CHURCH & MINISTRY
The Spirit and the Body
By Kevin Stone
The Bible calls the church "the body of Christ" and we often refer to it as such in our conversations. But do we really understand what it means to be part of the body of Christ? How is the church like a body?
We humans are uniquely dichotomous creatures, a special blend of flesh and spirit. This sets us apart from the animals (who are nothing but flesh) and the angels (who are nothing but spirit). Humanity is created to be an amalgam of the physical and the spiritual. It's an amazing design—dust of the earth containing the breath of God—"fearful and wonderful," indeed.
In our uniquely human experience, our physical and non-physical parts work as one. Each task we face requires a tandem, synergistic effort from these two parts of our being. Even reading a book: your eyes have the strictly physical job of gathering light and focusing it on a matrix of nerve-laden cells, while your soul has the spiritual work of interpreting the patterns of light and dark, comparing the data with previously acquired data, and synthesizing a response. If the response is emotional, then your body becomes involved again. If your spirit is amused by what you read, your body laughs. If your spirit is saddened, your body cries. Nothing we do, therefore, is purely physical or entirely spiritual. As humans, we are both fleshly and ethereal, earthly and heavenly.
Thinking of a human being as a soul in a "jar of clay" leads us to another, broader truth. Consider the human body as an illustration of the Body of Christ (the Church). In the same analogy, the human soul would represent the Holy Spirit. That is, we are walking, talking illustrations of the Holy Spirit's relationship with the Church, the Body of Christ. Consider the following facts:
The spirit resides in the body. Your soul is "at home" in your body—and goes nowhere without it. In this age, the Church houses the Holy Spirit. As the human spirit inhabits the human body, so the Holy Spirit inhabits the Body of Christ, the Church. That is why individual Christians are called "tabernacles," evoking the Old Testament picture of the Tent of Meeting. The same Shekinah Glory that resided in the wilderness Tabernacle, and later in the Temple, now resides in the Church.
The spirit vivifies the body. To "give up the ghost" is to die; the body requires the animating influence of the spirit. In the same way, the Church would be dead without the Spirit of Christ. There is no life without Him. The Holy Spirit is our Great Vivifier as He indwells each member of the Body.
The spirit controls the body. As one writer put it, "The brain is the only machine designed to be operated by a ghost." If a body fails to cooperate with its spirit, the result is spasms, seizure, or paralysis. The Church—the Body of Christ—is controlled by the Holy Spirit. Christ Himself is the Head (Colossians 1:18).
The spirit depends upon the body. The immaterial soul cannot function in a material world without the body as a tool. The body is the nexus between the soul and the world at large. Of course, the Holy Spirit, being omnipotent, could function without the Church if He chose, but the fact is that He does not. His aim is to use the Body of Christ to reach the world. We are the hands and feet of Christ.
If ever the Church seems to flounder or exhibit signs of weakness, listlessness or confusion, it may be because we have stopped working in tandem with the Third Person of the Trinity. As Jesus said, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Image Credit: Katie Schenk; "shadows"; Creative Commons
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