A Singular-Plural * A Plural-Singular

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

The Hebrew word for “God” here is Elohim, and the Hebrew word for “created” is bara. The interesting thing here is that we have a singular verb working with a plural noun. Elohim is the plural form of El, as cherubim is the plural for cherub. Elohim is used in the Old Testament Scriptures both for God and for false gods. When it is used for false gods it is always connected with a plural verb, but when it is used for God it is always connected with a singular verb.

God, in this sense, is a Singular-Plural. He is one God, not many. In Deuteronomy 6:4, Moses said: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. Jesus Christ repeated that statement in Mark 12:29: Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord. God is one, but He manifests Himself in many ways. And He gives Himself many names; each one according to a unique manifestation of Himself. For example, He named Himself Jehovah-Jireh when He showed Himself as the Lord that provides and Jehovah-Shammah as the Lord our peace. The apostle Paul confirms this singular-plural concept of God in his epistle to the Corinthians. There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. I Corinthians 12:6.

In comparison to the singular-plural concept of God, one God manifesting Himself in a pluralistic way, the Body of Christ is a plural-singular. It is a many-membered Body created to manifest the one Lord.

I Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

The Apostle Paul likens Christ to the human body. The human body has many members, but it expresses only one person. All the members of your body work together to express the one you, many members manifesting one life. So also is Christ. Christ is many members, but only one life is expressed – the Lord’s. Christ is no longer one person. The Lord Jesus is the Head of a many-membered Body (Colossians 1:18), and if you are going to know Him, you also must know Him as He is expressed through His many members. Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. II Corinthians 5:16.

In Revelation 3:14 the Lord calls Himself “the Beginning of the creation of God.” Since He was not created, what does He mean by that? The creation of God is the many-membered Body of Christ, and the Lord Jesus is the beginning of that creation. He is the Head of a many-membered Body (Colossians 1:18). This is mainly what the Apostle Paul is speaking of in II Corinthians 5:17: Therefore if any man (be) in Christ, (he is) a new creation. The words in parenthesis are not in the original. So it should read, Therefore if any man in Christ, a new creation. The man that enters Christ is new, but primarily Paul is speaking about Christ as a new creation. Christ is no longer an individual but is many members. Therefore in the preceding verse Paul said, Though we have known Christ after the flesh (Jesus the Nazarene), yet now henceforth know we Him no more.

Does this mean that it is impossible for the Lord Jesus to manifest Himself in an individualistic way? Of course not! He can manifest Himself as the Angel of the Lord, as a burning bush, as a Captain with a drawn sword, as the Nazarene, or in any form He may want to take. However, His unique mode of manifestation in this day is through His many-membered Body. The presence of the Lord is coming forth in His saints (II Thessalonians 1:10). Christ is now a many-membered Body (I Corinthians 12:12). We must learn to relate to Him in that way.

A common mistake made by many Christians is to relate to the Scriptures only on a personal, individualistic level. It isn’t wrong to relate personally to the Word, but we must also reach into the higher level of relating to the Word as members of the Body of Christ. For example, the description of the Lord Jesus Christ given in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation is not a description of Him as an individual but of Him in His Church. It is a description of the many-membered Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

The ministries in verse 11 are the ministries that the Lord has given to perfect the Body of Christ; that is, they are the ones that will be channels through which the Life and Spirit of the Lord flows to His Church. They are the two olive trees in the vision of Zechariah that ministers the golden oil to the seven lamps (Zechariah 4:2-3, 11-14).

Notice that each of the ministries in verse 11 is in the plural form: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Each one is a plural-singular. The apostles, being many, are the channels for the one Apostle. And those through whom He ministers as Apostle are called apostles. The same is true for each of the ministries. There is only one Prophet, one Evangelist, one Pastor and one Teacher. Those through whom the Lord ministers as Prophet are prophets, those through whom He ministers as Pastor are pastors, etc. The Lord is a Singular-Plural. He is one, but He manifests Himself in many ways: Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, etc. The ministries are plural-singulars, being many they minister the one Lord.

This principle is also seen in verse 13: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The Body of Christ, under the ministries of verse 11, matures until it becomes “a perfect man.” The Body of Christ, being many (plural), becomes a perfect man (singular). It is a perfect man when it expresses and manifests the one Life of the Lord. This cannot be done by an individual. There are not many christs, only one, but it consists of many members. Do you see how important it is for us to learn how to think and function as members of the Body of Christ? We must rise up from the level of individuals to the realm of the Christ, for that is where the anointing is and where the Lord is functioning.

It is one thing to experience Jesus Christ as the Lord over your life personally (and that is going beyond the experience of many). It is quite another thing to know Him as the Lord over His many-membered Body with you as a member therein. Functioning as a member of the Body of Christ is a realm above nominal Christianity.

As long as you are self-centered, you will not become what the Lord wants you to be. For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7. As long as you think only as an individual, you are cutting yourself off from the Body of Christ. A person can do this, a church can do this, and a religious organization can do it. When a Christian, a church, or a religious organization only thinks of itself, it has separated itself from the presence of the Lord.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.

The greater works take place after Jesus goes unto the Father. That means the greater works are done after He becomes the Head of a many-membered Christ. It is the Christ-Body that does the greater works. “He that believeth on Me” is not speaking of individuals separately. “He that believeth on Me” is the Body of Christ that becomes the “perfect man” spoken of by Paul in Ephesians 4:13.

Jesus told his disciples, Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you (Acts 1:8). The “ye” and the “you” here are plural. The power to accomplish the greater works is granted unto the Body of Christ. Anyone that is involved in the greater works does so as a member of the Body, not as an individual.

Listen, I’m not saying you are not to be an individual anymore. You will always be an individual. But it is one thing to only be an individual in your relationship with the Lord, and it is another thing to be an individual with an awareness that you are a member of Christ, so that you think and function and relate to the Lord as a member of His Body.

Often when ministers are concerned that their ministry is not as effective as it should be, it is because they are ministering as individuals and not as members of Christ. It is easy for pastors to have this problem because they tend to become spiritually isolated with their congregations. We must keep the vision of the “big picture.” The authority of the Lord is upon the many-membered Body under His Lordship. Their submission to Him as their Head covers them with His authority. If we are functioning as individuals, our authority is minimized, but when we function as members of Christ, then we are moving in His authority. Christ is a plural-singular, many members manifesting and expressing one Life.  W

Copyright © 2004 by Henry DuBose