English blog

through the contacts and bindings

12-06-2019 - Posted by Andre Piet

In Colossians 2 verse 19 is a sentence I considered, for a long while, rather cryptical:

and not holding the Head, out of Whom the entire body, being supplied and united through the assimilation and ligaments, is growing in the growth of God.
(Concordant Version)

Ephesians 4: 16 is a parallel verse. My concern here is the phrase “through the assimilation and ligaments”. The Greek word Paul uses for ‘assimilation’ is ‘haphe’, only one other time used by Paul in Ephesians 4, but derived from (and linked to) ‘hapto’ and ‘haptomai’, with literal meaning ‘touch’ or ‘contact’ and those words are often used in the New Testament. For example when Jesus touches an ill person (Matthew 8: 3, 15). In our language we immediately recognize ‘hapto’ and ‘haptomai’ in the word ‘haptonomy’, a therapy, indeed based on physical contact.

For these reasons I propose this translation of Colossians 2:19:

and not holding the Head, out of Whom the entire body, being supplied and united through the contacts and bindings, is growing in the growth of God.

So we read that Christ, the Head, supplies the body (the ecclesia), unites and let it grow. How? By means of “contacts and bindings”! One could understand that as a medical announcement, for also in the physical body the head supplies by contact and bindings. We can think of the network of nerves and blood streams, but also of muscles, joints and tendons. But Paul’s remark is not only medical. On the contrary, it’s particularly spiritually true in the body of Christ! For Paul writes these words with a view on that.

Christ is the head, in heaven above. But he takes care for the ecclesia. He supplies them in what they need. He makes them experience the unity. And he let the entire body grow. He, and He alone, leads (by his Word). As soon as another institution presents itself as the head and claims authority (a pope, a synod or a pastor), then it is by definition not the one body Paul speaks of. For if a body has more than one head, it’s a dragon…

The means by whom Christ as head, supplies his body, is ‘through the contacts and bindings’. The body isn’t like loose sand. The ecclesia is not just the number of all individual believers, but it’s always an assembly of believers. By “contacts and bindings” with fellow believers, we are supplied by what we spiritually need, by the one head that is above, and we will effectively grow. Of course, that works in two directions. Chris supplies me ‘by contacts and bindings’, but fellow believers are subsequently supplied by me. It’s not only that I need the other, they also need me!

Conclusion: we, believers, need each other, for Christ supplies us ‘by contacts and bindings’, unites us and let us grow. Holding the head and being one body together, that’s not what you experience solitarily, but always ‘by contacts and bindings’.