One Body in Christ

Monday: The Church as Christ’s Body

Romans 12:4-5 In this week’s studies we see what the Church is, and are reminded of the unity we have with fellow believers.
The Church as Christ’s Body

Anyone who is interested in the doctrine of the church and senses its importance must be a bit surprised to notice how little the word “church” actually occurs in the Bible. The word is not found in the Old Testament at all. The first time it occurs is in Matthew 16:18, then again in Matthew 18:17. But it is not in the other gospels. It is scattered throughout Acts, of course (about eighteen times), but it is only found five times in Romans, all in chapter 16 (vv. 1, 3, 5, 16, 23). There are quite a few instances in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians (eighteen and nine times respectively), but then the references become infrequent again. In the New International Version of the Bible the singular word “church” occurs only seventy-nine times. 

The explanation, of course, is that although the word “church” is itself relatively infrequent, the doctrine of the church is discussed many more times by other words and images. 

That is the case in our text. Paul is beginning to talk about the church in Romans 12:4-5. His discussion is going to deal with church unity, the distribution of diverse gifts among the members of the church and the way Christians in the church are to behave toward one another. But Paul does not use the word “church.” Instead he speaks of Christ’s body: “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.” This is an important text, because “the body of Christ” is a powerful image for the church. As we might expect, it is also found at numerous other places in Paul’s writings.1

1The idea of the Church being one body with a multiplicity of members occurs in 1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:12-30; Ephesians 1:23; 4:4-16; 5:23-30; and Colossians 1:18, 24; 2:19; 3:15.

Study Questions
  1. How often is the word “church” found in the Bible? How many times in the Old Testament, and how many times in the New Testament?
  2. What other terms are used in Scripture to refer to the Church?

Reflection: Why do you think Paul chose the image of Christ’s body as his illustration of the Church here in Romans 12? How does thinking of the Church in this way help you to understand what the Church is about?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Fifth Mark of the Church: Unity.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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