Community: What Paul Teaches
Paul’s writings are full of his teachings on unity, community, and how to be with and for others. In Romans 12:4&5, he refers to the Church as the body of Christ, “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” It is important to note that here, the Greek word translated is ἀλλήλων, which means “each other, one another; a pronoun which marks reciprocation between two persons or groups.” (Swanson) Notice the word “reciprocation” within the definition and how in order for the body to work properly, there must be a mutual agreement. The concept of reciprocity was extremely prevalent in premodern cultures, (Mendenhall, 1181) so much so that this commitment to each other would have been as important to the early Christians as “the range of biblical concepts associated with the Sinai covenant relationship.” (Mendenhall, 1186)
In regards to who we are to treat each other, 1 Corinthians 12:26, Paul says, “ If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (NRSV) The word for “suffer” is translated from the Greek word “πάσχω,” which also means “to be affected or have been affected, to feel, have a sensible experience, to undergo. It is a commitment to suffer with; suffer together.” In his book, True Community, Jerry Bridges says the following in what it would have looked like regarding Paul’s reference to suffering with each other in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:
Why does the whole body hurt when only one part is injured? It is because all the parts of the body make up one indivisible whole. And when one part hurts, no matter what the reason, the restorative powers of the entire body are brought to bear on that hurting member. Rather than attacking that suffering part or ignoring the problem, the rest of the body demonstrates concern for the part that hurts. This is the way the body of Christ should function. (Bridges, 57)
As we grow, we grow together as one in community as the body of Christ: "and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God." (Colossians 2:19) Jerry Bridges explains, "There is no room for self-absorbed individualism in the New Testament concept of fellowship. There has to be, of course, recognition of personal responsibility by every believer to grow and fulfill his or her function in the body.” (Bridges, 57)
Bridges, Jerry. True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia. Colorado Springs,
CO: NavPress. 2012.
Mendenhall, George E., and Herion Gary A., “Covenant,” ed. David Noel Freedman,
The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992).
*Photo credit goes to Cosmic Timetraveler from Unsplash