1 Peter 1:15 “But as He who called you is holy, you be holy in all conduct…”
Peter’s use of the character of God as a basis of appeal to the “pilgrims of the Dispersion” serves us well regarding the fellowship of the saints in a local church. In other words, this appeal has ecclesiastical ramifications. It directly speaks to the health and connection individual people of God are to experience in the context of a local church. It provides a pattern that is both instructive and corrective. The corrective truth is badly needed right now among us.
Three English words from the same root family will help us think through the matter. The words are uncommon, common, and community. The Bible word “holy” is well represented by the word “uncommon.” God is Holy. God is uncommon in the sense that He is distinct from all His creation. He has no equal or ultimate competition. He is “Omni” this and that. He is declared to be UNCOMMON or distinct even when to some degree known by angelic host and men.
Mankind was created to be “uncommon” in the sense that people are cognitively aware, emotionally responsive, and relationally connected in a way that separates them from all other created things on the earth. Man was created to be holy in a way similar to Holy God. But- sin entered! Man still bears God’s “image” but not as before sin. Man’s connection to God was severed (relation and fellowship). The uncommon part of God’s creation (man) does not live in a way that reflects the holiness of the Creator. What was lost in Adam was recovered, and the more, in the Man Jesus Christ. Those of us in Christ are called to live according to the character of our Creator. God is “our Father” and we are to be holy sons on this earth even like unto THE Son of God on earth previously.
People that are called by God to be saints (holy ones) possess something in “common” with God in truth and degree they did not before new birth. They are placed in Christ as holy and are called upon by Peter to live holy during the days of their pilgrimage. When individuals possessing this commonality with God are together in a given place they form a community of saints. While there is certainly more to the definition of a local church than this, at the core this is what a local church is. The local church is a community of saints. The local church is a gathering of uncommon individuals that reflect and represent uncommon God.
Everything healthy and wise in the local church starts logically with “uncommon.” God is uncommon. We are called to be uncommon. The common connection we have in Christ with God and each other is based upon the uncommon. Fellowship in Christ is communion of the uncommon ones that are rightly connected to the uncommon God of heaven and earth. Local churches are geographical communities of uncommon ones.
The biblical pattern then starts with holy God that has secured a holy people that are connected to both a universal and local body (community). The only “binding factor” the local church on earth actually possesses is the commonality of uncommon! The uncommon quality shared is that which is seen in the character of God.
So, if local church is organized or drawn together around anything besides the holy character of God as its basis for fellowship, it is at best unhealthy. The experience of fellowship must be always connected to something held in common. The fellowship of the saints finds its true and blessed experience in the commonality of uncommon. Anything else is a distraction and potentially deceptive.
Many local churches today are distracted and deceived. They commonly rally around a host of lesser things than their Creator and Savior. Attend the typical services and programs in churches of our stripe and you will often see a barrage of man-centered activity and emphasis. The local church reflects its commonality with the world to a greater degree than its “uncommon” commonality with God. We have lost our practical distinctiveness in the local church and often then are relegated to competing with the world around us. We often do the same things the world does- and often they do it better. We often try (badly) to fit into the community of people around us in the world to a greater degree than we seek to connect with those uncommon ones called out of the world.
It’s wise to know the demographics of the people around you in a given place to seek to be sensitive to their cultural likes and dislikes. But if your efforts in making disciples starts with the community around you rather than God above; you will never be biblically healthy. Start with the character of God and our call to be holy. Start with uncommon. Then take note of how the NT saints experienced “all things in common.” The result was a healthy community of saints that shook the community at-large around them in the power and pleasure of God.
As Mark Dever says, “Simply put, we need churches that are self-consciously distinct from the culture. We need churches in which the key indicator of success is not evident results but a preserving biblical faithfulness. We need churches that help us to recover those aspects of Christianity that are distinct from the world, and that unite us.”
The divine order in the local church is uncommon reality, then commonality, then a distinct community within a geographical community.
written by, Pastor T.W. Teall