Ephesians 1:22 and 23
(22) And God placed all things under his (Jesus Christ’s) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,
(23) which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
When God deliberated about the perfect metaphor for Jesus’ relationship with his followers, He had unlimited options at His disposal. He wisely rejected “captain/deckhands,” “plantation owner/slaves,” and “dictator/refugees.” Since God is both loving and wise, He chose to call Christians collectively the “Body of Christ,” with Jesus Christ as the “Head.” God selected this distinctive metaphor, knowing that each of us has a body and can therefore relate to this image (for those of you without a body, well…that’s just creepy). The body metaphor communicates clearly: 1) how important each of us is to the Lord Jesus Christ, and 2) how important each of us should be to one another.
The metaphor of Christians being members of the Body of Christ demonstrates just how vital each of us is to the Lord himself. Jesus’ heart toward his Body is vividly expressed in his first dealing with Saul (also called Paul), on the way to Damascus:
Acts 9:4 and 5
(4) He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
(5) Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
Jesus didn’t say, “You are persecuting my disciples,” or “my people.” Jesus said twice, “You are persecuting me!” When Christians are afflicted, Jesus Christ takes it personally. He also takes it personally when his people treat each other kindly. In Matthew 25:40 he stated, “‘…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Jesus cares about how every member of his Body is treated.
Jesus is the definitive “body” builder, intimately involved with building and developing every member, or part, of his Body. A true bodybuilder is more than just a man with a gargantuan physique and python-swallowing biceps. To achieve perfection throughout his whole body, he works specifically and tirelessly with each body part to reach its maximum potential. He would not be content with an unbalanced physique, where one arm can’t fit through the door but the other could be used as dental floss. Interestingly, the head (in our case, Jesus) does not need to be built up, but instead directs the building up of all other members.
Jesus appeared to one member, the Apostle Paul, and became his personal trainer in building the Body of Christ. As Paul began to understand the significance of this body, he, like his Lord, took it very personally; so much so, that he labored fervently as a “body” builder himself. He worked diligently, “warning every man, and teaching every man” (Col. 1:28 – KJV), so that he could “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” He explained, “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:28 and 29). This man fought the urge to hit the snooze button and turn on his bed like the hinges of a door. Bodybuilding is never easy, but sometimes you just have to throw the covers back, put one foot in front of the other, and show up at the gym.
Ephesians 5:29 and 30
(29) After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–
(30) for we are members of his body.
Paul understood that if Jesus loved him so much, then Jesus would also love other Christians as intimately. Therefore, he prayed for the Lord and God, “who loved us,” to encourage and strengthen the saints (2 Thess. 2:16 and 17). Having been trained by Jesus, however, Paul didn’t just pray like this and then roll over in his hammock and go back to sleep. He loved Jesus’ saints by getting involved in helping them grow, just as Jesus does.
1 Thessalonians 2:8, 11 and 12
(8) We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
(11) For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,
(12) encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
Like a father, Paul loved and cared deeply for each individual believer. Paul was not just a spiritual professor, pontificating platitudes from the pulpit; he was personally involved in building every member of Jesus’ body. Notably, Paul didn’t just work this way himself; he also encouraged others to get involved in his mission. He sent Timothy to the Thessalonians with the purpose of strengthening and encouraging them in their faith (1 Thess. 3:2).
Paul truly understood the metaphor of the Body of Christ with each and every believer as a member in particular.  He knew that it was not just his responsibility to build the Body of Christ, but that each believer has an important role in the growth of the body, just as every part of our physical body plays a crucial role.
Years ago we didn’t have plastic grocery bags with convenient handles. Instead, we had brown paper “sacks” that, crammed full of food, were a bit more cumbersome. When you arrived home, you carried them from underneath, and then you would witness the masterful body in all of its glory…
With two fingers twisting the doorknob, you’d wedge your knee in to keep the door from slamming shut (too slow and you had to start all over, often with a poorer attitude). As your knee would open the door, you’d have to pivot your hips to twist your shoulder in to keep it open. Sometimes the chin would take over for the shoulder so you could balance the bags on your hips, twist your biscuits into the space, and finally proceed to the kitchen.
In other words, the members of your body would work instinctively together to accomplish what your head wanted done, all without dropping the eggs on your porch. Not that the groceries aren’t important, but each of us is essential in accomplishing what the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ, wants done.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Throughout the Church Epistles, Paul exhorts each of us to use our gifts toward Jesus Christ’s goals. We begin by recognizing that as Jesus has reached out and received us, so we should reach out and receive one another (Rom. 15:7). Then, we use our gifts and callings to love and serve each other, just as Jesus would do.
(4) Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
(5) so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
(6a) We have different gifts, according to the grace given us…
We, the authors, used to understand this section to mean, “IF you have one of these gifts, then use it.” But that’s not what it says; we are all members, and we all have these gifts of God’s grace! Furthermore, we are to use them primarily to build each other! Each of us, like Paul, needs to recognize the Lord’s love for us and then use our gifts to build each other.
1 Peter 4:8 and 10
(8) Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
(10) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
As the Body cannot survive without its Head, Jesus, we also need each other in order to reach our maximum potential. The literal members of Jesus’ body (his hands, legs, etc.) obviously went wherever Jesus’ head went; he didn’t teach at Jerusalem leaving a knee in Galilee, a toe in Jericho, or his sternum in Capernaum. Similarly, Jesus, as the figurative Head of the Body of believers, would never think of leaving any of us out. The head cannot say to any other part of the body, “I don’t need you!” (1 Cor.12:21).
When we truly understand the unconditional love that Jesus has for each of us, we can strengthen and encourage each other to serve his Body with our gifts. Thankfully, you don’t have to wear a Speedo™, drink raw eggs, and bench press a truck in order to build someone up. Jesus has already given us our gifts as the equipment that we need to build each other and grow up into him together, spiritually perfect and mature. See you at the gym!
 1 Corinthians 12:27 (KJV): “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”