Body language

8 11 2009

I’ve been doing some work on the ways in which union with Christ is expressed through Pauline metaphors, and I’ve been reminded how rich the metaphor of body or the body of Christ is.

As the body, the church is one and many; it expresses unity and diversity. There is one body, but each member plays its role according to the various gifts given to the body (1 Cor 12; Eph 4). In fact, the diversity of the body actually serves its unity (Eph 4:11-14).

The body is organic and dynamic. It grows and changes, it matures and is built up. In an interesting twist of the metaphor, the body grows out from Christ, but also grows into him (Eph 4:15–16).

Christ is the Head of the body. The body grows from him and into him, while he cares for and nurtures it. The body is united to its head in an organic way. He not only leads his body, but is her saviour (Eph 5:23).

The body metaphor is not merely a metaphor. There is an ontological reality that lies behind it, which has implications for the way in which believers treat their own bodies (1 Cor 6:15–17).

The very nature of the idea of the body of Christ denotes solidarity, union, and coalition between Christ and his people.

Posted by Con Campbell

Union with Christ: prepositions (2)

3 12 2008


img_3696The theme of Union with Christ is conveyed by a series of phrases that employ different prepositions: ‘in Christ’ (ἐν Χριστῷ); ‘into Christ’ (εἰς Χριστόν); ‘with Christ’ (σὺν Χριστῷ); and ‘through Christ’ (διὰ Χριστοῦ). An important question to ask is: what do the prepositions mean within these phrases? Take ‘in’ (ἐν) for example. This is the most common preposition in the Greek New Testament (by far), and is enormously flexible in its usage. It’s difficult to know how best to read it within the ‘in Christ’ phrase. Is the ‘in’ like ‘in New York’, or ‘in command’, or ‘in an hour’, or ‘in jeans’? In fact, the word is even more flexible in Greek than it is in English. It could also be translated as ‘with’, ‘by’, ‘into’, ‘on account of’, or ‘while’. And that’s a shame, because this is the key phrase related to union with Christ. I’m sure that one of the reasons union with Christ is such a puzzling theme is that the key phrase, ‘in Christ’, includes this ambiguous preposition.

Con Campbell

Union with Christ: what is it? (01)

4 11 2008
Image by Peter Riches  

Union with Christ is a prevalent theme in Paul’s writings, yet seems to be somewhat underdone in preaching. The theme is expressed through phrases such as ‘in Christ’, ‘with Christ’, ‘through Christ’, ‘in the Lord’, ‘in him’, and other related phrases. Notice how often such phrases occur within Ephesians 1:3–13.

‘3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ; 4 for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him 10 for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.

11 In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.

13 In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation—in Him when you believed—were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.’

(Ephesians 1:3-13 HCSB)

There’s little question that ‘in Christ’ and related phrases are common for Paul, appearing all over the place in his letters. As readers of the New Testament, then, we would do well to contemplate two related questions: what is union with Christ? and what are the implications of this theme for preaching? I’ll be exploring these questions in my next few posts.

posted by Con Campbell