Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - My Book Notes

Book on a wooden background

This book is a classic on the life of community. I have read it several times and this time I decided to make fairly extensive notes to try and capture more of what Bonhoeffer is saying.

I have published these notes for anyone who is thinking about reading this and would like to get an idea of what it says, or for someone who has read it and wants to quickly refresh themselves on it's basic content.

For a small book it has a lot to say, so if you enjoy these notes I highly recommend reading the whole book if you haven't. You can get a copy of the book from here (please note this this is an affiliate link which means that I get a small amount from the sale of the book).

20 Things I Learnt From This Book

There is so much that this book has to say but here are 20 key things that really stuck out to me:

1 – To dwell in fellowship with other believers is a great blessing. We often take this for granted because we experience it daily, but we should thank God for it from the bottom of our heart every day.

2 – Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian fellowship, they are bringing muddled and impure ideas to fellowship - confusing Christian fellowship with some wishful idea of religious fellowship.

3 - Christian community often fails because it springs from an idealism.

4 - If we do not give thanks for the daily fellowship in which we have been placed, and only keep complaining that everything is so petty, then we hinder God from letting us grow.

5 - In scripture the men of God rose early to seek God and his command (Genesis 19:27, Genesis 22:3, Exodus 8:16, Exodus 9:13, Joshua 3:1, Joshua 6:12, Mark 1:35 etc.)

6 - The Psalter is the prayer book of Christ. In the Psalter we learn to pray on the basis of Christ's prayer.

7 - The fact that Jesus died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact the Jesus rose is my sole ground for hope.

8 - God has prepared one great song that goes out for eternity, and when we sing (in worship), we join in with that song

9 – In worship it is not me that is singing, it is the Church that is singing, and I as a part of the Church get to join in the song.

10 - Let him who cannot be alone beware of community - you cannot escape from yourself. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone - to reject the brethren is to reject Christ.

11 - Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone, and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship. One does not precede the other but they both begin at the same time - the call of Christ. They both have their pits and dangers. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feeling, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.

12 - There is a self-indulgent silence - but the silence of a Christian is a listening silence; humble stillness that may be interrupted at any time for the sake of humility. It is silence in conjunction with the word

13 - In our personal meditation we confine ourselves to a brief selective text which sometimes may not be changed for a whole week. We go into the depth of the word. We are not preparing a sermon but waiting for God's word to us. We are so burdened with life and concerns that it may take some while for the word to reach us. It is not necessary to get through whole passage but may stop at one sentence or one word, gripped by it.

14 - Our own thoughts are likely to wonder during prayer, we must not lose heart. When this happens, it is helpful not to snap back our thoughts but to incorporate into our prayer the events and the people to which our thoughts keep straying.

15 - God does not give me a brother to judge, but in order that I might find above him the creator - now they become the occasion of joy, rather than a nuisance.

16 - My brother is not called to be made in my image, but in God's image.We can never know beforehand how God's image should appear in others, that image always manifests a completely new and unique form that comes solely from God's free and sovereign creation. To me it may seem strange or ungodly, but God creates every man in the likeness of His Son, and even this image seemed strange to me before I grasped it.

16 - Listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many are looking for a listening ear, but they do not find it among Christians because they are always talking.

17 - We must allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.

18 - Every cult of personality that emphasises the distinguished qualities, virtues and talents of another person, even though they are of a spiritual nature, is worldly and has no place in the Christian community, indeed it poisons the Christian community.

19 - The Church does not need brilliant personalities, but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren. Not in the former, but the latter is there a lack.

20 - In confession the breakthrough to community takes place. The more isolated the person is the more destructive will be the power of sin over them; and the more deeply they delve into it, the more disastrous is their isolation.

Contents

Introduction
1 - Community
2 - The Day With Others
3 - The Day Alone
4 - Ministry
5 - Confession & Communion

Introduction

1945 - shortly before liberated Bonhoeffer executed.

1953 - tablet - Dietrich Bonhoeffer: a witness of Jesus Christ among his brethren.

Born in a family of 7 children in east Germany. grew up in Berlin, father a surgeon.

He had an insistent realism, Christianity should never be ethereal, but responsible, obedient action.

This is what led him to imprisonment and death.

"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die".

Grew up in suburb of Berlin in happy family, he played with Adolf von Harnack and Hans Delbruck.

At 16 he was sure he wanted to study theology.

Taught by great scholars.

Taught by Karl Barth.

At 21 he presented his doctoral thesis - a study of the communion of saints.

Went on to define the significance of dialectic theology.

a black and white picture of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Sent to union seminary in New York for a year; here he was very influenced by civil right and African American spirituals.

Returning to Berlin he began lectures on systematic theology - published first book "creation and fall".

1933 - gave broadcast over Berlin radio - broadcast cut off before he had finished.

Bonhoeffer became a pastor in England and became good friend of Bishop Bell.

Received call from confessing church to take charge of a seminary; this was life together.

1938, wrote this book.

Also wrote the cost of discipleship in the same year.

Shortly after wrote an introduction to the Psalms.

Underground seminary then closed by the gestapo.

Did not believe everybody should act as he did, but that he felt from his position that to not act would be sin.

Fundamental view of ethics = a Christian must accept his responsibility as a citizen of this world where God has placed him.

1939 - in the States. friends urged him to stay, he refused and boarded one of the last ships.

Then devoted life to tasks designated by the confessing church.

Devoted spare time to his work on ethics.

April 1943 - with sister and her husband were arrested and remained until oct 8 1944.

Guards took him to cells of prisoners so he could minister to them. they also preserved his papers.

In July he was transferred from one prison to another.

Last weeks spent with men and women of many nationalities.

One prisoner wrote that he was full of joy and acted as if God was near at all times.

"This is the end, but for me it is the beginning of life."

Next day he was hanged.

1 – Community

It should never be taken for granted that the Christian will live with other Christians.

Jesus was in the midst of all people, there the Christian must be also - in the midst of our enemies.

According to God's will Christendom is a scattered people, scattered like seed into all the kingdoms of the earth. That is, it's curse and its promise.

Christ gathers together in one the children who were scattered abroad.

Will finally occur visibly at the end of time.

Until then God’s people remain scattered, held together solely in Jesus.

Having become one by the fact that they remember him.

Now it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that we are privileged to live in visible fellowship.

It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to meet together; not all Christians are privileged in this way, and they remember that visible fellowship is a blessing.

Yet they remain alone according to God's will.

What is denied them in reality is grasped all the more by faith.

The physical presence of other Christians is a source of joy - thus Paul asks for timothy in the last days of his life.

John desires to see his congregation (2nd John)

The believer lauds God for the bodily presence of another believer.

The sick, imprisoned, exile etc. sees in the fellowship of a fellow Christian a visible sign of the gracious presence of the triune God.

They receive each other’s benedictions as the benediction of Christ.

They recognise in each other the Christ who is present in the body.

If there is so much blessing and joy in a single encounter, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God's will are privileged to live in daily life with other Christians.

A precious gift to one is easily trodden underfoot by one who has it every day.

But it can be taken from us at any time.

Let this believer thank God every day from the bottom of his heart.

This gift is distributed in different degrees.

Communal life is now being recognised for what it is - the extraordinary, the roses and lilies of the Christian life.

Through and In Jesus Christ

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.

No Christian community is more or less than this.

We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.
  1. It means that Christians need one another because of Jesus Christ
  2. A Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ
  3. It means that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united in eternity.
God's word in Jesus Christ pronounces him guilty even when he does not feel guilty. And pronounces him righteous, even when he does not feel righteous.

Christians live by God's claims and God's justification.

Death and life of Christian not determined by own resources but by God's word from outside.

Reformers = it is an alien righteousness.

He is pointed outward, to the word that comes to him.

If someone says "where is your righteousness" the Christian cannot point to himself.

In himself he is destitute and dead, help must come, and has come, daily.

God has put this word in the mouth of men, in order that it may be communicated to other men.

The Christian needs another Christian to speak God's word to him.

He needs his brother man as bearer and proclaimer.

Christ is weaker in his own (the believers) heart than the Christ in the word of his brother, his own heart is uncertain, his brothers is sure.

Meaning of all Christian community, they meet one another as bringers of salvation. The community is founded solely on Jesus and the alien righteousness.

A Christian comes to others only through Jesus.

Without Christ there is discord between God and man, and man and man.

When God's son took on flesh, he bodily took on our being, our nature, ourselves. Now we are in him, where he is, we are too = in the incarnation, on the cross, in the resurrection.

We also belong with him in eternity with one another.

He who looks on his brother should know that they will be with each other in eternity.

When God was merciful with us, we are now merciful to our brethren.

The more we received the more we are able to give.

I have become a brother through what Christ has done to and for me. my brother is my brother only because of what Christ has done in him.

True not merely at the beginning but remains so for all the future - the community is only through Jesus Christ.

Dismisses all desire for something more.

one who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is bringing muddled and impure ideas to brotherhood - confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship.

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal but a divine reality. it is a spiritual not a psychic reality.

Not an Ideal But a Divine Reality

Christian community often fails because it springs from an idealism.

God's grace shatters such dreams.

God through his grace will not permit us to live in a dreamworld. God is the God of truth.

Every human wish dream is a hindrance to true human community.

God hates visionary dreaming - it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious.

He acts as if it is his dream that should be realised.

When his dream fails, he accuses the brethren, then God, then himself.

None of us can live by our own word or deed, but by that single word and deed.

Thankfulness in the community - he who gives thanks for the little things will be given the big things.

We prevent God from giving us the big things in life because we do not give thanks for the everyday things in our life.

If we do not give thanks for the daily fellowship in which we have been placed, and only keep complaining that everything is so petty, then we hinder God from letting us grow.

This applies in special ways to the pastor’s complaints about his congregation. Even to men or God. A pastor has not been given a community so that he can become its accuser.

let him instead be the intercessor.

Only God knows the real state of the congregation.

Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling their spiritual pulse, so the pastor should not be constantly taking the congregations temperature.

The more we are thankful for fellowship, the more the fellowship shall grow.

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal that we must realise but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we are invited to participate.

A Spiritual Not a Human Reality

The basis of all spiritual reality is the word of God.

The basis of the community is truth, but the basis of the human community is desire.

In the Christian community God's word alone is binding, in the human community, besides the word, men bind themselves to one another

There all power and dominion is assigned to the holy spirit, here personal power and influence is cultivated.

There the spirit governs; here psychological techniques govern.

Human love has little regards for truth - it continues to desire even when it appears to be serving.

Spiritual love does not desire but rather serves.

Because Christ stands between me and others, I dare not desire direct fellowship with them. This means that I must release the other person from all of my attempts to regulate, coerce, and dominate the other person with my love. The other person needs to retain their independence of me.

Human love constructs their own image of the person, what they are and what they should become, takes their life into its own hands.

Spiritual love recognises the true image of the other person which it has received from Jesus Christ. therefore, spiritual love proves itself by showing that everything that it does commends Christ.

The most direct way to a brother is through prayer in Christ.

When a community of a purely spiritual kind is established it knows the danger that all human elements will be carried into it and intermixed - a purely spiritual relationship is not only dangerous, but an abnormal thing.

It is not brotherhood but faith in brotherhood that hold us together.

We are bound together by faith, not by experience.

2 - The Day With Others

The Days Beginning

Old Testament day begins in evening.

New Testament day begins in break of day.

At night Christ was born, a light in darkness, in dawn of morning Christ rose again.

Malachi 4:2

We will never know the great joy of our forefathers at the break of dawn.

The first thought and the first word belong to God (Psalm 5:3, 88:13, 57:7-8, Ecclesiastes 39:5)

The beginning of the day should not be burdened by anxieties of the coming day.

Let all distraction and empty talk be silenced.

In scripture the men of God rose early to seek God and his command (Gen 19:27, 22:3, ex 8:16, 9:13, josh 3:1, 6:12, mark 1:35 etc.)

Such a thing as rising early for God.

Scripture reading, song and prayer - different forms of devotion.

These should be different; a family devotion will be different than a fellowship of pastors.

The Secret of the Psalter

New Testament makes a lot of the Psalter.

A psalm that we cannot utter is a hint that someone else is praying, this person is Jesus Christ - in the whole Psalter.

The Psalter is the prayer book of Christ.

In the Psalter we learn to pray on the basis of Christ's prayer.

We can and should pray the psalms of suffering, but because all this suffering was real and actual in Jesus Christ. In his suffering and death, all flesh suffered and dies.

The psalms teach us to pray as a fellowship, the body is praying.

Psalm 5 - there are two voices bringing the same prayer to God. This is a hint that we never pray alone, Christ always prays with us.

The whole sweep of the book of the psalms is no more or no less than the concerns of the Lord’s prayer.

Reading the Scriptures

Psalms and hymns should be followed by reading.

Brief verses cannot and should not take the place of reading the scripture as a whole.

Holy scripture is more than a watchword.

It does not consist of individual passages but as a whole.

Should be possible for a family to read 1 chapter of the OT and half of a chapter of the NT morning and evening.

Allow himself to be found where God has acted once and for all. We become a part of what took place. We too pass through the red sea and in the desert to the promised land.

Not that God is the spectator and sharer of our life, but that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God's action in the sacred story, the history of the Christ on earth. Only in so far as we are there is God with us today also.

A complete reversal occurs; it is not that God in our life must be proved but that God's presence has been demonstrated through the life of Jesus Christ.

It is more important for us to see what God did to Israel, and to Jesus Christ than to seek What God's intends for our life today.

The fact that Jesus died is more important than the fact that I shall die.

and the fact the Jesus rose is my sole ground for hope.

Our salvation is external to ourselves.

In the light of this, daily reading makes even more sense.

We must know the scriptures like our forefathers did.

How will we gain certainty and confidence if we do not stand on solid ground?

The one who will not learn to handle the bible for himself is not an evangelical Christian.

The one who reads scripture aloud to others is like one reading a letter to others written from a friend. I do not read as if I wrote it. I read it as one reading on behalf of another.

Singing the New Song

Next should come a hymn singing time.

God has prepared one great song that goes out for eternity, and when we sing, we join in with that song.

It is the song that the morning stars sang together (Job 38:7)

Victory song of Israel after passing through the red sea.

The song of Mary in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the song of Paul and Silas in prison, and of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, of Moses, and of the lamb (Revelation 15:3) – the new song of the heavenly fellowship.

The triune God and his works are extolled.

On earth it is the song of those who believe, in heaven it is the song of those who see.

The new song that no man can learn.

The new song is sang first in the heart, otherwise it cannot be sung at all.

Where the heart is not singing there is no melody. when it is sung not to the lord it is sung to the self and becomes idolatry.

Why do Christians sing together? because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same word at the same time.

The music is completely the servant of the word.

There is no place in worship for vanity or bad taste. also, those who will not join in.

Singing in unison is less a musical matter than a spiritual matter.

The more we sing, the more joy we will derive from it, and the richer will be the blessing of the whole fellowship when we sing together.

It is not me that is singing, it is the church that is singing, and I as a part of the church get to join in the song.

Saying Our Prayers Together

There is no part of common devotions that raise such problems as common prayer.

It is the most common thing for believers to pray together.

The Fellowship of the Table

Not until the fellowship has met together to receive the bread of eternal life does the community sit down to receive from God the bread of this temporal life.

Giving thanks and asking God's blessing the Christian family receives its bread from the hand of the lord.

Ever since Christ sat with his disciples and ate with them, Christ has been with the community of believers whilst they ate.

The scriptures speak of three kinds of table fellowship:
  1. Daily fellowship
  2. The fellowship of the lord's supper
  3. The final supper that we will sit down and eat.
To know him as the giver of all gifts.

All earthly gifts are given to the church only for Christ’s sake.

He is the true bread of life. he is not only the giver, but the gift itself.

The congregation believes that the lord wills to be present when they ask for his presence.

The fellowship of the table has a festive quality - eat thy bread with joy.

Through our daily meals God is calling us to rejoice, to keep holiday in the midst of the working day.

We share our bread; thus, we are bound together not just in our spirit but with our whole physical being.

One day we will also share the imperishable bread in the new kingdom.

The Day’s Work

After the first mornings hour the day until evening belongs to work (psalm 104:23)

Work plunges men into the world of things, the "it", this encounter frees him for objectivity.

The work of the world can only be done when the person forgets them-self, loses them-self in a cause, a reality, "it".

The Christian allows himself to be limited to a task and the passion of the flesh dies. but this can only be done when the person pushes through the "it" to the "thou" (God), who bids him work, and allows that work to be a liberation from himself. The work does not cease to be work. The continuing struggle with the "it" remains.

The prayer of the Christian reaches beyond its set time and reaches into the whole day, not hindering it, but affirming it, therefore every labour becomes a prayer.

Not in a turning away way but in a breaking through way (Colossians 3:17)

This achieved unity of the day brings an order and a discipline, found in the morning prayer.

The prayer in the morning sets the whole day. Disorder, indiscipline and many other work ailments come from a lack of morning prayer.

The temptations of the day will be overcome from this breakthrough (Colossians 3:23)

Noon Day & Evening

God must feed us. We cannot and dare not demand it as a right, for we have not merited it.

Noon is one of the seven prayer hours of the church.

The work of atonement was reaching its completion in noonday.

Evening devotion at end of day (last word before nights rest).

Prayer of the psalms, a hymn, and common prayer close the day, as they opened it.

Prayer should be of forgiveness for all brothers and to forgive all others. (Ephesians 4:26)

Psalm 74:16 - the day is thine and the night is thine.

3 - The Day Alone

Many seek fellowship because they cannot bear to be alone.

The Christian community is not a spiritual sanatorium.

Solitude and Silence

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community.

You cannot escape from yourself.

Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.

To reject the brethren is to reject Christ.

If I suffer, the fellowship suffers with me.

Only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only when we are alone can we be in the fellowship.

Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone, and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship. One does not precede the other but they both begin at the same time - the call of Christ.

They both have their pits and dangers.

One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feeling, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community, let him who is not in community beware of being alone.

Along with the family day comes the day alone, and that is as it should be.

The mark of solitude is silence.

Speech and silence are like community and solitude; you cannot have the one without the other.

Ernest Hello

Ecclesiastes 3:7

Just as the day needs the word, so the day also need silence. Especially before and after the hearing of the word.

We are silent after the word because the word is still speaking with us.

We are silent at the beginning of the day because the first word belongs to God.

We are silent at the end of the day because the last word belongs to God.

Silence must be practiced.

This stillness will exert its effect upon the whole day; we will manage our speech throughout the day.

There is a self-indulgent silence - but the silence of a Christian is a listening silence, humble stillness that may be interrupted at any time for the sake of humility. It is silence in conjunction with the word

Thomas A Kempis

Silence before the word leads to right hearing and right speaking.

Especially in close knit living arrangements practiced silence is extremely important.

Three purposes of alone time:
  1. Scripture meditation
  2. Prayer
  3. Intercession
All three have their place in the day.

Meditation

In our personal meditation we confine ourselves to a brief selective text which sometimes may not be changed for a whole week.

We go into the depth of the word.

We are not preparing a sermon but waiting for God's word to us.

We are so burdened with life and concerns that it may take some while for the word to reach us.

Not necessary to get through whole passage but may stop at one sentence or one word, gripped by it.

Not that we must discover new ideas - often this leads to vanity.

Not necessary to have any unexpected extraordinary experiences.

We will often feel a great spiritual dryness and apathy, we must not balk at such things and must Not allow it to deter us from meditation.

There is no time for morbidity in the Christian life

God sends these hours of reproof and dryness so that we may be brought again to expect everything from his word. Seek God, not happiness: this is the fundamental rule of meditation.

If you seek God alone, you will gain happiness, that is its promise.

Prayer

Most promising method of prayer is to allow us to be guided by the word of the scriptures. In this way we do not become the victims of our own emptiness.

Prayer means nothing else than the readiness and willingness to receive and appropriate the word. and what is more, to accept in one’s personal situation, tasks, decisions, sins, and temptations.

Our own thoughts are likely to wonder during prayer, we must not lose heart. When this happens, it is helpful not to snap back our thoughts but to incorporate into our prayer the events and the people to which our thoughts keep straying.

Intercession

It is impossible to mention all people in our care. there are special people who believe that we are praying for them - especially our immediate community. I cannot hate someone who I pray for.

Intercession means nothing more than to bring our brother before God.

Then everything repulsive that we see in him will fall away.

Intercession is a service that we owe to God and to our neighbour.

It is not general or vague, but certain.

We should train ourselves to set aside a regular hour for intercession, prayer and meditation.

This is not legalism but fidelity.

For most, early morning will be the best time.

The Test of Meditation

When the Christian is alone in a secular environment, it is the time of testing.

Every act of self-control is an act of service to the fellowship.

We are members of the body, whether we choose to be or not, in our whole existence.

Every member serves the body, to its health or to its destruction. This is no mere theory, but a reality.

4 - Ministry

No Christian community comes together without the thought "who is the greatest among us", emerging as a seed of discord right at the beginning.

It is right from the outset that we need to face this enemy and defeat it.

No time to lose. From first moment of meeting a person is looking for a strategic position that one can hold over the other.

Self-justification and judging go together, like serving others and justification by grace go together.

The Ministry of Holding Ones Tongue

James 3:2

Decisive rule - each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to them.

To speak coercely about a brother is forbidden - Psalm 50:20-21, James 4:11-12, Ephesians 4:29.

God does not give me a brother to judge, but in order that I might find above him the creator - now they become the occasion of joy, rather than a nuisance.

My brother is not called to be made in my image, but in God's image.

We can never know beforehand how God's image should appear in others, that image always manifests a completely new and unique form that comes solely from God's free and sovereign creation. To me it may seem strange or ungodly, but God creates every man in the likeness of his son, and even this image seemed strange to me before I grasped it.

The differences are cause for rejoicing.

A community that allows unemployed members to exist within it will perish because of them. Therefore, it will be well that all have a definite task, then all will know that they are not useless. It is true that the weak cannot exists without the strong, but that the strong cannot exist without the weak.

The elimination of the weak is the death of the fellowship.

Once a man has experienced the mercy of God in his life he will henceforth aspire only to serve. He wants to be down below with the lowly, and needy, for that is where God found him.

The Ministry of Meekness

He who wants to serve must think little of himself.

The highest and most profitable lesson: to know and to despise oneself, to have no opinion of our-self, and to think always highly of others - Thomas a Kempis.

Only he who lives by the forgiveness of his sin by Jesus will think little of himself.

He will know that it is good for his own will to be broken by that of his neighbour.

Is it not better for me to serve my neighbour, than to get my own way?

We must be willing to accept insults and injuries without protest.

We must consider our-self the greatest of sinners.

It sounds like an exaggeration, but even Paul said, when he was speaking of his service as an apostle.

If my sin seems to be smaller or less detestable than the sins of others, then I am not recognising my sin at all.

My sin is of necessity the most detestable.

The Ministry of Listening

Listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Many are looking for a listening ear, but they do not find it among Christians because they are always talking.

Anyone who thinks his time to precious to be quiet will soon have no time for God or his brother.

Secular education knows that many problems can be solved by just listening.

But the ministry of listening has been commissioned to Christians, and should listen with the ears of God, in order that we may speak the words of God.

The Ministry of Helpfulness

The 2nd service = active helpfulness = simple assistance in trifling matters.

No one is too good for such service.

We must allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.

The Ministry of Bearing

3rd, the service of bearing others (Galatians 6:2).

The law of Christ is a law of bearing (forbearing, sustaining).

It is only when they are a burden that they are a brother (rather than an object to be manipulated).

God bore the burden of men in the body of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:2

Must accept them, to hold fellowship with them through forgiveness.

As Christ bore and received us as sinners, we bear and receive our brothers.

This service is also rendered to us by the brothers.

The Ministry of Proclaiming

The free communication of the word by person to person.

One person bearing witness in human words to another person, bearing the whole consolation of God.

Who wants to be accountable for silence when one should have spoken?

A seemingly sacred respect for another’s freedom can be subject to the judgment of God.

There will come a time when one will have to declare God's word and will to another person.

Each knows the other as a sinner.

The more we learn to accept the word of the brother towards us, the more we will be free to speak the word to others.

The touchy person will always become a flatterer, and very soon will despise his brother.

The humble brother will always speak in truthfulness and love.

It is not we who judge, but God, and God's judgment is helpful and healing.

Psalm 49:7-8

Our brothers’ ways are not in our hands.

The Ministry of Authority

Mark 10:43 - Jesus made genuine authority in the fellowship dependent upon service. Genuine spiritual authority is only to be found where the ministry of hearing, helping, bearing and proclaiming is carried out.

Every cult of personality that emphasises the distinguished qualities, virtues and talents of another person, even though they are of a spiritual nature, is worldly and has no place in the Christian community, indeed it poisons the Christian community.

1 Timothy 3:1 - answer to this problem.

Genuine authority realises that it can exist only in the one who has authority (Matthew 23:8)

The Church does not need brilliant personalities, but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren. Not in the former, but the latter is there a lack.

Pastoral authority can only be obtained by seeking no power of its own.


5 - Confession & Communion

James 5:15

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.

The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner, therefore all must conceal their sin from the fellowship and himself. We dare not be sinners.

Everyone is horrified when they discover a real sinner suddenly discovered amongst the righteousness. And so, we conceal our sin, in lying and hypocrisy. But we are sinners.

We can dare to be sinners before Christ - Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin.

All sham was ended in the presence of Christ.

In this truth the church was to live. Therefore, he gave his followers the authority to hear the confession of sin and to forgive sin in his name (John 20:23)

When I am going to my brother to confess, I am going to God.

Breaking Through to Community

In confession the breakthrough to community takes place. the more isolated the person is the more destructive will be the power of sin over him. and the more deeply he delves into it, the more disastrous is his isolation.

Sin wants to be unknown.

In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the heart. The sin must be brought in to the light.

Psalm 107:16

Since the confession is made to a brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned.

The acknowledged sin has been stripped of its power.

Breaking Through to the Cross

In confession we break through to the cross.

The root of all sin is pride.

It is in our wickedness that we want to be like God.

Now we share in the Resurrection of Christ and eternal life.

Breaking Through to New Life

In confession the breakthrough to new life occurs. Where there is a break with sin there is conversion (2 Corinthians 5:13).

Proverbs 28:13

In confession the Christian begins to forsake their sins, their dominion is broken, and the Christian goes from victory to victory.

What happened in baptism is bestowed upon us anew in confession.

Confession is the renewal of the joy of baptism.

Breaking Through to Certainty

In Confession a man breaks through to certainty.

It is a mercy that we can confess our sins to a brother - such grace spares us the terrors of the last judgment.

A brother has been given to me in order that I may be certain through him of the reality of God in his judgment and his grace.

The assurance of forgiveness becomes certain to me only when it is spoken by a brother in the name of God.

We need to confess particular sins rather than vagueness.

Is confession a law? no, it is a help to a Christian.

Luther - the Christian life is unthinkable without brotherly confession.

To Whom Confess?

Every Christian brother can hear confession.

Must be one who lives beneath the cross and knows his own wickedness.

It is not too good for one to become the confessor for all the others, otherwise he will be overburdened.

Every person should refrain from listening to confession unless they too confess.

Never make a pious work of confession.

The Joyful Sacrament

Confession serves as a preparation for the holy communion.

To beg a brother’s pardon is not the same as confession.

Communion gives new fellowship with God and with men.

Here the community has reached its goal and joy is complete.
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* image of Bonhoeffer By Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1987-074-16 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5483382

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