The Body of Christ
One of the concerns of the apostle Paul when he wrote to the church at Corinth was their need to work together in utilizing the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit had given to them. It was in this context that Paul used the illustration of the church being like a body:
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
The church, in its fellowship and togetherness, is like a “body” with Christ as its head, and its members are dependent upon the head and each other.
The Church is the Body of Christ
Paul affirmed that Jesus Christ “is the head of the body, the church,” and Paul was suffering “in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:18,24). Paul stated that God “put all things under His (Christ’s) feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body” and “Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23). In view of these statements, I’ve never been able to understand the concept that some have that allows them to say, or act like, “I want (or have) salvation in Christ, but I don’t want to have anything to do with the church.” Sometimes one who falls away from faithfulness will say something like, “Sure, I don’t want to have anything to do with the church, I’ve left the church, but I haven’t left Christ.” Trying to make a distinction between faithfulness to Christ and faithfulness to the church, would be equivalent to trying to separate Christ, the head of the church, from His body.
We should see the significance of and importance of the church when we consider the sacrifice Jesus made for and the care He shows for the church as His body.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it…So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own body, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church” (Ephesians 5:25,28-29)
Jesus not only sacrificed His life for the church, He also continues to nourish (“to promote the growth of, feed, maintain, support”—Webster’s) and cherish (“to hold dear, feel or show affection for, to keep with care”—Webster’s) the church. Notice here that husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies, just as Christ loves His body, the church. Saying “I love Christ, but I don’t care to have anything to do with the church (His body)” would be equivalent to saying “I love my wife, but I don’t want to have anything to do with her…I’m not going to make any sacrifices in my life for her…I don’t cherish her and I will not do anything to nourish her.”
Every Member of the Body is Necessary
Just as every member of our physical body is necessary for our body to function well, every member of the spiritual body of Christ is necessary. In 1 Corinthians 12:14-27, Paul teaches that we, as individual members of the body of Christ, need each other and no one can say, or should say, they are not important. No one can say, no one should say, others (even weaker members) are not needed or useful in the body. So interdependent are the members of the body of Christ that what affects one affects all; “if one member suffers, all the members suffer.” So when a member begins to reason…”I’m not needed… I won’t be missed… there’s nothing that I can do that is important” …and by such reasoning remains an inactive member of the church, the whole body suffers! In such cases, the body (church) becomes “handicapped”! The church is not working at its full potential because not every part is doing its share:
“…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” (Ephesians 4:16)
Every Member of the Body has a God-given Function
Just as each member of our physical bodies has been given a particular function, God has given each of us unique abilities as individual members of the body of Christ and God expects us to use our abilities to the benefit of others in the church. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy (prophecy edified the church in Paul’s day; teaching God’s revealed words of prophecy edifies today), let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry (rendering practical service), let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:4-8). The local church arrangement provides an environment for each of us to use, and further develop, our abilities in presenting our lives as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Discovering our unique function, actively using our talents, and sacrificing our resources and time is “reasonable service” in the body (the church) of Christ because of what Jesus, “the Savior of the body,” has done for us.
When we understand that the church is the “body of Christ” and functions like a body which needs the working of every member, we see the need for becoming more involved. We see the need for doing what we can to improve the fellowship, the joint participation, among all who make up the body, which is the church. Let’s all work at being more productive members of the body of Christ, so that we may all benefit by the mutual strength and edification we have in Christ. More importantly, let’s volunteer our participation in the body of Christ because this is clearly pleasing to God.