By Charles H. Welch
The Greek word soma which is translated ‘body’ in the New Testament occurs 147 times, and is translated ‘body’ in all passages except two where it is rendered ‘slave’ (Rev. 18:13) and ‘bodily’ (2 Cor. 10:10). In the majority of cases soma refers to the actual physical body (Matt. 5:29; 26:12), in some cases it refers to the spiritual body that shall be given in resurrection (1 Cor. 15:35,37,44). With these aspects of the term we are not immediately concerned. The word ‘body’, however, is used in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians of a believing company or church, and to these references we now turn. The references in 1 Corinthians to the body as a company or church are found in chapters 10 to 12. This company are made one body by baptism.
During the same dispensation and referring to the same baptism, the same apostle wrote of the same company:
The one body therefore of 1 Corinthians 12 is a realization of the promise made to Abraham, and must not be confused with that which had at that time never been revealed. We must not attempt an exposition of 1 Corinthians 12 without referring to 1 Corinthians 10, for to do so will be fatal to a true understanding:
1 Corinthians 12 not only opens with desire that the reader should not be ignorant, there is the similar emphasis on the word ‘same’, ‘The same spiritual meat’; ‘The same spiritual drink’ (1 Cor. 10:3,4). ‘The same spirit’; ‘The same Lord’; ‘The same God’; ‘The same spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:4,5,6,8,9). To refuse to compare these passages and be guided by this comparison is to set aside the principle of interpretation already laid down in Chapter 2:12. Not only are these repetitions of the desire that the Corinthians should not be ignorant, and the stress upon ‘the same’, but there is also the emphasis upon eating and drinking:
These passages cannot be separated from the reference in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
The basis of the argument of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 10 to 12 is the baptism of all Israel unto Moses, and their consequent share in the ‘spiritual’ meat and drink that followed. When he comes to expand and apply this in 1 Corinthians 12, he opens the subject by saying: ‘Now concerning spiritual gifts’ showing that he is now about to develop the typical significance of the ‘spiritual’ meat and drink which ‘all Israel’ enjoyed. Consequently he calls upon all to recognize that while there are most certainly diversities of gifts, or differences of administrations or diversities of operations, these all come from the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God. In short the ‘body’ of 1 Corinthians 12 cannot be separated from the typical history of Israel, nor from the possession and use of spiritual gifts. To make it evident that spiritual gifts are the feature of this chapter, let us note the following facts:
Here then is the employment of the figure of the ‘body’ definitely related to the type of Israel’s baptism unto Moses, definitely related to the possession and the exercise of spiritual gifts, definitely related to the promise made to Abraham, but entirely unrelated to a church, whose members were chosen before the foundation of the world, a church where ‘spiritual gifts’ are unknown, a church whose very existence was a mystery unrevealed when 1 Corinthians was written. The student who observes the frontiers set up by Dispensational Truth will never appeal to 1 Corinthians 10 to 12 as a passage which speaks of the Church of the one body of Ephesians. We turn now to the epistles of Paul, written after Acts 28:28 written to make known the truth of the Mystery, in order that we may obtain information concerning the Church which is called the Body of Christ.
First let us see the distribution of the word ‘Body’ in Ephesians.
Two passages fall within the doctrinal section, namely Ephesians 1:23
and 2:16, the remaining seven being found in the practical section, chapters
4 and 5. Let us examine the doctrinal passage first, as these will supply
the fundamental teaching of Ephesians concerning the ‘Body’. These references
to the Church the Body, are not isolated, but form an integral part of
the contextual argument, and just as we found the ‘Body’ of 1 Corinthians
12, vitally and inseparably connected with Moses, Israel, Abraham and
spiritual and miraculous gifts, so we shall find the reference to the
Body in Ephesians 1:23 vitally and inseparably connected with the exaltation
of the Saviour ‘Far above all’. There are seven sections in the doctrinal
portion of Ephesians, and Ephesians 1:23 falls within the third of these
subdivisions. (For the complete structure of Ephesians, see the article
entitled EPHESIANS). The following is its
Ephesians 1:19 to 2:7
It is evident from this passage that the Church of the one Body is vitally and inseparably connected with Christ in His exaltation ‘far above all’ ‘in heavenly places’. Under the heading HEAVENLY PLACES 2, HEAVENLY PLACES 6, this peculiar sphere of blessing is discussed. It is sufficient here to say that this sphere is never spoken of in connection with any other calling but that of the Mystery, which fact of itself lifts the Church of the one Body which is associated with it, into a distinct place in the purpose of the ages, not to be confused with the promises made to Abraham or any other age purpose that belongs to lower realms. These heavenly places are further defined as ‘far above all principality and power’ (Eph. 1:21), ‘far above all heavens’ (Eph. 4:10). It is where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20), and the superlative and marvel of grace is that this Church of the one Body is reckoned by God not only to be ‘raised together’ but also ‘seated together’ in those self-same heavenly places ‘in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2:6).
Then further, the title ‘the Body’ is not the final title of this blessed company. The full measure of grace and glory is realized when we read: ‘The church which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all’ (Eph. 1:22,23). When the import of this world ‘fulness’ is perceived (see the article entitled THE PLEROMA) then something of the place of this company of the redeemed will be realized. The second reference, namely Ephesians 2:16 will be found treated in the articles entitled MIDDLE WALL and RECONCILIATION and the references to the one body in Ephesians 4:4 and 16 will be considered in the article entitled UNITY OF THE SPIRIT . Finally the references to the Body in Ephesians 5 should be read in the light of the teaching assembled in the article entitled THE BRIDE AND THE BODY. Sufficient has been brought forward to demonstrate the unique character of this high calling, which makes it impossible when once seen to confuse this Church of the Body with the references already considered in 1 Corinthians 10 to 12.