THE BODY OF CHRIST
Jason Hsu — Baldwin Park, California, USA
Apostle Paul said, “[N]o one ever
hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the
church” (Eph 5:29).
Learning about the body of Christ
has many important teachings for us. It speaks to us of God’s great love for
His people, and this love was prepared in Christ from before the foundation of
Hopefully, by examining the
“what,” “how,” “when,” “where,” and “why” of Christ’s body, particularly
through apostle Paul’s writings, we will gain a clearer insight into the
teachings of the body of Christ.
WHAT IS THE BODY OF CHRIST?
The simple answer is, of course,
Christ’s physical body. But on a deeper level, Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us:
[God] put all things under [Christ’s] feet, and
gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the
fullness of Him who fills all in all.
In other words, the body of Christ
is the church.
Andrew Jackson once said, “One man
with courage makes a majority.” Though it is somewhat of a generalization,
modern culture tends to place a high value on the contribution of the
Even when there is an inherent
“team” concept, like basketball, people often still focus more on “star
players” and individual statistics. And if, unfortunately, a player does not
perform well statistically, that player might then be cut from the team.
But, this is not the way it is in
God’s church, for the church body is not a collection of individuals but a
unity of members.
The Bible says that there would be
no body if there was only one member (1 Cor 12:19). No doubt, a strong building
requires the support of individual pillars (Gal 2:9). Yet, we would not
consider a structure consisting simply of pillars as a building. Likewise, the
church body requires every member to be considered a complete structure.
Apostle Paul says, “For as the
body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being
many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor 12:12).
Weak Members are Necessary
The interdependency of the
members of the body tells us all members of the body are necessary—even the
weak members. In today’s cruel world, we might think it better to sever a weak
member than to let a weak member become a pull on the whole body.
But a weak member of the body is
not like a cancer we can unthinkingly cut out from the body. Members that
appear to be weaker are actually necessary for the functioning of the body (1
Apostle Paul illustrates this
interdependency of the church body through a somewhat unusual illustration
dealing with the presentable and un-presentable parts of the body (1 Cor
We can ask ourselves: isn’t it
true we often fixate more on the un-presentable parts of our body than on the
presentable parts? This is how it is with Christ’s body. It is the weaker
members that we must strengthen and care for so that there is no division in
In this spirit, apostle Paul
encourages the strong to “bear with the [weaknesses] of the weak” (Rom 15:1). For
example, it is our right to eat whichever food we desire, but if our right
causes another to stumble, we should learn to forego our rights in love. To
care is to nurture, not destroy. It is to build up the body in love, which is
the purpose of each of its members (Eph 4:16).
HOW WAS THE BODY OF CHRIST ESTABLISHED?
On the night Jesus was betrayed He
took the bread and, when He had given thanks, He broke the bread and said,
“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you” (1 Cor 11:23-24).
So in order to establish the body
of Christ, the Lord gave up His body and His blood (Heb 10:4-10). Life is in
the blood, and by giving us both body and blood, Christ demonstrated the
fullness of His love to His redeemed.
A full understanding of how Christ
established us means we will no longer consider ourselves our own, for Jesus
purchased us at a very high price. In Acts 20:28, Paul exhorts the elders to
“…shepherd the church
of God which He purchased
with His own blood.” Colossian 1:14: “…in whom we have redemption through His
blood.” Also, in 1 Corinthians 6:15, 19-20:
[D]o you not know that your bodies are members
of Christ?…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who
is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were
bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which
When we realize we are His own, we
will no longer live carnally. When we start to live for Him, we will find our
mission and our purpose in God: “For [we] died, and [our] life is hidden with
Christ in God” (Col
WHEN WAS THE BODY OF CHRIST ESTABLISHED?
God treasured the love of His
people like a husband would treasure the love of his wife in her youth (Jer
2:2). In fact, His love even surpasses this type of love because God’s love is
everlasting (Jer 31:3).
Although God’s people repeatedly suffered
for their unfaithfulness and sin, God always kept His promise of restoration in
view (Ezek 16:15-52, 60-63). God may have seemed far away from them, but His
intention for His people was always one of restoration and redemption. This is
For your Maker is your husband
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth. (Isa 54:5)
So as we answer the question,
“When was the body of Christ established?” we must realize God’s love surpasses
time and space; it surpasses the forty or fifty years a husband might have to
cherish his wife. Before the foundation of the earth ever was, the Lord’s body
was already prepared for the redemption of His people (Heb 10:5ff). The elder
Peter understood these things when he wrote:
[Y]ou were not redeemed with corruptible
things…but with the precious blood of Christ…He indeed was foreordained before
the foundation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for you. (1
WHERE IS THE BODY OF CHRIST?
We know that God’s kingdom does
not just exist on earth—it exists on two levels: (1) in heaven and (2) on
earth. Jesus says that when we pray, we pray: “Let Your kingdom come. Let Your
will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).
But if we were to look for the
actual body of Christ on earth, we’d be as disappointed as Mary of Magdalene
was at the empty tomb (Jn 20:11-15), because it has ascended to heaven (Act
1:9-11). But since the church follows the pattern of Christ, we know where His
body is by understanding His death, His resurrection, and His ascension.
Christ did not ascend into heaven
immediately after His resurrection but remained on the earth for forty days
(Acts 1:3; cf. Rev 20:6, 14). Thus, after the Lord’s death and resurrection,
the church, the body of Christ, remains on the earth.
Although Christ is in the heavenly
places and seated at the right hand of God, we, who were raised with Christ and
seated in the heavenly places with Him, remain here (Eph 1:20; 2:5-6).
In John’s vision of the new
Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem descends down from heaven but it rests on the
earth, where the tabernacle of God rests with men, and the nations of the world
enter through its gates (Rev 21:2-3, 10, 26; Jer 3:17).
After His ascension, Christ gave
gifts to men to edify this body. Through this body, He wants us to accomplish
His purposes, and to grow into a complete person and to the full measure of the
stature of Christ (Eph 4:8-13, 15).
WHY THE BODY OF CHRIST EXISTS
Understanding “why” Christ’s body
exits is important. Practically speaking, it helps us grasp the pattern and
path of our present purpose and future glory as Christ’s body. Though there are
many aspects to this question, we will examine three:
To Complete Itself
If we are blessed enough to have
all our limbs functioning and whole, do we ever wonder how it would feel to one
day suffer the loss of our arm or leg through an accident? How would we live?
To feel incomplete in our life or
purpose is, in many ways, worse than being physically incomplete. To not know
the direction of our growth or how to function is worse than missing a limb and
still know how to carry on. Sometimes in life, we just don’t know how to
continue on—particularly in suffering.
Apostle Paul taught us: if one
member of the body suffers, all the members suffer with it (1 Cor 12:26). This
is an important principle to understand before we can answer why the body
exists, because it relates back to the essence of Christ’s body as a unity of
members. If we do not understand the interdependency within the body, we will
not know how to continue on as the body; we will not know how to live.
A person knows they are alive
because they change and grow and mature, and hopefully for the better. It’s
natural for a person to want to feel complete in one’s self at the end of
Therefore, part of the answer to
why the church exists is to learn to become a whole person. That is, the church
body should understand itself—the interdependency and harmony of its members,
its purpose, and how it can feel complete in God’s grace.
To Complete All in Christ
Apostle Paul once taught:
For since by man came death, by Man also came
the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all
shall be made alive. (1 Cor 15:21-22)
Apostle Paul was commissioned to
preach to the nations, for the Gentiles were without hope and cut off from the commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12; 3:8). This was
accomplished through the blood of Christ in His flesh (Eph 2:13, 15; cf. Heb
Today, Christ’s body exists as
evidence of the fellowship and administration of the mystery of Christ, and
this was revealed to the apostle that all may be made complete in Him (Eph 3:9-11).
This is what apostle Paul calls the “whole family” in heaven and earth (Eph
3:15, cf.1:10). This is what we call the body of Christ, as it exists on the
The purpose of God for the church
is to make all things complete, to make all things whole, and to make one new
man from the two (Eph 2:15, 4:13). Paul calls this the “eternal purpose” (Eph
3:11). But how do we accomplish this unity of making one new man from the two?
To Reveal God’s Love for His Body
The strongest of loves in this
world is the love between husband and wife (Eph 5:25ff).
When apostle Paul spoke of such
love, however, he was speaking of the mystery of love between Christ and the
church. He also said the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge, and its
dimensions immeasurable (Eph 3:18-19).
The answer to how we make one new
man from the two, how we make what was incomplete complete, and how we make the
body of Christ whole is answered in this word: love. Christ’s love makes the
church whole (Eph 4:15-16, 5:25).
Earlier we asked: if we are
blessed enough to be whole, and one day we suffered the loss of our limbs, how
would we survive? How would we continue? Without love, it would be difficult. We
might give up hope on life itself. For without love, how can anyone continue?
A body without life is dead. When
Christ gave us His body, He also gave us His blood—He gave us everything. That
is what it means to love, because even if we give up our whole body to be
burned, but have not love, it means nothing because we have not given the most
important part of ourselves (1 Cor 13:3). So without love, we cannot complete
the answer to “why” the body of Christ exists.
Today, as God’s people, we are
Christ’s body. As His body, we must also have His life, which Christ gave us by
giving us His blood. This is how He gave us His all. If Christ so loved us that
He gave us everything, should we not know how to love His body?
When Christ ascended above, He
gave gifts to men, and we received them. But we must not only give of our many
gifts, we must also give of our love. May the Lord grant us strength through
His spirit so we may complete what is lacking in the body of Christ. Amen.