What does it mean that the church is the body of Christ?
The concept of the "body of Christ" is often used in the New Testament to refer to the church. The exact phrase "body of Christ" is used three times.
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First Corinthians 10:16 states, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" Here, the phrase is used in reference to Christ's actual body that is remembered in communion.
First Corinthians 12:21-31 speaks of each member of the church serving as individual parts of the body of Christ, symbolically sharing that some are like an ear, or some are like an eye. All of the parts of the body are important for the church to function in a healthy manner.
First Corinthians 12:24-26 says, "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." The church is a body in the sense that it is united and one part impacts all of the others. When one part hurts, the rest of the body feels the hurt. When one part of the body rejoices, the entire body can rejoice.
First Corinthians 12:27 again affirms, "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." Each Christian serves as one part of Christ's body. We need one another, work together with one another, and impact one another through our actions.
Ephesians 4:11-12 teaches, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." The church's leaders exist to help strengthen the members of the church, developing them to full maturity that glorifies the Lord.
Later, this same chapter shares, "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 4:15-16). Christ is described as the head of the body (the church). He holds the body together. When the members of the body work together properly, love is expressed.
In Ephesians 1:22-23, Paul also mentions the church as Christ's body, sharing, "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." Again, the emphasis is on Christ as the head of the church.
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