Relationships 3. A Young Person and the Church

We live in an age with a strong emphasis on the individual. We hear a lot of talk about self-fulfilment, self-esteem and self-realisation – about ‘my rights’, ‘my potential’, ‘my life’.

Some of this same thinking has affected the way Christians think and speak too, and so in many Christian circles great weight is attached to ‘me and my personal walk with God’, ‘me and my Saviour’, and ‘God’s plan for me’.

Now don’t get me wrong. The Lord is interested in us as individuals. We were all personally and individually formed in the womb; each one of us is personally created in the image of God, and it is as individuals that we shall appear before the judgment seat of Christ. It is gloriously true that ‘the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me’, and I am personally responsible for how I think and speak and live.

But we need to take care that we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. You and I, as individuals, are part of a much bigger plan. The Lord revealed to Abraham that through the promised Saviour who would come from his family line, ‘all the nations of the earth [would] be blessed’ (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). It was a promise that will find its final fulfilment when a great multitude which no man can number, from ‘all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues’, will stand before the throne and before the Lamb, and serve God night and day in his immediate presence (Revelation 7:9-17).

Before the Saviour entered the world, the angel told Joseph that he would be given the name Jesus because he would ‘save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21). He gave himself for us in order to ‘redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for himself his own special people, zealous for good works’ (Titus 2:14). Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her, that she should one day be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).

The Bible does not permit us to view ourselves in isolation from other believers and we must resist the temptation to confine our attention to Christians who are the same age as us or who share our interests. Baptised by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, we belong to each other (1 Corinthians 12:12ff). The Holy Spirit not only indwells us individually, but he also indwells us corporately (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

The early Christians did not live in isolation from their fellow believers, but together they devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).

We need each other. It is as each believer makes his or her contribution to the life of the body of Christ that the whole body grows into maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16), and it is together ‘with all the saints’, as we interact with each other, that we grow in our appreciation of the dimensions of the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-21).

The New Testament takes it for granted that every Christian will be committed to a local expression of the body of Christ. And that means far more than meeting together for corporate worship for an hour or two each week. We are called to admonish one another (Romans 15:14), care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), bear with one another with gentleness, lowliness and patience (Ephesians 4:2), be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another (Ephesians 4:32), abound in love to one another (1 Thessalonians 3:2), comfort and edify one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11), exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13; 10:25), be hospitable to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9), and so the list goes on.

The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is made up of people from all over the world - people of different ages, with different gifts and different backgrounds. As the apostle Paul put it, we can no more say we don’t need our fellow Christians than our eyes can tell our hands that they are surplus to requirements.

The idea of segregation in the body of Christ, whether according to age, racial background, educational background or social status, is totally alien to the New Testament. ‘We, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another’ (Romans 12:5). We need each other.

Guest article by Norman Wells

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