Helping One Another Hold On to Jesus
There are sixty unique one-another commands in the New Testament. Through the biblical authors, God tells us to bear one another's burdens, instruct one another, rebuke one another, exhort one another, comfort one another, honor one another, submit to one another, pray for one another, confess sin to one another, and more. Together, these one-another commands give us a picture of what a biblical church should be.
When the authors of the New Testament say “one another,” they are not simply referring to all human beings on the earth. They are specifically speaking to Christians involved in a particular local church. Paul wrote to the churches at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica. While Peter, James, John, and the writer of Hebrews do not address their letters to individual congregations, they specifiy clearly that they are writing to believers. Therefore, if we read and study these one-another commands, we will come away with a biblically informed picture of what God wants our churches to be.
I would like to submit the following as a concise summary of these one-another commands, and consequently, a biblical slogan for any true church:
Helping one another hold on to Jesus
I am arguing that this is the essence of what a church is, or at least should be. Each local congregation is a group of believers who have committed to help one another hold on to Jesus. Each and every one of these one-another commandments is toward that end. For example, the writer of Hebrews tells us "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews 3:12-13, ESV) Notice the reason he gives for why we should exhort one another—so that our hearts may not be hardened, and so that we would not fall away from the living God. We exhort one another to help one another hold on to Jesus.
Or take Paul’s admonition that we should “encourage one another with these words” in 1 Thessalonians 4:18. These words he refers to are his words about Jesus’s second coming in verses 13-17. There, Paul reminds us that we do not “grieve as others do who have no hope,” and that when Christ returns “God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” We are to encourage one another with these words so that we will not lose hope. He’s telling us to help one another hold on to the hope we have in Jesus.
In this world where “you will have trouble” (John 16:33) and where our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV) we are to help one another keep the faith—to not let go. When temptations, tradgedies, and trials come, church members should be drawing near to one another saying, “Hold on! Don't let go! I'm here to help you!”
Our goal is to get one another across the finish line, to that day when we finally can let go and rest in Christ because our fight is finally done. It is not God’s will for each one of us to cross that finish line alone, reveling in our own strength, but rahter to limp across, energy and strength spent, with our arms over the shoulders of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
What a beautiful thing it is when loving family members are able to surround the death bed of a loved one in their final moments. The same should be true of the church. When our time comes, and our race, our fight, has finally come to an end, we should be able to look back and thank the Lord for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who helped us hold on to Jesus. Without them, we certainly would have let go.