About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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Corporate Faith


Philemon 6 reads as follows:


"I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ."   


The words "participation in the faith" are important in relation to the culture of church.  The word "participation" is translated from the Greek word "koinonia."  I first discovered this Greek word in 1973 and soon learned of its New Testament importance.  The common usage of koinonia in the first-century, Greco-Roman world meant to hold something in common with others.  As it applies to church, koinonia speaks to all that Christians hold in common, not the least of whom is the Holy Spirit who resides in the individual believer and whose presence is with the believers when they gather together.  Besides the Holy Spirit, there are many things Christians hold in common, but the one Paul specified in the above text is our faith.  In other words, we don't just possess an individual faith, we possess a corporate faith. 


Due to the fact that the Greek word "pistis" translated as faith in the New Testament means trust, each Christian holds his trust in Jesus in common with those Christians to whom Jesus has placed alongside in the Body of Christ.  This means that as an individual Christian trusts Jesus with his life, so the church trusts Jesus with its life.  It is this aspect of faith that I believe Paul was writing to Philemon about.  Church, being the community of believers who belong to Jesus and to each other, as one unified community, trusts its corporate life with Jesus.   


According to Paul, our participation of faith, or holding our trust in Jesus in common, should result in an effective productiveness that glorifies Jesus.  This means that genuine corporate faith will produce an effective corporate ministry.  Since the word "glorify" means to speak well of someone or something, our effective corporate ministry based on genuine corporate faith will speak well of Jesus.  The church, will then, be the effective witness for Jesus it was called to be.        


Due to our western-world's cultural over-emphasis on individualism that has filtered its way into church, we usually think of faith in Jesus in individual terms.  Paul adds another dimension to faith in his letter to Philemon.  There is such a thing as corporate faith.  This implies that the local community of believers exist in a supportive and functional unity with one another.  To the degree, then, that the church can exist in this unity, will be the degree to which its corporate faith can produce effective ministry that glorifies Jesus to the surrounding culture.

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