Lesson Seven – God’s People

God’s People

Lesson Text:  I Corinthians 12:1-31.

Lesson Aim:  To understand Biblical terminology for identifying God’s people and the concepts established by this theology in order to grasp the function of God’s church as Jesus Christ’s body.

Two Realms:

It is significant to note the term “in Christ,” or its equivalent, has been used one dozen times in the first chapter of the Ephesian epistle.  This new realm, known as “in Christ,” became a reality for born again Christians in this physical world only after God raised Jesus from the dead and put all things in subjection to Him (Ephesians 1:18-21).

The Bible speaks of “heavenly places in Christ.” Eph. 2:6.  This heavenly place has no geographical boundaries; however, it does have definite boundaries.  The writers of the Bible used the phrase “in Christ” to designate a sphere for the rule of God over His people (Matt. 6:10).  We shall use the word “realm” in this lesson to define the boundaries of “in Christ.”  We want to give emphasis to the two distinct abodes for mankind now in time.

Those who have been made alive, together with Christ, are seated with Him in this heavenly place.  It is a realm in which those who were far off from God are brought near to Him.  God dwells here by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:13, 18, 22).  All spiritual blessings are available “in Christ” for the purpose of summing up God’s program for His eternal children (Eph. 1:9, 10).

The Apostle Paul spoke of those who are without and those who are within.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Do you not judge those who are within the church?” I Corinthians 5:12.  Those who are “outsiders” identify with the world.  The usage of the word “world” is from the Greek word “kosmos,” as in Ephesians 1:4, and “aion,” as it is used in Romans 12:2 and Galatians 1:4.  “Aion” does not imply definite dates or physical boundaries.  In this sense, it is similar to “heavenly places in Christ.”  It is the other realm.

The “in Christ” realm is available for saving sinners from the physical world (kosmos) and it exists, simultaneously, with the world (aion), but distinctively separate.  The following statement was made by Jesus to His disciples illustrates this point.

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  John 15:19

The god of the world realm is Satan (II Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31).  In this culture people seek satisfaction for their inherent needs without the “the law of the Spirit of life.”  Rom. 8:2.  Sin is lawlessness; therefore, sin reigns in death (I John 3:4; Rom. 5:21).  The mature people in the world realm are driven by their own lust (1 John 2:15-17).  Lust cannot be satisfied (Rom. 1:26).


The text for this lesson is a part of a complex body of thought within the I Corinthian letter.  The topic, “Now about spiritual gifts,” includes the scriptures in chapters twelve through fourteen.  Paul placed the Holy Spirit’s great dissertation on love in the middle chapter.  He is still working on the church’s problem of division.

Our text reveals how God’s church functions as the body of Christ.  Paul lists nine spiritual gifts with emphasis on the fact they were all given by one Spirit to different members of the church (12:1-12).  New churches were equipped to function autonomously from their inception in the first years of the “last days” of time (Acts 2:17; 11:15).  The apostles served as evangelists, teachers and ambassadors for Jesus Christ.  Elders were ordained as shepherds for each church based on their family experiences and the quality of their ethics.  They were endowed spiritual gift guidance from the Holy Spirit for leading God’s church in their specific congregation (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5-9; I Tim. 3:1-7).

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  I Cor. 12:27-28

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”  12:7.  Some members were not using their gift in love for the common good.  They were “thinking like children,” that is, selfishly boasting (I Cor. 3:21; 14:20).  The misuse of the information and powers made available to them by the Holy Spirit was one cause, and perhaps, the main cause of division in the church.  Please review the historical analysis work in Part I, Lesson Three and literary analysis in Part II, Lesson Two.  Paul’s main aim in this letter was to curtail the division in the Corinthian church of God.  The Holy Spirit, by the pen of the Apostle Paul, had warned the church in Corinth about dividing around preachers and teachers (1 Corinthians 1:10-15).


The terminology from other text for identifying God’s people has been added to this lesson.  Although, this is not a function of the text in chapter twelve, an understanding of the other terminology may be helpful for grasping a non sectarian view of the church Jesus has been building for His Father for almost two thousand years.  The concept of a church functioning as the body of Christ is not difficult to understand, but, for whatever reason, it is not always practiced.

Likewise, most people are fortunate enough to understand “what is a family.”  However, some Christians appear to have not understood the identification of God’s people as “God’s family.”  Independence, individualism and humanism are foreign to the concept of family.  People who want to attend the Sunday morning worship hour and then go on about their own business have a religious “wisdom of man” view of God’s people.

The Apostle Paul preached the kingdom of God to the citizens of Ephesus.  Some developed faith in this message and were transferred to this very kingdom he preached.  In his letter from prison “To the saints in Ephesus,” he identified them as “the church, which is His (Christ) body.”  Eph. 1:1, 23, 24.  He went on to write about other identifying marks of God’s people:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.  In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.  Eph. 2:19-22

Kingdom of God and Christ:

“The holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse” functioned as the body of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:1, 24; 2:6).  They had been transferred into the new realm, known as “in Christ,” a spiritual space where the kingdom of God’s beloved Son has its reign over Christians in time.

For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13, 14

Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’  John 18:36

I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.  For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  II Cor. 10:2-5

In light of this Biblical fact, we must give attention to yet another theology designating God’s people.  Christians are known as the sons of the kingdom (Matthew 13:38).  Indeed, we have already laid the groundwork for this investigation.  In our study of the nature of the two realms, we learned Satan dominated the world realm; whereas, those “in Christ” had turned to God’s dominion (Acts 26:18).  Christians have accepted God’s rule, His new covenant, in our repentance before our baptism for the remission of our sins.  This is the same concept Jesus presented concerning the nature of the kingdom of God.  Christians are “in Christ” where God’s new covenant is the happening in our hearts, minds and consciences (Heb. 8:10-12).  The laws of life are being written on our hearts and minds; therefore, the kingdom of God is in Christians.

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, look here it is! Or, there it is! For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst (within you (ASV).  Luke 17:20, 21

Jesus wanted people to have a literal concept of the word “kingdom.”  God’s kingdom involves this simple principle; God’s will is the boundaries of His kingdom for mankind.  Those who allow God to rule over our hearts and minds enjoy citizenship in His kingdom, and this, while still in time (Revelations 1:6).  God rules “in Christ” and through Christ (Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 8:6).

The scriptures tell of God’s glorious eternal kingdom that will be inherited by the righteous (I Thessalonians 2:11-13; II Peter 1:11; Ephesians 5:5).  Christians are now citizens of God’s kingdom but before we can inherit it, we must die physically or be changed and stand before Christ on Judgment Day (I Corinthians 15:50; II Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27).  All members of the church who have been lawless and stumbling blocks will be removed from the kingdom on Judgment Day (Matthew 13:41-43).

Jesus, John the Baptist, and the apostles all preached the kingdom of God over which Jesus Christ is now king (Matthew 3:1, 2; 4:17, 23; Mark 9:1; Luke 1:30-33; Acts 2:36; 19:8).  He will reign until the end of time and turn the kingdom back to God (I Corinthians 15:23-28).  This will be the judged church.


Church is the most used word in the Western hemisphere for identifying God’s people.  Unless we use words properly, we can easily miss the concepts presented to us from God.  The English word “church” comes from the Greek word “ekklesia.”  It presents a concept about the present status of a certain group of people.  The word church means a “called out” people; consequently, this demands our consideration of their former position.  The Bible usage of this word presents a concept about Christians who have been called out from the world and immersed, or baptized, into another realm (I Cor. 10:2; 12:13).  Church is used to designate those who, after the fact of being called out, are known as the church – the called out.  Church is not used as a proper name for God’s people.

Jesus Christ was on earth when He made the statement; “I will build My church.”  Matthew 16:13-19.  Sinners from the world realm are called out based upon their belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Their call was initiated by the message about their salvation from their sin and spiritual death by grace through faith “in Christ.”  They would be known as the church only after the Lord added them to the number of saved (Acts. 2:47).  Since Jesus is the builder, the scriptures refer to the church as “the church of Christ.”

Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the churches of Christ greet you.  Romans 16:16

This phrase denotes possession.  Jesus was not establishing “sign board copy” for the front lawn of a church meeting place.  Therefore, the Bible also designates those who have been called out as the church of God.  Jesus worked for His Father; therefore, Paul used the term “church of God” to identify God’s people in Achaia (I Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; John 5:17-20).  In summation, the word church presents a great concept about believers in Christ.  The idea is, people were in one situation but now Christians have been called out of it; therefore, we are in another realm.  This demands two realms for the habitat of mankind.  We can see the concept presented by the word church cannot be understood unless we explore and establish this phenomenon about the different realms.

The Israel of God

Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.  Gal. 6:16

God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations at a time when he had no children. His wife, Sarah, was old and barren (Romans 4:17-21).  When she gave birth to Isaac he was known as a “child of promise.”  Jacob was also a child of promise and a grandson of Abraham.  God changed Jacob’s name to Israel.  The nation that came from his genes is now known as Israel (Genesis 32:28; Exodus 4:22, 23).  The promise God made to Abraham is for all mankind in our day (Gen. 12:1-3).  The promise demands faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus was born into the physical blood line of Abraham.  The promises made to Abraham are being offered to everyone only through Jesus.  All baptized believers are Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:27-29).

Therefore, the church is the Israel of God.  Christ is now king over the Israel of God.  Believers in Christ from all nations make up the body of Christ.  This is how Abraham is the father of many nations in a spiritual sense.  All of Israel’s children were not accepted by God as Jews (Romans 2:28, 29).  Some did not walk by faith; consequently, they were not “children of God.”  Please consider the following scriptures.

For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.  That is, it is not the children of flesh who are the children of God, but the children of promise are regarded as descendants (of Abraham).  Rom. 9:6, 8

But if some of the branches (Jews) were broken off, and you, being a wild olive (Gentiles), were grafted in among them and “became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree.  Romans 11:17

But The Jerusalem above is free: She is our mother (Sarah).

And you brethren, like Isaac, are not children of a bondwoman (Hagar), but of the free woman (Sarah).  Galatians 4:26, 28, 31

Those who have been born again into Christ are the true Israel of God.  It does not matter whether they were born Jew or Gentile in the flesh.  They are Israel because Abraham became their father when they clothed themselves with Christ.  Those Jews who have not believed in Christ are still in slavery. According to Paul’s allegory, Hagar is their mother.  All they have is the present physical Jerusalem and the Law which they received at Mt. Sinai (Galatians 4:21-25).  Of course, they could repent, become believers in Christ and die with Christ in baptism.  They would then be the Israel of God.  This is their only hope.

And they (Jews) also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in (in Christ), for God is able to graft them in again.  Rom. 11:23

God finishes everything He starts. He made promises to Abraham and his descendants (Romans 4:13). We will be able to see how these promises have been carried out if we are able to identify the true descendants of Abraham.  Members of the church of God “in Christ” are Abraham’s descendants.  We are the Israel of God.  When we are able to understand these things we will be able to view physical Israel of today in her proper perspective. They have no more importance to God than any other nation.

As He says also in Hosea, I will call those who were not My people, My people.  And her who was not beloved, beloved.   And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, you are not My people. There they shall be called sons of the living God.  Romans 9:25, 26

Household of God

The Bible also identifies God’s people as His household.  “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow-citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.”  Eph. 2:19.  In what sense can God’s people be thought of as His household?  In order to answer this, we must have the answer to another question.  Why did God create mankind?  The Bible answer is; God created us to be His sons.  When Jesus comes again, He will bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10).  This was God’s predestined plan for the faithful “in Christ” before the foundation of the world (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-6).  He is not willing that any should perish (I Timothy 2:4; II Peter 3:9).  However, His program only works for those who love Him and who have an obedient faith (II Thessalonians 1:5-12).

It appears God created this world and mankind for the express purpose of having more sons.  God wants a household of faithful sons (Romans 8:14; Galatians 6:10).  The Bible use of the word son does not exclude the female species because God’s children will be resurrected with a glorified body (Galatians 3:28; Matthew 22:30; I John 3:2: II Cor. 6:18).  God wants all people to conform to the image of Jesus and become a joint heir with Him in glory (Romans 8:16-18).  This is what creation is all about and nothing else.  If one does not attain God’s purpose he is limited to temporary goals.

Satan entered the scene and caused the physical realm to be unacceptable for God’s household.  God did not give up His predestined purpose.  He established the “in Christ” realm for mankind in time with all spiritual blessings therein to carry on with His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).  He calls to the world realm with the gospel (II Thessalonians 2:14).  Those who believe and obey become the church.  We function as Christ’s body with Christ as Lord.  We learn to love others and grow up to maturity like our head, Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:10-15).

God must rule over the man He created, because man does not know how to lead himself in such a way as to develop himself as a son of God (Jeremiah 10:23; Matt. 15:14).  This is the consummation, the fullness of time, the last days (I Cor. 10:11; Ephesians 1:10; Acts 2:17).  God’s kingdom, of a necessity, must be “in Christ,” if Jesus is king.  For God plans to destroy the world realm and move His household to an incorruptible area where righteousness dwells (II Peter 3:11-13; Romans 8:21).

The Christian religious world presents many and diverse concepts in their use of the word “church.”  The Bible presents only one.  The Holy Spirit demands unity among God’s people on earth (Ephesians 4:3).  It has already been demonstrated that unity cannot be negotiated in the religious world.  Unity must come by an understanding and obedience to God’s Word (I Cor. 1:10; II Timothy 3:16, 17).

The “body of Christ”

The “body of Christ” theology has been presented in all of the hermeneutical lessons in Parts III and IV.  (Hermeneutics means we are gathering principles for the here and now).   However, in this lesson we want to think about “how do I know what it is.”  This field of learning is called epistemology.  People ask different kind of questions.  Children often ask; “What is it?”  This is an ontological question.  Parents give their child a name in answer for their “what is it” questions.  It is a coconut.  This does not satisfy their desire to know.  They want to engage their five senses with the item in question in order to record its features deep down in their memory.  Once this happens, they are prepared to declare, “I know what it is.”  See my book, “God’s Evangelism by Jesus Christ,” Part I, Lesson Four, Introduction for more information about this kind of question.

In the field of learning about the wisdom of God versus the wisdom of man, Christians listen to God.  He tells us “what it is” and “how we can know what it is.”  We need to apply both of these fields of learning for identifying God’s people.  Who are we?  How do I know I am one of us?  In order for each person to know he or she is a member of God’s church, each person who wants to identify as
a Christian needs to identify with how he or she functions in the body of Christ.  If each individual member is not able to clearly state his or her function in the body of Christ at this point and time, they may not be one of God’s people. 

An understanding of the Bible word “church” is greatly enhanced by the concept of the two realms (Acts 26:18; Rom. 5:21).  Please see the foregoing chart.   We can clearly see “church” does not refer to a sanctified building of brick and mortar.  However, another concept must be understood before we can fully appreciate the difference between the usage of the word “church” in the Bible and the definitions according to the wisdom of man.

A question of paramount importance comes to focus at this point on the preposition “in” as “in Christ.”  To what does “in” refer?  The following scripture gives us insight into a concept vital to our understanding of the Lord’s church.  It clarifies the use of the word “in” as “in Christ.”

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.   Ephesians 1:22, 23

No other word so adequately describes the concept God wants us to have about His people than what is revealed by “in” as “in Christ.”  The word is not “beside” or even “under” Christ.  The word the Holy Spirit gave to us in the Bible is “in Christ.”  What does it mean to be “in Christ?  It means faithful spiritually alive Christians actively function as a member of Jesus Christ’s body.  The church of God is the body of Christ (Col. 1:17, 18).  Note, the scriptures do not say the church is like Christ’s body, it is His body.  “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.”  I Cor. 12:12.  This is the answer to “what is it,” if we are inquiring about the church of God.  It is not this or that, or something the wisdom of men formed.  It is the body of Christ.

We have reviewed other theologies in the foregoing part of this lesson.  They help us to fully understand what is the church of God in Christ (I Thess. 2:14).  However, none of these identifying terms move us so intimately in fellowship with God as the body of Christ theology.  “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  Col. 3:3.

How do Christians become a member of Christ’s body?  “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we are all given one Spirit to drink.”  I Cor. 12:13.  This baptism may involve all the processes of Christians’ new birth – including baptism in water, but Paul is probably thinking more of his declaration in I Cor. 10:2.   The Israelites were baptized into Moses.  Please note the two concepts of baptisms in Rom. 6:3.

Paul wrote, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.”  The final stage of the new birth is what Paul underwent, personally, and what he explained in Rom. 6:5-10.  Paul had been baptized in water with Christ for the remission of his sins (Acts 22:16).  The whole process of the new birth appears to be summed up in “baptized into Christ Jesus.”  Rom. 6:3.  This is probably what Paul had in mind in I Corinthians 12:13.  Christians are immersed into the church which is the body of Christ.   Baptized by one Spirit, added to the saved, transferred to the kingdom, born again and clothed yourselves with Christ are the dynamics in verse thirteen.  See Acts 2:47; Col. 1:13; I Pet. 1:23; Gal. 3:27.

It is at this point in our text Paul makes the analogy between our own bodies and the way the church functions (12:14-20).  Christians have been given a choice.  God has always allowed mankind choice; otherwise, Christians’ relationship with God would not be family.  All Christians must function in the body of Christ to stay alive spiritually.  “From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  Eph. 4:16.  The following are the list of ways we can choose to function:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.  Rom. 12:4-8

So now we are ready to answer a very important personal question for each and every Christian.  This is the second question; “How do I know what it is?”  How do I know what a church is?  The first question: “What is it, is easy to answer.”  What is the church of God?  The answer; “It is the body of Christ.”  This is the wisdom of God.  It is the church of God in Christ.  But here is the question of utmost importance to every Christian: How do I know I am in it?  To know is to identify with our choice of the way we function in the body.  Christians who plan to live with God eternally will function in Christ’s body.  If I, as a Christian, cannot at this point in time, clearly state what has been my choice to function in the body of Christ, I am probably not in it.  This is how Christians know we are God’s people.   We must make our choice to serve as a member of Christ’s body.  This becomes our Christian calling.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.  KJV  Eph. 4:1

Christians are baptized (immersed) with Jesus into His death.  Our old man of sin is crucified with Christ.  In the overall processes of the new birth (faith, repentance and baptism) we are, at the same time, immersed (baptized) into the body of Christ (Rom. 6:3; I Cor. 12:13).  Our spiritual growth happens because we perform in a worthy manner the function we chose in Christ’s body.  This is how Christians develop love.  This is the next thought in our text.  Please read 12:21-26.

Note how verses 21-25 are concluded with “so that there should be no division in the body.”  Jesus is not only concerned about His body being divided around heads, other than His; in this text He is concerned about caste systems; laity and clergy divisions; the myth of the preacher; those who have and those who have not; the weak and the strong.  “But that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”  Members of the body of Christ share everything, both sufferings and rejoicings.  There is really nothing comparable to God’s church.  The foregoing is the exercises of Christians that will produce love in our person.  No exercise no muscles, no loving exercises, no love.  “God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”  I John 4:16.  This is the topic of the next lesson.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why might Paul have made the point that all nine gifts for the church members in Corinth came from the very same Spirit?
  2. Why was it possible for elders to be appointed to oversee the different congregations very soon after the church developed in their geographical location?
  3. Paul specifically said the gift of the Holy Spirit for empowering certain members was for a reason.   What was the reason?
  4. What may have been the main cause of the division in the Corinthian church?
  5. List the other terms for identifying God’s people added to this lesson to help us appreciate the concept of the church functioning as the body of Christ.
  6. Which of the following questions comes first:  a.   What is it?   b.   How can one know what it is?  How do these two questions function with the passive learning process of children?
  7. How do the foregoing questions function for a “babe in Christ?”
  8. What is the significance of the word “in” as it relates to the Christian religion?
  9. Explain other possible meanings of the phrase “for we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body,” other than baptism in water.
  10. When can a Christian proclaim with confidence, “I know I am in the body of Christ?”
  11. In relation to your answer to the foregoing question, what choice does a Christian need to make?
  12. Explain Ephesians 4:1 in relation to your answers to questions 10 and 11.
  13. Jesus built His church to be the temple of God on earth; therefore, it cannot be divided by man.  List some other types of division Jesus does not want made in God’s church.  See 12:21-25.
  14. What does the foregoing scripture require of members of Christ’s body?

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