Relevant Biblical Passages: Matthew 16:13-20; 18:15-20; 28:19-20; Acts 4, 5, 7, 8, 20
Importance of the Church in the Cosmic Conflict. Ironically, those who emphasize Pauline theology in our modern era, often taken a very individualistic view of salvation. The result can be a tragic neglect of the doctrine of the church, a theme which Paul emphasized a great deal, especially in his Corinthian letters. In considering the role of the church in the cosmic conflict, the following aspects are especially important:
1. Love Learned in Community: 1 Cor. 12-13. If self-sacrificing love is the crucial turning point in the cosmic conflict, then a community where that love can be learned and shared becomes absolutely essential. Is this implied when Paul follows the great chapter on the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) with the great chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13)?
2. Power of Shared Values: Acts 1:7-8. When love is learned in community (and where else can it be learned?), the result is increased power to touch people’s lives for good, both within the community and without. Is the same power possible when individuals remain isolated from each other?
3. Mission: Matt. 18:19-20. It was to the community that Jesus gave the great gospel commission. In what ways can the church serve in the cosmic conflict? Does it play a role which is different than that played by individuals?
4. A touch of history: Acts 1-8. When we are tempted to be discouraged by the state of the church, it is well to remember the challenges faced by the first Christians. The following incidents are worth pondering:
- Acts 4:1-3: Peter and James in prison.
- Acts 5:1-11: Ananias and Sapphira
- Acts 7:54-60: Stoning of Stephen
- Acts 8:3-4: Saul’s persecution of the church
Crucial Question: If the church is to play a key role in the conclusion of the great battle, how can that role be defined? Does God want to look at the community in the same way as he looked at Job the individual?