Written Word

Why is the Church Called the Body of Christ?

Several metaphors describe the church: the family of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, a holy nation, etc. Rated among the most popular is “the body of Christ.” This description provides rich teaching on how the church should function.

Members are Interdependent

Our physical body is composed of many members: hands, feet, arms, legs, ears, eyes, etc. It is the distinctiveness of each member that enables the body to function correctly.

The same is true of “the body of Christ” of which we are members. The Bible expresses this truth as follows: “But God has combined the members of the body…. [so] that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:24-27) “In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5)

We see how this works out in practical terms. Paul reminds the Christians not to forget the plight of their fellow Christians suffering persecution, but to identify with them in their suffering. “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:5) “The body of Christ” describes how God’s people are to function together – interdependently, depending upon one another.

Each Member has a Unique Contribution to Make

“The body of Christ” is composed of members who are different. It is God who has designed His body in this way. “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. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” (Romans 12:4-6) Some members are gifted as teachers and pastors, others are evangelists, others are gifted at caring for those in need, others are gifted with great compassion, etc. But every member has something to offer to the edification the church. Peter says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

The church is seen functioning at its best when each member exercises his or her gift as the Lord intended. This is the point Paul makes: “From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16)