As I am catching up on my Bible reading plan, I have been struck the past couple days by the corporate aspect of the Covenant of Grace. While God certainly deals individually with his people in certain aspects, such as the final judgment when our life’s record will be exposed, it seems to me that God generally deals with his people as a group.
Part of what entails the covenant is God’s unilateral promise to be present with us, all the time. This is one of the greatest promises of all, for God’s presence with us means that God’s favor is upon us. Consider Isaiah 43:1-3:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
God redeemed his people Israel from the enemy. God’s people are not alone to face life’s trials individually because God is with them, and because they are together. When we walk through “rivers” — the struggles of life & death — we will not be overwhelmed because we are united to Christ and united to one another. When we face the refiners “fire” of the last judgment, we will not be burned. Instead, we will dine with one another at the Lord’s Table, at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We face all of life’s joys and trials together, weeping with one another and rejoicing with one another (Rom 12:15).
Scripture often tells us how recognizing God’s presence is the best remedy for fear & anxiety. He is with us! God dwells in his temple, which the Apostle Paul points out is the very body of each and every true believer: “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”(1 Cor 6:19). Side note: this is another example where God deals with his people individually. The point is that He is with His people, individually and corporately.
God is with us all the time, but He is especially noticeable when God’s people gather together. More often than not, God is dealing with a group and not an individual. He dealt with specific tribes of Israel at various times — I noticed this especially in the book of Judges lately. He also deals with Israel as a whole — we see this everywhere from the Exodus to the Exile. He deals with sins corporately. He executes judgment corporately. He administers blessings corporately. Our faith is not an individual faith. It has an individual aspect, for sure — individual responsibilities — but it is a corporate faith.
Understanding this will help us to understand how God tends to operate and how our lives ought to go. The promise of God’s presence is especially true when the Holy Spirit is manifest in a number of believers together. This is why we are told not to neglect gathering with other believers (Heb 10:25), because God often operates in our lives through other believers. We are blessed by God in large part through His people.
And so, brothers & sisters, the application here is clear: don’t try and navigate this life of following Christ alone. It is not intended to be that way. Be the body — be ready to both give and receive the blessings God intends for His people. Are you thinking of someone today, a fellow brother or sister in Christ? Let them know with an encouraging word. Did you pray for them? It would be encouraging to know that, don’t you think? And, instead of indulging in more “me time”, consider how it might be more of a blessing to you and to another person or people whom you might get together with. Don’t you find it more life-giving when you gather with one or more of God’s saints? If you’re not sure, I urge you to give it a try — I challenge you to prove me wrong. More positively, I invite you to discover the abundant life that is found as part of the body of Christ, living life together with others who share your faith.