What does it mean to be God’s people? This will be the question at the center of our studies at the Harbor throughout this semester.
It’s a question that is tough to answer. Western culture places a huge emphasis on human beings as autonomous individuals, free to make their own way in the world. This individualism colors the way we see concepts like freedom, calling, and Christianity itself. Some Christians believe we ought to interpret the Bible to best fit our own lives and contexts. In recent years, several authors and speakers have advocated “living your truth boldly,” suggesting that even truth is individualized.
Certainly the Christian Gospel is a personal message—Jesus Christ works in and through each one of those who believe in and follow him. But the Bible, from start to finish, both Old Testament and New, is less concerned with individuals; the Bible is fundamentally the story of God working in the world through his people.
The word used for “church” in the New Testament is the Greek word ekklesia; it means “the called out ones.” God’s people, throughout time, have been those who are called out to be set apart so they may worship God and bear his image in the world. It is clear throughout Scripture that the ekklesia is never intended to be a loose connection of Christians who check in with each other now and then. It’s a family, a body, made up of all those who know God, all over the world, past, present, and future. When we read Revelation 7:9’s picture of “every nation, tribe, and tongue” gathered around the throne of God, singing praise to the Holy One, we recognize what the Church is meant to be, not just in the life to come, but right now.
According to the Bible, there is no such thing as following God outside of being a part of God’s people. When we put our trust in Jesus, we become a member of the Church. The Gospel is deeply personal, but it is not individual. Yet, we can reject this idea and try to function as a “lone ranger” Christian, building our life around a me-and-Jesus worldview. Indeed, many have, and though their salvation is not called into question, we must wonder how much one can live the abundant life Jesus speaks of when remaining outside of his design for the lives of his people.
If we embrace this teaching—that the body of Christ is meant to function together, that God is calling a people, not a bunch of persons—we are faced with a host of questions. What is required of us as God’s people? What does this mean for the various parts of our lives—relationships, academics, work, ethics, hobbies, family, politics? What does this mean for local churches, and what benefit is there to being a part of one?
In our studies at the Harbor this fall, we will see the way God assembles his people, and who he calls them to be. We’ll start in the Old Testament book of Exodus, exploring the way God rescues the nation of Israel, forms them into his people, and calls them to be set apart to worship him and bear his image in the world. Later, we’ll jump through the pages of Scripture to the New Testament book of Acts, the story of the formation of the Church, made up of those who become God’s people through uniting with Jesus in his death and resurrection.
In each of our studies, we will wrestle with the way God answers our questions in his Word. And we will seek not simply to fill our heads with theology and theoretical ideas, but to let God mold us, the Harbor, into a community marked as his people, pursuing Christ together, and loving our campus in his Name. Join us each Wednesday!