Why are there many churches in the world today? What does the Bible mean when it talks about one body?
Jesus desired that all His people (His children) should be united together, that they should be one (John 17:21). However, often that does not appear to be the case since there are many denominations – although it is worth commenting that often churches of denominations are happy to work together knowing that their differences concern matters secondary to the gospel itself.
The rest of this article will answer the second part of the question: what does the Bible mean when it talks about “one body”?
This language occurs several times in the New Testament, but the chapter that discusses it in most detail in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. In verses 12-26 Paul talks about the human body – how it has different parts (a head, hands, feet, eyes, etc.) and yet that there is one body. Additionally, for a human body to function properly it needs all of its parts – you can’t really do with only one leg for example.
In verses 27-31, Paul applies this lesson to the church in Corinth. Verse 27 says: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (ESV). In other words, all the Christians in Corinth (i.e. the whole church there) are “the body of Christ.” Therefore, each church family is “the body of Christ,” and this has implications of how each member of the church treats another member. As in human body, each church member is indispensible to the right function of the body (church family) as a whole (see also Romans 12:4-5). Since each church family is “the body of Christ,” then it is important to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3-4).
However, is also seems that the Bible uses the language of “one body” to refer to the whole church throughout history (i.e. every single Christian that has ever lived). In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Since the baptism at the start of the verse refers to every Christian (given that Paul uses “we” and not “you;” therefore, it seems he is speaking more broadly then just the Corinthians at this point), every Christian is part of “the body of Christ.” It seems that this refers not to the local church, but rather to every Christian being part of “the body of Christ.”
In summary, “the body of Christ” is a term that Paul uses to describe a local church, but he also uses it to refer to the whole universal church. And since we are “the body of Christ” together, we need one another just as a human body needs all of its individual parts.
How does this Bible passage speak to you? Please share your thoughts below!
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