Our Relationship To Christ

by A.E. Knoch

OUR Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all saints, in every divine administration, but in each He also sustains some special relation which arises from the particular design of each dispensation.

As the present economy is intended to reveal the very zenith of God's grace, we are united to Christ more closely than the saints of other eras, and we share His glories in a transcendent measure. What could be of greater interest to us than to explore some of these high honors, and discriminate, not only between what is ours and what is for others, but between the various phases of our own relationship to God's Anointed?

There is a tendency in all of us to go to extremes. Once we thought that all saints, in all times, had the same blessings, especially the same destiny--heaven. I would have shuddered once if I had stopped to consider that David had not ascended into the heavens (Acts 2:34). Even now I am a little slow to insist that he will never go to heaven, lest my hearers think that David will not be saved at all! We know that the Circumcision have their place on earth, together with all others who are blessed with them.

Those who are blessed during their defection, however, have a celestial destiny. They alone "go to heaven." This is the great dividing line between the saints.

Let us not go so far as to say that we have nothing in common with the saints of other economies. We have the same God, the same Christ, the same Lord, the same Saviour. The same blood avails for both. In many ways we are one with all who believe God. We share the very name "holy ones," or saints, because we are hallowed by contact with Him. All saints belong to Christ, hence such a phrase as "who are Christ's" (1 Cor.15:23) is especially worded so as to include the Circumcision and those connected with them, for they also will be vivified at the presence of Christ.

Happily there is a section of the Ephesian epistle which is devoted to this very theme. In a laudable zeal to emphasize the riches of the grace shown to us, this part of Ephesians has usually been misinterpreted. The close of the second chapter (Eph.2:19-22) is intended to record, not the differences between us and other saints, but the points of contact. It sets forth our mutual interests under three figures of speech, a government, a family, and a temple. These we have in common with all saints of all time. God dwells in all, He is the Father of all, and He governs all. We are not given a subordinate place in these relationships, as is the case with the nations who are blessed through Israel. We are fellow-citizens, members of God's family and a part of the great temple of God, because the place of our blessing is not on earth, where Israel is supreme.

Our peculiar blessings are all brought before us in connection with the title "Christ," or Anointed. He is our Saviour, as His personal name Jesus (Jehovah-Saviour) shows. But we share salvation with all saints. The greatness of our salvation is not associated with His Hebrew name, but with His title. He is our Lord, yet no less the Lord of all others, though they are not so vitally united to Him as we are. The fact that all our special honors are concentrated in the title "Christ" will help us much in clarifying our thought, and defining our special portion in God's program.

Let us note first of all that this is an official title. Anointing is always an induction into an office. It constituted Aaron a priest. It made David a king. It empowered Elijah to be a prophet. It is a strictly spiritual office. Israel is related to Him by physical bonds. They know Him according to the flesh. We have no part in "Jesus" except as he is our Saviour and Lord, and God's Christ. Others were anointed, hence were christs. We also are christs (2 Cor.1:21). But He is preeminently the Christ, of Whom all others are but faint and faulty figures. God's spirit is His in transcendent measure.

Let us look at some of our relationships to Him and their significance. There is a marvelous contrast in the fifth of Romans which is usually overlooked (Rom.5:8-11). There we see that, while we were sinners, Christ died for our sakes, hence we are justified, and saved from indignation by His blood. That is a summary of the teaching of Romans up to this point. In introducing the new subject, the apostle, in blessed contrast to this, asserts that the same One, as God's Son, when we were enemies, died so that we may be conciliated, hence are saved by His life. The sphere of the feelings is largely left to the sonship of our Saviour, as the apostle wrote to the Galatians. "The Son of God Who loves me, and is giving Himself up for me" (Gal.2:20). Before being called, as sinners we needed Christ, as enemies we needed His Son. We were justified by the blood of Christ. We were conciliated by the death of God's Beloved. In view of God's coming indignation we are sheltered by Christ's blood, and shall be saved by the life of God's Son.

Christ is the Man Who can. He has power and authority by reason of His anointing, to carry out the work of redemption. He is able to accomplish all that humanity is impotent to perform. Priests have failed. In His Melchisedek priesthood He will so effectively fill the office, that no priests will be needed in the last eon, after the thousand years. Kings have failed. And He will reign to such purpose that, at the consummation, all rule will be abrogated, because all God's enemies will be subdued and subject to Him. Prophets, though sent when kings and priests had failed, are also failures. He alone perfectly conveys God's mind to humanity. Failure was made for Him, to form the background of His surpassing success.

In the accounts of our Lord's life this title is used in strict accord with its Hebrew usage. He came to Israel as their mshich, or Messiah (John 4:25). There is not the slightest intimation that He was to have any connection with the other nations except through His own people, Israel. He never went among them. It is all strictly personal. No one is said to be in Christ. When such a close relationship is presented, as in John's account, the disciples are related to the Son (John 17). We should never associate ourselves with Him at that time. For instance, the first occurrence, Matthew 1:1, speaks of the lineage of Jesus Christ. In this He is alone. Personally, he has this office, quite apart from His union with some of His saints, as set forth in later revelations.

Let those who have a concordance consider all the occurrences of the title before Paul was sent to the nations. There is not the shadow of a hint that He has shared or will share His anointing with others. The central crisis in the ministry of our Lord was accomplished by the recognition of His own anointing. Peter received a revelation and confessed, saying "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This was the testimony in Acts. God made Him Whom they have crucified both Lord and Christ (Acts 2: 36). They proclaimed that Jesus, the Man of Nazareth and Golgotha, He is the Christ (Acts 17:3; 18:5,28). His relationship to the saints of that era was comparatively loose, because they had a very limited measure of spirit. Christ is presented as their Saviour (Mark 9:41), their King (Acts 2:30), their Lord (Matt.23:8; Acts 2:36), and their Possessor (Mark 9:41).

It is only when we enter Paul's epistles, when the saints are seated by the spirit, where the occasional coming on of the spirit is replaced by the permanent homing of the spirit, where the saints are actually anointed (literally christed) by the spirit, that they received the place of official nearness and unity. Such was impossible even for them so long as Paul was presenting Israel's Messiah according to the flesh. Our union with Him is by spirit. That is the secret of our success.

In Christ physical distinctions disappear. Those who have been baptized into Christ, being cleansed and united, have put on Christ, in Whom there is no Jew, nor yet Greek, no slave nor free, no male and female. All are one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:27,28). This was true long before the "mystery" was revealed, and is not a part of it. Let us not, however, push it to extremes. It is limited to spirit, being "in Christ." We are also "in the Lord," as to conduct, and there all of these distinctions persevere until we are in His presence. "In Christ" deals with our position in grace, not with our deportment, in the Lord.

As we have seen, the phrase "in Christ" is not limited to us. Peter appropriates it. Eventually it will include all. "In Christ" "all shall be vivified " (1 Cor.15:22). This is quite essential, for there is no life elsewhere. As all were once in Adam, so all shall be in Christ. They cannot be made alive, or justified, or reconciled in any other way. Though they are not in Him when He vivifies "those who are Christ's," they will be in Him at the consummation. The order of identification here must correspond with the facts. Christ personally has been vivified. He can die no more. No saint has this yet. It is not actually ours until we also are changed to immortality and incorruption (1 Cor.15:50- 55). The Circumcision saints will also receive it later on in the period of His presence. The time periods are these: In the past, Christ personal. In the near future, "those who are His," which is a special phrase broad enough to include all of His saints. The rest wait until the consummation, when all will be vivified "in Christ."

In Him we are hallowed (1 Cor.1:2). He becomes to us Wisdom from God, besides Righteousness and Holiness, and Deliverance (1 Cor.1:30). We have none of this in ourselves. We glory alone in Him.

It may be well, in passing, to note that there is no such figure in Scripture as the "bride of Christ." There is the wife of Jehovah and the Bride of the Lambkin, but never a bride for Christ. They who use such a phrase expose their ignorance of Scripture and of the significance of this title. He is an Officer. As such, He has no physical connections. The Bride of the Lambkin consists only of those faithful saints in Israel who are related to Him by ties of flesh, as well as of spirit. The marriage bond is essentially a physical one. Hence its aptness in the case of the redeemed, or the chosen people, to whom He belongs as to the flesh.

We now approach the heart of the subject: the various special relationships sustained to Christ by us. So seldom are the Circumcision spoken of as being "in Christ" (1 Pet.3:16; 5:14) that we almost have a monopoly of it. At least it is so characteristic of the present grace that we can condense all our blessings into one phrase, "in Christ Jesus." By adding His personal name we fix the title to His present glory and so it is ours in a special sense. All that we have is in Him. We have the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus (Rom.3:24). We have eonian life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.6:23). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom.8:1). Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom.8:39). These phrases practically summarize the doctrinal divisions of the Roman epistle.


The deportment that should accompany this blessed oneness is presented under a notable figure of speech. We, who are many, are one body in Christ (Rom.12:5). Figures of speech are proverbially difficult. Few elements of the education of saints have been so neglected as this branch of literary science. There are over two hundred distinct figures of speech used in Scripture, yet few are able to identify more than a score. Even our Lord's disciples did not understand His figurative reference to falseness under the figure of leaven.

The relationship we have already been considering is a figure. We are not in Christ Jesus in any literal sense. No disciple could by any stretch of imagination be in the Messiah. It denotes a limited identification. Look at me. In myself I am a sinner, with neither deserts nor dignities. Look again. I have vanished. In spirit I have entered into Christ. He only is seen. I am in Him. What He is, I am. What He has is mine. His deliverance, His life, His freedom from condemnation, His deserts from the Father are mine in Him. But, like all figures of speech, its scope is limited. I am not all that He is personally. I am not Jesus the Saviour. I am not the Lord of all. I am not the Head of all. Let us not ignorantly presume upon His grace. We are in Christ. We are not identical with the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glories.

So also with the figure of the body. Our Saviour has one incorruptible body of flesh and bones quite apart from us. We also shall have such bodies. To put it literally, the saints of this economy are like His body. Not each one of us, but collectively. The aggregate of believers under Paul's ministry forms the body of Christ--not of Jesus. Each one of us is like a member of His actual body. In spirit we are one organism, vivified by His life, having various functions, through which He will operate officially. We are not the body of the Son of God. That is a personal appellation. We are not the body of the Lord. It is only in His official capacity as God's Executive, that we are united with Him. Christ was not anointed with oil, but with the spirit. Our spirits enter into His official place. This is the body of Christ. Misled by the figures used, there has been much confusion as to the relation of the Head to the body. Misunderstanding the figure of headship, the Head is supposed to include all the functions which are in the physical organ, such as sight and smell. As a result some have said that the body in Corinthians has not Christ as its Head! It is said that, since the eye is a member, and the nose is another (1 Cor.12:16-23), the head is made up of members! We know that the head itself is represented as a member, which cannot say to the feet "I have no need of you" (1 Cor.12:21). Taken literally, this is utterly incongruous. The head one member! The eye another! The nose another! So that Christ is absolutely absent from His own body!

Such is the confusion into which we fall when we literalize figures of speech! But if we leave each figure in its place, how enlightening each is! The highest possible member is represented by the head. Such a one cannot dispense with the functions of the lowest. Let us not make this mean more than this. It has no reference to Christ. It is concerned only with His members. Can anyone suppose that the headship, the leadership, the control of the body in Corinthians was given to one of the members? Surely the Pope would be glad to hear this interpretation! But we know that, in this body, the whole is under the headship of the same Lord (1 Cor.12:5). Christ's headship is not figured by a part of the body.

Occasionally inquiries come to me which speak of "the body, Head and members." This shows that the student has been led astray, and needs to retrace his steps. In this figure the head is one of the members. The eye, the ear, the nose each is a member. The "body" is not a decapitated corpse apart from Christ. He is not represented by the physical head in this figure, neither here nor in later manifestations. As a literal fact, He controls it. If we were to force Him into the figure we would liken Him to the brain. Headship means leadership, not sight, hearing, smell, or taste.

The figure of the body must not be taken literally. It is not composed of bones, cartilage, and muscle, but of certain saints who have a closer union with Christ than Israel ever had. Israel was married to Jehovah, but was divorced, and is now lo ammi. Our union is far more vital and intimate. As illustrated by this figure, we cannot hate our own flesh, nor can we cast it off. So also, in our relation to Christ. He loves us as He loves Himself (Eph.5:25-31). Let us remember that our Lord has a literal material body, as well as this spiritual counterpart, and never confuse these two.

In regard to the gender of the body, it is always neuter, for sooma is a neuter noun. The idea of sex is foreign to the figure and can only cause confusion if it is injected. One of the most necessary lessons to be learned by the student is to confine each figure to its point of contact. For instance, if we developed the figure of the lion as far as some go with that of the body, we could easily "prove" that Christ and the Slanderer are one and the same, for both are seen under the figure of the lion! But in one case the figure is confined to the roaring, swallowing lion. In the other, we have the lion of the tribe of Judah, strong to control the wild beasts of the earth.

Another cause of confusion is the mingling of this figure with others which are quite distinct. The new humanity ("new man") is an entirely different idea. It is racial. The new humanity is created by razing the partitioning wall between Jew and gentile. In it Christ takes the place of Adam as the Head of the new race. We are exhorted to put off the old humanity and put on the new (Eph. 4:22-24). This is utterly impossible if referred to the "body." We cannot put that on. Above all, let no one use this figure to "prove" that the body is masculine. The man in this figure is grammatically masculine, but the term has reference to humankind, whether male or female.

Still another figure must be kept separate from that of the body. It is that of maturity (usually translated perfection), or adult stature, "the measure of the stature" (Eph.4:13). This is an individual attainment, open to each one of us. Unless we do reach maturity in our spiritual life we will be minors, surging hither and thither, and whirled about by every wind of teaching (Eph.4:14). The point in this figure is individual maturity. The body always speaks of corporate unity. If it were a question of the members of the body as a unit becoming mature there would be no hope! The most advanced would be dragged down to the mass of minors. This maturity comes to those only who have discarded the accompaniments of minority (1 Cor.13:11). Some at that time were not mature (Phil.3:15). The apostle admonished and taught every man in all wisdom in order that He might present every man (not the body) mature in Christ Jesus (Col.1:28).


How is Christ the Head of the ecclesia which is His body? Is the torso with legs and arms to represent the body, and a head to represent the Christ? This seems to be implied in some modern phrases concerning "Christ, Head and body." That this is not correct is evident from the divine comparison given us in Ephesians. The husband is head of the wife even as Christ is Head of the ecclesia (Eph.5:23). Needless to say, the wife has a head of her own, just as the ecclesia has members who are eyes and ears and nose. The husband and wife are not fragments which need to be combined in order to make one body. The headship of the husband is not figured by the body at all. It is faded metaphor. In some languages this distinction can be expressed. In German we might say that the husband is the haupt of the wife, though she has her own kopf.

Perhaps this is the key to the many confusing ideas which abound relative to the body of Christ. In the Scripture it is always presented as a complete body, with the functions of sight, hearing, smell, which belong to the head. The headship of Christ over this body is a further figure, distinct from it, which ought never to be confounded with it.

Some have suggested that the body in Ephesians is a headless one, in contrast to Corinthians. Such is far from true, for headship in Ephesians is never set forth by this figure. Christ is Head over all to the ecclesia which is His body (Eph.1:22,23). Here it is impossible to imagine so grotesque an idea as the head of a body which is composed of all things! He is in control of all with reference to His body, the ecclesia. This body is only one part of the universe of which He is head.

The same may be said of Colossians. There He is presented as the Head of every sovereignty and authority (Col.2:10). Headship does not necessarily involve the figure of a human body. It never does in the Scriptures. We have forced this into it by confusing the two figures. When we read in the same epistle that He is the Head of the body we should remember that the figure demands that many of its members be in the head. It is not a decapitated body. It is, as Ephesians puts it, an "entire body" (Eph.4:16). This is an especially strong idiom in the Greek--every the body--in which the article is put before the noun to express not merely all of the body, but the body in its entirety. We repeat, Christ's headship is never figured by the head of the body. It is an entirely distinct matter, figured by the headship of a husband over his wife, in the Ephesian epistle.


It is notable that we have the strongest statement of our spiritual unity in Corinthians, not in Ephesians. In the Greek Scriptures no one is anointed but Christ (Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; Heb.1:9) and the Corinthians (2 Cor.1:21). Of course, this was true of all to whom Paul wrote, yet it is significant that it is written to the same saints to whom the figure of the body of Christ is expounded at length. Since the spirit of God anointed all of them, and was the element into which they were baptized as well as that which they imbibed (1 Cor.12:13), we are prepared for the statement that they are one, as the human body is one, and constitute "the Christ."

This figure of speech is a very common one in some languages. In English we often speak of a person as a "body." It is tacitly understood that we do not limit the sense to the physical frame. In this sense "the body of Christ" is spoken of as "the Christ." The danger in our day is that the expression be made the basis of reasoning as though it were literal. For instance, we might argue "we are the Christ. Therefore, we are the head of all things." But immediately we are reminded that He is the Head of all to us (Eph.1:22). We have no headship. Some have said that, being the Christ, we are the Husband and not the bride. But Christ has no bride.

Innumerable reasonings and deductions, all outside the proper scope and limits of the figure, are indulged in by the saints who are intoxicated by the wine of God's grace. The danger is that we are inclined to exalt ourselves even if it lowers Him Who has raised us up. When we find ourselves appropriating the place reserved for Him, let us beware! Let us leave no room for pride. The body of Christ is not going to usurp His place! It must ever be subject to the Christ, even as our bodies are under our control. It must ever bask in a reflected glory. It has no light of its own. It must never infringe on those functions which are outside of its sphere, which are His alone, which He cannot share with His closest companions.

How shall we avoid these mistakes? By giving due place to all that has been revealed. Our knowledge of figures of speech may not be sufficient to keep us from getting out of bounds. Then we should have recourse to a well-rounded knowledge of the truth. To cite a very common example: Many reason that a woman should behave just the same as a man because the sexes are done away with in Christ. They may know so little of the import of this title that they cannot see how wrong this reasoning is. But they can turn to the inspired word and find that, in the very highest revelation, conduct is related by our place in the Lord, and husbands and wives, as well as masters and slaves, are not only recognized, but instructed how to act so as to please God.

The remedy for the mishandling of Scripture is the handling of more Scripture. Some suppose that, being ourselves "the Christ" we can no longer use this phrase without including the members of the body. There are numerous passages where this is impossible. "The Christ" is Head of the ecclesia (Eph.5:23). Surely the body is not head of itself! He is the Saviour of the body (Eph.5:23). Are we our own saviours? The Christ loves us (Eph.5:2). Does that mean that we love ourselves? He is actually in the heavens. He will descend for us. We will ascend to Him. He will never be a member of the body. Let us never allow this marvelous grace to lead us to rob Him of His place supreme!


Finally, how does the body in Ephesians differ from the body of Corinthians? Some have gone so far as to say that they are totally distinct, and that we are not members of "the Christ" at all, but of another body. Some have said that since the Corinthians were figured as a "chaste virgin," the body in Corinthians was female! Some say that Ephesians speaks of a new man [humanity], so that the body there was male! Such are the vagaries of human inference. We can just as easily "prove" there were none but men in Corinth. Otherwise how could the apostle exhort them to be manly (1 Cor.16:13)? This also "proves" that the body must be male. All this is futile inference. The body is always neuter. Since it ignores all differences of sex, surely it cannot be either!

The body of Corinthians was a figure of speech, not a frame of flesh and bones. It was composed of those saints who received Paul's message. The body in Ephesians is identical with it. It unites the same saints and is subject to the same Head. If it were a literal fact it would be difficult to alter its condition. Nothing could be simpler than to transform and glorify the unity which it represents. As a matter of fact it changes to an "unhuman" body, if we may be allowed to use a rare word where the spirit of God has been compelled to coin a new one. Literally, no such organism exists in nature. The grace shown to us is super- human, hence cannot even be pictured by an ordinary human body.

The change between Corinthians and Ephesians lies in the rank of the members. As the Circumcision were superior to the Uncircumcision in fact, in Paul's early ministry, so some of the body's members were above the rest, in figure. The head was exalted above the feet. The eye looked down upon the hand. Since the "mystery," or secret, was revealed, the feet are level with the head. The hand is as high as the eye. The Circumcision have no preeminence over the Uncircumcision. We are still like the human body, but all of the members are peers of each other. There is a joint body. Furthermore, there is only one body (Eph.4:4). There can be no greater violation of the unity of the spirit than the formation of another, or the teaching that there are several.

We should not make a cut between the head and the members, for we have seen that the head is one of the members, and illustrates others by its functions. The "body" is a complete one in the figure. All of it is "the Christ" (1 Cor.12:12). Note that this occurs in the same passage which makes the head a member. We cannot say that only the head is "the Christ." The feet, which may represent us, is also a part of "the Christ," just as well as the head. Now that it is a joint body, the feet are equally a part of "the Christ." But none of them have the headship of the body. That is a distinct figure, which we must not confound with the body member which has the same name. The best way to get the matter clear is to illustrate the headship of Christ by the figure used in Ephesians. Christ is not Head of a decapitated human torso, but of a complete body, even as the husband is head of the wife (Eph.5:23).This illustration is undoubtedly given us in order that we may not be misled by the fact that the word "head" is used in two different figures. Just as the wife has a complete body with a head, besides her spiritual head (her husband), so the body of Christ has its head, besides having Christ as its Head, with reference to His lordship and our subjection. These thoughts have no place in the figure of the "one body," hence its head cannot represent them.

These facts are certainly applicable to the twelfth of first Corinthians, where the body is called "the Christ," for in the same context more members are found in the head than anywhere else.

Such are some of our relationships to our Lord Jesus Christ. All are distinctive and transcendent. Grace is connected with His office as Christ. The figure of a complete human body, including its head, sets forth our special blessedness. He is not a member of this body, although He is its "Head." This is not figured by that member of the body. He is Head of it, even as a husband is head of his wife. The head members of the body--the eyes and the ears--are not in control. They are subject to Him. Our highest grace is figured by the same figure, artificially modified to conform to the truth that all the members of the body are of equal rank. Let us take heed that, in seeking to realize our high place, we may not rob Him of His! Let us revel in the realization that of all the saints, we are the nearest and the dearest!

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