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Colossians 3:15 (KJV)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Now, according to Meyer's NT Commentary, "in one body" means:

ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι] not instead of εἰς ἓν σῶμα (Grotius, Flatt, and many others); nor yet: “as growing to be members of a single body” (Hofmann, gratuitously importing), but (comp. Ellicott and Bleek) as the result of ἐκλήθητε, announcing the relation of fellowship, into which the individuals are translated through their calling, and in which they now find themselves continuously. This abiding condition was the predominant conception; hence the pregnancy of the expression (Kühner, II. 1, p. 469); so that ye are in one body, namely, as its members. The element of unity added with emphasis, and that quite in Pauline form (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; in opposition to Holtzmann), stands in appropriate reference to the entire requirement. To have become by the calling one body with those who share in that calling, and yet not to let the holy moral disposition, for the sake of which we are called, be the common ruling power of life—what a contradiction! In that case, there would be wanting to the ἓν σῶμα the ἓν πνεῦμα accordant with the calling (Ephesians 4:4; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

And from the Expositor's Greek Testament:

ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι: “so that ye are in one body,” result rather than aim being expressed. Disunion in the body is incompatible with the peace of individual members.—καὶ εὐχάριστοι γίνεσθε: “and become thankful,” i.e., to God for calling you, or more probably for the peace in your hearts, which is the main thought. εὐχ. might mean “gracious” (a rare sense), but this would not be weighty enough to end these exhortations.

However, even though I looked up all the references Meyers listed, I still don't understand it.

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A NET Footnote

The NET Bible translates this as:

15 Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body1 to this peace), and be thankful.

The one NET footnote in this verse is this:

  1. tn Grk “in one body.” This phrase emphasizes the manner in which the believers were called, not the goal of their calling, and focuses upon their unity.

I hope this above statement should help, if not, please continue reading.


Discussion on Paul's writings

There's a lot of commentaries that focus on the specific Greek words and that is perhaps a source of your confusion in this. I have hope that a simpler explanation without the noise should be of the utmost help in this dilemma. Let's begin then.

Firstly, we should be keen to notice elsewhere in Paul's writings where he uses the analogy/phrase of "one body" or the concept of unity within believers.

Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 BSB 12 The body is a unit, though it is comprised of many parts. And although its parts are many, they all form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and we were all given one Spirit to drink.

and lastly,

1 Corinthians 12:27 BSB 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.

Now, let's draw some similarities between these verses. One important similarity is the presence of individual members, and yet another is the presence of the body of Christ. Drawing on these two similarities across all verses, one can assume that what Paul is referencing in Colossian 3:15 is the body of Christ, full of unity yet full of individuality as well.


Conclusion

Firstly, one can look at what another means by abstract words or phrases by drawing upon the other writings that that individual has produced. Here, we see that Paul uses the phrase "one body" to refer often in other letters to the Corinthians and Ephesians as the body of Christ. Thus, we find that in Colossians 3:15 the phrase "in one body" most likely means that all believers are in the body of Christ.

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I assume that the "difficulty" is that Paul did not say 'called into one body'.

The diverse people called by the gospel were called and they were then gathered into one body - the church. But Paul does not say 'called into one body' he says 'called in one body'.

He uses the preposition εν not εις.

But εν can carry the meaning

with, among, in the presence of, Strong 1722

It seems to me that Paul is emphasising the intimacy of the calling. He is expressing the fact that, from the very beginning of the work of God, the Holy Spirit, within their souls, they were, already a company.

In the beginning of the epistle he says that the gospel came to them and brought forth fruit :

since the day ye heard . . . Colossians 1:6

And he tells them they are reconciled to God :

. . . in the body of [Christ's] flesh, through death . . . Colossians 1:21.

From the moment of Christ's death, they were one. And from the moment they heard the glad tidings, they were one.

Thus they were called 'in one body' together, out of the world, as a company.

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Introduction

The phrase in question is «ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι»—literally, “in one body.” This phrase occurs three times, all in the Pauline epistles.1 The following discusses the meaning of the phrase, in particular, how Christians are “one body.”

The Receipt and Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

When one repents of their sins, confesses belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead, and then is baptized in water,2 the Lord Jesus Christ sends the Holy Spirit3 from the Father4 which indwells the believer’s heart.5


1 Rom. 12:4; Eph. 2:16; Col. 3:15
2 Acts 2:38, 2:41; Rom. 10:9
3 John 15:26
4 2 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thes. 4:8
5 2 Cor. 1:22; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 3:17


Regeneration, Spiritual Union, Mutual Indwelling

Upon receipt of the Holy Spirit, the believer’s spirit is regenerated (i.e,. “born/begotten again”).6 The believer is then spiritually united to the Lord Jesus Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit, for “we all are baptized by one Spirit into one body,”7 and “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”8 Because of this spiritual union, every Christian becomes united with Christ’s own spiritual body. The believer is “in” the Lord Jesus Christ,9 and the Lord Jesus Christ is “in” the believer:10

20 On that day, you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

Indeed, all three persons of the Holy Trinity mutually indwell the believer, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father11 and the Spirit of the Son.12


6 John 3:6 cf. 1 Pet. 1:3, 1:23. γεννηθῆναι ἄνωθεν = ἀναγεννηθῆναι. cp. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Ch. 136; First Apology, Ch. 61, 66
7 1 Cor. 12:13
8 1 Cor. 6:17
9 often expressed shorthand as “in Christ” (ἐν Χριστῷ)
10 John 14:20
11 Mark 13:11 cf. Matt. 10:20
12 Gal. 4:6


The Christian Experience “in Christ”

The Christian who is “in Christ” participates in all the experiences of the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

  • He is crucified with Christ.13
  • He suffers with Christ.14
  • He dies with Christ.15
  • He is buried with Christ.16
  • He is resurrected with Christ.17
  • He is made alive with Christ.18
  • He lives with Christ.19
  • He is glorified with Christ.20
  • He is an heir with Christ.21
  • He is seated in heaven with Christ.22

13 Gal. 2:20
14 Rom. 8:17
15 2 Tim. 2:11
16 Rom. 6:4
17 Eph. 2:6
18 Eph. 2:5
19 Rom. 6:8
20 Rom. 8:17
21 Rom. 8:17
22 Eph. 2:6


The Body of Christ (the Church) and Its Body Parts

The sum of all Christians is the Church, and the Church is “the body of Christ,” i.e., Christ’s body.23 Each individual Christian is a body part (μέλος) of Christ’s own body,24 and because all Christians are spiritually united, they are also body parts of one another.25


23 Col. 1:18, 1:24; Eph. 1:22–23
24 Rom. 12:4; 1 Cor. 6:15, 12:12, 12:18, 12:27
25 Rom. 12:5; Eph. 4:25


The Lord Jesus Christ is Affected with His Body Parts

When Saul (before his conversion and name change to Paul) was persecuting the Church,26 the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus and spoke to him, asking, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”27 By persecuting Christians, who are body parts of his own body, Saul was effectively persecuting the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ declared that what people do (or do not do) to the least of his brothers, they do (or do not do) to him.27

40 “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” 45 Then he shall answer them, saying, “Amen, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

The apostle Paul wrote,28

25 There should be no schism in the body, but the members should care the same for one another. 26 And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer together. Whether one member is honored, all the members rejoice together.


25 Acts 8:1, 8:3 cf. 1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13
26 Acts 9:4
27 Matt. 25:40, 25:45
28 1 Cor. 12:25–26


The Israel of God

The Lord Jesus Christ is named after his ancestor Israel,29 just as he is elsewhere named after his ancestor David.30

3 And He said to me, “You art my servant, O’ Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

This “servant Israel” in the Book of Isaiah does not refer to the nation of Israel, but to a specific individual, the Messiah, for the servant Israel of Isaiah 49:3 was formed to be Yahveh’s servant:

  • to bring Jacob back to Yahevh31
  • to gather Israel32
  • to raise up the tribes of Jacob33
  • to bring back the preserved of Israel34
  • to be a light to the Gentiles35

Since the Messiah is the one who will gather the dispersed of Israel,36 then the servant Israel in Isaiah 49:3 must be the King Messiah. Since the Lord Jesus Christ is Israel, then his own body, the Church, must likewise be Israel—not “Israel according to the flesh,”37 but Israel according to the spirit, “the Israel of God,”38 for “not all these who are of Israel”39—that is, physically descended from the patriarch Israel (Jacob)—“are Israel”40—that is, “the Israel of God,” for “the children of the promised are accounted for seed.”41

Justin Martyr wrote,42

Therefore, just as Christ is “Israel” and “Jacob,” likewise we, who have been quarried out of the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelite offspring…

...even so it is necessary for us here to apprehend that there are two seeds of Judah, and two offspring, as there are two houses of Jacob: the one begotten by blood and flesh, the other begotten by faith and the Spirit.


29 Isa. 49:3
30 Jer. 23:5 cf. Jer. 30:9
31 Isa. 49:5
32 ibid.
33 Isa. 49:6
34 ibid.
35 ibid.
36 cf. Isa. 11:1, 11:12; Moshe ben Maimon, Mishneh Torah, Sefer Shoftim, Melakhim uMilkhamot, Ch. 11.1 cf. 11.4, 12.3, : המלך המשיח עתיד לעמוד...ומקבץ נדחי ישראל—“In the future, the King Messiah will arise...and assemble the outcasts of Israel.”
37 1 Cor. 10:18
38 Gal. 6:16
39 Rom. 9:6
40 ibid.
41 Rom. 9:8
42 Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Ch. 135

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In researching the gathering of 1 Thessalonians 4...:

[1Th 4:17 KJV] 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

As I am wont to do I went digging for the OT origin of this phenomenon. Among other passages this led me to Judges 20 where all Israel assembled as "one man":

'NLT Judges 20:

1Then all the Israelites were united as one man, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, including those from across the Jordan in the land of Gilead. The entire community assembled in the presence of the LORD at Mizpah. 2The leaders of all the people and all the tribes of Israel—400,000 warriors armed with swords—took their positions in the assembly of the people of God.

So here you have all of Israel gathered as "one man" which I think fits the image of one body and the body is a godly army assembled before YHVH.

LXX Judges 20:1 καὶ ἐξῆλθον πάντες οἱ υἱοὶ Ισραηλ καὶ ἐξεκκλησιάσθη ἡ συναγωγὴ ὡς ἀνὴρ εἷς ἀπὸ Δαν καὶ ἕως Βηρσαβεε καὶ γῆ τοῦ Γαλααδ πρὸς κύριον εἰς Μασσηφα

What was the occasion? Apparently a Levite was in a bind and had "sounded the alarm" by cutting her wife's body into pieces and sending body parts to alert Israel. (I might have some of the historical bits askew as I have not really meditated the whole passage yet but I think you can see two very clear images:

  • Israel is as one man:

[Eph 2:15 KJV] 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

  • the Levite's woman's body was divided:

NLT Judges 20:3 (Word soon reached the land of Benjamin that the other tribes had gone up to Mizpah.) The Israelites then asked how this terrible crime had happened. 4The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, “My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. 5That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead. 6 So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime. 7Now then, all of you—the entire community of Israel—must decide here and now what should be done about this!” 8And all the people rose to their feet in unison and declared, “None of us will return home! No, not even one of us!

NIV 1 Cor 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Paul alludes to their speaking in unison:

[1Co 1:10 KJV] 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

And so on...

But there is much more. Paul references a passage in Isaiah:

[2Co 6:17 KJV] 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

[Isa 52:10-11 KJV] 10 The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. 11 Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.

This is speaking of the vessels from the temple. He is warning them to get the heck out of Dodge and bring the implements of the temple with them, but confidently because the LORD will go before them:

[Isa 52:12 KJV] For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward 1[Literally "your gatherer"].

Paul alludes to this again by urging the Thessalonians to not get ahead of themselves:

[2Th 2:1-3 KJV] 1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

So what's so interesting about "ye that carry the implements"? They are identified here (in type):

  • when it was time for the camp to move there were particular tasks assigned to particular people. The sons of Merari were responsible to carry the parts of the tabernacle and each part was the responsibility of that member of the family to whom it was assigned:

[Num 4:31-32 KJV] 31 And this is the charge of their burden, according to all their service in the tabernacle of the congregation; the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and sockets thereof, 32 And the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments, and with all their service: and by name ye shall reckon the instruments of the charge of their burden.

Here we have the background (or perhaps one of the backgrounds) of the "one body/many members" because the ones carrying the vessel would be identified with one part of the tabernacle. One might carry a board, another a pillar and another a cord, and so on. In type they are like the many members of the body as they are like pieces of God's tent.

And where were they taking the implements of the Jerusalem temple? Into the new temple!:

[Ezr 5:13-15 KJV] 13 But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God. 14 And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place.

Peter speaks of the new covenant Jews to whom he was writing, "living stones":

[1Pe 2:4-5 NKJV] 4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

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