Are you a member of the body, or a citizen of the kingdom?
Whew, that was close… Before you answer, we have to consider what these two designations mean. Just hold your little horses for a minute…
MEMBER OF THE BODY
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul has an extended discussion on the body of Christ, i.e., the church. Therein the apostle illustrates, among other things, that we—despite being many and differing members—are all one body (12). He catalogues some of the members of the physical body, by way of analogy: the foot, the hand, the ear, the eye. Notice that these physical members of the physical body are all functional, not to mention necessary in the performance of their respective functions.
Likewise, in Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul provides a summary of this unity, which is also an apt definition for a “member of the body”:
“…from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together, through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in due measure of each individual part, makes the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love” (16).
This is what it looks like to be a member of the body—this is what it means to be a Christ-ian.
CITIZEN OF THE KINGDOM
On the other hand, the Lord once told an often neglected parable known as “the parable of the pounds/minas” (Lk. 19:11-27). The parable tells of a certain nobleman [Jesus] who goes into a far country [ascension into heaven] to receive a kingdom [establish the church], and then return [“second” coming] (12). Before departing, the nobleman calls ten servants [disciples], gives them each one pound or mina [the gospel], and commands them to use it to be about his business while he is away [great commission] (13).
However, in addition to these, there are introduced another group of persons: “his [the nobleman’s] citizens” (14a). These citizens, the Lord says, “hated him,” and said, “We do not want this man to reign over us” (14b). Note carefully that these are in the nobleman’s kingdom, and are designated as “his citizens.”
But what is even more significant is that—despite their status as “his citizens”— the nobleman viewed and referred to them as his “enemies” (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). Moreover, he ordered them to be executed right there in his sight (27)!
This illustrates, in strong language, that there is a difference between being a servant of the king—a member of His body—and simply being a “citizen” in his kingdom:
Members of the body are transformed unto the Lord (Rom. 12:2b);
Citizens of the kingdom are conformed unto the world (Rom. 12:2a).
Members of the body are “doers of the word” (Jas. 1:22a);
Citizens of the kingdom “hearers only” (Jas. 1:22b).
Members deny themselves (Luke 9:23);
Citizens deceive themselves (Gal. 6:3; Jas. 1:22; 1 Jn. 1:8).
Members love the Lord’s church (cf. Acts 2:44-47);
Citizens love “this present world” (cf. 2 Tim. 4:10).
Members seek “His” (Matt. 6:33; cf. 6:20; Col. 3:1,2a);
Citizens seek their own (Php. 2:21; 3:19; Col. 3:2; Matt. 6:19).
Members provoke their brethren to grow (Heb. 10:24);
Citizens provoke the brethren to stumble (cf. Luke 17:1,2).
Members do not neglect the Lord’s assemblies (cf. Heb. 10:25; Acts 2:44ff);
Citizens “all with one accord…make excuse” (Luke 14:18).
Members seek to rectify their misdeeds (Psa. 19:12,13; 2 Cor. 13:5);
Citizens seek to justify their misdeeds (cf. Matt. 25:24,25).
Members have died with Christ (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3);
Citizens have killed Christ (Heb. 6:4-6; 1 Cor. 11:27).
Members desire to please their Lord and enter heaven (Heb. 11:6; Psa. 19:12-14);
Citizens conspire to appease their Lord and avoid hell (cf. Mt. 7:22,23; Lk. 16:23ff; 1 Sam. 8:18).
In short, as the Lord, Himself, expressed:
Members of the body love Jesus (John 14:21,23);
Citizens of the kingdom do NOT love Jesus (John 14:24).
“WHOEVER HAS MY COMMANDMENTS, AND KEEPS THEM, HE IT IS WHO LOVES ME… WHOEVER DOES NOT LOVE ME DOES NOT KEEP MY WORDS…”
— JOHN 14:21,24 —
It is imperative that we understand some very significant and sobering principles from this Biblical concept:
Being the nobleman’s “citizen” does NOT put me in the nobleman’s favor.
“WHY DO YOU CALL ME, ‘LORD, LORD,’ AND NOT DO THE THINGS THAT I SAY?”
— LUKE 6:46 —
“Citizenship” in the kingdom does NOT equal friendship with the king.
“YOU ARE MY FRIENDS, IF YOU DO THE THINGS THAT I COMMAND YOU.”
— JOHN 15:14 —
Having my name in the church’s directory does NOT mean my name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
BUT NOTHING UNCLEAN WILL EVER ENTER IN, NOR ANYONE WHO DOES WHAT IS DETESTABLE AND FALSE, BUT ONLY THOSE WHO ARE WRITTEN IN THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE… AND IF ANYONE’S NAME WAS NOT FOUND WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE, HE WAS THROWN INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE…
— REVELATION 21:27; 20:15 —
Entering into the church building on the Lord’s Day does NOT mean I will enter into heaven on the Last Day.
“NOT EVERYONE WHO SAYS TO ME, ‘LORD, LORD,’ WILL ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, BUT WHOEVER DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN. MANY WILL SAY TO ME IN THAT DAY, ‘LORD, LORD, DID WE NOT BY YOUR NAME DO MANY MIGHTY WORKS?’ AND THEN WILL I PROFESS UNTO THEM, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU: DEPART FROM ME, YOU THAT WORK INIQUITY.'”
— MATTHEW 7:21-23 —
Let us therefore “give the more diligence to make [our] calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10), to “examine [ourselves], to see whether [we] are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5), or whether we are one of the multiplied millions who are “deceiving [ourselves]” (Jas. 1:22; cf. Mt. 7:21-23).
Now, let us ask again: Are you a member of the body, or a citizen of the kingdom? Do you like the answer? If not, what are you going to do about it?