ekklesia/Mitchell Gray

Joe A. Friberg JoeFriberg at alumni.utexas.net
Wed Jul 28 12:57:57 EDT 1999

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Eric Weiss [mailto:eweiss at gte.net]
> Sent: Tuesday, July 27, 1999 7:34 PM
> This raises another word issue, i.e., "body." We often use the
> term "body"
> (as in: "local body") to refer to a local "church" or "gathering" or
> "assembly" of believers. But ... it seems to me that the NT most
> often uses
> "body" in relation to believers in terms of the one body of
> Christ. If so,
> then I think we ought not to use "body" to refer to a local
> assembly or its
> members - even though in our day and age "body" (as in "a body of
> people")
> can have this meaning - because a local "body" and/or its
> members/participants can, by association, inadvertantly come to think of
> itself/themselves as "the body" of Christ - and thus strive to be
> something
> in form or substance which they are not meant or able to be.

I must disagree.  At least, the GNT does not use SWMA *excusively* for
universal body of Christ.

Take Rom 12.4-5: 12.3 is addressed EN hUMIN, emphasizing the *local* nature
of this exhortation.  (It is noted, however, that in v5 the many are hEN
SWMA ... *EN XRISTWi*, but not explicitly the body '*of* Christ'.
Nevertheless, "one body" *is* appropriately applied to a local assembly with
its various "members" and their various "gifts" and ministries.)

Again, in 1 Cor 10.16-17, the sharing of the bread of the Lord's Supper is
first declared a partaking of the body of Christ, by which the believers
become one body in the ceremony.  Here, with the emphasis on the table of
fellowship and the contrast with idol feasts, the local nature of the body
is apparent.

Again in 1 Cor 12.12-27, the longest and most developed of the body of
Christ metaphors, Paul is dealing with a very local problem and applies the
body metaphor to this local situation (cf. v25).  Note particularly the
direct and explicit application of the body metaphor which he has been
developing to the Corinthian assembly.

Only in Ephesians and Colossiansis the body metaphor applied to the
universal assembly/church:
Eph 1.23 (his body fills all in all)
Col 1.18,24 (focus on redemption of and ministry to the body at-large)
Eph 2.16,3.6 (Jews and Gentiles become one body, though this body is not
specifically said to be '*of* Christ')
Eph 4.4,12, Col 2.19 (here the universal body has the specific application
to the local bodyand the individual)
Eph 5.23,30 (the universal body as a picture of marriage)

Col 3.15 *local* emphasis again

Could it be that the universal emphasis in Ephesians arose from the nature
of that letter as a *encyclical* letter?  That would be my suggestion.

Furthermore, it appears that *chronologically*, the local application of the
metaphor of the body of Christ came first, and the application to the
universal body at-large arose as a secondary development.

Finally, in several of the passages in Ephesians and Colossians, there
appears to be an interplay between the universal and local connotations of
the body metaphor: while the universal metaphor has larger implications, it
also has local applications.

God bless!

Joe A. Friberg
M.A. Linguistics
M.A. Theology student
Arlington, TX
JoeFriberg at alumni.utexas.net

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