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Building the Body of Christ


In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, “Hans and Franz” wanted to “pump you up!” Two comedians were mimicking body builder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Wearing stuffed sweatsuits, weightlifting belts and gloves, Hans and Franz complained about “flabby arms” and weak bodies. In their comedy routine, they talked about wanting to “pump you up” by lifting weights.

While their comedy sketch was funny, truly weak bodies are no joke. Ask anyone who has weak or atrophied muscles how hard it can be to carry out the simplest of everyday tasks. To “pump up” our weak muscles, we often make use of “PT”—physical therapy—to strengthen our bodies.

Even more serious than weak muscles in our bodies are Christians whose understanding of God’s Word and will is weak. Paul writes about the danger of being “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” (Ephesians 4:14) Paul’s imagery is that of a little boat being tossed about on a stormy sea.

That is a picture of what can happen to someone whose understanding of the Bible is weak. Because such a person doesn’t know what to believe, false doctrines can easily blow that faith off course. The smooth words and flattering speech of false teachers deceive the hearts of the simple.

Christ does not want His Church drifting aimlessly and helplessly through life. He wants to “pump up” the faith of His precious lambs and sheep; so He provides “PT.” No, not physical therapy, but instead Pastors and Teachers. Look at the gifts Christ gave (and continues to give) His Church when He ascended into heaven: “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Notice why it is that Christ gave these gifts to His Church: “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Ministry means “service.” Edifying means “building up.” Christ has given gifts to His Church to equip believers to serve their Lord, their fellow believers, and their neighbor in various capacities.

Christ gave these gifts to His Church to build up the Church so that it would not be like a little boat tossed all over the place by “every wind of doctrine.” Instead, building their faith on the solid foundation of the God-breathed words of the apostles and prophets, the Holy Spirit “pumps up” the faith of believers.

The ascended Lord continues to give gifts to His Church to further “pump up” our faith. Pastors and teachers who bring us God’s Word build up our faith by pointing us to Christ. They correct us with God’s Law when we stray from God’s right paths. They bring us the comfort of full and free forgiveness of sins through Christ when we wrestle with guilt. When we sorrow over the death of a fellow Christian, they comfort us with the sure and certain promise of eternal life for all believers in Christ, and the promise of the resurrection on the Last Day. They teach us God’s Word and how His Word applies to our daily lives as we follow Jesus.

Pastors and teachers equip and build up the Church when they bring us the Word in sermons, Bible studies, and catechism classes. They equip and build us up from youth on through Sunday schools and Christian day schools. They equip saints for works of service through our Immanuel High School, College, and Seminary. The “body building” continues through personal instruction, counseling in the Word, and administering the sacraments. Any time pastors and teachers bring you God’s Word and point you to Christ, they are building you up in the faith.

As amusing as “Hans and Franz” were, let us give thanks and praise to Christ for the “body building” He Himself continues to provide His Church through “PT”—Pastors and Teachers of the Word! Amen.

Nathan Pfeiffer is pastor of Berea Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.