- the journey from slavery to freedom in the Promised Land was a community journey
- devote selves to fellowship
- meet daily
- all things in common
- 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.