Monday, April 12, 2010

Ecclesiological Nobodies, or Spiritual Somebodies?

Paul, the author of Romans, who was imminently qualified and inspired by God to write of the realities of God's initiative for us through the person and work of Christ (Chapters 1-11), and what that meant for our relation to the kingdom of God and to each other (Chapters 12-16), was somebody.

Other than for a few directed greetings in Chapter 16, Paul does not name a single person to whom he is actually writing. The audience in Rome, those called of God to belong to Christ, those called to be saints, are nobodies.

Yet the imminent author of Romans, intimately acquainted with the truth of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit, says something radical about who these nobodies really are.

"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you -- that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine" (Romans 1:11-12).

He is not saying that he is going to provide them some gift of the Spirit that isn't already manifested in them. The Holy Spirit does that. What he is saying is that this somebody and the nobodies to whom he writes will be "mutually encouraged" by the respective manifestations of the Spirit that they possess through faith in Christ.

These nobodies, then, aren't nobodies at all, but are the called, the saints, the "belongers" to Christ (verse 6) through whom the Spirit himself works. They are somebody because God had promised the gospel, because Christ secured grace, and because the Spirit demonstrated power in his resurrection (verses 2-5).

Paul and his Roman readers would strengthen each other and edify the body of Christ by manifesting the Holy Spirit to each other.

Do our gatherings for worship, for Bible study, for discipleship exhibit this same expectation? Are the dividing lines of race, class, wealth obliterated by mutual reliance on the Spirit and the realization that we are all the worse spiritually without true fellowship with other believers, regardless of their "importance" in the eyes of the world?

Like Paul we should "long to see" other believers so that the Spirit will do his sanctifying work of edification through us.

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