In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.(John 1:1-2 ESV)
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.(Genesis 1:2 ESV)
The biblical story doesn’t start with creation, but with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit before creation. The trinity. God existed in community before He started creating anything. Three people loving each other (Mike Reeves). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit loved each other perfectly, they did not need us to build a community. They existed in perfect community.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.(Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)
God says that Adam (and Eve) created in OUR image, in a clear reference to the trinity. One of the ways that we are made in God’s image is our ability to relate to each other in community. Our ability to love as a reflection of the perfect love shared between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:28 ESV)
Adam and Eve were given the task of creating community, filling the earth with people, God’s people. When sin enters the picture in Genesis 3, one of it’s effects is on the relationship between Adam and Eve, and consequently every other human relationship that has ever existed. Sin corrupts community in the same way it does with everything else and it isn’t long until Cain is murdering his brother.
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words... And they said to one another... “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
(Genesis 11:1-9 ESV)
The tower of Babel shows us a community centered on itself. A community-centered community which becomes focussed on making a name for itself. As a result, God invents different languages so that the people can’t understand each other! While this may seem harsh, it is God’s mercy to remind us of our limitations. If God intervenes to stop me making a name for myself, that is for my good. If God causes problems to bubble to the surface in communities, it is to show their need to be centered on Him, where community will flourish instead of self-destructing.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
(Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)
When God calls Abraham in Genesis 12, he outlines his plan to make a community - a great nation. This community will be blessed by God so that they will be a blessing to others. From that moment on, being a descendent of Abraham, part of God’s people, God’s community, was the primary way that the Israelites identified themselves. It wasn’t a hobby, it was who they were.
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
(Matthew 10:1-4 ESV)
Jesus taught and spoke to large groups of people, but his primary strategy was to invest the bulk of his time into 12 disciples. He explained his parables to them, taught them in more detail, involved them in his mission and lived life with them. Jesus did not have to operate in this way, but chose to work through community. This community was very diverse, including fisherman, a tax collector and a religious revolutionary, but they were united, not around their shared interests, but around Jesus.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV)
While our salvation does have a personal aspect to it, we are saved to be individual Christians. We are described as living stones that are being built up together. While it may be technically possible to be a Christian and not part of a church community, this category does not exist in the bible and should not exist today. The church is God’s plan for his mission, our sanctification and his glory. We can not come up with a better plan!
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
(Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)
Our future holds a glorious, perfect community. All tribes, peoples and languages (the reversal of Babel) are represented. This diverse community is not standing around patting each other on the back for becoming united with each other. This community is centered on one thing; the Lamb [who was slain and] who is seated on the throne - Jesus.