Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fullness, reformation, blessing and our Mission to the Nations

Today, I had to pause to help put out a brushfire over at the EO blog. Pardon the delay.


Now, to the main topic of the day:

As Acts 17 notes, when the Apostle Paul went to Athens, 500 years after Socrates' day, he spoke to them in terms that God had made the nations from one man, and so controls our places and times that he uses our times and challenges to prompt us to grope for him, however blindly [that is the underlying impression in the particular words Paul used].

So that brings to a focus the issue of nationhood at a moment of crisis, of kairos. Into such places and times, the risen Jesus sends his Gospel and his church, opening the doors of blessing:

Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

So the choice that confronts the nations in such times is the call to repentance, discipleship and reformation, leading to the overflow of the blessing of Abraham to the nations -- the exact blessing long since promised to the chosen people. [BTW, that means that envy at the blessings an utterly unwarranted response to it as enjoyed by Israel or as enjoyed by any other nation that wholeheartedly turns to the gospel.]

It also means - and I here make a note to those who sub-biblically see the church as a tiny remnant with essentially no influence on an increasingly corrupt surrounding world -- that reformation of the nations under Christ is just as much a part of the church's commission as is the call to penitence. Indeed, that should always have been obvious from the Great Commission:

MT 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. [nb: I believe this is the incident wiht 500 bretheren together seeing Jesus at once mentioned in 1 Cor 15] 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

That highlighted phrase is telling, as it speaks to a transformation of the way of life of the community and of individuals in it as is envisioned in Eph:

2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do . . . .

EPH 4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

EPH 4:20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In short, discipleship leads naturally to reformation as more and more people amounting to a critical mass seek to live by Jesus' principles of neighbour-love and all-out love to God, which he cited from the Torah as the summation of the Law.

And so, in our time that call to repentance and reformation again goes out across the world, in the Caribbean, in the lands of the North and across the lands of the South. In that context, our strategic location as a bridge people raises the question of the Caribbean's strategic value int he church's mission to the nations in our time. To that we will next turn. END

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