“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” With this, the apostle Paul ends the New Testament’s clearest teaching about the Body of Christ. Too many of us, however, this concept remains in the realm of “doctrine” to be used for preaching or Bible study. We need to reevaluate our understanding of what it really means to be a member of Christ’s Body, the Church, and the demands this makes on us.
Our Place in the Body
“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them in the body, just as He desired. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary, and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it (1 Cor. 12:12-27, NAS).
Paul compares the Church to a human body. But it is much more than a metaphor, although metaphoric in form. Just as our body is the physical organism by which our life, housed within, expresses itself; so the Church is the physical organism by which Jesus expresses Himself. This is literal reality! Although we aren’t literally hands or feet or ears or eyeballs as Paul speaks of us, collectively we are Christ’s literal body. We are the only means by which He can express Himself physically on earth.