Miroslav Volf’s excellent volume on ecclesiology, After Our Likeness has a number of helpful and important comments about the nature of the imagery of the body of Christ. One all-important point that is often glossed over in ecclesiological discussion is about the metaphor’s, well, metaphorical character:
Every interpretation according to which the church is not strictly identical with the earthly body of Christ is construing the body of Christ as a metaphor, including the interpretation according to which the church as the body of Christ is identical with the resurrection body of Christ [. . .], since a body consisting of a multiplicity of human, corporeal persons can be called a “body” only in a figurative sense. The question whether or not Paul is using the body of Christ metaphorically is falsely put; the only correct query concerns the referent for that metaphor in Paul’s use. (p. 142n. 61)
This is a crucial point in relation to the common instance where one person accuses another having an “insufficient” ecclesiology because they resist understanding the body of Christ in a strongly physical manner. Everyone, whether they admit it or not views the church as the body of Christ as a metaphorical mode of theological speech. The question is which interpretation of that metaphor is most persuasive.