The Mystery of the Church
The Body of Christ.
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
– Acts 2:41–47
And from that day, His followers went out into the world sharing God’s truth, and love, and forgiveness with others. By His Spirit, they did the works that Jesus did when He walked among them: healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, and reconciling people to God. And their number increased daily.
– The HOPE, Chapter 12
Observe & Consider
On the day the Holy Spirit filled the followers of Jesus, something extraordinary was born. What is known to most people as the Church, the Bible calls a mystery. In Ephesians 3:9–10, Paul writes of “the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”
The Bible uses several metaphors to describe the relationship between Jesus and His Church. Some of these include:
- The Church is a living temple and Jesus is its chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-8).
- The Church is a kingdom of royal priests and Jesus is the high priest (1 Peter 2:9, Hebrews 10:19-21).
- The Church is God’s flock, and Jesus is the Shepherd (John 10:11, Hebrews 13:20).
- The Church’s members are branches belonging to Jesus, the Vine (John 15:5).
- The Church is the bride and Jesus is the bridegroom (Ephesians 5:31-32, Revelation 19:7).
- The Church is the family of God; we are His children, adopted through Jesus Christ (1 John 3:1-2. Romans 8:14-17).
Each of these metaphors is rich with descriptive imagery, but perhaps none more so than the one we find in 1 Corinthians 12. This scripture describes the Church as the body of Christ Jesus, with Him being the head (as we read in Ephesians 5:23). At this present time, we know that Jesus is with the Father in heaven. He is preparing a place for those who believe in Him (John 14:2) and He is praying for them (Romans 8:34). His presence on earth is now manifested by the Holy Spirit through His body, the Church. In this sense, the members of the Church are His arms, hands, feet, eyes, and lips in the world. As the Head of His body, Jesus is directing the activity of the Church on earth through the Holy Spirit.
As we compare the metaphor of a physical body to the relationship between Jesus and His Church, consider these two truths:
- All the parts of a body are necessary to form a complete functioning unit. If any member of the body is weak or missing, the entire body suffers.
- It is only in the context of a functioning body that each member discovers his or her identity. Just as a finger cannot fulfill its function apart from the hand, so a follower of Jesus will never know (walk in) his or her identity in Jesus apart from a right relationship with the Body of Jesus.
Ask & Reflect
- Which of the five metaphors concerning Jesus and His relationship to the Church is most meaningful to you? Why?
- Do you feel that you are a vital part of His body? Why or why not?
- What can you do to become more vitally related to His body?
Decide & Do
The global Church is a manifestation of local churches in communities around the world. It is not the purpose of this study guide to promote a particular denomination, but rather to emphasize the Biblical mandate for followers of Jesus to be faithfully involved in a local church (Hebrews 10:25).
It is the responsibility of every follower of Jesus to:
- Find a church that clearly teaches: a) faith in Christ Jesus as the way to know God and receive eternal life, and b) the Bible as the Word of God.
- Find out how you can serve the body so that God can use you and grow you.
- Be faithful in your commitment to a local church.
For Further Study
- Ray C. Stedman, EPHESIANS: The Calling of the Saints. (© Discovery Publishing, a ministry of Peninsula Bible Church, 1967). (http://www.pbc.org/messages/ephesians-the-calling-of-the-saints). Retrieved December 11, 2006.
- Church. (Wikipedia, 2006). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Church). Retrieved December 11, 2006.