Speed-reading through the King James Version of all the New Testament letters sent to churches will reveal that the majority of issues concern ‘you’ plural (‘ye’, ‘we’, ‘they’, ‘all’) and comparatively few are demanded from, or are descriptive of ‘you’ singular (‘thee’, ‘he’, ‘the one’). I found six main matters that have an individual emphasis (I quote here the English Standard Version).
- Sinful offences were committed by individuals within the community
Each individual is responsible for his sin in cases of sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1-13); and sectarianism (1 Corinthians 3:1-15) is committed by anyone who says, ‘I [only] follow Paul’ or ‘I [only] follow Apollos’.
- Therefore, future judgement will be allocated individually
‘[E]ach one’s work will become manifest – for the Day will disclose it’ (1 Corinthians 3:12-13) when ‘each of us will give an account of himself to God’ (Romans 14:12; 2:5).
- Personal faith is essential for salvation
‘[T]he gospel … is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes … “The righteous [one] shall live by [his] faith’ (Romans 1:16-17, margin; Habakkuk 2:4; Galatians 3:11, margin; Hebrews 10:38). ‘[I]f [thou] confess with [thy] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in [thy] heart that God raised him from the dead, [thou] will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified’ (Romans 10:9-10).
Yet, fascinatingly, the whole of Romans 6:1-23 presents baptismal immersion into Christ as a corporate reality (note the consistent use of ‘we’). As is baptism in the Spirit: ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body … and all were made to drink of one Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Go figure!
- Varieties of distinct giftings are bestowed on each member of the local church
‘To each is [being] given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is [being] given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another …, to another …, to another …, to each one individually’ (1 Corinthians 12:13).
- Financial contributions are donated by personal choice
‘Whoever sows … bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart … [as] a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
- The entire raft of qualifications for eldership must be apparent in each elder
See 1 Timothy 3:1-7, ‘If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.’ See also Titus 1:5-9.
* Nevertheless, each of us must constantly think communally; and regularly share financially in community, pray for and with the community, and build new believers into the church’s communal life.