The Church I: One as Christ is One

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. each part of his creation revealed some part of himself but the final act of creation was special. God created man in his own image. Up until this moment creation was a canvas but with the creation of man God began to unveil his purpose.

Almost the first thing revealed about man was ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’

Up until that point God saw everything he made and it was good. For the first time in creation the Lord was unsatisfied with his workmanship. Man alone was incomplete. Man, made in the image of God was not meant to be alone and why? Because it was not good for God to be alone. It may have taken some time before the son and the spirit were revealed but God has never been alone even when he was all that existed.

It is difficult to believe that our God, the creator of heaven and earth, the source of all life, could possibly lack anything but deep in god’s heart was a desire for more companionship. From the moment of Adam’s creation God walked in the garden with man. When Adam and Eve fell God came searching for them. He took care of them and provided clothing. He declared that fallen man would be saved. Before man had even begun to understand the impact of the fall the Lord was already setting out his plan to restore the fellowship he enjoyed with men. The scriptures talk many times about man being reconciled to god but never do they say that God will be reconciled to man. There was no need. God’s heart has never changed. He loved Adam as much the day after the fall as he did the day before.

After the fall men wandered further and further from God until one day the Lord spoke to a man and the man answered. We usually assume that Abraham was God’s choice but I can’t help wandering how many men across the ancient civilisations of Egypt, the middle east China and India the Lord called. Only one thing set Abraham apart. When the lord came calling and asked a man to go to an unknown land Abraham said yes. he would leave his home, his family, his entire life and walk into the unknown. God had found a friend.

And this was no more than a beginning. God wasn’t looking for just one man. He was calling a people.

And he found them. a scattered, dishevelled bunch of slaves oppressed and desperate the Lord rescued the children of Israel and brought them out of Egypt. Out of Egypt the children of Israel proved to be disobedient, ungrateful and hard hearted but the Lord was not disappointed. Without waiting for a better people, without waiting for them to repent the lord stepped out of heaven and came to live amongst me. In the middle of the wilderness with a people who barely knew him the Lord chose to be at home in a tent and that tent was always pitched in the centre of his people. The Lord wanted a people and he wanted to be close to them.

Those years in the wilderness were where the Lord revealed himself to his people. In the wilderness they discovered that he is true food, true water. In the wilderness they discovered that he was their strength and their guide. The Israelites who marched into Canaan were a very different people to the frightened refugees who fled Egypt. Before the Israelites walked into the Red Sea the Lord had to part the waters. at the banks of the river Jordan the Israelites were ready. Four unarmed priests carrying a wooden box walked into the swollen river and around their feet the waters parted. The Israelites knew their God better than their fathers had done. This time they had faith that the Lord was with them. Living with the Lord changed the slaves into a nation.

The Lord lived with his people Israel in a tent and then in a temple but for God this was only a promise of better things to come. He wanted a closer relationship.

On the night of his arrest the Lord spent time with his father. As his eleven faithful disciples slept the lord spoke to his father. as they spoke they went back and forth in time and the Lord shared his heart. Fortunately for us one of the disciples was awake enough to record that prayer. The whole prayer(recorded in John 17) has too much for this short article but amongst the things the Son spoke to his father was a desire that you and I should be one as the father and son are one.

Usually this kind of statement is left as a vast spiritual concept with no real practical meaning but the spiritual things of the Lord are revealed in simple practical ways. Being one with each other is no different.

Before Christ ascended into heaven he told his followers to wait for him in Jerusalem. he didn’t explain what was coming or how long they would have to wait. He simply told them to wait. It was a request very similar to that made to Abraham. About 120 believers answered the call and they gathered together. They didn’t know what to do but they knew they needed to be together. Then as they waited together the Lord hit. On the day of Pentecost the Spirit fell on the believers and 3000 people believed. Most of the believers were pilgrims from all over the ancient world. The next day as they gathered they had no idea what lay ahead but they knew they wanted and needed to be together. So 3000 people stayed in Jerusalem despite the fact they had no homes, no jobs.

In order to survive they sold their houses, their businesses, their possessions and gave everything they had just to be able to stay together. Over the next few years the believers lived together, ate together, prayed together and sought the Lord together. The church had a life above and beyond listening to the apostles. When they came to choose seven men to oversee the distribution of grain to widows in the church the apostles trusted the church to make the decision. The church knew who they could trust because they had shared each other’s lives for almost 7 years. They knew who could be trusted when the going got tough. They knew who was honest and reliable because they had seen those men at close quarters. The church had a life that went far beyond listening to the apostles.

The early days in Jerusalem are usually remembered for the acts of Perter and the apostles but apostles exist for the church. It was the calling of those men to be destroyed for the church, to ensure that the Lord’s people could enjoy the life the lord had for them. Below are just a few of the references to the church being together in those early days.

Acts 1 v 14
Acts 2 v 42 – 46
Acts 4 v 23 – 24
Acts 4 v 31 – 32
Acts 5 v 11 – 12
Acts 6 v 2 – 5

This is just a small selection of the references to the believers, being together, being of one accord, acting together and deciding together. Acts is stuffed with similar references for anyone willing to look. And it doesn’t stop with the church in Jerusalem. Those believers were the first the people to live together with the Lord inside them and the Lord set a very high standard for all those to follow but a few believers took it higher still. When the church in Jerusalem was scattered by persecution the believers who fled to Antioch in the hated province of Syria shared the gospel with gentiles and found Gentile brothers and sisters. In the excitement of being together they forgot the law and shared their lives with men and women once thought unclean. In Antioch the church discovered that there was neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ. When Paul wrote those words to the churches in Galatia he was only describing what he had seen in Antioch.

And Antioch discovered something else. The church did not just take care of believers living nearby. Churches also care for other churches in need. When Antioch heard that Jerusalem would suffer in a famine they were excited to be able to help, to give something back to the brothers and sisters who made their existence possible.

The tale of brothers and sisters being together continues through the New Testament. It continues in Galatians and Thessalonians. It is the main subject of the first letter to the Corinthians. In Colossians Paul declared the obvious truth.

‘We are called as one body.’

This is not just a deep mystical theory. Yes, all Christians in all places at all times are the body of Christ but the Lord reveals himself and his body through people who gather together and share their lives in a specific place and a specific time. I may be one in spirit with believers I barely know and rarely see but I know this because I share my life with believers who live near each other, who meet with each other, who eat with each other, who spend time together. To be one in Christ means to share our lives and the church as the lord intended her cannot live by meetings alone. We need to share our lives. When a brother has a broken boiler and needs somewhere to shower we open our houses to him. This is a small example but it is not a small thing. this is the life of the church, sharing our hearts, sharing our time and our houses.

It isn’t easy. the Lord puts together people who have little in common, who have different interests, different ways of speaking and different ways of functioning. We rub up against each other. We bruise each other and we take offence. But we stay together and in staying together we discover the Lord and he overcomes our hurts and our offences. We suffer each other and we suffer for each other. This is what the lord desired and intended.

And at times we forget this and begin to drift. This is natural and all we need to do is remember and turn to the Lord and each other again. But it matters to spend time together. It is necessary for the life of the church. We can eat together. We can drop by each other’s houses(and not be offended on the occasion it was inconvenient). We can include each other in our activities and free time. We can try and speak to at least one other brother or sister each day. and in doing this we can remember the Lord and turn to him not as a special event or special time but as part of our day to day lives.

We can be one as he and his father are one.

One Response to The Church I: One as Christ is One

  1. Carol Bolland says:

    Best talk I have heard in a while, well done Matthew

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