The Organic Essence of the Church


In looking at the body metaphor, Greg Ogden asks the following questions:

Is Paul’s choice of the human body simply to be a nice analogy for the way the church is to function? Is Paul only saying that just as the body is an organic picture of interdependence, so the church should be? Or is there something deeper than metaphor that Paul has in mind?

Paul seems to be pointing to a deeper reality. Metaphors are often symbols that point to deeper realities, but the symbol is not the same as the reality. An example of this is when Jesus broke the bread at the Passover meal before his disciples and said, “This is my body given for you,” “We Protestants do not believe Jesus was speaking literally. The bread was not in actuality his body, but it was a symbol that pointed to his broken body.” In contrast, when it comes to referencing the church as the body of Christ, Paul intended much more than just a word picture. Reading 1 Corinthians 12:12 numerous times, I have subconsciously understood it in the following way: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with the church.” What is wrong with that? I emphasized (in italics) the way I have understood this verse to be. I have read church into the text because this is what I expected, since the church is Paul’s subject. But this is not Paul’s concluding phrase. He says, “so it is with Christ,” not the church. By interchanging Christ with the church, Paul is making the point, that the church is nothing less than the living extension of Jesus here on earth. The church and the resurrected, reigning, and living Jesus are inseparable. The church is not merely a human organization designated with the task of keeping the memory of their leader alive, but it is a fellowship of those who are members of Christ’s body giving viable expression to who He is. The church is an organism mystically fused to the living and reigning Christ who continues to reveal Himself in and through His people. Ray Stedman puts it this way: “The life of Jesus is still being manifest among people, but now no longer through an individual physical body, limited to one place on earth, but through a complex, corporate body called the church.”
As God’s household (oikos), the church is called to administrate kingdom economics in the process of bringing fulfillment to the larger eco-system, the created order. In order to complete this assignment, it is necessary for the church to perceive itself as a life giving and sustaining entity. In other words, the essence of the church is organic, and maybe for the purpose of completing its mission.

Sometime in the future I would like to delve more deeply into the organic essence of the church.

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