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"The Church: The Body of Christ" (posted February 1, 2005)
[Christ is] head over all things to the church, which is His body.
- Ephesians 1:22
He is the head of the body, the church ... that in all things He may have the preeminence.
- Colossians 1:18
Romans 12:4-5 gives the first teaching in the New Testament as to the Body of Christ, and the youngest believer can take in its meaning.
- "We have many members in one body." This alludes to our arms, fingers, feet, etc.--the many members in the human body, which is the figure Paul is going to use.
- "All the members do not have the same function." There is a great lesson in that. Each has its own.
- "So we, being many, are one body in Christ." Who are the "we"? All Christians. What body do you belong to? In Scripture we only read of the one Body of Christ. All Christians are of it.
- "And individually members one of another." I think that means I cannot get on without you, and you cannot get on without me.
The unity of the Body
Therefore, what you see all around you today--the universally consented-to distinctions, differences, and dissensions among the people of God, who are split up into numberless so-called "bodies"--is only the work of the enemy; and you will find that what had produced these things is not that saints rally round the truth, but round some little difference. The uniting bond is some doctrine, or creed, or ordinance. It is not the glorious, wonderful truth of the unity of the Body of Christ.
What a wonderful thing the Church is. It has for its Head, Christ; and its unity is formed by the Holy Spirit, who is in each member. There would be no Church but for the Holy Spirit. He indwells you, if a believer, and me also, and unites us to that ascended One in glory; and that same Spirit binds you and me together: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13).
What puts a believer into the Body of Christ? The baptism of the Holy Spirit. That does not mean there is a new baptism every day. Before the Holy Spirit came down, the Lord said to His own, "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5). The Holy Spirit came, this baptism took place on the day of Pentecost, and the Body of Christ was formed (Acts 2).
How then do believers now receive that baptism? I will reply by seeking to illustrate. In the water of a lake, for 50 yards all round the margin of it, there are scattered rushes springing up. I take up a pebble, fling it, and it drops into the center of the lake. A circle forms on the surface; that circle spreads and widens out. By and by the movement reaches to the very edge of the pond, and every rush is within it. Now, as each soul is saved by faith in Jesus, it is embraced in the baptism of the Spirit. This will go on till the latest and last member of Christ is brought into the Church. No illustration is perfect, but that is the best I know. The Spirit of God is come, and thus we "have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13).
The headship of Christ
Paul said to the Corinthians, "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (1 Corinthians 12:27). This is the local aspect of the Body of Christ. They were not all the Christians in the world at that moment. No, but the local assembly at Corinth was the expression of a greater truth. As my body is under the direction, control, and will of my head, so was it to be in that day. The assembly at Corinth, being united to Christ in glory and drawing all its supplies from Him, was to walk according to the figure used here; and so with the aggregate of the saints in every other place then, and today also. The human body is sometimes afflicted with a disease called chorea, where the muscles are all in motion, and they will not keep quiet although the head desires they should. I think the Church of God has got that kind of disease today. The members are all doing their own will. It ought not to be so with the Body of Christ, but alas, so it is.
Where and what is the Body of Christ, say in Edinburgh, Scotland, today? It is composed of all the saints of God in the town. Are they walking in unity, love, and order, according to the figure of the "one body" to which they all belong? Alas! no. Then what are we to do? I will tell you what I should like to do: I want to walk according to the truth, that is, according to the principle of the one Body of Christ. I do not suppose I shall get all the saints to act on this truth, but that is the real principle in Scripture, and I want it to have an effect upon my life and ways, and I give you credit for the same.
The service of each part of the Body
The care of the Head for the Body is developed in Ephesians 4, in relation to the gifts which Christ bestows for the blessing and help of His own. "To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Ephesians 4:7). Everything that is now needed for the upbuilding of the Body is still furnished. But these gifts are for the whole Church, not a Church--there is no such thought as that in Scripture. This is quite plain from verse 12, which says the gifts are given "for the edifying of the body of Christ." The saints individually are to be perfected; this then branches out in the work of the ministry and the edifying of the whole Body. There is to be growth in the knowledge and apprehension of the Lord.
Everybody has his or her part in God's Assembly, the service of each member in its place tending to the edifying of the Body in love. Get a sense of what it is to be a member of the Body of Christ, and you will find you have your niche, your part.
Walter T. P. Wolston
(selected passages from The Church: What Is It?)