church, because we are members of his body. And so it is
really saying, “Christ nourishes each one of us.”
You asked me about — Oh, my scar is disappearing [Pastor hurt his forehead and eye in car
accident]. But you kind of looked at it, and in fact Colleen sucked in her breath because she
thought it was very painful. It wasn’t at all, at that time. But still you are aware… I don’t
ignore it completely. I do pretty well ignore it, and if it got bad I would take some care of it.
And I’d protect it, and I’d put ointment on it, presumably. And so do you. You take care of your
body, because it is you. Irene’s joke about the little girl that got a cut in her leg and she said,
“Mommy, I’m leaking. I’m leaking.” And it’s not, “My leg is leaking; it’s me that is leaking.” And
that is the way we feel about our body. We don’t feel, “Oh that old foot, that old leg.” We feel,
“That’s part of me. I’d better take of it or I’ll have trouble along the way. It will affect the
rest of me.”
And of course that’s it. Of course that is the attitude Jesus has to each one of us. I think we are
just missing it completely, thinking in human terms of the thousands and the millions. In other
words, we are really thinking atheistically. If you go deep down into your own mind, you will admit
you are really thinking, “OK, I’m not as unimportant as everyone else thinks they are. I mean I’m a
Christian and I know that I count for something.” But you still tend to think of yourself as one of
the millions and sure, something is going to happen in heaven that will change things somehow, but
really you’re just one of the millions.
And of course that is not what Jesus is saying at all, and it’s not his attitude. We are limbs of
him. We are part of him, and he, when he nourishes the church, he nourishes us. In other words, each
day of our lives Jesus takes care that we get the right nourishment, each one of us. He takes care
that each one of us gets what we need to grow up into the fullness of him, to be fully what he has
always intended to be in you, which is uniquely different from what he is in the rest of us, and
anybody else in the whole world. He has a unique life to live in you, and so he nourishes you so
that you will come into that fullness, so that he will be able to express fully what his intention
is in you.
Of course where it has helped me immensely is in the unpleasant things, the difficult things, the
unexpected things, the events that catch you off balance, the experiences that are just not
enjoyable, the sicknesses. Christ has allowed those to come to you, because he is going, through
those, to create in you an attitude to himself and his Father that is true and real.
And I’ve begun to see those things, not for what they do to my present situation, not for what they
do to the world itself, but I have begun to see that Christ has allowed that to come to me because
he is about to do something through that that will make me more like himself. And so, there is no
event in our lives that has not his purpose behind it. There is no event, nothing that comes to us,
no strain or stress, even, that comes that has not been lovingly sent by him to us, to bring about
more of himself in us. So the whole of his attitude is in us, but he has ways of allowing that to
come forth so that that will be experienced not only by the world, but will be experienced by us and
will be experienced and observed by him, himself, as he sees it expressed in reality.
So we are parts of Jesus, himself. It is his personal life in us that gives us life. It is his
personal life in us.
I do think that we have a very good motive for this misunderstanding. The misunderstanding is that
he’ll be so busy with everybody that he really won’t – he’ll notice us, but that’s about it. And
that’s nice. That’s a humble kind of attitude to have. And that’s the good part about it. The bad
part about it is that it is not true. Jesus – I know this sounds crazy, but it is as if you were the
only person in the whole world. That’s the mystery of God’s love. That’s the mystery of his love.
That’s the only way you make sense of that ridiculous statement, “Every hair of your head is
numbered?” I mean wait a minute. That is either blarney or if it’s true, then God and his dear Son
must be able to think of me as if I were the only one.
And of course, that’s it. We always think of him noticing little Zacchaeus, the little tax
gatherer. And there he notices him. Wasn’t it nice of him noticing those children and blessing them?
And we’re absolutely wrong! That’s what God does with each one of us. That’s his great love.
I think I mentioned to you that old Barth [Karl Barth, 1886 – 1968, Swiss theologian]– I think I
mentioned to you a few chapters ago. He said, “Just as God knows where every fly is.” Of course I
said that too about the quanta. But it came home to me that here he was saying it. “God knows where
every fly is.” So if he knows where every fly is, he certainly knows where you are every second.
So that’s a little of what that verse means, “For we are members of his body.” No! “We are limbs in
his body. For we are his limbs.” That’s the truth of it. Each one of us is a part of Christ,
And of course, lastly, Is it important what you do and what you say?” I got something before I came
down here, directly from God. “It is our place to remain in recollection.” There was a word that I
only got to know as I read the Catholic mystics. But maybe the Catholic Church is normal. Maybe
everyone knows it. But to be in a constant state of recollection means constantly remembering that
you are part of Christ, that he is all around you, that he is here, that he is listening to all that
you say and looking at all that you think.
That, of course is what you lose when you panic or when you get preoccupied with your present
situation or a difficulty that you’re having, or even a great happiness that you’re having. It is
easy to lose that state of recollection, that state of calm confidence, conscience; confident
consciousness of Jesus in you and of you being in him.
And that is what God has for us, because that is reality. For we are the limbs of Christ. Every
second we’re the limbs of Christ. And when we act in that reality, then he himself receives glory,
and satisfaction and fulfillment in us.
Let us pray.