Part 20 – The Bible Was Written To Communities
The focus on community so prevailed in the early Church, that every last book in the New Testament written by Paul, was written to the ecclesia, to a community or communities, not to individuals. They were all addressed to the habitat, not to a single member of the species.
The books of the New Testament were written to a group of believers, not to an individual, not to an organization, not to a denomination, but to a habitat in a certain location. And they cannot be fully understood, unless they are read and received in that way.
And the promises written in those letters will always fall short, if you try to make them apply to you, as an individual, because the promises were addressed to a corporate community.
That’s why so many people can’t get the Christian Life to work for them. It’s like an elephant in a zoo, trying to be a herd of elephants. No elephant in a zoo has ever known true elephant life, and never will, unless someone lets it rejoin its herd back in Africa. And no Christian will ever know true Christian Life, until he or she joins a Christian community.
Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Colossians, Philippians, and Ephesians were all written to a community. They weren’t written to sheep who had wandered off, they were written to a flock.
“Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia:” (Galatians 1:1-2, NIV).
“Paul, Silas and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians …” (1 Thessalonians 1:1, NIV).
“Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians …” (2 Thessalonians 1:1, NIV).
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus … To the church of God in Corinth …” (1 Corinthians 1:1-2, NIV).
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus … and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth …” (2 Corinthians 1:1, NIV).
“Paul, an apostle of Christ … and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:” (Colossians 1:1-2, NIV).
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi …” (Philippians 1:1, NIV).
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus … To the saints in Ephesus …” (Ephesians 1:1, NIV).
Romans was written to a group of believers meeting in the home of Priscilla and Aquila in Rome. Even the book of Philemon that was written concerning the specific issue of how to deal with a run-away slave, was written to a Christian community.
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus … To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:” (Romans 1:1,7, NIV).
“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:” (Philemon 1:1-2, NIV).
What about 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus? Yes, they were written to individuals, but to individuals who were establishing habitats in certain cities. And the contents of those letters, deal specifically with issues involved in establishing a Christian community.
Early believers saw the entire Christian faith, from the view of a habitat, a community, a place to gather and learn how to live by the life of Christ, a place to learn about the deeper Christian life.
The new habitat is the only place, that God ever intended for us to learn how to live the Christian life. And learning about the Christian life, and living that life, are inseparable from the habitat.
(Note: I am indebted to Gene Edwards for many of the concepts in this series.)
… Next time …. Part 21 – The First Century Christian Habitat