He was always getting in trouble with the religious leaders of His day. Almost everything He said and did offended them. They were jealous. Large crowds gathered around Him wherever He went, hanging on His every word. They didn't even want to go home… some of them didn't.
One by one a small band gathered around Him. A small community started to form. A dozen, specially selected men began to live with this man night and day. There were other men and women who also followed closely to attend to the various needs that arose among this little community of people. They called him “Master” or “Rabbi.” As they went from town to town throughout Judea, those who truly wanted to do the will of God followed them for days at a time. However, when He would go on to the next town, the Master would send most of them back home.
It wasn't the time for everyone to be together yet. That time would come. But before that could happen something absolutely vital had to take place. The Master would set an example that would become the foundation upon which all future discipleship would be built — He had to die. Those who did not want to do the will of God would eventually kill Him. At one point He had said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”1
What was this fruit He spoke about and why was it going to be so plentiful? The unmistakable abundant fruit of His death and resurrection was going to be in a people. Not just any ordinary people, but people living together and loving one another the same way that He had loved them. Those who were willing to do God's will would become… His family! “Those who do the will of God, they are My family...”2 This was the only place where God's will could be done — because it takes a community of people to do the will of God. It takes brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers being joined together in community to do the will of God.
Acts 2 and 4 give a vivid picture of what community life was like in Jerusalem where the first Messianic community was established. This was the first witness of the Body of Christ. A witness is that which furnishes evidence or proof. The life in the Body was the incarnation of Christ in a people after He ascended into heaven. The behavior of the first community could be easily observed by those who lived around them in Jerusalem:
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.3
This witness of His life in a people was the demonstration of the love that had been poured out in their hearts when they received the Holy Spirit. The community factor wasn't left out in this first expression of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 and 4 was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on earth. The result was the formation of a visible body, the incarnation of His Spirit, that could be entered by baptism.4 It was a tangible body, not a mystical body. Without a body in which to dwell, the Holy Spirit cannot be present on earth.5 He is not a disembodied spirit. His very purpose in coming on the day of Pentecost was to be embodied in those 120 disciples who were waiting for Him in obedience to the Master's instructions. The result was the formation of the Body of Christ as a living spiritual organism that would grow and multiply organically from that single original nucleus.
Corporeal means having tangible or physical form or substance. A Body is an organism, head to toe, vitally connected and continually functioning in coordination with itself. It is not a diffuse assortment of disconnected appendages.6 “Body life” is exactly what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, which disciples are immersed into.7 A person becomes a member of Christ by being immersed (which is the meaning of baptized) into the corporeal Body of Christ.8 As 1 Corinthians 1:13 describes, a corporeal body is not divided. How could it be, and still live? A body is made up of many members (just as the human body), which take their orders from the head.9 When Paul compared the Body of Christ to a human body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, he was speaking of the practical, full-time participation of every member. The Body of Christ is not a mystical body, but a corporate corporeal one.
Where can you find this community today? What is the Body of Christ?10 What is a holy nation?11 This was a familiar term to the first-century believers, but not to Christians today. The Body of Christ, as the apostles understood it, was a confederation of twelve self-governing tribes.12 But the terms “holy nation” and “Body of Christ” have been systematically “mysticalized” to the point where there is no practical reality to the life of Christ being lived out in a corporate, visible body or spiritual nation of people. By the second century those who called themselves believers stopped living in community, and the Body of Christ had no more objective, visible reality. It became a mere mental concept. The term “Body of Christ” needs to be demystified for Christians today so that the sincere ones can see convincing proof that Christ really does live in a people on earth. Christians have subsisted on mainstream doctrinal thought, devoid of the vibrant life of the first communities. They have been taught nothing else for centuries in Papal encyclicals, sermons, catechisms, and systematic theologies. But God makes a home for the lonely. Those who are yearning to do God's will can now begin to see that home, that Body, so they can become part of His corporeal family.