How do you relate to other churches, especially ones that hold to different secondary issues? Are you quick to judge on non-essentials? Or do you see them as part of Christ’s body, belonging to Him? Isn’t it true: how we related to Christ’s body is how we relate to Christ?
And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ
It would sound strange if we start referring to churches as being “in Christ.” For example Christ Community Church that is in Christ, or Times Square Church that is in Christ, or Brooklyn Tabernacle that is in Christ. Yet, that’s how Paul referred to the churches of Judea.
While there may have been literary, historical, or customary reasons for doing so, which may not necessarily be entirely applicable in this day and age, Paul conveyed the truth and reality that’s still fully relevant. Do we realize that significance?
Obviously, Paul didn’t refer to churches as buildings—believers would actually meet in homes. Furthermore, the Greek word for church means “called out ones.” Everyone whom God has called “into the fellowship of his Son” (1 Cor. 1:9) is part of the church—Christ’s body—both locally and universally. This calling is a calling “to belong to Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6).
As mentioned before, Paul could have easily omitted “that are in Christ,” while still keeping the same meaning: “And I was still unknown in person to the churches [called out ones] of Judea.” Yet, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he added: “That are in Christ.”
It’s no wonder, though, that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to add those four words. The Holy Spirit is the One who testifies of Jesus (see John 15:26) and glorifies Him (see John 16:14). The fact that local churches are “in Christ” isn’t an irrelevant addition. Those whom God has called out and make up a local church have been chosen “in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). They have been graciously and purposely set apart.
That’s why it’s important to be careful how we communicate about other churches or our own. Paul referred to the Corinthian church, who had major problems, as “the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2). Also, Jesus addressed the seven churches in Revelation and sincerely expressed His love for the one that was lukewarm (see Rev. 3:19).
Local churches are “in Christ.” That’s eternally significant. That’s how we are to see and relate to them, even when there are problems and issues, for Jesus considers them as part of His body.
The Devotional Writer
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