The Body of Christ

The Body of Christ, what is it and what does the phrase mean? Our natural mind will tell us it is the physical body of the man, Christ while he walked planet earth or his remains after death. From the natural or world view this would be an appropriate definition. For instance the primary definition of the word "body" according to Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition: "the whole physical structure and substance of a man, animal, or plant." That same dictionary also includes in its many definitions for that word, that it is a group of people or things regarded as a unit; as in a body of soldiers." Strong's Exhaustive Lexicon of the Greek refers to a body as that of a single man or as a (large or small) number of men closely united into one society, or family; a social, ethical, mystical body; as in the New Testament, the church.

There are five verses of Scripture where the phrase "Body of Christ" appears. One of these, Romans 7:4, is speaking very plainly about the body of a man, Christ Jesus. The second one, Colossians 2:16-17, is probably speaking of the body of Christ Jesus but may also be speaking of the collective body of believers.

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (Romans 7:4)

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17)

These remaining three, (1 Corinthians 10:15-17, 1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 4:12) however, make direct reference to the church or whole body of believers as "the Body of Christ."

I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:15-17)

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:12)
Paul, in the twelfth Chapter of First Corinthians, writes much about the likeness of the human body to the Body of Christ. In fact he devotes sixteen of the thirty verses of the chapter to that likeness. It is here that he twice, once in verse twelve and again in verse twenty-seven, makes the direct reference of the church being the Body of Christ.

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 into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

These Scriptures indicate quite plainly the "Body of Christ" is both that of a man and also a group of individuals. Who are the "many members" of that "one body" referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:12? It is the Church. We, who are born again believers in Christ, are both individually and collectively the Church which is the "Body of Christ."

Using the comparison of the human body being like the Body of Christ allowed Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to instruct us with an example that is easy to understand. We can fairly easily see the importance of the various parts working together under the direction of a single head.

Our own human body is a marvelous machine, designed and manufactured by God. It has individual parts without number, each connected one to the other, and controlled by the brain. In most instances all the parts function together to accomplish tasks without our even thinking about it.

We don't have the ability to comprehend the miraculous ability of the brain to send coordinated signals to the many parts of our body all at the same time. Just think about the many body parts involved in the process of walking. It is not just the legs and feet but also the toes, ankles, knees, hips, muscles and ever so many other parts used in this process we call walking. And for most of us, we do it without any thought being given to it.

Medical studies have shown that something as seemingly unimportant as the big toe is vital in our ability to just stand. It functions as a sensor feeding information to the brain so the proper muscles can be controlled to keep us from losing our balance and falling.

While it often is not readily apparent when a person has lost the use of a big toe, it becomes quite evident as we watch someone try to walk who has lost the mobility of one of their legs through paralysis. This example shows us how impaired function results when one or more body parts fail to respond to the brain's direction. Relating this example to the Body of Christ it should become evident that each of us individually, as members of that body, needs to be directed by the head of that body, Christ Jesus. Unfortunately, all too often, we as individuals, and as members of a small group or denomination, tend to allow ourselves to be directed by man or self.

Denominations are similar to rather small parts of the human body like a toe or finger. It consists of many smaller parts; Bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, muscles, joints and even more. Each of these parts is composed of untold hundreds or thousands of even smaller components like cells. In our human body the activities of these individual parts are all under the direction of the brain. The cell doesn't take its direction from that of which it is a component. A large part of the Body of Christ gets its spiritual direction not from the Holy Spirit but from another human being, namely their pastor who may also do the same.

Returning again to answer the question of "who, or what is the Body of Christ?" It is necessary to establish a definition for the term. Many have indicated it is the collective churches, or the collection of denominations. Others have said it includes only those who currently believe on the name of Jesus. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in his salutation to the Corinthians identifies the church of God with the believers.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours (1 Corinthians 1:1-2)

The second chapter of Acts tells us that those added to the church by the Lord are "such as should be saved."

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:46-47)

In Ephesians we are told that we who believe are the church, which is His body, with Him as the head.

And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)

From these Scriptures we must conclude that the "Body of Christ" is made up of believers, who is the church with Christ as the head. John W. Kennedy who was a missionary to India for over forty years, and has gone on to be with the Lord, penned his definition for the body of Christ or the Church on page 221of his book "The Torch of the Testimony."

"The church, in its final sense, transcends the ages, and includes all who have been or will be believers in Christ. Its earthly expression is composed of companies of believers each of which owns an immediate and direct relationship to the Lord, and which are related to one another simply by the bonds of the Spirit."

To define the church solely on the basis of ownership of a relationship with Jesus Christ is as Scriptural as you can get. Jesus came to earth that all might be saved; He was willing to exclude only those who rejected His salvation.  It mattered not whether they were Jew, Gentile, bond, free, male or female. Galatians 3:26-28 says, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

The only condition for acceptance into the family of God, or the church, is that they believe on Him (Jesus). To go beyond that requirement is to invoke man-made stipulations not supported by Scripture.

Bill Liddle
January 28, 2002

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