The Messy Beauty of Gospel Community
Over the past decade, the term “gospel community” has grown popular. But what does “gospel community” actually mean? It’s become one of those phrases that we may hear a lot or even say a lot, but do we know what it means? As we live life alongside one another in the local church, we need to grasp what the Bible tells us about how we live well with one another.
Gospel Community Defined
First, when we talk about being a gospel community, we mean that we are a community that is formed and sustained by the gospel. In Titus 2, Paul writes that Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14 ESV). The Apostle Paul points to the gospel—the good news that Jesus gave himself to redeem and purify a people for himself. Those who respond in faith to that good news are made part of God’s people. We are literally brought into the family of Jesus Christ.
By “gospel community,” we also mean that we are a community that is centered on the gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ is our focus. We look to Christ, follow Christ, and are excited about Christ. Everything we do comes back to Jesus and points to his life-changing message.
Why Gospel Community Matters
Once we understand what it is, we can understand why it matters. Why does it matter that God has brought you, Christian, into his people? Why is the church so important?
We see the answer clearly in 1 Timothy 3.
“…if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)
Paul describes the church as the “pillar and foundation of the truth.” God uses his church to uphold and proclaim the gospel to the world. He sets them on a mission in the world. The manifold wisdom of God is made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. God’s people declare to the world the glory of the Lord Jesus. Through this gospel community, God’s love is made manifest, God’s mission is accomplished, and God’s people are transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
So it matters that we are saved into this thing we call “gospel community”—the church of God—because God reveals his glory to his people and through his people.
How We Live as Gospel Community
How does God reveal his glory in and through his people? Through the ways we live with and relate to one another in this community of faith.
Perhaps one of the best pictures of this is the early church found in Acts 2.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-27)
This devotion to one another is counter-cultural. It’s a devotion to one another fueled by the gospel and a love for Jesus. Therefore, the first way we should live as a gospel community with one another is to cultivate our own love for God. Adoration leads to transformation; the way we live with one another is transformed by growing awe for the Lord.
The second way we should live as a gospel community is to love one another in both word and deed. We should actively live out the “one another’s” of Scripture. The New Testament contains around 60 “one another” commands given to Christians. For example:
- In John 13, Jesus tells his disciples to love one another, explaining that their love will testify to the world that they are his disciples.
- Romans 12:10 urges us to be devoted to one another in love.
- In Galatians 5:13, Paul instructs the Galatians to serve one another in love.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11 repeatedly call us to encourage or build up one another.
These “one another” commands are more than just nice ways to relate to each other. Going back to Jesus’ words in John 13, these “one another’s” are about neighbor love. They are about displaying a Kingdom ethic to one another and the world. As Christians, we have a different way of life and a different way of relating to one another in how we unite around the gospel. When we forgive one another, it points us to God’s ultimate forgiveness through Christ. When we serve one another, we are reminded of Christ who came to serve.
The “one another’s” are also a means of neighbor-love to those who are not followers of Jesus. In John 13, Jesus explains that the way we love one another is a testimony to the world about our Savior and Lord. It is a radically different love displayed through radically ordinary means. This love on display invites the watching world to come inside, follow Jesus, and become part of his family.
For an extended list of the “one another” passages, see this page.
The Glory of Gospel Community
This is why gospel community matters. God has saved us into a family, so let us be family. May we seek to be “one another Christians” who display the love of Christ in the way that we love and serve one another as a gospel community. Not every family is perfect, and the church on this side of eternity is no different. But we have a perfect Savior who is actively working in us to transform us—together—from one degree of glory to another.
Trevor is originally from Oklahoma and serves on staff at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Mid-America Christian University as well as a master’s degree and a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a fan of good coffee, bookstores, and superheroes. Trevor and his wife, Ashley, raise their daughters in Wake Forest.