What Does It Mean To Build Up The Body?

When Paul instructs us to “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”, he is telling us something about what the body of Christ should be doing and becoming. First of all Paul is telling us that the body of Christ is a not a stagnant organism.  That it is always in the process of being built up and grown. The definition of a maturing church is not a church that simple has people and activity and a balanced budget but a church that is spiritually growing and maturing.

When we think about the physical body, it grows in many ways. It grows physically. The size we are born at is not the size we remain at. We grow mentally and emotionally. The mental and emotional capacity of a newborn is not the same as an adult. In fact, the mental and emotional maturity of a toddler or a 10 year old or even a 18 year old should be different then a 40 year-old, 50-year-old, a 70 year-old. We are all in the process of maturing both physically, mentally and emotionally. And hopefully if one has placed their faith in Christ, spiritually.

And we judge the maturity of a person not simply by if that person is alive or active but if it is physically and emotionally and mentally maturing.

If we take our kids to the doctor, a good report is that they are growing just like they should be growing. We are concerned if there is some area where they are not showing growth.

The same is true of the body of Christ. We are called as members of the body to help build it up, to help grow it. That is what the body of Christ should be doing.

So what does this have to do with living outwardly? Well, as the body is built up and maturing the body moves outward. Here are two ways that the body of Christ is built up.

1) The body of Christ can grow numerically. If a church body consisted of 20 believers in Jesus Christ, those 20 people can be involved in the mission of Christ by leading others into a relationship with Jesus Christ and now there is a larger fellowship of believers in that body. Now we are not necessarily talking about church membership or the size of the congregation on a Sunday morning, we are talking about the growth of a body of Christ when someone places their faith in Christ and joins that fellowship of Christians now as a part of that body.

In Acts 2, we see the fellowship of the believers, the fellowship of the body and it says, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” As they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teachings, as they devoted themselves to each other, it moved them out of their gathering into the lives of the people around them and others were coming to place their faith in Christ.

The body of Christ was being built up, it was growing. It was not just remaining this original group huddling around the Apostles teachings and enjoying fellowship with each other. The knowledge of the Word of God, the fellowship with one another was leading to something – it was leading to the work of ministry, the work of Christ. The Gospel was going out. The body was growing.

When we see a physical body not growing (like a 2-year-old or 3-year-old) we become concerned. Because we know that bodies grow. In the same way, when we see a local body of believers, a local church not seeing people come to know Christ, we should become concerned. That should be a place of evaluation for us as a church. Are we engaged in the work of ministry in a manner that it is leading to others placing their faith in Christ. Are leaders equipping the church to lead others in a relationship with Christ? Is that body then going and leading others to Christ.

2) The second way a body is built up is through spiritual maturity.

The second part of the great commission isn’t simply teaching people but to teach people so that they walk in obedience to Christ. And as we walk in obedience we mature. That is part of the work we are called to do – to help people walk in obedience to Christ so that they are maturing in Christ.

In Colossians 1:28, Paul writes “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”

Paul says that his goal isn’t to teach every one the wisdom of God, his goal is to present every person complete in Christ.

And then in Colossians 2:6-7 Paul writes, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”

Again, the goal isn’t to transfer knowledge to people, The goal is for people to become mature in Christ (that is building up) the goal is obedience to Christ (that is the stablishing them in the faith). And what is one of the primary commands of Christ? To go and make disciples.

And so when the body of Christ is being built up, you will have a body entering into the mission of Christ producing by new believers and mature believers.