Members of Christ's Body

Eph. 5:30.---' We are members of his body.'

In the second group of the Pauline Epistles we find much about the mystical union between Christ and the believer. The Apostle tells us that though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we do not know Him so. The well-spring is opened in the heart. In communion, as well as in union, we deal directly with the risen Lord. There is an outward revelation which is most precious, but the inward revelation is more precious still. We do not lose the historical Jesus. We do not lose any deed He wrought, any word He spoke, any agony He endured. Each is more precious than gold. The historical Jesus and the risen Lord are one; But the historical Jesus would be little to us if we had not the risen Lord, and it is the revelation of the Resurrection and the Enthronement that glorifies the earthly life in Palestine. The first Adam is of the earth, earthly; the second Adam is a Quickening Spirit and the Lord from heaven. We are saved through the Atonement, and saved into the union. The fact of the union is the pivot of the entire theology.

The thought is especially prominent in the Epistle to the Ephesians. And nowhere is it expressed more boldly than in this text. It is true the phrase 'of his flesh and of his bones,' found in the Authorized Version, is an early gloss, but the word 'members' or 'limbs' is itself very striking. For our limbs are our companions, everywhere and always; we and they are one thing, one interest, one life; their condition is of untold importance to us; their very appearance is of consequence. Union can go no nearer than it goes between limbs and man.

'Member' is only a longer word for 'limb'; the two are synonymous, one of Latin origin, the other of English; a limb means member, and a member means limb. Only there is this practical difference, that we have come in the course of time to use 'member' in a large, and vague, general sense, in which we do not use 'limb.' We speak of a 'member' of Parliament, or of a committee, or of a club, but never of a 'limb' of such companies of people. The word 'limb' is much more restricted than is its parallel word to denote connections deep, organic, vital, between part and whole.

To describe the Christian as a 'limb' of the Lord Jesus Christ brings home to us in a special way the thought of a connection with Him mysteriously close and strong. It reminds us that the bond between follower and Master is far more than one of spiritual regard, however reverent and tender; far different from one which depends even upon His being the sublime Object of our worship and of our gratitude, as our Divine Savior and our gracious Shepherd and Friend. It leads us deep into that wonderful secret of His love and power, our living union with Him. It points us to that gracious desire and purpose of His heart, that we, sinners of the dust, ruined and wrecked by the fall, 'stained and dyed' by our own transgressions, should be not only mercifully rescued by His atoning work, but brought inconceivably close to Him in His holy and all-powerful life, knit up with Him in it by living bonds, even as our hands and fingers are part and parcel with us, close to us and instinctively protected by us as dear parts of our very being.

If we are limbs of His Body, it is evident that Christ loves us. Let us rest upon the insight which we get through this window of heavenly light into 'the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.' For me, a sinner, the Prince of Glory thus cares. To Him, in all His majesty, 'at the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him,' I am dear to this degree and in this sense. 'He hath a desire to the work of his hands,' though that work is my poor, broken, sin-spoiled self. And the desire is so tender, and so strong, that it cannot stop short of the will that I shall be His 'limb.' He does not merely condescend to touch my personality with His holy finger. It is not enough for Him to stretch out His finger and touch my fallen being. He must transfigure my being into a oneness with His which makes it, as it were, His finger; a 'limb' of His body.

If we are limbs of His body, we can do service for Him. For the supreme interest to us of our lips, hands, feet, lies in our use of them. All day long we are, through them, carrying out our purposes, carrying on our intercourse, getting our duties done, enjoying our pleasures. It is indeed all-important to my hand that, for its own life and health, it should be in fullest living union with me. It is important to my comfort that it should, in such union, be alive and healthy, giving me no trouble by ill conditions. But it is above all things important to me that I should have always the freest and most instant use of it. Its own well-being is much. But my use of it in that well-being is more; it is the ultimate object of its existence as part of my system.

God actually needs and uses us as His limbs. All through the story of Redemption it is so. In the Old Testament days He walked by Joseph, as His feet, to prepare deliverance in Egypt, and by Moses, as His feet, to lead up His people in triumph out of it. By Nathan, as His lips, He wakened David from His death-sleep, and by Isaiah, as His lips, He promised Himself to be the Lamb of God. In New Testament times He 'began both to do and to teach' [Acts 1:1] in His own person; but these words plainly imply that He went on to do, and went on to teach, through Peter, and John, and Paul, and Luke, and Aquila.

There is another thought. If we are Christ's limbs may we not be sure that the suffering about which we cannot talk to any human being is not only known to Christ, but is also felt by Christ? May we not say that in all our afflictions Christ is afflicted; that the sorrows of the members are the sorrows of the Head, and that on the Head rests in some mysterious fashion the burden which every member bears.

It is true that often we are so self-absorbed in our own trials, so bowed beneath the burden of our own cross, that we do not feel that the world's Cross-bearer is walking up our Calvary by our side.

But let us not be deceived. God knows what sorrows we dwell with; and Christ tasted them all before us. He walks silently beside us many a time, even sometimes at a distance, but following; and when He sees that we are fit to bear the talking of it, He walks close to our heart and speaks to us.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha