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THE ETERNAL VITAL UNITY

(1 Corinthians 12:27) “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

With these words the eminent Apostle Paul described the capstone of the doctrine of Jesus Christ for in enunciating this blessed truth he proclaimed the eternal vital unity of the Church of God and the body of Christ. Moreover, inasmuch as this declaration reveals the oneness of Christ and His chosen people, it also embraces such tenets of the doctrine as the particular atonement and plenteous redemption of Jesus Christ for the elect of God, only, as well as the prescience of God in foreknowing, predestinating, calling, justifying and glorifying the members of the body of Christ according to the counsel of His own will by His Sovereign Grace. Irrevocably, then, the members of the Church of God are not only conformed to the image of His Son but compose in particular, His mystical body. One head (The Lord Jesus Christ) and one body (The Church) compose one person.

Furthermore, this unity of the Church and Christ is eternal, for the elect of God were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, are called out to follow Him in this life, and shall continually praise Him in the Heaven of heavens. Consequently, the complete oneness of the Church of God and the body of Christ has been ordained from everlasting to everlasting. In addition, this unity is vital since the head of the body has life-giving power in Himself and in the day when the Church was born of Christ the umbilical cord of divine love supplying the body was not severed. In fact, the navel of the Church of God is likened unto a round goblet which never wanteth for nourishment. Song of Solomon 7:2. Indeed, God Has promised faithfully to supply all her need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus our Lord.

The presence of God faithfully providing for the need of His people is evident in every age. In the old dispensation He made His presence manifest unto Adam by His voice walking in the garden in the cool of the day; unto Abraham as three men who stood by him at his tent door; unto Moses out of the burning bush; unto the Israelites as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; and unto Elijah’s servant as a little cloud like a man’s hand. Later, in John the Baptist’s day the Word was made flesh to dwell among His people as the fullness of the godhead bodily. Even after His passion, Christ showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs and when He ascended to sit on the right hand of the Majesty on High, He sent forth another Comforter to reveal the things of Himself unto His people until He comes again the second time as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Thus the umbilical life-line of eternal redemption has been and ever shall be supplying the need of His people in every nation, kindred and tongue. The Psalmist David, speaking for the Church, has rightly said, “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” Psalm 90:1.

Paul expands this theme further in his epistle to the Romans when, on behalf of the Church, he says, ”we, being many, are one body in Christ.” Romans 12:5. Moreover, since we are many members in one body, all members have not the same office. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us wait upon these gifts which we have received whether they be of prophecy, the ministry, exhortation, ruling, showing mercy, loving or abhorring that which is evil. In any case, be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body and the body is not one member but many. Furthermore, since God set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased Him, the eye cannot say to the hand nor the hand to the foot, “I have no need of thee.” Nay, much more, for those members which seem to be more feeble are necessary and those which some may feel to be less honourable, are bestowed upon with more abundant honour and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. We are called in one body and one Spirit even as we are called in one hope of our calling.

Now Paul revealed an even deeper aspect of this mystery to the Corinthians in these words, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 6:15. Therefore, ye are not your own, for ye are purchased with a price. Consequently, Paul exhorted the Romans as follows, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1. For this reason our moderation is to be known unto all men.

Over the body of Christ, which is the Church of God, there is a head and the head of His body is Christ, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence for it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell. Not only is Christ the head of the body, however, but he is also the saviour of the body having satisfied divine justice by His death on the cross. Furthermore, to Christ the Church is espoused. Therefore, Christ is the lawgiver of the Church and her only lawgiver for He is able to save and to destroy. As a result, ye are complete in Him which is the head of all principality and power. In whom also ye are circumcised by the circumcision of Christ and buried with Him in baptism wherein also ye are raised with Him through the faith of the operation of God and quickened together with Him in that He hath forgiven you all trespasses. Indeed, great is the mystery of Godliness!

Now this eternal vital unity of the Church of God and the body of Christ not only binds the head to the body but also binds together the members of the body which truth Paul stressed among the Ephesians when he wrote to them and said “speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” Ephesians 5:25. Moreover, when the members of His body are walking by the Spirit of God, all members suffer when one suffers, and all members rejoice when one is honoured. Consequently, the bond which unites His people as one is the love of God which is an expression of the person of Jesus Christ and permeates His entire body. A striking example of this unity of Spirit, in the bond of peace, was manifest when Ezra read the law before the watergate from morning until midday and the people who gathered themselves together to hear it all stood up as one man, were attentive unto the book, bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. We experience sublime moments such as this here and there today as well and they are sweet foretastes of our fondest hopes.

During these moments we are given to comprehend, in a measure at least, some of the breadth, and length, and depth and height of His divine mercy and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge for we feel to be melted down with the love of God in its fullness and long for more. With thankfulness we look to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.

Let us do business now in deeper waters, for Paul reminds us that we are not only members of Christ’s body but also of His flesh and of His bones. Ephesians 5:30. When God made Eve out of the rib from Adam’s side and brought her unto Adam, he exclaimed, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:23. Do these words not reveal the love of Christ for His bride? And does this love not flow from the head of the body to the members of His body? Similarly, when Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son: she ran and told her father, Laban, who, in turn, ran to meet Jacob and exclaimed, “Surely thou art my bone and my flesh.” Genesis 29:12-14. Now, do these words not reveal the love of God that each member has for his or her brethren as members of Christ’s body? And does this love not flow throughout the members of His body as from hand to foot and from knee to thigh, all members having the same care one for another? Even from our own bodies we behold this similitude for no man ever yet hated his own flesh: but nourisheth it and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church.

Upon receiving a precious hope that we are a member of His body, of His bones and of His flesh, the divine proverbs, prophesies and injunctions attentive to the meticulous preservation of Christ’s bones and those of others symbolizing Him become exceedingly more precious. For example, it is particularly significant that Joseph gave commandment to the children of Israel in his will that his bones were to be carried up to the Promised Land when they should be called out of Egypt. And it bears additional significance when Moses fulfilled Joseph’s testament many decades later by taking his bones with him through the way of the wilderness, granting Joshua the honour of bearing them across Jordan into the promised land. The law, indeed, serves as our schoolmaster to bring us from the Egypt of this world unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Similarly there is comfort for the remnant among the Jews in these last days when they read in Ezekiel, Chapter 37, of the dry bones coming up from among the heathen whither they be gone, being given life, and being united in one nation in the land given unto Jacob to walk in God’s judgments and to observe His statutes. Writing to the Romans on this subject centuries later, Paul said, “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” Romans 11:15. “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” Romans 11:25.

Eclipsing the significance of these profound mysteries, however, is the comfort to both the Jew and the Gentile believer, that while Christ hung upon the cross in the agony of His death, the hand of the Roman soldiers was stayed from breaking His legs, for it was prophesied that, “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.” Psalm 34:20. Neither when He cometh again shall one of His jewels be missing. How beautifully Christ speaks of the preservation of His people and of their oneness in Him in these words, “Neither pray I for these alone (His disciples), but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent Me. And the glory which thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved Me.” John 17:20-23.

The wisdom of Solomon acquaints us with the fact that a broken spirit drieth the bones while pleasant words are as a honey comb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. Envy is the rottenness of the bones, as trust in God is marrow to the bones. How true! That these are only parts of His ways is no shameful admission, for as we know not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so we know not the works of God who maketh all.

The skeletal framework of a human largely determines the size, the shape, the structure and the strength of the body. So it is with the body of Christ (The Church) for the image of God’s Son was set from everlasting in the mind and purpose of God, and His people have been predestinated to be conformed to that image. “A body hast thou prepared Me”, declares the Son of God. Hebrews 10:5. And when we worship God in spirit and in truth, we worship Him in the temple of Christ’s body.

But, if we are Christ’s, we are not only members of His body and of His bones but of His flesh as well. In His flesh, Christ abolished the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace. And through Him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Hence the extreme unction of these words of Jesus to us, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” John 6:53-58. In other words, in Christ we live, and move, and have our being. Is it any wonder, then, that the Psalmist David, having been shown that the Lord was his refuge, his fortress and his hiding place, cried out in adoration and praise, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” Psalm 84:1-2.

Skin covers the flesh and the complexion of the skin reveals the health of the body. The sequence of God prophesies, He will employ in the restoration of Israel, is revealing to say the least for it reads, “And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:6. Note the significance of the skin as it clothes the body. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in his hand, he “wist not that the skin of his face shone” and so did it shine that he had to cover his face with a veil when he spoke to the children of Israel, for they were so afraid. The countenances of Daniel and the Hebrew children were fairer and fitter in flesh than the children which did eat the king’s meat and drink the king’s wine, for they partook of their usual pulse, a food of which the world knows not. On the other hand, the agony of Christ’s suffering is portrayed beautifully by David in Psalm 102 in which he notes that by reason of the voice of Christ’s groaning His bones clave to His skin. Certainly, His visage was more marred than any man and His form more than the sons of men. How striking the contrast, then, between the visage of Christ and those of Daniel and Moses! Consequently, we can say with Isaiah that He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. Similarly, David credits Christ with the health of his countenance. Psalm 42:11.

Notwithstanding these truths, the body of Christ which is the Church would have no life save for the blood of Christ, for the blood is the life of the body. In the natural body the blood not only carries nourishment throughout its members but also purges the body of impurities. So it is with the blood of Christ. From the Word of God, it is very clear that the blood of Christ nourishes us (John 6:53), cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7), purges our hearts from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22) and purges our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). The body of Christ consists of those who are brought out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Forasmuch as Jesus died for us, should it be revealed that we are among the members of His body, then our bodies, too, must die the death of the cross. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, and henceforth we should not serve sin. “I am crucified with Christ:” said Paul, “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. These words of Paul provide a universal testimony of our experience. Moreover, we die daily! For though we are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that we should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God, yet we bear about in our bodies, daily, the dying of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, there is no schism in the body of Christ, for the love of God which comes from the head of the body is reciprocated by our love of Him and our love of each other. We love Him because He first loved us. As a witness to this, we recall the day of Pentecost when they were all with one accord in one place – a beautiful type of heavenly peace and glory. Schisms do come into the militant Church, however, by those who walk in disorder or who bring in unsound doctrine, but woe unto him, through whom these offences come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. For those who offend the Church of God by sheer unruliness and fail to repent when rebuked by God-fearing brethren, spit upon Christ just as contemptuously today, as His accusers spat upon Him when they crucified Him of old, for which acts of contempt they shall bear God’s wrath in His own time. We do not expect to see perfection in this life but the injunction is laid upon all brethren to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Some may describe the bond which exists between the Church of God and the body of Christ as a union, but the word “union” is to be found nowhere in the Scriptures. All of this is to show that the bond is a more perfect one, which can only be described as a unity or a complete oneness. Moreover, God gave His Church gifts: some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” Ephesians 4:13.

A certain King made a marriage for His Son. And for this cause a Man did leave His Father and His Mother to be joined unto His wife, and they two became one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. And the members of His Church are members of His body in particular, that is they are set in a particular place in His body. The House of God is not built upon an happenstance of contingencies but upon the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. These gracious truths overrule the missionary efforts of men to reconstitute the bride and defuse the efforts of Satan to disfigure her. Once more we are assured that what God has joined together no man can put asunder!

We shall close this article with these two references. The existence of Christ with His Father from eternity as the Son of God is clearly documented by Solomon in these words, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” Proverbs 8:22,23,30. And speaking to the Father concerning the existence of His Church from the beginning, as well, the Lord’s anointed gives us this assurance in these words of David, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members are written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:15-16. Consequently, we have revealed to us from the Son of God, Himself, the eternal vital unity of the Church of God and the body of Christ which existed from everlasting. And this unity shall be revealed in its fullness when the holy city, the new Jerusalem comes down from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Then shall we know even as we are known.

And in moments of divine revelation such as these when time seems to stand still at His gracious presence and love fills to overflowing all the avenues of our soul, our hope takes fresh courage to press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Moreover, these moments prove sweet consolation for those innumerable times when we are assailed on every hand by doubts and fears. Similarly, they provide beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness on those occasions when we feel our bones are dried and our hope is lost. May God be praised!

Stewart McColl

THE TRUTH
Volume 1, No. 2
April-June, 1983