A Universal Body?
Recently, in particular in the "cooperation controversy," some of the brethren are becoming so overanxious to justify their deeds, that they are using the above scripture (I Cor. 12:27) to show that the body is made up of many members; that these many members are scattered throughout all the congregations of Christ over the country; and the conclusion would naturally follow that since these members are all over the nation (yea, world) and since it takes a working of all the members before we can have a complete and sufficient body, there must, of necessity, be something larger than a local congregation through which these many members can operate or cooperate (be activated). That would lead us to some sort of society (evangelical or benevolent as the case may be) or a "sponsoring congregation" through which the many members may centralize their efforts, thus making up that complete body Paul was discussing.
This same argument was used by the digressives back in the 19th century in defense of the American Christian Missionary Society. David Lipscomb met their argument then and I think his points are sound and substantial, therefore I would like to reproduce it here as taken from the Gospel Advocate Commentary on 1 Corinthians. Remember: Brother Lipscomb wasn't fighting in the present "cooperation controversy," but was fighting to keep out the innovations of the Christian Church. If you will think just a little you will see how the churches of today are headed in exactly the same direction they were then and the same arguments are being used now by the "institutional" brethren that was used by the digressives then. But hear what Lipscomb had to say:
"I Cor. 12:27. 'Now ye are the body of Christ,' — The "ye referred to the membership at Corinth as a whole. They constituted the body of Christ. Not a part of it, but the body complete and entire, within itself a complete body of Christ. To another church Paul says: 'In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.' (Eph. 2:22) The Bible clearly recognizes each separate congregation as the body of Christ as builded together for a dwelling place in the Spirit. So that God in his Spirit dwells in each distinct and separate church. The church is the body of Christ in the community in which it is situated. It is not a foot in Corinth, an arm in Colosse, an eye in Ephesus, an ear in Thessalonica; but each was a complete integral body of Christ composed of all the different members needed to make up his body. Take the church at Jerusalem. It was an existence before any other church on earth? Did the planting of another and another church take from it any of its parts, and of its functions, despoil it of its integralism and completeness as a body of Christ? Certainly not. What about the eunuch? My conviction is that he possessed within himself all the elements of a church of Christ when no other churches were in reach of him, and the multiplication of the seed or the word of God in him would produce a church of God wherever he went, and the same is true of every child of God. A child of God in a strange land has only to worship God himself, multiply the word of God in the hearts of others and the result is a church of the living God, complete in itself without reference to any other organism in the world."