When people join together in a common testimony, their witness takes on a collective personality that overshadows their individual identities.

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This principle applies to Christian confession. The world cannot easily “see Jesus” in a melange of solitary lives– even good ones. The reason is that, as individuals, particular reflections of Christ are often clouded by individual talents, preferences, and limitations. The image of Christ sharpens, however, when Christians come together as a community. In the church, individual peculiarities merge into a single lens that lets the personality of Jesus shine through

In contrast, many theologians deny Jesus ever intended to establish a church. They see the kingdom of God as a fraternity of all well-meaning people in which God rules in the hearts of individuals with little or no concern for institutions or other externals. (Such ideas go a long way in explaining the “salt-free” nature of modern Christianity.)

An alternative view is that the church continues and completes the ministry of Jesus through prayer, the breaking of bread, good works, praising God, etc. This was in the mind of Jesus from the beginning.

John the Baptist was confused when he sent a message to Jesus asking him, “are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied to John’s disciples, “go tell John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, …the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

The disciples of Jesus were destined to do even more (John 14:12). Matthew’s gospel ends with the promise of Jesus’ unending presence among his disciples– “lo, I am with you always….” Luke implies the same idea in describing Jesus’ earthly career as that which “Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1).

Not surprisingly, the NT portrays Jesus still acting after his ascension. Peter explained Pentecost by saying that Jesus “has shed forth this, which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). With the coming of the Spirit, the church assumed the personality of Christ in doing the things that Jesus did. On a grander scale, they fed the poor, raised the dead, preached the good news, and so on.

Jesus sealed his identification with the church in confronting Paul’s persecution of believers by saying, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). In this light, Mt 18:20 takes on a better meaning– where two or three are gathered, Jesus is there.

Christ is the wisdom of God (1Cor 1:24). The church manifests God’s wisdom (Eph 3:10) to the world. Thus, the church must be the mirror that reflects Jesus to world. No individual is up to the task– Christians must do it as a “body.”

This is the “better witness” Christians have as members of Christ’s body– one that is demonstrated in collective and concrete responses to the testimony of scripture– one that differs greatly from the introverted, solitary, and subjective “testimonies” of popular Christianity in which individual sentiments and superstitions cloud and clutter Christ’s continuing presence in the world.

— historeo.com

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