How have we missed it? The three bodies of Christ.
Various New Testament scholars have highlighted the historical body (born of the Virgin Mary), the eucharistic body (the bread and the cup of communion), and the Body of Christ (the Church).
Most of us are familiar with these different bodies. We’ve just not linked them together. Yet, the early church saw profound connections.
The “three bodies” find common ground in their physicality—the physical Jesus who walked on this earth, the physical bread and cup that we eat and drink, and the physical gathering of God’s people that we call “the Church.”
This simple observation leads to an important biblical truth. God works out His plans and purposes in a physical world. While we may want to separate the physical from the spiritual, the Lord never does.
That doesn’t sound particularly profound.
We all affirm that God is at work in the world. But He also works through the world. The physical realm often provides a gateway to our experience of the spiritual.
We generally fail to see this. Consequently, the Lord’s Supper becomes no more than a memorial; baptism degenerates into a simple declaration of faith; and marriage denotes merely an exclusive friendship. Similarly, the church becomes optional and art, music, and architecture become simplistic and utilitarian.
It’s true. Many of us yearn to escape the physical and the material, longing for the day when we are free to inhabit the celestial and spiritual heaven. But this hardly does justice to biblical truth.
The Garden of Eden was not a stop-gap measure while God sorted out a few things and got it right. This planet, our bodies, and everything around us has its genesis in God’s plan. Physical bodies are His idea.
When we steward the world and our own physical lives well, we fulfill the original purpose and plan of God.
We must discard the ancient false teaching (Gnosticism) that downplays the physical and overstates the “spiritual.” Such heresy has no place in Christian thought. Instead, we celebrate the reality that the physical and the spiritual intertwine in a most delicate and unbreakable mystery. And, as followers of Christ, we come to the eucharist, baptism, the church, and the world with a different set of eyes and expectations.