1 Corinthians 12:12-13 – Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.
If Paul's letters are viewed as E-mail (evangelical, ethical), then another of the E's is ecclesiastical. That's a word that sends shivers down some people's spines. It conjures up visions of the Church as an institution, often protecting its own power and privilege, or of the Church as a building. But of course the Church in Paul's day had neither power, privilege, nor buildings. The Greek ecclesia, frequently used in Paul, means the people of God called out from wherever they are to come together to worship and serve God.
The Church is the body of Christ, apart from which individual members are dead. For Paul, to be a Christian was to be part of the people of God, the ecclesia, the body of Christ. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'" (1 Corinthians 12:21). It's ridiculous to say that the parts of the body don't need each other; it's equally ridiculous to suppose than a Christian can exist in isolation.
When someone buttonholes me and asks, "Have you accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour?" I'm sometimes tempted to ask in reply, "Have you accepted him as your corporate Lord and Saviour?" Opinion polls conducted by people like Reginald Bibby suggest that there are many people in Canada today who claim that they are Christians yet do not belong to the Church. But as Paul constantly reminds us, to be "in Christ" is to be incorporated into his body, the ecclesia.
Prayer: We thank you, O Lord, that you have called us to faith and personal commitment, but have also incorporated us into your Church. Help us by your Spirit to function as healthy members of the body of Christ so that the Church may grow and be built up in love. Amen.