Thursday, November 17, 2005

Life Together Under the Word

I have taken the title from a phrase in "Life Together" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Here are a few excerpts from his very profound description of true Christian community, p.18 and following:

"I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries", Zech. 10:9. According to God's will, Christendom is a scattered people, scattered like seed "into all the kingdoms of the earth", Dt. 18:25. That is its curse and its promise. God's people must dwell in far countries among the unbelievers, but it will be the seed of the Kingdom of God in all the world.
" I will......gather them, for I have redeemed them...and they shall return", Zech. 10:8, 9. When will that happen? It has happened in Jesus Christ, who died "that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad", John 11:52, --and it will finally occur visibly at the end of time when the angels of God "shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other", Mt. 24:31. Until then, God's people remain scattered, held together solely in Jesus Christ, having become one in the fact that, dispersed among unbelievers, they remember Him in the far countries.
......So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God's Word and Sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands, stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing. They remember, as the Psalmist did, how they went "with the the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday", Ps 41:4. But they remain alone in far countries, a scattered seed according to God's will. Yet what is denied them as an actual experience, they seize upon more fervently in faith. Thus the exiled disciple of the Lord, John the Apocalyptist, celebrates in the loneliness of Patmos the heavenly worship with his congregations "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day", Rev. 1:10.......This is the heavenly fellowship, shared by the exiles on the day of his Lord's resurrection.
.....The resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected fellowship of God's spiritual-physical creatures.
.....It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us.....It is grace, nothing but grace that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.
......No Christian community is more or less than this. Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ....
What does this mean?.......that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ.
.....When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of men. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him. .......He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ.
And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community. Their fellowship is founded solely upon Jesus Christ and this "alien righteousness". All we can see, therefore, is the community of Christians springs solely from......justification of man through grace alone.....this alone is the basis of the longing of Christians for one another.
....A Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. Among men there is strife. "He is our peace". .......The way is blocked by our own ego.......Only in Jesus Christ are we one, only through Him are we bound together....." (end of the quote from Bonhoeffer.)
As we contemplate what Bonhoeffer wrote, let us pray that the Lord will grant us vision from these Scripture passages, and that we will "seize upon" these fervently in faith~

"But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling...." Heb. 12:22 - 24.
and Hebrews 13:14, "For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come."

From 2 Peter 3: 12, 13~ "Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat....
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Rev. 22:20

~Desert Pilgrim


Ted M. Gossard said...

Desert Pilgrim,

Thanks for sharing this. I need to get Bonhoeffer's "Life Together".


Desert Pilgrim said...

Yes, it is a very good book, reminding us how true it is that when "two or three" are gathered, there He is in the midst of us. It seems to be the way it is these days, that it often comes down to twos and threes, and what a great blessing that is when the gathering is really flowing in His Spirit.
~Desert Pilgrim.