Six years ago, I wrote a post called “Members of Christ’s Body.” During this time, I was studying the concept of “church membership” and comparing that concept to what Scripture says about “members.” What did I find? I found that the modern concept of “church membership” is completely different than the scriptural idea of being members of the body of Christ and members of one another.
“The Body of Christ” is one of the metaphors that Paul uses for the church. Believers are called “members” of Christ’s body. This “member” language is often stretched to include the modern concept of “membership” in a church organization. What does Scripture actually say about believers being “members” of Christ’s body? Let’s start by examining the Scripture passages themselves:
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5 ESV)
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 Christ. 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. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27 ESV)
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25 ESV)
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:29-30 ESV)
Notice that the word “member” (gk. “μέλος” – “melos“) is also used to indicates parts of a person’s physical body. However, the passages listed above seem to be the only use of “member” to represent a believer’s association with the body of Christ.
What are some things that we can learn about the church from the metaphor of being “members of the body of Christ”?
- We become members of the body through an act of God not because of something that we do or something that we choose.
- We do not choose to be members of the body nor do we choose those with whom we are members.
- We do not choose how we function in the body nor can we tell others how to function in the body.
- We cannot be members of Christ without being members of one another.
- Every member of the body is important; every member of the body is significant; every member of the body is necessary.
- Being a member of the body of Christ has nothing to do with joining a church organization or having “membership” in a church organization.
Can we live as members of Christ’s body and members of one another? We cannot live in this manner if we continually separate ourselves from other members. We cannot live in this manner if we feel that we decide who are members of Christ’s body with us.