One of the things I love is the Bible’s descriptions of the church. The language used to describe the people of God is pretty incredible. Think about it:
- The church is the body of Christ, living as Christ’s representatives here on earth, under His authority as the head of the body (Col. 1:18), and dependent upon one another as we grow in grace and live on mission (1 Cor. 12).
- The church is the bride of Christ, joyfully bound in a lasting covenant with Christ our redeemer, longing for the day of His return, when the bride and groom are united forever (Revelation 8; 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17).
- The church is the temple of the Holy Spirit, indwelt individually and corporately, empowered for mission, and bearing the fruit that can only be the result of the Spirit’s presence in our lives (1 Cor. 3:16-17, 12:11, 13; Gal. 5:22-23).
- The church is a priesthood of believers, free to approach God with boldness because we have been redeemed by Christ (Rom. 5:1-5; Heb. 4:14-16).
A body. A bride. A temple. A priesthood. Through each of these metaphors, two themes emerges: unity and diversity. We’re united to one another, dependent upon each other in the body, and on Christ as the head of the Body. We’re united with Christ, just as a husband and wife are united in marriage (Eph. 5:22-23). We’re united with God and one another as the Spirit dwells within us, all of us having the same Spirit (2 Cor. 4:13). We are united in our calling as a “royal priesthood,” and in our access to the Father through the Son (1 Pet. 2:9). But in our unity, we also see an embracement of diversity:
- We are the body, but every part of the body plays a different part.
- We are the bride, but the bride is distinct from the bridegroom (but we’ll talk about that in a few pages).
- We all have the same Spirit, but the gifts He gives to each of us are unique to His purposes for us.
- We are one priesthood and share the same access, but we don’t approach the throne in the same way.
And this dual reality—that we are diverse people united as one people in Christ—is what allows the church’s mission to flourish, the mission to make disciples. All of us are equally empowered for the task. All of us share the same Spirit’s inexhaustible power. All of us have the same gospel to proclaim. But we are all called to do so in different contexts, with different gifts to meet the needs of the time and place in which God has called us to make disciples.