The New Testament tells us believers are Temples, vessels, wives, the body and branches. As I think about these illustrations it comes to me that they are somewhat progressive in nature. I think we see ourselves as a container of Christ first then go on to see ourselves as joined to him.
For instance, a Temple is built in order to house a deity. A vessel is designed to hold or contain something such as a vase is meant to have a flower or a coffee cup is meant to hold coffee. These are great and necessary but they aren’t meant to be the focus. If a vase is outshining the flower you may want to find another flower, and if I ask you for a cup of coffee it isn’t the cup I’m really looking for is it?
When talking to men about this they may not appreciate being called a wife but in Romans seven we discover we are just that. Paul is telling us that all humans are equivalent to the wife when it comes to our relationship with God. God is the male because he is the one who produces his life in and through us. Just like a woman has to have a man in order to bear children, we have to have God in order to produce fruit for him. So in this instance a wife is also a vessel. She is the means in which the husband reproduces after his kind.
Once we establish that we are Temples, vessels and wives we move on in our understanding to see it goes even further. Jesus taught us in John 15 that he is the true vine and we are the branches. So we see that we aren’t just a vessel but we are actually an extension of him. If you look at a tree you don’t just stop at the trunk you include the branches. In fact, for some of us we need the fruit on the branches in order to identify the tree. To the watching world, they learn about Jesus the vine, by seeing the fruit on the branches. This is similar to the wife analogy because a branch doesn’t produce the fruit, it bears it.
The Apostle Paul picked up on this union between Christ and his believers and said, God “Put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Once again, like the tree, we don’t see the head and body as two separate things but as one. I wouldn’t say, “Look, here comes Tracey’s head”, we would know her head and body are one. That last statement “the fullness of him who fills all in all” is amazing. This is telling us Christ is fully expressed through us his body!
My wife, Tracey, says, “God is so big it takes all of us and more to express who he is!” I like that don’t you? We are an expression of Christ to the world around us. We aren’t trying to imitate Christ we are simply letting him express himself through our very unique personality. We are all designed as individual branches to bear fruit for an amazing God that wants us to share in his life.
Let me finish by saying, God isn’t into giving us things. For instance he doesn’t give us love; He is love. He doesn’t give us life; He is life. He doesn’t give us power; He is power. You see, we are only the means by which he expresses himself not the originator. God’s plan isn’t that he helps us, his plan is that he lives and produces glory through us. The good news is we get to share in it. If we were the producers of the glory we would have something to brag about one day, but we know that can’t be because if it wasn’t for the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ none of us would ever be in fellowship with God. It is only the gracious gift of God himself that has joined us to Christ in order for us to share in this amazing experience we call the Christian life.