The Bible uses a number of metaphors to describe believers, and we feel that each one helps us to understand what it means to follow Jesus together…
we are described as a…
Bride – Which speaks of value
“Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation. 21:9).
“The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” (Revelation. 19:7-8).
“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians. 11:12).
“‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians. 5:31-32).
This speaks of the value Christ places on us, we are precious to Him and loved by Him – not for what we have done or what we do, but because we are His beloved and one day we will be united to Him as His bride. Every person in the church has value in the church because of this, and because Christ himself places value on each one of us, we also place value on each other – irrespective of status, gifting, education or any other man-made assessment that might be placed on them.
Family/Household – which speaks of acceptance
“I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians. 6:18).
“Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew. 12:49-50).
“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy. 5:1).
“Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Hebrews. 3:6).
In the 1980’s there was a film (Twins) where one character, who has believed all his life he is an orphan, discovers he has a brother. When told he has a place in the family he has just found asks “even when I’ve been bad?” – the response is “ESPECIALLY when you’ve been bad”. Whilst we don’t want to encourage sin just to prove a point, we try to be a place where EVERYONE feels welcome and accepted.
Building – which speaks of protection
It seems ironic that you will hear Christians declare with great confidence “church isn’t a building – it’s the people”, and they are right when they are referring to a physical building of whatever denomination, church is not somewhere you go. However, they couldn’t be more wrong in a Spiritual sense, the Bible uses the metaphor of a building to describe a community of believers…
“The household of God [is] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians. 2:19-22).
“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter. 2:5).
“Do you not know that you [plural] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians. 3:16-17).
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians. 6:19).
Just as our physical homes provide us with protection from the winter storms and the heat of the summer, we want to be a place where we provide sanctuary and shelter for people who are being buffeted by the storms of life, and a place where the Bible declares “God lives by His Spirit”.
Body – which speaks of inter-dependance
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans. 12:4-5)
“We who are many are one body” (1 Corinthians. 10:17).
“Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians. 12:12).
“You are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians. 12:27).
“Equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians. 4:12).
“Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour” (Ephesians. 5:23).
“We are members of [Christ’s] body” (Ephesians. 5:30).
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-30).
“In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians. 1:24).
The main point of describing believers as a body in the Bible is to impress on us how important we all are to one another, how connected we are, and that every part of the body (i.e. every person) has a vital role to play. 1 Corinthians 12 very eloquently describes how important it is that each part of the body recognises and honours each other, and that every part has a unique role.
Nation – which speaks of belonging
My passport declares that the holder is a “British Citizen”, and in the front there is a statement that Her Britannic Majesty requests all to allow me to “pass freely without let or hindrance” and to give me “such assistance and protection as may be necessary”. I am a British Citizen and I have a right under law to live and work in the U.K. In fact following the recent U.K. Referendum to leave the European Union, the U.K. will soon become the ONLY place on planet earth I have that right.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Peter 2:9)
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians. 2:19).
But the Bible declares that this world is no longer our home – we are strangers and aliens in this World, and the place we now belong is heaven. It is a citizens right, not by ticket or VISA which can expire or be withdrawn. Even though I am a British Citizen with rights here in the UK, even though I have travelled to some far-flung places, my ultimate place of abode is now no longer England, but heaven.