Last Thursday we talked about what it looks like for us as a church to live our lives on the mission of God. The week before we finished going through a series based on Nip Ripkin’s book, The Insanity of Obedience, which discusses the current persecution that is going on in many nations around the world as a result of our brothers and sisters’ obedience to the great commission. This week we talked about the role of the church in us being faithful in our context to that great commission, and I wanted to post a brief summary of the things we talked about for anyone who was not able to be there, but also as a reminder to all of us of God’s call on our life.
One of the first things that I stated was that the great commission is not a commandment for me to obey but a commandment for us to obey. That is not to say that it has no bearing on my life individually, but that in order for it to be fulfilled—for disciples to be made of all nations—it requires the cooperative work of the church.
Even more to actually demonstrate the power of the gospel we preach requires the community of the church. We read in John 13:34-35 that, “…just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have loved one another.” From this text and from many more, it is clear that the Christian life is a life lived in community and that to attempt to follow God away from the people of God is futile and disobedience. As we read in Ephesians 2:12-22, Christ’s saving work did not just save us from our sins but it saved us to (among many other things) his body the church, who he is building together into a dwelling place for God (vs 22). All of this to say, that a vital part of Biblical evangelism is Biblical community. Biblical community gives a picture of the character and work of God and gives evidence to the transforming power of his gospel.
What does Biblical community look like? One way we can describe it is through the one another commands found through out the new testament. Tim Keller summarizes the one another commands as commands to affirm one another, share with one another, and serve one another. He further divides each of those three commands into three more commands which are:
affirm one another’s strengths, abilities, and gifts (Rom 12:10, James 5:9, Rom 12:3-8)
affirming one another’s equal importance in Christ and necessity to the work of the body
(Rom 15:7, 1 Cor 12:25, 1 Pet 5:5, James 2:1
affirming one another through physical affections (Rom 16:16, James 1:19, Eph 4:32, 1 Thess 3:12)
sharing one another’s space, goods, and time (Rom 12:10, 1 Pet 4:9, Gal 6:10)
sharing one another’s needs and burdens (Gal 6:2, 1 Thess 5:11, Heb 3:13)
sharing one another’s beliefs, thinking, and spirituality (Col 3:16, Eph 5:19, Rom 12:16, 1 Cor 1:10)
serving one another through accountability (James 5:16, Rom 15:14, Eph 4:25)
serving one another through forgiveness and reconciliation (Eph 4:2, Col 3:13, Gal 5:26, James 4:11, Mat 5:23-24; 18:15)
serving one another’s interest instead of our own (Heb 10:24, Rom 15:1-2, Gal 5:13)
(pulled from Tim Keller’s Gospel in Life pp58-70)
Obviously sermons could be preached on what each of these commands entails and how we as a body can go about following them more faithfully, but for us to grow as a body in these areas requires at least two things from each of us: time and intentionality. It requires time because none of these can happen apart from us sacrificing our time to be with one another, to listen to one another, and to get to know one another so that we can obey these things. So we can look at our use of time and ask the question are we busy doing the things God has commanded us to be busy in or are we have we filled up our time with good things that are not the best things. When we look at our prioritization of time, do we prioritize the same things the world does, or is our life built around what God has said is important? Do we make time for one another? The second thing we need to grow in these one another commands is that we be intentional in the time that we have together. Is our time together characterized with us loving one another in these ways, or is our time marked mostly by banal or self-centered conversation instead of selfless love? All this to say that if, during our time together, we open up our lives to one another but do not minister to one another with the word of God in response, we have missed the point. In other words it is possible to have community, but not have Biblical community. Where community may spend time with and love one another only for the sake of one another, Biblical community spends time with and loves one another with the goal of pointing one another to Christ and building one another up in Christ.
Perhaps the greatest one another command, even though it is not (to my knowledge) ever explicitly stated in the new testament ( although it is demonstrated to us by example in the epistles) is that we share the gospel with one another. When we share our struggles with one another in honoring God at work or our temptations toward lust, or our fears and failures in sharing the gospel, do we only call one another to repent and obey? Or do we first preach the gospel to one another, reminding us that the price of our sin has been paid by Christ so that we need not fear God’s wrath? Or do we remind one another that Christ has broken the power of sin over us so that we are dead to sin and alive in us, and that therefore in Christ we can resist sin and walk in obedience because the Spirit of him who raised Christ Jesus from dead dwells us (Rom 8). If we call one another to follow Christ without reminding one another of who we are in Christ, i.e. what he as done for us, we fall into legalism. To walk in joyful obedience to the gospel requires us first embracing the work of Christ in us and for us.
Finally, one thing we talked about as a practical note as we seek to reach out to our friends, neighbors, and others, is that we should make attempts to involve one another in our outreach as much as we are able. If we plan on having unbelieving friends over for dinner, make attempts to involve some else in the church and have them over as well. An example of this, (not to toot my own horn, I did this at Matt’s suggestion) most Saturday mornings I go out and play soccer with a group of Mormons, and I am normally able to give the Mormon missionaries, who live across the hall from me, a ride to the fields. Whenever this happens, I try and have a couple questions ready for them to start conversations so that I can share the gospel with them. What I have started doing is inviting someone to go with me when I go out to play. So last week Seth came out and played and will try and do so in the future as well. All this to say that, often times when we go out seeking to share the gospel or minister to someone in our lives, we do not have to do so alone, and seeking to involve others from the body helps give an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ in us for one another as well as to support and encourage one another.
So as we seek to be faithful to the great commission together, let us also seek to love and serve one another in a way that gives a picture of the love of Christ toward us and makes the power of the gospel visible to all around us.