The body of Christ is no mere concept. It is a spiritual reality. The body of Christ was formed on the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God was sent down to the earth, and indwelt the believers there present, linking them to Christ in heaven. Believers on earth who have the Spirit indwelling them are members of the body (Rom. 12:5). Christ in heaven in the head of the body (Col. 1:18). Christ’s mind is to be displayed by His body on earth. The Holy Spirit is the one who directs the members of the body; similar to how the nervous system in the human body works.
The Human Body. Paul gives a powerful treatise on the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. He draws numerous parallels between the physical human body and the mystical body of Christ.
“For even as the [human] body is one and has many members, but all the members of the [human] body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ [mystical].” (1 Cor. 12:12)
I’ve given some thought to the parallels between the physical human body and the mystical body of Christ. Has the church lived up to it’s responsibility as the body? Well let’s see; God’s intention is “that there might be no division in the body, but that the members might have the same concern one for another” (1 Cor. 12:25). Has the body of Christ remained undivided in practice? No. There are well over 10,000 denominations or groups in Christendom.
This got me to thinking, if we had the same problems in our physical bodies that we do in the body of Christ, what might those “diseases” be? I looked at the leading fatal diseases in the world today, and found a remarkable similarity to the problems in the Church.
Before I go on, let’s be clear about one thing: the body of Christ is viewed in scripture as perfect and complete. In practice, the Church is disease-ridden, but through the eternal viewpoint of God, it is perfect through the work of Christ.
There are many things that can be learned from the diseases that plague humans today. May we apply this lessons from the natural world into our spiritual relationships in the body of Christ!
Heart and Pulmonary Disease: Lack of Love
The number one killer in the world today is heart disease. I think it is not a stretch to translate this to the greatest problem in the Church: a lack of love. After addressing the body of Christ in ch. 12, Paul went on to speak of the need for love in the body of Christ. “If… I have not love, I am nothing.” The root of so many divisions and troubles in the assembly is a lack of love for one another.
Cancer: Worldly Ideas & Principles
The second greatest killer is cancer. In the New Testament we read of doctrines and principles that can come into the assembly and spread like cancer, or gangrene. “And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus” (2 Tim. 2:17). In Galatia the Judaizing teachers were bringing in evil doctrine in the form of legalism, and Paul warned that would grow and spread (Gal. 5:9)… before long, many in that region would be consumed with it. In Corinth and in Colosse there was a danger to bring natural wisdom in to the assembly; “the words which man’s wisdom teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13); “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). The solution to cancer is to remove the evil doctrine, and then stick to the Word of God. As Paul exhorted, we must “learn… the lesson of not letting your thoughts go above what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), but rather “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
Infection: Sin & Defilement
Another serious condition to the human body is infection. Infection occurs when bacteria or other pathogens from outside the body invade the body and begin to multiply. Infections must be treated quickly, because they can spread and quickly cause lasting damage. This reminds me of moral evil, which spreads similar to doctrinal evil, if it goes on unjudged. The solution to moral evil, when it has invaded the assembly, it to “purge out therefore the old leaven” (1 Cor. 5:7).
Paralysis: Quenching the Spirit
The next two disorders are not necessarily fatal, but they do seriously hamper the normal functioning of the body. Paralysis occurs when the nerves that lead from the brain to the members are damaged or disconnected. The nerves carry electrical signals from the brain to the muscles and sensors of the body, much the way the Spirit of God guides the members of Christ’s body according to the wishes of our heavenly Head. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:11). If we do not act upon the prompting of the Spirit, we are like paralyzed limbs. The Head has certain thoughts and desires, but the members just won’t move! Failing to act upon the Spirit’s leading is called “quenching the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). This is the error of “not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).
Dyskinesia: Grieving the Spirit
The opposite disorder from paralysis is dyskinesia. Dyskinesia is the disease of uncontrolled muscle movement. You can put it this way; paralysis is not moving when you should, dyskinesia is moving when you shouldn’t! Dyskinesia corresponds to grieving the Spirit; acting independently of the leading of the Spirit according to the directions of the Head. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30). Habitually grieving the Spirit of God can lead to chronic spiritual numbness… where we become desensitized to the leading of the Spirit. The Corinthians had a problem with this, and Paul wrote to correct it (1 Cor. 14:26). When we are following the leading of the Spirit, all things will “be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).
Autoimmune Disorders: Division and Infighting
The next disorder is a serious one: autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is an unnatural phenomena where a person’s immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. This reminds me of division and strife in the body of Christ. We need to remember that we are ONE in Christ. If we attack each other, we are only hurting ourselves. “Wherefore, having put off falsehood, speak truth every one with his neighbour, because we are members one of another.” (Eph. 4:25). Remember that if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it (1 Cor. 12:25). It is one of Satan’s strategies to divide the saints of God, and stir up strife between us (2 Cor. 2:11).
Atrophy: Chronic Weakness from Lack of Exercise
Atrophy is a condition of the body where muscles become weak and shrunken through lack of nourishment or exercise. Each member of the body of Christ has a gift from the Lord. We are responsible to used that gift. If we don’t use it, it will go to waste, just like the muscles in our body. Paul told Timothy “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” (1 Tim. 4:14) and “stir up the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6). We need to remember to use our gift! Put it to good use.
These illustrations from the disorders our physical bodies face are simple reminders of the far deeper challenges that we face in the body of Christ. May God give us the discernment to see these disorders developing in the early stages, that the people of God might be preserved from great heartache and sorrow, and much dishonor brought to the name of Christ. Let us also remember that all nourishment in the body of Christ flows down to the members from Christ the head; “from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).