THE MYSTERIES OF GOD Lesson #4
The Mystery of Christ and the Church Ephesians 5:30-32
“We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” Those are not the words of romantic fiction or poetic exaggeration. Rather they are expressive of an indisputable fact, a fact as profound and mysterious as the incarnation of Christ and redemption by his blood; but this mystery is a fact - “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones!” There is between Christ and his people a union as real, as lasting, and as profound as the union of our Savior’s two natures in his glorious Person. Mr. Spurgeon said, “Sin separated us from God, and in undoing what sin has done, Christ joins us to himself in a union more real than any other in the whole world. This union is very near, and very dear, and very complete. We are so near to Christ that we cannot be nearer, for we are one with him. We are so dear to Christ that we cannot be dearer.” We are so complete in Christ that in him we lack nothing. As he is complete and perfect as both God and man, all believers are complete and perfect in him (Col. 2:9-10). This union is so amazing that the more you study it and meditate upon it, the more amazed you are by it. “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones!”
“O sacred union, firm and strong, How great the grace, how sweet the song,
That worms of earth should ever be, One with Incarnate Deity!”
“Near so very near to God, Nearer I cannot be;
For in the Person of His Son, I am as near as He!
Dear, so very dear to God, Dearer I cannot be;
For in the Person of his Son I am as dear as He!”
The union that subsists between Christ and his people is set forth under numerous metaphors in the Word of God. So anxious is the Holy Spirit for us to realize the blessedness of this that he describes it in several ways. It is compared to the union of a building and its foundation (Eph. 1:20-22). As a building depends upon its foundation, so we depend upon Christ. As a building conforms to the foundation, so the church of God is conformed to Christ. As the building and the foundation adhere to one another, so Christ and his people adhere to one another.
This union between Christ and his church is also compared to and represented by a vine and its branches (John 15:1). It is a vital, living union. As branches draw life and nourishment from the vine, so believers, being graft into Christ by regeneration, draw spiritual life and nourishment from him by faith. As the branch must wither and die when cut off from the vine, so the believer cannot exist apart from Christ. He is truly all in all to those who know him (Col. 1:11). This vital union is a fruitful one too (Gal. 5:22-23). All who are joined to Christ bear fruit from him - the fruit of the Spirit. They do not produce the fruit; but they do bear it. Love, joy, and peace toward God, longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness toward men, and faith, meekness, and temperance within are all characteristics found, to varying degrees, in all believers
This union between Christ and his covenant people is compared to a legal, representative union (Eph. 1:6; 2:6). The believer’s acceptance with God is a legal, representative acceptance. That is to say, we are not accepted of God because of what we do, but because of what Christ has done for us as our Surety and Representative (Rom. 5:18-19; 1 Cor. 15:21-22).
Perhaps the most astonishing, mysterious, wonderful picture given in the Scriptures of the believer’s union with Christ is that of a husband and his wife (Eph. 5:23, 30-32). As a husband and wife are, by virtue of their legal connection to one another, by virtue of their conjugal relationship to one another, and by virtue of their deep, self-denying, self-sacrificing love for one another, in all things one; so Christ and his people are in all things one.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE SO INTIMATELY UNITED WITH THE SON OF GOD? Notice that little word “we”. Like the door of Noah’s ark, it shuts some in and shuts others out. That word “we” is synonymous with the words “church,” “elect,” “the redeemed,” “the called,” “believers,” and “saints,” as it is used in the fifth chapter of Ephesians. “We” who are members of his body are the “church” Christ loved, chose, redeemed, regenerates, preserves, and will perfect by his grace. It should be obvious to anyone that Paul is not talking about any local church or religious denomination in verses twenty-five through thirty-two. The Holy Spirit is, in this chapter, declaring the promises of God to his elect. He is describing what God has done and without fail shall do for all his elect in Christ, the church universal, which is his body and his bride. To apply the things here spoken of to a local church, or a particular denomination would be to connect salvation to that church or denomination.
Go back to the first chapter of Ephesians. Read it carefully There you will discover of whom the apostle is speaking when he says, “We are members of his body.” The “we” in Ephesians five are...
· The people blessed of God in eternity (v. 3).
· The people chosen by God in electing love (v. 4).
· The people adopted into the family of God by sovereign grace (v. 5).
· The people accepted in the beloved (v. 6).
· The people redeemed by the blood of Christ (v. 7).
· The people forgiven of all sin by Christ’s atonement (v. 7).
· The people in this world and in heaven above who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 13). All God’s saints are one in Christ., one church, one kingdom, one family (Eph. 3:15; Heb. 12:22-24).
· The people sealed by the Spirit in Christ (v. 14).
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE METAPHOR? It is evident that Paul is referring to Genesis 2:21-24. The words that he uses to describe the union between Christ and his church were first spoken by Adam with reference to his wife Eve. What did Adam mean when he used these words? That is exactly what Christ means, only in a more spiritual and emphatic sense.
It certainly implies a similarity of nature. Adam recognized that he and Eve were of the same nature. She was not a mere plant in the garden, or an animal, but a woman, one of the same race, nature, and character as the man. So when Paul says, “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” he means for us to understand that Christ and his church are one in nature. That is not an overstatement. Christ became one with us in the incarnation (John 1:1-3, 14). We have become one with Christ by regeneration (2 Pet. 1:4; Col. 1:27). The believer is like Christ in that he strives against sin, seeks to do the will of God, and is motivated by love for God and man.
The metaphor used by the Holy Spirit to describe our relationship with our Savior sets forth the most intimate relationship there is. I doubt Adam would have spoken as he did if he had thought that Eve might leave him and become another man’s wife. She was made by God for him, to be his helpmeet, in the most intimate of all relationships - Marriage! This is the only blessing of Paradise that remains today. Marriage is the living, loving, lasting union of a man and a woman. It is intended for the sanctity, happiness, and peace of our race. Yet, marriage was ordained by God to be a picture of the believers relationship to Christ.
The words of our text imply something deeper still - a mysterious origin. When Adam looked at Eve, he seems to have known, by divine revelation, that she was taken out of his side. Therefore, as he looked at her and rubbed the scar in his side, he said, “She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.” “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Here is the mysterious origin of God’s church. She was taken out of Immanuel’s side. As Adam was put into a deep sleep by the hand of God that Eve might be born of him, so the Lord Jesus Christ was put to death by Jehovah’s own hand and buried in the earth that his church might be born of him (John 12:24).
This metaphor also suggests a loving possession. When Adam said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” he declared, “She belongs to me. “She is my property, my responsibility, and my treasure.” So too, when the Lord Jesus declares that we are “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” he means for us to understand that we belong to him (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We do not belong to the world or even to ourselves, but to Christ alone.
“Tis done, the great transaction is done: I am my Lord’s and he is mine.
He drew me, and I followed on, Charmed to confess His voice Divine.
High heaven, that heard my solemn vow, My vow renewed shall daily hear,
Till in life’s latest hour I bow, And bless in death the bond so dear!”
The metaphor of marriage represents a vital, necessary union. A vital union is a union that must be. It is not an optional thing. It is a necessity. This union between Christ and the church is vital to us. Without him we are nothing and can do nothing. Without him, we must forever die. However this union is vital to Christ, too. As our Mediator and Surety, in his mediatorial capacity, he could never be complete without us, without every one of God’s elect (Eph. 1:22-23); and that cannot be. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” He shall not ail.”
WHAT IS SECURED TO US BY VIRTUE OF OUR UNION WITH CHRIST? If we are one with Christ, we are as safe and secure as he is. If we are one with Christ, we are the objects of his unfailing love. If we are one with Christ, he will nourish and cherish us. He will both provide for us all that we need and cherish us in his constant care. If we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, he will one day present us to himself a glorious church, without any spot of sin, or wrinkle of infirmity, or any such thing as sin, or weakness, or flaw! If we are truly one with Christ, then all the glory and bliss that he possesses shall be ours (Rom. 8:17; John 17:5, 22).
“Since Christ and we are one, Why should we doubt or fear?
If He in heaven hath fixed His throne, He’ll fix His members there!”
This is truly a great mystery. It could never have been known except by Divine revelation. We are one with Christ! His obedience is our justification (Phil. 2:8). His atonement is our forgiveness (Eph. 1:7). His life is our regeneration (John 5:20). His holiness is our sanctification (Heb. 10:10, 14). His exaltation is our preservation (Heb. 6:20). His dominion is our victory (Rom. 8:34). His reward is our glorification (John 17:24). “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones!”