The People of God: Part 7 of 7 Formation, Mission and Future Hope of the Church

Throughout the New Testament there is an emphasis on belonging together within the community of faith. Thus, part of God’s formation of the Church is unity and fellowship. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians,

I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Eph 4:1-6).

In the Christian community, the formation involving unity and fellowship meant that they regularly met together in order to praise God together, to pray together, to learn together and to break bread together (Acts 2:42). They shared resources with anyone who had need (Acts 2:44-45), and they shared spiritual blessings with each other (1 Cor 9:23). This was not a random coming together of people with common interests, but rather it was a people coming together because Christ’s sacrificial death reconciled them to one another.[1] They were “a caring and sharing community, a “life-sustaining fellowship,”[2] in which the members of the body of Christ receive their life from God, and comfort, encourage and support one another.”[3]

Furthermore, like the formation of the Israelites, the Church is called to be Holy as God is Holy (1 Pet 1:15-16; Heb 12:14) and to be a people who are set apart (1 Cor 7:1). God in his holiness desires a holy people amongst whom he can dwell. Ephesians 2:19-22 states,

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

In other words, Christians are God’s temple and his dwelling place must be holy and sacred (1 Cor 3:16-17).

Another aspect of the Church’s formation is that Christians are to be defined by love. Jesus taught that the world would know that they were his disciples by their love for one another (John 13:35). The Church must be compelled by love and always growing in love for others. “Love defines every aspect of Christian community, internally and externally; for love defines every aspect of God’s life. God is love.”[4]

Along with the formation of the church is the mission of the Church. The Holy Spirit continues Jesus’ ministry through the Church, and so the Church’s mission is empowered by the Holy Spirit and involves bringing honor to God (Eph 3:10-11), bearing witness to Christ (Acts 5:30-32), making disciples of all peoples and baptizing them (Matt 28:19-20), preaching the gospel (Acts 20:24), and healing (Luke 9:2). While explaining the mission of the Church, Lucien Deiss writes, “We are toiling at a task that is beyond our strength. And what the Lord asks of us is “Be my witnesses.” That is the mission we must carry out. It is for him to accomplish his mission at the time he decides upon, in accordance with his own blessed will, which is one of tender love for each and every human being.”[5]

The Church is called to hope. Hebrews 10:23 states, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Because of the resurrection of Jesus, the Church has “hope of the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6). At the consummation of all things, the people of God will participate in the eschatological resurrection where all who are in Christ will receive glorified bodies and eternally reign with Christ in his everlasting kingdom. Revelation tells of a new heaven and a new earth where God dwells with his people. He will be their God and they will be his people. God finally puts everything back to right. His restorative mission for his people and creation is finally accomplished. The people of God will encounter God forever, and they will experience belonging forever. Belonging to God and to one another.

[1] Charles H. H. Scobie, The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2003), 501. [2] Paul D. Hanson, The People Called: The Growth of Community in the Bible (San Francisco: CA, 1986), 501, quoted by Scobie, The Ways, 502. [3] Scobie, The Ways, 502. [4] David Zac Niringiye, The Church: God’s Pilgrim People (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015), 184. [5] Lucien Deiss, God’s Word and God’s People, translated by Matthew J. O’Connell (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1976) 323.

Please comment. Some refuting comments may require research citations since I use them in much of my writing.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.