Friday, September 3, 2010

A Community Faith

It's funny how God seems to point you back at places in your life right when you need to see different perspectives from those moments. I decided to go back through some of the papers and research I did during my undergraduate studies at Atlanta Christian College. This is, of course, after over the last several months doing a ton of thinking, praying, and debating with myself about life direction. This self-conversing has taken me further into the belief that we, as Americans often lose sight of what our Christian faith is really all about. I think I am ready to be honest now though. So, looking back at my old papers I ran across one called "A Community Faith". This was a Biblical Theology paper and thus had me focus on faith and community from that "right thinking" side of things. Again, in the refreshed view I have now of what real Christian faith should be, this topic should be front and center. OK, rather than continue to bore with my feelings and whatever, I am just going to post that paper. Not a long read, and might be good to think about.

Even a cursory reading of the Bible will leave a reader with the idea that the human race is created to be in community with each other. From the creation account to John’s revelation there is always evidence, and much of it, that community existed. With community being a constant throughout the Bible it is also clear that this was not a consequence of God’s or mankind’s actions, but rather part of God’s plan in His creation.

It is easy to see in the creation account that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). However, even before God created the universe there ware community in existence. The creation account in Genesis 1:26 indicates God speaking in the first person plural. God, himself had community in some fashion even before he created the universe and mankind. So, it is no stretch to think that community would also be part of the crown of His creation. In the beginning community was simply that God created woman alongside of man. But even in this, the idea was that the communion was two-sided: between mankind and with God. In the garden God and man were together until mankind chose to change that communion in committing the first sin.

In order to restore community in that original state, God began to set out a “new community” that would function until the end of times. This process began with the election of Israel through Abraham in Genesis 12. God made a covenant with Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed (Gen. 18:18). This covenant with Abraham was also a creation of a new community that would exist betweek God, Abraham and the entire nation of Israel. This covenant relationship between God and Israel introduced a different and temporary form of community that was later more clearly defined by the Mosaic Law.

God defined the covenant community between Israel and Himself in the law He gave to Moses. The law served as the guide for how the nation of Israel would live in community with one another and with God. There were many laws given, but the first of these were the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20 indicates that four of these commandments dealt with relationship with God while the other six focused on relationship with others. Even in these, community with God and community with others is stressed greatly. Though this form of community was far from the perfect communion that existed in the Garden, it was at least a step in the restoration of that communion. It quickly became obvious though, the law was not sufficient to maintain community with God, as Israel was unable to keep the laws of Moses.

With the band-aid of the law no longer holding together the bond between God and His people, another form of community was needed. This community began with the birth of Christ and came to its pubescent stage at Pentecost, as depicted in Acts 2. Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection established a new covenant relationship between God and His people. Part of this new covenant was that it no longer existed between God and Israel, but between God and all people. With Christ’s victory over death the community was established in Him through his blood. By uniting with Christ through faith in His saving acts, mankind is able to again be in a close relationship with God similar in form to what was experienced in the garden by the guidance and indwelling of the Spirit.

The presence of the Spirit is key in the book of Acts. As the church, or community of God’s people, begins to grow it becomes clear that this new community of believers is bonded together through the blood of Christ, becoming one with Him. The Spirit becomes the evidence of this relationship between Christ and the community of believers. Still, this community is not as it was in the garden, and an assured hope still exists that mankind will again experience the community that God created in Eden.

The picture given by John in Revelation is of the Saints praising and worshiping God in His presence. Another image shown of the final community by John and Christ is that of a banquet. The banquet will be for all who believe that Christ is Lord of their lives. Those in attendance of this banquet will experience the everlasting community with each other in the presence of God.

In this limited look at some of the key points in the Bible that focus on the community relationship with God, it is easy to see that from Creation to the return of Christ, community is crucial in God’s plan for man. We were made to be in community with each other and with God. He wants mankind to function as a complete entity with separate parts (1 Cor. 12). We are united together in Christ and are in community with God both individually and corporately as the Church.