Close Your Church for Good, Chap. 4, Part 3. In the previous post, we looked at the radical concept from Paul that the church is connected to each other in ways never before imagined. We now conclude our briefly look at First Corinthians and the church as “The Body of Christ.”
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So when Paul begins to really emphasize in chapter 12 the image of the church as the Body of Christ, his readers will have understood that they are all in this together. What one person does spiritually or physically, is done to all. If an action spiritually or physically harms one, it harms all. If it benefits one, it benefits all. Paul’s emphasis in First Corinthians 12 is that as members of the Body, we are connected to each other. Each person has a unique purpose and function within the Body to fulfill, which, if carried out, benefits the individual and the rest of the Body.
This idea continues on through chapters 13 and 14, and is climaxed in chapter 15 with Paul’s discussion of the resurrection. Paul’s point in this entire section is that the church is a unified whole, which he calls the Body of Christ. The Body is a community of people in Jesus Christ. “The Body of Christ is precisely the Church in which Christ moves out into the world.” In the words of K. L. Schmidt, “Christ is the church itself, for this is the Body of Christ.”
Such an understanding is surprisingly similar to what was seen in the discussion of ekklēsia above. The church consists of those who have been gathered by God into Jesus Christ. Therefore, the church—Body of Christ—is Jesus Christ to the world. All who are gathered into Jesus are part of Jesus, and participate with Jesus in what He does in the world.
So the church as a Body is not a tradition to be followed or an office to be filled, but is rather the total, unified whole of all who are in Christ. Everyone is equal within the Body, and everyone has a part to play. At the same time, all actions, behaviors, and beliefs of one part affect every other part. Though the Body is not an individual person, each individual within the Body must understand that their actions have consequences, not just for themselves, but for the entire church. This is the point Paul seeks to drive home here in First Corinthians, and in other letters as well (cf. Rom 12:4-8; Eph 4:12-16).
So the picture of the church as the Body of Christ is an excellent image, and is probably the most common image in the mind of most Christians even though the concept is found in only a few places within the writings of Paul. So although it is a good image, it is not the only image for the church, nor is it the most common. Therefore, another image should be used.