The Body of Christ
During the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, one of the chief concerns of the Reformers was to restore historical Christian doctrines to their proper place, not the least of which was the doctrine of the church. In the medieval period, the church was regarded as having an authority equal to Scripture. In seeking to be faithful to Scripture, the Reformers did not discard church tradition, but rather returned it to its rightful position as subservient to the Word of God. As we embark on our study, we will reflect on the Reformation understanding of what Scripture and the ancient Apostles’ Creed teach about the nature of the church.
Some people have criticized the Reformers and accused them of making the church superfluous, but Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other Protestant thinkers loved the church. Since they were committed to Christ and His Word, they had to—for Christ loves His church. In fact, our Savior loves His church so much that He died for her, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:25–33. Christ loves the church because it is His own body. In the same text, the Apostle draws a parallel between the normal love we have for our bodies and the love Christ has for His church. Just as we show a proper love for our physical condition by taking care of ourselves, so Christ shows love for His own body—the church—by nourishing and cherishing it (vv. 28–30).
As we reflect on the text of Ephesians 5, it is clear that the church is the body of Christ. Because the church is the body of Christ, Christ loves the church. The application for us is that if our Lord loves His church, so too must we, for we are called to imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). If we do not love the church, we do not love Christ.
That the church is the body of Christ also tells us something vital about how Christ works in our world. As individuals, we accomplish our goals through the use of our bodies. We use our arms, legs, minds, and other parts of our bodies to do our jobs, show love to our friends and families, and so forth. Similarly, Christ carries out His saving purposes for the world through His body, the church. We are His hands, as it were, through whom He ministers His love to the world and takes His truth to the end of the earth.
CORAM DEO Living before the face of God
If the church is the body of Christ, that has implications for how seriously we take her discipline and our membership therein. We should not leave a church for frivolous reasons, thereby dividing the body of Christ. We should also pay special heed to the elders, pastors, and leaders of the church. They have been placed in their positions for our good.
We would like to thank Ligonier Ministries for providing this week’s plan.