In an age of individualism, Christians would do well to open our bibles and look at the testimony of Scripture: There are no solitary Christians. Persecuted? Yes. Imprisoned? Certainly. Banished? Undoubtedly. Solitary? Never. In fact, walking through the New Testament epistles, I am reminded of how little is addressed to the individual. The bulk of our New Testament canon is directed to the church, and even when an epistle is written to one, for example Timothy, it is for the sake of the church, and in the context of the local church, specifically. Even the Greek word ekklesia that we translate as “church” literally means “assembly.” No one assembles alone.
While we are still assessing the worldwide issues that came out of the pandemic, for Christians, surely, we can agree that one of the key lessons learned was the value of corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. Perhaps we got a taste of what our brothers and sisters face in countries where they are not free to assemble in worship or even persecuted for it. How easy it is to take in-person, assembled worship for granted. You may remember, like me, the anticipation and excitement of returning to corporate worship with grateful hearts to praise the Lord together. Now, I want you to think back to that moment, and capture that in your memory, if you can. Because, that experience captures the essence of this psalm. Or, borrowing from this psalm, we could say that we were blessed to bless the Lord.
Although we read it as a book, it is important to remember that Romans is a letter, and we should read it as it was written. In substance, it is of course more than a letter—the very Word of God. And so, we read it and study it intently even intricately to glean from God’s special revelation, to know his will. So rich and deep is this divine truth that we dare not rush through it but study it diligently verse by verse. But none of this changes its form: It is a letter.
So, when we come to the Lord’s table we look to his body, the bread, and his blood, the wine, seeing in them the mystical union we enjoy with Christ and in Christ one another. We come to a feast, so to speak, not in quantity but in substance, a sacrament that reminds us of our union and nourishes us by his Spirit.
As a covenant is a bond in blood sovereignly administered, so God’s covenant with his people was fulfilled only and ultimately in Christ. Therefore, all who are covered by the blood of Christ are invited to worship our Lord. We come not through another mediating prophet or priests or presbyters. We worship God only through our Prophet, Priest, and King, our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the fullness of time, God came to his people not upon a mountain but in the person of Jesus Christ. Fully God yet fully man, he became the sinless sacrifice upon the altar of the cross. He is not offered up repeatedly like sheep or oxen but was sacrificed once for all for the sins of his people. Therefore, it is through the sacrifice of Christ, and only through him, that we rightly worship God as his people.
As we learn this, we can look at all that is our neighbor’s and be content with, what our catechism calls, “a right and charitable frame of spirit” (WSC Q. 80). We can be genuinely happy for our neighbor’s sake, because we trust the providence of God. And we can be content with our own lot, knowing “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out…” (1 Tim. 6:7).
The result is “the bond of peace” or “the bond which consists of peace,” (O’Brien, 280), meaning unity in the body is evidenced in peace. Such peace is telling of the peace that every Christian enjoys with God the Father through God the Son by God the Holy Spirit. Just as there is unity in God, so there should be unity in his body, as it is manifested in the local church.
How does the truth of God’s Word set us free? Consider this: It is through God’s Word that we know the gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, God’s Word reveals the truth that we are sinners by nature and evidenced by thought, word, and deed (Rom. 3:23).
The basic definition of stealing is taking “(another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.” What someone owns is theirs, and if you take it you are stealing. But stealing is not necessarily limited to property.