No Lone Christian: Kuyper on the Fellowship of the Saints

One of the most dangerous situations a Christian can find himself in is isolation: isolation from God’s people. If you read the New Testament and think about the community of believers (the church) you won’t find good stories about great Christians purposely following Jesus alone, solo, by themselves. It was just the opposite: the disciples were devoted to fellowship (Acts 2:42) and were called to not forsake the asssembly (Heb. 10:25). Abraham Kuyper explained this in an outstanding way in chapter 37 of The Work of the Holy Spirit. Notice how he wove together the blessing of spiritual gifts and the rich history of Christ’s church:

It is wrong, therefore, to consider the life of individual believers too much by itself, separating it from the life of the Church. They exist not but in connection with the body, and thus they become partakers of the spiritual gifts. In this sense the Heidelberg Catechism confesses the communion of saints: “First, that all and every one who believes, being members of Christ, are in common partakers of Him and of all His riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts for the advantage and salvation of other members.” The parable of the talents has the same aim; for the servant who with his talent failed to benefit others receives a terrible judgment. Even the hidden gift must be stirred up, as St. Paul says; not to boast of it or to feed our pride, but because it is the Lord’s and intended for the Church.

…The Church of to-day is the same as in the day of the apostles. The life lived then is the life that animates it now. The gains of two centuries ago belong to its treasury, as well as those received to-day. The past is its capital. The wonderful and glorious revelation received by the Church of the first century was given, through it, to the Church of all ages, and is still effectual. And all the spiritual strength and insight, the inward grace, the clearer consciousness, received during the course of the ages are not lost, but form an accumulated treasure, increasing still by the ever-renewed additions of spiritual gifts.

He who realizes and acknowledges this fact feels himself rich and blessed indeed. For this apostolic view of the matter causes us to be thankful for our brother’s gift, which otherwise we might envy; inasmuch as those gifts do not impoverish, but enrich us. In one city there may be twelve ministers of the Word, all gifted in various directions. According to the natural man, each will be jealous of his brother’s gifts and fear that his talents will excel his own. But not so among the Lord’s own servants. They feel that together they serve one Lord and one flock, and bless God for giving them together what the leading and feeding require. In an army the artillerist is not jealous of the cavalryman, for he knows that the latter is for his protection in the hour of danger.

Moreover, this apostolic standpoint excludes isolation; for it creates the longing for fellowship with distant brethren, even thoough they walk in more or less deviating paths. It is impossible, Bible in hand, to limit Christ’s Church to one’s own little community. It is everywhere, in all parts of the world; and whatever its external form, frequently changing, often impure, yet the gifts wherever received increase our riches…

Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 184-186.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015