Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 8, 1960
NUMBER 31, PAGE 1,12-13a

The Church -- The Body Of Christ

W. P. Risener, Orange, Texas

The Bible clearly teaches that Christ is the head of His church, and that this church is His body.

"And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Col. 1:18) "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which, is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:22-23) "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." (Col. 1:24)

Moreover, the Bible clearly teaches that there is only one church of Christ, or body of Christ, whether we are pleased with God's arrangement or not. If we understand what the church is, and who composes the membership thereof, this will not be an impossible lesson for us to learn, though it be the very opposite of what we have been told by religious leaders in the churches founded by men from our youth up. We aim to prove this affirmation by the Bible, and are confident that the task is not a difficult one.

First, if the church is the house or family of God, and if it is the body of Christ, and if all those who are saved are added to it by the Lord, or born again into it, (if you wish to view it as a family) why should anyone deem that there should be more than one? Isaiah prophesied that all nations would flow unto it; the great commission was given to include all nations, and the Lord had stated in John 10:16, "....and other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." And in Ephesians chapter 3 Paul explains the mystery of Christ, "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." (Eph. 3:5-6) For as he had just explained in the preceding chapter, "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometime were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Eph. 2:11-16) So we see that both Jew and Gentile were to be reconciled unto God in one body, which, let us please not forget, is the church, and this will encompass all nations, or every creature under heaven, and there is simply no need for another church or body. But let us appeal to the Scriptures to establish this fact, for we aim to prove it by such means that your faith may rest in the very truth and power of God.

"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." (Eph. 4:4) In these quotations let us please not forget that the body and the church are exactly the same, as we have before abundantly shown. "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (Rom. 12:4-5) "For as the body is one, and bath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jew or Gentile, whether we be bond or free;...." (1 Cor. 12:12-13) "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body." (1 Cor. 12:18-19) Is this not clear enough for all to see? God places the members in this one body, and He says that though there are many members there is but one body. How many bodies is BUT ONE BODY?

"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body." (Eph. 5:23) In verse 25 it is declared that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. But when He gave Himself for it, He purchased the church with His own blood, as we noted before in Acts 20:28. Neighbor, is Christ your saviour, having redeemed you with His blood? Then you are a part of that which He purchased, and for which He gave Himself, and of which He is the saviour. You ought to be content to remain in the church or body in which God places those who are redeemed, and turn away from all those erected by men far this side of the establishment of the Lord's church. The Lord prayed that His people might all be one, (John 17:20-21) and the apostle Paul pleaded that there be no divisions. (1 Cor. 1:10) There is simply no place for human erected churches in God's arrangement, and no man can find authority in the Bible for the establishment of a single one of them. All of them were founded by men acting according to their own will and wisdom outside the scope of Bible authority, and everyone of them stands today in direct conflict and opposition to God's own will and plan in the church of His son.

How To Become A Member

The question of how to become a member of this church of Christ, about which we can read in our Bibles, is pertinent to this study. We need to know just when and how one is added to the membership thereof and who does the adding, if we are to be benefitted as members thereof. As we consider this question, we wonder if those, for example the Baptist, who have defined a "church" as being a body of baptized believers will stand by their own definition. We hope they will.

"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41) This shows that those who received the word of the Lord that went forth from Jerusalem were baptized, and gives the number added as about three thousand souls. It is interesting to note that they did not join this church, but they were added. I believe no one questions or doubts that those added were those who were baptized. But who does the adding? Does the church itself do the adding? No, not to this church, because the chapter concludes with the statement that ....the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:47) Thus we see that the Lord does the adding to His church, and He adds those that are saved, when they are saved. So the question turns upon the matter of who is saved, and when is he saved. If he is saved the Lord adds him to His church, and He has given no indication that any help from men is needed or desired in doing this work of adding. But again we must notice that if the "Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved," He must needs know who it is that should be saved. Do you think He knows, neighbor? Hear ye him; "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) So no wonder those who received the word and were baptized were added unto them. These are the ones that should be saved according to the word of Christ himself.

Looking at the church as the body of Christ, which we have learned is another term by which it is called, we have the following: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free." (1 Cor. 12:13) Thus we see that entrance into the body is gained in exactly the same way as entrance into the church, which of course must be true since they are the same. "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him." (1 Cor. 12:18) So we have agreement on this point also. The Lord adds men to His church, or sets the members in His body. Men have foolishly misapplied baptism. They have taken it and made it the condition of membership in human built churches, founded hundreds of years this side of the beginning of the Lord's church, and have denied its original design as a condition of membership in the body of Christ. What right do they have to take this which the Lord instituted as a requirement for admittance into His church, and make it the requirement for admittance into their own churches, and contend that membership in the Lord's church is gained by faith only, before and without baptism?

If we consider the church from the standpoint of being the house or family of God, we find that entrance is gained by being born again into it. "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5) Men talk about being born again and then joining some church, but it would be just as absurd and unreasonable to speak of a child being born into the world and then joining some family. If we can but persuade men to leave water in the new birth where the Lord put it, we will have perfect harmony and agreement here also. But they tell us baptism is work, and a man simply must not do anything. Faith is not work they say, (though the Bible says it is, John 6:29) and so they stretch it backwards to include regeneration, having a holy disposition, loving God, and repentance, and forward to include trusting Christ as their personal Saviour, and some, even confession of His name before men; but they just can't quite stretch their faith enough to include baptism. The need is for more faith and of a better quality.

The Lord said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21) In this parallel passage with John 3:5, doing the will of the Father equals being born again, for the result in both cases is entrance into the kingdom. Again, entrance into the kingdom is contingent upon being converted, ....Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3) "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out...." (Acts 3:19) This passage is parallel with Peter's command in the previous chapter where "be baptized" stands in the place of "be converted" in this passage. "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...." (Acts 2:38) Neighbor, do you think he told one group to repent and has done to them one thing for the remission of their sins, and another group in the very next chapter to repent and has an entirely different thing done to them in order that their sins might be blotted out? Do you actually think the gospel of Christ is that inconsistent and contradictory? Why those scribes and Pharisees, doctors of the law, would have picked up such an inconsistency in a moment and would have laughed them clear out of Jerusalem.

The objection has been filed that baptism is a work of righteousness, and must not be necessary to salvation, because it is a work done by man and of which he might boast. But this objection is based upon a misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches about the matter. Such a conception makes the Bible a chaos of contradiction. The whole chapter of Heb. 11 records examples of obedience by faith. A careful study of the subject will reveal that works of obedience to God's word are not the works spoken of by the apostle Paul of which men might boast. Baptism is declared to be exempt from this class. "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus 3:4-5) Not by works....which we have done, but.... by the washing of regeneration. Even the Baptists agree that this washing refers to baptism. (An American Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. 6, Page 143) So far as I know no one denies that it refers to baptism. 'The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." (I Pet. 3:21) We can understand how we can be saved by the gospel while at the same time we are saved by the Lord, (I Cor. 15:1-2) let us not be thrown by this statement that baptism doth also now save us while at the same time God saves us by this washing of regeneration.

Someone may say that it doesn't say water, so let us see. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." (Eph. 5:25-26) So this washing is a washing of water.

In conclusion, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:22) Here we are but pilgrims and sojourners passing swiftly through this land. We need to give thought to where we are going and be certain that we are following the divine directions. We believe that there is perfect harmony and agreement in the truths presented herein, and that these will also harmonize with the great commission under which this gospel was proclaimed throughout the world, and with the examples of conversions recorded upon the pages of the New Testament. We earnestly ask that you consider these matters in view of eternity, for why should any perish when the Lord has made such marvelous provisions for us.