If a Christian is someone in whom Christ is expressed and manifested, then the Church ought to be corporately doing the very same thing, that is, expressing and manifesting Christ’s life as one cooperate unit. Frankly, it’s quite common to see the corporate nature of the church life being forsaken today. In some cases, Christianity becomes individualistic whereas Church becomes a product to be consumed. But the Scripture itself has used many imageries to emphasise the corporate nature of the Church in order that His life may be expressed through one body.
A Foretaste of the Kingdom
“If Jesus has won the victory over sin, suffering, and death, why is it that we still sin, suffer, and die? To understand this seeming contradiction, we must recognize the“already, but not yet ”tension of the gospel.
On the one hand, God ’s kingdom has already come in the person of Jesus. As the incarnate God-man, He died on the cross so that through His death and resurrection He might destroy the devil (Hebrews 2:14).
On the other hand, the perfect kingdom toward which He pointed awaits His personal return to earth. We experience the tension of living between the“already, but not yet”aspects of God’s kingdom.” – Herbert Vander Lugt
The moment a Christian receives the Lord, God’s eternal life begins to live in him. This life has already begun but is yet not in the fullness, for we are still bounded by physical death in this age. Similarly, God’s kingdom is already here, but not yet in fullness. With that being said, the Church still manifests God’s Kingdom through her living by allowing God to be the King. In the word of Graeme Goldsworthy, “God’s Kingdom is God’s people under God’s rule at God’s place”.
“Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
When Jesus said that “The time is fulfilled”, He meant that prophesied time of Him, as the son of God, being sent to us as the Messiah and that He will be crucified, is fulfilled. That’s why “The Kingdom of God is at hand”, for Jesus’ coming crucifixion would eventually lead to His glorious resurrection. The resurrection brings us into victory over death and sin while inaugurating the Kingdom of God.
“When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.” (John 19:30 NLT)
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary wrote, “It is finished! and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost—What is finished? The Law is fulfilled as never before, nor since, in His ‘obedience unto death, even the death of the cross’; Messianic prophecy is accomplished; Redemption is completed; ‘He hath finished the transgression, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness, and sealed up the vision and prophecy, and anointed a holy of holies’; He has inaugurated the kingdom of God and given birth to a new world.”
“The kingdom of God is NOT coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” – Luke 17:21
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:14
The Kingdom of God, as the Scripture says, is among us. However, today’s Christianity can sometimes shallowly reduce the gospel of the kingdom into solely a gospel of individual salvation. Scot McKnight observed correctly that, “The movement that has long called itself ‘evangelical’ is in fact better labeled ‘soterian’. That is, we have thought we were talking about ‘the gospel’ when in fact we were concentrating on ‘salvation’ .
On the other hand, the Kingdom of God, however, should never be confused with a social reformation or a political agenda.
“I believe a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry. To a frightful degree, I think, evangelicals fuse the kingdom of God with a preferred version of the kingdom of the world (whether it’s our national interests, a particular form of government, a particular political program, or so on). Rather than focusing our understanding of God’s kingdom on the person of Jesus—I believe many of us American ‘evangelicals’ have allowed our understanding of the kingdom of God to be polluted with political ideals, agendas, and issues. ” – Greg Boyd
“When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.” – Frank Viola
Kingdom and Priesthood
“And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6)
“And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:10)
We are also made kings as we reign in with Christ as heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). As people of the Kingdom of God, we are also priests who minister to one another.
The Holy Nation
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Besides being priests, anyone who partakes of Christ also partakes of His holiness, thus corporately we become a holy nation.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
It does not matter what our ethnicity or gender is. We who put our faith in Christ, who is the seed of Abraham, are Abraham’s children.
If we truly let God rules in us, we should show the fruit of unity. Ideally, when others see the Church, they should find the unity that no other leaders on earth can provide. This is Jesus’ prayer before going on the cross,
“ ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.’ ” (John 17:20-23)
Only with this kind of intimate oneness will the world recognize us as God’s people. Not by knowledge nor prosperity, but by our knitting love in peace and unity. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3).
The day of Pentecost teaches us a great lesson of being in one accord. Many marvel at the miraculous gifts exhibited in the early Church, yet the most important thing described in the very first verse in Acts 2 is actually the very fact that the disciples were all in one accord. It was this oneness that allowed the Spirit to move in great power,
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were one accord in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)
By being one in the Spirit, the believers were also one in heart and mind,
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” (Acts 4:32-25)
And it was this oneness that made the Lord “so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them”! The Lord even “added to their number daily”.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
One New Man
“There are many individual men in this world, but there is only one old man. In the same way, there are many Christians, but there is only one new man—the church.” -Watchman Nee
The Church can also be understood as the new man. In this age, there are really only two cooperate men: those who are in Christ and those who are not. Those who are in Christ is the one new man (See Jesus Christ: The Last Adam and The Second Man).
“A great lack among Christians today is that everyone wants to be an individual Christian. Everyone wants to be good and zealous; everyone wants to sit and listen to good sermons. In short, everyone wants to be a Christian in an individual way. But God does not just want us to be good on an individual basis. He is after a corporate vessel that will destroy Satan and accomplish His plan. God does not want to see Christians scattered like a pan of sand. He wants Christians to be joined together to become a corporate new man.” – Watchman Nee
Being the one new man should remind us the cooperate nature of the Church life.
He Will Build His Church
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Sometimes what is described above does not seem to match what we see in some churches. We get critical. We get hurt. We get bitter. We get tired. But it is the Lord Jesus Christ who builds His church, not us. Although Jesus is not physically with us now, He has promised us the Holy Spirit. When the disciples asked Jesus when He will return to restore the Kingdom in its fullness, Jesus answered that it would remain a mystery. However, the disciples would be given power of the Holy Spirit to witness. The same applies to us today.
“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:19-23)
“Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ “(Act 1: 6-8)
We shall trust in His faithfulness and love the Body of Christ the way He does. He has overcome the world and He is able to immeasurably more than we might as or think through his mighty power, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20).