"and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God." (Colossians 2:19)What separates the church from other social, corporate, and communal organizations is not its loyalty, fidelity to the cause or group, or interest in a group or cause but rather the source of the life that flows through the church. The church is nothing apart from its connection to the head. Without Jesus assuming His rightful place as having preeminence in everything we do their would be no reason for the church. Without Jesus as our head, we might as well join the PTA or some other social organization for we would have lost what makes us distinct. It is Christ in His church that give it her identity, purpose, and meaning.
It is impossible to separate who we are in Christ from who we are in the church. Our individual walk with God is inextricably connected to our corporate walk with the church. In Paul's mind, there was no difference between someone being a believer and someone being a member of the church. It is in the church that we find our connection to the body and to the head, How can anyone live as a Christian while being separated from the body and without Jesus as their head?
The Gospel, as lived out in the lives of the early believers, has always been a social, or corporate, gospel. The early believers lived their new lives in Christ in corporate communion with one another. They shared their lives, they shared their possessions, and they shared their love for their common savior. Paul taught us that we "have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20) and it is this common life that we share with every other believer that forms the basis of our common life together as the Church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus came not only to save us but also to form us into a corporate body that He might purify her and, one day, present her unto Himself. "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27) This formation of the church is an active formation. The Greek term used for "held together" could also be translated as to "drive together". Jesus is actively working to form and mature His body which is His church.
However, we must understand what actually holds the body together and give it her strength. Some have tried to hold the body together with traditions, doctrine, and even loyalty to a pastor or leader. However, Paul tells us that it is the joints and ligaments that supplies the body, hold it together, and gives it its strength. Similarly, Paul said, "we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16) Joints and ligaments are for the holding together of two parts in proper order and alignment. They minister in regards to the relationship between two individual parts of the body. What strengthens and holds the body together is relationships. When the members of the body find their God given place in the body, when they perform their God given function in the body, and when they relate in love to the members of the body that they have been brought into relationship with then the body is nourished and grows till it attains to the image and stature of Christ.
A christian cannot be a christian apart from relationships with other Christians. We were never meant to be alone. We were meant to find meaning, life, and strength in vital relationships with other believers that share the common life we have in Christ. Let us come out of isolation and find our rightful place in the Body of Christ.