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The Body

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The Body

(From An Alphabetical Analysis by Charles Welch)

The Greek word soma which is translated “body” in the N.T. occurs 147 times, and is translated “body” in all passages except two where it is rendered “slave” (Rev. 18:13) and “bodily” (2 Cor. 10:10). In the majority of cases soma refers to the actual physical body (Matt. 5:29, 26:12), in some cases it refers to the spiritual body that shall be given in resurrection (1 Cor. 15:35, 37, 44). With these aspects of the term we are not immediately concerned. The word “body,” however, is used in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians of a believing company or church, and to these references we now turn. The references in 1 Corinthians to the body as a company or church are found in Chapters 10 to 12. This company are made one body by baptism.

“For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into One spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

During the same dispensation and referring to the same baptism, the same Apostle wrote of the same company:

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus, and if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:27-29).

The one body therefore of 1 Corinthians 12 is a realization of the promise made to Abraham, and must not be confused with that which had at that time never been revealed. We must not attempt an exposition of 1 Corinthians 12 without referring to 1 Corinthians 10, for to do so will be fatal to a true understanding.

“Moreover brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink” (1 Cor. 10:1-4).

1 Corinthians 12 not only opens with desire that the reader should not be ignorant, there is the similar emphasis on the word “same,” “The same spiritual meat,” “The same spiritual drink” (1 Cor. 10:3,4). “The same spirit,” “the same Lord,” “the same God,” “the same spirit” (1 Cor. 12:4,5,6,8,9). To refuse to compare these passages and be guided by this comparison is to set aside the principle of interpretation already laid down in Chapter 2:12. Not only are these repetitions of the desire that the Corinthians should not be ignorant, and the stress upon “the same,” but there is also the emphasis upon eating and drinking.

“They did all eat the same spiritual meat: and did all drink the same spiritual drink.”

“Behold Israel after the flesh, are not they which eat of the sacrifice, partakers of the alter?”

“Take eat, this is My body.” “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils.”

“As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.”

These passages cannot be separated from the reference in 1 Corinthians 12:13.

“For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been made to drink into one spirit.”

The basis of the argument of the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 10 to 12 is the baptism of all Israel unto Moses, and their consequent share in the “spiritual” meat and drink that followed. When he comes to expand and apply this in 1 Corinthians 12, he opens the subject by saying: “Now concerning spiritual gifts” showing that he is now about to develop the typical significance of the “spiritual” meat and drink which “all Israel” enjoyed. Consequently he calls upon all to recognize that while there are most certainly diversities of gifts, or differences of administrations or diversities of operations, these all come from the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God. In short the “body” of 1 Corinthians 12 cannot be separated from the typical history of Israel, nor from the possession and use of spiritual gifts. To make it evident that spiritual gifts are the feature of this chapter, let us note the following facts:

  1. In the opening verse the Apostle introduces the subject with the words “Now concerning spiritual gifts.”
  2. In verses 2 and 3 he differentiates between those spiritual gifts which are from God, and those that belong to the evil one.
  3. Having subdivided his subject, he now deals specifically with those gifts which are of God.
  4. In verses 5-11 he sets out in much detail the diverse nature of these spiritual gifts, enumerating among others “healing,” “miracles,” “prophecy,” “tongues” and “interpretation.” But, however diverse these gifts may be he takes us back to their one and only source, “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit dividing to every man severally as He will” (1 Cor. 12:11).
  5. Extending this idea, the Apostle immediately introduces the figure of the body: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12).
  6. This is followed by a reference that links this theme with the Baptism of Israel unto Moses and the Red Sea:”For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body. . .and have all been made to drink one spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).
  7. From this develops the remainder of the argument, which speaks of the human body, with its eye, its hand, its foot, and even its “uncomely parts,” which proves that “the Church which is His body” is not in view, for there are no “uncomely parts” there, and of that body Christ alone is the head, whereas, here we have as many references to the various functions of the head (eye, ear, nose) as of the rest.
  8. To demonstrate that these “members” of the body refer to the distribution and functioning of “spiritual gifts” observe the following feature: “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased Him.” “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:18, 28).

Here then is the employment of the figure of the “body” definitely related to the type of Israel’s baptism unto Moses, definitely related to the possession and the exercise of spiritual gifts, definitely related to the promise made to Abraham, but entirely unrelated to a church, whose members were chosen before the foundation of the world, a church where “spiritual gifts” are unknown, a church whose very existence was a mystery unrevealed when 1 Corinthians was written. The student who observes the frontiers set up by Dispensational Truth will never appeal to 1 Corinthians 10-12 as a passage which speaks of the Church of the one body of Ephesians. We turn now to the epistles of Paul, written after Acts 28:28 written to make known the truth of the Mystery, in order that we may obtain information concerning the Church which is called the Body of Christ.

First let us see the distribution of the word “Body” in Ephesians.

Two passages fall within the doctrinal section, namely Ephesians 1:23 and 2:16, the remaining seven being found in the practical section, chapters 4 and 5. Let us examine the doctrinal passage first, as these will supply the fundamental teaching of Ephesians concerning the “Body.” These references to the Church the Body, are not isolated, but form an integral part of the contextual argument, and just as we found the “Body” of 1 Corinthians 12, vitally and inseparably connected with Moses, Israel, Abraham and spiritual and miraculous gifts, so we shall find the reference to the Body in Ephesians 1:23 vitally and inseparably connected with the exaltation of the Saviour “Far above all.” There are seven sections in the doctrinal portion of Ephesians, and Ephesians 1:23 falls within the third of these subdivisions. (For the complete structure of Ephesians, see the article entitled EPHESIANS.) The following is its analysis.

It is evident from this passage that the Church of the one Body is vitally and inseparably connected with Christ in His exaltation “far above all” “in heavenly places.” Under the heading HEAVENLY PLACES this peculiar sphere of blessing is discussed. It is sufficient here to say that this sphere is never spoken of in connection with any other calling but that of the Mystery, which fact of itself lifts the Church of the one Body which is associated with it, into a distinct place in the purpose of the ages, not to be confused with the promises made to Abraham or any other age purpose that belongs to lower realms. These heavenly places are further defined as “far above all principality and power” (Eph. 1:21), “far above all heavens” (Eph. 4:10). It is where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20), and the superlative and marvel of grace is that this Church of the one Body is reckoned by God not only to be “raised together” but also “seated together” in those self-same heavenly places “in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).

Then further, the title “the Body” is not the final title of this blessed company. The full measure of grace and glory is realized when we read: “The church which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22, 23). When the import of this world “fulness” is perceived (see the article entitled THE PLEROMA) then something of the place of this company of the redeemed will be realized. The second reference, namely Ephesians 2:16 will be found treated in the articles entitled THE MIDDLE WALL and RECONCILIATION and the references to the one body in Ephesians 4:4 and 16 will be considered in the article entitled THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT. Finally the references to the Body in Ephesians 5 should be read in the light of the teaching assembled in the article entitled THE BRIDE AND THE BODY. Sufficient has been brought forward to demonstrate the unique character of this high calling, which makes it impossible when once seen to confuse this Church of the Body with the references already considered in 1 Corinthians 10-12.

BOTH. This word and the synonymous “twain” of Ephesians 2:14-18 fall within the teaching arising out of the reference to “The Middle Wall” and the article under that heading should be consulted, as also the structure of EPHESIANS together with the articles on RECONCILIATION, THE NEW MAN and ORDINANCES. It would necessitate going over the ground already covered by these articles to deal with the term “both” of Ephesians 2:14 here.

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