Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Day the Revolution Began, by NT Wright #7

WrightThis post concludes my reading through, for my New Testament devotions and study, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion, by N. T. Wright. This post discusses the final two applicational chapters which look at the church’s mission in light of the meaning of the cross and resurrection. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 14, Passover People, begins the final section of the book, The Revolution Continues, in which Wright applies his view of Jesus' death and resurrection to the ongoing mission of the church. Now that Christ has won the victory over "the powers" and has brought in forgiveness of sins, it is up to the church to live out its role as "image-bearers" who, in the power of the Spirit, work to bring God's kingdom on earth and announce Christ's victory inviting the world to follow Jesus and share in it until the kingdom is consummated at the 2nd coming of Christ. The church does this through cross-shaped suffering love and service that gives up its life for others and proclaims the victory of Jesus through worship and the sacraments.

A mission based on a supposed “victory” that does not have “forgiveness of sins” at its heart will go seriously wrong in one direction...A mission based on “forgiveness of sins” where we see things only in terms of “saving souls for heaven” will go wrong in the other direction. That was the danger of the second view: a message of forgiveness that left the powers to rule the world unchallenged. 362

To reflect the divine image means standing between heaven and earth, even in the present time, adoring the Creator and bringing his purposes into reality on earth, ahead of the time when God completes the task and makes all things new. The “royal priesthood” is the company of rescued humans who, being part of “earth,” worship the God of heaven and are thereby equipped, with the breath of heaven in their renewed lungs, to work for his kingdom on earth. 363

The victory of the cross will be implemented through the means of the cross...The victory was indeed won, the revolution was indeed launched, through the suffering of Jesus; it is now implemented, put into effective operation, by the suffering of his people. 366 

Image-bearing humans, obedient to the Creator, are meant to exercise delegated authority in the world in order that life can flourish...the sacraments are the celebration that Jesus has paid the price and that he has all power on earth and in heaven. They are the powerful announcement of his victory. They can and should be used, as part of a wise Christian spirituality, to announce to the threatening powers that on the cross Jesus has already won the victory. 380

Chapter 15, The Powers and the Power of Love, conclude the book with a discussion of how the defeat of the "powers" impacts the witness and worship of the church. The witness of the church is proclamation that "Jesus is LORD" in both word and deed as the church goes out and proclaims Jesus' victory and all its implications. The battle has been won but God's people live it out 24-7 by following Jesus' cross-shaped example. This affects all aspects of daily life and will often mean suffering and sacrifice in the short term as we speak truth to "enslaving powers" and sacrifice to "wash the feet" of the poor and marginalized. Following Jesus is a "vocation" in which we take up his cross, not just an idea to which we give mental assent.

Resurrection and forgiveness belong together. Both are the direct result of the victory won on the cross, because the victory won on the cross was won by dealing with sin and hence with death. Resurrection is the result of death’s defeat; forgiveness, the result of sin’s defeat. Those who learn to forgive discover that they are not only offering healing to others. They are receiving it in themselves. Resurrection is happening inside them. 386

The attempt must be made—not simply to return to the seventeenth-century optimism, which as we saw could easily lead to some form of triumphalism, but to hold together the whole truth of the gospel, the forgiveness of sins through which the dark power is broken, and to find every way possible, through symbol and action as well as through words and reason, by which it may be announced and applied. The task may seem impossible, but that’s what they said about the resurrection. 394

The gospel of Jesus summons us to believe that the power of self-giving love unveiled on the cross is the real thing, the power that made the world in the first place and is now in the business of remaking it; and that the other forms of “power,” the corrupt and self-serving ways in which the world is so often run, from global empires and multimillion businesses down to classrooms, families, and gangs, are the distortion. 399

Mission, as seen from the New Testament perspective, is neither about “saving souls for heaven” nor about “building the kingdom on earth.” It is the Spirit-driven, cross-shaped work of Jesus’s followers as they worship the true God and, confronting idols with the news of Jesus’s victory, work for the signs of his kingdom in human lives and institutions. 407

Wright sums up the meaning of Christ's death...

The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was a one-off event, the one on behalf of the many, the one moment in history on behalf of all others through which sins would be forgiven, the powers robbed of their power, and humans redeemed to take their place as worshippers and stewards, celebrating the powerful victory of God in his Messiah and so gaining the Spirit’s power to make his kingdom effective in the world. 416

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