Thursday, May 9, 2019

Building Community in Christ

Coming out of our recent Men's Advance, which focused on the theme of Christian community, I am reminded that Christian community is supernatural community. It is rooted in the work of God's grace which produces love for God and one another. It is not founded on narrowly-defined special interests or the natural affinity one might have with people that are the same age, race, or class as you. It is founded on our shared union with Christ which makes us one body and produces the fruit of love. If this union and love is lacking, then no amount of techniques will be able to salvage Christian community.

Yet, this does not mean there is nothing for us to do. We must believe in Christ, repent of our sins, and embrace the the normal means of grace that God uses for our growth, which are the Word of God (preached, read, studied, discussed, applied, etc.), the sacraments, and prayer. We find community by depending upon the same source - Jesus Christ as He is offered to us in the gospel. This fellowship that we have then manifests itself in love, forgiveness, brotherly affection, service of one another and with one another, hospitality, generosity, mutual edification, and shared worship.
"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Peter 4:8–10). 
The church is a creation of God's grace, but we have a duty to make it visible. The communion of saints is a gift, given to us freely in Christ, but it then obliges us to act accordingly. We are stewards of God's varied grace, responsible to use it to serve one another.

Our Westminster Confession of Faith lays out this biblical framework for Christian community in its chapter, "Of the Communion of Saints." It declares that since those who are united in Christ are "united to one another in love," they "have communion in each other's gifts and graces" and are therefore "bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities" (WCF 26.1-2).

If this still seems too theoretical, then consider how this week you might sing with one another, encourage and exhort one another, share with one another, forgive one another, and pray for (and with) one another. Consider how you might more faithfully practice family worship, hospitality, and Sabbath observance. Consider how you might stir yourself and others to love and good works. And consider the love and forgiveness God has shown you, remembering that "if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11).

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