In my last post, I discussed five dynamics of the spiritual life from Philippians 3:10-11 as they relate to the individual believer. In this post (and the next), I’d like to look through this same lens and see how this passage similarly applies to the spiritual life of the Church corporately.
There is a relatively undiscovered, under-explored principle for the practical application of Scripture that when Biblical precepts, promises, and the like are directed to individuals, more often than not, they have an equal application to the Church as a whole. In Christ, God views the collective Body as a single entity, as “one new man.” (Eph. 2:15) In reality, then, the individual Christian and the corporate “Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12) both have the same spiritual DNA, are being conformed unto the same image, have the same spiritual resources, and the same high, heavenly calling. It is not surprising, then, that the same spiritual principles and dynamics are inherent in and apply to both.
Although I’ve employed this principle of application for some time (see my series on “Corporate One-Anothering” for instance), the inspiration to specifically consider this passage in Philippians 3 in this way was sparked a little over a year ago by a dear friend and brother in Christ, Richard Hanes, whom I connected with through this blog. I’ve been thinking on that corporate application ever since, so I want to give him a “nod” and a “thanks” for the inspiration. After reading my last post, he left a comment concerning his musings along this line, which I encourage you to read (see here, posting as godelshaddai.)
The five spiritual dynamics found in Philippians 3:10-11, as identified in my last post relating to the individual, then, are as follows:
Much can be said concerning these same dynamics as they apply to the corporate, even as Richard said in his comment: “I think a whole book could be written on this new application of this powerful passage.” I will take this and the next post to offer some concise musings of my own, and hopefully it will help to spark further consideration and conversation along these lines. (Maybe someone will even write a book someday! 😉 )
~ ~ ~
To begin with, then, let’s start with a slightly paraphrased version of our passage to bring the corporate clearly in view…
“That TOGETHER WE may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and, TOGETHER, WE may know the fellowship of His sufferings,
being made conformable unto His death;
If by any means, TOGETHER, WE might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
~ ~ ~
“That TOGETHER WE may know Him…”
The central passion of every local assembly ought to be, “That TOGETHER WE may know HIM”! The “rock” of revelation, that comes down from the Father concerning His Son, is what the Church is built upon. (See Matthew 16:18.) A continuous, progressive, ever-deepening revelation of CHRIST is foundational to every aspect of the building and establishing of the House of God. In fact, He is not only the Foundation, but the heavenly Pattern for the Church, from Cornerstone to Capstone, in all of its vast and varying dimensions, dynamics, and details. Nothing can nor will be built “according to pattern” if it doesn’t first spring from a heaven-sent revelation of Christ to the inner man of those who constitute the local assemblies of the Church.
This is why Paul, the wise master-builder, said, “it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations…” (Galatians 1:15b-16a). All of his preaching, teaching, and writings came out of and imparted this Spirit-wrought revelation of CHRIST that the churches would be established, “according to pattern”, on unshakable, heavenly foundations, and not on the mere wisdom and ways of man. (See Acts 26:15-19, 1 Cor.2:12-13, Gal.1:11-12, Eph.1:9, 3:2-5, Col.1:26-27, 2Cor.4:5-6, 2Cor.12:1-7.)
This is also why he prayed that the saints might be given “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The eyes of [their] heart being enlightened…” (Eph. 1:18-19a; See also Col.1:9) He also exhorted them to minister to one another with the revelatory gifts of the Spirit of “a word of wisdom”, “a word of knowledge”, “prophecy”, “discerning of spirits”, “interpretation of tongues”, “a revelation”, along with “the word of Christ dwell[ing] in [them] richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom”. (See 1 Cor. 12:8,10; 14:26, Col. 3:16)
The establishing of local churches through the living light of spiritual revelation was Paul’s first and foremost apostolic concern and calling. Through the transforming power of this spiritual dynamic, he equipped the body of Christ to also minister to one another in like manner, that the churches would build themselves up to “together…know Him”, firmly established upon the unshakable “rock” of the REVELATION of CHRIST.
As it was with the old creation, so it is with the new creation; as it is with the individual, so it is with the corporate. Everything begins with and is begotten of the light of revelation shining in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, bringing us into a true knowing of Christ. This is the first progressive dynamic of the corporate spiritual life.
“and the power of His resurrection”
The Church, however, not only needs light, it also needs heat! The Church was born on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out from on high on the waiting disciples following the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. This outpouring was to fulfill what John the Baptist said about the One who would come after him, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matt. 3:11b) It was not sufficient for the disciples to have a mere revelation of Christ, which they received in measure prior to the crucifixion. They needed the impartation of “the power of His resurrection” to fulfill their mission and purpose.
The book of Acts is the record of the early Church going forth in “the power of His resurrection”, declaring, with signs and wonders following, the crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning Lord! The apostles preaching was “with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4) and everywhere they went, the same Spirit “who raised Christ from the dead” (Rom. 8:11) was poured out on the churches as at the beginning.
Paul’s epistles, furthermore, are filled with exhortations and prayers for the Church to experientially know “the power of His resurrection” through the manifest workings and giftings of the Holy Spirit. After praying for the Ephesian church to receive “the spirit of wisdom and revelation”, he prayed that they would know “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” (Eph.1:19-20) The imparted, experiential knowledge of Christ’s resurrection power is what enables the Church to walk in and rightly proclaim the revelation of Christ they have received. The two cannot be separated.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.” (1 Cor. 4:20)
Many “churches” today have “a form of godliness, but [are] denying the power thereof.” (2 Tim. 3:5) These rely on external forms, rituals, traditions of men, intellectualism, soulish manipulation, legalism, authoritarianism, consumerism, charismatic leadership, humanly-crafted programs, and the like, but do not have “the exceeding greatness of His power“ (Eph. 1:19) at work within them. Like the church of Sardis, they “have a name that [they] are alive, but [they] are “dead”. (Rev. 3:1) Or as the church of Laodicea, they consider themselves “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that [they] are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev.3:17) The resurrected Christ is standing outside their door knocking, waiting to be invited in…in the glory of His Person and the fullness of His power. (see vs. 20.)
For those who would seek to experientially know “the power of His resurrection” through the impartation of the Holy Spirit, much room must be made for His manifest workings. Control must be yielded fully to the headship of Christ. An openness for Him to work in and through His many-membered body through the manifold giftings, ministrations, and manifestations of the Spirit must be diligently sought and jealously guarded. Rigid, old wineskins must be exchanged for flexible, new ones in order for God to pour out the new wine of Christ’s resurrection power and not ruin the container. This comes with a great cost that many, if not most, are unwilling to pay. And this is where many assemblies stop going forward in the purpose and process of the Lord, continuing on, instead, in their safe, predictable, religious, lukewarm ways (…only to await Christ spewing them out of His mouth. Rev. 3:16.) For those who do embrace this cost together and receive an ongoing impartation of “the power of His resurrection”, the next spiritual dynamic will soon follow on.
~ ~ ~
To be continued…
Five Dynamics of the Spiritual Life (previous post)
Five Dynamics of the Corporate Spiritual Life – Part 2: Participation, Conformation, Transformation (next post)
Christ the Power and Wisdom of God
Holding Fast to the Head
Of Wine and Wineskins
“Wind Dies in a Box”
I only cottoned on to the corporateness of God’s revelation later in my ministry, we were so influenced by Western individualism. What you have posted thus far is, I think, pure gold. That’s not cheap flattery. May these truths dawn on us all, world-wide. Years ago I recall coming across Watchman Nee’s ‘The Normal Christian CHURCH Life,’ not as well-known as ‘The Normal Christian Life.’ It enriched me no end. I’m sure you’re familiar with it.
Greetings from a hot South Africa.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks, Erroll. Your comment made me think…I wonder if Western individualism isn’t, in some measure, the by-product of the Protestant Reformation. It seems that the primary focus of preaching and teaching pendulum swung away from the focus on “the Church”, which dominated in Catholicism, to the individual, which came to the fore in the teachings of justification by faith, personal sanctification, the priesthood of believers, etc., as well as the empowerment of the individual with the Bible getting into the hands of the common man. The other side, also, is that the Protestant Reformation didn’t reform the corporate aspect of the Church back to New Testament pattern and example, so it couldn’t preach and teach on the Church with full integrity according to the Scriptures. The result, in my view, is an ongoing over-emphasis on the indiividual and under-emphasis on the corporate. I believe the Lord wants to fully balance those two aspects out, as they are in Scripture, and ultimately as they are in Christ.
As for Nee’s, The Normal Christian Church Life, yes, that has also blessed and enriched me greatly. So enlightening!
Stay well and stay safe…in Him!
LikeLiked by 2 people
PS. I love your paraphrase of Phil. 3:10-11. Hope to share it with our house church and others.
I think you have put your finger right on the problem, David. I flirted with Reformed theology in my early ministry years and failed to see its weaknesses then. Through Luther’s personal experience of justification, which was wonderful in itself, the emphasis gradually changed to an individualistic emphasis, especially by the Reformers’ followers. You are right when you say that we need a balance between the individual and the corporate. Imho, you are also so right on the issue of the Reformation essentially leaving the doctrine/practice of the Church largely untouched, so their ecclesiology remained unaffected – my postgraduate research revealed that strongly. I have a statement in my dissertation somewhere where Luther seemed to even encourage house groups of a sort and celebrating the sacrament in them, etc, but he seemed to ‘chicken out’ and never really followed through on the doctrine of the Church. Here I believe the Anabaptists (I suppose I’m a kind of moderate Anabaptist, lol) got it right – what happened? The latter got persecuted and even executed by the Reformers! I’m sure you’ve read the excellent, ‘The Reformers and Their Stepchildren’ by Verduin (I think he was the author). Going on from there, I’m so glad you made available Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Life Together,’ because it so beautifully reinforces the corporateness of our faith. Sorry for the long response, but you got my juices going!
LikeLiked by 2 people
Erroll, thank you for that confirmation! I’m familiar with that quote of Luther’s as well. It’s so poignant, I had to look it up. So, here’s Luther’s own words:
And in addition, the other two forms of Christian service, he said were for the general population, not for Christians. His words:
So, the Protestant world follows the form that is not for Christians, and doesn’t, in general, practice the form that is. In fact, as you mentioned, and Verduin traces so clearly in Stepchildren, for the longest time persecuted those who did meet this way (Anabaptists), even to the death. Hmmmm.
So, I guess the Church needs to take “…and ever reforming” seriously still!
Now you’ve got my juices going!!! 😉
LikeLiked by 2 people
There you go, David. Thanks for the full quote. I concur fully with your other comments. Shalom!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great post David! So you and Erroll don’t feel alone here…I love Watchman Nee’s writings…although I could never figure out his name; that makes it all the better!
LikeLiked by 1 person
“This comes with a great cost that many, if not most, are unwilling to pay”. So true and sad. It is such an encouragement to read another brother speaking the same language and revelation of the corporate Christ. Thank you David for this post. And Erroll too! There has to be a breakthrough in these current ‘virtual’ times we are in, of revelation into the corporate and ‘locatable’ Christ in the physical gathering of living stones being built together. Not this ‘nebulous ‘ church where everyone can just enjoy ‘fellowship ‘ and there’s no building together, no need to let the cross do it’s work in a group of saints, that forms the expression and proclamation of Christ to the heavenly realms. I agree and have experienced in even a small yet life altering way, that glorious church which brother Nee speaks of. She is glorious indeed! She’s what God sent His Son for, she’s the fullness of Christ. I pray for our sisters and brothers to come into the revelation of her as the body and fullness of our Lord, to His glory, and to be willing to pay the price- live by the cross TOGETHER, and let Him be made manifest. She is a reflection of the community life of the Godhead. HE is corporate. Thank you so much for this post.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you, Donna. You’ve hit the nail on the head! Amen!!!
LikeLiked by 1 person