Do I need to say it? A lot has been going on. But it’s all Peanuts in China. Hopefully I can get back to regular posting soon, but no promises. Below is the next installment of the book I am writing.
Close Your Church for Good, Chap 4, Sec 1. I am beginning to defend and clarify my definition for “church.”
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When people think of biblical imagery for the church, the most common picture that comes to mind is the Body of Christ. However, this exact phrase is only found a few times in Scripture (e.g., Rom 7:4; 1 Cor 10:16; 12:27; Eph 4:12). All of these are from Paul, and all except one do not refer to the church, but to the actual body of Jesus. Only one text, 1 Corinthians 12:27, refers to the church specifically as the Body of Christ. This text will be discussed below. Other passages hint at the church being the Body of Christ, but do not contain the exact phrase (e.g. Rom 12:5; Eph 1:22-23; 5:23; Col 1:24; 2:17).
Paul may have selected body imagery for the church due to the similarities between the Greek concepts of body (Gk. sōma) and the church (Gk. ekklēsia). For example, sōma is a word which represents a person in their totality. It is understood that the sōma has parts, some physical (bones, flesh, blood), some spiritual (soul, spirit), and some psychological (emotions, intellect, will, personality), but the word does not refer to just one of these parts, such as the physical, but to the entire person. This is like the church, the ekklēsia. The church is a unified whole, and while it is made of numerous members, does not refer to only one member.
Nevertheless, although the image is a good one, it is used only by Paul, and even then, less frequently then other imagery. Since this is so, how is it that the idea of the church being a Body became so prominent if it is not found throughout the New Testament, but only rarely in Paul’s letters? How did it become the most popular and widely known image for the church? It is probably a result of the dual emphasis in many churches on the teachings of Paul and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These twin factors converge in passages that picture the church as a Body, and so in the minds of many, the Body is the main image for the church. One of the most common passages which supports this image is First Corinthians 12, which we turn to next.