Simply Jesus 7

Simply Jesus 7 December 6, 2011

The question I kept asking as I read Tom Wright’s new book, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, was this: OK, so God becomes King in Jesus and God exercises his sovereignty through Jesus, but what does that look like today? where is that to be found today? How close are kingdom and church? How is it meaningful to say Jesus is the Ruler of the World? I found this chp fascinating.

First,  Tom contends vigorously, and he anchors this from Genesis 1 to Revelation, that God exercises his rule today through the church, through us.

Jesus rescues humans in order to extend his kingdom and rescue project through those who are rescued. We are not helping him; he gives this task to us. He called his followers to be his witnesses in Acts 1. It was through them that the gospel would go to the Roman empire. Tom develops the temple them in Acts.

Second, the vital action of the followers of Jesus in this kingdom work is to worship the one and only God, and worship is the most political action the Christians are to perform. They are also to do good works as the way to implement the rule of Christ in this world. The church has surrendered too much of this to the State, forgetting that it was the church that did these things over its history. [I wondered here if Tom would consider the implementation of these elements by the state as evidence of the church’s ministry and mission being successful.]

I would ask you: Where is the kingdom manifested today?

Third, this means Tom is one of the important voices today in seeing the significance of the church in the kingdom of God in this world today; it means he sees an ecclesial shape to kingdom. He has some wise words about how the media talks about the church and observes that it might be a 1000 to 1 ratio of folks doing good things vs. the one bad egg the media decides to squat on. The church, he reminds us, is the society of the forgiven and reconciled and not the society of the perfect.

This leads him to reflect a bit on how the kingdom is working today: in divinely-shaped order and not chaos; God’s bending of the will of those not living under his kingship; the need for the church to call leaders and rulers and nations to account and to bear witness to the rule of Jesus in this world.

Tom sees the kingdom at work wherever the will of God is being done.

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  • I am reading this chapter at the moment. My only concern is that he seems to be a bit light on the Holy Spirit (working through the church).

  • Mick Porter

    ” Tom sees the kingdom at work wherever the will of God is being done.”

    That sounds like a great definition!

  • Paul W

    I’ve understood the church at large and each individual local congregation as an outpost of the heavenly Emperor. As such the liturgy is one of the important places were the kingdom is manifest.

    Among other things in the liturgy:

    — we separate from our individual activities and lives to be united together and to identify with each other;

    — we pray for each other, our loved ones, and the rulers of the world for the good of all people;

    — we hear the word of God which among other things lays out an alternative way of life;

    — we sit at a table where ‘we who are many’ are formed into one body, an alternative Christian polis, by sharing in the one loaf;

    — we are extended a gospel message of peace and forgiveness which we in turn extend to each other;

    — we are sent out to enter the routines of our daily lives with God’s blessing to bear witness and perform deaconal deeds.

  • Ben Tacoma

    ‘the need for the church to call leaders and rulers and nations to account and to bear witness to the rule of Jesus in this world.’

    I’m confused by the construction of this sentence. Does it mean ‘the church’ are the ones who should ‘bear witness to the rule of Jesus’ or ‘the leaders and rulers and nations’?

  • Dave Groenenboom

    I love this book. My Kindle version is heavily highlighted…

    I love Wright’s approach to the Kingdom being lived out through Jesus’ disciples. His Kingdom comes to increasing expression as we strive for the world that would delight God. I massaged his phrasing a little, and apply it along the lines of “God is King here and this is what it looks like”. As a disciple of Jesus, I now have the privileged calling of Announcing his rule, Anticipating what a world that delights him looks like, and courageously Applying that vision in all my circles of influence.

    I find that incredibly liberating and wonderfully motivating!

  • Maybe I’m too hung up on the word “King” but it seems a lot different to me to say “Jesus is King and your role is to be subject to Him and to live out what his kingdom looks like. Serve the poor, shoe mercy, turn the other cheek, etc. and participate in the Kingdom” than to say “Jesus demonstrates Gods reconciling love and through his victory and lordship over every kind of death you are finally FREE. You no longer have to love in fear that you aren’t good enough or don’t measure up. Under His kingship you are ABLE to truly live, to truly be happy, knowing that you are secure and loved. You have nothing to prove. Now go and love in that Truth, moment by moment just as Jesus did.

    I read king Jesus gospel and loved it, but just have had this nagging feeling like the motivation to love rightly is still extrinsic, that we live a certain way because we are told to even though we’d rather not. Isnt the deeper truth that in christ we finally have a way to love as we were originally created, to love in tune with ultimate reality an to really truly be happy? Sure, God commands us to live this way, but it’s not an externally motivating command. It is the Way to happiness, Truth, and Life.

    Am I making too much of this distinction?

  • Sorry, a couple of times in my above post “love” should be “live”. : (

  • I would remind us that we need to keep in perspective that the kingdom always takes precedence over church-ekklesia. The kingdom existed before the church, Jesus proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom (not the church), we are called to see the kingdom (not church) come on earth as it is in heaven, and we are called to seek first the kingdom (not the church) and its righteousness.

    Of course, the church is (or should be) the greatest expression of God’s rule on earth. But the church only finds its purpose in submitting to the kingdom rule of God. This is why I like a book such as E. Stanley Jones’ The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person.

  • A.j

    I really enjoyed this book. I found myself saying yes and amen throughout most of it. However, the last section and where he explains what this looks like, He used the phrase I hear in much of the social justice movement ‘speaking truth to power’. I don’t get this anywhere in the N.T. Where do people get this? Could someone please help me out?

  • John W Frye

    ScottL (#8),
    You wrote, “Of course, the church is (or should be) the greatest expression of God’s rule on earth.” If by ‘rule’ you mean ‘kingdom,’ then you’ve welded the church and the kingdom together. Where presently is God’s kingdom at work apart from the church? I think N.T. Wright in trying to narrow if not close the gap between kingdom and church viz a viz E. Stanley Jones.

  • John –

    The church is not the kingdom, but a people created by the kingdom as they submit to God’s rule. Yes, the church is the greatest expression of the kingdom rule of God, but not the only way God can express His rule. He can outright express it Himself apart from the church, He can use people of the world created in His image though not yet believers (i.e. Cyrus), He can even use Satan to do His bidding.

  • Jerry Sather

    Scot, I was speaking with an African christian today who said that the long history of faith (church/kingdom) in the West has shaped our culture and society. We are who we are, a people blessed and a people who bless the world, in large part because the church has made us reflect, in some measure, the kingdom.

  • Scot I was really struck while listening to one of your lectures at Baylor on podcast about your point that the church is the visible expression of kingdom work, and that rather than focusing on “social work” externally, the church itself should be a model of the impact of the kingdom. I kept thinking about your point in relationship to Acts, where the emphasis is on how the Jerusalem church took care of its poor, even across cultural borders (Acts 6), and how the church at Antioch sent help to the Christians in Judea in the famine relief visit in Acts 11-12, another, even more significant cross-racial demonstration of the kingdom.
    This is not to say that Christians should not help poor non-Christians! I just thought it was a great point – and your description of the church as a beachhead of God’s kingdom really hit home. Can’t wait to read Wright’s book, but wanted to thank you for your presentation in connection with this issue of the kingdom.

  • Kenny Johnson

    I’ve ordered this book and can’t wait to read it. Some good stuff in this post. Love: “Jesus rescues humans in order to extend his kingdom and rescue project through those who are rescued. ”

    And: “The church, he reminds us, is the society of the forgiven and reconciled and not the society of the perfect.”