Christian Theology in a Thumbnail: Church (17)
God chose/elected humanity in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:3f.). Thus, God has determined not to be God without us! He could have been, God lacked nothing and needed nothing to be God. God, the one triune God, is an eternal communication, communion, and community between the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Creation then is not a necessity for God to be God; it is a free act of his love extending his inner-trinitarian fellowship to those other than himself.
We creatures went astray and botched God’s design for us and for creation but good! This primal rebellion of creature against Creator messed everything up. When God launched his counter-offensive against this revolution, he called a pagan idolater out of Ur and promised to make through him and his wife a great people, to bless that people, and to use that people to bless everyone else (Gen.12:1-3).
Abraham’s family, then, is the “vehicle” God will use to reclaim and restore his erring creatures and heal his damaged creation. Since we too, though faith in Christ are also made a part of Abraham’s family (Rom.4; Gal.3), the character of this family is of utmost concern for us. I suggest the best way to describe this family in all the forms it has taken through history – slaves freed and fugitive, wandering nomads, a loose confederation of clans, a united and then divided state, a people in exile, a transnational community in Christ – is as a Subversive/Counter-Revolutionary/Movement.
-Subversive because they are to be a living protest against the ethics, ethos, and environment of the fallen world they inhabit.
-Counter-Revolutionary because they not only protest but also live a different way of life aligned with God’s will and way.
-Movement because they are “sent” by God to take his subversive counter-revolution to all the world.
We could use more traditional language and describe the church as “sign, foretaste, and instrument” of God’s kingdom (Lesslie Newbigin), or in the language I prefer, a “sign, sacrament, and servant” of that kingdom. In either form, I think, this language hides through familiarity or piety more than it reveals. Biblical thought about the church only regains its “edge” and gives the church the sense of urgency and passion it needs to faithfully participate in the subversive, counter-revolution God is waging against the powers of sin, evil, and death.
These latter, defeated by Christ on the cross and at his resurrection from the dead, are not yet fully and finally vanquished. Implementing and extending Christ’s victory in subverting their foul designs and living again as God desires is his agenda for his people. And in doing this, they discover the way God always intended them to live and serve him.