|The Church An Extension of Christ
by E.H. Jack Sequeira
With the exception of one, all the metaphors used in the New Testament to describe what the Church is have been derived from the Old Testament. For example, in John 10:1-15, 26-30, the church is compared to a flock of sheep with Christ as the shepherd:
I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watch man opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a strangers voice. Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep.
...But you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Fathers hand. I and the Father are one.
Proceeding to John 15:1-10, we find Jesus describing believers as branches with Him being the vine:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Fathers glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Fathers commands and remain in his love.
Turning to Ephesians 2:19-22, the church is equated to a temple building with Christ being the chief cornerstone:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with Gods people and members of Gods household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Again in Ephesians 5:22-32, the church is compared to a bride with Christ being its husband:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church.
The purpose of all these metaphors is to point out to believers that a unique relationship does exist between Christ and His followers the flock of sheep is totally dependent on the shepherd for survival, protection, and care; without the vine, branches cannot bear any fruits and, in fact, cannot survive; in Bible days, when constructing a building, every stone had to be lined up with the chief cornerstone. But the most intimate relationship borrowed from the Old Testament is, of course, the relationship between husbands and wives. They are to be one flesh. Ephesians 5:28-32:
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church.
This brings us to the one metaphor of the New Testament describing the church which is not found in the Old Testament. This unique metaphor of the New Testament is the church being the body of Christ. According to the New Testament, the church is made up of men and women, boys and girls, of all nationalities and cultures, all baptized into one spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 12:13:
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Thus, the church is a community of believers, a unique fellowship, a koinonia with Christ as the head. Several texts in the New Testament point out the fact that we believers constitute the body of Christ with Him being the head. I would like you to consider with me four main or important ones. First the texts that describe the church as the body of Christ. Romans 12:4-5:
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
1 Corinthians 12:12, 27:
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. ...Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christs afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
I hope you noticed the conclusion Paul came to, in at least two of the passages we read, that to be part of the one body of Christ also means that we are members of one another. Now let us look at the texts that specifically point to Christ as being the head of the church. We saw this brought out as we read Ephesians 1:22 [above]. To this I would like to add Ephesians 4:15:
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
And, especially, Colossians 2:18-19:
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
This last text is important because it links the body concept with our salvation. When we become part and parcel of the body of Christ by faith and baptism, all that the body of Christ accomplished in His earthly mission becomes ours. This is what righteousness by faith is all about, our only hope of salvation. Hebrews 10:5-10:
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, Here I am it is written about me in the scroll I have come to do your will, O God.
First he said, Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, Here I am, I have come to do your will. He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
You will notice that, unlike all the other metaphors the Bible uses to describe the church, the union and unity between Christ as the head and the church as His body is much more intimate. By extension, this unity and union between Christ and the believers also becomes true between the believers themselves. 1 Corinthians 12:14-27:
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, I dont need you! And the head cannot say to the feet, I dont need you! On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
What is Paul saying in this passage? At least three important things that we must take note of if the church is to fully function as the body of Christ:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
The big and practical question that faces us is how this unity and union between believers is to be achieved. The answer is that we must follow the principal of the body. In other words, we must apply the same rules or methods that our human body uses in everyday living. What are they?
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus....
Also note Davids prayer in Psalm 143:10:
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
The eye cannot say to the hand, I dont need you! And the head cannot say to the feet, I dont need you! On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
In conclusion, can you imagine what we would be like as a church if everyone of us were to put into practice these principles of the body? There would be such unity and love within the body that maybe even Congress would come to us and ask us how we managed to solve the partisan spirit that they are facing in running this country. What a witness we would be to a world that is torn by all kinds of factions.
Folks, this is not some wild dream I have come up with but a gospel doable. As we saw in our study of the book of Acts, it was manifested in the life of the early church and it must be manifested in the life of the last generation of the Christian church, so that this earth will be lightened by the glory of Christ before the end comes.