. . . fully after the LORD                  I Kings 11:6                      by Steve Flinchum

Chapter 4


    It is often mistakenly assumed or alleged that since "the church" of Christ is "the body" of Christ (Colossians 1:18), that the Bible teaches some sort of "universal church." I believe that not only does the Bible not support it, but in fact says much to contradict it. Both terms, "the church," and "the body," are used generically there (Colossians 1:18) as well as in Ephesians 5. In Ephesians 5:23 "the church" and "the body" are used in the generic sense, just as "the husband" and "the wife" are used, in the same verse.

    Going back to the Greek, we find that the word translated "body" is soma. Strong's "Dictionary of the Greek Testament" defines soma as, "the body (as a sound whole), used in a very wide application, lit. or fig." The word "body" is translated from soma in all but two occurrences, in the New Testament. One has nothing to do with this subject, but to show the precision of the Greek language, and the precision with which it was used in the writing of the Bible, let us briefly consider it, also. In Acts 19:11-12 the King James version says:

And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

The word from which "body" was translated, in verse 12, is chros which means "the body (properly its surface or skin)" [Strong's "Dictionary of the Greek Testament"].

    The other occurrence of the word "body" in the King James Version of the New Testament is in Ephesians 3:6. The word used in that verse is sussomos instead of soma. Strong defines sussomos as "of a joint body." The "Greek-English New Testament Lexicon" in the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by George R. Berry defines sussomos as:

belonging to the same body; fig., of Jews and Gentiles, in one church, Ep.iii.6.

What was being taught in Ephesians 3:6, I believe, was that it is proper for Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians, having the same salvation, to be members of the same congregation.

    In I Corinthians 12:14-17, "the body," or "the whole body," is spoken of six times, undisputably in reference to a human body. Those verses do not imply that every foot, hand, ear, or eye in the world are all part of one mystical body, and such an interpretation would be foolish. It is just as unreasonable to interpret the use of the term "the body" in the rest of the chapter to imply that every saved person (or even every saved and baptized person) in the world make up some mystical body. To make such an interpretation it is necessary to change the meaning of ekklesia, which we have no authorization to do. Such an erroneous interpretation necessitates even giving a new definition to the word body. We would not speak of two rivers as being one body of water, even though each may have fresh water, run down-hill, and eventually flow into the same ocean. The same is true in each case in which an ekklesia is spoken of as a body. Commenting on I Corinthians 12, in The Meaning of Ecclesia in the New Testament, Edward H. Overbey says:

In verse 27 this lesson is applied directly to the Corinthian church. The definite article before body is not in the Greek and so it would be better to translate this, "Now ye are a body of Christ and members in particular."

    Each congregation is a body, and, if it is one of the Lord's congregations, it is one of His bodies. Each of His congregations or bodies is to be a fully functioning, self contained, independent, and complete unit or body, with Him as its head. Each body is to be just as complete as if it were the only one in existence.

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