In meditating on John 17, and the emphasis that Christ places on the ‘oneness’ of His redeemed, my heart is reminded of the great importance of the local assembly of saints. The church, despite all our personal flaws and failings, is a marvelous creation of God.
I share the following excerpt, taken from the book Basic Bible Studies by Francis Schaeffer, to offer an encouraging reminder of the blessedness of the communion of the saints:
When we take Christ as Savior we are immediately justified, and we immediately have a new relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. When we come into this new relationship with the triune God, all those who have ever trusted Christ as their Savior are our brothers and sisters. This has been usually spoken of as “the communion of saints.”
- Matthew 23:8 Not all men are brothers, according to the biblical use of that word. We are all created by God. As all are descendants of Adam and Eve, all men are “my kind” and are to be carefully treated as neighbors (Luke 10:27–37). But in the terms of the Bible, we are brothers to those who have Christ as their Savior and therefore have God as their father.
- Galatians 6:10 We are to do good to all men, but there is a clear line between the “family of believers” and others.
- Ephesians 2:19 Before we took Christ as our Savior, we were strangers and foreigners. But when we became Christians, we were made fellow-citizens and members of God’s household with all others who had done the same.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 15 Again we are told to do good to all people, but again it is made clear that there is a distinction between those who are the “family of believers” and others.
- 1 Peter 2:17 We have a special relationship to those who are brothers in Christ.
- 1 John 1:3 A person cannot have true spiritual fellowship with Christians until he has heard the facts of the gospel and has acted upon those facts by accepting Christ as his Savior.
- Revelation 19:10 The brethren are defined as those who hold to the testimony of Jesus.
- John 13:30, 34, 35 Judas, who did not believe on Christ, had left the table before this command for special love among Christians was given.
- John 21:23 It is clear that “brethren” as used here speaks of believers.
- Acts 9:17 Saul was considered a “brother” only after he had taken Christ as his Savior.
- Acts 21:17 Only the fellow-believers were “the brothers.”
- 1 Corinthians 7:12 In this passage the man is a believer and therefore a brother. The wife is not a believer and therefore is not included in this term.
There are three practical aspects of the brotherhood of believers.
I. The first practical aspect is that brothers in Christ should be a spiritual help to each other.
- Romans 12:10 Christians should love one another and should desire the advancement of their brothers above their own advancement.
- 1 Corinthians 12:26, 27 Christians should sorrow when other Christians suffer, and should rejoice when other Christians have joy.
- Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11 Christian brothers are to pray for each other.
- Ephesians 4:15, 16 When individual Christians become what they should be, the Church becomes what it should be. Each Christian has something to contribute to this.
- Ephesians 5:21–6:9 The brotherhood of believers should be the predominant factor between Christians in all the relationships of life. This is true of husbands and wives, children and parents, servants and masters, employees and employers. In all such relationships we are also brothers and sisters. See Song of Solomon 4:9, 10, 12—there is a double relationship of sister and bride.
- Ephesians 6:18 Christians should pray for each other and for all Christians. The brotherhood of believers cuts across the lines of nationality, race, language, culture, social position, and geographical location.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 The two great spiritual helps which brothers in Christ should be to each other are that of encouraging one another and edifying one another. The latter means helping other Christians to be what they should be in doctrine and life.
II. The second practical aspect is that brothers in Christ should be a material help to each other.
- Acts 11:29 From the earliest days of the Church, Christians gave of their material goods to help those brothers in Christ who had less materially, even those at great geographical distance.
- 2 Corinthians 8:4 This is one illustration of many examples given in the New Testament of Christians giving money to help other Christians in material need.
- Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8; Philemon 5, 7, 22 One form of practical help is by giving hospitality.
- 1 John 3:17, 18 There is no use talking about Christian love if we do not help our brothers in Christ when they have material needs.
- Acts 5:4 The Christians helped each other materially, but they did it voluntarily. Each man kept the right of personal property and possession.
III. The third aspect is that brothers in Christ should enjoy the fellowship and companionship of each other.
- Acts 2:42, 46 From the earliest days of the Church, the Christians had daily fellowship with each other.
- Ephesians 4:1–3; Colossians 2:1, 2 True Christians should try to have fellowship together in love and peace.
- Hebrews 10:25 It is the direct command of our Lord that after we have become Christians, we should meet together for worship with other Christians. This was not just to be a passing thing in the early days of the Church, but should continue even until Christ comes back again. This verse says we should be especially careful to keep this command as we come toward the time of the second coming of Christ. If we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we have the responsibility to search out a Bible-believing group of God’s people, where there is right doctrine and real community in love, and meet with them. We should not join ourselves to just any group that calls itself Christian, but one where the teaching is truly biblical, where discipline is maintained concerning life and doctrine, and where there is true community. If there is no such group geographically available (and there are such places), then prayerfully before the Lord we should find even a small number to meet for worship, prayer, study, encouraging one another, and to have community.
We have seen that the brotherhood of believers crosses all the lines of space. It also crosses all the lines of time.
Hebrews 12:22, 23 his brotherhood includes not just Christians on the earth today, but Christians who are in Heaven.
[Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 2 (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 355–358.]