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More than the sum of the parts

Being a part of the church comes with the realization that something wonderful and beautiful is happening to us.

1 Peter 2:5 tells us that we, “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (NIV). The transformation that is happening to us reshapes us internally and externally, individually and collectively.

Selfish agendas give way to God’s greater agenda, personal dreams merge into God’s dream, and his goals become our goals. These are the spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ that Peter is talking about.

Selfish agendas give way to God’s greater agenda, personal dreams merge into God’s dream, and his goals become our goals.

Working with God

Being a part of the church also involves submission. The Bible is clear that not everything that is happening to us is a one-way street. We are not simply being acted upon by the Holy Spirit. We are agents, too, and as members of the church—Christ’s body—we should submit ourselves to God for our contributions to have their fullest effect.

The apostle Paul, who describes the church as God’s building, calls each of us active participants with God; “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9, NIV). Then, in Philippians 2:12-13, he makes a plea for active and vibrant obedience. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Working alongside of the Spirit of God and submitting to God’s work are not in conflict with each other.

God works in us

Therefore, being a part of the church also means that we are free, able, and equipped to obey the call of God found in Philippians 2:2-3 to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind,” doing “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” We can be assured that working alongside of the Spirit of God and submitting to God’s work (in us and through us) are not in conflict with each other. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God who provides us with the grace needed to do it.

God works in us and through us so that we may live to fulfill his greater purpose for the church: That we become one, united in heart and mind, loving, worshiping, and serving one God, our triune and holy God, always offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

About the author

Sandra Nikkel

Sandra Nikkel is minister of Conklin Reformed Church, a country church north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She became a Christian in her twenties and left law school to pursue theological training. She is passionate about God and his Word, preaching, prayer, her congregation, traveling, and her three adult children. She also writes for the religion and ethics section of the Grand Rapids Press.