Kingdom Conspiracy– Part Four


BEN: I think I’ve begun to nail down both our similarities and differences on kingdom, church, and Israel. If we are just talking kingdom and church, I think we mostly agree. But the term Israel, especially in Rom. 9-11 absolutely does not refer to the church. It refers to Jews, period. Yes, the new Gentile people of God are grafted into the Christian Jewish root. This involves Gentiles being added to the Jewish Christian root seen as the righteous remnant, people such as Paul not Jews in general.

But Paul studiously and carefully avoids calling Israel the church. Here Tom Wright is Tom Wrong, again and again, and again. Israel, according to both Paul, and Jesus has a future when Christ returns. It is then when ‘the impiety of Jacob (which is never a synonym for the church) will be turned away, when the redeemer comes forth from heavenly Zion’ at the second coming. Then by grace and through faith in Jesus their Messiah, a large number of Jews (called ‘all Israel’) will be saved.

Gal. 6 is no different. It is not calling for a blessing on the church, rather a blessing is added ‘even on the Israel of God’ not to be confused with ‘the assembly (e.g. church) of God’. So the mystery in Romans 11 is the final eschatological adding of a large number of Jews after the full number of Gentiles have come into the people of God, and in the very same manner. The houtos… kathos structure of Rom. 11.26-27 is clear. It means that Jews will be saved in the very same manner as the full number of Gentiles have been saved— by grace through faith in Jesus.

In the meanwhile a hardening has come on part of Israel (=Jews who don’t believe in Jesus) who have been temporarily broken off from the people of God and will eventually be able to be grafted back in. So the story is not about adding Gentiles to Israel in general, but adding Gentiles to Jewish Christians, the righteous remnant, and meanwhile, the majority of Israel has been broken off until the eschaton. The interesting thing is, for Paul ‘Israel’ retains its original valence. It does not mean Jew and Gentile united in Christ. It simply means Jews, even when they are broken off from the genuine people of God. And the reason they are still called Israel is because Jesus isn’t finished with his fellow Jews until the eschaton, until he returns. God has not reneged on his promises to non-Christian Israel. He will fulfill them one day through their messiah, Jesus.

SCOT: I do think this is one of the cutting edge lines in the discussion, and it is not dramatically important for kingdom=church, but it is still related and my conviction that the church is grafted into the trunk of Israel creates for me (anyway) more continuity in Israel-church and therefore for kingdom-church. But in an earlier note from you I caught wind of this set of conclusions for you.

BEN: What do you make of Rom.14.17? This surely seems to suggest the Kingdom has to do with the saving activity of God in the believer producing love, joy etc. and this is dramatically contrasted with, say, sharing a fellowship meal with others.

And P.S. what about the Lord’s Prayer where Kingdom is paralleled with the enacting of God’s will on earth. Surely, we are not praying ‘may thy people come (or come back from heaven’) in this prayer?

SCOT: I see Rom 14:17 as believers only, not social or public. Hence, it is the ethic of kingdom people. It’s not just ethics but community ethics. Yes, saving activity … but again, there are five elements and this is one of them… sometimes one can take on the whole theme (as in Luke 11:28 so too with Rom 14:17). What is the alternative? Ethical behavior itself isn’nt enough: there must be a people among whom that ethic is lived out. You say as much in your 2 vols on ethics.

On Lord’s prayer: the prayer is for God’s vision for the world, a people living under him in peace, love, justice, on earth. It is not just power or redemption or will but that realization among God’s people.

I’ve been teaching this for 10 years or more and these are two texts that do come up, esp Rom 14:17 by the skinny jeans folks and the former among the pleated pants people. Im doing my best to keep both of them either on guard or unhappy!

BEN: Alrighty then. I still say that we are not praying for a people to come, and there are some NT texts which simply do not refer to the people of God, but rather to the activity of God, whether amongst his people or elsewhere. For example, when Jesus says ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky, this is surely a reference to divine activity, and not in the context of the Christian community. Obviously I assume you would agree that God can certainly act outside the context of the church, and that he does so. I would agree with you that the place where one is most likely to find the kingdom is in the church context. Of course that is true.
I’m on p. 102. So would you say that the work that Wliberforce did to get Parliament to change the laws on slavery was NOT in any way Kingdom or church work? If so, Mr. Wesley would strong disagree with you.

SCOT:On the presence, I agree that we are to be agents of God’s presence and hope I said that somewhere.

Praying for the kingdom though is to pray for kingdom conditions, not least justice as seen in Magnificat and Benedictus, so it is not just God’s action but God creating the world he wants.

BEN: If we are praying for it, it’s still out there in the future, and will not be consummated until Jesus returns and we get heaven on earth, and no, its not just about justice happening within the context of the local church.

In the meanwhile, I’m hoping you are not saying the civil rights movement had nothing to do with kingdom and church mission. BTW, Selma is a pretty good movie, it brought back a lot of memories for me.

I also think Wilberforce was pretty darn clear that his work to force a change in parliament in regard to slavery laws was indeed church and kingdom mission and work. Wesley certainly thought so.

It’s a prayer and longing for the future consummation of God’s kingdom on earth.

Civil rights movement is the way Christians ought to behave for the betterment of the world. Good works to be sure.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!