To be a Christian, one needs to be part of the Church of Christ, in both body and spirit. Individualism within the Church is just not a Biblical characteristic or position, and is against the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God. There are no “Lone Rangers” in the Bible. Yet despite this, we have an excess of individualism in the Church today.
Paul makes our position as born-again Christian very clear, as in Romans 12:3-5 he likens Christians to parts of a body, with Christ as the Head. And like all body parts, when separated form the body, we die:
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. But set your mind to be right-minded, even as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.
For even as we have many members in one body, and all members do not have the same function, so we the many are one body in Christ, and each one members of one another.”
Individualism in the Church, as Paul warns, leads to the sin of pride, of thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. Being humble, is the calling for all Christians; as Jesus Himself explains in Matthew 23:12 that “whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he who shall humble himself shall be exalted”and as Peter in First Peter 5:5 also warns: “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
This was also borne out in the actions of Jesus, in for example Luke 10:1 where,
“… after these things the Lord appointed seventy others, And He sent them two and two before His face into every city and place where He was about to come.”
This is a corporate decision by Jesus in support of the Church corporate, confirming that within the Church, we should not and do not, act alone, or independently of others. We are part of the Body of Christ and for our own good and benefit, we need to co-operate with other member of the Church. This does not mean that we duplicate their work, for each part of the body has a special purpose and special gifting with which they can work effectively for the benefit of all. No one part is more important than another part, just different. If all are teachers, who shall evangelise for new disciples? If all are evangelists, who shall teach the new disciples? As Paul continues in Romans 12:6-8
“Then having gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, if prophecy, according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, in the ministry; or he who teaches, in the teaching; or he who exhorts, in the encouragement; or he who shares, in simplicity; or he who takes the lead, in diligence; or he who shows mercy, in cheerfulness.”
As Acts 3:16b adds about faith, it is also given according to the needs of the individual in the fulfilment of the Kingdom purpose given them: “And the faith which came through Him has given him this perfect soundness before you.” Thus, as spiritual gifts are given according to God’s purpose, so too is the gift of faith, such that whatever our function in the Body of Christ, it can be made perfect in Christ and to the benefit of the whole.
Anything which God deemed relevant and necessary for us, is included in the Bible. For of the Word of God, as Psalm 138:2 says: “You have magnified Your Word above all Your name.” That is how important it is to God. He hold His Word higher than His name. It should be as important to us too, His children. Thus what God speak to us in the Bible, it is important and we must pay attention. When He then repeats it, it becomes Very Important. To have His word repeated 12 times is therefore something quite exceptional and something which we must understand. Twelve (12) in the Bible, is important, irrespective of the theme or topic for the numbered points. In the first instance it means unity and completeness, which had been sanctioned by Divine election; and it retains this significance when applied to the spiritual Israel, with Philo even calling it a “perfect number”.
What is it that is relevant to being part of the Body of Christ that is repeated 12 times? It is the little phrase “Let us,” which is repeated 12 times in the Book of Hebrews as follows:
|Hebrews 4:1||“Therefore, a promise being left to enter into His rest, let us fear lest any of you should seem to come short of it.”|
|Hebrews 4:11||“Therefore let us labour to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of unbelief.”|
|Hebrews 4:14||“Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.”|
|Hebrews 4:16||“Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”|
|Hebrews 6:1||“Therefore, having left the discourse of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to full growth, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.”|
|Hebrews 10:22||“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies having been washed with pure water.”|
|Hebrews 10:23||“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful who promised).”|
|Hebrews 10:24||“and let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works.”|
|Hebrews 12:1||“Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”|
|Hebrews 12:28||“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”|
|Hebrews 13:13||“Therefore let us go forth to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”|
|Hebrews 13:15||“By Him, then, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, confessing His name.”|
What the writer of Hebrews is saying very, very clearly, is that being a Christian is not about self, but about the entire Body of Christ. The text does not say, nor can be interpreted to say “Let me”. It is in the plural and says “Let us,” meaning the inclusion of all the other members of the Church, together with us.
Let us consider what these verses mean for us, as individual members of the body, of Church of Christ, and what we should learn from this teaching:
Hebrews 4:1 – The corporate body wants to ensure that no part is left behind. Each part of the body is important to the true and correct operation of the whole. Jesus wants all of us to come into His rest and enter eternity.
Hebrews 4:11 – It is very easy for born-again Christians to be “burnt out” trying to do things alone and in the flesh, rather than with the rest of the Body and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. When burn-out occurs, unbelief easily sets in and the person suffers from backsliding and apostasy, turning their back on Jesus and His Church. For as Second Peter 2:21 says: “it would have been better for them not to have fully known the way of righteousness, than fully knowing it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.” God does not suffer backsliders lightly.
Hebrews 4:14 – We are warned that we will suffer persecution as Christians, just as Christ did. However, with the support of our fellow Christians, we can better stand against the oppression which may well come our way. We can know that we are not alone, in either the flesh or the spirit, and that both the flesh and the Spirit, are praying for us.
Hebrews 4:16 – We are asked to come boldly to the throne of Grace that we may attain mercy and grace in times of need, for as Jesus says in Matthew 18:20“where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” Corporate prayer is therefore to be recommended, as it is effective. Then, when one Christian prays or suffers, other can intercede alongside that brother or sister, ensuring Jesus, our Heavenly Priest, is there with us in person.
Hebrews 6:1 – Living in the company of our peers and those more accomplished than ourselves, will ensure that we will keep growing in Christ and not repeating the errors of our past, which we have already overcome at the cost of great pain and effort.
Hebrews 10:22 – Keeping to the narrow path and overcoming temptation is easier when one is surrounded with like minded people; likeminded brothers and sisters in Christ who can support us when we fall or struggle. As humans, we tend to adopt the characteristics and traits of the group in which we dwell and surround ourselves. Socialising with Christians, helps us overcome the enemy.
Hebrews 10:23 – When we are wavering, it is very helpful to have a group around us for support. That way, we can be assured that we can stand and defend that which we must publically profess, in deeds and actions.
Hebrews 10:24 – Looking out for and loving one another in a large group takes our eyes and thoughts of self and selfishness. When we do this, good works are sure to ensue and love, agape love, will rule in our lives.
Hebrews 12:1 – When we are surrounded with Christian friends who are looking out for our best interests, this allows us to more easily lay aside the temptations of the enemy with greater ease, as we have both role models and mentors all around us. This way, we can concentrate on our race and keep our eyes on God, not our efforts to overcome temptation.
Hebrews 12:28 – When a large group are working together in focussed unity for Christ, it is easier for the individuals of the group to exercise grace; first within the groups, then to outsiders. Then we begin to live in reverence and Godly fear, as we experience firsthand, the vulnerability of offering grace to others, with no strings attached.
Hebrews 13:13 – When we are part of a larger group, we can go out and evangelise and carry our God’s Great Commission, with assurance that back home, we are covered by the prayers of the saints.
Hebrews 13:15 – Alone, we cannot continually raise prayer, thanksgiving and supplication to God. In a group, we can so arrange, praying, for example, on 24 hour roasters. Indeed, the Moravian Community of Herrnhut in Saxony, in 1727, commenced a round-the-clock “prayer watch” which continued nonstop for over one hundred years and by 1791, 65 years after commencement of that prayer vigil, this small community had sent 300 missionaries to the ends of the earth. A wonderful and remarkable example indeed, of fulfilling all the 12 “Let us” verses of the Book of Hebrews.
Yes, the Book of Hebrews in its 12 “Let us” verses, speaks to the vert heart of what it is to be a Christian in today’s Church. We need to both learn and apply these imperatives in our own lives, and in the lives of our Churches.