The Afterlife: Lesson 2, focused on Rom 8 and Rev 21-22 (June 12, 2016)

heavenhellClass 2 of this summer’s Sunday Bible classes: the coming freedom of the Creation from futility and a look ahead to the end of Revelation.

Download:

June 12, 2016 Class on Rom 8 and Rev 21-22 Right click and select “Save Link As” to download. (If you left click, it will stream.)

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“And he lives forever with his saints to reign.”

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The Mission of the Church: Mission and Eucharist, Part 2

Eucharist-Mission1We’ve seen that both Thompson and Hauerwas find that mission is built not on the individual and not on benevolence or evangelism but on the ethics of the congregation.

Thompson finds this in Paul’s epistles. Hauerwas finds it in the Sermon on the Mount. N. T. Wright teaches much the same lesson built on the OT roots of Christianity. The prophets spoke of “the kingdom,” not “a personal relationship with Jesus.” Gentiles are saved, not by being grafted into Jesus, but by being grafted into Israel — a nation, a people, and a community. Our forgiveness is not so that we can receive a personal relationship with Jesus (although we do), but to qualify us to be a part of Israel/the Kingdom. In Acts 2, baptism was followed by remission of sin (“remission” is the same word used in Torah regarding the Day of Atonement), which was followed by being added to their number — becoming a part of the Jesus community. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Mission and Eucharist, Part 1

Eucharist-Mission1When I first started reading Thompson’s The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ, I thought it was going to be a Neo-Anabaptist book. “Neo-Anabaptist” refers to a movement led by John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas, with roots in 16th Century Anabaptist theology.

The Anabaptists arose about the same time as Calvinism and Lutheranism, except they insisted on the separation of church from state, and therefore they rejected infant baptism, insisting on baptism of believers, generally by immersion for remission of sins. And so they re-baptized their converts: “Anabaptist” likely means “re-baptizer.” We can’t say too much about the early Anabaptists because the Catholics, Calvinists, and Lutherans all persecuted them ruthlessly, and much of their writings and thinking has been lost to history.

Both Churches of Christ and Baptists like to claim Anabaptist roots, and there is some truth to it — although there’s hardly an unbroken line of succession. Rather, Anabaptist thinking on baptism influenced both denominations, but the Baptists descend from the Puritan family tree, while Churches of Christ descend from a mix of Presbyterian and Baptist roots — except for our doctrine of baptism, which is Anabaptist. (This hardly makes it ipso facto wrong.) Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Thompson’s Conclusions (Parables)

Eucharist-Mission1Thompson’s book, The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ, is top-notch theology. The problem with the book is that it’s really nothing but top-notch theology. Thompson doesn’t offer anything in the way of examples or illustrations.

Now, I hate preacher-books where each chapter begins with a Ted-and-Alice story; you know, “Ted and Alice came to my office and asked me whether Adam had free will to sin or whether God required him to sin so his plan of redemption could come true.” Some of these stories are a little too convenient, and few are really helpful to understanding the rest of the chapter. It’s how preachers clear their throats before they get to the meat of the lesson.

So it’s with considerable reluctance that I present these Bob-and-Jim stories, but I think true cross-shaped living is so foreign to the contemporary church that I would be remiss should I move on without pausing to make Thompson’s point clear by parable.

Parable 

Bob is an elder in a church of Christ. (The little “c” means I’m referring to a church founded on Jesus as Messiah and has nothing to do with its historical roots or whether it subscribes to the Christian Chronicle (not that there’d be anything wrong with that)). Jim sells insurance for a living. And he’s a good and hard-working salesman. He is also an elder.

The church decides it needs to purchase a plan of long-term group disability insurance to cover its ministers because so many have elected out of Social Security. The elders have determined what they think they need, and Jim has been immensely helpful in advising his fellow elders on the options involved in such a purchase. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Teaching

Eucharist-Mission1Christopher J. H. Wright lists as one of the church’s mission the teaching of new converts. This includes teaching, baptizing, and nurturing new believers.

In the Churches of Christ, we have a strong tradition of teaching and baptizing. Nurturing, however, is another matter. Some congregations have new member classes, but these are usually targeted toward transfer members. And there certainly are churches with new converts classes — it’s just that we often don’t have enough new converts to justify the effort. (This is true of most American denominations.) Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Thompson’s Conclusions

Eucharist-Mission1Thompson reaches a conclusion very different from Christopher Wright’s —

For Paul the missio Dei is the transformation of a people into the image of Christ. The church is the new humanity, which is now being transformed. Paul’s mission is to proclaim Christ and invite the people into this community. He writes letters and visits the churches he established to address obstacles in community formation and to encourage his converts. The converts demonstrate corporate formation as they share the destiny of Christ, deny themselves, and love others. Their mission is to grow up and to work together to complete the building that is under construction. Through this ethical behavior, they are a light to the world around them. Although they have no organized program of missions, they demonstrate a concern for evangelism as they communicate their faith to family and friends.

As the heir of Israel, the church’s continuing task is to be the “children of light” (1 Thess. 5: 5) who “shine like stars in the world” (Phil. 2: 15). The church will fulfill this mission only when it distinguishes itself sharply from other communities and from its culture. Only when the church provides a sharp alternative to the values of its culture can it be a light shining in the darkness.

Thompson, James W.. The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ (p. 247). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Thompson Returns Serve (Spiritual Formation)

Eucharist-Mission1Several years ago, “spiritual formation” was all the rage. The movement was built on —

(Gal. 4:18-19 ESV) 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you,  19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

“Spiritual formation” means having Jesus formed in you, that is, becoming like Jesus. And this is very sound teaching. I’m totally sold on this, but —

The phrase “until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4: 19) is more accurately rendered “until Christ is formed among you” … .

Thompson, James W.. The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ (p. 121). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Spiritual formations is, by definition, a congregational activity. Individual practices matter, of course, but the goal is for the church to become like Jesus — not just a few dedicated members.

And we botched it.  Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Thompson’s Book Reviewed at Jesus Creed

Eucharist-Mission1At his Jesus Creed blog, Scot McKnight has posted a quick review of James W. Thompson’s The Church according to Paul.

Thompson is right: we need to begin, if we want to understand Paul and the church, with this corporate identity. “I” becomes “We” in the hands of Paul. Many people like this idea today until the “I” is no longer like their “I” and means including some in the “We” who are totally different. Liberals and conservatives, conservatives and liberals all  in a “We” that outdoes the comfortable “I.”

To be church, folks, means to let “my” identity be reformed into a “we” identity in which those in the “we” are not chosen by “me” but by God and brought into fellowship with my “me” to form not a club of similars but a fellowship of differents.

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The Mission of the Church: Thompson Returns Serve (Evangelism)

Eucharist-Mission1Christopher Wright’s outline of mission is very sensible, and there’s much to support it in scripture. But there are problems, too. Thompson points out some difficult truths that force us to add a layer of nuance. And we American Christians don’t do nuance well — not at all.

Evangelism

Let’s talk about the Great Commission. Thompson focuses on Paul’s writings, and so he doesn’t say much about the Great Commission. Nonetheless, it’s a great place from which to make Thompson’s point.

(Matt. 28:18-20 ESV)  18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

First, most preachers and teachers skip v. 18. The fact that Jesus has “all authority” is the predicate for his command, and we skip it. Too easy. Too obvious. But Jesus is announcing that he has been enthroned as King of the Universe. He has defeated or will defeat all opposing powers. There will be some resistance to be battled, but the victory of Jesus is assured. Therefore, we should take great comfort that the most powerful being in the Universe is with us — always — until he returns. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Wright’s Outline

Eucharist-Mission1We’ll return to Thompson’s book shortly. I want to digress just a hair to cover Wright’s understanding of mission so we can then reflect on the two differing perspectives.

In a recent lecture, Wright broke mission down into five elements:

  • Evangelism (proclaim the good news of the kingdom)
  • Teaching (teach, baptise and nurture new believers)
  • Compassion (respond to human need by loving service)
  • Justice (transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation)
  • Creation care ( strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth)

All intrinsically flow from the Lordship of Christ

Now, I don’t see much to criticize here. This is certainly a more thoroughly worked out mission than most of what we read in church mission or vision statements.  Continue reading

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