Understanding Faithfulness – Part 9: Communal Obedience cont’d
- The obedience that characterizes our covenant life must also possess certain attributes if it is to be recognized by God as faithful. Or put another way, it is our commitment to these attributes that is the key to achieving the faithfulness God requires in our obedience.
5.1. Careful [Question being addressed: Can I take risks and be sloppy in my practice of God’s Word and still be considered faithful? No, you must be careful in both your lifestyle and obedience.] (Deu 28:1b) – “If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments”
5.2. Comprehensive [Question being addressed = Can I be selective in what I choose to faithfully obey as commandments necessary to salvation? No, you must comprehensive in your submission to God’s Word.] (Deu 28:1b) – “If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments”
5.3. Confirmed [Question being addressed = Can a person be considered faithful whose obedience has never been tested or when tested, fails? No, faithful obedience refers only to that which has been confirmed through testing.] (Deu 8:1-2) – “You shall remember the whole way the Lord your God had led you…testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”
5.4. Cheerful [Question being addressed = Can I be faithful and yet possess a bad attitude or be unhappy in my obedience? No, you must serve God will cheerfulness.] (Deu 28:47) – “Serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart.”
5.5. Confident [Question being addressed = Can I question the character and competency of God and remain faithful? No, faithfulness requires complete confidence in God.] (Deu 1:21-36) – “wholly followed the Lord”
5.6. Communal [Question be addressed = Can I achieve faithfulness independent of the covenant community? No, faithful obedience is never personal or private. It instead must be learned and practiced by spending time w/the covenant community]. (Pro 18:1)
“isolates” (פרד) [paw-rad] = separate from close relationships with others (e.g. Gen 10:5, 25:23; Est 3:8; Rut 1:17; Psa 22:14; Hos 4:14; LXX – Mat 19:6; 1Co 7:10).
“own desire” (תַּאֲוָה) [taavah] = a selfish, greedy or shameful want (e.g. Num 11:4).
(LXX trans. of Pro 18:1) = “A man wishing to be separate from friends/loved ones w/his time, seeks what is shameful.”
It sb obvious from this single verse that not being committed to – or spending time w/others in the covenant community, is a path that does not end in faithfulness. It is instead exposes one as selfish, greedy or shameful. That being said, support for possessing a communal mindset as it relates to our obedience goes far beyond one verse. The New Testament (especially) is filled w/teaching that directly supports the necessity of communal obedience – (or as stated earlier) an obedience that is learned and practiced by spending time with the covenant community.
5.6.1. The covenant community is the primary place where – and the people from whom, we learn what faithful obedience is – and looks like. IOW: You can’t know what or how to faithfully obey unless you are committed to – and spending time w/the covenant community. Our obedience therefore must be communal in nature. (Act 15:22-28; Deu 17:9-12; Gal 2:1-2; Heb 13:7-9; Phi 3:17, 4:9; Tit 2:1-6). How often God wants us actively pursuing fellowship w/covenant family outside our physical families (Act 2:42- 46; Heb 3:12) = More than just on Sundays. We are to be talking to/spending time/sharing a meal w/our brothers and sisters (especially the mature and her leaders) on frequently throughout each week.
“Spiritual formation [or growth in learning] occurs primarily in the context of the community. People who remain connected to their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding, and they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and their fellow human beings.” – Joseph Hellerman (When The Church Was A Family)
5.6.2. The covenant community is also the primary place where – and the people with whom, we are to practice our obedience:
188.8.131.52. Jesus reveals the covenant community/our Christian brothers and sisters to be the determining factor in distinguishing between true and false disciples (Joh 13:34-35).
184.108.40.206. Paul reveals the covenant community/our Christian brothers and sisters to be the determining factor in regard to fulfilling the law/faithfulness (Rom 13:8-10 w/Lev 19:18 w/Mat 22:39; also Gal 5:14-15 – “bite and devour” = ).
220.127.116.11. The covenant community is Paul’s emphasis when it comes to the issue of being found faithful by God (1Th 3:12) = Notice it is only as we increase in communal obedience that we are considered “blameless” (i.e. faithful).
18.104.22.168. Peter reveals the covenant community/our Christian brothers and sisters to be the determining factor in avoiding a charge of unfaithfulness (i.e. being guilty of a multitude of sin) (1Pe 4:8) – “Above all” = Sitting on top of the list of things we should be giving our attention to is the covenant community, otherwise we may be guilty of sins of omission.
22.214.171.124. Jesus makes it clear that it is impossible to possess salvation without the practice of communal obedience (Mat 19:16-21; Mat 25:31-46 = Jesus recognizes us as His “sheep” is contingent upon our care for those in the church).
126.96.36.199. John makes it clear that it is impossible to possess salvation without the practice of communal obedience (1Jo 3:16-22) = Practicing our obedience in relation to the covenant community thru providing for their needs is how we do “what pleases” God (act in faithfulness) and “reassure our heart before Him” in regard to salvation (see also 4:7-8, 17-18).
“The family of God is where I lose my life in order to gain it.” – Joseph Hellerman
188.8.131.52. James makes it clear that it is impossible to possess saving faith without the practice of communal obedience (Jam 2:14-17) = Notice, the focus of our “works” of obedience in caring for others is again communal – i.e. in relation to those we call “brother or sister”. And our faith is viewed as “dead” or non-saving when our failure is in respect to these people.
“The welfare of the community must take precedence…for we are born for fellowship, and he who sets its claims above his private interests is specially acceptable to God.” – Josephus, Contra Apion, 2.197
“In a church imitating those found in biblical times the person perceives himself or herself to be a member of a group and responsible to the group for his or her actions, destiny, career, development, and life in general. The individual person is embedded in the group and is free to do what he or she feels right and necessary only if in accord with group norms and only if the action is in the group’s best interest. The group has priority over the individual member, and it may use…the members of the group itself to facilitate group oriented goals and objectives.” – B. Malina (Christian Origins And Anthropology)
CLOSING CONTEMPLATION/CHALLENGE: “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb” (Mar 3:31-35). At the end of our life, which family will our actions prove we were most loyal to?
“The loyalty conflict [in Scripture] is not about making a choice between God and people. Rather, it is about choosing between one group of people and another – between our natural family and our eternal family.” – Joseph Hellerman