The Anatomy of the Body of Christ: Realizing Our Identity and Unity Through the Spirit


Vast and complex, the entire body is interconnected. It functions as one whole unit, though the depths of diversity and distance between cells, organs, and various bodily functions is great. And while every cell works together toward the one great goal and objective of the living organism that it is part of, it also functions with little to no “awareness” of other cells doing similar or quite different functions.

I am no biologist or bio-chemist (though I do have friends and family members who study, teach, and do research in these areas). The little that I do know dumbfounds me. This system is beyond complex and the fact that it works as one cohesive unit with one primary purpose, to live and function so that my will and consciousness can control this machine that I live in, is beyond amazing.

But the image and purpose of the body deepens.

The primary image used to

describe the Christian community is the human body. We, as children of God and followers of Christ, are called the

“body of Christ.” Paul discusses this quite extensively.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its’ many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

While Paul goes on to describe Christians as “feet,” “hands,” and “eyes,” it would seem that what would suit us better today is that we are cells and various other organs. And just cells, various organs, and body parts collectively compose the body, so too do we who call ourselves followers of Christ and who have the Holy Spirit collectively compose the mystical body of Christ.

The cell, the organ, the hand, or foot do not have a will of their own. They are in complete submission to the brain/mind. Some, such as the arms, legs, and eyes, are controlled by the will of one’s thoughts. Others function involuntarily, doing that which they are commanded and compelled to do.

This is how the physical body was meant to function. And just as this body functions in submission to the mind, so to should the body of Christ be in submission to the will of Christ who is the head.  Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit and made one like some massive body sharing the same Spirit connecting us to the same source and head of the body. Unfortunately the body of Christ does not  function in the way that it should.

The body of Christ is diseased and suffers from immobility, like a person struck with paralysis or is paralyzed. Though Christ, through the Spirit which fills us all, compels and charges us to move and act—to be the movement and manifestation of his will on earth—we are at times unmoving.

We are like Jonah, ignoring and fleeing from God and His commands when they seem unreasonable and incongruent with our will and plan.

Worse yet, a cancer is spreading.

Cancer cells are cells which have abandoned their normal functions and have, through various corruptions, spread and destroy the body around it.

I have met many Christians who are just this, a cancer to the body of Christ. Still yet, when completely honest, I have been a cancer at one point or another in my life. But when we look beyond the microscopic level of the body of Christ and beyond individual believers, we can see entire Christian communities that, in the name of Christ, attack and eviscerate other organs and body parts. One hand reaches out and tears at the flesh of the other arms, ripping through skin and tearing our sinews. We destroy the body, other denominations and communities for various reasons—because they are frumpy, have different music, and differing theologies. But worse of all is the personal vendetta that some pastors and leaders take against others because of human and egotistical strife. I have been this. I have done this. We all have.

As the body of Christ, we are called to such a glorious unity in which the entire body functions and works as one doing the will and desire of one.

May we devote ourselves to the mind and work of Christ as His true body through harmony and love with those within our communities and with the greater Church.

THEOLOGY21 is a co-op of authors dedicated to renovating theology for a new generation, taking the ancient truths of scripture and theology and speaking to the post-Christian culture of the 21st century. To keep up-to-date on all things THEOLOGY21, Give our Facebook page a “like”, follow our twitter page, add yourself to our email list, or subscribe to our feed!

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  • Kayla

    Great Post Jon! What would it look like if we truly functioned as the body of Christ?

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