The Expository Files

"There is One Body"

Ephesians 4:4

The song says "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so." Friends, that is not only why I believe that Jesus loves me, but why I also believe that there is one body - because the Bible tells me so. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he said: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling" (Eph. 4:4). Just as surely as there is one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God, there is one body. Other passages clearly say the same thing (cf. Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-14, 20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 3:15). So there can be no doubt that the NT teaches that there is one body, and this one body is identified as Christ's church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18, 24).

One body, one church, pretty simple isn't it? In fact, I might be tempted to conclude this article at this point, since I have explained why I believe there is one body; but the belief in one body (or one church) is really not the issue in modern "Christendom." Almost everyone believes in one body. In commenting on Ephesians 4:4, Alfred Martin writes: "One body. The organism composed of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head and all true believers in him." (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1310). That is a good explanation of what the NT teaches, and his comments are representative of other commentators like Barnes, Henry, Hendriksen, Barclay, et al. So it is not the belief in one body that gives us trouble; it is our various conceptions of this body's nature.

There are many misconceptions about the nature of Christ's one body, but one of the greatest misconceptions is the idea that this one body is composed of "true believers" from among all the various denominations in "Christendom." In this brief article, I want to explain why this concept cannot be correct Biblically.

First of all, most of the denominations in modern "Christendom" do not teach the truth about conversion. They do not teach that one must be baptized for the remission of his sins to be saved. If that is what the NT teaches, and it is (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21), then those who have not been baptized for the remission of sins are not really Christians. Everyone would agree that if someone is not really a Christian, he cannot be a member of  Christ's one body (1 Cor. 12:13). While it is conceivable that someone could be taught wrong about baptism and baptized right (if the student listened to the Bible instead of his teacher), such a scenario would be highly unlikely. Jesus said that if the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch (Mt.  15:14). So this one point alone demonstrates the fallacy of the idea that Christ's body is composed of people from all the various denominations.

Secondly, modern denominationalism promotes division that is diametrically opposed to the unity that Jesus desires for His people (cf. Jn. 17:20-23). What denominationalism really means is division! In fact, the only reason that these denominations exist is because they preach and practice different doctrines. Paul asked the Corinthians the rhetorical question: "Is Christ divided?" (1 Cor. 1:13). The obvious answer is "No!" But who can deny that  modern "Christendom" is divided? If Christ is not divided and "Christendom" is divided by all the modern denominations, how can Christ's body be made up of those who are promoting and perpetuating such division?

Thirdly, the popular idea that Christ's one body is made up of people from all the different denominations, while they preach and practice  contradictory doctrines, makes Christ's body a freak or a monster. Let me illustrate what I mean. If we let the Baptists represent one leg and the Methodists another, we've got one leg going one direction and the other leg going another when it comes to the doctrine of "once saved, always saved." The Baptists say you can't be lost, and the Methodists say you can. If we let the Catholics represent one arm and the Presbyterians represent another, we've got a fist fight when it comes to the essentiality of baptism. The Catholics say you must be baptized to be saved, and the Presbyterians  say the opposite. If we let the United Pentecostals represent one eye and the Assembly of God the other, we've made the body of Christ a cross-eyed freak when it comes to the nature of God. The Assembly of God believes in the Trinity, and the United Pentecostal Church believes in the Jesus Only Doctrine. And on and on it goes. Is this the picture of Christ's body that is depicted in the NT? No! a thousand times no!

Now, denominationalists try to dismiss these differences by making a distinction between "gospel" and "doctrine"; they say that as long as we agree on the "gospel," doctrinal differences do not matter. "We're all going to heaven, we're just taking different (doctrinal) roads!" But they have evidently  ignored the fact that just as the "gospel" contains facts to believe (1 Cor. 15:1-4), commands to obey (2 Th. 1:8), and promises to trust (Col. 1:5), it also contains doctrine to instruct (1 Tim. 1:8-11). The apostle Paul does not make a distinction between "gospel" and "doctrine." But even if this distinction could be found in the pages of the NT, one wonders if those who make this argument have read what the NT says about the importance of  doctrine (cf. Mt. 15:7-9; Rom. 6:17-18; 16:17-18; Col. 2:20-23; 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 4:1-4; 2 Jn. 9-11). The word "doctrine" just means "teaching," so when one says that "doctrine" doesn't matter what he is really saying is that the "teaching" of Christ and His apostles does not matter. Do we really want to affirm that?

For these three reasons alone, we must reject the idea that Christ's one body is made up of people from among all the various denominations.

By Kevin Kay
From Expository Files 10.5, May  2003