by Jeremy Clarke, Legacy Baptist Church, Northwest Arkansas
The union that believers have with Christ is a union they share with one another. As we have cited so often these last months, “For by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body….and were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12) I’ll grant you, this is an abstract thought….but it is nonetheless profoundly true. However hated identification with Christ’s Church might be, believers enjoy an inviolable union with the Son of God Himself and are therefore ushered into an equally inviolable union with one another. The people of God are the family of God; and the family of God are joint heirs of heaven.
The bond and union that believers share with one another, therefore, ought to be prized….it ought to be esteemed. Further, it ought to be diligently cared for, guarded, strengthened, and nurtured. There is an explicit duty we owe to one another in this way, having first given ourselves to Christ. Some in the church have a prolific sense of this, don’t they? They exude esteem and honor for the people of God; no doubt because they remain in a steady state of awe and wonder that they were ever called to join so blessed a family. Subsequently, the expression of their life among us is a steady diet of humility, meekness, kindness, and compassion among others. They remain ever watchful for opportunities to serve their blood-bought brother or sister….and are equally watchful not to put a stumbling block before them. They are ever diligent to be an imitator of Christ; ever diligent to adorn the great doctrine of salvation.
Their light shines so brightly that their rare absence on the occasions we gather together is met with silent mourning. Rightly so, because their presence seems to robustly radiate the virtues and beauties of Christ. What blessing to the household of faith such saints are! Radically different are they from those who may profess Christ but whose lives are strangers to grace. From these persons more often we see self-conceit. Rarely do they display yieldedness. Rarely do we see them showing preference to another in honor. Their words are often harsh and impatient…eager to wound, it would seem, and devoid of meekness. They are strangers to forbearance, irritable, and seemingly eager to provoke resentment rather than induce affection.
Consider this, though: Wasn’t it love pouring forth from God through which He chose you from all eternity? “In love, He predestined us to adoption as Sons through Jesus Christ” says the Apostle (Eph 1). “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn. 4). These verses teach us that love is seen both in the origin of God’s redemptive purpose, and also in the effecting of that purpose when the Son of God Himself took upon flesh to atone for sin. Is it any wonder then that we are told to “…be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us.” Christian….you do well to zealously nurture this virtue.
While our union with Christ and with one another may seem abstract -- for those who know converting grace, the diligent imitation of the Divine is anything but abstract. In fact, it is altogether sensible. Look closely…you’ll recognize them and their fruits. They are those who rejoice when their brother or sister rejoices. They are those who cannot help but feel the weight of compassion, sympathy, and sorrow when sorrow is visited their fellow pilgrim. They are those who give of their resources lavishly to relieve the affliction of a fellow, beloved saint. The constant song on their heart is gratitude; and because that’s true, the constant expression of their life is Divine imitation. They do not need to be “rallied” because they are ever watchful, in the Spirit, to “…do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Gal 6:10). They are those who are more than eager to “…bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2). They are those whom you’ll see “…encouraging the faint hearted and helping the weak” among us. (1 Thess. 5)
After all, to him who “…has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need, and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in Him?” (1 Jn. 4). Love toward the saints is to be shown by mortifying a selfish spirit, bearing with one another’s weaknesses, and seeking one another’s welfare. Immense joy awaits that Christian who zealously nurtures a sincere interest in the interests of his or her fellow sojourners….and silent mourning always accompanies their absence.
Legacy Baptist Church, Northwest Arkansas