Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.

Friday

7

May 2021

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COMMENTS

Living the One Another’s

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In 2007, I made some interesting discoveries in preparing for our church’s 100th year anniversary celebration. I learned that our local body, the First Baptist Church of Gonzales, Louisiana, was constituted around the same time as the following companies: Harley Davidson, United Parcel Service (UPS), Blue Bell, Walgreens, and Kellogg’s. In thinking about our local congregation of a few hundred compared to these corporate giants, I was taken by both the contrast of size and purpose between us. These corporate giants have massive resources for the communication and sale of their products, while our little congregation operates on a meager budget comparatively. 

However, God’s work is done in this world not by might, nor by political power, but through the empower of the Holy Spirit.[1] The church is charged with declaring and living the message of grace found in Jesus Christ, and we trace our roots to the gospel movement recorded in the New Testament over two thousand years ago. Jesus’ parting words to the disciples was to go into all the world and proclaim this good news.[2] Every church is given that honor, and this mission is given with God’s promised success. 

Christ Will Build His Church

Jesus Christ commended Peter when he declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”[3] Jesus pledged to build His church in this world, and that it would be indestructible. 

How does Christ build his church? He builds his church through the spread of the gospel, and as his people make disciples and plant local churches, the redemptive work of Christ is displayed before neighborhoods as well as nations.  Revelation 7 allows us to see how redemptive history ends as Christ has gathered from every “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (7:9,10)

But until then, the church is called to be “the pillar and support of the truth.”[4] Every local body should live for the purpose that God would be glorified “in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.”[5]   The language of the New Testament references the church as the epicenter of God’s kingdom purposes in this world. The local church is God’s plan for the ages.[6]  

Well, we know many do not share this understanding of the church. A local church is often portrayed as a lethargic, pathetic gathering which is relegated in the minds of many to be a place where you might get married or buried. It’s a place for old people to gather, and they do so out of a duty-bound allegiance to keep the club going. Churches are seen as relics of the past, and while they should be allowed to exist, they should do so quietly. Others more cynically see the church as a drain on resources and should die a natural death. For many, thoughts of church life exploding your soul or changing your life are not common. Even among those who are church members, the grand and glorious picture found in the New Testament seems far removed. 

The Church and Ultimate Issues

When we were preparing for our church’s 100th anniversary celebration, I was challenged from God’s word of our need to be renewed in our love for Christ’s church. My prayer was that we would embrace the call of our Savior to love one another and demonstrate that through meaningful ministry. I was reminded in my comparisons with corporate giants mentioned previously that the church is the only institution called into existence to deal with the ultimate issues: life and death, forgiveness, reconciliation, heaven and hell, relationships, purpose in living, and true community.

I thought of how interaction with these companies would be much different than a fellowship connection with a local church. For example, you wouldn’t walk into a Harley Davidson dealership and say to the salesman, “I’ve got cancer and the doctor says that I only have a few months to live, would you have the company pray for me?”

You wouldn’t say to the Blue Bell Ice Cream truck driver, “Hey pull over, my family’s really hurting can you help us? Ice cream is nice, but we have deep issues, could you help us walk through these trials?”

You wouldn’t contact Kellogg’s and say, “I know you are into corn flakes, but I was wondering what your plan is to reach the unreached people of this world with the Gospel, and how we could be a part of that mission?”

You wouldn’t go to the Walgreens Pharmacy and ask, “Do you have any medicine that will give me abundant life and hope beyond the casket?  The Scripture tells all of us that we have an appointment with death, and then the judgment. I was wondering if you had something that would bring peace to my soul and reconciliation with a holy God as I face these realities?”

I am not speaking disparagingly of these companies, but their purpose is to sell motorcycles, ice cream, corn flakes and provide prescriptions. They do not exist to point to eternal realities.  However, this is precisely what the church is commissioned to do by Christ himself.  God’s redeemed people are charged with proclaiming the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to this world, and those who gather under the banner of His grace are to become an oasis of grace called a local church.

Practicing the One Another’s

This oasis of grace is exactly where Paul directs us in Romans 12.  Paul takes us from life on the altar to life in a local church and reminds us that to know Jesus Christ in a saving relationship means that we are part of his body, the church. Paul stated, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”[7] Paul stated plainly that every believer is a part of a diverse, yet unified spiritual body. This spiritual body takes a physical form when we gather as a local church.

The church becomes an oasis of grace as we learn to receive from others and to give of ourselves. Over thirty times in the New Testament we read commands that call us to minister to one another:

*Love  (John 13:34,35)                                                    *Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)

*Depend on  (Rom. 12:5)                                                 *Be Kind (Eph. 4:32)

*Be devoted (Rom.12:10)                                                 *Forgive (Eph. 4:32)

*Honor (Romans 12:10)                                                  *Tenderhearted (Eph. 4:32)               

*Rejoice (Rom. 12:15)                                                        *Submit (Eph. 5:21)

*Weep (Romans 12:15)                                                   *Uphold (Eph. 4:2; Colossians 3:13)

*Same mind (Rom. 12:16)                                                *Encourage (I Thess. 5:11)

*Do not judge (Rom 14:13)                                              *Stimulate (Heb. 10:24)              

*Accept (Rom. 15:7)                                                         *Not to speak evil (James 4:11) 

*Admonish (Rom. 15:14)                                                 *Not to grumble (James 5:9)      

*Salute (Rom. 16:16)                                                        *Confess our faults (James 5:16)

*Not to be puffed up (I Corinthians 4:6)                        *Pray (James 5:16)

*Wait (I Cor. 11:33)                                                          *Show hospitality (I Peter 4:9)

*Care for (I Cor. 12:25)                                                     *Minister gifts (I Peter 4:10) 

*Serve (Galatians 5:13)                                                    *Humble ourselves (I Peter 5:5)

*Fellowship (I John 1:7)          

These are life-changing commands and interestingly one-third of these “one another’s” are found in Romans 12-16. Think of the impact obedience to these commands would bring to a church, to a city, to a nation, and to this groaning world? No wonder Aristides, the erudite Athenian philosopher, offered this defense of Christianity to the Roman Emperor Hadrian:  

“They love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them. If they have something they give freely to the man who has nothing; if they see a stranger, they take him home, and are happy, as though he were a real brother.  They don’t consider themselves brothers in the usual sense, but brothers instead through the Spirit, in God.”

God intends His people to be a visual model of the gospel. He wants us to live our lives together in such a way that we demonstrate the good news of reconciliation before the watching world.

Christians aren’t perfect people, and I doubt you need much convincing of the truth of that statement, but I would say that we are fundamentally different people.  We have been made new by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are to show that love in how we love one another. 


[1] Zechariah 4:6; Acts 1:8

[2] Matthew 28:19,20

[3] Matthew 16:16-18

[4] I Timothy 3:15

[5] Ephesians 3:21

[6] Ephesians 3:1-13

[7] Romans 12:4,5

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