How the Church is Like a Body
How the Church Is Like a Body
Only believers are true members of God’s church. In the last lesson, we saw that believers are called many names. They are called disciples, saints, brethren, and Christians. Each name tells us something about them.
In the same way, the church is called different names. Each name tells us something about the church. We will look at one of these names. The Bible often says the church is like a body. In this lesson, we will learn what that means.
In the church, you have contact with other believers. They are important to you. Thank God for these people. Ask God what you can do to help them. They can help you, also. This study is wasted unless you apply the information to your own life. Put into practice today what you learn.
Christ and the Church
The Bible compares the church to many things. It says the church is like a building (Ephesians 2:21), a wife (Ephesians 5:22-23), a flock (John 10:16), and a vine (John 15:4). This list is not complete. It could be much longer. Someone has counted more than 200 such pictures of the church in the New Testament!
We cannot study all of these. I have chosen one. The Bible says the church is like a body. We will learn much as we study this comparison.
Christ the Source of Life
A living body is growing and active. Each body has a head. The relationship between the head and the body is very important. Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, “He [Christ] is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life” (Colossians 1:18). The church takes its life from Christ. Buildings, organizations, and meetings do not bring life. Only Jesus can do that.
Each believer, and the whole church, have “been given full life in union with him” (Colossians 2:10). The body is identified with the head. The church is identified with Christ.
Christ the Lord
Christ is not only the source of life. He is also the Lord of the church. Just as a wife obeys her husband, the church obeys Christ (Ephesians 5:24). The hand does not tell the head what to do the head tells the hand. The church must be obedient to Christ. “God put all things under Christ’s feet and gave him to the church as supreme Lord over all things. The church is Christ’s body, the completion of him who himself completes all things everywhere” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
Everybody has a lord. Some people obey a human master. Many obey sin. The message of the early Christians was “Jesus Christ is Lord!”
Christ the Provider
Jesus Christ is a loving Lord. We give ourselves to Him. In love, Christ takes care of us. Paul explained, “No one ever hates his own body. Instead, he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ does the church; for we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:29-30). The church lives because of its contact with Christ. It grows because of Christ. Christ cares for it. “Under Christ’s control the whole body is nourished and held together by its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God wants it to grow” (Colossians 2:19).
Relationships within the Church
Unity in the Church
The New Testament is written more to the church as a whole rather than to individual believers. Christians cannot live away from other believers. In the early church, new converts were quickly taken into the fellowship. Luke wrote, “The group of believers was one in mind and heart” (Acts 4:32).
Regardless of race, nationality, or social standing, all believers are united in one church. “There is one body and one Spirit” (Ephesians 4:4). This unity does not mean that all Christians must belong to the same church organization. It does not mean that all believers must worship in the same way. It does mean, however, that there should be a spirit of love and oneness among believers.
Divisions in the church are never good. They are painful. The church suffers because of them. The church at Corinth had this problem. (See 1 Corinthians 1:12-13.) Paul appeals for unity. “And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another”
(1 Corinthians 12:25). Divisions in the church are usually caused by people having a greater concern for themselves than for others.
Variety in the Church
Unity does not mean that every Christian is the same. No! Every Christian is different. The variety gives strength and balance. “Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts” (1 Corinthians 12:12).
One part of the body cannot say to another part, “I don’t need you!” Every part needs every other part. Christians need each other. (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.) Believers may differ in what they do (v. 17), in strength (v. 22), and honor (v. 23). But there is only one body. Paul explained this same truth to the church in Rome: “Though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us” (Romans l2:5-6).
Caring in the Church
You have a part in God’s church. You will accept this seriously, as a service to Christ. Part of your responsibility is to care for other believers. As we have seen, in the body the hand needs the ear and the ear needs the foot. As the Bible says, “Under his [Christ’s] control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided (Ephesians 4:16). No part of the body can get along by itself. Every part needs every other part.
Part of this relationship is truthfulness. “Everyone must tell the truth to his fellow believer because we are all members together in the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:25). Because we are fellow believers, we must help each other. “Help to carry one another’s a burden” (Galatians 6:2). Paul speaks this same way about suffering. “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness” (1 Corinthians 12:26). The care for others is the mark of the church. John wrote, “If you have a love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).