Its been a few months since I wrote a blog and its good to be back writing with these guys on ParkingSpace23. As I return to the joys of blogging, I need to finish a series I started last year on the Church as Community.
The Church is not a cult. The Church does not use devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents, consider 1 Thessalonians 2:5-11. The Church is not an isolated commune, consider 1 Corinthians 5:9-10. Rather the Church functions as the Covenant Community through the local church in local communities.
We have to understand first the essence of the Covenant Community and secondly the endeavor of the Covenant Community so that we can engage in the expansion of the Covenant Community. In today’s blog I want to summarize the essence and the endeavor of the Covenant Community (that is summarize the 8 blogs already written) and then briefly preview the last two blogs that when they are fully written will finish the entire series.
1.1 The Covenant Community is established by the gospel.
The Covenant Community is established from men and women of all national, social, and economical backgrounds and we as believers are reconciled to each other because we have all individually been reconciled to Christ. So although our reconciliation to each other is not at the heart of the gospel it is one of several outcomes of each believer being saved and is experienced in the local church because of the gospel. Thus the gospel produces a local church that is: (1) a community built on the gospel (Eph 2:13-22); (2) a community sanctified together (Col 3:8-11; Gal 5:24-6:2); (3) a community loving each other (1 Cor 12:12-20, 31; 13:13-14:1); and (4) a community serving each other (Rom 15:1-13).
1.2 The Covenant Community is excelling for the glory of God.
If the ultimate goal of God is to preserve and display His glory, this too must be the ultimate goal of the church. The glory of God thus becomes both the motivation for and the goal of any and every biblical ministry. When contemplating every aspect of ministry, we must ask ourselves, “Will this glorify God?” The Church does this by living as Christ’s Covenant Community.
1.3 The Covenant Community is expressed through the ordinances.
We celebrate many things as the covenant community when we participate in communion and also in baptism. Both are expressions of the covenant community to the world. The Lord’s Supper is an expression of celebration and baptism is an expression of the gospel to the world.
2.1 The Covenant Community is edified by spiritual gifts.
Every New Testament saint is baptized, sealed, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit and has no fear of losing the Spirit (and is called to live by the Spirit). But the individual indwelling of believers is not only for the individual but also for the Covenant Community. The Spirit gives purpose for the individual within the Covenant Community. The Spirit gives gifts for the sake of ministry in the local body of believers.
2.2 The Covenant Community is equipped by godly men.
We experience the Covenant Community through the local church, not through para-church organizations. We live within the Covenant Community as we submit to godly elders whom He has given to the local church. Elders foster and lead the local church, the manifestation of the Covenant Community that we find ourselves in. While elders functions as the overseers of God’s household, deacons function as servants in God’s household (if I can extend the household metaphor). The office of deacon is in a sense a lower office as deacons serve the Church and administratively allow elders to focus their primary role of managing (that is shepherding and instructing) the household of God. Yet the men who serve as deacons should never be considered to be glorified janitors.
2.3 The Covenant Community is experienced through discipleship.
Our mission within the Covenant Community is making disciples of King Jesus (Matt 28:18-20). Discipleship is marked by: (1) active evangelism; (2) a celebration of conversion through baptism; and (3) an increase in the knowledge of God. Within the Covenant Community we relate to each other as family (1 Tim 5:1-2) and we need older godly believers to be both implicit examples and explicit teachers. Discipleship within the local church is to teach us how to live within the Covenant Community, to guard what has entrusted to the Covenant Community, and persevere the purity of the Covenant Community.
2.4 The Covenant Community exalts God together in song.
Music within the local church is a means by which we exalt God together as a part of the Covenant Community in song. Therefore, music within our local churches must be Gospel-centered (Eph 1:4-6, 11-14), marked by clarity (1 Cor 14:13-19), and designed to build up the covenant community (Eph 5:15-21; Col 3:12-17).
3.1 The Covenant Community embodies God’s victory.
The Covenant Community embodies God’s victory because in the death of Christ, Christ “redeemed people for God by [His] blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. [He] made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9-10). “Blood-bought ethnic and racial diversity and harmony is for the glory of God through Christ. It is all aiming at the all-satisfying, everlasting, God-centered, Christ-exalting experience of many-colored, many-cultured worship, an aroma that delights the heart of God” (Piper, Bloodlines, 142) I love what Michael Mahoney writes when he states, “The church should be made up of people from different cultures, languages, and nations (see Acts 2). God’s heart is clearly for the nations to be united through the church (see Matt. 28:19-20; Rev 21:24). The more diverse a church is, the more God receives glory, because the gospel is the cause of unity in Christ. In diversity the transcendent nature of the gospel is manifest” (Evangelism: How to Share the Gospel Faithfully, 255). The Covenant Community embodies God’s victory as its lives in unity, “the whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord” (Eph 2:21).
3.2 The Covenant Community evangelizes together.
Life within the Covenant Community is not why we are still on earth. One day the Covenant Community will experience perfect community in heaven. Why are we still on earth? To share the gospel and we do that not only as individuals but as a Covenant Community! The establishment of this community does not mean that we do not interact with the outside world (1 Cor 5:9-13). But the covenant community is also marked by holiness (2 Co 6:14-18). Not only do we proclaim the gospel with our mouths as individuals, but the love and holiness within the Covenant Community testify that we belong to Christ (John 13:34-45). We need to evangelize together as a Covenant Community that is evangelism must stem from the understanding of the essence of the Covenant Community, it must flow from the endeavor of the Covenant Community, and it must be driven by the fact that the Covenant Community embodies God’s victory.