Thursday, July 15, 2021

Sanctification and the Body

In his work on the sanctification of the believer, John Murray makes a point that is far too often overlooked by the average Christian. He points out that sanctification is, to be sure, an individual matter. God sanctifies each believer so that, as Paul puts it in Romans 8, he can be molded into the image of His Son. The primary point that Murray makes, however, is that in addition to being an individual matter, sanctification is also a corporate one. God doesn't just sanctify the individual believer, but he also sanctifies His church and in the process utilizes that body to further sanctify each individual believer.

This is an issue that is seldom emphasized by the faithful. We all find it easy to believe and think about our particular, individual sanctification. When it comes to the corporate aspect of that sanctification, however, we often fall asleep at the wheel. And this attitude usually comes about because the believer wants to justify his lack of fellowship and the importance it holds, not only for himself, but also for the other members of the body. This is especially true for those who are "hit or miss" in the meetings of the church. If one finds it so hard to gather with the saints on the Lord's Day and during the mid-week meeting, it is not likely that he will be all that enthusiastic about meeting at other times. This is often the product of a mindset that says "what's in it for me" rather than "what can I contribute to the growth and purpose of the body."

We often hear preachers admonish us about the importance of the corporate meetings of the church. And rightly so. What is often missed, however, is that the meetings of the church are not only to worship God, or to be accountable to each other, or to gain strength in order to continue our journey in the faith. It is also to encourage one another to ever increasing levels of sanctification. That is a function that no other body or organism can accomplish. And, as mentioned above, not only do many neglect this important function of meeting with the saints, but they also neglect meeting in other settings. Those who are the most inconsistent in meeting during the formal meetings of the church, are also those who are often missing whenever the church meets outside those designated times.

Furthermore, if you are among those who find it so easy to miss the gatherings of the church, then bear in mind that you are sinning against the body and against God whenever you absent yourself for reasons that do not rise to the level that would make it impossible for you to meet. And remember also that hearing the warnings that come from the pulpit and through other mediums and yet continuing to harden yourself against them will eventually lead to God abandoning you to your own devices. How often have we seen some who make it a habit to be hot and cold eventually abandon the meeting altogether? More often than you think. Think back on the folks that you have known through the years who are no longer at the meetings. Chances are they began absenting themselves once or twice a month and eventually left altogether. This process may take years or it may take months, but it will likely take place if carelessness about the body and our place in it marks our lives.

The moral of this story is not just intended for those who are "on the bubble." It is also for all of us. None of us are immune to the temptation to "sleep in" on Sunday morning, for example. Probably all of us at one time or another have missed the meeting of the church because we didn't feel like going, or we decided to go on vacation and not seek a body of saints to meet with, or a host of other reasons. At the same time it is essential to remember that being at the meetings is not an end in itself; it leads somewhere: to fulfilling our duty as a child of God in the sanctification of others. It behooves all of us to watch ourselves and each other so that, what happens to many who fall by the wayside will not happen to us. "What I say to you I say to all: watch" (Mark 13:37).


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