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The Church is a Body

by André Schwartz last modified Jul 23, 2014 03:50 PM
Back to Biblical Basics (BBB)

So far we have seen that a church is a “gathering”. Also, that a church is an alternate community, even a “subversive” community. But it is much more that that!  In our last article we came to the conclusion that although the ekklesia is always grounded in a physical gathering of people under God’s authority and for His sake because of the work of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, it appears to be some cosmic reality that transcends ordinary space and time that encompasses far more than a single gathering of believers.

This brings us to The Church. What is The Church?  The Westminster Confession summarises it very well:

The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all. (Chapter XXV.1)

The Heidelberg Catechism describes the Church as:

a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith [whom] the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself (Lord's Day 21, Q & A 54)

From these two statements we see that The Church is seen as a gathering and a community but also a body.

Actually, the phrase “the Body of Christ” is a common New Testament metaphor for the Church (all those who are truly saved). The Church is called “one body in Christ” (Romans 12:5), “one body” in (1 Corinthians 10:17), “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27 and Ephesians 4:12), and “the body” (Hebrews 13:3). The Church is clearly equated with “the body” of Christ in Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:24.

When Christ entered our world, He took on a physical body “prepared” for Him (Hebrews 10:5; Philippians 2:7). Through His physical body, Jesus demonstrated the love of God clearly, tangibly, and boldly—especially through His sacrificial death on the cross (Romans 5:8). After His bodily ascension, Christ continues His work in the world through those He has redeemed. The Church now demonstrates the love of God clearly, tangibly, and boldly. In this way, the Church functions as “the Body of Christ.”

The Church may be called the Body of Christ because members of the Body of Christ:

  • Are joined to Christ in salvation. Ephesians 4:15‑16 says members in the Church are so closely joined, it is as if they are knit together, and this is only possible because of our unity in Christ and His work of salvation.
  • Follow Christ as their Head (Ephesian 1:22‑23). When we are children of God through Christ we follow Him as head and are filled more and more by his indwelling.
  • Are the physical representation of Christ in this world. The Church is the organism through which Christ manifests His life to the world today.
  • Are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). Only when the Sprit is living in you are you part of the body and because there is only one Spirit there is only one body (Ephesians 4:4).
  • Possess a diversity of gifts suited to particular functions (1 Corinthians 12:4‑31). “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” (verse 12). This is a similar argument that Paul has in Ephesians 4:11-12, where he highlights different offices and functions in the church. This also underlines the fact that every member of the body has a function — even the “little toe” or the “ear lobe”!  We all can and must do something.
  • Share a common bond with all other Christians, regardless of background, race, or ministry. “There should be no division in the body, but…its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25). Nobody of the Body is more important or less valuable than any other. Remember, we are all sinners saved by grace!
  • Are secure in their salvation (John 10:28‑30). For a Christian to lose his salvation, God would have to perform an “amputation” on the Body of Christ!
  • Partake of Christ’s death and resurrection (Colossians 2:12). The members are dead to sin by the death of Christ but we all share in His resurrection too — not just the resurrection to a new life but also the final resurrection at the consummation (1 Corinthians 15:22).
  • Share Christ’s inheritance. Not only do we share in Christ’s resurrection but we will be glorified and be joint heirs with Him. (Romans 8:17)
  • Receive the gift of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 5:17).

You see, as part of the Church, we do not just gather on Sundays, we are a body that functions (or at should function!) as such: every part working together (knitted) to serve the other parts, every bit necessary to make a whole body, every member following and sharing in the Head, Jesus Christ.

The question we must answer is: Are we a healthy body? Or are we disjointed? Are we submitting to the Head? (Ephesians 5:22‑24)

Remember, go BBB if you want to serve Him well. May God help us to be His Church—a well-functioning Body.

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