A great need in our impersonal world is that people find acceptance, bonding, community. Acceptance is best experienced in small groups, bonding in medium sized groups (such as Bible classes), community in the context of the assembly. Today we want to think about how God makes the church a community--how he binds us together.
UNDERSTANDING THE CHURCH: THE BIBLE
Great challenges exist in Christianity. We share a tremendous life, characterized by special relationships, faithful friends, a special spiritual family, and multiplied opportunities. All these are reflected in our texts.
Three things impress me from the first verses of the Ephesians text.
This understanding is especially significant in today's world. Thus in this lesson I wish to illustrate the significance of this understanding of church with a brief look at a passage in 1 Corinthians and then think about lessons we can learn.
UNDERSTANDING THE CHURCH: THE FIRST CENTURY
A tension exists in 1 Corinthians between the problems at Corinth and the solutions. Look at the world we know. Individualism is rampant, insignificance, mere numbers, pride, self-anger, loss of community, cocooning, nesting. In the midst of an impersonal world (Illus: I have only one friend and I don't like him) Is there a word from God? Is there a solution? We see the problem, is there a solution? This is the background for Paul's topic in 1 Cor. 12, because some of the selfishness and pride which are of the world had come into the church and was exhibiting itself in the use of gifts. Togetherness was not in view. Separation and individualism were present Even with the passing of these specific spiritual gifts, such can happen today. Pride for position, prominence, power. Paul says, yes, there is a word from God. It is a word about togetherness, the nature of church, the prayer reflected in the song, "bind us together."
The pivot in the text of 1 Cor. 12 is 1 Cor. 12:12-13. Let us read it together. Before these verses is Paul's survey of important concepts:
Then he begins the illustration of the body. In midst of practical lessons to be learned, Paul mentions three actions of God which we must see.
This work is of God, among us, through us, in us, connecting us, binding us, equipping us, for a purpose.
UNDERSTANDING THE CHURCH: OUR CONTEMPORARY WORLD
From a first century understanding of church, we can derive several principles which we apply to the church today, based on God's actions.
This idea may be a dream, but it is a possible dream because the power is from God. It is realistic. The church is a place where called people may meet the challenge of Christianity in the context of community. My dream is for a church that is assembly, body, overflowing into this world. A place where the request, "Bind us together," is not only a song to be sung, but a life to be lived.
A life that is based on our common allegiance and loyalty to Jesus Christ. That this is the place where those whose allegiance is to Jesus Christ may find a home. That is the Lord's prayer, his desire, and it is the task to which we have dedicated ourselves as church.
He invites all to join in this commonality, to allow him to place and arrange and mix you into the body. His invitation is that you might become a part of the body, through which the cleansing blood of Jesus flows, by accepting his salvation through baptism by one spirit into one body. His invitation is that we might answer his call, meet the challenge, be his church. When we have begun and faltered, he waits with open arms, and we invite you to answer his invitation as we stand and sing.
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