The Church as the Body of Jesus

“And he fell to the ground in a great trance, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’” (Acts 9:4-5)

“Without anywhere actually invoking the Pauline title of the church as the body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph.1:23; 4:12; Col. 1:24; 2:19) the book of Acts here describes the risen and ascended Christ as answering the question of Saul, the persecutor of the church, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ with the identification underlying that Pauline title, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ (9:5), marking Saul as a successor of those who had tormented Jesus Christ in his passion and marking the church as the successor of Christ in his passion. As Origen explains these words, ‘Every one who betrays the disciples of Jesus is reckoned as betraying Jesus Himself’; and Bede explains: ‘He does not say, “Why are you persecuting my members?” but “Why are you persecuting me?” because he has been suffering from the wicked ones in his body, which is the church.’ Saul – together with the long line of his descendents – may have supposed that he was attacking the miserable adherents of a wretched fringe movement (→14:22); but here the ultimate target of the rage and the violence (→28:31) identified himself as none less than ‘Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’” (Jaroslav Pelikan, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Acts, pg. 123)