The Church is One Body of Different Parts
Ephesians 4:16
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies…

I. THE CHURCH IS A UNIT BODY. It is not meant to convey the idea that the Church is in any way a material and tangible body, presented to the senses like material substance generally. It is not a body of any earthly form and figure. Our common conception of a body is a combination of particles constituting certain qualities and forces. We understand the spiritual through the analogies and symbols of the material and earthly. The Church is a holy combination of all spiritual powers and sympathies meeting in one centre and end, proceeding from the nature of Divine law and order, the relation of moral beings to one another, and the relation in which all stand to God, the spiritual Father and wise Ruler of the universe. This is the Church in its highest and purest form; it is the Church in the body of its principles, and the sympathies of its heart.

1. The unity of the Church consists in its design and service.

2. It is a unity of sympathy.

3. It is a unity of privilege.

4. It is one in relation. The Church stands related to its source and Head, to Divine order, to all intelligent beings, to itself and all belonging to its laws and blessings, to this world and the next. These are relations of privilege and responsibility, of honour and duty.

5. It is one in life and spirit.

6. It is one in likeness. The Church, as the product of one mind, carries the same Divine image everywhere, both in its laws and members. It is intended to mould the human family into the Divine likeness.

II. The Church, as one body, POSSESSES VARIOUS PARTS AND FIT ORGANS TO PERFORM ITS WORK AND CONSERVE ITS EXISTENCE. It is not one clumsy mechanical piece, without either parts or joints, but a body of numerous organs for the accomplishment of different services. In its spiritual constitution it is a body of various elements, for the performance of high and gracious designs. In order that these various elements may have mediums of expression to reach their intended and fit end, there must be a befitting organization of parts and suitable quality.

1. The members of the body are intended to perform the required functions for the service of the body itself. The body has to serve itself before it can be useful to others. It is, in a sense, its own saviour or destroyer. The right use of its own functions and resources is its salvation; the rejection of this is its sure death and decay. There are some powers given for its protection, there are others for its growth and vigour; there are others for its comfort and happiness, and others, again, intended for its beauty and attraction. To have a perfect body, all these must do their own work, and cooperate for a common end; and to have a healthy and happy Church, all its functions must be active in doing their own work, and united together for one holy and high end.

2. The body has relations and duties to things besides itself. The body stands related, some way or other, to all the things of earth. All the works of this world depend upon the fitness of the members of the human body to do them; so that if these were to fail, all would stop. There could be no art without the mind and the senses; neither would there be commerce, building of houses, cultivation of the field, or any other work of any kind whatever. Such is the vast importance of the members of this small body, that all in life and society depend upon their order and efficiency. So is it in analogy with the Church; all in society morally depends upon the efficiency and the right use of its means and organs. All have their work. Unity of likeness and variety of work are the two things which demand and consume the service of the one and the whole. The head, the heart, and the hand of all have work, and that as much for their own sake as that of others; and all this diversity and force are for the needful and common service of the whole. To make these different organs complete and effective, you will see at once that there are other conditions required, which may be suggested as worthy of your respect and belief.

(1) It is needful that these organs should be in their proper position.

(2) Each organ must have its particular and proper work assigned to it.

(3) It is required that they are all regularly and faithfully exercised. Exercise is the soul of power; it is both the condition of health and usefulness.

(4) It is expected that there is a common sympathy between all the members of the body. They are coupled together. Harmony of parts in a machine, of members in the human body, of functions in society, of powers in the mind, and of graces in the soul, are analogous one to another, and are equally necessary for happy working and successful results. Sympathy in the members of the body is expressed by mutual cooperation and assistance, by subordination to and respect for one another, and constant assisting and forbearing with one another. As with the body corporeal, so is it intended to be in the body spiritual. The strongest must sympathize with the weak. Extremes are intended to meet, and do meet, in harmony here.

(5) The body must have elasticity, to act with ease, comfort, and effect. The body is not made in one piece, but of different parts. Between these there is unity, and yet there is elasticity, so that everyone can play its own part without inconvenience to itself or encumbrance to its neighbour.

(6) All are governed by one will and intelligence. The members of the body, though various and numerous, are governed by one rational will, hence their unity in operation and subject. The Church, in all its members and functions, is governed by one constant and unfailing will, and this is one source of its power and unity. Only one will governing all, through all time and in all places, and that the one and the whole! What a thought! — what a comfort!

(7) It is requisite that there should be life underlying the whole.


1. It is to be a general and complete increase of the whole body. In order to have a well-developed and equally proportionate Church, all means must be used, all functions must be exercised; thus every part is developed, so that it becomes a true counterpart of real existence, and fit for all intended for it, and demanded of it.

2. It is a conditional increase, produced by the use of means. To secure the increase of the whole body, the law of the conditions demands that all means should be used, all powers exercised, the spirit one of faith and love, the motive true and unselfish, and the activity constant and unyielding. God gives increase according to law and order; and when these things are united, never does it fail. When our life unites with Divine order, happy results always follow, and never disappoint us.

3. It is an indefinite increase. There is neither limit nor end prescribed to it. It runs down through time and eternity; it pervades the universe of rational and responsible existence.

4. The soil and quality of the increase is love. Increase in love is one towards ourselves stud the object or objects of our desire and delight at the same time. As love is the refining power of the soul, to increase in it is to advance in all that is morally pure and beautiful. It is the sweet element of happiness, and he who grows in it increases in the thing all wish and all seek. It is one of the chief elements in which we become like God, for He is love.


1. Its laws and resources are from Him. The laws given by the Head to the Church are few and natural, proceeding from the unchangeable relations of man to man, and man to God. Love to God and love to man are the great moral laws which remain in the Church forever, without declension or change, because they are essential to the relations of moral beings, and the moral universe could not exist without them.

2. From Him it receives its symmetrical proportion and harmony. The symmetry of the Church is the harmony of all its parts with themselves, with the Divine economy of the universe, and with itself, in all times and places. This three-fold symmetry it receives from its glorious Head, who is one and unchangeable.

3. From Him it receives its oneness. This gives the Church, through all times and places, unity of purpose and character. Its oneness is not in its feet, but in its Head.

4. From Him it receives light and life. As life and light are elements in importance and value above all others, so is Christ to the Church. As He is made by God the representative Head, He is made its light and life.

5. From Him it receives its beauty and attraction. A deformed head would destroy every possible beauty and attraction of the whole body. A noble head gives beauty and nobility to the whole. We look first at the head; we form our opinion of the whole from the character of the head. In its outward form the Church may appear mean and unattractive in some of its members, but the Head makes up for the whole. The Head is never out of sight; it is visible to all from all its members.

6. Its magnitude and universality are received from the Head. His greatness becomes that of the Church, by virtue of the relation existing between them. Where the Head is, the Church is represented. In the Head, the Church of earth and heaven are united; the spirit of the Head unites the present with the future, and thus gives to the Church universality in time and space.

7. The Church is indebted for its hope and high destiny to its Head. The Head lives for the body. The exaltation of the Head will be that of the body also. The Head is above all human reach; and, in connection with its Head, the body will triumph over all foes and opposition.

(T. Hughes.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

WEB: from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.

The Church Edifying Itself in Love
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