How important is community to a relationship with God?

The Stone and The Stones

The Apostle Peter wrote a letter to all the churches in Asia Minor where he told their members,“You are precious stones!” Hear that! Peter called the people of God “precious stones”.

Here is the full quote:

As you come to Him, the living stone, who was rejected by mankind but chosen by God and precious to him, so you also are like living stones that are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

The cornerstone proverb is shaping up to be at the heart of the resurrection vision of the New Testament. The proverb is quoted six times in the New Testament, always in reference to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The cornerstone is just the beginning. The larger vision is of stones on top of the stone. The people of God take their bearings and their marker from Jesus, first and foremost with Him as the central foundation stone.  However, the proper alignment of ones life is not merely to the person and work of Jesus. Our lives are to be incorporated first into Christ and second into the people of God. Our bearings start with centering our individual lives on the Chief Cornerstone, but then we are to be incorporated into a larger structure called the Temple of God.

Body and Temple

There two primary archetypes that the New Testament uses for the Resurrected Life: the Temple of the Lord and the Body of Christ. An archetype is a recurrent symbol or motif. For the New Testament, these two are intertwined, the body is a temple and the temple is a body.

Under the Old Covenant through Moses and David, the Temple of God is made with physical stones. Under the New Covenant, the stones are alive!

The “living stones” were prophesied in the Old Testament. During the days of the prophet Isaiah, The Lord promised to build with a living cornerstone,

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Isaiah never knew the name of whom the is prophecy was anticipating because he lived several hundred years before Jesus was born! However, we know the precious cornerstone is Jesus Christ. Jesus is a living stone of a much larger structure. What Peter is arguing is that the larger structure being constructed is a holy Temple in the Lord. We are being built into a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5)

By trusting in him as the beginning reference point, a community is built based solely and squarely on him, a people who are in alignment with him–a holy priesthood and spiritual sacrifices. The living temple is also a living body of believers. In Jesus, God is building a community of people. In this way we cannot say that we are aligned to Jesus, without also being in relationship with the people of Jesus, the Church. Is it possible to have a proper alignment to Jesus Christ as the Cornerstone, without having connection to all of the “living stones” that make up the larger Temple structure?

For discussion in the comments here: Is it possible to have a solidly aligned relationship with Jesus but have a completely disconnected relationship with His people? What is the value of community to your personal relationship with God?

I would love for you to express your thoughts on my blog in order to strengthen our common conversation. What is your take away from this post? What question does the post leave you wondering? Let's get some discussion going! Please note that for the sake of the trust of my readers, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “How important is community to a relationship with God?

  1. From Martha Hoeber: To answer your question, in my opinion congregations are absolutely vital for people to partake of the full value of religious experience, but church buildings, while nice to have, are not absolutely necessary because any building can be a meeting place for a congregation. We read in Acts that the earliest Christian congregations were communal, loving, mutually supportive, and apparently thoroughly enjoyable, providing their members with the “abundant life” that Christ came to bring– but the place where this congregation met might be in a home or in a catacomb. Personally I don’t subscribe to the notion that people can be Christians without participating in a community of worship. Psychologically, any human experience is enhanced with companions. Even the great Christian prayer begins with a plural pronoun: “Our Father.” So, the idea of community seems to be inherent in our Christian heritage, from the very words of Christ Himself.

    This kind of “living stone” that Peter was envisioning for his metaphorical building is another assertion that a community is absolutely necessary for Christians– one stone does not make a building, whether actual or metaphorical. A building requires many stones, each one whether large or small supporting those on either side of it, above it, and below it. Peter’s metaphor is apt and beautiful; the reality is the same.

    • Martha,
      Thank you for a very thoughtful reflection. I love your connection to the “Our” in The Lord’s Prayer. That is the first time I have heard of that prayer taught as a “community” prayer.

    • I agree with your opinion that congregations are vital to the enhancement of the Christian
      experience. The second major commandment calls for us to love one another, and that
      is difficult to do unless we have relationships with each other. And the synergies
      that spring from a congregation in a Christ-based setting can provide the leadership
      and direction to further enhance the wisdom and the knowledge in the heart of
      each member.

      And, if we are able to learn to love the LORD with all our heart and soul and might and
      strength in the way He requests, perhaps we will be able to develop the capacity
      to love each other in a similar way. Then we will be better prepared to love
      our neighbor, who may not yet be a “living stone”…

      • Jim, I love your reply that the Commandment to “love ye one another” can be first and foremost developed in a congregation. We naturally love our families, but it is not easy to love strangers; yet a congregation affords us a way to meet people we don’t know, learn about them, get to know them, and ultimately, see and love the Christ in them.