“Ancient-Future Faith” Robert Webber
This is why the church as a fellowship in faith emphasizes the divine presence taking form in a new fabric of human relationships—a fellowship of people. This fellowship shares a corporate life. For example, Luke describes the early Christians as being of “one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32). They even sold their possessions and lived in common, although, as the rebellion of Ananais and Sapphira illustrates, this original common community was difficult to administrate. Living together was not easy, and the principles of being the church together had to be learned as each member of the community submitted to the rule of Christ. But faith in the end was to overcome the boundaries that separated people, transcending racial, economic, and sexual differences. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). The character of the “fellowship in faith” is to be far different from the character of other communities.
The difference is rooted in a common slavery to Jesus Christ. The image of a slave, so often overlooked, is an image that Paul often used of himself in relation to other believers, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). A slavery to God immediately transforms relations on the horizontal level. No longer can one person “lord it” over another. All God’s people are equal before God and each other. For this reason the church is called the “family of God” (1 Peter 4:17). We all serve in God’s house under God’s authority. Thus, the church is a fellowship in faith, a corporate existence under God, a mutual slavery to each other.
The church as the realized experience of the “fellowship of faith” will break down our extreme individualism. Modern individualism is something different from a personal relationship with God in Christ. It is a form of Christianity that fails to understand the integral relationship that exists between the members of Christ’s body. We need to reflect on the teaching of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (A.D. 110), who wrote to the Ephesian church: “your accord and harmonious love is a hymn to Jesus Christ.” When the “fellowship in faith” is actualized, the church as a true fellowship makes Christianity real to the individual, as Ignatius indicated when he described the church “as a choir able to sing in unison and [with] one voice.” The mandate to break through the faÁade of individualism and create dynamic Christian relationships is demonstrated in this new fabric of human relations.
Consequently, the challenge of the church in the postmodern world is to recover community within the local church and the community of the entire church throughout history. We must learn that we are members of the whole church, the living and the dead, who constitute the fellowship in faith. Our calling is to deconstruct our sectarianism and to enter into dialogue with the whole church with the intent of recovering our relationship to the whole family of God—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. The more we experience the “fellowship in faith,” the more deeply we will experience the church as the body of Christ, a body that will attract and hold the postmodern seeker.
Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Faith : Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 79-81.
- Acts 4:32-37
- Galatians 3:26-29
- 2 Corinthians 4:5-6
- 1 Peter 4:16-17
We, as followers f Jesus, are called to live in community and for community (church). If you really took this challenge seriously, how would it change the way you practice your faith on a daily and weekly basis? What do you need to give up? What do you need to embrace?
- Week 1 Devotional
- Week 2 Devotional
- Week 3 Devotional
- Week 4 Devotional
- Week 5 Devotional