Becoming a church member is more than simply joining an organization or social club. When you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, he gave you the Holy Spirit of God and through his Spirit, united you spiritually with every other believer in Christ (John 17:21). The church is more than a gathering of men and women united by a common interest or cause – it is one body united by a common faith and Spirit (1 Cor 12:13).
Much of church life is a matter of living out practically the spiritual reality stated above. That is, through our relationships with one another, we show the spiritual unity that God has created in us. It can be said that our relationships with one other in the church are a matter of living out practically the unity that God has created in us spiritually.
As we will learn, living out church life requires love, sacrifice, compassion, patience and every other fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25). This is a high calling and it is not easy. It is difficult because our natural inclinations are often selfish, hard-hearted, impatient and fleshly (Rom 7:18). These attitudes grieve the Holy Spirit and destroy unity. But, by submitting to the Holy Spirit who is in us, receiving direction from the word of God and through the encouragement of one another, we can be a church where our spiritual unity is lived out practically. This practical outworking of the unity of the Spirit is the very thing that Christ said would show the world that we are his disciples – John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Throughout this study we will explore some of what are commonly called the one anothers of scripture. These are gleaned from passages throughout the New Testament and encapsulate the attitude that God requires all believers to have toward one another.
To become a member of Calvary Baptist Church is to commit to exercising these spiritual attitudes toward others in the church.
Loving One Another
Each attitude that we are about to explore is really just an outworking of love. As believers, we are commanded to love one another.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God’s design for the church is community from diversity. He has chosen men and women of varying ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses and has put them together in the church (1 Cor 1:26-29). From an outside perspective, it would seem unlikely that such a diverse gathering of people could unify through love. Amazingly, this is exactly what the church does – through the Holy Spirit. This practical unity is the evidence that we have been joined together spiritually.
This supernatural love is of such a high priority to God that he has made it a test of the genuineness of our salvation.
John 5:12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Love should be the main characteristic by which all believers are known. So much so, the scriptures teach that a lack of love for each other is evidence of a lack of salvation (1 John 4:20-21). When you join a church, you are determining to exercise love (and attitudes consistent with love) toward the believers in that congregation. Joining a church is your decision to “live out” your salvation in that particular body of believers.
Love in Action
Our world has a distorted understanding of what love is. In contrast to our modern culture which teaches that love is a fleeting emotion that can be “fallen into” and “fallen out of”, the Bible teaches that love is a choice (Gal 5:13; 1 The 4:9; 1 John 4:7; James 2:8) and that it is always accompanied with loving action (see 1 Cor 13).
Therefore, when a believer submits to Christ’s command to love his fellow believers, there will be undeniable evidence. His relationships with others will be clearly characterized by loving attitudes and actions.
1 John 3:16-18 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
It is not enough to flippantly state that we love each other. The Bible makes it clear that genuine love is seen through sacrificial action (John 3:16; Rom 5:8). Therefore, a claim to love that is not supported by loving action is a hypocritical lie.
It makes sense then, that the best way for us to learn to love one another is to find exactly what the Bible teaches about the “one anothers” and then, obediently practice them within the context of our relationships in the church. This is what we will do for the next few studies.
Honour One Another through Humility
Pride kills relationships. This is true within marriages, friendships and even the church. Pride is that attitude which exalts self over others. It demands its rights be granted, its justice be upheld and its reputation be protected – always at the expense of others. It is the epitome of selfishness. But pride does not stop at hurting our relationships with others; it strikes right at the heart of our relationship with God. For this reason, pride is on the divine hate list!
Proverbs 16:5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
Pride was the sin that caused Satan to be cast out of heaven (Isa 14:14-15). Satan sowed the seeds of pride in the heart of Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen 3:5-6). Pride remains a chief characteristic of Satan and of all who follow him (John 8:31-59; 1John 2:16). It is pride that is behind all strife, wrath and unbelief (Prov 13:10; Prov 21:24; Ps 10:4). And pride ultimately, is followed by shame, destruction and humiliation (Prov 11:2; Prov 29:23; Prov 16:18).
God is the sovereign of the universe and Jesus Christ is Lord over all. God alone deserves honour, exaltation and praise (Ps 148:13). So, everytime man lifts himself up in pride, he challenges the sovereignty and glory of God. He vies for the honour and praise that is due only to God.You can understand why God hates pride so much.
God hates pride so much so that he designed the entire salvation plan so that no one could ever boast of their own salvation (1 Cor 1:19-31; Eph 2:8-9). Salvation is by grace through faith and not through human effort (Titus 3:5; Gal 2:16). It is obtained by humbling oneself as a little child and receiving Jesus Christ (the perfect example of humility, Php 2:3-11) as one’s Saviour and Lord. It makes sense then that those who become His children are marked, not by pride, but by humility. The following are but a few examples of how humility ought to shape the relationships we have with one another.
Humility Means Deference
Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
There is no place for selfish ambition in the church. In fact, James tells us that such an attitude is not from God, but unspiritual and demonic. We are called to show deference to one another. This means we should think about others before we think about ourselves. It means that we should put the interests and needs of others before our own. An attitude of deference not only eliminates pride, but it also destroys the sin of jealousy. After all, if we are genuinely concerned for the interests of others above those of our own, we will not sinfully covet what they have but will instead be happy for them (Rom 12:15).
Does becoming a member of a church mean that you now have a greater say in how things are done? Does it mean that you can now assert your wants and preferences above those of others? Not at all. To commit to church membership is to commit to put others first. If each church member were to adopt this attitude, there would be God-honouring harmony in the congregation.
Humility Means Service
John 13:3-15 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
During His earthly life, Jesus Christ was the fullness of God in human flesh (Col 2:9). He was one with God the Father (John 10:30).The scriptures reveal that God the Father has delegated all authority and power to Jesus Christ so that he was and is the only rightful Lord over men (Rom 10:9-10). He sits exalted at the right hand of the Father and will one day return with final victory over his enemies, at which time every knee will bow to him and every tongue will confess him as Lord (1 Cor 15:24-28; Php 2:20-11). He is truly the Lord of Glory! A proper understanding of the person of Jesus Christ is what makes the account in John 13 so striking: Q. According to verse 5, what did Jesus do after dinner?
You can imagine how dirty the sandal-clad feet of the average Jew would become as they walked through the dry, dusty paths of their day. It was the humble task of the house servant, or slave, to wash the dust off the feet of visiting guests. The humiliating nature of this task is reflected in Peter’s outrage and refusal to allow Christ to wash his feet (v8). So, why did Christ, the Lord of glory, humble himself to perform the lowly task of a slave? The answer is at least twofold.
First, Jesus was illustrating the need for daily forgiveness. Think of that middle eastern man who washes himself thoroughly in the morning but then sets out on his day with only sandals covering his feet. By the end of the day, he may still be entirely clean – but his feet would be filthy. This is a vivid picture of the daily spiritual walk of the believer.
Although we were cleansed from all of our sin at the moment of salvation, we still sometimes stumble and fall back into sin. This does not mean that we need to “get saved” again. It simply means that we require daily forgiveness in order to maintain our fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:8-10). This daily forgiveness is likened here to daily cleansing. Not of our whole bodies (we don’t need to get saved again), but only our feet (our daily sins). This explains Christ’s words to Peter – “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” But there is another striking object lesson here.
Jesus accepted these titles and claimed them as rightfully his. He was illustrating the utter humility with which we should serve one another. He was not instituting an ordinance of foot washing but rather making the point; if He, Lord and Master is willing to humble himself to perform those duties generally reserved for the lowliest of servants, then how much the more should we (so inferior to Christ), serve one another?
1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
Joining a church requires a willingness to follow the humble example left to us by our Lord. This example is one of humble service toward one another (John 13:1-15). The church is not the place for people to pridefully establish dominance or to create a social pecking order. There should be no jealousy, rivalry or competition in the church (Php 2:3-4). A church is a body of equals who honour one another as better than themselves and sincerely desire to serve one another through love (Matt 23:8; Gal 5:13).