by J. Randal Matheny, editor
This past weekend, several hundred people gathered in the state capital of Maceió, on Brazil’s northeast coast, for the 28th Northeast Christian Lectureship. My wife Vicki and I were among that number.
We enjoyed the fellowship, the powerful lessons, the moment to reflect on “Working Out Our Own Salvation.” We saw many old friends from a number of different locations and made not a few new acquaintances from places across the country.
Since I spoke three times during the event, we missed sticking our feet in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, at the beach just outside the youth camp where we were staying. We didn’t miss out on the tropical heat, nor did we lack feeling the warm hospitality of our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in that region of the country.
Such events foster spiritual ties among God’s people. They remind us that we are brotherhood. While the work we all do crosses city limits, state lines and national borders, such moments to celebrate collectively the true grace of God among us strengthen the bonds of brotherly love.
Peter is the only one, in his first letter, to use the Greek word often translated as “brotherhood” 1 Peter 2.17, 5.9. In the first reference, we understand that God forms us into a brotherhood of love. It is also a brotherhood of suffering for Christ, shared among his people who are scattered “throughout the world.”
But the sense of brotherhood, if not the word itself, is everywhere present in the New Testament. From Paul’s concern for all the churches, to Peter’s writing to congregations in entire provinces far from his location, to disciples in Europe sending collections to the Jerusalem saints, concrete demonstrations of the tie that binds us appear often in Scripture.
The brotherhood of Christians is nowhere more evident than in the preaching of the gospel. Rome ought to help Paul go to Spain. Philippi sends him offerings time and again as the apostle stretches forward with the message. Jerusalem sends manpower to Antioch. Antioch sends out missionaries to reach the provinces. A modest but dedicated couple correct a powerful preacher so that his message is up to date with the latest truth of the sacrifice of Christ.
They know that what one does affects all. So there are times to put heads together. To meet in Jerusalem to make sure everyone is on the same page doctrinally. To extend the right hand of fellowship in the work. To remember the poor. To pray for the sufferings and labors of the faithful. To warn against the incursions of false teachers in the midst of the brethren.
For we are brotherhood, precious in the sight of God, dear to the hearts of all those who love the truth and grace that are in Christ Jesus. We love this global family, because we, in the midst of the nations, have God as Father, Christ as our redeemer, and the Spirit of God as the spring of truth and power for service.
As someone said this past weekend, the lectureship is a small piece of heaven. It can hardly compare to the excellencies of celestial bliss, but does provide, for those whose prayer is maranatha, a taste of what is surely to come.
Photo of the Maceió lectureship assembly by Alex Soares.