The scriptures describe the church as a body. We all understand about a body because we each have one. We each have different members and organs that make up our physical body. We each have a head with eyes and ears and a mouth. We each have arms and legs. We have a heart, a brain, a liver, a stomach and other organs. We need all of the members of our body. But sometimes we are missing a member of our physical body, maybe due to an accident or an injury or surgery. For example, my wife was in a car accident many years ago and now no longer has a spleen. Or maybe someone had a finger amputated for some reason. When we are without a member of our body, we miss it because our body is not as whole as it might have been. We can live without certain members of our body, but since our body is not whole as originally designed, we have to compensate for the missing member. When one part of our body is hurting, the whole body suffers because it is one body.
The apostle Paul taught about the spiritual body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 “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. 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. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism 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; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” We should value each member of our spiritual body. None of us should have the attitude that one is not needed in the body. We should have the same care for one another. We should suffer when a member suffers; we should rejoice when another member rejoices. We should have sorrow when we lose a member for any reason.
The apostle Paul gave additional instruction about the body in Ephesians 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. ” The universal church of Christ is just one body throughout the whole world; we are from multiple congregations, multiple races, multiple countries, multiple languages, but we are still just one body of Jesus Christ. There is also just one Holy Spirit who is within each of us. We have one common hope of eternal life. We have one Lord Jesus Christ. We have one baptism for the forgiveness of our sins. We have one God and Father who has created everything, is over everything, and even within each of us.
Paul continues in Ephesians 4:11 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” Apostles were individuals like Peter and Paul who were selected by Jesus and sent to proclaim the gospel to the world. Prophets are those individuals who proclaim the divine message of God, whether that be to proclaim the message that has already been revealed, or to foretell the purposes of God in the future. Evangelists are preachers of the gospel, especially to those who do not know the gospel. Pastors are the shepherds of local congregations who watch over the flock of believers; they are also called elders or overseers. Teachers are individuals who teach the word of God. Each of these individuals has been given by God for a reason. Ephesians 4:12 “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The first purpose is to provide each saint (Christian) with what he/she needs to perform works of ministry or service. Each of us is a minister or servant to those around us, just as Jesus came to serve (Matthew 20:28). The second purpose is to edify or build up the body of Christ, the church. Many things such as apathy, divisions and sinfulness can tear down the church; the job for each of us, instead, is to do what we can to make Christ’s church larger and stronger.
Ephesians 4:13-16 “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 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.” Since we have a common faith and knowledge of the Son of God, our goal should be to be united and become mature children of God who are solid in our faith and not shaken by false doctrines, false teachers or the ways of the world. We are one body, and each part needs to do its share for the growth and edification of the body.
Those of us who are pastors, evangelists or teachers have a great responsibility to equip the brethren for the work of service and to edify the body of Christ. Each one of us needs to see ourselves as members of the one body and do what is beneficial for the whole body of Christ.