Humans are creatures of corporation. One definition that Merriam Webster gives for corporate is “of, relating to, or formed into a unified body of individuals.” It is a form of relationship that permeates every sphere of our lives, as we are associated or associate ourselves with different groups of people, such as the families we were born into, the schools we attend, the group of friends we hang out with, the company we work for, the church body that we affiliate ourselves with, and even the cities, states, and nations that we are citizens of. In fact, in a sense we have affiliations with all of humankind, because we are all joined together as a special group of creatures formed in the image of our Lord, with Adam as our representative head. This universal association is the reason that we all bear the guilt of sin, for we are unified as humankind, and we too, then, in this corporate relationship hold responsibility for man’s original sin.
Such is the nature of a corporate relationship. The different groups are representative of every member that makes them up. Every leader and every member is representative of the group as a whole, and the whole group is responsible for the actions, both good and bad, of every single person within that body, whether the affiliation with that person is by circumstance or by choice.
One of the most beautiful examples of a corporate relationship is that of the church body. Though we all in Adam are tainted with sin, we have been chosen as Christ’s glorious bride, and through Him our great head, we are removed of our stains and given redemption.
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. –Romans 5:19
The relationship that we have as a group of believers has some strong implications. We are a body of believers, not simply individuals on this earth. We each represent the rest of the body in our walk and our talk. In addition we are responsible not simply for ourselves (and our own needs, sins, joys, etc.), but also for the rest of the body. As I touched on in my last article, we are to live as a body, caring for the body. We as part of the body feel both the blessings and the hurts of the other members of the body as our very own, because we are joined to them. We live for the good of the whole body, for we as a body, not an individual, have been adopted unto God, and chosen by the Bridegroom. We cannot live a life of glory to God, without living a life of love and unity also with the rest of the body (1 John 4:7-12, 20-21).
Prof. Hanko expresses this idea beautifully in his book “When You Pray”, in his section on the Lord’s Prayer. He notes the usage of the word “our” in the address of the Lord’s Prayer, and states the following.
‘Furthermore, we are instructed by our Lord to use the plural “our” in our address. We come to our Father along with all the people of God in heaven and earth. Some people do come to God alone, or as isolated individuals in the family of God, but this approach to God is wrong. We are a part of a family of the elect- greater in number than the stars in the sky. It is only as members of that family that we are permitted to come to God. It is in the company of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, that we dare come to God. And it is in the consciousness that any blessing we receive is ours only because the whole church is blessed that we can ask for anything. The practical result is that we do not sink into selfishness in our prayers, but are concerned about the whole of the church of Christ. For ourselves we ask for blessings that we know will not harm any in the church.’ Such is the blessed nature of the corporate nature of the Church to which we belong.
In the last place, we know that because Christ died for the whole body of the elect, it is not until that whole church has been gathered that Christ will come again in judgment and that the New Jerusalem will be perfected and complete. If even one member is missing, the Church body is incomplete–such is the importance of the fellow saints! As we read in Matthew 18: 11-14, “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Every member of the flock is precious, no matter how many sheep that flock may hold! Every sheep is precious to their Shepherd, and so too must be to each of the other sheep.
“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” – John 10:15-17 (emphasis mine)