Christianity is a religion about togetherness. God calls us into communities, called churches, to the end that we grow together in Christ. It is His purpose to draw us together into strong relationships so that we support one another in the bonds of Christ. Christianity is not a “lone-ranger” pursuit. In fact if we distance ourselves from God’s people we put ourselves in a dangerous position.
Paul exhorts the Philippian Christians to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose (Phil. 2:12b-13). This does not refer to an individual experience which tales place in independence of others. Rather, it refers to the collective activity of together working out, in our lives, the salvation which we share. The more we are healthily interacting with one another in the church then the more we are benefiting from growing in this salvation.
There are many “one another” statements in the New Testament and many of these develop the theme of how we work out our salvation together. God’s design is to use our fellowship together to strengthen His children so as to strengthen the church. Romans 12 is one chapter which conveys the importance of this “one anotherness”. The passage starts with the great consecration call to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Rom. 12:1b). The context, though, for the display of that devotion to God is to be in living and serving together in the local church. Paul says in v5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
As the outworking of this theme proceeds, Paul exhorts the Christians in the church at Rome, to be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves (v10). And then Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16a). God’s call is for the normal Christian life to be lived out in close fellowship in a church. This is not just about attending services (although it does include that) it is about sharing our lives. Through this process, we are each blessed and benefited as we are led to grow more and more into the truth of scripture. And, as we love each other and exhort each other, our characters our transformed unto godliness. It is worth noting that when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we give outward demonstration of this oneness as we share one loaf and one cup (see 1 Cor. 10:14-17)
So what does all this mean? It means that any Christian who refuses to commit to a fellowship in church membership is an abnormal, dysfunctional Christian. We also conclude that the safest place to be in a church is at its heart. To place yourself on the periphery of the church is to place yourself in a perilous place. Nature teaches us that predators always pounce on the vulnerable bird or animal which is on the outskirts of the flock. Similarly, Satan pounces on those on the outskirts of the church. Those who are not interacting with God’s Word in the church through the services and talking with others about scripture are “easy meat” to be led astray into all kinds of error and immorality. Paul writes to Timothy about those who need to come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26). Furthermore, those on the periphery miss out on the rounding of character which emerges when believers are healthily interacting in church fellowship. We learn in Proverbs 27:17, as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
A demonstration of this is seen in the example of Jabesh Gilead in 1 Samuel 11. This city was to the east of the Jordan and on the periphery of Israel. As a result, it was easy prey to a predatorial attack from the Ammonites (see vv1-2). There was no resistance from the people of Jabesh. Rather, they looked to the rest of Israel to help (see vv3-5). Those on the periphery of the people of God are always vulnerable and weak and therefore easy prey for the adversary. Happily the people of Israel under King Saul came to the rescue of Jabesh Gilead (see vv.6-11). Alas many of the people of God have not had such a rescue and have ended up making shipwreck of the faith. Paul urges Timothy to be holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith (1.Tim. 1:19).
So make sure you get to the heart of the church through being close to your fellow church members and serving with them. It is the safest place and it is the most blessed place. In that location you will know God working to grow you in His grace. To such an end he uses your interfacing with other believers to achieve your sanctification. So let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:24-25).
Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of April 2013