No Church, No Hope

“Therefore, remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called ‘the circumcision,’ which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12).

Hope is remembered, worshipped and obeyed in community. Our connection to hope is sustained and deepened through the people of God. Further, the community of faith is entrusted with proclaiming the message of hope to the world. To be “alienated” from God’s people is to exist without hope.

Christ is the Master Builder of the people of God.[1] He forms the foundation and builds it brick by brick.[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer observes that our connection to Christ determines our connection to one another. Hope himself binds us.

“What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. This is true not merely at the beginning, as though in the course of time something else were to be added to our community; it remains so for all the future and to all eternity. I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, for eternity.”[3]

We are gathered together through Hope and for hope. Bonhoeffer argues that the community of faith should be engaged in three key disciplines: 1) preaching the good news of hope to each other; 2) preaching the good news of hope to the world; 3) preaching the good news of hope to ourselves.[4]

God works hope into our souls through the people of God. He sustains hope through others. He reminds us of the hope to which we belong through a fellow believer. The church is the light of the world, a city set on a hill, a fellowship of hope.

The church exists to wage war on hopelessness. It is through the proclamation of the church that we are pulled from despair and transferred to the kingdom of hope. It is our task to bring this hope-giving word to the world around us. The church is a bastion of hope, without it we are lost.

[1] Matthew 16:18

[2] 1 Peter 2:4-6

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (Harper One: San Francisco, 2009), 21.

[4] Ibid, 32. “Christians are persons who no longer seek their salvation, their deliverance, their justification in themselves, but in Jesus Christ alone. They know that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them guilty, even when they feel nothing of their own guilt, and that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them free and righteous, even when they feel nothing of their own righteousness … [So] ‘they watch for this Word wherever they can. Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again … The Christ in their own hearts is weaker than the Christ in the word of other Christians. Their own hearts are uncertain; those of their brothers and sisters are sure. At the same time, this also clarifies that the goal of all Christian community is to encounter one another as bringers of the message of salvation’” (emphasis mine).

 

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