The Call of Corporate Koinonia (Communion) Part 1

While I have written a great deal about our individual walk with Jesus, there is another element. We do not readily see it in our rather individualistic culture but it was plain in the first century, the beginning of the church and is all over the New Testament if we have eyes to see.

The word for church is ecclesia and it means ‘the called out ones.’ As His body we are called out but the focus is less on what we are called out of and more on what we are called to become. We are not ‘called out’ to escape something but rather we are building material to be made into something. Paul saw this clearly.

19  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 21  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV)

The purpose of our calling is to be corporately be shaped into Jesus dwelling place. This corporate experience can be seen in the early church. I saw something in the scriptures in 1991 that I long to see in our day in a corporate gathering.

It is seen in Acts 4:24-31. The context is the release of Peter and John and the celebration of the corporate body over their release. We do not know how many believers were gathered. Yet, what struck me all those years ago was the first verse in this passage.

 24  So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,” Acts 4:24 (NKJV)

Here we have the body gathered. They had no PowerPoint or overheads, they didn’t all have their scroll handouts. Many of them could likely not read. Yet guided by an unseen hand they raised their voices ‘with one accord,’ as a corporate body and all prayed the same prayer. This is amazing! There was a corporate koinonia that produced this. The word translated as ‘with one accord’ is used 11 times in Acts and each time, whether or good or bad, it refers to a unity of purpose. The first two references are to the unity in the body prior to the release of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14, 2:1).

Will we in corporate gatherings as His body come to a place of corporate koinonia where we are all hearing and expressing the same thing from the Holy Spirit at the same time? After all, in accord with His Father’s heart Jesus prayed for this to happen.

20  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21  that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:20-23 (NKJV)

Intimate One Part 5

In closing this series I have some summary comments. I have expressed the need for intimacy with Jesus and encouraged us to go deeper in our relationship with Him. I have also looked at how we do that with and without scripture. I noted that Jesus said His words were spirit and life and part of experiencing His presence is believing what He said and acting upon it. Now I will look at how we personalize our relationship with scripture.

I think and hope that most Christians have a life verse or verses, scriptures that the Holy Spirit has quickened to us in some way. To help in understanding this I will share one of mine, Isaiah 30:15.

15  For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, Isaiah 30:15 (NKJV)

What the Holy Spirit quickened to me in this verse was one phrase – In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. Had you known me when I was in my late teens or even early twenties you would not have used this verse to describe me. However, I committed my heart to Him at age 25 and He gave me this verse not long after that. As I embraced the life in this verse it began to change me, and now I find it marks much of my life. I draw strength and confidence from Jesus when I get quiet with Him and seek His heart and voice. I don’t even think about this verse much anymore because it has become integrated into who and what I am. His word has nourished and strengthened my spirit and become woven into my soul.

What I experienced in this process is expressed by Peter.

2  as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 1 Peter 2:2 (NKJV)

Peter is saying that when we are born again we need to engage with His life giving word right from the start. When Peter describes it as milk that implies not simply reading it but taking it in. The context for Peter stating this is at the end of chapter 1 where he extols the importance and power of scripture in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

22  Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23  having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24  because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25  But the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:22-25 (NKJV)

Clearly there is life and power in His word (see also Heb. 4:12). While the verse I shared may not work for you, in fact it likely won’t if the Holy Spirit has not quickened it to you, use what He has given you. If you do not have a life verse or verses right now ask Him for them and then as He gives them drink deeply and often that they may shape you into what He has called you be.

Intimate One Part 4

The verses below have much to teach us and I will not try to capture all of it in this post. There is however a key aspect that I will highlight – partaking.

3  as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4  by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:3-4 (NKJV)

Given the word knowledge refers to an experiential rather than theoretical knowledge, let’s look at how it connects to the rest of the passage. We know from verse 3 that everything we need to live a godly life is rooted in knowing Jesus and the Father. So, read it this way. ‘The Father’s divine power has imparted to us all we need to live a godly life. It comes from knowing Him.’  We are called to share in or partake of the divine nature.

So consider the ‘partaking’ process. When I get up in the morning I partake of breakfast. I ingest physical food for my physical body. When I simply sit with and experience Jesus I partake of His divine nature. Think of what Jesus said regarding the experience with the woman from Samaria.

31  In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32  But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” John 4:31-32 (NKJV)  

In context, Jesus had just told the Samaritan woman who came to the well to draw water that He could give her ‘living ‘water.’ He was referring to drinking of the Holy Spirit. In verses 31-32 Jesus was obliquely telling His disciples that His encounter with the woman at the well and her response to Him had fed His spirit.

In the church context we can feed our spirit on His word and worship but we can also feed it via direct experience with the Holy Spirit.

48  “I am the bread of life. 49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51  I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” 52  The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” 53  Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” John 6:48-57 (NKJV)

63  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63 (NKJV)

67  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68  But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” John 6:67-69 (NKJV)

Those in the church who believe that the communion elements magically become the body and blood of Jesus are missing the point of what Jesus taught. The early Quakers were a true spiritual movement and they didn’t practice communion using physical elements, not that we can’t. They believed the elements represented a spiritual reality and so practiced receiving in their spirits from the Holy Spirit by sitting with Him and seeking to receive.

Perhaps you have tried sitting before Him and encountering Him in your spirit and it seemed like nothing happened. Fine, try again. Embrace this saying, ‘The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running.’ As I write this I have just returned from a long walk with my wife. For me those are times of conversation and also reflective times and times of encounter with Jesus.

At times during the walk I found myself thinking about the Trinity, at other times quietly singing a worship song under my breath and at other times quietly worshipping in tongues or interceding for people. In the process I was both feeding my spirit and releasing what has been sown into it. This is a regular experience for me. This particular one took place on the beach but it regularly happens hiking in the mountains or walking the dog. My heart is drawn to worship and interact with Jesus. Prior to my retirement from fulltime work I also had these experiences at times while working. We can interact on two levels.     

This fruit I currently experience has long been a regular experience and is paired with long seasons of sowing. At the same time, in the beach walk I referenced above there were other factors that could distract. I have very painful plantar fasciitis in one heel and torn cartilage in my other knee (I often feel two pieces of cartilage moving around and at times they jam between the bones, it isn’t enjoyable). Yet, for the most part during this walk and regularly, I am only tangentially aware of these things because my heart is drawn into communion with Him and that is my focus.

So, pursue communion with the one who is spirit and life and enjoy the journey of obeying Peter’s injunction, “be partakers of the divine nature.”

Intimate One Part 3

If you have been a Christian for any length of time you have likely heard this verse quoted.

9  “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)

Tragically, this verse is rather popular in evangelical circles. I say tragically because we misapply it. Recently a Christian leader used this verse in a blog post to talk about how we could not trust our hearts. I commented on his post, thanked him for the other aspects, and suggested he rethink his understanding of heart based on what the New Testament (NT) teaches. I also provided support from scripture.

I say that because Jeremiah was writing and speaking to unregenerate individuals. To understand our hearts let’s look at the NT perspective instead.

8  So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9  and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Acts 15:8-9 (NKJV)

5  For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (NKJV)

33  “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34  Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matthew 12:33-35 (NKJV)

So, we can see in the NT that when we come to Jesus our hearts are purified. We also see that the place we are called to encounter Jesus is in our hearts. That is where we experience, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Lastly we are to fellowship with Jesus in our hearts and bring forth from our heart good things, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things.” That seems to be what Jesus modeled. He fellowshipped with His Father in His heart then released what came out of those encounters. You know, simple things like the Sermon on the Mount.  

The important part in this is understanding how to encounter Jesus in our hearts. I am a big fan of reading the scriptures. It has been my daily practice for decades. However, that will not in and of itself lead me to encounter Jesus in an intimate way. In fact what if I don’t have or know the scriptures and am seeking intimacy with Jesus.

Imagine I am a Gentile living in AD 40. I don’t know the Hebrew Scriptures and I was converted under the preaching of Phillip while getting something for my master in the market, I am a slave after all. Now I need to develop an intimate relationship with Jesus. I can’t read my bible because I don’t have one, secondly, like most of the population I am illiterate. Oops, I can’t apply the 20th or 21st Century models of ‘pray and read your bible’ to get to know Jesus. I think that is why Paul told Timothy to pay attention to the public reading of scripture, it was the only way most Christians were going to hear any (1 Tim. 4:13).

There must be another way and there is. Jesus is dwelling in my heart and I can access His voice and presence there. I heard Phillip talk about Proverbs 14:33 (wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding). Not that Phillip provided chapter and verse, after all the scriptures didn’t have chapters and verses then. I also heard one of my fellow believers mention that Jesus had been made unto us wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30).

At my conversion I learned that He now lives in me so knowing that and these two ideas from scripture I begin to thank Jesus that He lives in my heart. When I awake I seek to get still and quiet and ask Him to speak to my heart. While working in the garden I seek to pay attention to His presence. I can’t weigh everything I sense on my own but I can practice corporate discernment with my fellow believers when I meet them in the market ((1 Cor. 14:26-33, 1 Thess. 5:19-21). Given I am a slave I don’t get a day off to attend a home fellowship so I have to embrace it where I find it. Over time I find myself becoming more conscious of Jesus in me and find myself exercising greater wisdom throughout the day (Rom. 8:14).  

While the scenario I have painted is strange if we look at it from the perspective of our modern culture, I believe it was common in the first century AD. So here is my encouragement, reflect on this scenario, imagine yourself in it and practice encountering Jesus in your heart. Get quiet, focus on Him and see what happens to your intimacy with Him.

Next week back to 2 Peter 1 and looking at how we partake of Jesus.

NOTE – My point is not to minimize the importance of scripture. Down through the centuries many believers laid down their lives to preserve them. Rather I want to highlight that the scriptures are a means to intimacy with Jesus, not a substitute, and that down through the centuries many had to find a way to encounter Jesus without access to the scriptures in any meaningful way.