Through high school I was basically a weakling. I barely tipped the scales at 140 pounds when I entered college and so I determined to do something about what I considered to be a problem. I began to lift weights and eat masses of carbs and protein with a goal to gain a muscular physical body. Though I continue to advocate exercise, I regret my excesses and wish I had instead applied this same energy to serving a body other than my own, the body of Christ. This temptation is apparently common to many youth because Paul also admonishes Timothy, "For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:8 WEB). This considered, let's pursue a study of what the book of Ephesians has to say about building the body of Christ.
Everything for the Church, Which is His Body
We read in Ephesians chapter one,
18) having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19) and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might 20) which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21) far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. 22) He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things for the assembly, 23) which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.Ephesians 1:18-23 (WEB)
The power of God has been exerted in Christ to raise Him from death to the right hand of God our Father in Heavenly glory. Christ has been exalted from death to the supreme ruler of the universe. All things including governments, business, medicine, law, science, transportation, agriculture, education, and philosophy are under the authority of His rule. But most amazing is that He rules all things to serve His purpose for the church. In others words the church is Christ's front burner project, the main course, and every other thing in the world is only designed to serve Christ's purposes in the church. Though the world, and we, are often tempted to magnify our own endeavor, this Scripture reminds us that the church is the focal point of Christ's work and everything else is subservient to this work.
We also read that the church is the fullness of Christ who fills everything. Yet how can the church, who is fully dependent on Christ, be the fullness of Christ, who is already full and complete in Himself? Christ himself is totally self-sufficient in His person and work without any contribution from the church and yet He calls us His "fullness" or completion. Christ, under no compulsion or deficiency, has freely chosen to work the completion of His perfect will on the Earth through the church. Christ does this to further demonstrate His amazing power and grace by accomplishing His will through redeemed God-haters.
Paul repeats this same theme in Colossians 1:24 (WEB) when he says, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the assembly." Certainly Christ's afflictions in atoning for the sins of mankind are not lacking! Can Paul die for us? No! Christ died once for all. Instead consider, Christ personally showed His love for mankind in the heart of Jerusalem, but your community may not yet have experienced Christ's love in the flesh. Lord God fill us with your Spirit so that we can take your love to the outer most parts of the world!
One New Man Out of the Two
We read in Ephesians chapter two,
11) Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "uncircumcision" by that which is called "circumcision," (in the flesh, made by hands); 12) that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ. 14) For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, 15) having abolished in the flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace; 16) and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the hostility thereby. 17) He came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who were near. 18) For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19) So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, 20) being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; 21) in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22) in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.Ephesians 2:11-22 (WEB)
But what is Christ's body, the church? Here we read that Christ has made a new man, a Christian man, that is neither Jew nor Gentile. How did he do this? The Jews were near to God because he had given them the covenants, the promises, the law, and the prophets. However, as near as they were they still stood condemned by God's perfect law. Though the law is perfect, salvation could not come to sinners by this means. Now we read here that Christ has done the most radical thing. He has abolished the law covenant previously made with the Jews at Mount Sinai. The Jews no longer stand as a people under the terms of Mount Sinai. The Ten Commands and all their accompanying regulations have been forever removed. No longer do the Jews need to live in spiritual darkness pretending that all their efforts to keep the law are actually amounting to something. They can admit, with the help of God's grace, that they are guilty sinners in need of forgiveness just as a Gentile sinner. Likewise the hardened heart of the Gentile sinner can be melted to admit that he needs deliverance from the terrible sin he still loves. Both the self-righteous Jew and the self-condemned Gentile can become a new man, a Christian man, with a broken heart, confessing his sin as well as hating his sin.
Mystery Revealed - Members Together of The Body
We read in Ephesians chapter three,
1) For this cause I, Paul, am the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles, 2) if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that grace of God which was given me toward you; 3) how that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in few words, 4) by which, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; 5) which in other generations was not made known to the children of men, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6) that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of his promise in Christ Jesus through the Good News, 7) of which I was made a servant, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power. 8) To me, the very least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9) and to make all men see what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10) to the intent that now through the assembly the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places, 11) according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord; 12) in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in him. 13) Therefore I ask that you may not lose heart at my troubles for you, which are your glory.Ephesians 3:1-13 (WEB)
The plan of Christ in the New Testament and under the New Covenant is truly new and unforeseen from prior times. Old Testament Saints knew and we know from reading the Old Testament that deliverance and a Messiah was promised from God. But just what would the nature of this deliverance and Messiah be like? No human being nor Old Testament prophet anticipated the mystery that has been revealed in the New Covenant given through Christ. Even John the Baptist, the greatest prophet that ever lived, was exposed to be an unbeliever by the ministry of Christ. See Matthew 11:3-11.
Absolutely no one was prepared for Christ. The best that any Old Testament saint could imagine was that the Messiah would come and fill them with a new Spirit to keep the terms of the covenant made at Mount Sinai and somehow bring salvation to the ends of the world through obedient Jews and Jewish proselytes. Instead we see a great mystery revealed that Christ has abolished the Old Covenant, initiated a New Covenant, and made both believing Jew and believing Gentile fellow heirs in a new body, the church. Wow! Paul suffered great abuse and persecution from his fellow Jews by insisting that they also needed to repent and receive Christ in order to be saved and join this new body, the church. Paul was no longer building a Jewish body, but a Christian body and so unrepentant Jews loathed him.
One Body and One Spirit
We read in Ephesians 4:4-5 (WEB), "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism."
Moreover this new body, the church, is one body. At times we may be discouraged when we see so many factions within the Christian family. However, when we see with spiritual eyes we can accept anyone as a brother who simply trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
It Was He Who Gave ... so that the Body of Christ may be Built Up
We also read in Ephesians chapter four,
7) But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8) Therefore he says, "When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." 9) Now this, "He ascended," what is it but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10) He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. 11) He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; 12) for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14) that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; 15) but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; 16) from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.Ephesians 4:7-16 (WEB)
We also see that the body of Christ needs to grow from infancy to maturity. But how is this to happen? Christ himself gives spiritual gifts to individuals within the church so that we can serve and prepare the church for further works of service. Those within the body are to serve the body. Christ is very concerned about the growth of the church, His body, into maturity. We need to exercise and build the body of Christ. Are you serving your own body or the body of Christ?
Christ is the Head of the Church, His Body, of which He is the Savior
Finally we read in Ephesians chapter five,
21) subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. 22) Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23) For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. 24) But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything. 25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; 26) that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27) that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28) Even so husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29) For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly; 30) because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. 31) "For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh." 32) This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and of the assembly. 33) Nevertheless each of you must also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband.Ephesians 5:21-33 (WEB)
In this passage we see that the church is Christ's own body and that he is the savior of this body. Though elsewhere we read that Christ is Lord, in this tender passage the emphasis is that Christ is a nurturing Savior. We read that Christ 1) loved the church, 2) gave Himself up for her, 3) made her holy, 4) cleansed her by the washing of water through the word, and 5) presented her to Himself as a radiant church with no blemish, holy and blameless. It is simply electrifying to read about the love that Christ has demonstrated toward us believers. Oh that He would fill us further and give us opportunity to bring His love to those who do not yet know Christ!
How should we describe the love that Christ has shown to the church? The holy Scriptures in this passage exhort a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church and a wife to serve her husband as to the Lord. Lord we pray again that you would fill us with your Spirit so that Christian marriages could demonstrate the perfection of your love to the world.