The notion of the body of Christ seems to point towards and organic connection between Christ and the members of the church as constituting some sort of monopersonal identity. The notion of a body and its members seems to imply such a relation of organic oneness. However, this is not necessarily the case, and Paul’s language 1 Corinthians actually doesn’t seem to lend itself in this direction.
As Volf observes, the need to view the metaphor of the body organically is bound to understanding the metaphor exclusively through physicality. Thus, “if the physical nature of the body is eliminated, then the idea of the body no longer contains its organic character.” Here Volf cites Robert Gundry’s critique of J.A.T. Roberson who argues that the body of Christ in Paul must be understood in a non-physical manner. Thus, as Paul argues, “the Christian is ‘one spirit with” the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17), and precisely as such is a part of his ‘body.’” The nature of the body of Christ is profoundly qualified by the role of the Holy Spirit who brings about a miraculous spiritual union between persons bound together in relation to Christ.
So what then does the language of the body of Christ express then if not a physical, monopersonal identity? According to Volf, it expresses
certain soteriological and strictly ecclesiological relations that shape the very being of Christians; it stands for an inward and personal communion in the Holy Spirit between Christ and Christians (see 1 Cor. 6:17) or between Christ and the church (see Eph 5:22-33), and thereby also between Christians themselves (see Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:14-26). Precisely this metaphorical usage makes it possible for every local church to be called “the body of Christ” in an original sense. (p. 142)
This is not to say that the metaphor does not use organic or physical language, only to observe that what the metaphor indicates is not a monopersonal identity that fuses Christ and the church. Rather, the imagery, taken in the context of 1 Corinthians as a whole, speaks to the radical and intimate nature of the Spirit’s interpersonal indwelling of all Christians and the church as a whole which unites the church with Christ in a dynamic interpersonal relationship.