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The Church as the Body of Christ – Which Means What?

 


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The church of the New Testament is in the scriptures referred to under several different designations or appellations one of which is the body of Christ. And he put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:22-23 NKJV) I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Col. 1:24 NKJV) Paul says, in speaking to the church (see 1 Cor. 1:2) at Corinth, Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Cor. 12:27 NKJV) To those in Rome he says, So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (Rom. 12:5 NKJV)

The body of Christ, the church, is of course a spiritual body. Peter describes the church as a building but what he says is applicable here for he says, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house. (1 Peter 2:5 NKJV) The church is spiritual made up of men and women and boys and girls of accountable age who each in their individual spirits have submitted to Christ in both faith and obedience. You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Rom. 8:9 NKJV) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. (Rom. 8:14 NKJV) If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body (the fleshly physical body we each possess – DS), you will live. (Rom. 8:13 NKJV) It is thus spiritual beings, having the Spirit of Christ within them, who make up the church, the body of Christ.

In the description the Holy Spirit gives of the church as a spiritual body, the body of Christ, it is compared to a physical body in order to provide us with some lessons of its nature and what it is to be. He (the Holy Spirit) says, speaking through Paul, for in fact the body is not one member but many (1 Cor. 12:14 NKJV) and then begins discussing the foot, the hand, the ear, the eye, the smelling (the nose) with the idea being that each member of the body has its function to fulfill for the profit of the entire body and that each part of the body, each member, contributes to the well being of the body and is needed. (1 Cor. 12:15-22) With the physical body we readily see this need. Remove any part of the body and to that extent we become handicapped.

This is a lesson the church needs to learn – the value of every single member and the fact they each contribute in one way or another whether we see it or not. Too often the member that has standing is the one with speaking talent, or the one who is a church leader in one capacity or another, or one who is well thought of in the community while the poor widow with but two mites to cast into the collection plate (Luke 21:1-4) is left out of the social interaction of the membership. The church that is what God would have it to be is egalitarian. Too often the church is divided into cliques based on social/economic status or perceived superiority. This is nothing less than shameful and disgusting. It stinks to high heaven. If such behavior cannot be hidden from men how can it be hidden from God?

But the reader should not make more of what I have said than what I stated for I do not mean to imply this is a common practice but if it is found even once it is once too often. Every congregation is different and the whole body of believers should never be judged on the basis of what one might find in a particular location. Do we think it would be fair to judge all of the congregations that belong to Christ based on the church of Sardis as described by Jesus himself in Rev. 3? I think not.

Here is the body of Christ, the church, as God would have it be - that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Cor. 12:25-27 NKJV) By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35 NKJV)

The church being what it ought to be starts with each individual being what he ought to be in his relationship both with Christ and with his fellow brethren. We cannot set back as observers and see how it is going and say the church is not what it ought to be in its love for each of its members when we are, as stated, just setting back and watching and not becoming actively involved ourselves.

John says, for example, Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17 NKJV) We say that is the church’s duty, the church’s responsibility, to care for the needy. Now be honest, is that what the passage says that it is the church’s obligation? It says it is my obligation if I can help at all to step in and help; the church being what it ought to be as a body begins with me in friendship, in fellowship, in caring, in sharing, in sacrifice, in the depths of love as measured by God’s word. Besides if we do not care about one another who will care about us?

How many bodies does Christ have? That is a foolish question on its face. How many bodies do you have? It makes as much sense to ask one as to ask the other. Besides, even if we were that dull, Paul tells us, There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling. (Eph. 4:4 NKJV) There is an idea held by many that each of the individual denominations is a member of the body of Christ and that taken collectively they make up the church. Talk about an absolute perversion of scripture and utter nonsense!

Denominations did not exist when the New Testament was being written thus when Paul wrote to the church at Corinth talking about these matters of being members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12) he most certainly was not talking about that which did not exist. He clearly was talking to, those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. (1 Cor. 1:2 NKJV) How do I know he was talking to them – because I just quoted the passage, because he says so. They, each one individually, each Christian, was the member of the body of Christ to whom he was speaking. You are the body of Christ (the church at Corinth – DS), and members individually. (1 Cor. 12:27 NKJV)

Christ is the head of the body, the church (Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:18), to whom each member of the body is to hold fast (Col. 2:19). The head always regulates and directs the body using the analogy of the physical body. The rest of the body follows the decisions the head makes. In other words the head rules the body. God never gave man legislative powers in the realm of religion as Christ has all authority. All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18 NKJV) were some of the last words Jesus spoke while on earth. He is the king of a kingdom and not a president of some kind of a democracy. This being the case, and as Christ the head has spoken and given his will in the pages of the New Testament, why have men not been content to be guided by his will and it alone?

Men have arrogated power to themselves and set up conferences, and councils, and governing bodies and tried to make laws for God and in many cases even overrode his will for their own setting aside scripture and people say it is okay, all is well, God is pleased, we are saved. In religious bodies that have done these things it is safe to say Christ may be spoken of as the head but it is not taken seriously by those of us who have a New Testament and have read it and studied it and believe it.

Man may vote and elect a governing body in a club, or a benevolent organization, or a union, or whatever but such has no place in the New Testament church, the body of Christ, which already has its head and governing body in place – Christ himself.

Christ is the Savior of the body (Eph. 5:23) but scripture says his body is the church (Col. 1:24). There are an awful lot of people that believe the church does not matter. To their thinking it does not matter whether one is a member of the church or not for their thinking is a man can be saved without church membership. If you can be saved without church membership then it does not matter whether or not you are in the body of Christ for the church is that body (Eph. 1:22-23). If you are in the church you are in the body of Christ, if you are not in the church you are not in the body of Christ.

Now what is it that Christ is the Savior of? It is his body, the body of Christ (Eph. 5:23). Name one place in the Bible where Christ ever promised or gave hope of saving any one not in the body of Christ. I am willing to wait for the answer but it will be a long wait for you will not find it.

Here is what causes the confusion - people do not know the truth about how one becomes a Christian. They think becoming a Christian is one process and becoming a church member is another. The truth is that the same process that makes one a Christian also adds him to the body of Christ, the church. If you obeyed the gospel of Christ in all truth and sincerity you are a member of the church whether any in the church like it or not. God adds you to the church (see Acts 2:47 NKJV), not men. He does it when we obey the gospel. You cannot obey the gospel and not be in the church.

God adds you to the church, the body of Christ, but on conditions. One condition all agree upon is faith in Christ. That, however, is only one condition. While everything else flows from it and while it must of necessity be the first thing in order (Heb. 11:6) God requires more of man than that even though most do not believe it.

A second condition is repentance. God is not in the business of saving unrepentant sinners even if they are believers. If so where does the Bible teach it? As I said earlier I will wait for you to find the passage. If man can be saved without repentance what did Jesus shed his blood for? If a man can be saved without repentance, meaning he can go on and still live a life of sin and be saved, then why did Jesus shed his blood for the remission of man’s sins if sin does not matter? Repentance is thus required of man for salvation (Acts 2:38).

A third condition is a confession of Jesus with the mouth. If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation. (Rom. 10:9-10 NKJV)

The final condition one is met with before it can be said he has entered the body of Christ of which Christ said he is the Savior (Eph. 5:23) is baptism. 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 into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. (1 Cor. 12:13-14 NKJV) We enter the body of Christ by baptism. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal. 3:27 NKJV) To be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into his body.

I have quoted the passage from Eph. 5:23 a few different times in this article where it is said Jesus is the Savior of the body. If you will read but 2 verses on down you will begin reading as follows, Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-27 NKJV) Let me ask you one thing. What did Christ cleanse the church of with the washing of water (baptism – DS) by the word? To ask is to answer – sin. If you think spiritual cleansing of sin does not come by the washing of water by the word then you must explain why the Holy Spirit said it did while not meaning what he said. If you are not careful you will have him saying one thing while meaning another which begins to question his integrity.

Those who think they can enter the body of Christ some other way than by being baptized, as Peter said, for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) will search in vain for the passage that teaches it. No one is a Christian who has not been baptized despite years of manmade tradition that teaches otherwise. One can either choose to believe his Bible or believe men. I tire of hearing men talk of faith who have no faith – who will not believe plain statements of scripture. I can find several passages that say we are baptized into Christ, that it is for the remission of sins, that it saves, etc. – teachings along those lines. Those who oppose this teaching oppose every passage I produce and yet can find no passage in support of their own proposition that it does not save or have anything at all to do with man’s initial salvation.

If one enters the body of Christ by baptism (1 Cor. 12:13) and that is where salvation is found for his body, the church, is what Christ is saving then what do you think you ought to do with regards to baptism? If you think one can enter that body without baptism why not teach us all how that Jesus, Peter, and Paul were all mistaken in the things they taught on the subject and set us straight. Teach us why that while Jesus said, He who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16 NKJV) the truth is He who believes and is ‘not’ baptized will be saved.

Denny Smith's articles are all listed on his web site - dennysmith.net - along with many audio sermons by Waymon Swain. There are also links that will take you to hundreds of other articles and audio sermons found on other recommended sites.

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