Wednesday, July 18, 2007

“God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule”

I am “eating up” Graeme Goldsworthy these days. I have had several of his books on my shelf for several years... but am just now getting to some serious reading of them. I posted a review of “According to Plan” here and here, but I wanted to post a lengthy quote from “Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture" right here.

This quote presents in summary form what appears to me to be the heart of Biblical Theology as Goldsworthy sees it. He begins this approach by explaining that the one concept/word/idea that summarizes God’s interaction with humankind in the Scriptures is “kingdom.” As in, “God’s Kingdom.” This becomes his silver needle that pokes into salvation history in Genesis 1 and proceeds through progressively revealed Truth to take us to Christ, the fulfillment.

In explaining this “kingdom theme,” Goldsworthy offers the following summary that I found particularly useful.

Above all we need to understand that our basic starting point is the gospel. Let us, then, take the God-people-place schema and observe how it is employed in the unfolding revelation of the Bible. In this we must include the element of relationship that is at the base of the notion of the kingdom of God, namely, that the essence of the kingdom is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. Sin means that the rule of God is repudiated, and the result­ing judgment threatens the complete undoing of the whole fabric. God will remain sovereign but the life in fellowship with God enjoyed by humans is lost. Only the loving plan of redemption can deal with the problem.

In the unfolding revelation of the kingdom we can observe the follow­ing manifestations of the basic kingdom notion in sequence:

In the Garden of Eden

God, his people, and the place all exist in the perfect relationships intended by God.

Outside the Garden of Eden

The relationships established by God at creation are dislocated and confused because of sin. They are not totally disrupted, and the world goes on while under sentence of death.

In redemptive history

God calls one family of people, and their successors, to be the con­text within which he reveals his plan and purposes for the redemp­tion of people out of every nation. The relationships of the kingdom of God are put in place but never fully realized by sinful people.

In prophetic eschatology

The pattern of redemption, and the promised kingdom of God that failed to eventuate in Israel’s history, constitute the pattern of a fu­ture glorious salvation and kingdom promised by the prophets.

In Jesus Christ

Where Adam failed, and where Israel failed, Jesus comes as the last Adam and the true Israel to carry out God’s purposes perfectly. Be­lievers from all periods of history are credited with his perfection and righteousness as a gift.

In the consummation

The perfection that is in Jesus, and that believers possess by faith, is only fully formed in believers and the world when Christ returns in glory.

We can say this in another way:

1. The pattern of the kingdom is established in the Garden of Eden.

2. This pattern is broken when sin enters in.

3. The pattern is reestablished in salvation history in Israel but never fully realized.

4. The same pattern shapes the prophetic view of the future kingdom.

5. The pattern of the kingdom is perfectly established in Jesus in a repre­sentative way.

6. The pattern of the kingdom begins to be formed in the people of God through the gospel.

7. The pattern of the kingdom is consummated at Christ’s return.

The “mechanics” of salvation, then, consist in this: that what is lost with the fall God foreshadows in the history of redemption in Israel. Then the solid reality comes, namely, Jesus, who bears in himself the fullness of the king­dom in that he is God, man, and created order, all existing in perfect relation­ship.

(This extended quote taken from “Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture,” pages 87-88.)