Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The connection between head and body

I think that I, and probably the church at large as well, have neglected the doctrine of union with Christ. But having heard Sinclair Ferguson on the subject at the Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference recently, I've been going back to it again in my thoughts and seeing some of its wonders.

Here's just one that I've just come across in Richard Sibbes. His chapter in The Bruised Reed entitled 'Quench not the Spirit' contain ideas that seem initially shocking. For example, he speaks about unfaithfulness in those who would take advantage of the 'bruised' (by offering forgiveness in return for paying money to the church etc etc) who bring 'upon the people of God that heavy judgement of a spiritual famine, starving Christ in his members'. What?! Surely Christ can't be starved?! He is God - he is above all such mortal experiences! He is impassible!

But the biblical picture is richer than that - Christ weeps over Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-39); he agonises in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46); he rejoices that spiritual truth is hidden from the 'wise' and revealed to little children (Luke 10:21) as well as being 'the same yesterday, today and forever' (Heb. 13:8). Applying this to the picture of the church as the body of Christ is where I had stopped short. After all, if all this is true, then the implication of 1 Corinthians 12:26-27 is that Christ suffers with his people in their sufferings:

'If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.'

After all, where do the nerves that communicate pain lead to? None other than the head himself. This gives such tremendous comfort in suffering, but also warns us (as Sibbes was warning) to consider carefully our attitude to one another in the body of Christ, for the way we treat one another is the way we treat Jesus - a truth powerfully demonstrated in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).

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