Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Not Who But Whose

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
(Colossians 3:11 – ESV)

In the world it is all about who you are. How that is defined depends on whom you ask, but it comes down to age, money, looks, status, health, race, or any number of temporal factors, in that all these things will pass away. In the Christian world, it is not all about who you are but whose you are, and that is Christ’s. The “who you are” for believers is defined by Christ. There is no special status other than being redeemed and a part of the body, which we also belong to. The body is also whose you are. He is the head, and we are His body, the new man, typified by the local church.

The “new man” in Colossians 3 is corporate in nature and refers to the new community in which all racial distinctions are dissolved and social status doesn’t place one above another. It is a social structure where Christ is all and in all. Colossians 3 uses second person plurals (“you” as a group rather than “you” as an individual).

New Testament scholar Darrell Bock: “So the new man is related to Christ and consists of peoples. In other words, it is Christ conceived of as a corporate entity, that is, Christ’s body. Another way to say it is that the new man refers to the new community in Christ that he forms by joining people to himself as they are saved (i.e., “buried and raised with him,” as Paul already declared in Colossians). An even simpler way to say it is that the new man is the church, the new community in Christ.”

This vital connection of a Christian to other believers is part of his or her identity. Some believers avoid contact with a local church community, but when believers fail to be or are restricted from being involved with that corporate experience, a part of their identity is distorted.

John 17:20-26 shows us that a Christian’s identity is to be linked with and developed in concert with a community of other believers.

Ephesians 2:15 – Here the new man is synonymous with the church – a sphere of existence in Christ, in which there are no racial boundaries and no spiritual divisions. It is not our new regenerate nature spoken of in Titus 3:5.

Ephesians 4:20-24 – you can easily see the plural in verse 20, but almost all of the pronouns in the great identity chapters of Ephesians are in the plural. Even the second person “you” in those sections is plural in the original Greek, which again, unlike English, has a different word for “you” singular than “you” plural.

Clearly, intimate involvement in community with other believers is nonnegotiable for Christians. How can you be His, part of His body, part of His family when you aren’t where He is working? A concept of individual Christian identity lived in isolation is warped. As members of the body of Christ, we have the privilege of sharing a heavenly identity that will bind us together for eternity. Our earthly relationships, then, serve as a significant context for our growth and God’s glory. We don’t just belong to God we belong to each other.


Even So... said...

Who's it gonna be, you or He...?

Even So... said...

This may be the Fourth of July, but the Declaration of Independence doesn't apply to church, we cannot and we must not be independent of a local body of believers...God's Declaration of Indepence is from our wordly entanglements...

Ray said...

And when we have a proper relationship with others in the Body, we will find that church discipline is better understood. When we have a right relationship with others, we then care enough to confront in a caring and kind manner -- restoring them gently. We also will find that we are more prepared to encourage those struggling.

Often the church is a place where one hides and hurts alone -- with nary an encouraging word, or even a proper redress regarding harmful and sinful behavior.

Even So... said...

Right on, Ray...

ann said...

Interesting how things work out... I was just done with John MacArthur's great series on Church ( What to look for in a church?) when you wrote this one. Excellent summing up.