Consider that Paul, the inspired author of most of the epistles, having seen the glorified Body of Christ, knowing what end Christ’s body finally meets, and presumably knowing about what language Christ uses about his body throughout the Gospels, uses this specific metaphor: the Church is the Body of Christ.
What could such a metaphor really mean? If it is true, and if it is scriptural, and if it is inspired — full of the Spirit — surely it has at least a divine meaning and purpose. It must speak to some deeper principle. Catholics may point out that Christ will not die, now that the Resurrection shows He triumphs over death. Similarly, the Body of Christ will, in some visible way on this earth, live right up until the end times.
Catholics also may explain this as affirming the four marks of the Church. Like Christ’s body, Catholicism is one, a matter disputed principally by log-eyed men. She is holy, for the Church Triumphant is in heaven and the Church Suffering is headed there, however the visible Church Militant fails us. She is Catholic, which is a word that means simply universal. That the Church is apostolic is simply a way of saying her authority goes back to the apostles, which is important not because of the apostles but because of Christ. There is a real historical claim backing each of these up, putting aside doctrine and scripture, claims which have no analogue among apostasists.
I am curious what apostasists make of this passage on their own, not just what other verses they go to to defend against this interpretation. All I can think of is what apostasists cannot say.
- Yes, all Protestants admit Christ as Lord, but this is not enough. Even the demoniac admitted Christ is Lord. Between Catholic and Protestant incarnate, when defining terms at a basic level, who responds with many voices and who responds with one?
- Yes, God the Father appears as a cloud in the Old Testament, but His Son is made flesh in the Gospels. Jesus is authoritative enough to speak with clarity and discrete enough to crucify. Why would Christ’s organization for all men — the inspired Word of God tells us His Church is his Body, remember — be any different?
- Yes, Jesus dies on the cross, but he allowed this. Of the Church He willed that She would live forever. What faith can we keep in living the Christ life if we do not keep the faith that the living Christ kept the faith alive? If the Church died once, why may it not die again?
Protestantism is less true than Catholicism, less than the ideal, by a very powerful metric — by fruit. Damningly, this fruit is not here and there but endemic, ipso facto, by the nature of the tree. It is a matter of definition. Specifically, it is a matter of the lack of definition.
Note well: While I do not exclude Protestant persons from being, hypothetically, members of the Body of Christ, I do exclude the ideology of Protestantism from being itself the fullness of truth, which is the question at hand.