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What Is Biblical Community and What Does It Look Like in Action?

If you've been exploring or living out your faith for some time, you likely have heard the phrase “biblical community.” This phrase is tossed around often in Christian circles, but it's not always communicated well to new believers. That's why we're going to answer the following questions:

  • What is biblical community?
  • What are the characteristics of biblical community?
  • What does it look like to be in biblical community?

What Is Biblical Community?

Biblical community is doing life together with other Christians in a way that reflects the love of God to a watching world. In biblical community, we are to…

The Apostle Paul wrote most of the New Testament. His writings consisted of letters to different churches during various times of their growth. In short, his letters were instructions on how to live and grow in biblical community! 

Paul's letters…

  • Encouraged and challenged early Christians to live in a way that reflected Jesus
  • Taught them how to be a witness and spread the gospel to an unbelieving world  
  • Instructed them on how to work out differences and build strong relationships

His letters answer the question “What is biblical community?” We can apply Paul's writings to our lives and put biblical community into action. 

8 Characteristics of Biblical Community

1. Generosity

Acts 2 describes the early church as having “all things in common.” They shared their belongings, sold possessions to benefit the church, and gave the proceeds to those in need. They were generous! They put into practice what Paul would later write about in Philippians 2:3…

  • “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” 

Rather than thinking about how their possessions and proceeds could benefit themselves, they thought about how they could help the community—their brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Romans 12:13 says… 

  • “…distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”

Generosity in Action

We are to be generous to those in need and to each other because, in reality, we are all in need of something. 

2. Empathy

The Bible calls us to be empathetic, to understand another's feelings, and to feel what they feel. Paul wrote in Romans 12:15…

  • “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

Paul meant more than only listening or helping someone for a moment and then moving on. He encouraged the early Christians to walk alongside each other in difficult times, pray with each other, and seek to understand another's point of view. 

Galatians 6:2 says…

  • “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Colossians 3:12 (ESV) says… 

  • “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts…”

Empathy in Action

We are to listen before speaking, pursue compassion for others' experiences, put aside our perspectives, and think from the other's point of view when walking with them in difficult times. 

3. Humility

The Bible has a lot to say about humility. A lack of humility is pride, which displays itself in examining the sin of others without seeing it in our hearts first. Jesus confronted this sin of pride and hypocrisy in the religious leaders in Matthew 7:3-5…

  • “And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

Paul and other writers of the New Testament encouraged the early biblical community to be clothed with humility and not think too highly of themselves. Why? God abhors pride because it drives a wedge between Him and us. He desires to be close to us and for us to draw near to Him. This requires cutting out pride and replacing it with humility. Humility makes us vulnerable to God and allows us to connect with Him and others. 

1 Peter 5:5-7

  • “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Romans 12:3 

  • “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

Humility in Action

We are to have a right view of ourselves in light of who God is. This cultivates humility in our hearts and helps us love each other well.

4. Unity 

The Bible tells us we are to live in unity. Unity doesn't mean we are to discourage diversity or the use of our unique spiritual gifts. It also doesn't mean we will always share the same opinion on all matters. But the Bible says we are to stand firm as believers. We are to share the same goal of spreading the gospel and being living proof of a loving God. 

Philippians 2:2 says…

  • “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Ephesians 4:5-6 says…

  • “…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” 

There must have been much division as the biblical community of the early church began to grow. Paul and other writers encouraged them, and us today, to remember who we are unified in, how to harmony with each other, and how to settle disagreements. 

Romans 12:18 says…

  • “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

Romans 15:5-6 says… 

  • “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Unity in Action

As we are sinful people, living in unity is not easy. We must ask God for guidance and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to live in harmony with others in biblical community. This means letting go of insignificant points and preferences. We must ask ourselves if the things that cause division are preferences or pivotal points in scripture. If they are a preference, consider letting them go. Uphold what is scriptural. 

5. Hospitality

Hospitality and unity go hand in hand. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences, but we are unified as brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, we are to be hospitable to each other with a cheerful heart, as we are in the family of God.

1 Peter 4:8-10 says…

  • “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.' Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

We are to welcome those within the biblical community and those outside of the community. We aren't to welcome strangers because they have “earned the right.” Instead, we are to welcome them because of who we are as children of God. 

Hebrews 13:1-3

  • “Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.”

Hospitality in Action

We are to show hospitality to others in biblical community without “grumbling.” This means we must center our hearts on Christ, not our desires. If grumbling or complaining starts to surface, pause and ask God to cleanse your heart and reveal to you what might be causing the discontentment or hesitation. We are also to show hospitality to others. 

6. Forgiveness

The Bible says that we are to forgive because we have been forgiven. As Christians, we are commanded to forgive. But forgiveness is to extend beyond the biblical community and reach our enemies. 

Ephesians 4:32

  • “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Matthew 6:14-15

  • “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

One way a biblical community is to be set apart from others is through the quickness and heart to forgive. This is not easy since we all sin and sin against each other. Our words and actions can hurt others, or they could hurt us. So then, let us remember Paul's words to the church in Colossae. 

Colossians 3:13 says… 

  • “…bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Forgiveness in Action

When we wrong someone, we must be quick to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness is a response to the cross and living proof of God's love and forgiveness. Unforgiveness robs us of joy and peace. Therefore, move out of unforgiveness and into forgiveness. 

7. Accountability

In biblical community, there must be accountability. We are held to shared beliefs and are to represent Jesus. We are to hold each other accountable in love and truth so that we can grow and mature in our faith and find healing in various areas of our lives. As James 5:16 says… 

  • “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

Galatians 6:1 (ESV) says…

  • “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

As Christians, we are not to bring a brother's or sister's transgression to light publicly but rather confront them privately and with wisdom and guidance. 

Matthew 18:15-16 says…

  • “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'”

Accountability in Action

Accountability might also look like confronting someone (with whom you have a close relationship) for a continued sin pattern, even if it does not directly affect you personally. Accountability also means holding ourselves accountable by confessing our sins to one another.

A male member of Abundant Life's staff smiling and clasping the hand of an older gentleman during a weekend service.

8. Brotherly Love

Biblical community is centered on love. Love is to be the main identifying characteristic of Christians. We can only display love in biblical community because God first loved us. Love casts out fear, which causes division, arguments, and doubt. Love is of God, as 1 John 4:7-9, 18-19 says… 

  • “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”

Love is a choice to commit to serving one another with kindness, patience, and endurance. Rather than keeping a record of rights and wrongs, we should put aside our ways, walk in humility, and rejoice in truth. Love does not keep score.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6 says…

  • “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Love in Action

In biblical community, we show brother love with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. This type of love brings together generosity, empathy, humility, unity, hospitality, forgiveness, and accountability. This is what brotherly, biblical love looks like in action. 

Takeaway

Biblical community is where we are to come alongside each other to grow and mature in our faith. Whenever people come together in biblical community, it is an opportunity to show each other, and a watching world, the love of God. 

Community is also where the enemy tries to plant seeds of division. However, we can guard against the enemy, encourage each other, and represent Jesus to a watching world by living out these 8 key characteristics…

  • Generosity
  • Empathy
  • Humility
  • Unity
  • Hospitality
  • Forgiveness
  • Accountability 
  • Brotherly love

Want to know more about biblical community? Connect with us here.