‘holistic’ – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. The organic or functional relation between parts and whole.
The term “holistic” is mostly used in the field of alternative medicine. In this context it is usually defined as treating the whole person, not just the physical body.
In conventional medicine, it is usually only the specific body part that has the symptoms which is treated. The body itself is not viewed as only “part” of a bigger picture, the whole person. I believe that this is a mistake, but that is not the reason I have written this article. I believe that we, as believers, have made a similar mistake with our viewpoint and approach to the Body of Christ.
The Expression of the Whole Christ
“And He subjected all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.” Eph. 1: 22, 23
The letter to the Ephesians probably shows us more than any other letter how the church is the Body of Christ. And that Body is to express the fullness of the Head, Jesus Christ.
Just think about your own physical body. What purpose does it serve? Does it not express in a physical, visible way the invisible person who lives within it? Your body communicates with the outside world. Your body expresses what you are thinking and feeling on the inside. When you speak you move your hands around to express your thoughts. I’m sure you have heard the term “body language.” It simply means that you can express your thoughts and feelings with your physical body.
It is the same way with the Body of Christ. We are to express (visibly) the invisible Person who lives within us. We do this individually and corporately. Each part expresses Christ but the fullness of Christ can only be expressed by the Body (Eph. 1:23). Individually we can only express a small part of this wonderful Person. But together, corporately, we can express the fullness or the whole Christ. And now this gets down to my point.
As the church, are we expressing the fullness of Christ or only a part? Could it be that we have taken and chosen certain aspects of His nature, character, and mission and only chosen to express those specific aspects? I strongly believe that we have done this. In fact, I hope to prove it to you in this article. I have termed this process as “selective expression.”
What is Selective Expression?
It is the process whereby we see, speak, teach, and consequentially express only a small part of Christ, and not the “Whole” Christ.
At the core of this problem is a very weak and limited revelation of Jesus Christ. We have a revelation of Him, but only in one small area. We have a small and limited Christ. We have only seen Him with limited vision. And that’s okay because we are all growing in our revelation and understanding of this unlimited Christ. Revelation is progressive and eternally growing and expanding.
However, the problem comes in when we stop the process along the way. We become satisfied with what we have already seen of Him and stop pursuing and pressing into Christ. Now, our experience of Christ settles and crystallizes like hardened concrete. This is when we form “filters” over our vision of Christ. We only see Him a certain way because we are looking through the “spectacles” of our past revelation and experience.
Here is an example. There was a time in my life when the Lord was revealing to me His heart for the lost. He showed me how much He loved them and wanted to reach them. This crystallized for me and became a filter over my eyes. Then, everything I saw in the scriptures was about evangelism. It didn’t matter where I went in the bible, all I saw was evangelism. I had put on the “spectacles” of evangelicalism. And now I was out to convert the non-believer and recruit the believer into becoming as evangelistic as me. Partial vision can sometimes be worse than total blindness!
The real problem came in when I went out to find others who had on the same spectacles as me. I only wanted to fellowship with Christians who were as evangelistic as me. Now we are talking corporate expression here. What I saw effected how I expressed. And now there was a group of us expressing together. The problem was that we were only expressing a very small part of Christ! He is much bigger than evangelism, miracles, healing, deliverance, feeding the poor, helping widows, spiritual gifts or spiritual warfare.
He is the All!
And His desire is to be expressed as such by His church.
First Things First – the Chicken or the Egg?
One of the first things that God had the children of Israel do after they left Egypt was to build the tabernacle (Ex. 25 – 30). When the new generation entered the Canaan land, the whole point was for God to have two things: a house (temple), and a city (Jerusalem). There was a certain piece of property that God had in mind for his house and the children of Israel would have to fight their way into the land to obtain it. The reason God wanted the land was to have a building site for his house and his city. The theme of the house and the city runs all throughout scripture. You can even see the raw materials for this building project in the garden (Gen. 2:12). Throughout all of scripture we see “the house” and “the city.” Here are just a few: Ezra 6:3; 2 Sam. 6:17; Ps. 132: 3-5; Heb. 4:16; Luke 9:58; Matt. 21:13; Matt. 16: 13-18; Heb. 11:10; Rev. 21 & 22.
The House and the City
It’s important that we realize that the city grows out of the house. The house must come first. Who ever heard of a city without a house? The city is the expansion of the house. But what is all of this figurative language about?
The House – a place for the Lord to rest his head.
The “house” is the dwelling place of God. It is the place where he can relax, where he can be himself. It is the place where he can freely express himself. Just like we design and decorate our homes to suit and express who we are, so does the Lord with his house. It’s all about the place of rest, comfort, and expression (Acts 7:44-50; Is. 66:1). The house is always the center of the city. In Old Covenant language, the temple is the center of Jerusalem. The temple was the focal point for all Jewish worship and culture. This is but a shadow or picture of the true house of God, the church (I Pet. 2_5; I pet. 4:17; I Tim. 3:15; I Cor. 3:9-16). And this house expresses who he is. This house is Jesus Christ in corporate form.
The City – all throughout scripture the city represents authority and power.
The establishment of a city always depicts the establishment of conquest and authority. God has always wanted a city. In Revelation 21 and 22 we see that he gets it. The New Jerusalem is the culmination of all of God’s purposes and dreams in one place. It’s a heavenly city that comes down to earth (Rev. 21:10). And God gets his desire fulfilled to dwell with and in man (Rev. 21:3). The Father and the Son are the Temple (Rev. 21:22). And this city is the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9).
The city, since it represents God’s authority, also represents the kingdom of God. The throne of God is there and his people rule with him (Rev. 22:3-5). The city expresses who he is and what he does. The city is the fullness and expansion of the house. Christ is fully expressed through his church and this brings forth the kingdom. The kingdom is the expression of his mission to the world. It includes evangelism, feeding the poor, reaching the lost, healing of all sorts, deliverance — basically Isaiah 61:1, 2. The kingdom is the city set on a hill (Matt. 5:14-16).
The Present Dichotomy
I see that there has been a polarization happening among believers involving this issue of the house and the city. Many have created a dichotomy out of the church and the kingdom. There are those who say that the kingdom is what Jesus preached, so we should be into that. Then, there are others who say that Paul wrote mostly about the church, so we should be into that.
The truth is that this is not an either/or situation. The church and the kingdom are not diametrically opposed to one another. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. They are both aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The church brings the kingdom to earth because it is through the church that the nature, life, and works of God are displayed (Eph. 3:10, 11; Eph. 2:10).
Therefore, we will never see the kingdom come to this earth in any significant way until we see the church displaying the fullness of Christ. She is all about expressing her Lord. And the kingdom (his authority and works) are part of that expression.
We must remember that God has a divine order to things. The house comes before the city. Communal comes before missional. Relationship comes before good works. Identity comes before action. Being comes before doing. Who God is determines what he does. Jesus healed the sick because he is compassion. He raised the dead because he is resurrection. He fed the multitudes because he is the bread of life.
The Source and Origins of Church Life
Before anything else existed there was the fellowship and community of the Godhead (John 17). Before there was ministry, outreach, or mission, there was a divine community flowing with life. This is the model and foundation for all church life. If there is community life, and it is healthy, then the divine life of the Godhead will flow out to the world as well. Why? Because that is part of who God is. And the community of believers is all about expressing that life to one another and to the world. In other words, the community of the Godhead, in all of its fullness and glory, is to be expressed by the community of believers.
Sisters and brothers, we must begin there!