"Is Christ divided?"

I've been thinking more about community since writing the day before yesterday, because I know the question that people have is whether such a Christian community is possible (or only the "ideal"). It is the ideal, yes. But it is also possible--and actual. It exists.

Paul often wrote about the one, unique Christian community as "the body" (of Christ). And when we read words like these we are again tempted to think he's describing some unrealizable "ideal":

For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom 12.4-5)

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Cor 12.26-27)

[God] has put all things under [Christ's] feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph 1.22-23)
"One body"? "All... members one of another"? "If one member suffers, all suffer together"? "The church... is his body, the fullness of [Christ]"?

Is this real? Where--how? Most people see "the church" and conclude that the body of Christ is broken or divided or tainted. But Paul doesn't speak of it this way at all. Even when there were divisions in his time among those who called themselves Christians:
For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ."

Is Christ divided? (1 Cor 1.11-13)
The implied answer is "No, Christ is not divided--how can he be? Christ is one." But he answers more explicitly later in the letter (1 Cor 3, then again in 1 Cor 12, quoted above):
For when one says, "I belong to Paul," and another, "I belong to Apollos," are you not merely men?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

...So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's. (1 Cor 3.4-7, 21-23)

It seems that a lot of our confusion comes from equating "the body" with our religious organizations. We see lots of divided "churches" and conclude that the church, Christ's body, is divided. This is a mistake.

Our organizations, our religious institutions, are man-made. Humanly instituted, humanly organized, humanly defined, humanly supported, humanly defended. With all the limitations of everything else that human beings build. They're marred by human sinfulness--and they all eventually die.

But the church, the body, the one Christian community is not man-made. It is God's creation. And God's gift to us. It exists because Christ exists; it is one because Christ is one. We can join it or leave it, but we cannot build it or define it or organize it or control it. The body of Christ does not need our support or defense. It is unassailable--because it is established by God forever ("...on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." Mt 16.18) Thus it is eternal. Unlike every man-made institution or community, the one Christian community never dies.

Paul describes the body as God's work--not ours--in Ephesians 2 (just a few verses after "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God..."):
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God... (Eph 2.13-19)
This is a unique thing. Not any community we gather or organize. This is God's work.

And God also coordinates and directs this one community, according to the gifts he has given to each person. There is one Head, one Father, one Master. And all the members of the one body answer to the one head (though the work of the Spirit in and among each):
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Cor 12.4-11)
This is the nature of the one body of Christ. And it is real, it can be experienced here and now, among those who are Christ's (who we recognize by their likeness to him). We much accept no false substitutes.

The one Christian community exists.