James Fowler writes in Christianity is Christ :

   The ontological essence of Jesus Christ collectively embodied in all Christians comprises the Body of Christ, the Church (Eph. 1:22,23; Col. 1:18,24). Not only is Christ in us individually, but He is “in us” collectively (cf. I Cor. 3:16), and we are “in Him” together (cf. Eph. 1:13). “We are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28), irrespective of race, gender, age, nationality, education, intelligence, personality patterns, doctrinal opinions, or denominational preferences. Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed the singular essence of the Body “in Christ” in these words:

“The Church is the real presence of Christ. Once we have realized this truth we are well on the way to recovering an aspect of the Church’s being which has been sadly neglected in the past. We should think of the Church not as an institution, but as a person, though of course a person in a unique sense.26

“Through his Spirit, the crucified and risen Lord exists as the Church, as the new man. It is just as true to say that this Body is the new humanity as to say that he is God incarnate dwelling in eternity.27

“The Church of Christ is the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. In this way the life of the Body of Christ becomes our own life. In Christ we no longer live our own lives, but he lives His life in us. The life of the faithful in the Church is indeed the life of Christ in them.”28

Swiss author, Manfred Haller, also sees the singular unity of Christ and the Church.

“Christ is the essence and nature of the church by the Holy Spirit. He is her content, her structure, her fullness, and she is for her part Christ’s fullness.”29

“In modern parlance, church is an institution, a form of Christian community, a set of people believing in Christ (or at least having some concept of God) which convenes regularly. When we talk about church, we immediately picture a number of people who, on the basis of some common understanding or arrangement, have formed a Christian association. …When Paul thought of the church, however, he thought of Christ. The idea that the church could be anything beyond the embodiment of Christ never crossed his mind.”30

“Christ and the church are one single reality! The body is not an attachment to Christ; it embodies Him. It gives expression to Christ ­ the whole Christ ­ and it carries Him within it. In the church, in the body, Christ Himself lives and acts and speaks. The church is the corporate Christ ­ Christ in the saints through the Holy Spirit. This indwelling Christ is her nature and structure, her unity, truth and certainty; He is everything to her. And Christ is in every member!”31

“Christ and the church are absolutely and indivisibly one. The church is utterly absorbed in the experience of the risen and present Lord. The inner reality and presence of Christ stamps her indelibly. She is directed by Him and held together by Him, and the very length and breadth of her is the person of Christ Jesus. Her authority is His, her mind is His mind, and her holiness His holiness. She has nothing of her own.”32

“The church has only this task: to embody Christ, manifest His nature, demonstrate God’s love to the world and proclaim His Lordship over all things.”33

   As the ontological essence of the Church, the living Lord Jesus is also the dynamic expression of all that transpires in the Church ­ His Body. Jesus Christ in each individual Christian relates to Himself in another Christian, allowing for interactive interpersonal relationships that comprise a loving social community. Early observers of the Church, of Christianity, marveled at how the Christians “loved one another.” In the expression of Christ’s character of love, they ministered together in the spiritual giftedness of Christ’s functional service to one another, as was the intent of the Church’s functionality.

   Jesus promised that the Church, thus functioning by the presence and activity of His life, would overcome all odds. “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). B.F. Westcott observed that “the history of the Christian Church is the history of the victories of the Risen Christ gained through the Spirit sent in His name.”34 “We see a Divine Life manifested…from age to age through a Divine society.”35 The conclusion of James Denny was that, “without Christ there would be no Church and no ministry at all; everything we call Christian is absolutely dependent on Him.”36

   Have we not sufficiently documented that Jesus Christ is the singular essence and expression of the gospel, of the revelation of God, of Christianity, of the Church? Everything “Christian” is derived from the Being and activity of Jesus. All of Christianity is contingent and dependent on Him, and expressive of Him. Christianity is Christ!

   When Jesus announced to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6), He was declaring that all was inherent in Him. He is the modality, reality and vitality of God, and thus of Christianity and the Church. He does not just teach us the way of God or guide us to the divine way, but His very Being is the way of God’s self-revelation to man, the modality of spiritual union with God and proper human function. He does not simply teach truth propositions about God apart from Himself, but His very Being is the self-authenticating Truth of God, the reality of Christianity. He does not offer us an historical example of life or a commodity of “eternal life,” but His very Being is the self-expression of the living God, the dynamic vitality of Christian life. He could just as well have said, “I am Christianity!”

 

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