463 – Metaphors Describing Nature of the Church

463 – Metaphors Describing Nature of the Church



Read Jn. 15:1-8I Tim. 3:1-15Eph. 5:22-33 and I Cor. 12:1-31.


1. One of our Lord’s most common vehicles of communication was parables and metaphors.
2. By that, I mean word pictures which establish relationships, functions and duties.
3. I will give four metaphors, though I do not say there are no more, which teach us much of the nature and function of the New Tes­tament Church.

I. THE VINE (JN. 15:1-8)

1. In the chronology of John, chapter 13, the Lord’s Table has been instituted, (though John’s Gospel does not record it).
2. In chapter 14, He has spoken of His departure and promised them a comforter. (Compare Jn. 14:15-20 to Acts 1:4-8 and Acts 2:1-4.)
3. In chapter 15, He gives this “foundation” metaphor (Eph. 2:20) describing their function.
4. The metaphor of the vine speaks of the function of Christ and His church, in the Father’s purpose.

i. God is the husbandman and purposes to produce fruit. (Jn. 15:8)
ii. Jesus Christ is the only true vine for that fruit. (Jn. 15:5)
iii. His church can function only as she is established in Him. (Jn. 15:2,4,5,6)

5. I call your attention of the local nature of this metaphorical union.


1. Paul obviously speaks here of the local meeting, or meeting place, of one of the Lord's churches.
2. He likens it to the temple where God met with His people. (Mat. 21:12-13)
3. The words “will build,” in Mat. 16:18, speak of being a house builder.
4. Again, the interdependent structure of a house illustrates the nature of a church, the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

III. THE WIFE (Eph. 5:22-33)

1. This metaphor deals with proper authority and proper submis­sion. (Eph. 5:22-33)
2. Christ is the “head;” (that is, the authority) and the church is the “body;” (that is, those physically, functioning members).
3. It should be quite obvious from I Cor. 12, that the word head is used here metaphorically.

III: In I Cor. 12:16, the ear and the eye, parts of the head, are referred to as parts of the body.

4. This metaphor established the husband’s authority over the wife, and her profit in that. (Eph. 5:25-26)
5. The presentation of verse 27 is not future, but present, as the continuing husband-wife relationship.
6. Again, while singularity (of both husband and church) is used here, it is obviously institutional. Notice verses 23-24.

IV. THE BODY (I COR. 12:1-31)

1. The metaphor here is the human body, illustrating the church, and since Christ is the head of the church, it is referred to as “His body.”
2. If you literalize this metaphor, you destroy its meaning, and establish a completely false premise.
3. God had appointed each position and function within the Corinthian church, and has in each church. (I Cor. 12:4-6)
4. These sovereign appointments are for the overall profit of the congregation, and not the gratification of individuals within it. ( I Cor. 12:7-11)
5. Individual zeal for spiritual gifts was a major problem in the Corin­thian church, which Paul was dealing with. (I Cor. 14:12)
6. The issue here is the interdependency of the members of a church, as in the case of the human body.
7. The human body illustrations of this chapter make absolutely no sense when applied to a “universal” or “invisible” church.
8. All of the church metaphors in Scripture apply themselves better, and more often only, to a local congregation.
9. Consideration of all Scripture, in the light of Scripture, will lead to the absolute conclusion, that there is no church except the local church.