The Messiah’s time on earth was limited to 30-or-so years with the last three representing His public ministry. This meant that within those three years, He would have to identify and train His disciples, demonstrate His messiahship to them not only through teaching, but also through many miracles. He would need to lay a foundation for the entire church age. This foundation would include introducing the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by the empowering of His followers as well as being the inspiration of New Testament writers. The indwelling Holy Spirit directs the believer to walk in God’s will and teaches him the dynamics of a progressive relationship with Jesus Christ and to be His witness. Just as Old Testament leaders were anointed to fulfill their obligations, the new covenant believer requires an anointing, God’s ability to complete.
The Apostle Paul uses the terminology “in Christ” or “in Him” nearly 100 times as a representation of the relationship ordained by the finished work of Christ for each believer. In Colossians 2:10, we are complete “in Him”. Another part of the new covenant believer’s spiritual empowering is found “in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6), a reference to the supernatural unity ordained by God for all believers as members of the universal Body of Christ. Paul lays out the particular dynamics of this spiritual Body in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, “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.”
One Body in Christ
How can a diverse group of people with varying abilities, gifts, cultures, etc. become so united? This passage and others tell us that it is due to a series of ones: one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one Father, one baptism and one hope (see Ephesians 4:3-6). The unity ordained for members of the Body of Christ is produced by one! One body means that no matter which local assembly one attends, he and all true believers are part of one Body, with Jesus as its one Lord. One Spirit speaks to the reality that each believer is indwelt with the same Holy Spirit and it is this Spirit who baptizes the believer into the Body of Christ at salvation, sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). One hope promises believers the same future, eternal life, and one faith means that there are certain doctrines or elements of belief, known as cardinal doctrines that all true believers must accept. Finally, one Father means that all believers are children of the same Father, the God of the Bible.
Jesus’ Prayer for Unity
20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23)
During the night before Jesus was crucified, He prayed to His Father His concerns for the disciples He would be leaving behind who would carry on the work and establish the church. He was praying to His Father for the same unity that exists between the Father and the Son, “that they also may be in Us”. The oneness of the Body of Christ is derived from the unity between Father and Son. This unity is as a result of the glory of the Father given to the Son, now given to the disciple. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary defines that glory this way:
“The glory, then, here meant is all that which Jesus received from the Father as the incarnate Redeemer and Head of His people–the glory of a perfect acceptance as the spotless Lamb–the glory of free access to the Father and the right to be heard always–the glory of the Spirit’s indwelling and sanctification–the glory of divine support and victory over sin, death, and hell–the glory of finally inheriting all things.”
A Mystical Body
The Body of Christ is an amazing spiritual organism, that one mystical body of which Christ is the sole head, and in the unity of which all saints, whether in heaven, or on earth, or elsewhere, are necessarily included as constituent parts. In 1 Corinthians 5:44, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body”. The Body of Christ is used of God as a place where the natural man is transformed into a spiritual man. It is the place where each member finds his significance within the eternal work of God. In 1 Corthians 12:24-25, “But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” The spiritual church provides the environment where the most needy are cared for by other members. It follows the principle that the organism is only as strong as its weakest member, so special attention is so provided.
Fellowship in the Body
Life in the Body of Christ is most clearly demonstrated by fellowship as 1 John 1:7 reveals, “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin”. To walk in the light of Christ is to walk in the truth of the spiritual relationship with Christ and to recognize our brothers and sisters in Christ as family, as part of each one’s spiritual support system in the world. It happens when we know other believers not after the flesh, not after the things that may naturally divide us, but our fellowship is with the life of Christ in each believer (2 Corinthians 5:16). The Greek word translated fellowship is koinonia and means that each believer is part of a spiritual community and has a participation in each other’s life. Life in the Body of Christ is most clearly motivated by God’s agape (unconditional, self-sacrificing) love.
For the believer to find his proper place within the Body of Christ is to find fulfillment as a member in particular. In order for the world to understand the gospel, it must be modeled, The Body of Christ manifests the life of God on earth like nothing else.