Friday, November 23, 2012

The Mission of God's People - Chapter 2 - Part 2.4

We started looking at the four section of the Bible story in Part 2.3, We said that the Bible begins with Creation and ends with the New Creation, and we also looked at the tragedy of the Fall that brought ruin to the whole of creation. Today, we’ll begin to look at part 3 – Redemption - which needs to be considered in two parts: Old Testament and New Testament. These are not two distinct part of the Bible, with God acting differently in one than the other, as is often thought. Rather, the Old and New Testaments are like two acts of the same continuing play. We need to understand what God is doing in both the old and the new to understand at a deeper level the whiole story we are in and the scope of the mission we have. Wright tells us here that, “our mission…has to be as comprehensive in scope as the gospel the whole Bible gives us.” Anything less in fact misses the whole mission of God’s people.

3. Redemption – Part I
Q – How have you understood the story of redemption? 
After the Fall, and following the Flood, “God chose not to abandon or destroy his creation, but to redeem it. And he chose to do so within history through persons and events that run from the call of Abraham to the return of Christ.” We must start at the Abrahamic covenant with the mission of God’s people ,if we are to understand the redemptive storyline that God is unfolding through the ages.  God’s mission of redemption didn’t start with the Great Commission of Jesus, his call to go and make disciples, as so many Christians believe today. When we start with Christ and the Cross we can miss an important thread that runs the entire story. God is not just dealing with our sin but in the “call of Abraham God set in motion a historic dynamic that would ultimately not only deal with the problem of human sin but also heal the dividedness of the nations.”
Undoubtedly, you know that at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) God confused human language and "scattered" the people across the planet. But why would God do this? Why would God not want people united together and cooperating in a massive building project? Was it that God felt threatened by man’s industriousness and ingenuity, though using faulty building methods, to erect a structure that could reach the heavens, or so they thought? Never! Certainly God wasn’t pleased with mankind’s self-reliance and independent spirit, he never is. God accepts a partnership at minimum but desires full dependence.  Rather God’s plan from the beginning was to fill the earth with his image bearers who possessed the knowledge of his glory. God confused languages and scattered the nations as part of his global plan to fill the earth as the waters cover the seas with the knowledge of who he is for every “nation.” The “nations” gathered at Babel, which by the way were not all the nations (see the story of Noah’s sons - Gen 10:32), had no right to simply stay in one place when God said “Go.” Nothing stands in the way of God’s mission being completed as he brings about the New Creation.
Back to Abraham, Wright tells us that: “The election of Abraham was explicitly for the blessing of the nations on earth. God’s command and promise to Abraham can legitimately, therefore, be called the first Great Commission.” The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3). It was God’s plan to bless “all peoples on earth” – every “nation” - through a people chosen for the task who would share the knowledge of his glory until it did fill the earth. (that is why I use Habakkuk 2:14 for this blog).
The Old Testament:
Here are some thoughts from Wright to introduce the key storyline of the Old Testament:
“God’s plan, then, was to deal with the problem of humanity – sin and division – through Israel, the people of Abraham…At Sinai, God entered into covenant with Israel, still with the rest of the nations in view, calling them to be representatives (priestly) and to be distinctive (holy)…It became increasingly clear that Israel could not and would not live by the standards of God’s law in response to his saving grace, but actually proved themselves to be no different from the nations…Israel, the servant of the Lord, called to be a light to the nations, turned out to be a failed servant blind to God’s work and dead to his Word. They too needed God’s salvation…Nevertheless, the Old Testament  continues through the prophets to point forward and insist that God would keep his promise to bring blessing to the nations and salvation to the whole world…the failure of historical Israel was anticipated by God and did not represent a failure of God’s plan. In the mystery of his sovereign purpose it would lead to salvation going to the ends of the earth as God always intended.”
There is much more to the story of Old Testament of course, that we'll get to, but before moving on to how God would continue to unfold his plan, we should consider some New Testament verses that tie together the continuing flow of God’s purpose through Abraham:
Romans 4:3 – “What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” We share the same faith as Abraham.
Romans 4:13 – “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.” We share the same righteousness as Abraham.
Romans 4:18 – “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” We share the same lineage of Abraham.
Romans 9:8 - “In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” We are in fact children of Abraham.
Galatians 3:7 – “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.” We are by faith part of the line of Abraham the Lord is using to fulfill his covenant to bless the nations.
Galatians 3:8 – “Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” We share in a Gospel that is timeless, eternal and glorious beyond our understanding.
We should never minimize the Good News to a strategy, formula or even think it is simply about the forgiveness of our personal sin. God is redeeming the whole world, all of creation and bringing us to a new creation through a whole Gospel that requires the whole church living sent today.
Next time we’ll look at how the Lord plans to accomplish this through the New Testament.

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