The Body, The Church — Holding Fast To The Head
E. Russell King
Very early in the history of Christianity (within three decades of its establishment), even while God was still confirming the word spoken by His apostles (Hebrews 2:4), there were those who, for various reasons, were turning away from the faith of Christ. Paul spoke of these apostates as “… not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2:19 ESV).
Paul identified the “body” of which he spoke as the “church” of which Christ is the head (1:18). By referring to the church as a “body,” we are to understand that the church of Christ is a spiritual organism, not a building, not an organization, not a denomination. It is a single, unified organism “knit together through its joints and ligaments with a growth that is from God.” Christ “is the head of the body, the church,” (Colossians 1:1 8) and every saved person is, by a divine action of God, set in the body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:18; Acts 2:47). Paul, after likening the spiritual body of Christ unto a physical body, concluded, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
For all who follow the teaching of the New Testament, the only possible conclusion is that the church is not denominational in nature or structure. She is described as a completely unified entity with inseparable, interdependent, functional parts (members), each having assigned functional roles – all under the headship of Jesus Christ. God has, Paul writes, “… put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23 NKJV).
The use of the word “churches” in the New Testament signified “congregations’ (e.g. Galatians 1:2), divided only by geographical locations, not by doctrinal differences or organizational structure. All of these congregations were attached to Christ and to one another (often referred to as sister congregations) in spirit, in doctrine, and in purpose. Thus they constituted the one body on the earth and in heaven (cf. Hebrews 12:22-24).
Denominations do not exist due to geographical locations. They exist due to doctrinal differences and become distinct structural entities with fixed boundaries. For example, denomination (church) “A” holds to some distinct doctrine, which is bounded by an organizational structure that holds together all who subscribe to that distinct doctrine. Denomination (church) “B” holds to a different distinct doctrine that is bounded by its own organizational structure. Each is identified by distinct denominational names. There is no pattern or authority in the New Testament for such an arrangement.
Therefore, all who follow strictly the teaching of the New Testament strive to maintain the “unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3) that forms and characterizes the Lord’s church. They guardedly thwart any movement toward doctrinal differences or organizational structures while suppressing the rise of any divisive spirit from within. Such will certainly be the case when every individual member of the body of Christ is holding fast to the Head. When such is the case, it is impossible for there to be anything but unity in doctrine and in spirit both inter-congregationally and intra-congregationally. –Rt 5 Box 310-A, Keyser, WV 26726.
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