The Plead for Community

Community

There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. The Christian faith is a faith that expresses itself through community. We can see this on display through the Trinity. We know that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have eternal fellowship with each other: John 1:32, 15:26, 16:7, John 1:18, 3:11, 32, 5:19, 29, 37; 6:46; 8:38, John 10:15, 7:29, 17:25; 1 Cor 2:11-13, Eph 2:18. These passages portray an intimate relationship that the Godhead enjoy with each other. The Trinity is the model for our personal fellowship with each other. Fellowship and community only exist with a plurality of persons. Our God is Three in One. That is why we have in Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone…”

Adam was created in the image of God and being created in the image of God Adam has to be relational in order to reflect the Trinitarian God that created him.  Adam reflected the image of God in his stewardship, in his obedience, but he could not reflect the image of God in the relational realm until Eve was created. The application is this: To reflect a Trinitarian God in fellowship we need each other.  A theologian once said, “God did not create you to have a private relationship with Him. He created you to have a relationship with Him lived out, enjoyed, endured with other human beings.” Again, there is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian.  If you are then you are living in sin and going against the design God has created you for.

Think with me for a moment, if Adam had a perfect relationship with God but he was not “happy” until Eve was created, how much more do we need relationships? A professor at Dallas Theological Seminary said, “Man is fully man when in relationship with God and the human community.” We are meant to be relational.  We are to exist in a community. The call to live is a call to live in community. Sadly, however, we Americans are becoming more isolated and individualistic in nature. In doing so, we are becoming less and less human. We are very individualistic, yet the call from the Trinitarian God is if you want to fully live out your humanity you need to be involved in a relationship with the Creator and other human beings. It is only when the Christian life is lived out in a community that we will experience the maximum joy because we are living according to our design.

Oh my Christian brothers and sisters seek community and live in the community. Be involved in the church, in your community, in the lives of those who don’t know Christ. If you want to find fulfillment, start practicing community living.

Isaiah and the Armor of God

Ephesians 6:14-15

When we read about the armor of God in Ephesians 6, we often think of the spiritual resources with which the individual Christian has been equipped. “Each day when you wake up,” I’ve often heard said, “Imagine yourself putting on the the helmet of salvation, taking up the shield of faith, and arming yourself with the sword of the Spirit.” Such imagery is powerful and provides a ton of material for discussion.

In this post, however, I want to talk about some of the Old Testament references that show up in the armor of God passage. If we get some of the OT context, we’ll catch a glimpse of the cosmic vision that Paul has in mind throughout Ephesians. So, to refresh your memory, here’s what Paul says:

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
(Ephesians 6:14-20 ESV)

The first part of this passage comes from Isaiah 59.

Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
The LORD saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.
He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
to the coastlands he will render repayment.
(Isaiah 59:15-18 ESV)

In context, this passage is referring to God working salvation for Himself. Finding no one who overcomes the injustice in the world (esp. in connection to exiled Israel), God Himself comes down as a warrior-redeemer and executes justice against the enemies of Israel.

The bit in Ephesians 6 referring to the “readiness given by the gospel of peace” also borrows imagery from – Surprise! – another passage in Isaiah. Take a look:

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
(Isaiah 52:7 ESV)

So I just bombarded you with a bunch of text from Isaiah. Why? I’d like to suggest that the Isaiah context helps us to understand the armor of God better and, in fact, fits very well with what Paul is saying about spiritual warfare. Remember, Paul tells us that our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). We are engaged in the cosmic battle against the spiritual world-rulers that have dominion over the universe (cosmos) in the present age. But whose armor are we wearing? Not ours, but God’s!

Here’s why Isaiah fits. In Isaiah, the prophet envisions God arriving as a warrior-redeemer, much like He did in the days of Moses. Long ago, when the Hebrews were enslaved to Egypt, God acted decisively in the Exodus, contending against the rulers, gods and spiritual powers that had dominion in Egypt. As God acted in the past, so He will act in the future. For the prophet in Isaiah, God’s redemption of Israel from the Babylonian exile will be a New Exodus.

In Ephesians 6, we have God’s redemption played out on a cosmic scale. He is defeating the evil rulers and authorities and inaugurating His reign as the true King of the cosmos. If that’s so, why is it that Paul tells us to put on the armor of God, when it’s clear from Isaiah that it’s God wearing the armor and doing the conquering?

I think it has to do with what Paul says about the Church in Ephesians 3:

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 3:8-10 ESV)

In Ephesians 1, Paul explains the decisive plan that God has enacted in the death and resurrection of Jesus, setting Christ as the head over all things, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:21). This has resulted in the creation of the Church, the Body of Jews and Gentiles united in Christ. Thus, the wisdom and glory of God’s plan set forth in Christ is now demonstrated through the Church to all the spiritual rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

To pull it all together: God is in the business of reclaiming and redeeming the world for Himself from the spiritual world-rulers that have dominion in the present age. This follows – rather, fulfills – the pattern set forth in Israel’s Exodus and rescue from Exile. He is executing this plan in Christ and demonstrating it through the Church, the Body of Christ. In this sense, we – not merely as individuals, but as the Church – bear the armor of God. We are a “holy temple,” God’s presence in and for the world.

One last thing (I promise): how is God reconquering the world for Himself? What’s the means? I like how Paul puts it at the end of the section on the armor of God:

To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

It’s not new ideology, or better education, or faster technology, etc. ad infinitum, that conquers the world, but the bold proclamation of the Gospel. Amen, and amen, to the praise of His glorious grace.