Body-Building-Bride: A Theology of Church in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
A Biblical Theology Paper Submitted to Clinton Arnold, Ph.D.
In Partial Fulfillment of The Requirements of the Course Exegesis in Ephesians TTNT 644
by Laura K. Springer, November 16, 2005
Description of the Images: Body
Paul uses the image of the body to picture the church as connected to Christ (1:15-23), as one (2:11-22), as growing (4:7-16), and as willingly subjected (5:22-33). Body (soma) is used nine times in Ephesians (Eph. 1:23; 2:16; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 28, 30). Eight times it refers to the church and once to the human body (5:28). Seven references to the church as body are clustered in the four passages discussed in this paper.
In 1:15-23, the body is described in the context of the manifestation of God’s power and is further identified as the fullness of Christ. The four manifestations of God’s power are raising Christ from death, seating him on the throne, putting all things under his feet, and giving him as head over all things to the church. As the body of Christ, the church is directly connected with Christ as head, having access to his supremacy over the powers. This connection is not external, but intimate; the church is the very body of Christ and he fills her with himself. The terms soma (body) and pleroma (fullness) are in apposition (thus, each further describing the other) and both picture Christ’s rule of the church [i] and his connection to her.
In 2:11-22, the body is one, made up of two (Jew and Gentile) that are no longer two (2:15-16). It is further identified as a building that grows into a holy temple, the house of God (2:21-22). Here the one body (which is the one new humanity) is the result of Christ’s being our peace in his flesh (2:14). The two divisions of humanity—Jew and Gentile—are made into one new humanity by Christ.[ii] Because of this, Jewish and Gentile converts are fellow citizens and the household of God, growing into a dwelling place of God. Christ is creating a new humanity in himself; a humanity which not only was created but also is coming into existence in relationship to Christ.[iii] This new humanity is neither held together by similarity nor divided by differences. As Calvin says, “However much the two might differ in their former condition, in Christ they have become one man.” [iv]
In 4:7-16, the body is that which is constructed when God’s people make proper use of Christ’s gifts (4:12, 16). Here the body is further identified as maturing to adulthood and to Christ’s fullness (4:13). The construction of the body is one result of the training provided by apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. Verse 16 adds that Christ is the source of the fitting together (sumarmologeo) and uniting together (sumbibazo) that make it possible for the body to grow itself in love.
In 5:22-33, the body is that which Christ saves (5:23) and is the whole of which believers are members (5:30). The body is further identified with the bride. Christ’s headship of the church and the church’s submission to Christ are both stated in the context of Christ’s being the Savior of the body. In verse 30, our membership in Christ’s body is the given as the reason Christ feeds and takes care of the church. He cares for her because she is his body.
for BIBLIOGRAPHY see introduction
i John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1979) 65.
ii Carl B. Hoch, “The Significance of the Syn-Compounds for Jew-Gentile Relationships in the Body of Christ,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25.03 pp. 175-183. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005. 179-180.
iii Stott 101
iv John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, Translator T. H. L. Parker. Editors David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. Translated 1965), 151.
Description of the Images: Building
Description of the Images: Bride
Summary and Theological Conclusions