|Posted on April 3, 2019 at 1:45 PM|
In describing the church Jesus is building as the “body of Christ” the apostle Paul gives us a far different picture than has historically and traditionally been presented. Rather than being seen as an institution or an organization, the church is pictured as a living organism. Instead of being defined by a material corporate structure, the church is presented as a spiritual gathering of “called-out disciples”. As described by Paul the church Jesus is building cannot be recognized as a religious organization but rather a spiritual building seen only through the eyes of faith.
The “body of Christ” is much more than a metaphor depicting various religious man-made organizations and institutions. In fact, the apostle used that term for the church long before there were such institutions in existence. It sought to emphasize a number of spiritual realities concerning the assembly of called-out disciples Jesus had promised to build. The use of the term “body” implies a living and intricate network of individual “members” working together in a coordinated effort for a greater goal. Identifying it as the body of Christ reveals the ownership and control of Jesus as the “head” who dictates all function and actions of the body. Using the term “the body of Christ”, then, describes a spiritual reality much greater than the development of man-made organizations.
But because religious institutions are clearly visible in the world whereas the spiritual realities are not seen except through the eyes of faith, it is easy to confuse the two in our thinking. Much like referring to a special building as “the church” distorts the true identity of the church as a called-out assembly of disciples, the true nature and functioning of the church Jesus is building may be distorted by our preconceived notions of the church as simply referring to religious organizations and institutions. By referring to the church as the body of Christ Paul set an important precedent in our effort to recognize the church Jesus promised to build. We need to look beyond the organizational structure and religious performances, no matter how impressive they may seem, to see the spiritual realities described as the body of Christ.
Perhaps the single most important reality we need to see concerns whether Jesus is in control as the head of the gathering of called-out disciples. The church Jesus is building will be controlled by him as opposed to a set of rules and a strict moral code of conduct. The focus of such a church will be on the critical event of loving one another according to the personal direction of Jesus working through his indwelling Spirit in each member of the body. No one, even in leadership positions, will usurp the authority of Jesus by seeking to manipulate others for their own personal gain. An atmosphere of mutual love and respect among the membership will be supported by the continual emphasis on identity in Christ and the inherent worth of each member of the body.
The church Jesus is building today will be seen, not as a religious institution, but as the body of Christ whose primary task is to express the will of Christ on earth. For God, “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 fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1: 22, 23).