6.2.3.1 The body of Christ

The image of the church as the body of Christ occupies a central position. It is often applied to those who, through baptism, faith, and profession, belong to Jesus Christ. In Romans 12: 4-5, believers are described as "members" of the one body of Christ. This image picks up on a common metaphor of the time, in which the state was envisioned as an organic body and the individual as a member of it. The gifts of the individual members of the congregation vary, as do their tasks. However, they are all interconnected and serve one another. Accordingly the church is an organism in which all are dependent on each other.

Despite the diversity of the individual members, together they comprise a single entity. As members of the body of Christ, they care for, and are united with, one another: "But now indeed there are many members, yet one body" (1 Corinthians 12: 20).

In Ephesians 1: 22-23, Christ is shown as the head of the church and the ruler of all things. This builds on the hymn recorded in the epistle to the Colossians in which it says: "He is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1: 18). In this imagery, the church of Christ is equated with the "body of Christ". It shares in the perfection of its Lord.

The image of the body is also used for the local congregation, in which imperfect human beings are to "come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4: 13).

The growth of the body–applied to the church as a whole, as well as to the local congregation and the individual believers–occurs through the activity of God (Colossians 2: 19). This growth is oriented toward Christ. As the head, He is the Lord, the standard, and the goal (Ephesians 4: 15). For the edification of the body of Christ, God provided ministries and commissions.

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