This post is part 8 of the chain blog, “Real Relational Unity”, initiated by Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church. Please see below for the other links in this chain and for the Chain blog rules. [Audio of post available here.]
“Joints of Supply”
As I compose this post, I am very conscious of the matter of “joints”. I am sitting here awkwardly pecking away on my keyboard with a cast on my hand from recent surgery. The middle joint of my right thumb had to be pinned and fused together due to a severe dislocation which caused cartilage and tendon damage. I will no longer have use of that joint. My hand will never be quite the same from here on out.
Paul spoke of the great significance of “joints” in Ephesians 4:16 when he said,
“…from whom (Christ) the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (NKJV)
According to this verse, “joints” play an immensely significant role in the practical unity, functionality and subsequent growth of the Body of Christ.
So, what are these “joints” that join and knit the Body together by what they supply? There may be various understandings and interpretations of what Paul was referring to. I’d like to share with you what I have come to know as “joints of supply” in my own life from being in the Body for a good many years. Maybe this will resonate with you as well.
There are many types and levels of relationship in the Body of Christ. As in the natural body, there is a common unity, mutual belonging to, and all-around serving of one another among all of the differing parts, but not all the members are functionally joined together in the arrangement of the body. The hand belongs to and serves the hip, for instance, but it is not functionally joined to the hip in the body. The hand, however, is joined to the wrist in a unique relationship for the life and specific functioning of the hand. That type of unique relationship is what I believe are the “joints” of which Paul is speaking. A joint is the place where two parts of the body are “knit” together specifically for the unity, life and diversified functioning of the body. It is by what every one of these joints “supplies” that the entire body is “joined and knit together”. These unique relationships, then, are what I consider to be “joints of supply.”
So how do we recognize “joints of supply”, especially among our own relationships in the Body?
Drawing from the body analogy, and also from personal experience, I believe “joints of supply” are marked by three primary characteristics.
Sovereignly Knit Together
Where there is a “joint of supply” in the Body, there is a close-knittedness of two members. The Greek word translated “knit” in Ephesians 4:16 is, sumbibazo, which means,“to cause to coalesce, to join together, put together. To unite or knit together: in affection.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the Bible)
We have a wonderful example in Scripture of two people being sovereignly knit together in, and for, God’s purpose in Jonathan and David.
“And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. ” (1 Samuel 18:1 KJV)
In the years to come, Jonathan would be a “joint of supply” to David, and David, likewise, to Jonathan. This was a sovereign work of God’s Spirit, for this divinely ordained friendship ultimately became the “hinge” on which the purpose of God concerning the Messianic promise, lineage and Kingdom hung and turned, being embodied in David. It was Jonathan’s covenant-like friendship to David that caused him to risk his own life to warn David of Saul’s murderous plans to kill him. Little did Jonathan or David know at the beginning how significant this relationship would be in God’s purpose and economy.
I believe this is the kind of close-knit relationships that God also brings into His Body when He establishes “joints of supply”. The Spirit of God sovereignly works in the lives of certain individuals and knits their hearts together in love for His purpose. I have experienced this a good many times in my years in the Body of Christ, and can attest that it is a sovereign work of grace. I have also found in these relationships that there is something of God’s purpose bound up with them that far transcends our own interests, concerns, desires or needs. As these relationships have been faithfully lived in, it has become clear the specific and unique purpose(s) that God had intended for them from the beginning. These purposes, though containing much personal benefit, have proven to relate primarily to the larger Body of Christ in regards to some special aspect of its unity, ministry and growth. This is the larger purpose for “joints of supply” in the Body.
The second characteristic of these “joints of supply” is that there is a mutual supply of the life, nourishment and communication that flows from the Head to and through the Body. Joints not only have tendons and sinews that knit them together, but they also have blood vessels and nerves that surround and pass through them. These give the life-giving supply of blood-borne nutrition, oxygen, and antibodies, as well as neural impulses and information. Apart from these joints, individual members would be isolated and cut off from the life and functionality of the body.
I have personally found in these relationships that they have been marked by these very things. Primarily they are characterized by “life”. There is a mutual flow of life from the Head, that carries with it all of the rich “nutrients” of Christ, along with the “oxygen” of the Spirit and the “antibodies” of the Word. These are also the relationships that have brought the greatest supply of wisdom, counsel, prophetic insight and confirmation as to the mind of the Lord into my life. I, likewise, believe these same things have flowed in the opposite direction through me to others whom God has knit my heart with. This aspect of regular mutual supply is a hallmark of these “joints of supply” relationships.
Thirdly, these relationships are marked by increased functionality of both members according to their specific giftedness, calling and ministry in the Body. It is the strength of the “muscles” that connect across these joints that cause the joined parts to move and work in coordination with the Head, each other and the other members of the Body. It is in connected relationships that gifting, calling and function find their fullest and most natural expression. I have found in my own life that it has been in these “joints of supply” relationships that I have received the greatest encouragement, equipping and enablement to fulfill my function in the Body of Christ.
~ ~ ~
It has been the presence of these three aspects that has marked and identified certain relationships in my life as “joints of supply.” These relationships are not only gifts from the Lord to us personally, but are also given for the purpose of joining and knitting the Body of Christ together by what they supply.
In closing, I would like to say that because these “joints of supply” are so valuable, they need to be guarded, nourished, cared for and sometimes mended. As one now approaching my mid-fifties, I can attest that my joints are not all that they used to be. Aches, pains and stiffness occasionally occur. A number of years ago, I also battled Lyme disease in my upper joints. There is still some residual arthritic pain and stiffness from that disease in my neck, shoulder and elbow joints. Now my thumb has taken a serious hit and one joint will no longer be usable. It is painfully real to me just how valuable and necessary joints are to the full and normal functioning of the body! They need to be taken care of with diligence.
As this is true in the natural body, so it is true in the Body of Christ. In all honesty, I am painfully aware that there are spiritual “joints of supply” in my life that are not all that they used to be either. Some have gotten old and stiff. I have had others that have been attacked by the enemy and have suffered severe pain… some of which still lingers. Sadly, I have had yet others that have become dislocated and are no longer functional. How we suffer, and the Body suffers, when our “joints” are not strong and healthy!
On the other hand, I have also seen some “joints” that were at one time dislocated, but are now reset and restored, and others that are and have been healthy all along.
All this to say, just as we need to take care of our joints in our natural bodies, so we need to take care of our “joints” in the Body of Christ. When these suffer, the whole Body suffers; when these are healthy, the whole Body thrives from their health. These God-given relationships are one of the primary keys to the Body of Christ living in the unity, life, functionality, health and growth that the Lord desires and intends for His Church.
As we consider all of the many facets of “Real Relational Unity”, may we take time to consider and give renewed attention to these “joints of supply” in our lives. This is where real relational unity is most genuinely and purposefully lived out.
Chain blog rules:
1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both on this post and the other link posts in the chain).
3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.
“Links” in the “Real Relational Unity” chain blog:
1. “Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity” by Alan
2. “The Treasure of Unity ‘in’ our Relationships” by Jim
3. “So The World May Know – Observations on the Road to Unity” by Christopher
4. “Christian Unity – What it is and What it’s not” by Nathan
5. “Steps to Relational Unity” by Randi
6. “Learn to Live or Live to Learn” by Greg
7. “The Limits on Unity” by Arthur
8. “Joints of Supply” by David
9. “Some Examples of Real Relational Unity” by Alan
10. “An Example of Relational Unity” by Greg
11. “Relational Unity Begins at Home” by Kathleen
12. “Do not Seek Christian Unity” by Jeremy
13. Who will write the 13th link post in the chain?