Last time we looked at the Old Testament as we begin to understand the whole Bible story for the Mission of God’s People (see Chapter 2 – part 2.4). Today, I want to conclude Chapter 2 – People who know the story they are part of – by looking a little at what Wright starts to unpack about the New Testament and New Creation. Genesis through Malachi points us in one direction – toward Jesus Christ as Lord of all in a New Heaven and New Earth – and it’s important we understand the continuous flow of Scripture form beginning to end. Wright shares that:
“The New Testament presents to us the answer that the prophets point towards the One who would embody Israel as their Messiah, who would be faithful where they had been rebellious, who would be obedient unto death, and through his death and resurrection would bring about not only the restoration of Israel but also the promised salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Last time we looked at some Scripture that ties the story of the Old Testament and New Testament together through the life of Abraham, the father of the faith. It is important to realize that when the Bible speaks of Israel it is speaking of a people who were called out to make God known. The people of Israel as we know failed to be the “light to the Gentiles” they were “chosen” to be. But we must not think that the New Testament introduces a different storyline to bring course correction to God’s story. And, we certainly must not think the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh, was a different God then the God who so loved the world than he sent his Son into it to die for the sins of all mankind. Any ideas of a dichotomous God between Old and New is a misreading of the whole story of the Bible. God changes not.
What needs to change is our understanding of our great and awesome God to see his work in history as one continuous plotline for his global glory. That’s where we are heading in the Mission of God’s People for living sent today.
Q – How have you understood the God of the Old and New Testaments?
Wright states that:
"In Jesus, the reign of God entered human history in a way not previously experienced –though the expectation of it and the ethical implications of it are thoroughly rooted in the Old Testament. The dynamic action of the Kingdom of God in the words and deeds of Jesus and the mission of his disciples changed lives, values, and priorities, and presented a radical challenge to the fallen structures of power in society."
In the fullness of time, Jesus came – Emmanuel – God with us. Our Lord came in the fullness of deity and the fullness of humanity to set right what was lost and broken. Why then? Why at that particular time in his-story did God chose to fulfill the promises he had made and provide a way for all “nations” to come to the Light? While there is certainly prophetic fulfillment at work there are also some very practical reasons.
Civilization had progressed to a point where the Gospel, although starting from a remote outpost of the Roman Empire, could begin to spread out along trade routes and over Roman roads like no time before it. The knowledge of God’s glory, in Christ, could now begin to fill the earth from village to village, city to city and region to region due to the social infrastructure that was now in place. That is the story we read in the Book of Acts.
It is not an overstatement to say Jesus first coming changed everything, as a plan that was in place before the foundations of the world were set in place. Since Jesus’s first coming it is not understatement to say his radical challenge has often been left untried. GK Chesterton once said “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
Could the reason for this be that we simply don’t believe the story we are part of? Or perhaps we simply don’t know how to live in that story, trying to conform the Bible’s story to our lives, instead of being part of the cosmic story God is writing. Wright quotes Philip Greenslade here:
"Through believing the story, we are drawn in to the action and find ourselves caught up in the saving movement of God. We learn to “indwell” the story so looking our from within the Biblical world with new eyes onto postmodern lives and world: we stop trying to make the Bible relevant to our lives and instead begin to find ourselves being made relevant to the Bible. We give up the clumsy attempt to wrench the ancient text into our contemporary world and instead bring our world back into collision with, and cleansing by, the strange new world of the Bible. Through believing the story, we allow our minds to be continuously renewed by the normative narrative of God…Jesus calls all his disciples away from a faith which is available to bless their business into a faith in which disciples are available to God to be part of his business."
Q - How do we make the Mission of God’s People our story?
As Wright closes out Chapter 2 he shares, “God’s mission is what spans the gap between the curse on the earth and the end of the curse in the new creation of Revelation 22. God’s mission is what brings humanity from being a cacophony of nations divided and scatted in rebellion against God in Genesis 11 to being a choir of nations united and gathered in worship of God in Revelation 7.” (I like to start the mission of God in Genesis 1:28 because it is there that we see the mandate to fill the earth.) But is that how we truly understand the story we are part of?
Hopefully, as we continue on in Mission of God’s People it will become our story too, if it’s not already. Wright asks, “What impact would better teaching in this area have on our mission awareness and mission commitment?” That is a good question for Living Sent Today.
Next time, we will start Chapter 3 – People who Care for Creation.