The truth is that we can’t fully know Christ as an individual. We know Him fully through the new creation. That is, we know Him through His Body. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17.
This understanding changed everything for me. Throughout my years of living in church life, I began to understand that my brothers and sisters in Christ were parts of Christ, and I learned to listen to my Lord through them. I also discovered that the Lord is constantly speaking. And He speaks through His own even at times when they are unaware of it.
If this is true . . . and I assure you it is . . . then how well we know the Lord depends on how connected we are to the other parts of His Body.
(This principle would also include what Christ has revealed to members of His Body in the past. Therefore, whenever I hear Christians make the claim that “99.9% of all I read is the Bible,” I cringe. Every person I’ve ever met who has made that claim was grossly imbalanced. And for good reason. Rightly understanding the Bible requires an interpretive community.)
My journey into Body life taught me that the Christian life, in its core essence, is living by another life. It’s living by Christ. But it’s not simply living only by the Lord who indwells me. It’s also living by the Lord who indwells my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I live by the Lord who is in me, and I live by the Lord who is in my fellow brethren. God has designed it that way. Consequently, if we will know our Lord deeply, we must be connected to other members of the Body of Christ in a concrete way. And it doesn’t hurt at all to include in that mix exposure to the great teachers of the past whom God has gifted to reveal Christ to His church.
All my Christian life I’ve met believers who had their own private spiritual walk with the Lord. They never knew Christian community, yet they had an extremely strong devotional life. Every person who fit that bill, in my experience at least, was lopsided in some arena of their lives. The reason? They didn’t avail themselves of the balancing of the Body.
No Christian is wired to live an individualistic Christian life. Without Christian community, we cannot grow normally in the spiritual life. We were designed to live with other Christians and receive their spiritual portion. If you doubt this, please read 1 Corinthians 12 with this possibility in mind.
Even so, there is another lesson I learned which seems to be a little known fact about how the Lord operates. I personally believe it’s God’s way of dealing with the spirit of elitism which He dislikes so much.
When we first meet the Lord, He makes Himself quite irresistible to us. He wins us over with His charm. He conquers our heart with His unconditional love. He draws us near to Himself by His passion. And we fall in love.
If we come into a higher vision of His purpose, we get connected with other believers. We then begin to know Him together, and we pursue Him corporately. (Regrettably, many Christians never know this experience.)