by Joel Comiskey
Scripture says, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:16-20).
Notice that Jesus is talking to the group of disciples in these verses. These are the same disciples (apart from Judas) who Jesus molded and shaped for a three-year period. He had taught them important life lessons as they lived together. Much of the crucial character development came as they worked through conflicts and overcame difficulties with one another. The disciples certainly had a personal relationship with God, but that personal relationship needed to be molded and shaped in a community atmosphere where the one-anothers of scripture were prioritized (more on the one-anothers in the next chapter).
When we talk about the Bible’s inspiration, we are referring to the moment the writer’s wrote down their words. At that moment, they were writing the very words of God. Everything afterwards is application of what they wrote. Yet, many people skip this point. They jump right into the application of scripture without obtaining the correct interpretation to begin with. To understand the New Testament writers, we need to understand the context. Again, the context of the New Testament was a group atmosphere.The culture of individualism (North America, Europe, Australia) is uncomfortable with biblical commands to serve one another, submit to others, give up rights for the greater good of the group, and to humble oneself before others. Yet, these biblical traits are absolutely essential and foundational in scripture. Christ’s command to his disciples is clear: love one another. The triune God is a timeless testimony of God’s unity. The early Church was a face-to-face movement, meeting in homes and multiplying God’s life through community.
The group-oriented context of the New Testament and the many exhortations to follow the one-anothers and walk in unity indicate that God wants to shape disciples in a group context.