TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

I.  General

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Chapter 26  Part I


The New Testament deals extensively with how we should relate to other Christians and with issues vital for the life of the church. Amongst the most prominent themes are the need for unity and love. Fellowship is another important concept that we need to grasp, with it being involved in a number of aspects of church life.

The Church as One Body

God’s people form local groups, called churches

Gal 1:2b, 22  [Paul:] To the churches in Galatia. … 22The churches of Christ in Judea didn’t know me personally.  GW

The term “church” refers to a community of believers. As such it can be used of small house groups as well as local church congregations. Additionally it can be used more generally of God’s people as a whole – the worldwide church.

As per the first two uses, believers meet and function together in local community groups (as parts of God’s people as a whole). It is this localized context that is generally spoken of in this and the following chapters in Part F. Church Life.

The many church members form one body – the body of Christ

See also:

The term “the body of Christ” figuratively depicts the spiritual union of Jesus Christ with his people. Moreover, it points to the unity Christ’s people have together in their relationship with him. While the worldwide church is the whole “body of Christ”, each local church is a form of “the body of Christ”. And in each case the many members together make one body – with no disparities or overriding distinctions.

1Cor 12:12, 27  [Paul, to the Corinthian church:] A person’s body is only one thing, but it has many parts. Though there are many parts to a body, all those parts make only one body. Christ is like that also.27Together you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of that body.  NCV™

The phrase “the body of Christ” figuratively depicts the spiritual union of Jesus Christ with his people. Moreover, it points to the unity Christ’s people have together in their relationship with him. While the worldwide church is the whole “body of Christ”, each local church is a form of “the body of Christ”. And in each case the many members together make one body.

As one body, church members meet together

Rom 16:5a  [Paul:] Also, greet for me the church that meets at their house.  NCV™

Heb 10:25a  [The writer, to believers:] Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing.  GNT

Church members function together as one church body

Acts 15:3-4  So they [Paul and others] were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they were relating at length the conversion of the Gentiles and bringing great joy to all the brothers. 4When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all the things God had done with them.  NET

This passage includes segments which illustrate churches functioning as one body – i.e. as a unit or cohesive community.

The concept represented by the term “church” – often used to translate the Greek word “ekklesia” – involves believers meeting together and functioning as a community or one spiritual body. As such, they worship God together and cohesively further the cause of their head, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, they live in relationship with each other, in which they minister to each other.

The church body grows – spiritually and numerically

Eph 4:15-16  [Paul, to the Ephesian church:] But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 16From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.  NET

Acts 16:5  So the churches were being strengthened in the faith and were increasing in number every day.  NET

 Questions for Section A

Be in Unison

Be united as one

Acts 4:32  The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common.  NET

1Cor 1:10  [Paul, to the church in Corinth:] I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose.  NET

In the last clause, Paul urges his readers to be united by having the same Christ-centered thinking and objective/s.

Live in peace with each other

1Thes 5:13b  [Paul, to the church in Thessalonica:] Be at peace among yourselves.  NET

Rom 14:19  [Paul, to the church in Rome:] Therefore, let’s keep on pursuing those things that bring peace and that lead to building one another up.  ISV

Submit to one another

Eph 5:21  [Paul, to the church in Ephesus:] Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ.  GNT

Avoid foolish arguments and quarreling

2Tim 2:23-24  [Paul, to Timothy:] Stay away from foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they grow into quarrels. 24And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and patient.  NCV™

Sometimes disputes and differences may be necessary

1Cor 11:18-19  [Paul, to the Corinthian church:] For in the first place, when you come together as a church I hear there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19For there must in fact be divisions among you, so that those of you who are approved may be evident.  NET

Where there is sin or false beliefs in the church, differences will be needed so that those who act and believe in accordance with God’s will may distinguish themselves from those who do not (v. 19). It is in fact necessary for believers to take a stand against sin and false beliefs in the church.

Note: Have any internal legal disputes judged by people of God

1Cor 6:1-2, 6-7  [Paul, to the Corinthian church:] When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints? 2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to settle trivial suits?6Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? 7The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?  NET

With his first statement in v. 7, Paul appears to refer to spiritual failure, either: in seeking retribution, as opposed to being meek and forgiving; or in being at odds with a fellow believer/s, as opposed to being unified as parts of the body of Christ.

 Questions for Section B

Be in Fellowship

The concept of “fellowship” involves sharing and participating in a partnership concerning a mutual interest or purpose, which for believers is their common faith and life in Christ. This is shown in the Greek word translated as “fellowship” (“koinonia”) which emphasizes participation.  Believers participate in Christ and church activities, and in each other’s lives.

Note that a number of the verses in this section show that fellowship occurs amongst believers across the worldwide church, in addition to the local church context.

Have fellowship together . . .

Acts 2:42  They [the believers] were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  NET

. . . Believers have fellowship collectively with God and Jesus Christ

1Jn 1:3  [John, to believers:] What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ).  NET

The fellowship believers have together is not only based on their mutual relationship in Jesus Christ, but is also a fellowship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Participate together in church activities

Acts 1:14  They [the disciples] gathered frequently to pray as a group, together with the women and with Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.  GNT

1Cor 16:15b-16  [Paul, to the church in Corinth:] I urge you 16also to submit to people like this, and to everyone who cooperates in the work and labors hard.  NET

Church members should participate together in God’s work, cooperating with each other.

Share together in the sufferings that come because of Jesus Christ

2Tim 1:8  [Paul, to Timothy:] So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord or be ashamed of me, his prisoner. Instead, by God’s power, join me in suffering for the sake of the Good News.  GW

Share together in the joy that comes in being of the church

John 4:36  The one who reaps receives pay and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that the one who sows and the one who reaps can rejoice together.  NET

Those who work together in bringing people to faith, share together in much joy over the fruits of their labor.

Share in each other’s troubles and joy

Rom 12:15  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  NET

Fellow believers may well be primarily in view here.

Keep in touch about each other’s welfare – and keep the others informed of your own

Phil 2:19  [Paul, to the Philippian church:] Now I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be encouraged by hearing news about you.  NET

Eph 6:21-22  [Paul, to the Ephesian church:] Tychicus, my dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will make everything known to you, so that you too may know about my circumstances, how I am doing. 22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.  NET

Although Paul was not actually a member of the Philippian and Ephesian churches, he was effectively a leader of them and very much a part of them. As such these verses illustrate how church members should be aware of each other’s welfare – and keep the others informed of their own.

Note: Believers share together in spiritual blessings

1Cor 9:23  [Paul:] I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them [other believers] in its blessings.  ESV

Jude 1:3  [Jude, to believers:] My dear friends, I was doing my best to write to you about the salvation we share in common, when I felt the need of writing at once to encourage you to fight on for the faith which once and for all God has given to his people.  GNT

 Questions for Section C

Love Each Other (I): General

See also:

Love one another

1Jn 3:11, 23  [John, to believers:] For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. … 23And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.  ESV

Love one another more and more

Phil 1:9  [Paul, to believers:] And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, …  ESV

Loving other Christians is indicative of being of God and Jesus Christ . . .

John 13:34-35  [Jesus, to his disciples:] “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”  NET

1Jn 4:7, 12, 16b  [John, to believers:] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. … 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.16God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  ESV

Love is the essence of God’s nature – “God is love” (v. 16; cf. v. 8). Everyone who loves exhibits God’s nature, demonstrating that they have been “born of God” (v. 7b). In addition, loving one another shows that we know God (v. 7), and that we live in God and he lives in us (vv. 12, 16b).

. . . Not loving other Christians has negative implications

1Jn 3:10, 14  [John, to believers:] This is how God’s children and the devil’s children are distinguished. No person who fails to practice righteousness and to love his brother is from God.14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love one another. The person who does not love remains in death.  ISV

Love is vital for Christian service and living

2Pet 1:7-8  [Peter, to believers:] … to your godliness add Christian affection; and to your Christian affection add love. 8These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  GNT

1Thes 5:8  [Paul, to believers:] But since we are of the day, we must stay sober by putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet our hope for salvation.  NET

This figuratively illustrates that love – along with faith and hope – provides significant spiritual protection for the believer, helping them to live godly lives.

Further blessings of loving each other

Col 2:2  [Paul, referring to people he sought to help in their faith:] I want them to be strengthened and joined together with love so that they may be rich in their understanding. This leads to their knowing fully God’s secret, that is, Christ himself.  NCV™

As Christians exist together united in love, they increasingly experience and comprehend spiritual blessings and truths.

1Jn 4:17-18  [John, to believers:] By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love.  NET

This is speaking of having the love that comes from God, expressed in loving others. Such love, an expression and extension of God’s love, makes judgment from him inconceivable and so annuls any fear of judgment. Conversely, whoever fears has “not really learned to love” (CEV, v. 18b); they do not have perfect love (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT).

 Questions for Section D

Love Each Other (II): How

See also:

Love is expressed with actions

1Jn 3:17-18  [John, to believers:] Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God’s love is not living in that person. 18My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring.  NCV™

Love each other as Jesus Christ loved us, even laying down his life

John 15:12-13  [Jesus, to his disciples:] My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.  NET

Jesus disciples were to love each other as he had loved them, a love which he would show to be unsurpassed by laying down his life for them.

Love each other sincerely and earnestly

1Pet 1:22  [Peter, to believers:] Now that by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves and have come to have a sincere love for your fellow-believers, love one another earnestly with all your heart.  GNT

Love each other as brothers and sisters

Heb 13:1  Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.  NCV™

Keep each other in your hearts . . .

Phil 1:7  [Paul, to the Philippian church:] For it is right for me to think this about all of you, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel all of you became partners in God’s grace together with me.  NET

When Paul talks of having others in his heart, he implies that they are an integral part of himself and his consciousness.

. . . Long for each other

Phil 4:1  [Paul, to the Philippian church:] So then, my brothers and sisters, dear friends whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand in the Lord in this way, my dear friends!  NET

Note: Obedience to God and other aspects of the faith are essential for love

1Jn 5:2  This is how we know that we love God’s children: we love God and keep his commandments.  ISV

1Tim 1:5  [Paul:] But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.  NET

 Questions for Section E

Pray for persecuted Christians