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Body Life

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Ray Stedman wrote Body Life to remind us of what God created the church to be as the body of Christ. He takes us through a study of Ephesians chapter four where we discover the guidelines concerning the activity of the believer’s life within the church. “Paul’s masterpiece of the church is his letter to the Ephesians, which deals almost exclusively with the origin, nature, and function of the church, and its essential relationship to the Lord.”[1]

            As believers in the body of Christ, we are to live a life worthy of our calling. The Greek word for “worthy” (axios) refers to a balance, as on scales. Thus, believers are to live “in balance” with their calling. How they act should match what they believe.[2] This includes a unified effort to discover and use their gifts empowered by the Holy Spirit so that the church can be built up.  

            Each believer is unique and designed to function within the body life. “Once you become fully aware that God himself has uniquely equipped you with spiritual gifts, and that He has strategically placed you exactly where He wants you in order to use those gifts, then you enter a whole new dimension of exciting possibilities!”[3] It now becomes our privilege and responsibility to disciple others. 

Purposes of the Church

            God’s purposes for the church are the same today as they were at its formation. These foundational principles give us doctrinal priorities with which to then function as the body of Christ within the world we live. “We exist to reflect God’s holiness, to reveal God’s glory, and to witness to the fact that Jesus has come to cleanse men and women, inside and out.”[4]

Reflect God’s Holiness

            “He chose us in Him…that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4, Revised Standard Version). God’s first concern for His church was not what it does, but with what the church is. The church is to reflect God’s holiness. “Being must always precede doing, for what we are determines what we do.”[5] As believers, disciples of Christ, we set an example to the world of the moral character of God. 

Reveal God’s Glory

            The second purpose according to Stedman is that the church is to reveal God’s glory. “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace”[6] (Ephesians 1:5, RSV). His glory, “the revelation of what God is and does,” will be revealed to the world through us. “The secret of the church is that Christ lives in it and the message of the church to the world is to declare him, to talk about Jesus Christ.”[7]

Be A Witness to Christ

            The final purpose of the church is to be a witness to Christ. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, RSV). As God’s people, priests, and special possessions, our duty is to testify of God’s amazing grace. We once were lost, but now we are found, we were blind but now we see. “Just as God’s word creates light, so God’s call creates faith. Calling is not a mere invitation but is performative, so that the words God speaks become a reality.”[8]

Spiritual Gifts

Manifestation Gifts

            My beliefs differ slightly from Stedman’s when it comes to the gifts in first Corinthians chapter twelve. Although we both agree that these gifts are spiritual enablement for the building up of the church, I adhere to a more Pentecostal theology that views this set of gifts listed by Paul as “manifestation gifts.” I see scripture emphasizing the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit’s power to reveal God’s divine hand in the lives of His people. 

            For example, I see the gift of knowledge as more than just “the ability to perceive and systematize the great facts God has hidden in His Word.”[9] I believe that is knowledge that has not been known or revealed before, but rather supernaturally imparted to the individual by the Spirit. Dr. George Woods defines it as “not book learning or scholarly knowledge, but an utterance of divine knowledge.”[10] A good example can be seen in Acts 5:1-11 as Peter exercised this gift with Ananias and Sapphira. God imparted factual knowledge that was not revealed to him by man or his own observation. It was a supernatural “word from the Lord.”   

            With that said, I have personally experienced occasions when God has privileged me with the gift of knowledge, healing, tongues, interpretation, and prophecy (forth-telling). Ashamedly I must confess that I have not been active in these manifestation gifts of late. I may simply be more focused on the behind-the-scenes processes of the church than on praying with people. 

Motivational Gifts

I have been taught that the gifts that Paul lists in Romans 12:6-8 are called motivational gifts. Woods states that these seven gifts “explain the motivation of the people in the Body to minister to one another.”[11] Prophecy and teaching are duplicates from his other lists, but service, encouragement, giving, leadership, and mercy are unique to this set. As noted by Boa and Kruidenier, there is an interesting observation here in Paul’s apparent self-explanatory expression. “In other words, the implication seems to be that we are not to wait around for instructions or for a mystical move of the Spirit in order to minister to the body of Christ. We are to do that which is obvious to us and which we feel compelled and capable of doing.”[12]

I have indeed been exercising the gift of encouragement and leadership throughout my years in ministry. I have often “come alongside for strengthening or reassurance”[13] to help others find stability in faith and take steps forward in ministry activity. I do not see myself as a counselor, but I do often coach colleagues and laity in a way that inspires them to act. In leadership, I set the course to unify my team with directives that allow us to pursue our vision as a church to love God, love people, and change the world. Part of my leadership gift is raising others who will step into their gift and minister as a part of the church. I contend that these two gifts have been complementary for pastoring for nearly thirty years.

Ministry Gifts

What Stedman refers to as “service gifts” in Ephesians 4:11-13, I call ministry gifts. “These four categories – apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teacher – are among the gifts that the risen Lord has imparted to human beings.”[14]  These gifts “prepare (equip) God’s people (the church) for works of service (ministry), so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13, New International Version, parenthesis mine). It is the equipping of the body for body life.

The ministry gift that I have been blessed with is that of a pastor/teacher. I shepherd and oversee our small group ministry as it’s Pastor. I may not have the liberty to teach/preach every week to the entirety of the church at our three locations, but I do have the privilege of feeding, cleansing, and preserving[15] the life of our group’s ministry. My main focus is to disciple my directors and coordinators at each campus so that they can be disciple-makers within their sphere of influence. “Discipleship is an intentional relationship in which we walk alongside other disciples in order to encourage, equip, and challenge one another to grow toward maturity in Christ. This includes equipping the disciple to teach others as well.”[16]


            If we are to be the body of Christ that we were created and empowered to be: to reflect His holiness, reveal His glory, and be His witness; we need to discover and exercise our spiritual gifts. “The value of your life as a Christian will be determined by the degree to which you use the gift God has given you.”[17] Being who God wants us to be corporately, begins with you being who He wants you to be personally. As disciples in this “body life,” we must live on mission, not only for our benefit, but to build up the body of Christ so that we can reach the world for Christ.

[1] Ray Stedman, Body Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1972), 19.

[2] Bruce Barton, and Phillip W. Comfort, Ephesians, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 74, Logos.

[3] Stedman, Body Life, 75-76.

[4] Ibid., 36.

[5] Ibid., 27.

[6] Ibid., 28.

[7] Ibid., 29.

[8] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 116, Logos.

[9] Stedman, Body Life, 63.

[10] George Woods, Living in the Spirit (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2009), 135.

[11] Ibid., 129.

[12] Kenneth Boa, and William Kruidenier, (2000). Romans, vol. 6, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 372, Logos.

[13] Stedman, Body Life, 71.

[14] Ibid., 95-96.

[15] Ibid., 103.

[16] Greg Ogden, Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry to the People of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 151.

[17] Stedman, Body Life, 60-61.


Barton, Bruce B., and Phillip W. Comfort. Ephesians. Life Application Bible Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996. Logos.

Boa, Kenneth, and William Kruidenier.  Romans. Vol. 6. Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Gallaty, Robby. Growing Up: How to be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples. Bloomington, IN: CrossBook, 2013.

Hull, Bill. The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006.

Hull, Bill. The Disciple-Making Pastor. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1988.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003.

Stedman, Ray. Body Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishing, 1972.

Woods, George O. Living in the Spirit. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2009. 

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