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unity

Some Examples of Real Relational Unity

Posted by on Apr 29, 2013 in chain blog, unity | 8 comments

Some Examples of Real Relational Unity

Last week, I started a new chain blog called “Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity.” In that introductory post, besides explaining what I mean by “real relational unity,” I also made the following request: “So, in this chain blog, I’m asking you to consider “real relational unity” among brothers and sisters in Christ. Your posts can be theoretical, exegetical, conception, and ideal. But, I also ask you to include real examples of living in unity with other followers of Jesus Christ – especially with those who may be different than you.”

I did not provide examples in that post, so I’m writing this eighth post to provide a few examples. Each case is an examples of steps toward “real relational unity” with other followers of Jesus Christ who are different than us in some way(s). Also, in each case, I offer to struggles that we encountered.

First, a few years ago, our family hosted a weekly get together in our home. I call it a “get together” because that’s exactly what we did: we got together to share a meal and to talk about what God was doing in our lives. There was no other agenda. We invited some friends whose views about the church were very similar to our own, but we also invited some neighbors who were part of various church organizations and denominations. The biggest struggle that we had was that for many of my neighbors, this was simply a dinner with neighbors – there was nothing (or little) of spiritual significance involved because it was not considered “church.” The “local church” created the biggest boundaries to continuing in real relational unity for us. We continued meeting together for 2-3 years, but, while we continued including people who were different than us, they rarely joined us for more than one or two dinners.

Second, soon after the first example, our family (and then some friends) began spending time in a government assisted housing development near us. While getting to know the people there, we met many who were (or had been) part of various local churches. We did not introduce ourselves as representing any “local church” and kept our conversations about Jesus Christ – not any church organization or denomination. In this neighborhood, we worked with the neighbors to help them server their neighbors in Jesus’ name. To be honest, the only struggles we faced in this neighborhood were issues of trust. Most of the neighbors assumed we wanted something from them. Once they learned that we loved them and were truly interested in them as people, those trust boundaries began to fade.

Third, not too long ago, we worked together with a megachurch in our area. Some friends of ours who are part of that church organization lead a food pantry ministry out of that church’s building. They needed help from believers who would be willing to talk to the people while they waited to get their food. We worked with them weekly to talk with and pray with the people who were waiting. The people who came to the food pantry were often amazed that we were not “members” of that particular church organization. They were surprised that we would work with them. It was great to be able to talk about our unity in Jesus Christ and our desire to serve others in his name. We did face some organizational struggles in this situation – not caused by our friends, by the way. But, this ministry is still going on, and they continue to work with people who are part of different church organizations.

So, those are a few examples from the past several years in which we attempted to get to know others or to serve others in Jesus’ name in order to live in the real relational unity we have in Jesus Christ.

Obviously, each case above demonstrates how we are only imperfectly living in that unity and how there continue to be struggles when we share our lives together in Christ. In many ways, each case is a small step toward that real relational unity. And, in each case, Jesus Christ was the center of whatever we were doing together.

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Chain blog rules:

1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.

2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both on this post and the other link posts in the chain).

3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

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“Links” in the “Real Relational Unity” chain blog:

1. “Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity” by Alan
2. “The Treasure of Unity ‘in’ our Relationships” by Jim
3. “So The World May Know – Observations on the Road to Unity” by Christopher
4. “Christian Unity – What it is and What it’s not” by Nathan
5. “Steps to Relational Unity” by Randi
6. “Learn to Live or Live to Learn” by Greg
7. “The Limits on Unity” by Arthur
8. “Joints of Supply” by David
9. “Some Examples of Real Relational Unity” by Alan
10. “An Example of Relational Unity” by Greg
11. “Relational Unity Begins at Home” by Kathleen
12. “Do Not Seek Christian Unity” by Jeremy
13. Who will write the 13th link post in the chain?

Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity

Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in chain blog, community, fellowship, service, unity | 31 comments

Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity

Last Friday, I posted that I’m interested in started another “chain blog.” (See my post “Time for another chain blog? But what topic…” for an introduction to and explanation of chain blogs.) I mentioned a few possible topics, and several people were interested in the topic of “unity.” One commenter, Greg, suggested that we include true stories of how we have prevented or overcome division in order to live in unity with other followers of Jesus Christ.

Greg’s comment reminded me of a book that I read a few years ago. The book is called Your Church is Too Small and was written by John Armstrong. In this book, Armstrong makes a distinction between a unity that is only conception, theoretical, or spiritual and a unity that is both real and relational.

“Relational unity” is visible, palpable. It can be pointed out and experienced. It can also be quenched and grieved.

Few (if any) would argue that the church today rarely shows relational unity across denominations, theological systems, historical traditions, institutions, organizations, or even “local churches.” We occasionally attempt to relate to those who are like us and who believe like us (although even this is difficult in today’s church where acquiescence to a set of beliefs has replaced true community). When we do show relational unity with coworkers, neighbors, family members, etc., it is often considered to be something different than church – less than the church.

Thus, the church today is splintered and fractured, and lives as an anti-apologetic to the good news of Jesus Christ.

How could I make such a strong statement? Well, it comes from one of Jesus’ prayers:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 ESV)

If we are “one” as the Father and Son are one, then we are united. If the world around us is affected by the unity, then it is a unity that can be seen, experienced, recognized… it is real. If it is a unity related to “us,” then it is relational. Thus, in just this short part of Jesus’ prayer, we can see that it is our “real relational unity” that is an apologetic to the world that God the Father sent Jesus into the world. Our divisions, then, work against that proclamation.

So, in this chain blog, I’m asking you to consider “real relational unity” among brothers and sisters in Christ. Your posts can be theoretical, exegetical, conception, and ideal. But, I also ask you to include real examples of living in unity with other followers of Jesus Christ – especially with those who may be different than you. If you don’t have real examples to share, then please share some steps that you yourself are willing to take to live in that real relational unity that we have in Jesus Christ, remembering Paul’s exhortation:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

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Chain blog rules:

1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.

2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both on this post and the other link posts in the chain).

3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

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“Links” in the “Real Relational Unity” chain blog:

1. “Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity” by Alan
2. “The Treasure of Unity ‘in’ our Relationships” by Jim
3. “So The World May Know – Observations on the Road to Unity” by Christopher
4. “Christian Unity – What it is and What it’s not” by Nathan
5. “Steps to Relational Unity” by Randi
6. “Learn to Live or Live to Learn” by Greg
7. “The Limits on Unity” by Arthur
8. “Joints of Supply” by David
9. “Some Examples of Real Relational Unity” by Alan
10. “An Example of Relational Unity” by Greg
11. “Relational Unity Begins at Home” by Kathleen
12. “Do Not Seek Christian Unity” by Jeremy
13. Who will write the 13th link post in the chain?

Unity is a “first tier” doctrine

Posted by on Apr 13, 2013 in unity | 4 comments

Unity is a “first tier” doctrine

Three years ago, I published a post called “Unity a ‘first tier’ doctrine.” The post was a response to something that’s been happening for 2000 years, but has been celebrated for the last few years. I’m talking about arranging different convictions and beliefs into “tiers.” Usually, there are 3 tiers. As far as I can tell, these different tiers only work toward one purpose: separating the body of Christ. However, from what I can tell from Scripture, our goal should be living in unity with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ – and, yes, that means working and serving together to further the kingdom of God.

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Unity a ‘first tier’ doctrine

 
You’ve probably heard the concept of the multilevel (or tiers) of doctrines. Generally, depending upon who is talking or writing about this, there are two or three tiers of doctrines. The first tier typically separates believers (Christians) from nonbelievers (non-Christians). The second and/or third tiers then separate believers from one another, usually determining whether or not the person talking/speaking feels it necessary to relate to someone who differs from him/her.

In other words, two people who both agree on the ‘first tier’ of doctrines would consider each other believers, but they would not find it necessary to fellowship, serve, meet, whatever together if they disagreed on second and/or third tier doctrines.

I think there is a huge problem with this multi-tier view of Christianity. The problem is that unity is a ‘first tier’ doctrine. What do I mean? Look at this passage from Titus:

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:9-11 ESV)

According to Paul, a person who divides from brothers and sisters should be warned twice. If the person still remains divisive, then the church should separate from him. In other words, “divisiveness” is a reason supposing that someone is NOT a brother or sister in Christ.

In Scripture, there are very, very few reasons given for one believer to separate from another believer. This separation is the same as refusing to recognize someone as a brother or sister in Christ. Thus, “divisiveness” is a first-tier doctrine that is placed on the same level as teaching a false gospel, practicing gross immorality, and refusing to work to support yourself and others (yes, this is a ‘first tier’ doctrine also).

What does this mean? It means that just as it is impossible for someone to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ and be indwelled by the Holy Spirit and continue in gross, unrepentant immorality, it is also impossible for a believer to divide himself or herself from brother or sisters based on disagreements (i.e., in Titus, Paul describes these as “controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels”… we have plenty of those, don’t we?).

The various ‘tiers’ only provide us reasons and justifications for dividing from others who we still consider to be Christians. Thus, they allow us to verbally acknowledge someone as a child of God without accepting them as a brother or sister in Christ. This is a concept that is completely antithetical to the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There is, then, in fact, only one ‘tier’… if you want to call it that. Either someone is or is not a brother or sister in Christ. If someone is a brother or sister in Christ, then we MUST treat that person as a brother or sister in Christ, regardless of disagreements. Otherwise, WE are the ones being divisive, and the church should seek to divide themselves from us.

The world looked on in dismay…

Posted by on Apr 2, 2013 in blog links, unity | 7 comments

The world looked on in dismay…

I was very excited a couple of days ago when I read a post by Kathleen at “Church in a Circle” called “This Easter, let’s set aside our divisions and practise true religion.” Besides misspelling the word “practice” (When will people from other English-speaking countries learn how to spell words like “practice”?), this is a very good post, and an excellent catalyst for thinking about the unity we have in Jesus Christ (and only in Jesus Christ).

As you begin to read and think about Kathleen’s post, keep this quote from Jesus in the back of your mind: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21 ESV)

Now, this is how Kathleen begins her post:

In my youth, it seemed as though entire church denominations were at war with one another. Evangelicals were certain Catholics had it completely wrong. High Anglicans looked down upon low expressions of church. Baptists thought Pentecostals were from another planet. God’s people focussed on their theological differences, rather than the core beliefs that drew them all to the same God. The world looked on in dismay, and quietly retracted any expectation of discovering God through this violent, divided “religion”.

Did you notice the difference? Jesus said that, because of our unity, “The world may believe that you have sent me.” In contrast, Kathleen says (and rightly so, I think), “The world looked on in dismay.” Well, I think some look on in dismay; some look on in apathy; some look on in contempt. Meanwhile, we keep separating from one another, fighting with one another, refusing to serve other together, and calling each other many names (besides brother or sister).

When I was in Ethiopia a few years ago, one of the things that my brothers and sisters in Christ there could not understand is how followers of Jesus Christ could live next door to one another, work together, go to school together, etc., and yet refuse to serve God together, refuse to treat each other like brothers and sisters in Christ, refuse to live as the church of Jesus Christ together. They just could not understand our divisions.

Here’s the thing… refusing to face our differences will not actually help the problem with divisions among the church.

There’s only one thing that will ease these divisions: focusing on and living in the unity that we already have in Jesus Christ despite our differences.

I’d encourage you to read Kathleen’s post, then consider how you could demonstrate the unity you have with the brothers and sisters in your life… those who are all around you… those you may not think about very often because they are different than you.

Replay: Does acceptance of others make our beliefs illegitimate?

Posted by on Feb 2, 2013 in books, community, unity | 15 comments

Replay: Does acceptance of others make our beliefs illegitimate?

Three year ago, I wrote a post called “Does acceptance make our beliefs illegitimate?” Among many Christians today (and for the last several hundred to two thousand years) there is a huge problem when it comes to unity. The problem is that we assume that accepting someone as a brother or sister in Christ means that we must set aside all of our beliefs and convictions. It means we must agree with everything that they other person believes. (Well, to be honest, most separate “doctrines” into different groups with each group allowing different levels of agreement.) I think this practice is a huge slap in the face to our unity in Christ.

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Does acceptance make our beliefs illegitimate?

Recently, when reading about the Jewish influence on the early church, I came across this interesting paragraph:

For the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, however, the issue [of circumcision of Gentiles] was not so clear. The inferences were obvious to them; the ramifications were potentially damaging to the Jewish traditions. That God had poured out his Spirit on the Gentiles was amazing in its own right; but the subsequent inference that the Jewish believers would be required to accept (and even have table-fellowship) with the Gentile Christians without the latter having to undergo circumcision or to observe the law brought into question the legitimacy of the Torah. (Brad Blue, “The Influence of Jewish Worship on Luke’s Presentation of the Early Church,” in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts (ed. I. Howard Marshall and David Peterson; Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1998) , p. 492)

An amazing thing happened in those early years after Pentecost (as recorded by Luke in Acts). God’s Spirit began to indwell people… and not just Jews, but Gentiles as well.

Before, Jews would only interact with Gentiles when required to (for instance, the Roman army or government officials) or when the Gentiles agreed to be circumcised and keep the law. In other words, if it were up to the Jews, they would only spend time with people who were like them and who believed like them.

But, now, the Holy Spirit was indwelling uncircumcised, law-breaking Gentiles, and the ramifications of this indwelling was about to turn the Jewish-Christian’s view of the world upside down. They knew that they were required (by their common relationship to God and by the common indwelling of the Spirit) to not only spend time with these new Gentile Christians, but to treat them as brothers and sisters!

Outrageous! And, many of those Jewish Christians refused, fought, argued, kicked-and-screamed against this type of behavior. They knew exactly what this kind of acceptance meant. If the Jewish Christians accepted the Gentile Christians as brothers and sisters, then the Jewish Christians would have to admit that neither circumcision nor keeping the law were necessary for God’s acceptance.

Thousands of years of traditions and belief were about to be thrown out the window because God was accepting, saving, and indwelling Gentiles.

Now… today… what are we going to do when we recognize that God is accepting, saving, and indwelling people from different traditions and with different beliefs? Are we going to accept them? Or, are we going to refuse, fight, argue, kick-and-scream against the work that God is doing?

Can we admit that God can accept, save, and indwell people who do not have the same traditions, practices, and beliefs as us? Are we willing to admit that our traditions, practices, and beliefs are not necessary for God to accept, save, and indwell someone?

Replay: Jesus is the Reason… to live in unity

Posted by on Dec 25, 2012 in discipleship, unity | 2 comments

Replay: Jesus is the Reason… to live in unity

I originally published a post called “Jesus is the Reason” five years ago. Some of my friends celebrate Christmas as a very important day for a follower of Jesus Christ. Other friends do not celebrate Christmas. And, still others, seem to fight against Christmas and any who celebrate. With such diverse and contradictory views, will these groups ever see eye-to-eye or find unity and fellowship with one another? Only if they’re all looking at Jesus…

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Jesus is the Reason

So, it’s Christmas Day.

If you believe that this is the most holy day of the year, then I have a request of you. Please remember that Jesus is the reason for you to live every day – he’s not simply a slogan to tack on to your life on Christmas Day. Celebrate this day as unto the Lord. Also, remember your brothers and sisters who choose to view all days as equally holy. They also celebrate all days as unto the Lord.

If you believe that Christmas Day should not be celebrated as the most holy day of the year, then I have a request of you. Please remember that Jesus is the reason for you to live every day – including today. You do not have an excuse to be unkind or ungenerous simply because you do not choose to celebrate Christmas Day. Celebrate this day, as all days, unto the Lord. Also, remember your brothers and sisters who choose to view this day as special. They also celebrate this day as unto the Lord.

Even the hearts and minds of unbelievers are turned toward God and spiritual things during this time. Look for opportunities to speak of God’s grace and truth to those who need to hear.

Live today for the glory of God. Love him and love those around you. Serve the people that God brings across your path. Serve them before they can serve you. Accept those who are different. Be patient with those who are less mature. Follow those who are more mature. Walk in Spirit. When you come together with your brothers and sisters in Christ, seek to build them up, to stir up love and good works within them, and to mature them in Christ Jesus.

Have a Merry Christmas!

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Conclusion

Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 in community, members, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 3 comments

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Conclusion

As I explained in the “Introduction” of this series, I am stepping through the passages in the New Testament in which the authors (primarily Paul – perhaps only Paul) use the term “body” in a metaphorical sense. As I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What is Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

Now, the term “body” is found often in Scripture. It usually refers to an actual body… that is, a person physical body. But, there are a few times when the term “body” does not refer to a person’s physical body, but is used in a metaphorical sense. I’ve already discussed the usages of “body” in Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10-11, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians, Colossians and Hebrews 13:3.

Here are few observations based on my study of the metaphorical use of the term “body”:

1. The metaphorical use of “body” is primarily a Pauline metaphor (perhaps only a Pauline metaphor).

2. “Body” primarily refers to a group of believers as a community or corporate unity.

3. Typically, the “body” metaphor is used to emphasize the unity of the group in spite of the diversity.

4. The “body” metaphor is often used during a discussion of spiritual gifts, which is related to the diversity/unity aspects of the group.

5. The heady/body relationship (i.e. “Christ is head of the body”) is only used in a couple of instances when the author is illustrating Christ’s rule or source for the body. (In the “body” metaphor, “head” does not always refer to Jesus Christ.)

6. In a couple of instances, the “body” metaphor is used to focus on close association and the sharing of suffering, joy, etc.

7. Also, in a couple of instances, the “body” metaphor illustrates how different people rely on one another (like parts of a body rely on the other parts).

8. As with other metaphors (such as “yeast” or “lion”), it appears that the meaning if the “body” metaphor changes based on what the author is trying to communicate, illustrate, or emphasize. (Although the idea of a “community” seems to be consistent through each usage of the term “body.”)

So, in conclusion, in the New Testament the term “body” is used metaphorically to refer to several different aspects of the Christian community, with the aspects changing based on the author’s focus in that particular passage.

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Hebrews 13:3

Posted by on Oct 23, 2012 in community, members, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 1 comment

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Hebrews 13:3

As I explained in the “Introduction” of this series, I am stepping through the passages in the New Testament in which the authors (primarily Paul – perhaps only Paul) use the term “body” in a metaphorical sense. As I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What is Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

Now, the term “body” is found often in Scripture. It usually refers to an actual body… that is, a person physical body. But, there are a few times when the term “body” does not refer to a person’s physical body, but is used in a metaphorical sense. I’ve already discussed the usages of “body” in Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10-11, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians, and Colossians and in this post I’ll look at the use of the term body in Hebrews 13:3.

Here is the passage in its context:

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have… (Hebrews 13:1-5 ESV)

There is very little explanation about the use of “body” in this particular passage. The author wants his readers to “Remember those who are in prison… and those who are mistreated,” because the readers are also “in the body.” The connection with the phrase “as though in prison with them” is important, I think. It shows what it means to be “in the body” – it means that you are still connected with one another even though they are physically separated by prison bars.

While “body” here certainly points to a community or corporate unity as we’ve before, this usage is not really the “unity in diversity” illustration that we’ve seen in other letters. Similarly, there’s no indication that the “body/head” connection is in view in this particular metaphor, and the “body” is not specifically described as either belonging to Christ or resulting from being “in Christ” as we’ve seen before.

The “body” connections pointed to in Hebrews 13:3 is closest to the connections illustrated in 1 Corinthians 12:26 –

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV)

As far as I can tell, these two uses of the term “body” (1 Corinthians 12:26 and Hebrews 13:3) are unique among the various uses of the metaphor. Only in these two instances do the authors use the “body” metaphor to indicate a close emotional association between the parts of the community.

Finally, if you haven’t noticed before, this final use of the term “body” is found in the Book of Hebrews. The authorship of Hebrews is contested. So, since “body” is only used metaphorically here and in the letters of Paul, this would be a stylistic or linguistic indicator in favor of Pauline authorship of Hebrews. (Of course, you can’t build an entire argument for Pauline authorship of Hebrews on the metaphorical use of the term “body,” but it could be one part of an extended argument.)

So, in Hebrews 13:3, the author uses the “body” metaphor to point to the close personal connection between parts of the community, even if they are physically separated from one another (because one or more are in prison).

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Colossians

Posted by on Oct 22, 2012 in community, members, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 3 comments

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Colossians

As I explained in the “Introduction” of this series, I am stepping through the passages in the New Testament in which the authors (primarily Paul – perhaps only Paul) use the term “body” in a metaphorical sense. As I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What is Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

Now, the term “body” is found often in Scripture. It usually refers to an actual body… that is, a person physical body. But, there are a few times when the term “body” does not refer to a person’s physical body, but is used in a metaphorical sense. I’ve already discussed the usages of “body” in Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10-11, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians and in this post I’ll look at the uses of the term body in Colossians.

The uses of the term “body” in Colossians are very similar to the uses that we found in Ephesians, but with less detail:

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18 ESV)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church… (Colossians 1:24 ESV)

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19 ESV)

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body… (Colossians 3:15 ESV)

In the passages above, as we saw in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians, the “body” metaphorical refers to a community of people. When it comes to the community, the metaphorical “body” illustrates how the individuals members relate to one another (both in unity and in interdependence).

Plus, as in Ephesians, 1) the metaphorical “body” is associated directly with the “church,” and 2) the metaphor is expanded to include Jesus Christ in relationship to others as the physical head is related to the physical body. We’ve seen these last 2 items (#1 and #2 in the previous sentence) in Ephesians and now Colossians, but not in Romans and 1 Corinthians.

There is an added aspect of the head/body relationship (in the body metaphor) in Colossians 2:18-19. While the relationship of believers to Jesus Christ is emphasized in Ephesians, Paul goes further in Colossians by stating that those who are “insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind” are also “not holding fast to the head.”

Interestingly, Paul does not connect the “body” metaphor to the diversity/unity of spiritual gifts in Colossians as he did in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians. But, then, Paul does not discuss spiritual gifts in Colossians.

So, while the “body” metaphor in Colossians is very similar to the metaphorical use in Ephesians, there is some difference. And, as we saw in Ephesians, the use of the “body” metaphor in Colossians is quite different than Paul’s use in Romans and 1 Corinthians.

In Colossians, the “body” metaphor continues to emphasize the community aspect of the church (a corporate unity) although the diversity aspect is not as emphasized in Colossians. Similarly, Paul also utilizes the “body” metahpor in Colossians to emphasize the necessity of remaining connected to Jesus Christ (as the body must remain connected to the head).

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Ephesians

Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in community, scripture, spiritual gifts, unity | 1 comment

The Body of Christ Metaphor: Ephesians

As I explained in the “Introduction” of this series, I am stepping through the passages in the New Testament in which the authors (primarily Paul – perhaps only Paul) use the term “body” in a metaphorical sense. As I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What is Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?

Now, the term “body” is found often in Scripture. It usually refers to an actual body… that is, a person physical body. But, there are a few times when the term “body” does not refer to a person’s physical body, but is used in a metaphorical sense. I’ve already discussed the usages of “body” in Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10-11, and 1 Corinthians 12, and in this post I’ll look at the uses of the term body in Ephesians.

Many of the metaphorical occurrences of the term “body” in Ephesians are one liners, with very little explanation. However, even these one-liners tell us something important about Paul’s use of the term “body” in this letter:

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23 ESV)

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:6 ESV)

There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call… (Ephesians 4:4 ESV)

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (Ephesians 5:23 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)

In these passages, while we continue to see the community / corporate unity of believers in the metaphorical use of “body,” a few new aspects of the term are found in this metaphor: 1) Christ is represented as the “head” of the “body” in this letter, and 2) the “body” is specifically identified with “the church.”

These two new aspects are also found in the longer passage in Ephesians 4 in which Paul examines this metaphor in more detail:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)

In this passage, Paul ties together the concept of Jesus as “head of the body” with the relationships and interactions of the various members of the “body.” There remains a focus on the community / corporate unity that we’ve seen before, and there remains a focus on the interrelations between the various parts of the body, here illustrated as holding one another together as well as helping one another grow.

However, in this passage, with the addition of the “head of the body” to the metaphor, Paul explains that the individual members are able to hold together and help one another grow specifically because Jesus Christ is the head of the body. This new focus explains the need for an addition to the usual “body” metaphor. This does not mean that neither the Romans nor the Corinthians were able to interact with one another apart from Christ. It means that Paul desired to stress that relationship in this letter, and, thus, he added to his usual “body” metaphor.

(The “head” part of the metaphor is very important in this letter as a contrast to all other “rule and authority and power and dominion,” which is also a focus in this letter. For example, see Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 2:1-2, Ephesians 3:10, and Ephesians 6:12.)

Interestingly, given the connection with Jesus Christ as “head,” Paul is able to say that (removing other modifiers to get to the basic sentence structure), “The body makes/does the growth of the body (causes the body to grow).”

So, while Paul still uses the “body” metaphor in Ephesians to indicate how individuals should relate to one another as a community, he also adds in the “head of the body” metaphor to point to Jesus Christ as source and ruler of the community. These two aspects together (the body working from the head) causes the community to grow together.

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“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Romans 12:4-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 12
  5. Ephesians
  6. Colossians
  7. Hebrews 13:3
  8. Conclusion