This post is link number 16 of a “chain blog” started by Alan Knox on the topic of “one another”. The other links are found at the end of this post along with instructions for how to participate in this chain blog if you would like to join in.
We all know that the “one another” verses in the New Testament are written to individuals and are to be put into practice among the members of the Body of Christ as the fabric of their life together in Christ. Something we also see modeled in the New Testament, however, is various churches or groups of believers putting some of these same “one another” exhortations into practice on a corporate level. For instance, we see churches greeting one another (1 Cor. 16:19, ; 2 Cor. 13:13; Heb. 3:24), bearing one anothers’ burdens (Acts 27:-30; Rom. 15:25-26; 2 Cor. 16:1-3), encouraging one another (Acts 11:22), instructing one another (Acts 15:22-35, Col. 4:16), showing hospitality to one another (3 Jn. 11:5-8), and loving one another (1 Thes. 4:9-10) It is this corporate dimension of “one-anothering” that I would like to focus on in this two-part post.
The initial seed of this matter of “corporate one-anothering” was planted in my heart some thirty years ago while watching a Christian television program. A pastor being interviewed said that while reading Philippians chapter two at one point, he felt that God spoke to his heart that the verses he was reading ought to be lived out between “churches” as well as individuals. In particular he mentioned verses three and four, which say, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (vs. 3-4) He shared how he began to take the corporate practice of these verses seriously and asked the Lord to show him how the church fellowship he was a part of could begin to look to the needs of other church bodies locally in order to serve them in humility and love. He also shared a number of testimonies of how God had worked through their acts of love and service to other assemblies in their city. What he shared resonated deeply within my spirit. I believe that he was touching on something very close to the heart and purpose of God as to the way in which the Church can and ought to live out the corporate unity that she has in Christ in a practical and visible way. Although he didn’t call it by this name, in essence he was talking about the Church’s call to “corporate one-anothering.”
In this two-part post, I’d like to look at this same portion of Scripture, Philippians 2:1-11, in this corporate sense and see how it relates to the “one another” exhortations in Scripture.
To begin with, it is significant to note that this epistle of Philippians was addressed: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons” (vs. 1:1) The interpretation and application of these verses, therefore, must be concerning the entire body of Christ in a given city or town, along with its leadership. In our day that involves multiple local assemblies, fellowships, associations, and organic gatherings. Its outworking will, therefore, involve not only “individual one-anothering”, but also a significant level of “corporate one-anothering.”
To get a greater sense of these verses in this regard, then, I’d like to offer the following interpretive paraphrase of Philippians 2:1-5 with this corporate focus. (We will look at vs. 6-11 in part 2.):
“Therefore if you, as an assembly of believers, have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete, as members of the larger body of Christ in your city or town, by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind with the other parts of the Body locally who likewise share in these blessings. Do nothing out of independent, sectarian ambition or self-centered corporate conceit. Rather, in humility value the other gatherings of the church above yourselves, not looking to your own interests as a body only, but to the interests of the others as well. In your inter-corporate relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”
If this is a valid application of these verses, we may ask, how would this practically work out? What would it look like if these verses were to be put into practice corporately in a given city or town?
Because this seems so foreign to the standard practice of the local “churches” in our day, we will have to use our sanctified imaginations a bit to begin to get a vision for it! I would like to invite you, therefore, to take a few minutes to imagine and dream with me, and see if we might be able to perceive something of what is actually God’s dream for His Church, even though it may seem to be just a pipe-dream to us.
To begin with, just imagine what the landscape of Christianity might look like in your city or town if the various assemblies of believers were to give themselves, in the spirit of Philippians 2:1-11, to living out with each other the “one another” injunctions of Scripture. Think of all of the various church bodies, fellowships and groups of believers giving themselves to receiving one another (Rom. 15:7), greeting one another (Rom. 16:16), offering hospitality to one another (1 Pet. 4:9), fellowshipping with one another (1 Jn. 1:7), and serving one another in love (Gal. 5:13). How would that change things from the way that they are now?
Consider further what it would be like if the diverse gatherings of the Church in your locality were committed to being devoted to one another in brotherly love (Rom. 12:10), living in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16), agreeing with one another ( 1 Cor. 1:10), bearing with one another in love (Eph. 4:2), being kind and compassionate towards one another (Eph. 4:32), forgiving each other (Eph. 4:32); as well as encouraging one another (1 Thes. 5:11), building each other up (1 Thes. 5:11), and above all, loving each other deeply, from the heart. (1 Pet.1:22) How much more beautifully and compellingly would the love of God and the reality of the gospel of Christ be manifested in your home town than it presently is?
Now stretch your imagination even further and dream what it would be like if the various groups of believers in your locale were fully committed to clothing themselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5), honoring one another above themselves (Rom. 12:10), submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21); and even so far as to confessing their sins to one another (James 5:16), praying for one another (James 5:16), teaching and admonishing one another (Col. 3:16), and spurring one another on towards love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). Is it possible to even conceive of such a thing?
The “one another” exhortations in Scripture are the practical expression of the heart and mind of God as to what genuine relationships in Him are comprised of. In fact, they convey the human expression of the nature and substance of the relationships that exist within the community of the Godhead itself.
“One another” is a phrase descriptive of Divine community wherever it is found, in heaven and on earth.
Since these “one another” exhortations in Scripture are specifically found in relation to inter-personal relationships between individual believers, we tend to think that they stop there. The reality of “one another”, however, is to be found wherever divine community is found, and at whatever level it is found. It is to permeate the Body of Christ all the way through, from the “micro” to the “macro”, since we are all called into the unity and community of the Godhead together as one corporate Body. The principle is intrinsic to the very nature of the Body of Christ, the community of God on earth, the Church.
So what would it look like if Philippians 2:1-11 were to be lived out corporately amongst the various gatherings of the Body of Christ?
I believe it would look like the kind of “one another” community that eternally exists in the Godhead itself. I believe it would look like the kind of unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17, for which He gave his life on the cross, and for which He poured out His Spirit on the Church after His resurrection. I believe it would look like the kind of love that would compel the world to believe that the Father has sent His Son into the world, and has loved them, even as He has loved His own Beloved Son. (John 17:23)
When we look out over the landscape of Christendom, however, we see a vastly different picture than this. We not only see relatively few pockets of individual Christians living out a lifestyle of “one-anothering” in genuine community, we also see mostly isolated, insulated, individualistic, sectarian, competing and often warring factions of corporate Christianity. What shadows of “corporate one-anothering” we do see are generally token, superficial, spurious, sectarian-based, short-lived, and oriented around secondary matters or objectives. There is very little “corporate one-anothering” that is substantially centered in and around the community of the Godhead, the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the unity of the Spirit and the fulfillment of the eternal purpose of God in and through the Church. There is little that is born of and sustained by a Philippians-two-type corporate humility and unconditional love. (As Swanny shared in link two of this chain blog, it is mostly governed by “us”-conditional love.)
So, what are we to make of the present situation? And what are we to do with this call to live out the “one another” injunctions collectively as the corporate Body of Christ? Is such a thing even possible in this day… or is this just a pipe-dream?
In part two of this post, I would like to address these questions more thoroughly by getting down to the root of what I will call, “corporate UN-anothering”, the non-practice, and even anti-practice of “corporate one-anothering.” I will also focus on its radical remedy from this same portion of Scripture, Philippians 2:1-11. If we can properly discern the malady, then possibly we can work to apply the remedy. “Corporate one-anothering” is possible, even as “individual one-anothering” is possible, when, as Paul says, in our “relationships with one another, [we]have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5) We will explore that in the next post.
In the mean time, please take a little more time to dream… 🙂
Your comments are most welcome, and if anyone would like to add a link to this chain blog before part two is posted, I encourage you to do so. I plan to post again in about a week. -David
Chain blog rules:
1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both this post and the other link posts in the chain).
3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.
“Links” in the “One Another” chain blog:
[Update: As I’ve become aware of blog statuses changing and links no longer being active, I have removed the hyperlinks.]
1. “Chain Blog: One Another” by Alan
2. “Linking One Another” by Swanny
3. “What Does It Mean to Love One Another? by Chuck
4. “The treasure of “One Another” by Jim
5. “This is how the world shall recognise you…” by Kathleen
6. “Accepting one another in love” by Chris
7. “One Another-ing: A meta-narrative for the church” – Part One and Part Two by Greg
8. “Individualism and ‘one another’” by Pieter
9. “All Alone with One Another” by Jeremy
10. “When it’s OK for Christians to compete” by Joshua
11. “Jesus Christ, the Corner Stone for One Another” by Peter
12. “Be Superficial with One Another” by Jon
13. “The Unmentionable One Anothers” by Alan
14. “Loving More Fully and Widely” by Chris
15. “The One Another Weapon” by Dan
16. “Corporate One-Anothering” (Part 1) and “Corporate UN-Anothering” (Part 2) by David
17. “The Last Revival” by Tobie
18. Who will write the 18th link post in the chain?
Thank you, Chuck. And congratulations to you and your wife on your news! Many blessings!
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Thank you for taking part in the chain blog. I think it’s important to consider whether or not we are “one anothering” each other corporately, as long as we understand that it still takes individuals (who are part of that group) to carry out the one anothers. I cannot say that I “love one another” because I’m part of a group that is composed of individuals who tend to love one another. (If that makes sense…)
Thank you for initiating this chain blog. It has been a wonderful blessing, and I am glad to be a part of it.
As for your comment, I agree wholeheartedly. Corporate one-anothering must be an active participation of the many members, not a passive association with a group where others are doing the one-anothering. We are often very good at deriving some kind of “vicarious credit by association” when we actually have little to do with the actual accomplishments. It’s kind of like the way we feel when “our team” wins a game and we sit on our couches saying “we won!!” Christians can do the same thing by their passive association with some particularly spiritual or fruitful fellowship. The individual and the corporate must go hand in hand. Point well taken!
(My apologies for your post not getting approved in a timely manner. Your new email did get filtered by spam and I hadn’t checked it. 😦 )
I so hear the heart of your well-written words. A few thoughts came to my mind as I read, and especially the word, “pipe-dream.” Yes, it is hard imagine this picture, because in our minds, we live a long way from our actual reality. Most of the body parts are joined members of religious businesses, and these same have a name all their own, a constitution of their very own, and a reputation of their very own, etc. There are enterprise-like divisions and/or chains. And each of the businesses create and make a name for ourselves to stand out from the one anothers around us, with our appealing leaders, committees, marketing, sales, and listed customer/members, programs /departmental categories in which to endeavor our skilled employees and our common laborers. As long as we identify ourselves by our own business label/name, there will always be competition and division at the core, stated or unstated. Have you ever seen a business that is not in competition with other local businesses in some measure? The most practical first step toward realizing the vision you see is for all of God’s people to do away with every label, the brand names that set us apart from one another. Here is the question: How many businesses would willingly give up the brand name of their self-made identities to become the one living unity in Christ, the one shared Life of the One Another relationship of Love and Humility, which of course calls us to the foot of the cross of Christ? I have heard many say, “We are all family.” Yet, most go by a brand name that is other than the family Name we all have that are heavenly born in Christ. It is plainly simple that the body of Christ has One Name. And so I ask, who is willing to give up their mark, their brand, the trade-mark of their own religious business name? That is where it must start, in my small insignificant opinion.
Thank you, Kat, for your clear and penetrating comment. How very true are your words! This matter of identity lies at the core of the dividedness that permeates the one Body of Christ, even as Paul says, “When one of you says ‘I am of Paul’, and another, ‘I am of Apollos’, are you not carnal?” (1 Cor. 3:4). Branding started early, and Paul rebuked it clearly and definitively for all to read. It is in every Bible that the Church has read and preached for 2000 years. We are without excuse!
Well, your comment fairly well tees up part two of this post, so my larger “Amen” to your words will be spelled out more fully in that post! 🙂
Blessings, my sister.
I was in hope I didn’t comment too long. I do that sometimes without thinking, just writing what is flowing through me at the moment. The one another Love and unity is the very Life of Glory, and the heart of our Father. The one another is more than we yet comprehend, more than we have yet experienced/lived. It is the Oneness of God Himself and the oneness that we are in Christ, the heart of Father’s intention has everything to do with the one another of us in Him. I so enjoyed your article, your words lifted me greatly. Thank you, brother for writing the Reality, which one day, He will prove to all the world that Father’s intent is not a dream at all, but the Hope that is merely awaiting His summation.
Thanks again for your substantive comments and for the overflowing expression of Christ in your words. You are a blessing and an encouragement! (You’re free to let it flow here! 🙂 No worries!)
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kat, I recommend you pay her a visit at harvestofpearls.com . You will be blessed!
Coincidentally (or perhaps not 🙂 I posted something about one church just this morning. – http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/2012/11/am-i-member-of-church.html
Your comment, Kat, takes the top-down approach to this, you start with the organisations. My post approaches the same thing from the bottom-up side, starting with the individuals. I think it’s good to consider both directions.
I think David’s part two will be interesting, in fact I can’t wait! Ultimately we do need to return to church the way Jesus wants it. I’m not the builder, he is. He wants us to be one as he and the Father are one – he said so!
Thanks, Chris, for your comment. I also appreciated your post that you have linked here. May Jesus have His Church back on His own terms and according to Father’s eternal desire! We’re in this together!
Excellent and thought-provoking as always, David. I look forward to Part Two!
Thank you, Whitney!
Thanks David. Your post is both a blessing and a challenge. I read it only today after having posted The Last Revival yesterday, and it expresses my sentiments exactly.
Thanks for reading and for your comment. Your post The Last Revival truly does express the same heart and purpose of the Lord for His people in this day, yet in a very creative way. I loved it.
For those following this chain blog I recommend you read Tobie’s piece as it ties in so well.
Blessings my friend.
Thanks for the mention David. Perhaps I should make it part of the chain. When are you posting part 2?
I just realised that you may still be sleeping (The sun has been shining hot and bright for many hours here in South Africa), so I’m going right ahead and officially expressing my intention to include The Last Revival in the chain as number 17. I’ll post a notification the moment it’s been edited to fit into the chain.
Good call. I’m glad you went ahead. It will be a blessing to have as part of the chain! You may want to tweet Alan Knox just to let him know as well so he can update his posts.
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The next link in the chain blog is up at the Naturalchurch Blog http://naturalchurch.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/the-last-revival/
Good stuff David. What we are, in one word, is selfish. Christ never has this problem.
Yes, Lloyd, that is the word! (I think you will see with part two just how much I agree with you.) It would all be hopeless in this regard too but for the fact that the One who never has this problem, as you said, now lives inside of us. Apart from Him we can do nothing, but with Him all things are possible…even us becoming unselfish. Now that’s a miracle!
Thanks, my brother.
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