Perhaps the best-known image of the church and one that speaks the strongest about the unity of its varied parts is the body of Christ. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. … Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Cor. 12:12, 1 Cor. 12:27, NKJV).
Just as a body is a single unit that is made up of many different parts, each with its different function and responsibility, this is the church as the body of Christ.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. How does this image of one body with many parts apply to your local congregation? How does it apply to a worldwide organization like the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12 conveys the profound reality that authentic Christian unity is not just in diversity, and certainly not despite diversity, but rather through diversity. We should not be surprised that it is the Holy Spirit who is the source of these expressions of diversity. Just as the human body is both incredibly unified and amazingly diverse, so ideally is the body of Christ, which through this diversity expresses the completeness and richness of the body of Christ.
This image speaks directly to us as a church. In the past few decades, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has grown by leaps and bounds. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is composed of people from almost every conceivable background, culture, and environment. Our ethnic, racial, cultural, educational, and age differences must not be permitted to divide us in Christ. If anything, this diversity should be molded by the Holy Spirit as a force for unity, revealing the truth that despite these differences, we are all one in Christ.
As we have seen, at the foot of the cross we are all equal, regardless of who we are or where we come from. As the world around us becomes more and more fragmented, the church must demonstrate that unity in diversity is attainable. God’s people can demonstrate the healing and reconciling power of the Gospel.
Amazingly, Paul tells us how this ideal can be accomplished. “Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23, NKJV). “And He is the head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:18, NKJV). As each believer is spiritually connected to Christ, the entire body is therefore nourished with the same food. We cannot, then, overemphasize the importance of the study of the Word of God, obedience to what we learn in the Word, and the common experiences of worship and prayer for unity in the body of Christ.