Hierodule


March 26, 2010

Greg Gilbert has a new book out, called What is the Gospel. Looks good. I haven't read it all but I did some keyword searches for my own bugaboos. It is browsable online.

Anyway, Gilbert rightly emphasizes the glories of the consummated kingdom. But he wants to stress that its "establishment" or "consummation" can't happen by human beings. (p. 92-93).
I'm always a little amazed when I see people talk about all these promises ---[of the consummated kingdom]---and then they look up from these promises and say "Okay, let's go make that happen!"

Despite all our best---and genuinely good---efforts to make the world a better place, the kingdom promised in the bible will only come about when King Jesus himself returns to make it happen.

[knowing this is good because] First it protects us from wrong an ultimately deceiving optimism about what we will be able to accomplish in this fallen world. Christians will certainly be able to bring about some changes in society. It's happened before in history, and I have no doubt that it is happening in places even now and will happen again in the future.

The biblical story line forces us to recognize that until Christ returns, our social and cultural victories will always be tenuous, never permanent. Christians will never bring about the Kingdom of God. Only God himself will do that. The heavenly Jerusalem comes down from heaven. It is not built from the ground up. [emphasis his]
Ok, fair enough. I wonder though how many people he encounters who want to make "resurrected life in heaven" happen now. But note for now the centrality of geographic location for his argument. Because he goes on shortly thereafter to tell us about what the life of a citizen of the kingdom is (pp. 96-98).
Until Christ returns, we his people continue to live in this sinful age, and our King calls us to live a life worthy of the kingdom to which he called us, to "shine like stars" in a crooked and depraved generation. (Phil. 2.15)

The bible tells us that in this age, the life of the kingdom is worked out primarily in the church. Did you ever think about that? The church is where God's kingdom is made visible in this age. Look at Ephesians 3:10-11
[God's] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The church is the arena in which God has chosen, above all, to showcase his wisdom and the glory of the gospel. As many have put it before, the church is the outpost of God's kingdom in the world. It is not correct to say that the church is the kingdom of God. As we have seen, there's much more to the kingdom than that. But it is right to say that the church is where we see the kingdom of God manifested in this age.

Do you want to see what the kingdom of God looks like, at least before it's made perfect? Do you want to see the life of the kingdom lives out in this age? Look at the church. That's where God's wisdom is displayed, where people who were formerly alienated are reconciled and united because of Jesus, and where God's Holy Spirit is at work remaking and rebuilding human lives. Its where God's people learn to love one another, to bear one another's burdens and sorrows, to weep together and rejoice together, and to hold one another accountable.
I note that he reminds us that we presently “shine like stars”. Ephesians of course says we are “seated in heavenly places”, and perhaps that is how it is that now the wisdom of God is made known to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. Not from the earth! But because we as citizens are regarded as up there too.

Both of those texts place us, human beings, somehow “up there” in heaven. So I’m not sure that saying "the kingdom comes down from heaven, therefore, we can’t expect the citizens of the kingdom to actually be doing any of the work to bring it to bear on earth" works. Since the bible says we’re not, properly speaking, working from the earth anymore.

Gilbert admits this of the 'human efforts', imperfect even, of the people of God loving each other, sharing their joys, etc. But would he have to also say that all those efforts and victories in the church are "tenuous" and "impermanent"? I suppose he could. But then when the citizens of the kingdom also, say, oppose slavery or abortion through a manifold number of efforts, is that not ALSO a showing of the wisdom of god to the rulers in the heavenlies?

Gilbert is originally surprised that anyone would look at the promises of the consummated kingdom and say "lets make that happen". But he is then saying that if you want to go look at the kingdom that includes humans reconciled to each other, you can look at the church. I don't see those two things as so far apart.

I thought this comment was interesting
To the world, Christians are threatening, and it has always been that ways. In the days of the early Church, the declaration 'Jesus is lord' was a seditious and blasphemous rejection of the emperor's authority and they killed Christians for saying it. Today the declaration 'Jesus is lord' is an intolerant and bigoted rejection of pluralism, and the world reviles us for it
It almost seems like Gilbert agrees with the seditious nature of the declaration in the early church. Is he arguing likewise for the "intolerant and bigoted" perception of the claim as accurate as well?


March 24, 2010

From Lillback's The Binding of God, p 105
men will make errors in their attempts to judge if someone is elect or not. But God’s word or law is absolutely reliable. If the law declares that God’s people belong to him, one must receive it as the truth, until the law shows that they do not belong to him as in the case of an adult unbeliever from a Christian family

   
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