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The Local Body of Christ

You belong worshiping with the local body of Christ, every Sunday.

 

paul 2If the Apostle Paul were alive today, what would he say about all the churches where you live? And by ‘churches,’ I mean all the churches where the regenerate go, where the genuinely saved go to worship the Lord Jesus Christ every Sunday.

I suspect he would open your Bible to 1 Corinthians and read this to you:

Has Christ been divided?
(1 Cor. 1:13)

Early church father John Chrysostom preached Paul’s meaning this way:

You have cut Christ in pieces and distributed His body!
Here is anger! Here is chiding!  Here are
words full of indignation![1] Chrysostom,  Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 3:5

Paul wasn’t worried the Corinthians might dismember Christ’s glorified body in heaven! No, Paul was indignant because the Corinthians were about to dismember the unified body of Christ in Corinth into different churches.

His words are intended to shock us since they come close to equating the Christians in Corinth with those who killed our beloved Lord in Jerusalem. Unbelievers killed Jesus’ incarnate, physical body. But schism, which can only happen among genuine believers, dismembers His metaphorical body.

“Paul’s question [“Has Christ been divided?”] evokes the metaphor of the body of Christ. The metaphor of the body was a popular political image, effectively used by Paul in reference to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 12:12-27). For Paul the unity of Christ is a given.” [2]Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians, 81

Once we see that 1 Cor. 1:10-13 refers to schism in the local body of Christ, Paul’s outrage isn’t surprising. The real surprise is that we, the redeemed, take this dismemberment of His local body where we each live as righteousness.[3]”In 1 Cor. 1:13 Paul asks rhetorically μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός, alluding by synecdoche to the notion of the church as the σῶμα Χριστοῦ.” L. L. Welborn, ‘On the Discord in Corinth: 1 Corinthians 1-4 and Ancient Politics’, Journal of Biblical Literature 106/1 (1987): 87.

 

Even a Four Year Old Understands

schismed body

Bodies have connected parts. Just as we teach children, the hand connects to the arm, which connects to the shoulder, which connects to the torso, etc. Without physical connection, there is no body, and no unity. So too, Christ’s body of believers must have physical connection to be a body in unity. Pieces of a body divided from each other makes a cadaver, not body.

Which means Paul is not speaking of the Universal Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians – all who will ever savingly believe on Him. That Body will be physically attached one Day. We shall all one body together, physically. It can never be divided.

Actually, 1 Corinthians teaches the local body of Christ. According to 1 Corinthians, we only have ‘body life’ with those we fellowship with:

“Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a fellowship of the blood of Christ?
Is not the bread which we break a fellowship of the body of Christ?
Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body;
for we all partake of the one bread.”
(1 Cor 10:16-17)[4]author translation

We are to be one physically connected body. In order to do that, we must know each other in such a way that we can fulfill Christ’s “new commandment,”

“love one another as I have loved you”
(John 13:34)

But that requires life on life. We can’t practically love those Christians we never know, which is over 99% of them on earth. Jesus wasn’t speaking of loving people you’ll never meet, but the believers who live near you. All of them.

If we’re over four years old we get the one body analogy: if the body parts aren’t attached to each other, there is no body. And no, Paul wasn’t talking about a metaphysical spiritual body, for that body has no eyes, no hands, and no feet. Still confused? Become like a child. A body has different parts and all are attached to each other, and all care for each other.

Going a bit further, Paul never teaches that all the Christians on earth are a connected body for a simple reason. It’s not true. We aren’t all physically connected to one another yet. So if you believe the Universal Body of Christ is all the believers on earth, I’m sorry, but that is never taught in the apostolic writings.

 

What is the Local Body?

whole body 3What exactly is the local body of Christ? It is all the genuinely saved Christians who live in the same locale, regardless of church affiliation. It is comprised of all those made part of the new creation by the the supernatural baptism of Christ into His body, both Universal and local (2 Cor. 5:17, 1 Cor. 12:13, Eph. 4:5, Rom. 6:4, Col. 2:12).

Therefore, unlike the Universal Body, the local body of Christ is geographic defined. “You are the body of Christ,” says Paul to all the saints in Corinth in 1 Cor. 12:27. And we see this geographically local body repeated in every canonical letter in which Paul teaches on the body of Christ: (Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 10:16-17, 11:29, 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Eph. 4:11-16, Col. 2:19, 3:15). These texts teach the local body of Christ because they contain precepts that can only be obeyed when those addressed live near to each other. Those precepts are plain, such as, “don’t schism,” “care for one another,” “love one another,” “pray for one another,” and “serve one another with your gifts.”

In fact, the doctrine of the local body of Christ is so important that at times it is completely identified with the Lord Jesus, The local body is even said to be “Christ” – as seen in texts like 1 Cor. 1:13 above, and also 1 Cor. 2:2,[5]The topic under discussion in this verse is still unity, not the atonement 1 Cor. 3:11, 1 Cor. 6:15, 1 Cor. 12:12, Eph. 4:15, Col. 1:27.[6]These texts show Paul thinks of the body of Christ in a local as the local exposure of Christ on earth during the present age to both believer and unbeliever. As He Himself sets the pattern for being wholly unified in the Father, so all the Christians in a locale are said to be wholly unified in Him when they are all in one church together (1 Cor. 3:23).

But the fragmentation where you live has made it impossible for you to obey the commands of Scripture with most of the regenerate people in Christ’s body where you live, and who go to other churches. You don’t even know who most of them are, and yet, you and they are members of the same local body of Christ. So as important as it is to obey Christ’s commands like ‘love one another,’ we can’t do it.

Many try to take the moral pressure off us by saying that when Paul gives us commands on how to treat one another, he was only writing about those in your own churches. But notice what the apostle actually writes:

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi…
…Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility
of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others.”
(Phil. 1:1, 2:3-4)

“to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints…
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
give preference to one another in honor.”
(Rom. 1:7, 12:10)

“To the church of God which is at Corinth…
…if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it;
if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”
(1 Cor. 1:2, 12:26-27)

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae…
…as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put
on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness
and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving
each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone;
just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
(Col. 1:2, 3:12-13)

So you see that the extent of His apostolic commands – the people with whom we are to carry them out with – is geographic. Back in that day all the Christians who lived near to each other were under common apostolic obligation. Therefore, moral commands to unity and interpersonal relationships were commands to all the Christians in a city or region, not just to one’s own church among many, as we do today.

It bears clarification. Many claim that whenever Paul writes about the body of Christ, he is writing about the Universal Body of Christ, by which is often meant all the Christians presently alive on earth.[7]The local body is not mentioned in some books, for instance, Earnest Best’s One Body in Christ. But that can’t be. Most of the Universal Body of Christ is in heaven, so how can we serve them with our gifts, or pray for them? Claiming the ‘body of Christ’ is the Universal Body in these texts places upon us a law we can’t fulfill. If we are commanded to love, serve, and pray specifically for the needs of all the Christians on earth, then we are all failures with no possibility of obedience. Since we are taught to love “not in word only, but in deed and truth,” if by His great love command I am to love all the Christians living on earth, then I am the most disobedient of all.

Rather, when there is one church where you live for all the truly regenerate then we can obey the apostles without resorting to theological ‘work-arounds,’ and then comes to pass the words of Schweizer,

“The local assembly is the one body of Christ
particularized in a certain locality.”[8]Eduard Schweizer, Church Order in the New Testament, p. 169, cf. Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, pp. 277-78.

In the apostolic writings the Universal Body of Christ includes those already in heaven and with whom you, if you are a Christian, will one day be joined (Eph. 1:23, 3:6, 5:23, 5:30, Col. 1:18, 1:24). This Universal Body of Christ also includes those who will come to faith in Christ in the future, but today walk in their sins or are yet unborn. Only a small part of it is the believers presently alive on earth.

All of which means the “one-another” commands teach us how to relate to the local body of Christ, not the Universal Body of Christ. For example, how can we ” bear with one another, and forgive each other,” when we are called together in one body, but go to different churches (Col 3:13-15)? We can’t honor the word of God because we don’t all meet for Sunday worship as a single body.

Most significantly is the present blindness and punishments being meted out to the churches by a righteous God. Look what happens when the Christians in Corinth misjudged the local body of Christ:

“For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself
if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many
among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
But if we judged ourselves rightly,
we would not be judged.”
(1 Cor. 11:29-31)[9]Such a breach of love and brotherhood is denounced as a proof that there was no proper sense of the Body (verse 29) to which worshippers (sic) professed to belong and in which they were outwardly celebrating a festival of fellowship. The urgency of Paul’s instructions on this point falls out of focus, unless it is placed in line with what he had already written on corporate fellowship in 1:10f., 6:9-13, and 10:17, 23-33, as well as with what he intends to write in 12-14. The shameful, shocking feature is not an irreverent use of the communion elements (as we call them), but irreverence to God in the person of his Church; disrespect is shown to him by this open contempt for his poorer members. Such a gross violation of charity and kindness is another (3:17) form of sacrilege, as Paul views it.” Moffatt, First Corinthians, pp. 161-62.

body-of-christ

We need to be reminded of the Bible’s great doctrines that confront our natural propensity for autonomy and schism. Just as there is much more teaching in the NT on the local church than the Universal Church, so there is much more teaching on the local body of Christ than there is on the Universal Body of Christ in the writings of the apostles. In fact, 1 Cor. 12:12-27, contains three times more teaching on the local body of Christ than do all the texts collectively affirming the Universal Body of Christ.

Taken together, the apostolic deposit in the New Testament references the local body of Christ six times more than it does the Universal Body. This reflects almost the same ratio of texts on the local church and the Universal Church.

We weren’t always so blind to Christ’s precious local body. By 150 AD Christianity in Rome had grown in numbers, popularity, and influence. Yet there was a central emphasis on the unity of the local body of Christ there meeting together for worship as one church in every place Christianity existed:

 “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country
gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the
apostles or the writings of the prophets are read,
as long as time permits”
(Justin Martyr, Apology, 1:67).

 

The Local Body’s Head

Taking what we’ve learned about interdependence (members relating to members), then other verses come into view as teaching the local body of Christ. Further, these texts teach Christ is the head of the local body, even as He is of the Universal Body. For instance, when Paul writes of the “whole body” in Eph. 4:16 which speaks of “the proper working of each individual part,” the body has Christ Himself for its head (Eph. 4:15, cf. Col. 2:19).

This cannot be rightly said of multiple churches in the same locale without dipping into irreverence, and possibly heresy. If every local church is a body of Christ, then Christ has multiple bodies. But that is error; He only has one body both in heaven and in each locale His gospel has borne fruit (Eph. 4:4, Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 10:17, 1 Cor. 12:12-13, 20, Col. 3:15). The latter represents the former. Which means Paul’s local body analogy only connects the one Christ to one body, whether Universal or local. When geographically identified, as the writings of the NT always do, the local church and the local body are one and the same. Therefore Christ is the Head of both. But once the believers are schismed into more than one church, the analogy is lost and none of those churches can rightly claim Christ for its Head. If He were their one Head, they would be doing everything possible to unite with every other believing church.

 

Church planters from all denominations believe that when they form a church they have somehow formed a body of Christ:

“It is this mutual consent, confederation, and union of persons into
one body, as a particular church, that makes that church
distinct from other church, and that makes the
members of it, members of that church
more than of any other.”

“With regard to the manner of constituting a church, it must be by the
consent and desire of the parties concerned… Being thus united
in one body, under Christ their head, they become
and are deemed a church essential, founded
on the gospel plan.”[10]1st quote: Samuel Jones, Treatise of Church Discipline, in Mark Dever, Polity, 142, underline mine. Two sentences later Jones identifies the group created by human volition as the very body of Christ. 2nd quote: Baptist Association of Charleston, SC, Polity, pp. 118-119. It is a feature of Baptist ecclesiology that Baptists, apart from any others, create a body of Christ.

This theology is guilty of much, but certainly, this: it reads Providence in church history as a source of revelation. It has happened, so it must be God’s revealed will. Men have formed churches, they have called themselves the body of Christ: therefore they are.[11]For an example of presumption: “Since the one body of Christ is about overcoming that which divides humans, churches cannot afford to emphasize only the local perspective. In a world of increasing globalization, the church cannot afford to be provincial, even while emphasizing the importance of the gathered community. The church must show forth what genuine globalization looks like.” Cary, Free Churches, 199.

 

The Local Body in Example

Another way to understand the local body of Christ in Scripture is to see the repeated emphasis on one, and only one, church in a locale exemplified throughout the NT. In fact, there is no example of a city, region, or locale with more than one church, i.e., more than one body of Christ.

 

Corinth

corinth-2The best example of this is Corinth since Paul tells this one church, “you are Christ’s body” (1 Cor. 12:27, cf. 1 Cor. 1:2, 11:18). Before the church in Corinth was formed Jesus told Paul “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10), yet Jesus’ own evangelistic strategy to reach “the many” in this large city was one church, not multiple churches.[12]This has been vigorously opposed: “The image of a body in 1 Cor. 12. It plainly signifies a whole. Then what whole? Not the church at Corinth, far less a particular congregation, unless the commission of the apostles and the use of all spiritual extend no further. Not the church of the elect, for there are no schisms in that body as such… The body, then, here described, must-be the visible church catholic.” (Thomas Peck, Notes on Ecclesiology, 27, www.forgottenbooks.org). Peck was a 19th Century American Presbyterian. Indeed, the believers in Corinth are commanded to partake of the Lord’s Supper together, for they are one body (1 Cor. 10:16-17, 11:17-34).

 

Colossae, Hieropolis

The same truth is observed in Colossae, a city in the same valley as two other cities which had churches, Laodicea and Hieropolis (Rev. 3:14, Col. 4:13, 16). Hierapolis was six miles north of Laodicea, while Laodicea was six miles northwest of Colossae. In all likelihood the cities were too far from each other for people to travel for Sunday worship with each other. Each city had but one church and each was a body of Christ as exemplified in Colossae. Paul calls that one church an “entire body” of Christ (Col. 2:19, cf. Eph. 4:16) and the “one body” into which all of Colossae’s Christians were called (Col. 3:15). Then, since the letter is to be shared with the church in Hieropolis down the road, the ‘one body’ teaching of Col. 3:15 must apply to them as well (Col. 4:13).

 

Ephesus to Laodicea

ephesus

Ancient Ephesus

Any remaining doubt about Jesus Christ having but one church in any locale should be alleviated by His own words in Rev. 2-3. To cities large and small, Jesus writes to each city’s one church.

Ephesus was a large city whose 1st Century population is estimated between 250,000 to 500,000 (the amphitheater seated 25,000). On the other hand, Laodicea likely had 10,000 or less inhabitants. But Jesus addressed only one church in each city (Rev. 2:1, 3:7), as He does the other five cities. Hence the church in Ephesus must have been quite large by the end of the 1st C, while Laodicea’s was much smaller. Just as the large single church in Ephesus was a body of Christ (Eph. 4:16) so too was the tiny church in Laodicea’s when they received a copy of Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Col. 3:15, 4:16).

Which explains why Jesus addresses each of the seven churches personally, but never addresses more than one church in each city. If any of these cities had more than one church of believers, why would He ever skip over His own?

fingerHere’s the impossible scenario. If a city such as Ephesus had multiple churches then to which one did the letter from Jesus to the church in Ephesus go to? The letter is too specific in both rebuke and admonishment to fit multiple churches. For example, the commendation “you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false” (Rev. 2:2) can only refer to a single church that was specifically approached by false apostles and which handled them in such a way that they were found to be false.

If someone wants to argue that Jesus speaks not to the Christians of the churches but rather to the presbytery or single pastor, then how can those men, who are never specified in the letter, be guilty of having left their first love to such an extent the entire church is charged with their sin? Beside, Jesus addresses the seven angels and the seven churches with both singular and plural verbs, thus negating the claim that Jesus speaks only to the church’s leadership in the seven letters.

singular-pluralMoreover, if there were multiple churches in Ephesus and Jesus regarded each one a “body of Christ” then why did He address His letter only to the “church of Ephesus’ and not the “churches of Ephesus?” If in fact He grouped them together as only one church but only one of them had tested the false apostles, then the other churches would have been immediately demoted as non-churches by Christ’s recognition of only the one that did test the false apostles. That would mean the members of His body in those other churches were unrecognized by Him and thus Jesus would be responsible for schisming His own body in Ephesus.

To understand this, consider another Texas City – Corpus Christi. Not only is it apropos for an article on the body of Christ but its population is equivalent to ancient Ephesus, coming in at just under 300,000. This city today has 222 churches willing to pay for a listing on an internet site.[13]http://yellowpages.superpages.com/listings.jsp?C=churches+corpus+christi&CS=L&MCBP=true&search=Find+It&SRC=&STYPE=S&SCS=&channelId=&sessionId= Which church in Corpus Christi is the body of Christ? All of them, none of them, or some of them? If Christ were to write a letter to His body in Corpus Christi, to which church or group of churches would it go?

Also, even though several of the churches were highly disobedient, He never tells the obedient in them to plant a new church in that city. This goes contrary to modern ecclesiastical wisdom, which usually chooses this option first.

 

The Whole Church

whole church fruitThere are also four instances of the phrase, “whole church” that lead to the same conclusion, that the body of Christ is the one and only congregation of Christians in a single locale. The thousands of Christians in Jerusalem are the “whole church” in Acts 5:11, not “churches.”Luke’s subsequent references to the church in Jerusalem in Acts assume this “whole church” – Acts 8:1, 3, 11:22, 12:1, 5. This is the same single church in Jerusalem that concurs with the apostolic doctrine that rejects circumcision as essential to salvation in Christ (Acts 15:22).

unity-5The one church of Corinth, which is called “the body of Christ” in 1 Cor. 12:27, is also “the whole church” by Paul in Romans, a book written after his command not to schism in 1 Corinthians (Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 1:10). This verse is testimony to the fact that they did not schism. Thus, Paul wrote Romans from Corinth after rebuking them for their desire to schism (1 Cor. 1:12-13). Hence Paul’s words “the whole church” also form a not-so-subtle comment to Rome that if the Roman Church moves in the direction of schism, it loses its testimony as an obedient church (Rom. 16:17-19).

Paul again calls the one church of Corinth “the whole church” in 1 Cor. 14:23. When he writes

“Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak
in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter,
will they not say that you are mad?”

he lays down a principle that prevents schism. The clear preaching and teaching of the word of God is much to be preferred over any spiritual giftedness when the church is gathered in the same place for worship, even prophecy. Tongues, and even over-exuberant prophecy, were distractions. Better to speak five words that instruct (v. 19) than ten thousand words in an uninterpreted language that made no sense to most of the hearers. The lesson for us here is simple. Neither the sacramental gifts of a priestly hierarchy (charism), nor a pastor’s speaking gifts, make for unity. Instead, the whole body of Christ in a city makes for unity.

catholicismAs a grammatical aside, the preposition “every” and “whole” in the Greek, when placed together, formed the word, “catholic.”[14]kata + holé, (κατὰ + ὅλη), with kata being taken distributively. In the Greek “the whole church’ is ἡ ἐκκλησία ὅλη (Acts 5:1, 15:22, Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 14;23) and the phrase “every city” is kata + polis, (κατὰ πόλιν), cf. Luke 8:1, 4; Acts 15:21, 36; 20:23; Titus 1:5. Hence κατὰ carries its distributive force in the word “catholic.” See John D. Zizoulas, Being as Communion, 143-144, 252ff; Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness, 103-104. Building off that, the phrase “catholic church” originally referred to the whole church in every city, that is, the church of which every Christian in that city was an individual part, and no genuine Christian was a part of any other church. Ancient Christianity, especially the Apostolic Fathers, held it as sacrosanct that the whole church met as one church in every city.[/ref]

 

An Assessment

church shopperHaving looked at the biblical data and examining the original plan, we now turn to modern Christendom. Today’s Christianity features a world-wide Church (Roman Catholicism), ancient territorial Churches (Orthodox, Nestorian, and Coptic), and denominationalism. One research organization lists it as high as 41,000. But the astonishing numbers are the many independent churches, like mine, in the same little region. Add to this mix all the storefronts and house churches and the numbers are higher yet.

So, which church where you live does God want His true worshipers to go to? Pity today’s worshiper, who likely moves from church to church trying to sort out his feelings and theology. Like a distressed sheep, he is without much of a clue about where to graze. Not only are our churches similar in look and feel, but the new worshiper likely notes we all think our church is superior to all the other churches around.

 

Schism Breeds Distrust in the Body of Christ

Those Christians churches that are faithful worship the same Lord Jesus Christ in truth. They obey Him, believing He appointed apostles to bear the good news of repentance and faith for the forgiveness of sin. But though we worship the same God, and live next to each other, we barely know each other.  Moreover, due to our differences on secondary matters, we distrust each other. That’s part of the reason for this article. It seeks to remedy these problems by going back to Scripture and calling all churches, mine first, by repenting according to the apostolic pattern.

 

The Trinity Makes the Body

The common denominator fueling all this schism is a Christendom–wide rejection of the local body of Christ as taught in the New Testament, producing schism everywhereA schismed body is an inconvenient development since it exposes how negligent we and our spiritual forefathers have been of the Trinity’s role in creating a single body. Consider the following well-known verse and ask which body is Paul writing about: the Universal Body of all Christians, or the local body of Christ at Corinth?

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– Jews or Greeks,
slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
(1 Cor. 12:13, ESV)

If you are like most, you will respond, ‘the Universal Body.’ But look at the context. It’s local, for Paul shows the ‘body’ all are baptized into has members who personally care for each other:

“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say,
“Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it
is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.”
(1 Cor. 12:14-15)

The ‘body’ Christ creates in v. 13 results in people who are connected to each other in a living way, just as your body is connected to itself and lives. The v. 13 He creates cares intimately for its own body parts – whom Paul likens to hands and feet. These are individual members who have spiritual gifts, not as some claim, individual churches,

“Now you are Christ’s body, and
individually members of it.”
(1 Cor. 12:27)

Christ makes the ‘body’ through the Spirit in v. 13, just as the Father blends the individual parts for mutual care,

“God has so composed the body… so that there should be
no schism in the body, but that the members should
have the same care for one another”
(1 Cor. 12:24-25)

 

Barriers to Accepting the Doctrine

Church History

st cyprianNot long after the apostles passed our forebears in the faith implemented the office of the single bishop in the midst of a plurality of presbyters. They did this in large part to make a visible distinction between themselves and the schismatic and heretical churches that had splintered off from them.

But the single overseer model brought unintended consequences. It required a new doctrine of church office not known in the inspired writings of the apostles, the single bishop. It also necessitated a new theology of how to identify “the body of Christ” based on a single bishop and His flock, called an ‘episcopate.’

By 250 AD, Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, sprang a new theology of unity in which the body of Christ had a “properly appointed” bishop:

church motherthe blessed Apostle Paul teaches the… sacrament of unity, saying, ‘There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.’ And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the church… that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole. The church also is one… He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the church for his mother.[15]Cyprian, Treatise on the Church, 1:6

Thus the unifying element in the body of Christ shifted away from geographic locale to church hierarchy: “The episcopal office has historically been the means for embodying the unity of the one body of Christ among churches.”[16]Jeffrey W. Cary, Free Churches and the Body of Christ, 197

But hierarchy is not at all the unifying element Christ said the world would know Him by and indeed, the reformulation of the doctrine of the local body of Christ as connected to a bishop instead of each other (as the metaphor of a body requires) is the primary reason for schism through church history. Ever since the bishopric became an accepted doctrine churches have identified themselves as a body by their form of hierarchy, not their locale. Ingrained now through centuries of sacrifice and investment, Christians practice a faith in which Jesus has episcopal bodies, synodical bodies, and congregational bodies.

But no apostle ever constituted the body of Christ by a gifted leader or by gifted leaders but rather by the gathering of the believers in the same locale: “when you come together as a church…” (1 Cor. 11:18, cf. 10:16-17, 11:20, 14:23, 1 Cor. 1:2). When Paul tells the single church in Corinth in 1 Cor. 12:27 that, “You are the body of Christ” they become apostolically defined by their interconnectedness (1 Cor. 12:25-26) and only afterward by those gifted to lead (1 Cor. 12:27-28). Leaders only exist to serve Christ’s body, not define it.

 

The Doctrine of the Invisible Church

For the most part the Protestant Reformation rejected the bishop’s office and its contrived doctrine of the body of Christ, but then redefined the local body of Christ as something no one could see. “Invisible church” theory has rationalized for generations the body of Christ existing in schism as something natural and even healthy.

The idea is that the elect in any given locale, being unknown to man, are found among a few or many churches in the same region.

v-i-church

However, a church in Scripture is always a gathering. This is what ‘ecclesia’ always meant. ‘Ecclesia’ never meant something connected to a non-gathering, as invisible church theory requires.

So step back a moment. An invisible gathering makes as much sense as an invisible soccer team, or an invisible dinner.

The theory came about several centuries ago in order to to justify multiple churches with regenerate people living in the same locale, but not worshiping Christ together. It appeared 1600 years after the apostles and 1300 years after hierarchical episcopalianism. It is an apologetic for the reality that the body of Christ in every city was schismed into all kinds of churches. Unfortunately, invisible church ecclesiology came to emulate that which it was meant to eliminate, a bishop-centric body of Christ.

 

 

The Claim of ‘House Churches’

church-in-houseThere is a group of four texts in the New Testament commonly understood to teach house churches. However these four texts were not written to teach that multiple churches ought to exist in the same city. They are personal greetings from Paul to some friends, and as such, make no claim in themselves. The best advocates of multiple churches in a city can claim is that these texts are examples of multiple churches, and that Paul, when mentioning them, did not criticize their existence. These texts are Romans 16:5, 1 Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15, and Phm. 1:2. 

However, all four texts are translated into English idiom, as if what Paul wrote was, “a church in a house.” He did not write that, however.[17]It would be inaccurate to lay the blame of misunderstanding the house church texts with those who write in defense of the house church movement. While they often reject (wrongly) the institutional reality of the local church, their reasons for gathering in homes is to foster churches that hope to embrace greater obedience to Christ. They may also reject the idea that house churches were a separate form of the body of Christ, Terry Stanley, The Way Church Was Meant To Be, 152. For the idea that house churches comprise a single city-wide church see Steve Atkerson, Ekklesia, 107, or Vincent Branick, The House Church in the Writings of Paul, 13-14. However, for a deeper discussion, consider reading my article, House Churches.

kataBecause of the preposition used in all four texts in the originally Greek, a superior understanding is that each text refers to “a distribution of the church at the house of…” This means that the house churches were not independent churches, but some persons in the church who regularly met in a member’s home for fellowship, no different than home Bible studies that meet regularly in our present time. This is due to the Greek preposition κατὰ (kata), found in all four texts. This preposition often indicates the division of a greater whole into individual parts. For example, Jesus distributes (κατὰ) the 5,000 in groups of fifties and hundreds (Mark 6:40).

The root meaning of of κατὰ is “down,” a directional preposition which lends itself to the action of “distribution.”[18]The Koine word for “down” is κάτω (cf. Mat. 4:6).  A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 606 Think of rain falling down from the sky and being distributed from place to place, or a mother setting down plates of food for her family. This preposition never meant “in,” i.e., locative.

But imagine translating the four house church texts this way: “the distributed church at the house.” So to make it easy on us our English versions translate the phrase as “in the house.” As translations go, it’s fine, but should something as important as one’s basic ecclesiological outlook rest upon an idiomatic translation?[19]This may be the reason one recent book on Greek prepositions isolates the four house-church κατὰ references, and only those references, as both distributive and locative in meaning – a lexical confusion to say the least, Murray J. Harris, Prepositions and Theology, 155.

In fact, the Greek NT contains the exact words “in the house.” The preposition “in” is, as we would expect, ἐν (en), denoting the place where an activity took place (Matt 5:15; 8:6; 9:10; 13:57; Mark 2:15; 6:4; 9:33; 14:3; Luke 5:29; 7:37; 17:31; John 8:35; 11:31; 14:2; and Acts 16:32). In other words, if the four “house church” texts really meant “the church in the house” the NT authors would have used the Greek phrase that actually means, “in the house.” But instead they used a different phrase because they meant something else.” Going a bit deeper for those comfortable with the Greek, the “κατὰ + house” phrase is used in the NT three other times than the house church texts, and like them, always with a distributed sense. In Acts 2:46 it is translated, “breaking bread from house to house.” The one action of breaking bread was an action distributed from house to house. In Acts 5:42 and Acts 20:20 the apostles “continued teaching house to house.” That is, their teaching was distributed from house to house. For further details on the distributive use of κατὰ and “house churches,” see Button & Van Rensburg, The House Churches in Corinth, (slow download).

Obviously no doctrine such as “multiple churches comprise a single church” should be built on a preposition alone since prepositions gain their specific sense from their context. Yet the positive justification for “many churches in one locale” among pastors and teachers is built on one (mistranslated) preposition in four disparate texts, none of which were written to teach what is claimed. This misinterpretation defies an avalanche of clear biblical teaching on the one church in a city elsewhere (i.e., 1 Cor. 1:10-13, 10:16-17, 11:18, 14:23).

 

Platonism

Much ecclesiology is held captive to a “Universal Body” theology that is Platonic in foundation. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant streams of Christendom heavily prioritize the Universal Body over the local body, believing there is such a thing as the Universal Body on earth. One need only observe the preponderance of a capital “C” Church versus a lowercase “church” in Western and Eastern ecclesiastical writings, i.e., ‘The Church of the Twenty-First century,’ ‘The Roman Catholic Church.'[20]For a definition of Platonism: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/platonism. One scholar ascribes religious metaphors as sourced in religious archetypal metaphors called a root metaphor, or master metaphor, Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor, Multi-disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language, 244-245. Such metaphors are decidedly non-Hebraic in origin.

We who are the children of Western theology have been losers by rejecting the stubborn fact that the body analogy requires a concrete referent, since a body without physicality is absurd. For example, Protestant Clowney rejects the body metaphor containing any sense of a physical body, “The body is spiritual, constituted by the presence and gifts of the Spirit.”[21]Edmund Clowney’s, “Interpreting the Biblical Metaphors of the Church,” in Biblical Interpretation and the Church, 83. In reply, let it be noted that the gifts only reside in people with corporeal bodies. Eph. 4:7, 11 teaches that people are the gifts of the ascended Christ for the church. They are a gifted people, not merely bearers of a charism. Another Protestant states the same as Clowney, “The body is a spiritual body.”[22]Paul Minear, Images of the Church in the New Testament, 216

This corporeal reality is assumed to be contradicted by some when Paul includes himself in another local body, Writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul says, “we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). Protestant Robert Saucy writes, “Despite his statement that ‘we,’ rather than ‘you’ (as in I Corinthians), are ‘one body in Christ,’ he is probably referring to the Roman community. The plural simply means ‘we Christians’ (wherever we are), though just possibly he is including himself among the members of the community in view of his projected participation in it.”[23]The Church in God’s Program, 60-61).

Furthermore, no NT letter from an apostle is ever written to the Universal Body of Christ, a prioritization evidenced in the epistle to the Romans. Paul called them a body of Christ in Rom. 12:4-5, but never once mentioned the Universal Body in the letter. Therefore the Christians in Rome received the local body of Christ as the primary doctrine. Ironic, then, that Western ecclesiology which is often dependent on Rome for categories and definitions, is fixated on the Universal Body almost to the point of exclusivity. But it is rooted in Roman Catholic ecclesiology.

The actual matter is that the few “Universal Body” texts rely on the many “local body” texts to make sense. The Universal Body can only be understood in light of the local body, not vice-versa. It is impossible that it be the primary metaphor for church here on earth be the Universal Body of Christ. How could it be, when members of the Universal Body are already in heaven (Eph. 1:22-23, 5:23, Col. 1:18)? Thus Paul was not a Western theologian ecclesiastically. Or to put it another way, there is never a stand-alone description of the Universal Body in the NT without the local body making concrete what is abstract.

Based on the letter to the Romans, the local is the paradigm through which the universal is understood, which is only to say what Eastern theologians have been saying for millennia and still say today.[24]See Laurent A. Cleenewerck, His Broken Body, 62.  The same pattern is true in 1 Corinthians; never does Paul mention the Universal Body of Christ in this lengthy letter. In fact no letter of the NT has more to say about the body of Christ than 1 Corinthians, and yet its every use of the ‘body’ analogy is local. concrete-abstractFurther, the only two NT letters that do mention the Universal Body (Ephesians and Colossians) don’t leave it abstract but root it in the local body of Christ.

Most Western interpreters do not see a local body theology in Ephesians or Colossians (i.e, Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians, 514, 551; Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, 238, 255, 262; Gregg Allison, Sojourners and Stangers, 171). Yet, none comment on why Paul differentiates “the “whole body” of Eph. 4:16 from just “the body” in Eph. 4:4, 12, 16, and fail to answer what their ecclesiology requires: how can members of the Universal Body on earth “diligently maintain” unity with the Universal Body, most of which is in heaven.

Western ecclesiology is woefully unbiblical here, and just to close off my point. The Universal Body of Christ theology of Western Christendom is not only unbiblical, since it limits itself only to members alive on earth while it actually includes members already in heaven. It is also emphasizes the universal over the local in order to justify schism.

 

Our Experience

unity-spiritAll we have known is schism. We have centuries of writing and history defending it and funding it, making this article like a leaf floating on the mighty Amazon going out to sea. It will take a rewiring to fix it, one that Paul directs us to, He has taught us to be captivated by the glory of Jesus Christ in the Universal Body and Church, and to honor Him by maintaining unity in the local body of Christ.

To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all
generations forever and ever. Amen.
I the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy
of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility
and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one
another in love, being diligent to preserve the
unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit.
(Eph. 3:21 -4:4)

When Paul describes the Universal Church in Eph. 3:21, he applies our response locally: ‘showing tolerance for one another.” Why? “There is one body and one Spirit” (Eph. 4:4). For Paul the two concepts of local body/local church and Universal Body/Universal Church aren’t fighting with each other for position. One informs the other.

But I wonder if we haven’t stripped those words of their proper jurisdiction – as pertaining to all believers where we live – and selfishly made them mean just our own church. Thus we can’t experience the local body as God intends in 1 Cor. 12:

“Paul’s language must be carefully noted here. He does not say that
experiences of individuals within the community, both
pleasurable and sorrowful, should be shared by
all the others who belong to it.

He says instead that they are so shared, whether consciously
experienced or not. The “body” has a common nerve.
There is a common life within it which each
one is identified with the other—all in one, as
it were, and one in all (12:26).

The interrelationship of the individuals who make up the
community could scarcely be more
strongly emphasized.[25]Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community, 59.

But of course, in order for the members to share the common life of the body, its common nerve must be shared by all. Thus, we don’t create body life. Christ through the Spirit does, and it can only occur when the same “one church” is “one body.” Hence membership in one body, as taught by Paul, is the proof that the local body of Christ in the NT was but one church in a single locale. If any person was a member of a different church in a locale he or she could not participate in the ”one body.” There is but one body that cares for itself,

“so that there may be no division in the body, but that the
members may have the same care for one another”
(1 Cor. 12:25).

We have such a hard time seeing it. Division is the smog-filled air we experience. Sadly, some defend schism as necessary.[26]http://www.prccrete.org/ourdenomination.php When we do that, we are the eye that says to the hand, “I have no need of you” and the head that says to the feet, “I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12:21).

 

Diminished Spiritual Gifts

spiritual giftsConnected to the errors perpetuated by schism is the weakness of the partial use of the spiritual gifts. Since the whole body where you live does not minister to each other, being schismed, most of the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to His children where you live are unprofitable to you, and your gift unprofitable to most others. In God’s design the gifts are meant to fill the local body (Eph. 4:7-12), but the gifts can no longer fill the whole body (Eph. 4:16) resulting in profound immaturity and instability.

gifts-2Were churches to obey Christ and merge then the gifts would return to their proper function and build the body and make us “attain to the unity of the faith, to the knowledge of the Son of God, and to the measure of the stature of the mature man, even the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). Churches, just one in every locale, will then grow up in all aspects into the head, who is Christ, Who uses the giftedness of “the whole body” to build it in love (Eph. 4:15-16).[27]For more on this, please read Mature Man Unity

Unless all the believers in the body at a locale are gathered together in the same church, we cannot grow up into the head as Eph. 4:15 intends since Christ is not the head of a schismed body of multiple churches. Until that time of merging all churches must endure a lack of mutual giftedness resulting in ever worsening immaturity and shorter life spans with many sicknesses and wounds along the way (1 Cor. 11:29-31).

So many churches presently suffer under men who don’t bear the pastoral office-gift of Eph. 4:11 but rather employ other gifts such as administration or exhortation, or are simply unregenerate. Others can’t exhibit the gifts of helps or mercy, and rare indeed is the church that has the gift of evangelism. The solution is not to hire those gifts away from other churches but to realize that the gifts are meant to complement each other so that the whole body grow up into Christ (Eph. 4:16).

To the one church of Corinth Paul could say, “you are not lacking in any gift” (1 Cor. 1:7). Could this be said of your church or mine? Not even close. The issue is not size. Even smaller churches like Colossae were a ‘body of Christ” as was a large church like Corinth. The matter was not size but apostolic catholicism, i.e., all the Christians in a single locale in church together (Col. 3:15, 1 Cor. 12:27).[28]cf. footnote #16

 

5. The Lord’s Table

lords-table-4Where better is Christian unity meant to be pictured than at the Lord’s Table, the subject of 1 Cor. 10:16-17?

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the
blood of Christ?

Is not the bread which we break a
sharing in the body of Christ?

Since there is one bread, we who are many
are one body; for we all partake
of the one bread.

But without a solid handle on the local body of Christ, Paul’s words on “one body” have been treated like a child’s fill-in-the-lines picture by pastors and theologians alike. Who is the “one body” Paul speaks of? Make it up and fill in your answer.

childrens drawing

Many have thought the body of Christ in this text is a reference to all the churches on earth. All sorts of universal ideas have been read into it, giving these verses some colorful interpretations indeed. But they’re wrong because all the churches don’t ever share in the Lord’s Table together. They can’t be the one body Paul writes of.

Others want to say Paul was referring to the Universal Body of Christ here. But never do all Christians get together to share in the Lord’s Table, especially when we remember most of the Universal Body of Christ is in heaven and no longer participates in the Lord’s Table.Beside, if Paul’s point in 1 Cor. 10:17 was to say the Universal Body of Christ partakes of the body and blood of Christ then he merely repeated himself when he added “we who are many are one body” (1 Cor. 10:17).

to-corinthTo be faithful to the text, it is necessary to see that the “sharing” mentioned in v. 16 is not the eating of the elements, but the mutual identification among the regenerate persons produced by Christ’s body and blood, i.e., His cross.[29]The Greek of 1 Cor. 10:16 “οὐχὶ κοινωνία ἐστὶν τοῦ αἵµατος τοῦ Χριστοῦ; τὸν ἄρτον ὃν κλῶµεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώµατος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστιν” features not a locative (“in the blood”) but a genitive, and in particular, an objective genitive. Thus the phrase in v. 16 should be understood as, “a fellowship produced by the blood… a fellowship produced by the body…” The alternative, a subjective genitive (“a fellowship which is the blood… which is the body”) must be rejected due to the repeated first-person plurals: “we share,” we break,” etc. Fellowship with Christ is not corporately but individually appropriated, and Paul is here teaching that the fellowship of believers in the Lord’s Supper is communal. In the Lord’s Supper we identify each other as genuine believers. Together, we are the body of Christ.[30]The plural simply means “we Christians” (wherever we are), though just possibly Paulhe is including himself among the members of the community in view of his projected participation in it.”Robert J. Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community, 60-61

In chapter 10 Paul defines “the many who are one body” as the “we all” who “partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17) which can only be each regenerate person in Corinth and not anyone else (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2). But in chapter 12 the word “many,” when used in connection to the word “body,” takes on even more significance where it becomes identical to the word, “members.” The “many” are the “members” of the one body in Corinth:

“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”
(1 Cor. 12:12)

“For the body is not one member, but many”
(1 Cor. 12:14)

“But now there are many members, but one body”
(1 Cor. 12:20).

Therefore, the body of Christ exists prior to the eucharistic ceremony; the body is not formed when the Lord’s Supper is blessed (1 Cor. 10:16).

Nor does the ceremony make the bread and cup something they weren’t prior to the ceremony, nor do the bread and cup give “the many” unity, or produce unity. They are tools to teach us to recognize that which God has already made where we live – the body of Christ.

The Lord’s Supper has no mystical powers inherent in it according to the apostle’s theology in 1 Cor. 10:16-17. It’s meant to be plainly physical, i.e., practiced among the physical local body of Christ to show our one-body-in-Christ unity to each other. That’s Paul’s point of 1 Cor. 10:16-17.

But we mistakenly assume the Lord’s Supper is complete even though we practice it apart from the local body of Christ. But since Christ’s one body where you and I live is all the genuinely regenerate people in the region, our Lord’s Supper ceremonies always fail the unity test of 1 Cor. 10:17: “we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.”

Which leads us to our final false doctrine we live in as a result of losing the local body of Christ. We practice theological error every Lord’s Day, “not judging the body rightly” (1 Cor. 11:29).

 

6. An Inability to Judge the Body Rightly

spilled communionWe can’t tell who is, and who isn’t, in the body of Christ:

“he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to
himself if he does not judge the body rightly…

But if we judged ourselves rightly,
we would not be judged.”
(1 Cor. 11:29-31)

The body to be judged in 1 Cor. 11:29 is not the Lord’s resurrected body – God already judged that worthy of resurrection. Nor does misjudging the body in 1 Cor. 11:29 mean to regard the Lord’s Supper as equivalent to a common meal. Verse 31 repeats almost verbatim verse 29, thus explaining it. Not judging the local body rightly was the great sin of the Corinthians at the Lord’s Table. Some, not waiting for other members of the body to show up before partaking, were made sick and some were even dead (1 Cor. 11:30). Therefore, the body to be judged in 1 Cor. 11:29 is the local body of Christ which displays its identity in the Lord’s Supper.[31]1 Cor. 11:27 is the disrespect of Christ’s own physical body and might be called vertical sin against the Lord while v. 29 is disrespect of the local body of Christ and might be called horizontal sin against the Christians in the local body. See for example Gordon Fee, 1 Corinthians, 562-564., cf. Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community, 59. 

Paul frames the Corinthian’s Lord’s Supper transgressions around the words “come together,” used five times between 1 Cor. 11:17 and 1 Cor. 11:34. The Corinthian’s guilt could be called “sins against unity” since they “came together not for the better but for the worse” (1 Cor. 11:17). Their “coming together” sins were first and foremost, division (1 Cor. 11:18-19), then eating the fellowship meal before all could arrive (1 Cor. 11:21, 33-34), thereby getting drunk (1 Cor. 11:21), and shaming those members of the body with little means (1 Cor. 11:22).

For us, our Lord’s Supper transgressions are a contented complacency about taking the Lord’s Supper without one-body unity where we live. It is repeated every Sunday, and our weakness as churches is abundant.

 

Conclusion

So long as the body of Christ is schismed where you live, you participate in a partial Lord’s Supper. Every time you partake, you should feel grief over schism. And then, you should do something about it.

But who will obey the precept and example of apostolic guidance on schism?

Back up. Ask yourself, how can it be that a church today can celebrate their unity in Christ while yet divided from true members of Christ’s body down the street, in the next neighborhood, and throughout the city? The only answer that seems to satisfy a biblical response is institutional blindness fueled by the Age of Schism.

This isn’t the disobedience of a child wandering from a Mom and Dad, but an institutional disobedience that covers itself in good works, worship ceremonies, and yes, competitive advertising.

We started this article by asking, “if Paul were alive today, what would he do?” Unlike all of today’s Christians,  he never knew a time when multiple churches in the same locale celebrated the Lord’s Supper while each imagined itself the body of Christ. He never experienced today’s Age of Schism when everywhere in Christendom a Sunday-by-Sunday disobedience of “not judging the body rightly” prevailed in blindness (1 Cor. 11:29, 31).

Thanks to the book of Titus, we do know what Paul would do. In fact, he already did it.

solo churchWe are surely right to blame our forefathers for some of the existing schism. But what they did in moderation, and in fear, we do in excess. Our generation not only justifies schism, we glory in it. There’s a good chance your church spends Christ’s money to schism churches where His body of Christ already exists.

Think about it. That money was given to Jesus Christ and it is being used to further slice up His body in another locale. Or perhaps your church sends money to support institutional structures such as seminaries, colleges, and missionaries whose stated goal is to propagate your brand of schism.

The judgment among the Corinthians for not discerning the local body of Christ was weakness, sickness, and even an early death. Those who died were the Ananias’s and Sapphiras’ of the early Gentile churches:

For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a
number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly,
we would not be judged.
(1 Cor. 11:30-31)

You know that God doesn’t kill off Christians any longer, just to prove his jealously. Instead, today’s dividers of the local body of Christ must wait until after they die for their sins of schism to receive the lashings of Luke 12:46-47.

During their ministerial lives they plant, build, and fund churches on their own foundation, not that of Christ. If they were alert they would see God’s fires at work, even before the Day, as almost all of their own churches go down in flames in only a few years. Unchastened and unteachable today’s Agents of Schism are scarcely humbled. Can you even imagine a single church church in the New Testament era closing?

Insensible to perhaps the most obvious of truths, schismatics cannot see that they are building churches on their own foundations of wood, hay, and straw:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one
which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
(1 Cor. 3:11)

barrenSo if God isn’t killing Christians today who won’t discern the local body of Christ, what is our judgment from God?

Look around.

We’ve been delivered over to blindness due to the hardness of our hearts. We can’t even see that we can’t even see the local body of Christ. We see a hundred, or a thousand churches nearby, but no body.

Does no one care, like Paul, that Christ’s body is being murdered?

How can we judge the body rightly when we actually believe that the more churches of our variety there are in a single locale the better real Christianity is doing in that place? The reality is that we glory in disobedience to Jesus Christ at the institutional level.

We likely don’t really care about the local body of Christ because we actually care little for Christ, and much about our ministries. Like those who offered themselves to Paul to go and bring unity to Philippi, we are minimally valuable

We all seek after our own interests, not those of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:21).

 

 

References   [ + ]

1. Chrysostom,  Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 3:5
2. Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians, 81
3. ”In 1 Cor. 1:13 Paul asks rhetorically μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός, alluding by synecdoche to the notion of the church as the σῶμα Χριστοῦ.” L. L. Welborn, ‘On the Discord in Corinth: 1 Corinthians 1-4 and Ancient Politics’, Journal of Biblical Literature 106/1 (1987): 87.
4. author translation
5. The topic under discussion in this verse is still unity, not the atonement
6. These texts show Paul thinks of the body of Christ in a local as the local exposure of Christ on earth during the present age to both believer and unbeliever.
7. The local body is not mentioned in some books, for instance, Earnest Best’s One Body in Christ.
8. Eduard Schweizer, Church Order in the New Testament, p. 169, cf. Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, pp. 277-78.
9. Such a breach of love and brotherhood is denounced as a proof that there was no proper sense of the Body (verse 29) to which worshippers (sic) professed to belong and in which they were outwardly celebrating a festival of fellowship. The urgency of Paul’s instructions on this point falls out of focus, unless it is placed in line with what he had already written on corporate fellowship in 1:10f., 6:9-13, and 10:17, 23-33, as well as with what he intends to write in 12-14. The shameful, shocking feature is not an irreverent use of the communion elements (as we call them), but irreverence to God in the person of his Church; disrespect is shown to him by this open contempt for his poorer members. Such a gross violation of charity and kindness is another (3:17) form of sacrilege, as Paul views it.” Moffatt, First Corinthians, pp. 161-62.
10. 1st quote: Samuel Jones, Treatise of Church Discipline, in Mark Dever, Polity, 142, underline mine. Two sentences later Jones identifies the group created by human volition as the very body of Christ. 2nd quote: Baptist Association of Charleston, SC, Polity, pp. 118-119. It is a feature of Baptist ecclesiology that Baptists, apart from any others, create a body of Christ.
11. For an example of presumption: “Since the one body of Christ is about overcoming that which divides humans, churches cannot afford to emphasize only the local perspective. In a world of increasing globalization, the church cannot afford to be provincial, even while emphasizing the importance of the gathered community. The church must show forth what genuine globalization looks like.” Cary, Free Churches, 199.
12. This has been vigorously opposed: “The image of a body in 1 Cor. 12. It plainly signifies a whole. Then what whole? Not the church at Corinth, far less a particular congregation, unless the commission of the apostles and the use of all spiritual extend no further. Not the church of the elect, for there are no schisms in that body as such… The body, then, here described, must-be the visible church catholic.” (Thomas Peck, Notes on Ecclesiology, 27, www.forgottenbooks.org). Peck was a 19th Century American Presbyterian.
13. http://yellowpages.superpages.com/listings.jsp?C=churches+corpus+christi&CS=L&MCBP=true&search=Find+It&SRC=&STYPE=S&SCS=&channelId=&sessionId=
14. kata + holé, (κατὰ + ὅλη), with kata being taken distributively. In the Greek “the whole church’ is ἡ ἐκκλησία ὅλη (Acts 5:1, 15:22, Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 14;23) and the phrase “every city” is kata + polis, (κατὰ πόλιν), cf. Luke 8:1, 4; Acts 15:21, 36; 20:23; Titus 1:5. Hence κατὰ carries its distributive force in the word “catholic.” See John D. Zizoulas, Being as Communion, 143-144, 252ff; Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness, 103-104.
15. Cyprian, Treatise on the Church, 1:6
16. Jeffrey W. Cary, Free Churches and the Body of Christ, 197
17. It would be inaccurate to lay the blame of misunderstanding the house church texts with those who write in defense of the house church movement. While they often reject (wrongly) the institutional reality of the local church, their reasons for gathering in homes is to foster churches that hope to embrace greater obedience to Christ. They may also reject the idea that house churches were a separate form of the body of Christ, Terry Stanley, The Way Church Was Meant To Be, 152. For the idea that house churches comprise a single city-wide church see Steve Atkerson, Ekklesia, 107, or Vincent Branick, The House Church in the Writings of Paul, 13-14. However, for a deeper discussion, consider reading my article, House Churches.
18. The Koine word for “down” is κάτω (cf. Mat. 4:6).  A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 606
19. This may be the reason one recent book on Greek prepositions isolates the four house-church κατὰ references, and only those references, as both distributive and locative in meaning – a lexical confusion to say the least, Murray J. Harris, Prepositions and Theology, 155.
20. For a definition of Platonism: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/platonism. One scholar ascribes religious metaphors as sourced in religious archetypal metaphors called a root metaphor, or master metaphor, Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor, Multi-disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language, 244-245. Such metaphors are decidedly non-Hebraic in origin.
21. Edmund Clowney’s, “Interpreting the Biblical Metaphors of the Church,” in Biblical Interpretation and the Church, 83.
22. Paul Minear, Images of the Church in the New Testament, 216
23. The Church in God’s Program, 60-61).
24. See Laurent A. Cleenewerck, His Broken Body, 62.
25. Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community, 59.
26. http://www.prccrete.org/ourdenomination.php
27. For more on this, please read Mature Man Unity
28. cf. footnote #16
29. The Greek of 1 Cor. 10:16 “οὐχὶ κοινωνία ἐστὶν τοῦ αἵµατος τοῦ Χριστοῦ; τὸν ἄρτον ὃν κλῶµεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώµατος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστιν” features not a locative (“in the blood”) but a genitive, and in particular, an objective genitive. Thus the phrase in v. 16 should be understood as, “a fellowship produced by the blood… a fellowship produced by the body…” The alternative, a subjective genitive (“a fellowship which is the blood… which is the body”) must be rejected due to the repeated first-person plurals: “we share,” we break,” etc. Fellowship with Christ is not corporately but individually appropriated, and Paul is here teaching that the fellowship of believers in the Lord’s Supper is communal.
30. The plural simply means “we Christians” (wherever we are), though just possibly Paulhe is including himself among the members of the community in view of his projected participation in it.”Robert J. Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community, 60-61
31. 1 Cor. 11:27 is the disrespect of Christ’s own physical body and might be called vertical sin against the Lord while v. 29 is disrespect of the local body of Christ and might be called horizontal sin against the Christians in the local body. See for example Gordon Fee, 1 Corinthians, 562-564., cf. Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community, 59. 

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