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Building up believers and the New Testament church

The Gospel of Jesus Christ: From With to In

The Body of Christ

This union with God that is created when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us has many implications. We want to briefly mention one of them here that is particularly important to us. "And He put all things under His 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" (Eph. 1:22-23). "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (I Cor. 12:27).

"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another" (Rom. 12:4-5). These scriptures all speak of us being part of "the body of Christ" and members one of another. What does this mean? When does this take place? How are we joined together in such a way that we can be referred to as "the body of Christ"?

To begin with, what is the primary purpose of the physical body of a man? Is it not to give expression to his life? Life is difficult to define, even on the natural level, but we do know when a man is alive and when he is dead. When he is alive, we know it because of the expression through the body. If the body is paralyzed, and the only thing we can do is look into a man's eyes, we still know whether he is alive or not. But in that condition, the expression of life is very limited. He cannot communicate, cannot walk, and cannot accomplish anything through his faculties. He has a body, but it is not able to do what it was intended to do: express what is in his mind. To be able to express life, every faculty of the body must be connected and properly functioning under the control of the head.

We are told that Christ is the Head of His body. "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18). "But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ--from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15-16). If Christ is the Head of His body, the purpose of the body of Christ is to give expression to His life according to the direction from the Head. To be able to give expression to His life, we must then be under His authority and alive with His life.

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (I Cor. 12:13). Is this not the same as what Paul says above: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ"? In other words, God brings us into the Godhead by indwelling us by the Spirit. In this place of fellowship we now are truly connected to the Head (together with our brothers and sisters) and can give expression to the life of God as one body. As each member submits to the authority of Christ and moves in faith, together we will express the life of God with increasing maturity. It does not come all at once, but there will be a growth in the expression much the same as a child grows in the expression of physical life.

So how then are we made a part of "the body of Christ"? Is it not by being baptized with the Spirit into one body? That is the way we are brought into union with each other: by His life. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). By being united with Christ, we die to our life so we can now live His life. If we are not yet dead to our life, we will not express His life. Our calling is to express His life together as one body in the locality in which we live. This is a high calling and can only be done in the power of God, the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

I believe the reason it is so important to see this is that if we are trying to function in the body without the basis of this union, we will find ourselves struggling to do something that we cannot do. Church life can become nothing more than a series of meetings and activities we participate in with the hope of finding some encouragement. Things will start to become old after a while, and we may begin to focus on a future day when hopefully everything will be better. But victory in our present circumstances and responsibilities will likely escape us, and the fragrance of His presence that should flow from our life in the midst of trials will not be there. To fulfill this calling to be the body of Christ here on this earth, we must know union with God and the rivers of living water flowing from within. We can only know the grace of God we need if we are living His life.

Next: The Way In