Frankly speaking, I think that discipleship is what Paul had in mind when he called the believers the body of Christ. In other words, the life of the body should be the lifestyle of Jesus…(discipleship)…especially, his compassion, service and healing. The world should see the life of Christ manifested in the corporate expression of Jesus in the earth. Now, while it is true, that to a degree, people will see Christ in the members of the body severally, the true expression of Christ in the world is the body jointly fitting together.
Discipleship is the place that the individual can submit to accountability. A person can become a closer adherent to the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus through mutual accountability in the body….but, it must be stressed here, that this accountability and submission cannot operate at a legal level as is the current practice of the church in general. Rather, it must be from the place of grace and mercy absent of judgment. Individuals must be encouraged to ask for the accountability help from other members of the body. In order for this to happen; they must be able to trust that they will not be judged but instead, lovingly encouraged into accountability. Further, it must be understood that all are in process and all will be in process as long as they live on this earth. Perfection should not be the goal. Growth toward being conformed into the image of Jesus should be the goal…it should always be a marching forward and, this would be possible with a redemptive focus on scripture coupled with loving accountability.
This should come in the form of the individual believer reaching out to the body in general to provide strength and accountability. People would naturally do this if it wasn’t for the fact that when they do, they are judged in far too many cases and the accountability comes in the form of legal instructions. They are in essence given a law to follow.
The church should abandon this legalistic approach. It should stop viewing the bible as the law, legal code and, begin to look at it as the story of redemption. Only in the redemptive view can the reasonable service instructions be used in a proper way. My point in all of this is that, almost universally, especially within the ranks of evangelical Christianity, the reasonable service admonitions are used in a very legal sense. When used this way, it becomes a legal code, a Law that kills the spiritual life of the body. Therefore individuals are left to work it out for themselves with only the aid of the flesh.
I am certain that the first century church was taught the idea of graceful accountability and that it was not legal accountability.