The first of three articles on the theme of “One Body, Many Members” highlights the need for the ecclesial “body” to respond to the mind of Christ, its “Head”. The unity yet diversity of the body of Christ with all parts “tempered” by God is well equipped to contribute in love to the wellbeing of the ecclesia(s). What a joy it is to see Christ’s example of glorifying his Father and sacrificing self interest manifested when all members utilise their diverse talents for the edification and welfare of the aggregate whole.

In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul presents the natural body as a type of the Ecclesia—called the Body of Christ.

Now ye are the Body of Christ, and Members in Particular

This analogy presents Jesus as the head of the Body. The ecclesia is portrayed as its constituent parts. We as individual ecclesial members are grouped together forming all the various intricacies of the natural body: its organs, appendages, systems, and functions; collectively styled “members in particular” of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12; Rom 12).

The predominant function of the head, as contemplated by Paul, is as the seat of thinking. In the natural realm, the brain controls every function and action, conscious or unconscious, of the body. Without a healthy mind, dysfunction in the body becomes evident. When the brain suffers serious injury, it shuts down, and with it, the body. Unconsciousness can be momentary, or it can be protracted, in the form of a coma. In this state, the body, although healthy in itself, is unproductive, unmoving and without purpose. Over time, bodily functions can start to shut down and the body begins to degrade. It is evident that without the brain, the natural body cannot survive.

Similarly, when we consider the spiritual head of the Body of Christ, our Lord Jesus, the parallels are clear. Christ controls the Body. As members of the Body, it is our duty to submit to his control in all aspects of our life. He determines our path—”this is the way, walk ye in it.” He determines our diet—the Bread of Life and the well of water springing up to everlasting life. If the Body does not submit to the mind of Christ—dysfunction follows. If the Body rejects the head, “crucifying the Son of Man afresh”, the systems of the body (the individual members) shut down and die. The ecclesia cannot survive without our head.

Let this Mind be in Us, Which was Also in Christ Jesus

Whilst perhaps stating the obvious, we do not see any two-headed people roaming the streets. We can have only one head. We cannot serve two masters. We either serve our true head (the mind of Christ) or the carnal mind. The diet of the carnal mind is unhealthy; more than unhealthy—deadly. The drink of the carnal mind is wine of fornication. The path of the carnal mind is slippery and treacherous, leading to the eternal death of the body. Scripture does not present a ‘middle of the road’ option. Whilst we have the free will to follow either the carnal mind, or the mind of Christ, the choice is clear. It is a choice we have already made when we put off the old man and embraced Christ at our baptism. So Paul writes, “Let this mind be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Jesus’ sole motivating force was an all-consuming desire to serve his God. He sought to glorify God by manifesting God’s characteristics in every aspect of his life, fully knowing that this obedience would ultimately lead to his death on the cross. In this act of supreme sacrificial love, we have the highest example. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6–8).

In view of the supreme example of Christ’s sacrifice, how should the Body behave? In Ephesians 4:15–16 we are counselled that the Body must “grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” It is apparent therefore that for the Body to grow, EVERY joint needs to work together in love. We are all individually accountable for the health and growth of the Body. There is no pre-eminence of one member above another, for God has chosen all the members of the Body.

In considering the individual members that constitute our ecclesias, we note an eclectic collection of brethren and sisters drawn from a range of backgrounds, with a variety of personalities, talents and abilities. It is often remarked that if it were not for our unifying belief in the Hope of Israel, we would probably never have known each other. Yet, as a diverse group, we are neither “Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, but we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unity and Diversity

Just as the diversity of membership is God-given, so too the diversity of ability amongst the members. Paul notes in Ephesians 4, that “unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. … He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” The diversity of our various abilities has been given for a specific purpose, namely for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ—in summary, for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ. There is a danger in the ecclesial environment that some members may believe that their particular ability or talent is not that important or necessary for the well being of the Body. Perhaps these members feel overshadowed by others performing what is perceived to be ‘more important’ responsibilities. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 instructs us in this regard. God has distributed talents according to His Divine knowledge of our individual abilities and He expects us to use those talents in His service for the care of the Ecclesia. Not everyone can be a hand, or an eye, or an ear. Whilst we are many members, we are nonetheless one Body, each member needing the other. Our responsibility therefore, as brethren and sisters of Christ, is to harness our individual strengths and talents to the edifying of the Body of Christ in his love. The Body needs each and every member in order to continue to grow to reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

We do not have to look too far to start this work. Care begins in the home. The fundamental unit of the ecclesia is the individual family. Paul counsels in 1 Timothy 5:8—”But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” In caring for our brethren and sisters, to the honour and glory of God, we must ensure that the same diligent attention is paid to our families. This requires consistent attention to the Word of Life in our families on a daily basis to fill our own family with the mind of our Head. This will ensure that each fundamental unit, each cell that makes up the Body is spiritually healthy, well nourished and able to contribute to the care of the whole body. The care for the Body could take many forms in addition to ecclesial duties—tending to those estranged from the Body, visiting those imprisoned by the circumstances of life, assisting those grappling with spiritual challenges to clothe themselves that they do not walk naked. The opportunities for service are vast and varied. The Body grows through the ministrations provided by every member.

May these individual ministrations encourage us all to keep the body fitly joined together and growing up to our Head. Let the mind of Christ always be within us that at the great and glorious day of his appearing, he may see in us a faithful reflection of his image. We therefore look forward in hope to that time when our mortal bodies, these bodies of corruption, may be fashioned like to his glorious body. Even so, come Lord Jesus.