With the metaphor of the human body the apostle Paul paints a picture of the church as the body of Christ. Like the human body there are many individual members, yet one body, united in Christ Jesus.
The Scriptures quoted in part one are from Ephesians, Colossians, Romans, and 1 Corinthians. These texts and the contexts of each teach us that we have oneness with Christ and peace with God within the body of Christ. We are also taught the many members of the body of Christ are united with one another in Christ through his death on the cross, through his blood shed, and through the Holy Spirit. Within his one body our Lord Jesus Christ reconciles us to God as he reconciles us to one another. For peace Jesus died, to bring us to peace with God and peace with one another. Central to our relationship with God and with Christ, central to the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives as God’s people, is the relationship we have with each other in Jesus Christ. To be united to Christ is to be united to all believers.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). “Your” and “you” are plural pronouns here. The peace of Christ is the peace he has given to his people, peace with God and peace with one another. The peace of Christ unites us with God as Christ unites us with each other.
Christ’s “purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility….For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:15b-16, 18 NIV84).
In Romans 12 and1 Corinthians 12-14 the lesson of this metaphor of the body is that of our unity together with God in one body. Members together of the body of Christ we are to mutually respect, accept, and care for one another. Each member of the body is important to the whole body, to the body’s health and function. No member is inferior. No member is superior. There is no excuse for conceit. The focus of life together in Christ, in his body, is to build up the body, to strengthen it by strengthening and encouraging one another. (cf. Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ, 102)
God’s purpose in Christ Jesus is to bring together a people, to create a body, in which the saved, the children of God, are united with each other as they are united with God in Christ. The members of the body have the responsibility toward one another to love as Christ loves them.
The eternal purpose of God was that in Christ Jesus the church, the body of Christ, is to be the witness of God. This witness is to the wisdom of God in the reconciling work of Christ as he brings people to peace with one another in the body of Christ. In Christ the walls of hostility are torn down in his death on the cross. The hostility is replaced by the peace of Christ and the oneness we have together with God by the Holy Spirit through Christ.
Jesus prayed, the night before his sacrificial death, “I do not ask for these only [the apostles], but also for those who will believe in me through their word. That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints,” the apostle Paul wrote, “this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:8-11).
God’s people often falter. Peace collapses or never takes hold. Unity is forsaken for division. The evidence is all around us, the hundreds of denominations of Christianity, within denominations and fellowships, within local churches. God’s eternal purpose has not changed. God has not revealed adjustments to his purpose. God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus is still reconciliation of a people with himself and with one another in the body of Christ, in Christ, with Christ. The Hatfields and McCoys, black and white, Jews and Arabs, Americans and Iranians, the list of hostilities goes on and on. Christ died to reconcile them in himself in one body, through his death, reconciled to one another and to God. Even when there are differences in understanding of things relating to faith, Christians are to accept one another in the peace of Christ (cf. Romans 14-15).
Peace, the responsibility of God’s people within the body of Christ is to nurture and eagerly maintain the peace they have been given in Christ. The body of Christ, the many members must learn and grow in love for one another as Christ loved and loves them. Peace is not a choice. Acceptance of one another as fellow members of the body of Christ is not optional. Peace with God comes through peace with one another in Christ.
“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). This, Jesus said, is what identifies the body of Christ as his body. Love for one another as Christ’s love for them, this is to be the church’s witness of God, of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(Scripture quotes, unless noted otherwise, are from the English Standard Version.)