Category: (1) How is the church the Body of Christ?

In ancient building practices, the cornerstone was the principal stone placed at the corner of the edifice. The cornerstone was usually one of the largest, the most solid, and the most carefully constructed of any in the edifice. Jesus describes Himself as the Cornerstone that His church would be built upon, a unified body of believers, both Jew and Gentile.

The Book of Isaiah has many references to the Messiah to come. In several places He is referred to as “The Cornerstone,” such as in Isaiah 28:16-17: “So this is what the sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.’” God is speaking to scoffers and boasters when He refers to the Cornerstone—His precious Son—who provides the firm foundation for their lives, if they would but trust in Him. Isaiah uses construction terminology (measuring line and plumb line) to make his point; these are things the people would understand.

In the New Testament the cornerstone metaphor is continued. This time, however, the Apostle Paul is preaching to the Ephesian Christians for the purpose of helping them know Christ better. In Chapter 2, verses 19-21, the comparison between Jesus and Cornerstone becomes very clear: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” Furthermore, in the 1 Peter 2:6, what Isaiah said centuries before is affirmed in exactly the same words.

What a marvelous book is the God-inspired Bible! Peter uses construction terms for his hearers, just as Isaiah did, both knowing their audiences would be familiar with them. Also, they both use “Cornerstone” to represent the Messiah, One whom Peter knew personally, and whom Isaiah only knew through the heavenly Father’s promise. Their words bore out what Jesus was to say as recorded in the Gospel of John, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

In order to know what to look for in a local church, we must first understand  God’s purpose for the church—the body of Christ—in general. There are two  outstanding truths about the church. First, “the church of the living God [is]  the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy  3:15). Second, Christ alone is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18).

In regard to the truth, the local church is a place where the Bible  (God’s only Truth) has complete authority. The Bible is the only infallible rule  of faith and practice (2 Timothy  3:15-17). Therefore, when seeking a church to attend, we should find one  where, according to biblical standards, the gospel is preached, sin is  condemned, worship is from the heart, the teaching is biblical, and  opportunities to minister to others exist. Consider the model of the early  church found in Acts  2:42-47, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the  fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…They broke bread in their  homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying  the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who  were being saved.”

In regard to the second truth about the church,  Christians should attend a local fellowship that declares Christ’s headship in  all matters of doctrine and practice. No man—whether pastor, priest, or pope—is  the head of the church. All men die—how can the living church of the living God  have a dead head? It cannot. Christ is the church’s one supreme authority, and  all church leadership, gifts, order, discipline, and worship are appointed  through His sovereignty, as found in the Scriptures.

Once these two  fundamentals are in place, the rest of the factors (buildings, worship styles,  activities, programs, location, etc.) are merely a matter of personal taste.  Before even setting foot inside a church, some homework is in order. Doctrinal  statements, purpose statements, mission statements, or anything that will give  insight into what a church believes should be carefully looked over. Many  churches have websites where one can get a feel for what they believe regarding  the Bible, God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, sin, and salvation.

Next  should be visits to the churches that seem to have the fundamentals in place.  Attendance at two or three services at each church will be helpful. Any  literature they have for visitors should be scrutinized, paying close attention  to belief statements. Church evaluation should be based on the principles  outlined above. Is the Bible held as the only authority? Is Christ exalted as  head of the church? Does the church focus on discipleship? Were you led to  worship God? What types of ministries does the church involve itself in? Was the  message biblical and evangelical? How was the fellowship? You also need to feel  comfortable—were you made to feel welcome? Is the congregation comprised of true  worshippers?

Finally, remember that no church is perfect. At best, it  is still filled with saved sinners whose flesh and spirits are continually at  war. Also, do not forget the importance of prayer. Praying about the church God  would have you attend is crucial throughout the decision-making process.

 The phrase “the Body of Christ” is a common New Testament  metaphor for the Church (all those who are truly saved). The Church is called  “one body in Christ” in Romans 12:5,  “one body” in 1  Corinthians 10:17, “the body of Christ” in 1  Corinthians 12:27 and Ephesians  4:12, and “the body” in Hebrews  13:3. The Church is clearly equated with “the body” of Christ in Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:24.

When Christ entered our world, He took on a physical body “prepared” for Him  (Hebrews  10:5; Philippians  2:7). Through His physical body, Jesus demonstrated the love of God clearly,  tangibly, and boldly—especially through His sacrificial death on the cross (Romans 5:8). After His bodily  ascension, Christ continues His work in the world through those He has  redeemed—the Church now demonstrates the love of God clearly, tangibly, and  boldly. In this way, the Church functions as “the Body of Christ.”

The  Church may be called the Body of Christ because of these facts:

1)  Members of the Body of Christ are joined to Christ in salvation (Ephesians  4:15-16).

2) Members of the Body of Christ follow Christ as their  Head (Ephesians  1:22-23).

3) Members of the Body of Christ are the physical  representation of Christ in this world. The Church is the organism through which  Christ manifests His life to the world today.

4) Members of the Body of  Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Christ (Romans  8:9).

5) Members of the Body of Christ possess a diversity of gifts  suited to particular functions (1  Corinthians 12:4-31). “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many  parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with  Christ” (verse 12).

6) Members of the Body of Christ share a common bond  with all other Christians, regardless of background, race, or ministry. “There  should be no division in the body, but . . . its parts should have equal concern  for each other” (1  Corinthians 12:25).

7) Members of the Body of Christ are secure in  their salvation (John  10:28-30). For a Christian to lose his salvation, God would have to perform  an “amputation” on the Body of Christ!

8) Members of the Body of Christ  partake of Christ’s death and resurrection (Colossians  2:12).

9) Members of the Body of Christ share Christ’s inheritance  (Romans 8:17).

10)  Members of the Body of Christ receive the gift of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 5:17).