Are the Jewish Epistles for the Body of Christ?

by Jerry Shugart

Who in Every Place Call on the Name of Jesus Christ

Here we can see that both Jews and Gentiles are baptized into the Body of Christ:

"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor.12:13).

In this passage Paul uses the pronoun "we" twice and from his introduction in that same epistle we can know that that pronoun is not only referring to those in the church at Corinth but also "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord":

"Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's" (1 Cor.1:2).

All of the Jewish believers living in the first century did indeed call on the name of Jesus Christ so therefore all of them belonged to the Body of Christ. Cornelius Stam, the founder of the Berean Bible Society, wrote the following commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:2:

"There are other evidences that the kingdom saints of Paul's day became members of the Body of Christ. In I Corinthians 1:2, Paul addresses his letter to the Corinthian church, 'with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs [those in every place] and ours [those with Paul].' And he says to 'all' these believers 'in every place': 'For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles' (I Cor. 12:13). How can this be made to exclude the Judean believers?" (Cornelius Stam, Commentary on Galatians [Stevens Point, WI: Worzalla Publishing Co., 1998], 198).

Cornelius Stam is not alone about his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 1:2. Matthew Henry wrote:

"In conjunction with the church at Corinth, he directs the epistle 'to all that in every place call on the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, both theirs and ours' " (Matthew Henry, Commentary at 1 Corinthians 1:2).

John Nelson Darby understood the verse in the same way, writing the following:

"He addresses the assembly of God at Corinth, adding a character (the application of which is evident when we consider the contents of the epistle) 'sanctified in Christ Jesus.' Afterwards the universality of the application of the doctrine and instructions of the epistle, and of its authority over all Christians, wherever they might be, is brought forward in this address" (John Nelson Darby, Commentary at 1 Corinthians 1:2).

A.R. Fausset comments on the verse matches the commentary of both Stam and Darby:

"with all that in every place call upon . . . Christ--The Epistle is intended for these also, as well as for the Corinthians. The true CATHOLIC CHURCH (a term first used by IGNATIUS [Epistle to the Smyraeans, 8]): not consisting of those who call themselves from Paul, Cephas, or any other eminent leader ( 1Cr 1:12 ), but of all, wherever they be, who call on Jesus as their Saviour in sincerity (compare 2Ti 2:22). Still a general unity of discipline and doctrine in the several churches is implied in 1Cr 4:17 7:17 11:16 14:33, 36" (A. R. Fausset, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown; Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:2).

Albert Barnes also interpreted the verse in the same way which Stam interpreted it:

"That he expected that this Epistle would be read, not only by the church at Corinth, but also by other churches. That this was the uniform intention of the apostle in regard to his epistles, is apparent from other places; compare 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 'I charge you by the Lord that this Epistle be read unto all the holy brethren;' Colossians 4:16; 'And when this Epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.' It is evident that Paul expected that his epistles would obtain circulation among the churches; and it was morally certain that they would be soon transcribed, and be extensively read - the ardent feelings of Paul embraced all Christians in every nation. He knew nothing of the narrowness of exclusive attachment to a sect. His heart was full of love, and he loved, as we should, all who bore the Christian name, and who evinced the Christian spirit" (Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834], Commentary at 1 Corinthians 1:2).

Sanctified in Christ Jesus

Let us look at the following verse again:

"Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's" (1 Cor.1:2).

The word "sanctified" is translated from the Greek word hagiazo and it means " to separate from profane things and dedicate to God" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon). The believer has been separated from the world by being placed "in Christ Jesus," the Body of Christ.

In his first epistle addressed to the Jewish believers the Apostle John tells them that they have been given eternal life, and that life "is in the Son":

"And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 Jn.5:11).

These Jewish Christians are told that the eternal life which has been given to them is 'in" the Son. This can only be in regard to how the sinner is made "alive together with Christ":

"even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph.2:5-6; NASB).

This speaks of the Christian's total identification with the Lord Jesus, a truth which is true for only those who are in the Body of Christ. Our life which is in Christ is the same thing spoken of in the following passage:

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col.3:1-4).

The Christian has been given eternal life, and "this life is in the Son"..."Christ is our life" and our "your life is hid with Christ in God." These verses are in regard to a total identification with the Lord Jesus and speak of our "postion" in Christ, being risen with Christ and being seated with Him in heavenly places. That is what Peter is speaking of here:

"Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Pet.5:14).

Redemption "in Christ"?

There are some who say that Paul's words "in Christ" in the Hebrew epistles should be understood in its broadest sense of "redemption." However, there is no evidence from the Scriptures to support the idea that the phrase "in Christ" is used in any other way than to denote someone being a member of the Body of Christ. If at 1 Peter 5:14 Peter wanted to express the idea of the Christian's "redemption" whose source is the Lord Jesus he would have used the Greek word translated "through" in the following verse:

"In whom we have redemption through (dia) his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph.1:7).

The Greek word dia means: "of the Means or Instrument by which anything is effected; because what is done by means of a person or thing seems to pass as it were 'through' the same" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

That is exactly how the Greek word dia is used in the following verse:

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through (dia) him" (1 Jn.4:9).

If Peter meant to express the idea of "redemption" as a result of Christ Jesus he would not have used the Greek word translated "in" in the following verse:

"Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in (en) Christ Jesus" (1 Pet.5:14).

The primary meaning of the Greek word en is "in the interior of some whole" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

That matches perfectly with the idea of being in the Body of Christ, being "in Christ." It does not express the idea of anyone being redeemed through Christ Jesus.

If Any One Be In Christ

Here the Apostle Paul says that if anyone be "in Christ" then he is a new creation:

"So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new" (2 Cor.5:17; J. N. Darby Translation).

Cornelius Stam, the founder of the Berean Bible Society, said the following about this verse:

"The above rendering of II Cor. 5:17 by J.N.Darby, in his 'New Translation,' is doubtless more accurate than that of the 'Authorized Version'.' This 'new creation,' this 'one new man,' this 'joint body,' formed of Jews and Gentiles made one in Christ, is called 'His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all' (Eph. 1:23)" (Stam, True Spirituality [Berean Literature Foundation, 1984], 48,50).

Those who are said to be "in Christ" are members of the Church, which is His Body. If "any one be in Christ" he is a member of the Body of Christ. It is inconceivable that Paul would use the phrase "in Christ" indiscriminately, sometimes applying it to the Body of Christ and sometimes not. That would lead to nothing but confusion and God is not the author of confusion.