Body Life

Ray C. Stedman

Body Life by Ray C. Stedman
I found Ray C. Stedman’s book Body Life to be a clearer description of authentic Christianity than his book called Authentic Christianity. I don’t often find myself hating one book by a particular author while being enthusiastic about another. I did not like Authentic Christianity, but I was impressed by the content of Body Life which is about church.

In the first chapter, Stedman tackles the reality of the two faces of the Christian church. 

“What we call “the church” is really two churches! One is selfish, power-hungry, and sinful. The other is loving, forgiving, and godly. One has a long history of stirring up hatred, conflict, and bloody persecution, all in the name of God and religion. The other has always sought to heal human hurts, break down barriers of race and class, and deliver men and women from their guilt, shame, fear and ignorance.”
He reminds us that Jesus predicted a false, counterfeit Christianity (Matthew 13). Tares (false Christians) and wheat (genuine followers of Jesus) would mingle together in the world and even in the same congregation. How do we tell the difference, especially since no Christian has lived up to the ideals that Jesus taught?

Stedman quotes the Apostle Paul in describing authentic Christianity. “With all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3) He goes into detail about how to live that out with sincerity in our everyday lives.

The book describes how Christians can produce an authentic Christian church through the power and love of Christ. He shows that true unity is a “seven-fold” unity as listed in Ephesians 4:4-6. “There is one body, and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

He covers the variety of spiritual gifts and their purpose. He has a chapter on “Keeping the Body [the church] Healthy.” Another chapter deals with spiritual maturity.

Ray C. Stedman has produced an excellent commentary on what congregational life should and could be. I liked his summary of a church that displays the biblical pattern:

  • A pervasive spirit of love and unity, resulting in an attractive, persuasive evangelistic witness to the world (see John 13:35; Ephesians 4:3)
  • A celebration of spiritual gifts; all members of the body are encouraged to discover and use their gifts.
  • A horizontal rather than vertical “command” church structure; a recognition that Christ alone is the “head” of the church; while the leadership and pastoral gifts are respected and acknowledged; the gifts, creativity, and initiative of all the people (the laity) are utilized and all members of the body are honored (see I Corinthians 12).
  • A recognition, drawn from Ephesians 4 that all believers are ministers, not just the pastor-teachers; those with the gift of ruling elder or pastor-teacher are to build up and equip the entire body of believers to be ministers in the church and in the world.
  • An emphasis on scriptural truth rather than human wisdom, social expectations, or religious traditions.
  • Frequent opportunities for believers to confess their sins and hurts, to share one another’s burdens, to care for one another in Koinonia-fellowship and agape love, and to speak the truth in love.
The author sometimes comes across with an attitude that he has all the truth that matters and you had better listen to him and agree with him. I prefer more of an attitude that says this is what I believe and why I believe it while respecting my right to make up my mind whether or not his opinions have merit. Most of the material in Body Life is supported by scripture and has the potential of being useful in developing a spiritually healthy church that is fulfilling its purpose and mission.
Book Review
By Scarlett Stough
Title: Body Life
Author: Ray C. Stedman copyright 1972; revised edition copyright 1995 by Elaine Stedman 
Publisher: Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 49512
ISBN: 1-57293-000-4