Christian Community Formation

The Necessary Church


Pauline ethics is fundamentally ecclesial in character for St. Paul sees the church as inheriting the corporate vocation of God's covenant people, Israel.

He is concerned with defining and maintaining a corporate identity for his young churches, which were to be countercultural communities. His letters should be read primarily as instruments of community formation, for God is at work through the Spirit to create communities that prefigure and embody the reconciliation and healing of the world.

This runs counter to much of our emphasis and sometimes too-narrow reading of Scripture as if it concerns only one's personal life, primarily individual ethics and morality, and the related idea of one having 'one's own personal Saviour.' Yes, we may, we must commit personally to Christ in repentance and faith, trusting His saving Work of ourselves and of the world, yet much of our thoughts about individuality (including the stress on individual rights) in the Western world owes more to the humanistic philosophies of the Enlightenment, more, say, to the writings of such as Jean Jacques Rousseau, than to the Scriptures. The Church is not a democracy, but a theocracy, where Jesus is Lord and God is King.

God see things whole - clans, cultures, 'the peoples' of the earth (as well as having a personal love for each of us). Most of the New Testament letters of St. Paul are written to 'you' (i.e. plural). The idea of making a 'personal commitment,' of having a merely individual morality and ethic is alien - or is at least not primary in New Testament thinking, and as well in most world cultures still today, except in the West.

There is no salvation outside of Christ and 'in Christ' we join in a Body, a Community of believers, the Church, who together, around the world and through the ages, as the whole People of God, enter into God's salvic purposes.


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