Flesh and Bones by Dr. Abidan Shah

FLESH AND BONES by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  One of Nicole’s favorite TV shows is Bones. The main character of the show is forensic anthropologist, Dr. Brennan, also known as “Bones,” accompanied by FBI special agent, Booth. Together, they examine the human remains of possible murder victims. It’s a great show, with plenty of suspense, drama, and action. Although I enjoy the show – not as much as Nicole – my main complaint is when I sit down to eat my dinner. It’s especially bad when my spaghetti or fried chicken begins to look like what’s on the screen. Today’s message is titled, “Flesh and Bones.” We are referring to the flesh and bones of Jesus. As you can see, we are celebrating Communion today. This message is more than just about the Lord’s Supper. It’s also about marriage and the church. Main point: The Christ-church relationship is the at the heart of Christian marriage. Failure to understand this truth only leads to frustration and unfulfillment. Proper understanding and application of this truth not only brings joy and fulfillment in marriage but also in the church and in our spiritual lives. In fact, Christ is the source and authority of all of our lives.

Ephesians 5      28 “So husbands ought to love their own wives as` their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.”

Context: Before we dive into this passage, we need to understand that there are some differences between the various translations at verse 30. While the NIV/NASB/ESV/CSB only read, “for we are members of his body,” the NKJV adds, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” The explanation usually given for not having the extra words is that they are not found in the oldest manuscripts. According to my study, the extra words “of his flesh and of his bones” are authentic. In fact, I’ll be reading a paper on this matter next week at the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in San Antonio. I don’t have the time to get into all the nitty-gritty of the paper. In my research, the weight of manuscript evidence is not just the Byzantine text but also the ancient Western text. Both the text-types go into the early centuries of Christianity. Also, the longer reading is supported by the various early versions, Greek and Latin church fathers, and lectionary evidence. Let me clarify: This does not mean that the NIV or the others is a bad translation. Neither does it mean that I am a KJV only supporter. It simply means that my expertise in this subject helps me to understand this verse differently.

In the brief time we have, I want us to understand what it means that we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” How are we the flesh and bones of Jesus? Don’t hear what I am not saying here. I did not say “flesh and blood.” I said “flesh and bones.” There is a difference. We’re going to see that difference in this message. You will have to think this evening. First, let’s do a process of elimination to see all that it does not mean. Hopefully, in the end, we will see what it does mean:

1. We are not his “flesh and bones” physically. Some eighteenth and nineteenth century scholars (Bengel, Harless, Olshausen, and Stier) thought that this was the actual physical body of Jesus – his glorified humanity. One of them said, “the self-communication of his divine-human nature, by which Christ makes us to be his flesh and bone; He gives His people His flesh to eat and His blood to drink” (Olshausen). For one, the apostle Paul did not have the Lord’s Supper in mind in the context. Some like Schleiermacher had in mind that we gain the germ of his resurrection life by partaking of the communion. This is not in the context at all.

Also, it is not his “flesh and blood” but “flesh and bones.” Neither is there the idea that the church was born from the physical flesh and bones that were nailed to the cross.

2. We are not his “flesh and bones” because of the incarnation. Some wrongfully quote Hebrews 2:11 “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” This cannot be applied to this passage. Think about it, Jesus became like the whole human race, not just the saved. 

3. We are not his flesh and bones” because of our new birth. Some early church fathers like Chrysostom, Theophylact, Ambrosiaster, Oecumenius, Bengel and others had this in mind. This is a great point, and it has some truth in it, but that is not what Paul is saying here. He does not have just our spiritual birth or the source of our life in mind here.

So, how should we understand this passage?

1. It is a mystery. 

Ephesians 5:32 “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

The Greek word “musterion” is found 28 times in the NT and 21 times just by Paul. It does not mean mysterious or secretive. It means something wonderful that God had in his hand all along for us, but now he has chosen to reveal it, like a Christmas gift!

2. It is in the context of instructions regarding marriage relationship.

Ephesians 5       22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,”

3. It is to teach us the headship of Christ in his relationship with the church.

Ephesians 5       26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.

4. It is on the basis of the roles and responsibility given in Genesis.

Ephesians 5      30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Daniel Waterland (Great theologian, 1739) said, “Our Union with the Deity rests entirely in our mystical Union with our Lord’s Humanity, which is personally united with his divine Nature, which is essentially united with God the Father, the Head and Fountain of all.”

5. It is to teach us that true doctrine should impact everyday life, especially marriage.

Ephesians 5      32 “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Application: Are you the part of the flesh and bones of Jesus? Have you received him as your Savior and King? How do you see your marriage? How do you see God?

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