The inspired writers used various figures to illustrate the meaning and importance of the church in the eyes of God and the esteem of men. One such figure is “the body.” In this piece I will strive to show the body of Christ in a variety of ways hoping that it will give us a better understanding and appreciation of it. First, let us notice Paul’s statement in Ephesians chapter one. “(God) hath put all things under his (Christ’s) feet, and gave him (Christ) to be the head over all things to the church. Which is his (Christ’s) body the fulness of him (Christ)) that filleth all in all.” (V. 22-23). The church is plainly said to be the body of Christ. Therefore when speaking of the church we necessarily are speaking of the body, or, when using the term body we mean the church. There are many other passages that state or infer this fact. With that before you let’s proceed to notice:
The church or body of Christ is a physical organization. Generally speaking the world does not view Christ the head of the church in His exalted position and Divine character. I fear it is because the body of Christ is not esteemed as highly as it should be. We see the result in the careless manner that people frequently leave the church as well as the lack of interest that others take in the welfare and prosperity of the church. Generally speaking we estimate the worth and efficiency of a body by its head. A human body may be strong, well organized and healthy, but if its head be idiotic, we attach but little importance to that body. The same is true of organized society; we look to the head for honor and efficiency of the body. What esteem then should we put upon the church as it is declared in sacred writ to be the body of Christ? If that glorious person who “is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person—who created and upholds all things by the word of His power” condescended to be the Head of the church and allows Himself to be so regarded, then the body of Christ which is the church is not a little or a downcast affair. To be a member of the church is an exceedingly high position that each member of the body should prize. It is a relationship that the body has to the Head that all the powers of the universe cannot sever. How then we should strive with all our being to maintain the health and well-being of the body. To speak of the greatness of the Head is a reflection of the greatness of the body.
A word of caution to our readers. These things apply to the church of Christ, the body that He shed His blood for, not just any church or religious organization. Many well-intended persons are members of some church that is not mentioned or taught in the New Testament. Such work and maintenance is a vain effort. Some believe and express that Christ is the head of all the denominations in the world. Such a monstrosity is not only unscriptural it is an illogical contention. One Head—one body is God’s will as expressed in the word of truth. Therefore it behooves each of us to acquaint ourselves with the word of God and then seek out the church according to the due order.
The church is a unit because the body can be only one. The first time the word church is used in the New Testament gives emphasis to this truth. Jesus promised the disciples, “upon this rock (the confession Peter had made at V. 15,) I will built my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18). Jesus never promised to build various churches or many bodies to be the head of, He said “church.” No one would say or teach that He meant the church in Jerusalem to the exclusion of other faithful congregations. Rather He had reference to all congregations wearing the same name, worshipping in the same way, with the same organization. The only difference between them was in geographical location. If one visited the church in Jerusalem, then proceeded to a congregation in Antioch or Ephesus he would find them all the same in teaching and in practice. Speaking of himself the Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles, that I am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God and wasted it.” (I Cor. 15:9). There is evidence that Paul did not persecute a single congregation so he was using the term in a general sense to refer to the church wherever faithful disciples were found. “And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.” (Acts 26:11). The church in the references is used in a general sense of the unit—the unit of which Christ is Head—the body or church of Christ. All congregations then and now of the church of Christ in light of Apostolic teaching compose the church the ONE BODY. It is a small step logically and scripturaly to see that each individual congregation is ONE BODY in a particular locality. We read of the church at Corinth and Galaltia and Philippi, etc. In addition we have the Lord walking among the churches of Asia. It must be kept in mind that these were not different denominations teaching different doctrines, with peculiar organizations from the others and worshipping in ways not found in Apostolic write. On the contrary, when there was a difference they were reproved and threatened that their relation to the Lord would be severed. Therefore even as they were found in a variety of localities they were one unit—ONE BODY under ONE HEAD—Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Each congregation is presented as a body because unity must exist among the members. We have seen that the church is a unit as each congregation is likened to every other congregation—to see one is to see all. Presently we will crawl over the wall of a single congregation to observe the working of each member is so constituted and joined that unity prevails to accomplish all the good possible. When one understands this unity he will have a correct vision of why Christ descended to this earth. Men where divided and sub-divided—Christ’s ministry was to break down the walls of discord creating unity in its place. We are not to understand that division ceased because the ever-working Devil knows that the cause of Christ prevails where Christians are united, therefore he kindles the heart of some to promote discord. That does not take away from the Lord’s purpose. Hear Him pray with His disciples near, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they all may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me,” (Jn. 17:20-21). How closely knit and precious is the unity between the Father and the Redeemer and how closely are disciples united if and when we resemble that union. That unity can exist only when we conform our very nature to express the nature of the Heavenly Father. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (II Pet. 1:4). The unity of Christians is often illustrated in Apostolic teaching by the unity that exists between members of the natural body. Read along with me a few
of these passages. “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.” “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another.” (Eph. 4:25 & Rom. 12:4-5). If we are able to conceive the nearness of the relation existing between members of our physical body, then this is but a figure of the holy union that should exist among all members of the church, the mystical BODY OF CHRIST. ‘But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:15-16) What a beautiful description this is of the human body, every joint in its place supplying his part to edify other part of the body and all the members are fitly (not unfitly) joined together. The parts composing the joint all adapted to each other; and these are joined together by ligaments that hold the members in a very near relation to one another. Then by the outside membranes they are all compacted together. By each member doing its part, seen or unseen the body increases. In this same way the members of the body of Christ are united. The Lord’s plan and will is that each member supplying its place in the body all will “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10). Then by the effectual working of every part—of every member, whether preacher, elder, deacon and various members each working in its respective sphere for the general good, the body or church will increase in moral power as it grows.
The Apostle Paul goes to even greater length on the same subject to the brethren in Corinth. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink in that one Spirit, For the body is not one member, but many…if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of thee.” (I Cor. 12:12-14 & 19-21). Each member of the church must regard itself mutually dependent on every other member of the body, which results in a bond of peace. Continuing we are informed in verses 25-26. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all members rejoice with it.” We know that this is the way the natural body is united. If the lady’s little finger is honored by wearing a gold ring, her head is likewise honored: and more: all the members of the body partake of that honor. And if the most remote or smallest member of the natural body is pained, all the members of the body sympathize with it. If one member is diseased, the whole body becomes enfeebled. Why should a sound member of the body be deprived of strength by a disease in another member? It is because all the members have the same care one of another. The forces and power of all the members are concentrated at that part of the body attempting to overcome the disease and save the afflicted member. So should it be with the members of Christ’s mystical body. If one member is honored because of devotion to and usefulness in the church, the whole body is honored by having such a worthy member. Therefore no one should be jealous of the influence of another member, nor envious at the success of that member in doing good. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.” (V. 27). It is not the individual good that a particular member may benefit for himself, it is the good of the body that counts.
THE EXISTING UNITY BETWEEN THE BODY AND ITS HEAD
One thing I wish to have you consider is the fact that we have one head of the church, namely Jesus Christ. None doubt or would contend otherwise. Yet the same people who affirm there is but one head will propagate the false idea that this one head is over many bodies or churches. I contend that there is but one head and he is the head of but one church. Furthermore, in all physical bodies, that have life, the head governs the body it is attached to. This being true, in the human body which is referred to in a figure by the Apostle, the head is the seat of judgment and will and by it all the members are controlled. One body—one head—one will—is Heavens order One body with two heads would be a monster as would be one head with many bodies. No body can act efficiently if the members are governed by different and conflicting wills. This is the secret cause of all the divisions among professed followers of Christ, when too many wills are consulted, too many heads are listened to, and too many lawmakers are in the mix. The adage is true in religion as in physical things “to many cooks spoil the broth.” When we acknowledge Christ as head of the body—the church, our wills will be lost in His, as self is crucified with Him by the cross. We bury self in baptism and rise to walk in newness of life “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:3-4). Anything done in the body is felt in the head. In our physical body the sympathetic nerves which connect with the head divides itself into thousands of fibers running thoughout the body carrying the sensation of the lightest touch of the most remote member to the head in the twinkling of an eye. It is by this means that the head sympathizes with all the members and the member’s sympathize with every other member. Likewise, the hurt and joy of each member of the body of Christ (church,) is known and felt by the Lord. It is important that we are aware that all actions are governed by His righteous will, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.” (Heb. 10:10).
Barney Owens 1805
With good and evil all about us it is necessary that we distinguish between them.
The issue is so great that we cannot afford to make a mistake.