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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Church or Individual?

Aristotle in Politics, 1253a, 18 through the end, makes the case that the state is “by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part; for example, if the whole body be destroyed, there will be no foot or hand…”  Other than the faint foreshadowing of Paul in Romans 12, the question arises does Aristotle’s view apply in a similar way to the Body of Christ which Paul calls the fullness of Christ in Ephesians 1:23.  Or to put it clearly is the Body of Christ more important, “clearly prior,” to the individual believer?
Do Aristotle and Paul agree on the primacy of the Church over the individual believer?  Thoughts at DTTB.
You may have gathered, correctly, from earlier posts that I am in the midst of a study of Ephesians.  This week I have been in chapters 3 and 4.  I noticed something in 4:16 that seems to contradict or at least bring into a different level of inquiry Aristotle’s notion of the whole being greater than the parts in society.

Note that in Ephesians 4:16, Paul is bringing together a number of themes he has explored in the first three chapters.  It seems to me that here Paul is examining in some detail the relationship between the individual believer and his gifts and the Church (I am using the capital C here to refer to the Body of Christ as a whole, not a local church.)  Note the integration of the two concepts in Paul.  The Body is held together by the individual gifts and contributions of the individuals.  The Body does not exist apart from the individuals.  Yet as we have already noted above in 1:23 Paul refers to the Body as the fullness of Christ.

Think through that.  The fullness of the Body of Christ is held together and grows by the proper working of each individual in that Body.  That throws and entirely different and blinding light on yesterday’s post and our responsibility to engaged completely in what Paul says in 2:10 are the good works for which God prepared each believer.

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