THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
BEING A MEMBER AND BEING A CHRISTIAN
The New Testament shows us that there is a difference between being a member and being a Christian. Being a Christian is something individualistic, whereas being a member is something corporate. Being a Christian is something one does for himself, whereas being a member is something for the Body. In the Bible there are many terms with opposite meanings, such as purity and uncleanness, holiness and commonness, victory and defeat, the Spirit and the flesh, Christ and Satan, the kingdom and the world, and glory and shame. All these are opposites. In the same way, the Body is in opposition to the individual. Just as the Father is versus the world, the Spirit is versus the flesh, and the Lord is versus the devil, so also is the Body versus the individual. Once a man sees the Body of Christ, he is free from individualism. He will no longer live for himself but for the Body. Once I am delivered from individualism, I am spontaneously in the Body.
The Body of Christ is not a doctrine; it is a realm. It is not a teaching, but a life. Many Christians seek to teach the truth of the Body, but few know the life of the Body. The Body of Christ is an experience in a totally different realm. A man can know the book of Romans without being justified. Similarly, a man can know the book of Ephesians without seeing the Body of Christ. We do not need knowledge; rather, we need revelation to know the reality of the Body of Christ and to enter the realm of the Body. Only a revelation from God will usher us into the realm of the Body, and only then will the Body of Christ become our experience.
In Acts 2 it seems as if Peter was preaching the gospel alone and that three thousand people were saved through him. But we must remember that the other eleven apostles were standing beside him. The Body of Christ was preaching the gospel; it was not the preaching of an individual. If we have the view of the Body, we will see that individualism will not bring us anywhere.
If we realize that a Christian is nothing more than a member, we will no longer be proud. Everything depends on our seeing. Those who see that they are members will surely treasure the Body and honor the other members. They will not see just their own virtues; they will readily see others as being better than themselves.
Every member has a function, and all the functions are for the Body. The function of one member is the function of the whole Body. When one member does something, the whole Body does it. When the mouth speaks, the whole body is speaking. When the hands work, the whole body is working. When the legs walk, the whole body is walking. We cannot divide the members from the body. Therefore, the movement of the members of the Body must be focused around the Body. Everything that the members do should be for the Body. Ephesians 4 says that the Body is growing into a full-grown man. It does not say that individuals are growing into full-grown men. In chapter three the ability to know the love of Christ and to apprehend the Lord’s breadth, length, height, and depth is with all the saints. No one can know or apprehend by himself. An individual does not have the time or the capacity to experience the love of Christ in that kind of way.
First Corinthians 12:14 through 36 speaks of two erroneous concepts that members may have: (1) "Because I am not...I am not of the body" (v. 15). This is to despise oneself and covet the work of others. (2) "I have no need of you" (v. 21). This is to be proud of oneself, thinking that one man can be all-inclusive, and despising others. Both concepts are harmful to the Body. We should not imitate other members or be covetous of other members. In this way we will not become discouraged and give up when we find that we cannot be like others. At the same time, we should not despise other members, thinking that we are better and more useful.
THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE BODY
In the church life, we should learn to have the consciousness of the Body. When we are at odds with the brothers and sisters, it means that we are surely at odds with God. Some Christians are like butterflies; they act independently. Others are like bees; they live and move together. The butterfly flies from flower to flower, going its own sweet way; but the bee works for the hive. The butterfly lives and works individually, but the bee has a body-consciousness. We should all be like bees, having the consciousness of the Body so that we can live together with other members in the Body of Christ. Wherever there is Body-revelation, there is Body-consciousness, and wherever there is Body-consciousness, individual thought and action are automatically ruled out. Seeing Christ results in deliverance from sin; seeing the Body results in deliverance from individualism. Seeing the Body and deliverance from individualism are not two things but one. As soon as we see the Body, our life and work as individuals cease. It is not a matter of changing our attitude or conduct; revelation does the work. We cannot enter the realm of the Body by anything other than seeing. A real inward seeing settles the whole problem.
(The Mystery of Christ, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)