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One body

"The body is one" (1Co 12:12). It is the Father's wisdom generally to place believers together in "families". The ecclesia is more often the object of concern than is the individual standing alone. We are all, whether we like it or not, members of a body. No man should live to himself; that would be selfishness, stagnation, sterility, and a direct contradiction of Paul's elaborate allegory. The most important lesson of our spiritual education is to learn to think and to act unselfishly as part of the One Body, and not selfishly as a separate individual, even as regards our own salvation.

The body is one, yet it has many members (1Co 12:14). Some are less beautiful or more feeble than others (1Co 12:22,23), but these too are necessary. "God hath tempered the body together" (1Co 12:24); these individuals have been welded together with the ecclesia. In faith and obedience they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Those for whom Christ died must not be treated haughtily or indifferently.

"The beauty and usefulness and purpose of the human body is in its diversity. A severed foot or hand is a repulsive monstrosity. It is obviously dead and useless -- detached, broken off, lost, cast aside, rejected; yea, worse: decaying, corrupting, putrefying. But a complete, living, healthy body, with all its parts functioning smoothly together, all perfectly coordinated in grace and symmetry and harmony of movement and purpose, all instantly subject to the one Head -- is of great attractiveness, and obvious power and usefulness. No single member can be a body in itself: however accomplished, however skilled, however wise. No one of us can stand alone. We may, by unavoidable force of circumstances, be confined to lonely isolation, like Paul shut up in prison, but we are still part of the Body; and we must, like Paul, think and live and move and breathe as part of the Body. Those who live for themselves alone, however holily they may strive to live, are monstrosities and abortions" (GVG, Ber 57:308,309).

"And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you" (1Co 12:21). So Paul presses home the point: There should be no schism (division) in the Body (1Co 12:25). "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it" (1Co 12:26). Life itself teaches everyone that pain in one member affects the whole body; and the loss of one member, even a small toe, can seriously affect the balance of the whole. It is by no accident or meaningless rhetoric that we find Moses interposing himself as a would-be sacrifice on behalf of his blind and erring countrymen (Exo 32:30-33). Neither is it to be thought unusual that Nehemiah and David and Daniel and the other prophets showed no sign of dissociating themselves from Israel, no matter how wayward their countrymen became. (And even when Jeremiah ceased praying for his brethren, it was God's decision and not his! -- Jer 14:11.) These men had learned the Bible doctrine of the One Body long before Paul. They lived fully Paul's exhortation in 1Co 13:

"LOVE suffers long" (1Co 13:4).
"LOVE thinks no evil" (1Co 13:5).
"LOVE bears all things, hopes all things" (1Co 13:7).
"LOVE keeps no score of wrong, does not gloat over other men's sins, but delights in truth" (1Co 13:6, NEB).

If we might by any means see how often our spiritual perceptions are out of line! In our small and often self-centered "fellowships", are not our prayers frequent and fervent for the fortunes of Israel "after the flesh"? (And well they should be!) And we feel almost at one in spirit with these long-suffering sons of our father Abraham. But how often do we make mention of other Christadelphians, from whom we may be divided by only a single point, except to find fault? These, who -- even by the strictest standards -- are much more nearly our true brethren than any of the unbelieving Jews! Dare we ask again? Is this the attitude of Paul? of Moses? of Jeremiah or Ezekiel or David? "It may perhaps be argued that when gangrene sets in, amputation becomes an urgent necessity if life is to be saved. Precisely! Gangrene (like cancer) is a condition in which the damaged or faulty member is not willing to receive and use the healing influences which all the rest of the body, via the blood stream, tries to bring to bear. Instead it is an aggressive evil which, left to itself, will certainly bring death. Here is the false teacher who refuses the help which the ecclesia can make available to him, but who instead employs every effort to spread the corruption which has affected him. For such, excision or amputation is the only course. On the other hand, to take off a toe because the nail is ingrowing, or to gouge out an eye because a squint has developed, is plain folly. In such cases, the body puts up with the defects and takes what action is advisable to restore normality to the defective member" (HAW, "Block Disfellowship", Tes 43:342).

There is a simple, common-sense lesson we must all learn. It is a lesson in humility and patience and faith among other things. The ecclesia does not exist in order to keep the Truth pure as a theory (ie, 'The purer our ecclesia, the better!'). The Truth (as an abstract principle, or set of principles communicated from God) cannot be anything but pure! The ecclesia does exist to help impure men and women (with imperfect beliefs and impure ways) to move toward purity, even if their progress is slow.

There is no point in an ecclesia existing if it does not understand and confidently accept this duty. If perfect "purity" (ie non-contamination) is all the members of the "Body" desire, then the best course would be to disband the ecclesia and allow each individual to break bread at home. Chop the "Body" into a hundred separate pieces, and isolate each piece in an air-tight container! And then you can spent your time wondering what happened to the love, the joy, the fellowship, and the family feeling which you once enjoyed.

Consider again Paul's beautiful inspired allegory: The One Body! "Fearfully and wondrously made... how marvelous are thy works, O Lord!" (Psa 139:14). The spiritual body, like the physical body, is not a sterile laboratory "experiment", existing in a fragile regulated environment, behind locked doors! The spiritual Body of Christ, like the "fearful and wondrous" physical body, is much more akin to a hospital. Like a hospital, with its Great Physician at its head, it is constantly working even in its imperfection to heal its diseased members and to strengthen its weak members. And so it must continue, until its work is finished and the One Body -- perfected at last -- is glorified with its Head for a joyful eternity.

Other metaphors of unity: Shepherd and flock (Joh 10:1-30); One vine (Joh 15:1-17); One temple, with one foundation and one cornerstone, serving one God (Eph 2:11-22); Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female (Gal 3:25-29); husband and wife, "one flesh" (Eph 2:22-33); one "creation" of Christ the "creator" (Col 1:15-29); one house, one priesthood, one nation (1Pe 1:2-10); one "bread" (1Co 10:16,17).


See Lesson, One body, implications of the.
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