Is not the church Christ's Body? Can the church be in different organizations?
The answer is found in Ephesians 1:22-23. "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church [ekklesia], which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."
In his discussion of these verses in Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Kenneth S. Wuest writes, "The Church [ekklesia] is described as that 'which is His body.' The word 'which' is hetis 'which is of such a nature as,' and has a qualitative nature to it." The nature of ekklesia in this context comes from the association with its head, Jesus Christ.
Of the word "body," soma, Expositor's says:
The word soma, which passes readily from its literal meaning [the human body] into the figurative sense of a society, a number of men constituting a social or ethical union, . . . is frequently applied in the N.T. epistles to the Church, . . . as the mystical body of Christ, the fellowship of believers regarded as an organic [living] spiritual unity in a living relation to Christ, subject to Him, animated by Him, and having His power operating in it. The relation between Christ and the Church, therefore, is not an external relation. . . . (vol. 11, "Ephesians and Colossians," p. 56, emphasis ours)
In other words, it is not bound by human convention. It is not bound by corporate laws that men establish, for Christ is in the ekklesia wherever its members may be.
Continuing from Wuest's:
The relation between Christ and the Church, therefore, is not an external relation, or one simply of Superior and inferior, Sovereign and subject, but one of life and incorporation [within Him]. The Church is not merely an institution ruled by Him as President, a Kingdom in which He is the Supreme Authority, or a vast company of men in moral sympathy with Him, but a Society which is in vital connection with Him, having the source of its life in Him, sustained and directed by His power, the instrument also by which He works. (ibid., pp. 56-57)
This is the usage of ekklesia in the New Testament. It is a mystical body with no external relations. It is something that is internal; it is something mental; it is something of the spirit. It is not bound by race, by language, by city or state or nationality. It is not restricted to the earth or to time.
The word mystical means "having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses [an external relation, sensed by the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch] nor obvious to the intelligence; involving or having the nature of an individual's direct subjective communion with God" (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1985, p. 785). The church, the ekklesia, consists of those who have been called out by God, summoned by Him, to receive His Spirit and have direct communion with Him.
Paul makes a similar statement to Ephesians 1:22-23 in I Corinthians 12:12-13.
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks [transcends national boundaries], whether slaves or free [transcends cultural or social status]—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
The ekklesia is not a humanly defined corporation, but the mystical body of Christ, having the Spirit of God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!
Despite its smallness and visible weaknesses, as the complement of Christ, the church is also in an exalted position. We members do not literally add a thing to Christ's divinity, but in His view, He is not complete and will not be complete until united with His bride. Thus, as He sanctifies and shapes us in holiness, He gradually fills His bride's every part with every gift needed to enable her to function effectively so that she, as a whole, can glorify God in her overall responsibility to our Father and to our Lord and Savior. Since everything in Christ's spiritual body comes from Him, He is everything to every member within it.
No religion but Christianity offers such an exalted and loving, spiritual Being sent to labor on behalf of its adherents. He is our Creator, our Lawgiver, the Forgiver of our sins, the Dispenser of His Spirit, the Giver of eternal life, our Guide through life who blazes the trail before us, and the Enabler of true spiritual growth and overcoming.
This body of believers is not contained within one corporate entity, and an individual cannot just go out and join it. The Father must lead a person to it (John 6:44). When He does, the newly called person will find people who are keeping God's commandments—all ten of them—in both letter and spirit. They will worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24) without dodging spiritual realities, and they will sacrifice themselves despite personal costs. They will be honest to a fault, trustworthy, and uncomplaining. They are not driven by envy and covetousness, nor are they fixed on immediate or self-gratification.
The Kingdom of God is the vision that drives them. They strive to transform into the image of Jesus Christ and to glorify the Father and Son in everything. They live solidly in the present, aware of many of its harsh realities, but they make every move with their gaze on their eternal future. They truly are pilgrims, people who humbly see themselves as mere tiny specks in a vast and awesome purpose yet privileged beyond all bounds. They believe that purpose, and in gratitude, give themselves by faith to see it accomplished in their lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?
The subject of this paragraph begins with the Father and shifts to the Son. At the end, however, the church—its relationship to Christ and among the members—becomes the focus. The major theme of the book of Ephesians is unity. It tells us why we are able to have it and what we must do to maintain it.
Paul describes the church as "a body." This is essential to unity and to preaching the gospel, keeping us from not losing our focus. We have to have God's perspective of what we are. We are a body, meaning a living organism, or by analogy, the human body.
Any organism, like the human body, is unified. Each part cooperating for the good of the whole. Notice that Paul does not use a word like "team." The word "team" has some of the same associations as "body," but it is not as accurate. With "body," Paul not only gets across the concept of association within an organism to accomplish a common work, but it also the sense of a far closer relationship and more critical responsibility, in which each part responds to the will of the head.
We are so close to Jesus Christ that Paul describes us as "His fullness," that is, we fill Him out. We complete Him. Paul does this to relate both the closeness of our association with Christ and our responsibility to Him to do everything in our power to build the strength of both.
The church—we—are Jesus Christ's complement. This is the highest honor a human being can be given! There is nothing greater than to say that we are a part—we fill out, we complete—the body of Jesus Christ! It is as though Jesus Christ our Creator considers Himself incomplete until we become part of Him. He is a Bridegroom, incomplete without His Bride. As a vine, He is incomplete without the branches. As a Shepherd, He is incomplete without His sheep. And so also is He incomplete as a Head without a body, without members, through whom He works and is glorified as they cooperate and yield to Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ephesians 1:23: