One of the Apostle Paul’s favorite metaphors to describe what a local church is called to be is the human body. I think Paul loves the metaphor of the body for several reasons.
The Local Church Is Like The Human Body
First of all, the local church is like a living organism which possesses the life of God in its members and also among its members. Jesus declares in Mathew 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them”. When we call on the name Jesus and believe the Gospel (Romans 10:13-16), we are joined to Him by faith, and are incorporated in His saving life.
“In Christ” is one of Paul’s favorite terms to describe the Christian’s new position or status after conversion. Not only are we incorporated into Him, but Christ enters the believer through the Holy Spirit. In Romans 8:9, Paul says that if we do not possess the indwelling Spirit, we do not belong to Christ. In other words, we are not saved.
But if we have truly repented of our sins, and have trusted the crucified and risen Jesus, we then begin participating in the very life of God with other Christians in the local church, Christ’s body.
Another reason why Paul loves the body metaphor to describe the local church is that, just like like the human body needs its many different parts to function properly, so the local church needs all of its members to be functioning in order to be healthy. Paul puts it this way in Romans 12:4-5:
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Every Christian is graced or anointed by the Holy Spirit with spiritual gifts.
Each believer in the local church is called by the Lord to express their gifts in ministry and service to others (1Peter 4:10). In this way, the grace of God is let loose in our corporate life and we grow up in spiritual maturity, to our full stature in Christ, both individually and corporately (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Every Believer Is A Royal Priest
In our local church, we are trying to give more and more people opportunities to minster to one another. In 1Peter 2:5,9-10, we read that every believer in Christ is a royal priest. That is, every Christian has access to the very presence of God through the broken curtain of Christ’s body (Hebrews 10:19-22). The way into the Holy of Holies has been opened through the crucified and risen Jesus Christ (Mathew 27:51). As a result, in our corporate prayer time in our Sunday worship service, we give opportunity to members in the congregation to offer praise, thanksgiving and petitions to our heavenly Father. The Pastor is not the only one who prays.
We are also seeking to give more and more people opportunity to teach, preach and serve in whatever capacity is consistent with a person’s passion and giftedness. This requires organization and structure.
This is another way the local church is like the human body. The body is an organism, but it also needs structure provided by its bones. If their were no bones, the human body would be just one big blob. The local church is similar. We are an organism participating in the life of our living Lord Jesus, but we need organization and structure for the life of Christ to grow in our midst.
I encourage all Christians to become a part of a local church. Relationships in a congregation need constant work and maintenance, But the effort is well worth it. It is only as we join with other members of the Body, that we can experience more fully the grace and life of its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:7-16).
QOTD: Are you an active participant or a spectator in a local church?