Which Gospel? The Gospel of Community, Part 1 (Introduction)

Here’s the part of the chart that describes what community is all about —

  • the journey from slavery to freedom in the Promised Land was a community journey
  • devote selves to fellowship
  • meet daily
  • all things in common
  • sharing
  • breaking of bread
  • eat together
  • need each other
  • rejoice and mourn with each other
  • love each other
  • commit to serve one another

These are, of course, just the “community” verses associated with baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or the word “gospel.” There are many, many more throughout the New Testament, such as Romans 12-15, four chapters all about how be a community of Christ.

Let’s start with some fundamentals. God’s covenant with Abraham was with him and his descendants — his family. God then made a covenant with Israel, being the descendants of Abraham via Isaac and Jacob. And God’s covenant with us is a covenant with the new Israel.

(Eph 3:6) This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

We are saved by being added, through faith, into the one body of Christ. Faith adds us to the saved community.

(Eph 2:14-16) For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

The cross reconciled the two men — Israel and the Gentiles — to make “one new man out of two” making them into a single body, the body of Christ.

I know this is all a bit ethereal and all, but the point is that we do not have a personal Savior. We have a corporate Savior. Jesus died to join the two families into one, to join all nations everywhere, to bring us into community.

We aren’t called into a personal relationship with Jesus. Rather, we are called into a community — a kingdom — that Jesus founded that’s supposed to be so much like Jesus that we feel his presence when we’re with one another … that’s so much like Jesus that we’d die for each other.

There’s a well-worn sermon about how we can’t separate Jesus from his church — in answer to the tired cliché, “I love Jesus but not the church.” But the sermon, as usually preached, misses the point. People don’t like the institutional church largely because it’s often not very much like Jesus.

We often preach about individual Christians living like Jesus, which is good. We rarely preach about the church being like Jesus. And it’s really easier and better to look at it from the standpoint of the church. After all, it’s the church that’s the body of Christ. And the gifts God gives us are in us individually but they’re in us individually to serve within the church.

Isn’t that the point of 1 Cor 12, where some of us are said to be feet and some hands? Alone, we are quite insufficient, even comical — a single foot trying to walk! But together, we are whole and complete and capable.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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7 Responses to Which Gospel? The Gospel of Community, Part 1 (Introduction)

  1. Nick Gill says:

    That is brilliant, and it crystallizes several scattered thoughts of mine.

    Our personal relationship with Jesus comes FROM our connection to the body.

    My finger has a personal relationship with my heart BECAUSE it belongs to my body.

    I wasn't around for the "I want the Man, not the Plan" era. Why didn't those preachers and teachers encountering that idea ever ask WHY, and take the answer seriously?

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Thanks, Nick. I think you said it better than I did:

    "My finger has a personal relationship with my heart BECAUSE it belongs to my body."

    You asked why those preachers and teachers never asked why? Well, I'm old enough to remember. We thought the answer to all problems would be found (a) in proof texts that (b) showed that we'd always been right. The idea that we might be the problem was unthinkable.

  3. Lisa B says:

    But, don't you have to have a relationship with Jesus BEFORE you can have a relationship with the church/body? Doesn't Jesus need to be YOUR savior, not the family savior, or the church savior, or your neighbor's savior? I agree that we do need the church to be complete and continually growing Christians, but the 'personal savior' does have merit, especially to new Christians.

    I like your thoughts about why don't we preach about the church being more like Jesus. I believe a lot of that lies in our failure to have community, many people don't like half the people they go to church with, let alone love them. Around and round it goes…

  4. Nick Gill says:


    Swing by and read Bobby's thoughts on different kinds of relationships. Yes, you have to have a relationship with Jesus BEFORE all of those things. http://stoned-campbelldisciple.blogspot.com/2008/

    In fact, everyone on earth has a relationship with Jesus RIGHT NOW… the same relationship that a king has with rebellious subjects. In Braveheart, the High Inquisitor says that William Wallace is on trial for high treason. Wallace replies, "Never in my life did I swear loyalty to that man."

    To which the Inquisitor replies simply, "Nevertheless, he is your king."

    That is the nature of the relationship that everyone has with the Lord Jesus Christ. To change that relationship, one must defect from your former loyalties (repent), swear loyalty to him (confess), and begin serving him.

    The church is the visible community of those who have sworn loyalty to King Jesus. Swearing loyalty to him (by confession and burial in water) is how you join that community. There is no two-step process.

    "Entering into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ" and "having a committed relationship with the body" are different ways of viewing the same event.

    in HIS love,

  5. Lisa B says:

    I see. 🙂

  6. Jay Guin says:

    I've been concerned for a while about an evolving form of Christianity, where an individual has a personal relationship with Jesus but lives and serves apart from the body.

    The mindset is very Western, very American, in that it reflects our culture's radical individualism.

    I think it's a very unhealthy trend. It's not what we are called to. And it's too dang easy — in the sense that the Christian separate from the body doesn't have to put up with annoying fellow Christians.

    The trouble with the easy path is that those annoying fellow Christians need the love, encouragement, support, and leadership of those who are leaving to walk the lonely path. And the loners cannot reach anything like their potential in Christ apart from the body.

    And as Hauerwas likes to argue, we cannot show the world a better society, a better community if our own members bail on us.

    Of course, the institutional church has to accept some fault. After all, the reason people bail on the institutional church is often due to the lack of Jesus-ness in the institutional church. But the cure is not leaving — it's staying and insisting that things get better.

  7. nick gill says:

    That is always the scriptural answer: in any covenant, God exemplifies the proper response: Exclusion and Embrace. You never ignore the evil behavior, but you likewise never simply abandon the covenant. Romans 9-11 seems to have been written to make sure Christians get that point.

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