Tag Archives: Body

Christ in Ephesus

Christ also is the head of the church, being Himself the savior of the body…we are members of His body.      Ephesians 5:23, 30

Letter writing was laborious business in the days of the apostle Paul, before typewriters were invented.  That is why he asked different churches to share the letters he sent them, just as we are reading and receiving a blessing form those same letters today.

Two of his letters are much alike, those to the Ephesians and to the Colossians.  They are so similar that they are often called twin epistles.  An interesting exercise is to sit down and underline the verses that are almost identical in the two.

The difference between the two (for most twins have differences) is that Ephesians looks at the Church as the blessed body of Christ, and Colossians looks especially at Christ, who is the head of the body.

The fact that Ephesians and Colossians have a great deal in common, and that we are blessed by those same letters today, shows that the chief characteristic of the Church of Jesus Christ is its unity.  There are Christians today whose language we cannot understand if our life depended upon it.  The Christians of some countries are radically different from us, in their way of life.  Yet for all our differences, Paul says that “there is one body, and one Spirit, even as we were called in one hope of our calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.” (4:4)  Notice exactly how many “one’s” there are in that passage–seven, the complete number, the number of churches in Christ’s candelabra in Revelation.

In these days when there is so much talk about church union, it is wonderful to know that the true Church of Jesus Christ always has been united.  It has different parts, just as there are different parts to our body, but it is always and absolutely one.


Getting Together

Let us consider how to stir up one another … not neglecting to meet together.      Hebrews 10:24, 25

When Hebrews talks about meeting together it is not talking only about going to church.  Hebrews is saying that the greatness of salvation cannot be experienced in isolation.  No Christian is an island.

Jesus had this in mind when He said that wherever two or three Christians get together, He is present (Matthew 18:20).  When believers get together it is as if Jesus says, “This is me!”  Christ does not merely join us when we meet for worship or fellowship; He is automatically there — in us.

Ephesians 1:22, 23 (NIV) says: “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

Christ is what makes a Christian home beautiful; He makes the Christian family one with Him.  Where is that “two or three” more real than in the union of a believing husband and wife, possibly with one or more children?  The book of Romans tells us that many of the early Christians had house churches (see 16:5).  Some of the most meaningful events and thoughts recorded in the Bible were born out of this family-type fellowship as saints, drawn together in Christ, promoted oneness in Him.  Is your home today like a church?  Is your family a body of Christ?

You May Not Die Again

It is appointed for men to die once.         Hebrews 9:27

When Hebrews talks about death here in chapter nine, it focuses on Jesus’ death and sacrifice and how believers can escape death through Him.

Jesus says that when we believe in Him, we have eternal life (John 3:36).  When a Christian dies, then, he keeps right on living — actually more than ever.

As far as our bodies which do the dying are concerned, they begin dying from day one.  What we call life is in reality a continuous death: old cells are constantly being replaced by new ones.  The bodies we have at age sixteen are quite different from the ones with which we were born; by age sixty our bodies have changed and replaced themselves a great many times.  What we call death is simply the complete exchange of our perishable bodies for new, eternal ones.

No wonder Paul becomes excited about this and says that it is better to depart and be with the Lord (Philippians 1:23).  He writes: “We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house [not a tent} not made with hands, eternal in the heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Jesus offers the best comfort when He says, “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26).  Christians will live forever because the living Christ lives within them.

Soul Versus Spirit

The word of God …. [pierces] to the division of soul and spirit.      Hebrews 4:12

People have long disagreed as to whether human beings are just body and soul or body, soul, and spirit.

Whatever the case, there is clearly a difference between what is related to the human soul and what is truly spiritual.  More important, the Bible doesn’t begin to make the distinction between body and soul that we do.  The word it uses for flesh is psych, and the “sins of the flesh” are mental/emotional things such as anger, jealousy, hatred, and selfish ambition.

What we are to remember is that some of the “spiritual” things we do can in fact be fleshly and sensual.  Listening to Handel’s Messiah may be just as sensual and fleshly as drinking beer in front of the television set.  I have often attended this oratorio myself to experience sensual enjoyment — I wasn’t always worshiping God.  And in worship services, the “inspiration” we get from stirring songs or rousing sermons can be just as sensual and self-centered as the inspiration we get from a football game.

Our so-called service to God and others can also be very fleshly, motivated by mere habit, duty, esteem, or any other selfish action.  Studying the Word of God, however, can help us understand ourselves and why we do things.  Those who live close to God through His Word live in truly spiritual service.

The Lord’s Supper (conclusion of The Sacraments)

Besides calling attention to Christ’s ongoing life (instead of his death alone), the Lord’s Supper goes beyond baptism by representing comm-union.  Protestantism does not believe in celebrating  the Lords’ Supper in solitude.  The Lord’s Supper, as said before, symbolizes the ongoing nature of that fellowship, plus the ongoing unity of all believers, like the several members of of a human body, in the one Lord Jesus with whom they died and now live.  Baptism is administered individually, denoting personal entrance into Christ’s fellowship.  And here is where we go wide awry in this whole matter of “preparation” and self-examination, which is kind of a carry-over from the Catholic custom of “going to confession” before taking communion, and even there, the horizontal reference is involved – namely, ones relation to fellow-communicants, rather than between the communicant and God, for I understand that a Catholic may attend mass and not take communion, without going to confession.

The custom of preparation and self-exam also stems from “fundamentalistic” influence, which believes that a Christian can be saved today and lost tomorrow.  True, every Christian has his spiritual ups and downs, but that is one of the very reasons for which the Lord’s Supper has been instituted and is intended, namely, to strengthen weak faith, by drawing on the Lord Jesus.  Much like prayer, when we need the Lord’s Supper the most we might feel the least worthy of it, which is a good reason why we should participate.  Spiritual weakness is a reason for going to communion, not for staying away.

As regards the touchy question of admission to communion on the part of non-members, we are guilty in this regard often of giving greater importance to a picture of God’s truth than the inspired truth itself.  Any one who presents himself before the preaching of God’s Word is surely adding to his condemnation if he responds negatively, and yet we encourage such persons to keep coming.  Consistency would recommend that if we bar some people from communion we ought to bar them from the two-edged “sword of the Spirit.”  In practice this means that groups like the LDS have some clear thinking and principal behavior when they open their “tabernacles” to all who wish to enter, but limit the temples and the worship therein, with the sacraments, to members.  We try to worship and do evangelism simultaneously , which is difficult in a normal service, but it is unChristian and discourteous to invite unchurched neighbors to any and all of our public services only to tell them politely that from one of the ceremonies they must abstain.  As regards our long-suffering children, who sit through long communion services in the hope that we may provoke them to a holy jealousy, it were better that a separate service be held for non-communcants; no part of a congregation should ever be told, “This part is not for you.”

Apart from that, by what criterion is one to examine himself to see just how sinful and miserable he is or isn’t?  Just how much faith should he have in Christ for salvation, and how can that be measured?  How strong must be the resolution to live the Christian Life (presumably by one’s own efforts)?

The Bible assumes (and so should we) that every member of Christ’s body is always “worthy” to take part in the Lord’s Supper;  readiness is something that should mark him constantly, not just at inspection time.  In the classic passage where Paul says we should “examine ourselves” he is not talking at all about the participants worthiness; you and I might have had our doubts about some of them on that score, and think that Paul should have scolded them.  To the contrary, he says that they were not celebrating the meal in a proper way, and they should give thought to that.  “Either celebrate it with the right attitude toward the meal and others, or stay at home,” he says.

When he says, “You eat and drink judgment upon yourself because you do not discern (see in this meal and its celebration) the Lord’s body” he is certainly not saying that they weren’t thinking about Jesus and his “physical” body; that was part of the problem.  They were not thinking about fellow-Christians, that body of Christ.  They were thinking only of “Jesus and me.”

Paul is saying nothing more nor less than Christ did when he talked about leaving our sacrifice on the altar (the Lord’s Supper on the table) until we are “one” with our fellow-Christian.  On that score we can and do “fall out of grace” between Lord’s Suppers.  That was the sin of the prodigal’s older brother, for the likes of whom the parable was told  – not a rescue mission story.  If the crash programs of family-visits that some churches have prior to the Lord’s Supper lay stress on that aspect of our Christian life, well and good.  But let us not let our reconciled state with God be an object of quarterly or even weekly analysis and anxiety;  that is not entering into God’s “rest”.  A nervous stomach is bad for digestion, either physical or spiritual.

Other weaknesses in the Lord’s Supper celebrations which confuse its participants as to purpose and meaning include:

  1. Inexact typology in one of the forms says that just as a great many berries are squeezed into a single container of wine, or many kernels of wheat are mixed  into one loaf of bread, so are all the members of Christ’s church molded by his Spirit into a unified whole.  This is a pretty picture, and we are allowed to make up such illustrations of our own as “types” of spiritual truths.  In this case, however, the analogy is not found in Scripture but, in fact, is exactly the reverse of what the Lord’s Supper intends to depict, mainly , that from the one to the many, we who partake of the one Lord Jesus Christ find our unity, despite being as “different and apart” as members of a human body, in Him as our single source, life-giver.
  2. Similarly, the breaking of the communion loaf (a symbolism to be preferred to the mechanically-cubed pieces) does not, as we said before, depict the fracture of Christ’s body in crucifixion, but, in symbolizing the death of the believers with Christ, may well depict also the fact that they must be “broken” and “poured out” in order to feed others in turn, first of all their own physical “flesh and blood” (relatives, families).  We are not simply to be served, but to serve; not only dine, but work; receive life, but to give it (by dying to self, as a mother “dies” to reproduce life).  Paul makes the startling statement that he “fills up” the sufferings of Christ by means of his personal sufferings in behalf of the gospel and its dissemination.  In Scripture the picture of wheat-kernels is not that they are ground up to make one bread, but that they are buried and die in order to re-create countless others.
  3. That, in turn, reminds of the un-communionlike controversies that ironically have fractured the fellowship within single congregations over the pictures of truth instead of the truths themselves; bad enough that we create denominations over disputed doctrines; the height of heresy (which basically means “trouble-making”) is to quibble over symbolism.  In the case of baptism it has taken the form of immersion vs sprinkling, but that quarrel can be understood because the reality behind the picture is at issue; two or more things are thereby being represented.  In the case of the Lord’s Supper, individual congregations (the basic unit of the church) have split over the question of individual versus common cups, and wine vs. grape-juice.  Both quarrels arose from failure to understand typology; it’s the common drink, not the container(s).  It’s the color and form of that drink, not the material, which is the point of comparison.  Would those who insist upon wine be agreeable to the white variety? So, a red soft-drink is acceptable (to say nothing of grape-juice) as in many (overseas) communions.  Perhaps not even color is significant; wine (or grape-juice) was the “coffee” of the culture in which Jesus lived and died.  It is not without significance that Jesus did not speak of that after-dinner beverage by name, but he and Paul consistently referred to it as “the cup.”
  4. It is the “cup of blessing” (or “thanksgiving”) which is the term the Israelites had used for 1400 years previously.  The pastor’s hand of benediction upon it is harmless enough, but it is we who do the blessing (praising), not God; we bless Him for it!  Much better that the cup of celebration be raised (by one or all) in tribute and toast to the host and the King.  Let’s let God’s pictures be picturesque!

Body, Soul, and Spirit (Trichotomy)

The nature of man is a very important doctrine.  A lot of bad theology comes from ignorance as to this question of who we are and what makes a Christian.

DEFINITION:  Trichotomy is the theory that a Christian person is made up of three inseparable aspects – body, soul and spirit.  (Dichotomy says there is only body and soul; spirit is just another word for soul.)

The soul is commonly said to comprise our emotions, intellect, and will.  (“Heart, head, hand.”) The Bible word “heart” often includes all three.  The emotions were referred to as “reins, bowels,” etc., much like we may say, “I have a gut feeling.”  The soul is “spiritual” by being invisible, religious (all men are), and moral (everybody has a conscience).  Nevertheless, the soul by itself is non-spiritual, or “earthy”.  The Bible speaks of animals as being “souls”.  The soul is mortal.  It is capable of evil as well as good.  The soul of a person originates at conception.  The best explanation as to its method of origin is traducian, that is, our personality is inherited from our forebears in the same way as our bodies.  (The Bible word for the “natural” man is “psychical”.)

A person’s sprit is given him by God at the time of regeneration.  It is something new (not a change in what he already has), which is why it is called a “second birth”. (Ezk 36:25,26)  Such a person becomes a “new man”.  It (he) is perfect, cannot sin.  (I John 3:9)  It is immortal; this is “eternal life”, which begins at the moment of conversion, and not when a person leaves this earth.  It is the Holy Spirit (John 3:5), the Spirit of Christ (the God-man).  This is “Christ in us” or being “in Christ”, an expression used 150 times in the New Testament.  Needless to say, a born-again individual does not lose his identity by being “swallowed up in God”; it is like the “one flesh” which two persons become by means of marriage.  (Ephesians 5:22-ff)

When a person becomes a Christian his old “man” is regarded as dead and buried (Romans 6:1-11, Col. 3:3, Gal 2:20).  He is no longer depraved.  He is no longer a “sinner” – saved, forgiven, or acquitted.  He is now a saint.  The two are mutually exclusive, just as a person cannot be regenerate and unregenerate at the same time.

Immediately upon regeneration the “new man”, the perfect spirit, begins to make the soul holy.  This is what we usually regard as “sanctification”.  (And it is Christ who is our sanctification in this sense as well as being the perfect person within us.  I Cor. 1:30)  The mind is renewed (Romans 12:2) so that we have the very “mind of Christ.”  (I Cor. 2)  The affections are centered on new objects (Col 3:2); his very will becomes “God’s will” (John 7:17; compare Romans 7:18 with Phil. 2:13).  This process of perfection (Phil. 3:12) is completed at the moment of death.

The human body is the last to be “saved” (Rom. 8:23, II Cor 5:1-8, I Cor. 15:45-58), along with the physical creation (Rms 8:18-22, II Peter 3:10-13).  But already here and now a Christian’s body shares in his present salvation (Ps. 103:3, Matt 8:18).  This is because the soul and body affect each other for good as well as ill; God also effects miraculous healing of the mind and body whenever this serves His perfect purposes.

In addition to the texts quoted above, two important proofs of biblical evidence for trichotomy are I Thes. 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12.  (The analogous doctrine of the Trinity – a word not found in scripture – has but 2 “proof texts”.)  Old Testament texts are often quoted to “show” that soul and spirit are synonyms.  However, the Spirit of Christ did not “exist” in the Old Testament (John 7:39) anymore than Jesus.  Old Testament anthropology is as general as its doctrine of redemption and even of God, emphasizing His unity rather than tri-unity. (Harper Bible, p.1775).

A Biblical Psycho-Theology of the “New Man in Christ” (Part I)

new man in christ

Editor’s Note:  This is a two-part series based on the diagram above.  The first part centers on Interpretation, while the second focuses on Implementation.  

1.  The outer circle represents the human body.  The arrows are the countless impressions that we receive (good and bad) from our environment (people, food, books, etc.) and our responses to them, both positive and negative.

2.  The middle circle represents the human soul, comprising (popularly) the mind, emotions, and will. This circle is demarked from the body by a broken line because the body and soul are an inseparable unity in which they influence each other so much (psychosomatic) that it is hard to tell where one begins and the other lets off.  (Cf. brain/mind)  Our environment, which includes Satan, reaches our soul through our body, which is one reason, amongst others, that the Bible speaks of our soul as well as our body as “flesh” (see Rms 7:18; Gal. 5:16).

3.  The innermost circle represents the redeemed human spirit, which is nothing less than God, or Christ himself, in his Spirit.  This is the plain meaning of the expression, “Christ in you” or we “in Christ” (150 times in the New Testament) and I Cor. 6:17.  The size of the circle is not significant; our spirit not only fills our entire body but reaches far outside of it (by means of telescopes, TV, memory, imagination, and prayer).  The arrows indicate that the sprit influences both the soul and thus the body and our environment – other people, etc.

The distinction between soul and body is not as clear in the Old Testament as in the New Testament (and more than the Trinity – in whose likeness man is triad) for the same reason, namely, the Holy Spirit had not yet in those days “been given” (John 7:39), that is, made his home in human “hearts”.  In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was very active, but always on the outside of human beings, coming and going.  In the New Testament the Holy Spirit became “the Spirit of Christ”, indwelt Christ fully, who pours him(self) into us like a funnel, permanently.  (Acts 2:33)  That there is a distinction between soul and spirit is evident from I Thess. 5:23 and Hebs 4:12.  (Note contrast too between thoughts and attitudes.)  This latter text demonstrates two important facts; many “good” deeds are not spiritual (emanating from faith), but are simply soulish, destined for destruction.  On the other hand, the sins of a Christian can be disowned (Romans 7:17,20) as “motions of the flesh”, knee jerks of our old, dead-an-buried “nature” and not the products of our new self, the fruit of the Spirit, Christ in us.

A scriptural theology of regeneration (new birth) and sanctification is impossible without a distinction between soul and spirit.  The Bible says plainly that a Christian is not just simply a converted, changed, forgiven person, but a brand new one (II Cor. 5:17) twice-born (John 3:3).  We know that his soul is not replaced; he sins in thought, word, and deed, and yet the Bible speaks of him as actually perfect (not just theoretically), a partaker of the divine nature.  In short, at conversion we receive a heart-transplant, a brand-new spirit (Ezek 36:26,27) which, in turn, sanctifies gradually our soul (Jeremiah and Hebs 8:10; 10:16).  At the same time, we must not think of a Christian as having two selves, two egos; he is but a single (new) person.  His old self was crucified with Christ, and “pronounced dead” at his conversion.  The “civil war” that Paul describes in Romans 7 is between a person’s head, which tells him one thing, and his will, which does something different.  The solution to that terrible fix, as Paul says, is to have a new, perfect, permanent, victorious Spirit who rules and controls both body and soul, our thinking as well as our feelings and doing.  Any “struggle” or warfare  that a Christian has is not intra-soul (which can drive to suicide) but between his powerful Spirit (who is God, remember?) and the left-overs, grave-clothes of sin in his soul.  In such an unequal contest, there is no “game”, no real battle.  “If God be for us…” – no opposition!  All this is represented in the sketch above by the arrows that emanate from the spirit, while none (repeat, none) invade it from without.  Only God has access to it.  It is immune, impregnable, invulnerable to all else,  (It is God/Christ, who can neither sin nor be tempted – nor tempts anybody else;  “the Evil One ‘has nothing’ (no point of contact) in me”, said Jesus.  “He that is born of God cannot sin.”

The “spirit” of an unbeliever is a “God-shaped” vacuum.  It is dead, empty.  Satan occupies it in varying degree (cf. Judas and Legion) and times (Matt 12:43-45).  For the rest, he is like a ship without a rudder, his deeds determined alternately by his head, then his feelings (mostly), external circumstances and other people.  An illustration of this is the Old Testament tabernacle, in which the Holy of Holies (representing God) was off-limits even to his chosen people (until Jesus tore the barrier and escorted us in), and for the last 500 years of the Old Testament was EMPTY!  The countless laws of the Old Testament, not the “believers” hearts, are what kept them in line, until Christ.  The unbeliever is in a class with the animals (who are said to have “souls” as well as man).

*The cross represents the fact that victory, self-rule by the Spirit, is only through the cross, just as Christ “ruled” himself and destroyed Satan via the cross, and we become victors by dying to self.  (The Bible uses the word “cross” more often us to us than it does to Christ!) (Cf Mark 8:34; Gal 6:14)