The Nature of the Church: The Church as Body
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18).
One of the most fruitful metaphors describing the relationship of Christians to Christ and to one another is the church as a body. Paul constantly uses this metaphor to attempt to explain to believers how they ought to conduct themselves toward one another and to Christ (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 1:18, etc.). Let us consider how the church is to be like a body and how we function within it.
As a body has a head that controls it, so the church is headed by Christ and is subject to Him (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 1:18). Everything that the body does is controlled by the brain in some way, shape, or form. The body of Christ ought to function in the same way, always looking to Christ to understand what it is to do and how it is to do it. Christians and the church should always do everything by the authority of their Head, Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:17).
As a body consists of different individual parts that work independently and together, so the church consists a collective of individuals who work independently and together. Our bodies are full of different parts that each have independent functions but which must work together with the rest of the body. Legs may walk, but the rest of the body must go also. The stomach may digest, but only that which is consumed and then passed through. Likewise, the church consists of individuals who work to serve the Lord in many ways in their own lives (cf. Galatians 6:10, Romans 6:16-23), and also work together for the benefit of all involved (Hebrews 10:25, 1 Corinthians 14:23, Galatians 6:1-2).
As a body has many different parts that perform different but necessary roles, so the church has many different people that perform different but necessary roles. The ear, nose, gall bladder, leg, and foot all perform different functions, but all are necessary in their different ways. While some parts of the body may be more public or more recognizable in what they do than other parts, all must cooperate in harmony for the body to function. There is no “ego” in any body part: imagine what would happen if the gall bladder stopped working because it was not getting any credit! The church should function in the same way (1 Corinthians 12:14-25). While everyone can assemble and promote the Gospel and give according to their means, among other things, we recognize that the different members of the church all have their own particular set of skills. Some may have more public or recognizable roles, others may not. Everyone has something that they can offer! When all work together, the church can be like a body. The less “ego” involved in the church, the more likely it is to function as God intended.
As the body suffers when one part suffers, so the church suffers when some of its members suffer. It is interesting how small bacteria or virii can bring a body down, or how a pain in one part of the body can impact the whole. The church also suffers when a part suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26), and the church can be impacted when sin is overlooked (cf. 1 Corinthians 5). We must do all we can to build one another up (Galatians 6:1-2, Hebrews 10:25), and to be on guard against sin.
The body of Christ always has room for more. You also can become a part of the body and function as part of a greater whole. Only those comprising the Body of Christ will be saved in the end (John 14:6). Join His Body today!
Ethan R. Longhenry