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The Body of Christ

The term the Body of Christ is used in 1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:12 and 15, and Col. 1:24 to refer to all followers of Jesus. We are his body in the sense that we act on his behalf in this world, representing and modeling him. But we can’t know how to do that without studying the scriptures, which paint a much different picture of the community of believers than tradition has presented.

The original, healthy Body

Take a moment to read Mat. 20:25-28, Acts 2:17-18, Acts 2:42-46, Acts 4:32, Acts 20:17, and Acts 20:28-30. Those all tell us that this Body was never meant to resemble or function like the world with its chains of command and levels of authority. Everyone adopted by God through trust in the Jesus who rose from the dead is equal in worth and practice; there are no cardboard crowns to wear, no entitlements, no positions to defend. Unlike all religions before that time, the Body had no sacred buildings, artifacts, calendars, liturgies, or ranks of power. People just met together in each others’ homes for meals, instruction, and worship. Because of that, since they weren’t segregated from the general public, everyone could see what a close-knit family this was, and how God really wanted us to live.

The elders were nothing like the traditional corporate structure with its CEO (head/lead pastor or priest), board of directors (assistant pastors, bishops, etc.), managers (deacons), and workers (lay persons); a Body isn’t described in such terms. Rather, we are all parts working together in our unique ways (1 Cor. 12:4-30), a Body with only one Head. All parts have direct access to the Head without going through a chain of command, as if the foot needs the elbow to intercede for it.

These elders had no special office or function above others; they were not required to officiate over fellowship, baptisms, weddings, funerals, or discipline. You’ll notice in 1 Cor. 5 that it was the entire community of believers, not just a board of elders or chief elder (which didn’t exist anyway), who was charged with administering discipline against a believer living in sin.

But what were the elders, then? They were protectors and mentors, examples of maturity and teachers of scripture, and there was a group of them for each congregation. The last reference in the list above bears this out via a warning: After the Apostles all passed away, false teachers would rise up from among them and ravage the community of believers with false teachings and lust for authority.

The injured, sickly Body

The community of believers (Christianity) lost its way early in the first century AD as the Apostles predicted. The seeds of worldly systems were planted, and they grew quickly into organizations rather than remaining as one organism (the Body). Even before the Roman empire in the fourth century shifted from oppression to infiltration of the community of believers, local power grabs were in motion and the Body was divided. Artificial parts were added (authorities), others were hobbled (women, minorities), and in this way relationship was replaced by religion.

In fact, much of the New Testament in the form of letters (epistles) was written in order to confront and correct false teachings and practices. Take a look at these passages: 2 Cor. 2:5-8,1 Cor. 6:1-8, 1 Cor. 11:11-12, 1 Cor. 12:14-27, 1 Cor. 14:26-40, 2 Cor. 4:7, 2 Cor. 6:14,17, 2 Cor. 8:12-15, Gal. 3:28, Eph. 4:32, and Php. 2:1-5.

The restored, healed Body

In these passages you will find instructions on how to treat and heal the Body to its original design: 1 Tim. 3:1-13, 5:1-22, 6 (all), Titus 1:5-9, 2 (all), and 1 Peter 5:1-5. Heb. 13:7 and 17 are often mistranslated and misinterpreted as to mean obedience to human authorities in the Body, but the original Greek does not support such a thing. Verse 7 refers to those who had first brought the Good News as examples to imitate, while verse 17 refers to guides whose wise advice should be heeded, because their experience and grasp of the scriptures protect others.


We are a Body of equal but distinct parts, distinguished not by our flesh or social standing (Gal. 3:28) but by the gifting of the Holy Spirit. Our purpose is not to practice religion but to model the ideal community and show the world what it means to be reconciled with our Creator. If we are to own buildings, they should be facilities for caring for each other: apartments, service centers, clinics, childcare, job training, etc. We cannot go to church, because we are the church.

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