Crazy question. Of course Jesus only has one body. He took on flesh and will never strip it off. Jesus has joined humanity to Himself, inseparably. Suggesting otherwise would get you kicked out of most Christian churches. Unfortunately, though, the way we think about the Church doesn’t reflect this conviction.
Ecclesiology is theology of the Church – what it is, how it’s formed, why it exists, what it does and a lot more. It’s not a simple area of doctrine because what you believe about God (as Trinity, for instance) and salvation has a lot to do with what you believe about the Church. But that also helps us keep our teaching about the Church honest. What do we believe about the Church and what does it teach about Who God is and the story of salvation?
In the creed, Christians have confessed “One holy, catholic and apostolic church” from the earliest days of the Church. So, just like there’s one God and one baptism, there’s one Church.
So far, so good. No one disagrees with this. But…
We don’t act like it. Most of us in the West have convictions about the Church that make us sound more like a collection of American Legion posts instead of the One Body that the New Testament calls us. The notion we have about our churches is that they are voluntary organizations which like-minded individuals gather together in common activities and goals. If that’s the case, then salvation isn’t actually the work of God, but is actually a membership card you sign up for, maybe pay the dues, and agree to be identified with. God Himself may or may not be Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but meets with us on mutual terms and agreement. No orthodox Christian is going to accept that idea of salvation or that idea of God. So why do we accept this idea of the Church?
It’s an ecclesiological anorexia. The moment we reduce our primary definition of what it means to be the Church to our local congregations, we cut ourselves off from the strength of being one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. When I was confirmed six months ago, I wasn’t formally joining my local church (St. Andrews College Hill). I was being welcomed into the Anglican Communion — a global body of Christians. I am as much a part of the Church in Nigeria or Chile as I am in North America. That bond is important. Not just because I think it is, but because it’s actually allowing us as Christians to teach and believe what the Scriptures tell us about the Body of Christ: that it is one, whole, and inter-connected in a mysterious, but critical way.
Brothers and sisters, we’ve been joined together by the Holy Spirit. We’re not an association of congregations. We’re not some group of likeminded people. We’re the Body of Christ. We’re one. We’re stuck with each other. So let’s not act like we can change that reality. The epistles of the New Testament urge us toward unity not because we’re divided, but because we’ve already been joined together and need to act like it. We have to do the hard work of being in communion with each other because God has already declared that we are. The same Divine declaration that made us righteous has also made us family. So, let’s get over ourselves, quit starving ourselves, and actually be one holy, catholic and apostolic church.
Original Post: 4/17/12