There is a sustained emphasis in both the Old and New Testaments on this corporate dimension of Christianity. We in the Reformed churches need to listen to this particularly carefully because the Reformation brought in a marked individualism. The conversion of the individual soul, individual converse with God in prayer, and the cultivation of our own individual spirituality are all necessary emphases. But we over-reacted to the corporatism of mediaeval Christianity and now need to balance our emphasis on the individual with a due stress on the importance of the community.
One example of the way we instinctively apply individually what the Bible almost certainly intended to be applied corporately is Paul’s well-known directive to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). It is virtually certain from the context that Paul was thinking not of the individuals at Philippi but of the corporate well-being of the congregation there. Things were being done from envy and jealousy. Paul concludes his discussion of the issue by asking them to work out their own salvation. The word salvation is used here in its general sense of health or well-being, reminding us of the importance of attending not simply to our own individual spiritual needs but also to the well-being of the churches and congregations of which we are a part.
Friday, June 20, 2008
An oldie, but goodie. From the beginning of Donald Macleod's chapter on "Christ's Kirk" in A Faith to Live By: Christian Teaching that Makes a Difference (Mentor, 1988), pp. 222-23: