Intuitive Leadership Session 4

SESSION FOUR:

Before it was called Europe, this land was known as Christendom. In the post Christendom era of the church we don’t “have” a mission, we “are” a mission…the gospel is not something which is proclaimed so much as it is something that is embodied. Thus we must own the idea that theology is always incarnational.

[ ASIDE: I would agree with that statement, except that I would emphasize that this should have always been our theology/ecclesiology. I have been extremely influenced by Moltmann and Pannenberg in ecclesiology as well as Newbigin on Missional thinking. Moltmann always said the church doesn’t have a mission, God has a mission and this missio dei calls forth the church. The missio dei calls the church into existence, but the church does not control, instigate, co-opt or initiate the missio dei. This is God’s show start to finish. That seems, to me at least, to be pretty right on. ]

What is the gospel? Tim defined it as: nothing more than, nothing less than the life of God; which can also be called Jesus; or God acting through the eternal Word (and HS) to created and re-create all of the cosmos. This is a really insightful definition and a good way to be inclusive while centering the whole thing in Trinitarian terms. The problems arise when we try to define this too narrowly and manage the boundaries of it. Tim did a really great job of teasing out the two options: bounded set or centered set.

BOUNDED SET:
This is based on who is IN and who is OUT. This is where we define exactly what the lines are between those who are in the group and out of the group and then expend a whole bunch of energy doing boundary maintenance. This view wants to define the gospel in concrete abstract terms and belief statements and then demand that people ratify a theology as much as anything else. Then behaviors are parsed and IN and OUT are again at stake. There is a hard line taken on certain divisive issues and this view also generally leads to denominationalism and the sectarian impulse.

CENTERED SET:
This is based on who is NEAR and FAR. This is where we realize that we really don’t have the ability to concretely define in and out; that we do not have the ability to see where the boundaries are – at least not exactly – and when we think we do see the boundary, we see it in motion. This is very connected to the ways that Jesus stretched the ideas of the contemporary Judaism of his day concerning who was “IN” and “OUT,” and takes on his way of using NEAR and FAR as a much healthier way of looking at the issue. Jesus had table fellowship with all kinds of outsiders. He made a whole ministry out of choosing outsiders and ruining the whole system of IN and OUT. He preferred phrases like, “you are very near to the kingdom of God.” This set is a relational set and time is not spent managing boundaries so much as it is spent in relationship with the people of God.

HOSPITALITYIf we are going to take the Centered Set approach to our faith, then we have to become experts at hospitality. He took us through a sort of belong before you believe exercise. He mentioned the Nouwen book, Reaching Out, which is incredible and emphasizes this movement from hostility to the “other,” to hospitality. Tim emphasized that today’s reality is that most of us are socialized into a different reality or into life-change. We are transformed by the community much more than we are transformed by rationality or even personal mystical experience.

He talked through the 4 stories of Israel, but honestly, if you want this part of the talk, you should really spend the time with Tim’s Easter sermon on the Jacob’s well sermon page. It’s an amazing foray into this gospel as story idea, really a great sermon and well worth the 35 minutes. The general gist is that the whole concept of gospel was born in Isaiah and is not rooted in the priestly narrative, as is much of the contemporary evangelical view. If you are going to talk about the gospel as it would be understood by those who first heard Jesus and for whom Jesus crafted his words, then you have to pay attention to themes like Exodus, Exile, etc.

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07471917839762088035 Keith Willson

    Hey Tim. I’m not sure how much was your words or Tim Keel. I would have to graciously disagree with the way Tim is applying the near/far thing. It seemed like Jesus was just proclaiming the inauguration of the kingdom announcing its arrival. In other instances when He says someone is not far from the kingdom it means that they are demonstrating humility, or some attribute that leads to repentance. Consider these verses:
    And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
    (Mar 16:15-16)
    It sounds like an in/out scenario to me although if I had time to look at more verses I would. Maybe you have some in mind, or maybe you agree with me.
    Also Tim’s definition of the Gospel seems to lack focus. Paul says:
    Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
    (1Co 15:1-5)
    I believe what Tim is saying is the effect of the gospel and is only possible because of the sacrifice. His definition seems impersonal and ignores the cross by its lack of emphasis on it. What are your thoughts? I do think that people forget that God is the gospel so I appreciate that part. God is to be enjoyed and the good news is that he can be because there is no condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Thanks for your comments, Keith. Hope all is well with you. I love that you are engaged in this stuff…way to go! You know I’m going to defend Tim’s approach because I share it, but I mean to do so humbly as well…so here goes!

    A few thoughts for you to consider:

    One technical point on your inclusion of Mark 16:15-16: most scholars agree that the gospel of Mark ends with chapter 16 verse 8. The alternate ending (which includes v.9-20) seems to have been added much later and does not exist in the oldest manuscripts. There is a 3rd shorter ending which is in some of the old manuscripts but scholarly consensus is that the Gospel of Mark ends at 16:8. Thus the verse you quoted is part of an extremely disputed section. My opinion is that that section which was added later doesn’t really fit with the rest of the gospel. Nevertheless…

    If you study the rest of Mark carefully, making sure not to lift little verses here and there out of context so as not to distort their meaning, you’ll find a very robust picture of the kingdom of God that is quite in line with the centered set motif. Jesus continually and purposefully broke the “boundary maintenance” sort of Jewish customs. He shared table fellowship with tax collectors and prostitutes, he touched unclean people & they touched him, he often crossed the sea (symbolically going back and forth between Jewish/Gentile territory), he touched dead people, etc. In ALL of those instances Jesus sanctified those things, which is to say, instead of Jesus becoming unclean by touching a corpse, the corpse becomes alive and so on. This happens as a result of forgiving sins, or of healing a physical malady, or even exercision of a demonic power. In other words the work of Christ is much more than simply the forgiveness of sins. It is about a new way to be a human being.

    Jesus redefined the boundaries such that every time someone tried to nail them down, he moved them and made them available to the very people which the boundary maintainers were attempting to keep out. In Miroslav Volf’s words, the kingdom of God is about embrace, not exclusion. That is the over-arching shape of the story of God according to the gospels and Paul as well.

    I can’t get into the philosophical and theological minutae here, but the general point is that the kingdom of God must be understood relationally. One becomes part of the kingdom of God through Christ in the power of the Spirit for sure. This ALWAYS happens in the church as the body of Christ. It is the church which mediates the presence of Christ to us through the spirit. The church is not an “in/out” sort of affair in the sort of black and white “belief” litmus test ways that you are construing it. That’s a distortion of the scriptures. For instance, in my upbringing, accepting Christ as personal lord and savior was the entrance into salvation. But not once is that mentioned in scripture. Not only that the logic of faith defies some sort of personal decision that is once and for all. We are not saved so much as we are being saved. We do not so much “have faith” as we are “faithing” on a daily basis.

    The boundaries of what it means to be a part of the people of God are not rigid, they are relational. But it seems as though you want to define that boundary as “belief.” I think that is much too simplistic. Simple belief or more commonly “faith” – when construed as mental assent – is never what Paul means when the English translation of scripture translates “believe” or “faith: (Greek: pistis). Faith does not mean simple “belief” or “trust” in Paul – it means faithfulness, fidelity, trust, loyalty, all those things at once. It is a holistic way of being human. Belief is similar as well. Being a Christian is not a set of beliefs to which you hold. Being a part of the kingdom of God is a new way to be a human being. Belief is certainly part of it, but it is much more holistic than simple trust. One of Paul’s favorite phrases is “have the mind of Christ.” Mind (Greek: phroneo)does not mean thoughts. It means a particular pattern of thinking, feeling and acting. This pattern is somewhat amporphous, always changing and adapting to the surrounding culture. Faithfulness looks different today than it did 200 years ago.

    Think about how Mark tells the story. Mark begins with a voice crying out in the wilderness, which constitutes the “far reaches” where God is not present. God is in Jerusalem – not in the wilderness. Yet it is here that Jesus is baptized, the Spirit descends like a dove, the heavens are “torn” apart and the voice of God declares his divine Sonship. For the duration of the story, the presence of God is on the loose and with Jesus. Through the incarnation, God has come near, and thus God takes the initiative. As Jesus dies on the cross he gives up his spirit, the temple curtain which actually had a mural of the “heavens” painted on it is torn, and the centurion makes the confession of divine Sonship. This inclusio frames the entire Gospel of Mark in which the death of Jesus is the central scene. What we can learn from this is that the boundaries, which all too many in the evangelical church are preoccupied with, have been destroyed. God is on the loose in the person of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Boundaries like in and out do not constitute the kingdom of God. Proximity to Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit does.

    Sorry if this is really disjointed. I didn’t really have time to make it concise or even to get very far into 1 Cor. 15, which is a huge chapter for Paul – incidentally one that is not really trying to establish belief as the basis for the kingdom, is not written in sacrificial motif but the motif of Christus Victor and is really working to establish the resurrection as the basis for hope and new life. (Read whole books and chapters – it’s a way better way to engage the narrative instead of picking out verses to try and prove a point). Anyway, feel free to push back here and I’ll be glad to engage some more.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07471917839762088035 Keith Willson

    The simple proclamation that God is restoring the world through Jesus Christ without the means of restoration robs God of his glory displayed on the cross and does not save souls.

    Tim,

    Sorry I have not had time to respond because I have been busy moving to my new place.
    Fair enough on the Mark 16:9-20 point. I do admit that I stumbled upon that verse and it fit my point too perfectly to pass up. But I have read through the rest of Mark as well as the new testament and for the purposes of conversation I must “lift” verses. I do think that your method of looking for patterns in scripture is a legitimate method of argumentation, yet I think that proof texting (given a context) is a legitimate way as well.
    It seems that you are putting me in a box of common evangelical heresy known as easy believism or decisional regeneration. I am aware of James 2:19
    “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! “
    I don’t think that our life in Christ is a theological quiz that if we pass we are “IN”. It is so much more than that and it is a way of life. I agree that it is unscriptural to tell someone that all it takes is a simple decision, or a walk down the isle. These are manmade doctrines. We don’t accept Jesus, Jesus accepts us, but not on any merit of our own but because of his love given through his sacrifice. Jesus cannot be your savior and not your Lord as well. You must start with repentance and faith and continue repenting and putting your faith in Christ. If a tree ceases to bare fruit then it will be burned and so on.
    In describing the kingdom of God as as either “in or out” or “near and far” commits the fallacy that ignores the fact that both could be true. The problem I have with the near and far is not the concept itself but the exclusion of the “in or out” part of the kindom mentality. There are many more verses that support an “in or out” view of the kindom, i.e. “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kindom of God” or the fact the disciples asked how to inherit eternal life. Plus you cannot even have a gospel of inclusion unless you have some people that are IN which are including the people that are OUT. If I had a club that offered membership to anyone, some people are still in and some people are still out.
    You said:
    One of Paul’s favorite phrases is “have the mind of Christ.” Mind (Greek: phroneo)does not mean thoughts. It means a particular pattern of thinking, feeling and acting. This pattern is somewhat amorphous, always changing and adapting to the surrounding culture.
    Your comment on this mind having a pattern which is always changing and adapting to the surrounding culture is not only illogical but unbiblical. Christ’s mind is essentially God’s mind which is always countercultural and never changes, period. The culture’s system of thinking is anti-Christ. Matthew 16:23, Romans 12:2, John 7:7. 1 Cor 2:1-6 shows Pauls mentality. We must speak the truth in love and those that are God’s will listen 1 John 4:5-6.
    I am most concerned with the definition of the Gospel that Tim described. This is the most important thing because if we get this wrong we are damned. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. “ (Gal 1:8) Even a distortion of the Gospel is not the true Gospel (Gal 1:7).
    I gave you clear biblical text that described the Gospel as the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:1-5) Just because Paul’s main point is that the Corinthians should live by the Gospel (1 Cor 9:14) doesn’t mean it is irrelevant for Paul to remind them what the Gospel is.(1 Cor 15:1-5). You said:
    I didn’t really have time to make it concise or even to get very far into 1 Cor. 15, which is a huge chapter for Paul – incidentally one that is not really trying to establish belief as the basis for the kingdom, is not written in sacrificial motif but the motif of Christus Victor and is really working to establish the resurrection as the basis for hope and new life.
    How can there be any ressurrection if there is no death? Why does Jesus’ resurrection give us any hope if it is not related to a sacrifice for us.? We must hope in Jesus as a sacrifice for redemption to make any sense at all.
    You must prove that the Gospel is not Christ’s death burial and resurrection and the ramifications of that truth.

    My speculations:
    All you give me is opinion and you inflate themes in scripture making them bigger than the most obvious truths. You must use text to convince me that Paul and the Apostles ran around the world preaching that God was going to make the world a better place if only you would accept this new way of being. This sounds extremely gnostic to me to put it bluntly. That view of the Kingdom is far too simplistic. There is no grace in this view because there is no judgement, it is just a rescue from Satan. There is a denial of the importance of God’s propitiatory sacrifice of his Son for our sin. You say that this view is centered yet I am perplexed as to what it is centered on. Oh wait, it is man centered, not cross-centered. And further more this is not Good News. If Jesus is God but is not a sacrifice than I am still in my sins and will be punished on judgement day. A way of life (how holy it might be) will not save anyone.

    Tim I don’t think that the Gospel definition you hold is adequate to save mankind because it purposefully ignores Jesus as a sacrifice robbing the power from the Gospel. According to 1 Cor 1:17-18 the cross is the power to salvation so that should be the focus. Do you have any specific book recommendations so I can better understand your theological framework (especially in regards to the Gospel)? I don’t want to assume things that you may not hold to and put you in a box that doesn’t describe your views.
    Some more good verses describing the Gospel:
    Gal 1:4
    Eph 1, 2
    Rom 2:16
    1 Pet 2:24

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Hey Keith,

    It’s cool how much you are clearly thinking about this stuff. I wish I had more time to dialogue with you. If you want to grab lunch fire me an email and lets do it. A few quick responses:

    On books that would help you understand my view of the gospel, I don’t know where to start really. I’d start by reading the gospel of Mark once a day for seven days. While you are reading it read Sharyn Dowd’s commentary on Mark, I think it’s called “Reading Mark.” You could read “A Community Called Atonement,” by Scot McNight. You could read “Unapologetic Theology,” by William Placher. If you really want to blow your hair back, read “The Politics of Jesus,” by John Howard Yoder or “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society” by Lesslie Newbigin. Online you could read this article and my post about it, that would be a good start: http://timsuttle.blogspot.com/2008/02/new-heaven-new-earth.html

    One question…do you think that the primary role of Jesus was to be the sacrifice for sins so that people can “get in” to heaven when they die? Was Jesus simply the sacrifice? Because that’s not really orthodoxy. If that is all Jesus had to do, why the drama? Why the resurrection? Why not just be born and then be put to death…deal done. Don’t you think there is much more going on there than the payment of the guilt of discrete individual sins. The sacrificial motif is most certainly a central theme in the New Testament. But there are many other important themes which far back into the memory of the Jewish people. I’ll try and stick pretty close to scripture since you said you prefer that mode of discourse…

    The cross was a comprehensive reality for Paul. The central issue concerning the cross and Paul’s writings about it concerns God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel. How will God remain faithful to Israel in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness? Michael Gorman, who has worked with the theme of cruciformity, insists that we must consider that Paul viewed Jesus’ life/death/resurrection not as a onetime “quirky” phenomenon, but as the ultimate revelation of the way God is. God is the kenotic, self-giving God and the cross is the ultimate act of self giving. (that’s another great book – “Reading Paul” by Michael Gorman). The cross is theophany. In Paul alone we have at least 6 different types of meanings attached to the life/death/resurrection of Christ:

    1. Jusification: the restoration of right covenant (this is relational, not sacrificial) [see: Romans 3:24-31; 5:1-11; 8:30; 10:10, 1 Cor. 6:11; Gal 2:15-21; 3:6-11]

    2. Reconciliation: the cessation of enmity…restoration of friendship with God and others [see: Rom 5:1-11; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Eph 2:11-22]

    3. Redemption: release of bondage from sin [see: Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor 6:19-20]

    4. Forgiveness of sins: [see: Rom 3:25; 4:7; 1 Cor 15:3; Gal 1:4; Col 1:14]

    5. Deliverance from Cosmic Powers: [see: Col. 2:13-15]

    6. Deliverance from the coming wrath of God: [Rom 5:9-11; Thess 1:10]

    This list shows that in every way possible and necessary, Jesus “became what we are so that we might become what he is.” This very reality in Paul implies participation. There is a sense in which Paul fully expects those who are “in Christ” to be participating in this kenotic or cruciform life of Christ. Being “in” Christ is a huge Pauline theme but not in the “in or out” sense that we so often make it. It is about relationship – it is about near and far.

    Romans is of particular concern in terms of the Pauline approach to atonement. Paul states up front that the goal of his ministry is to bring about the obedience of faith (Rom.1:5) among the Gentiles. We know that faith (pistis) is not disconnected from obedience, fidelity, trust, etc. Faith is not simply “trust” or “believe.” Faith is a holistic response that includes mind, body, soul and spirit. Primary focus is placed upon the Dikaiosynē Theou which is revealed through the faithfulness of Jesus. I can’t cover this well because this is a huge issue but just consider a few snapshots of what Paul is doing.

    Rom 1:18 – 3:20; the world is in slavery to sin, which is conceived as an apocalyptic power. The result of human sinfulness is that it experiences God’s wrath, not as an eschatological threat, but as the natural manifestation of the wages of sin. When human beings give themselves to the worship of idols, it throws all of their relationships into chaos. The are corrupted in all directions. Self to God, self to self, self to others and self to the created order. The power of sin is not simply guilt and threat of punishment, but it is the every day dealing of death into the life of the person. God has structured the world in such a way such that if we ignore God and live a life of sinfulness, God simply gives humans over “to the chaos for which they vote.”

    Rom 3:21-31; God enacts a restoration project for all of humanity and the cosmos. Through the faith of Jesus, the righteousness of God is revealed. It is God who has initiated this – God comes for us – through the faithfulness of Jesus. In 3:25 there is clearly sacrificial imagery being deployed. But you have to be careful. This is not simply the old testament day of atonement imagery here The major difference is that Christ is both priest and sacrifice and this is nowhere near the Temple. The language does not necessarily connote that Jesus’ death is somehow satisfying God’s wrath. There are important differences between the sacrificial metaphor here and that of Old Testament sacrifice: the cross is not an altar; in the OT humans aren’t the sacrificed it is an animal; in the OT the priest who offers the sacrifice is not killed. What Jesus is doing cannot be separated from what God is doing as though God is doing something to Jesus.

    Rom 4:1-15; Paul brings Abraham into the picture in order to clarify the role of faith. Abraham’s trust was in God’s covenant faithfulness. It is God’s faithfulness which provokes human faithfulness. Abraham trusts in God’s faithfulness all the way up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. Though Abraham’s faith is on display here, it is God’s faithfulness which is of primary importance.
    Rom 9-11; this is the ultimate triumph of the righteousness of God in the face of Israel’s constant disobedience. Somehow Israel’s hardened hearts make room for God to work on behalf of the salvation of the Gentiles. On the backs of the unfaithful children of Israel, God works in order to “mercy” all people. There is only one way that God accomplishes this and that is through Christ.
    Rom 12-15; the Christian vocation, then is a non-identical repetition of Christ’s kenotic, self-giving life. This involves more than spiritualized allegiance, more than simple “belief,” but a rendering of the body, the whole life unto God. The language is that of presenting our plural bodies as a singular sacrifice. The ecclesia (church) becomes, in its corporate life together, a sacrifice acceptable to God in an act of non-identical repetition of Christ. Implicit in this section is the difficult idea that although this is not individualistic, it is personal. Everyone presents themselves (individuals) as part of the body (plural). We are communal persons and social beings and thus it is among the ecclesia that we will become what we are meant to be. This is Paul’s stance. Salvation/sanctification is considered to be both personal and communal. What is happening is relational in nature. It is not simply about in and out, it is much more dynamic than that, unless you want to say “in or out” of the people of God.

    This is such an incomplete list but the Christ event is given great significance in the New Testament apart from the sacrificial motif. The NT says that through Christ:

    MARK:
    - God comes near
    - Wins the Conflict with evil
    - Brings about New creation

    MATTHEW:
    - God provides forgiveness
    - God inaugurates a new cosmic epoch (not just “saving souls” but new creation)

    IN LUKE-ACTS:
    - God enacts a great Status reversal, the lowly are raised, the high are brought low
    - forms a distinct people called the ekklesia or church
    - provides Forgiveness
    - provides deliverance from slavery
    - makes a way for the restoration of the covenant people of God

    JOHN:
    - Jesus is the sacrifical offering

    PAUL:
    - Justification
    - Reconciliation
    - Redemption
    - Forgiveness of sins
    - Deliverance from Cosmic Powers
    - Deliverance from the wrath of God
    - Empowerment to fulfill the covenant’s obligations

    HEBREWS:
    - Redefinition of sacrifice
    - Mediation
    - Jesus as both priest and sacrifice

    I have no way to sum up what the gospel is other than to simply tell the story. That Christ, the pre-existent Word of God through which the very world was created, became human. He proclaimed the coming of the year of the Lord’s favor, the release from captivity. He lifted up the lowly and admonished the proud. He bound the strongman and plundered the house of Satan. He redefined table fellowship and broke down the religious barriers of in/out in favor of a more inclusive relationship with the people of God. He redefined family as the people of God. He bore our sins to the cross. He endured the wrath of sin all the way to death and although the powers of evil meant this as his nadir, the cross turned out to be his glory – his finest hour. He was buried and on the third day God raised him from the dead, claiming power over sin and death and making possible resurrection and new life. He sent the Spirit into the world which constituted the church. He is alive and active standing with the poor and oppressed. We stand with him when we stand with them. He is alive and active in the hearts of humanity and in the church which is the body of Christ. It is now possible for those who are in Christ to be made new, to be re-created through the Spirit and to live eternal kind of lives right now. Someday he will come again and say “enough” to sin. Sin will be removed and peace will be restored and God will dwell with his people here on the earth. The hope of the Christian is this resurrection and the return of the king.

    That’s the best I can do off the top of my head. The scope of the gospel is not simply “saving souls.” The scope of the gospel is the complete new creation of the cosmos through Christ.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Hey Keith,

    It’s cool how much you are clearly thinking about this stuff. I wish I had more time to dialogue with you. If you want to grab lunch fire me an email and lets do it. A few quick responses:

    On books that would help you understand my view of the gospel, I don’t know where to start really. I’d start by reading the gospel of Mark once a day for seven days. While you are reading it read Sharyn Dowd’s commentary on Mark, I think it’s called “Reading Mark.” You could read “A Community Called Atonement,” by Scot McNight. You could read “Unapologetic Theology,” by William Placher. If you really want to blow your hair back, read “The Politics of Jesus,” by John Howard Yoder or “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society” by Lesslie Newbigin. Online you could read this article and my post about it, that would be a good start: http://timsuttle.blogspot.com/2008/02/new-heaven-new-earth.html

    One question…do you think that the primary role of Jesus was to be the sacrifice for sins so that people can “get in” to heaven when they die? Was Jesus simply the sacrifice? Because that’s not really orthodoxy. If that is all Jesus had to do, why the drama? Why the resurrection? Why not just be born and then be put to death…deal done. Don’t you think there is much more going on there than the payment of the guilt of discrete individual sins. The sacrificial motif is most certainly a central theme in the New Testament. But there are many other important themes which far back into the memory of the Jewish people. I’ll try and stick pretty close to scripture since you said you prefer that mode of discourse…

    The cross was a comprehensive reality for Paul. The central issue concerning the cross and Paul’s writings about it concerns God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel. How will God remain faithful to Israel in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness? Michael Gorman, who has worked with the theme of cruciformity, insists that we must consider that Paul viewed Jesus’ life/death/resurrection not as a onetime “quirky” phenomenon, but as the ultimate revelation of the way God is. God is the kenotic, self-giving God and the cross is the ultimate act of self giving. (that’s another great book – “Reading Paul” by Michael Gorman). The cross is theophany. In Paul alone we have at least 6 different types of meanings attached to the life/death/resurrection of Christ:

    1. Jusification: the restoration of right covenant (this is relational, not sacrificial) [see: Romans 3:24-31; 5:1-11; 8:30; 10:10, 1 Cor. 6:11; Gal 2:15-21; 3:6-11]

    2. Reconciliation: the cessation of enmity…restoration of friendship with God and others [see: Rom 5:1-11; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Eph 2:11-22]

    3. Redemption: release of bondage from sin [see: Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor 6:19-20]

    4. Forgiveness of sins: [see: Rom 3:25; 4:7; 1 Cor 15:3; Gal 1:4; Col 1:14]

    5. Deliverance from Cosmic Powers: [see: Col. 2:13-15]

    6. Deliverance from the coming wrath of God: [Rom 5:9-11; Thess 1:10]

    This list shows that in every way possible and necessary, Jesus “became what we are so that we might become what he is.” This very reality in Paul implies participation. There is a sense in which Paul fully expects those who are “in Christ” to be participating in this kenotic or cruciform life of Christ. Being “in” Christ is a huge Pauline theme but not in the “in or out” sense that we so often make it. It is about relationship – it is about near and far.

    Romans is of particular concern in terms of the Pauline approach to atonement. Paul states up front that the goal of his ministry is to bring about the obedience of faith (Rom.1:5) among the Gentiles. We know that faith (pistis) is not disconnected from obedience, fidelity, trust, etc. Faith is not simply “trust” or “believe.” Faith is a holistic response that includes mind, body, soul and spirit. Primary focus is placed upon the Dikaiosynē Theou which is revealed through the faithfulness of Jesus. I can’t cover this well because this is a huge issue but just consider a few snapshots of what Paul is doing.

    Rom 1:18 – 3:20; the world is in slavery to sin, which is conceived as an apocalyptic power. The result of human sinfulness is that it experiences God’s wrath, not as an eschatological threat, but as the natural manifestation of the wages of sin. When human beings give themselves to the worship of idols, it throws all of their relationships into chaos. The are corrupted in all directions. Self to God, self to self, self to others and self to the created order. The power of sin is not simply guilt and threat of punishment, but it is the every day dealing of death into the life of the person. God has structured the world in such a way such that if we ignore God and live a life of sinfulness, God simply gives humans over “to the chaos for which they vote.”

    Rom 3:21-31; God enacts a restoration project for all of humanity and the cosmos. Through the faith of Jesus, the righteousness of God is revealed. It is God who has initiated this – God comes for us – through the faithfulness of Jesus. In 3:25 there is clearly sacrificial imagery being deployed. But you have to be careful. This is not simply the old testament day of atonement imagery here The major difference is that Christ is both priest and sacrifice and this is nowhere near the Temple. The language does not necessarily connote that Jesus’ death is somehow satisfying God’s wrath. There are important differences between the sacrificial metaphor here and that of Old Testament sacrifice: the cross is not an altar; in the OT humans aren’t the sacrificed it is an animal; in the OT the priest who offers the sacrifice is not killed. What Jesus is doing cannot be separated from what God is doing as though God is doing something to Jesus.

    Rom 4:1-15; Paul brings Abraham into the picture in order to clarify the role of faith. Abraham’s trust was in God’s covenant faithfulness. It is God’s faithfulness which provokes human faithfulness. Abraham trusts in God’s faithfulness all the way up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. Though Abraham’s faith is on display here, it is God’s faithfulness which is of primary importance.
    Rom 9-11; this is the ultimate triumph of the righteousness of God in the face of Israel’s constant disobedience. Somehow Israel’s hardened hearts make room for God to work on behalf of the salvation of the Gentiles. On the backs of the unfaithful children of Israel, God works in order to “mercy” all people. There is only one way that God accomplishes this and that is through Christ.
    Rom 12-15; the Christian vocation, then is a non-identical repetition of Christ’s kenotic, self-giving life. This involves more than spiritualized allegiance, more than simple “belief,” but a rendering of the body, the whole life unto God. The language is that of presenting our plural bodies as a singular sacrifice. The ecclesia (church) becomes, in its corporate life together, a sacrifice acceptable to God in an act of non-identical repetition of Christ. Implicit in this section is the difficult idea that although this is not individualistic, it is personal. Everyone presents themselves (individuals) as part of the body (plural). We are communal persons and social beings and thus it is among the ecclesia that we will become what we are meant to be. This is Paul’s stance. Salvation/sanctification is considered to be both personal and communal. What is happening is relational in nature. It is not simply about in and out, it is much more dynamic than that, unless you want to say “in or out” of the people of God.

    This is such an incomplete list but the Christ event is given great significance in the New Testament apart from the sacrificial motif. The NT says that through Christ:

    MARK:
    - God comes near
    - Wins the Conflict with evil
    - Brings about New creation

    MATTHEW:
    - God provides forgiveness
    - God inaugurates a new cosmic epoch (not just “saving souls” but new creation)

    IN LUKE-ACTS:
    - God enacts a great Status reversal, the lowly are raised, the high are brought low
    - forms a distinct people called the ekklesia or church
    - provides Forgiveness
    - provides deliverance from slavery
    - makes a way for the restoration of the covenant people of God

    JOHN:
    - Jesus is the sacrifical offering

    PAUL:
    - Justification
    - Reconciliation
    - Redemption
    - Forgiveness of sins
    - Deliverance from Cosmic Powers
    - Deliverance from the wrath of God
    - Empowerment to fulfill the covenant’s obligations

    HEBREWS:
    - Redefinition of sacrifice
    - Mediation
    - Jesus as both priest and sacrifice

    I have no way to sum up what the gospel is other than to simply tell the story. That Christ, the pre-existent Word of God through which the very world was created, became human. He proclaimed the coming of the year of the Lord’s favor, the release from captivity. He lifted up the lowly and admonished the proud. He bound the strongman and plundered the house of Satan. He redefined table fellowship and broke down the religious barriers of in/out in favor of a more inclusive relationship with the people of God. He redefined family as the people of God. He bore our sins to the cross. He endured the wrath of sin all the way to death and although the powers of evil meant this as his nadir, the cross turned out to be his glory – his finest hour. He was buried and on the third day God raised him from the dead, claiming power over sin and death and making possible resurrection and new life. He sent the Spirit into the world which constituted the church. He is alive and active standing with the poor and oppressed. We stand with him when we stand with them. He is alive and active in the hearts of humanity and in the church which is the body of Christ. It is now possible for those who are in Christ to be made new, to be re-created through the Spirit and to live eternal kind of lives right now. Someday he will come again and say “enough” to sin. Sin will be removed and peace will be restored and God will dwell with his people here on the earth. The hope of the Christian is this resurrection and the return of the king.

    That’s the best I can do off the top of my head. The scope of the gospel is not simply “saving souls.” The scope of the gospel is the complete new creation of the cosmos through Christ.


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