"There Is One Body"

Bryan Vinson, Sr.
Tulsa, Oklahoma

The apostle Paul, in Ephesians four, expressly states as a fact that there is one body and one spirit, even as they were called in one hope of their calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father who is above all, in them all and through them all. The oceasion for so stating was to impress the utility, wisdom and necessity of endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit by means of walking worthy of the vocation wherewith they had been called. Apart, then, or by the rejection of the truth of this statement of fact, there is found here no just and enduring basis for the strong and moving appeal to the saints to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they had been called. In other words, if there is more than one body, Spirit, Lord, faith, baptism, and God; that is if there be a plurality, rightly, of either or all of these, then there is no such thing as a walk or manner of life which befits the call to which they had responded. Let us then, give some thought to the character of the call to which they had been responsively attracted. These Ephesians, previous to this call, had been walking according to the course of this world, and of the prince of the spirit of the air. It was a walk of sin, and, therefore, one of alienation from God. Consequently, this call involved the necessity of a changed character and conduct. This is true because it was, first, a call from God. God called them by Christ. "God who at sundry times and divers manners spake in times past unto us by His son." (Heb. 1:1). The son had called them by the gospel. (2 Thess. 2:14). They had been called unto his kingdom and glory (I Thess. 2:12). Summing up, then, we find: One God calls, by His Son, the one Lord, by the one Spirit, through the one faith (gospel) by which teaching of the one Spirit they were baptized into the one body (I Cor. 12:13) and cherished the one hope of their calling.

So, then, the recognition of these unities renders impressive and compelling the urgency of this worthy walk, apostolically prescribed. As they thus walked, in all lowliness of mind forbearing one another, they thereby endeavored to keep or maintain properly the unity of the Holy Spirit; a unity that respects and inerrantly reveals the one body, the one faith, the one baptism, as well as the one God, one Christ and one Holy Spirit, and one blessed hope of heaven at last! It was significant that this plain assertion of truth by the apostle should first set forth the utterance that "there is one body." The body is the immediate and present creature wrought by these other unities (God, Lord, Spirit, Faith, Baptism) and is itself the recipient of the one hope which stands related to the future.

The Body-the Church

The body of Christ is the church of Christ. This is indisputably true, for we are told that the church is his body, and that the body is the church. (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18). Thus stated both ways, it leaves no avenue for escaping the full and absolute acceptance of the truth affirmed. Also, it is said that he (Christ) is head of the body, and of all things to the church. Therefore, the body of Christ is the church of Christ. Too, it is stated, in Ephesians 5:23, in addition to the fact he is the head of the church, that he is the Savior of the body. Elsewhere, in the same text, it is affirmed that he gave himself for the church that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. This is equivalent to saying he saves the church; but being the Savior of the body, we are led to the conclusion, neccssarily, that in saving the church he is the Savior of the body, hence, the church is the body. Then since there is one body, there is one church. Also, since there is but one body, I Cor. 12:20, there is but one church. But, we find many churches in the world; and this fact poses, with this revealed truth as touching but one church, a problem as to how, factually, there are many, and truthfully there is but one. This can be resolved in exactly the same way the apostle does that of the existence of one God despite Polytheism: "For though there be that are called Gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many, and lords many) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, we by him." (I Cor. 8:5-6). That is, the evidence and authority by which we are guided affords proof of but one God regardless of the fact there are those mistakenly thought to be gods. The same is true of the church; many think of the multitude of religious bodies as being properly churches of Christ; this they sincerely believe, and consequently, are easily satisfied with their religious affiliation as a result. Once a person be persuaded there is but one true church among the many existing, then he is properly disposed to seriously consider the question of which one among the many is that church.

Which Church Is the "One Body"?

There is but one recourse which is available in determining the identity of the one church of which the scriptures speak. That is to note and mark the points of identification of this church as they are revealed in the New Testament. They involve the time and place of its beginning, the law of induction, the doctrine subscribed to and by which it was guided, the authority which it recognized as singularly and sufficiently controlling it, the form of government which gives character to its organization and functioning. These, with a proper respect for, and adherence to, the scriptural appellations by which it was apostolically denominated constitutes substantially, if not fully, the marks of identification. Where these, in whole or in part, are lacking it may well be known that such a church is not the one of the New Testament. Modern denominations do not meet the demands of this standard scarcely, if at all, in any of these particulars.

In New Testament times, people heard the gospel, believed it, and, on repenting of their sins, were immersed for the remission of sins. The Lord added them to the church-such as were saved; hence, the same thing which saved them resulted in them being, made members of the church. (Acts 2). When and where this was the experience of those who heard the gospel, they were, by virtue thereof, constituted the church in that community, as Corinth for example (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:1-2). The Word of God is the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11), and where the seed is sown in the right soil, honest and good hearts (verse 15), there is produced the church, which is the kingdom. Only the gospel of Christ is capable of making Christians, and only Christians constitute the one body or church.

But someone may ask, is the one body the church universal? The answer is yes. But does this involve a negative answer to the question, is the local congregation the one body? It does not. The church universal is made up of every Christian on earth, whereas the local congregation is composed of those Christians who congregate together in a given community to worship and serve the Lord in such a relationship with him and each other. If a local congregation is not the body of Christ, then it is not the church of Christ since the church is the body. Furthermore, if only in the universal and aggregate sense is the church the body of Christ, when did the church become the body? For some time after the day of Pentecost there was but one congregation, the Jerusalem congregation; therefore, according to this view, the church existed before the body did, notwithstanding the fact that the body is the church, and the church the body. Also, Christ was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God that he might become the head of all things to the church. But if he isn't the head of the local church, then he was exalted prematurely, since he was exalted to become the head. Away with such confused thinking among those who reverence the Word of God. Let us bear in mind that to become a Christian is to become a member of the church, and whether there be many or few, or even just one congregation of Christians on earth, that congregation constitutes the church of Christ, the body of Christ!

Congregations are distinct one from the other as touching their constituency, their independence, their worship and work, but they are not distinctive from each other as touching their relation to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the one faith, the one baptism and one hope. Their common relation to, dependence on and being directed and controlled by these renders their several characters as being possessed of a homogeneity which promotes fraternal esteem and interest in each. other; consequently, the admonition to "love the brotherhood" should be respected and practiced by every saint on earth.

Truth Magazine I:12, pp. 14-15, 27
September 1957