Simply Jesus: Part Three

Part Three of N.T. Wright's Simply Jesus is the “so what?” or “application” or “contemporary relevance” section of the book. He is asking at the outset of the chapter, “What on earth does it mean, today, that Jesus is king, that he is Lord of the world?” (p. 207) People typically take four positions on the subject:

Four Positions

  1. Jesus is dead, gone, and certainly not in charge, though people may have their own private spirtual Christian experiences.
  2. Jesus will be Lord, but not until the second coming.
  3. God is at work in the wider world, outside the church, and the church should merely join in what God is already doing.
  4. The church must not collude with the world in any way. This is how Jesus reclaims what is rightfully his.

He explores these positions by creating a pretend dialogue of sorts between four people who, respectively, hold to these views.

God's Rule – Through Us

It is completely in line with the comission given to human begins, in the creation story, that God would rule the world through humans (Gen 1:26-28). “[H]umans are to be God's image-bearers, that is, they are to reflect his sovereign rule into the world… Jesus resecues human beings in order that through them he may rule his world in the new way he always intended.” (p. 212)

Worship

All that we do for God's kingdom is an expression of and is rooted in worship. God will bless the world through people who are becoming like what Jesus describes in the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-10).

The Beatitudes are the agenda for kingdom people. They are not simply about how to behave, so that God will do something nice to you. They are about the way in which Jesus wants to rule the world. He wants to do it through this sort of people – people, actually like himself… When God wants to change the world, he doesn't send in the tanks. He sends in the meek, the mourners, those who are hungry and thirsty for God's justice, the peacemakers, and so on. Just as God's whole style…reflects his generous love, sharing his rule with his human creatures, so the way in which those humans then have to behave if they are to be agents of Jesus's lordship reflects in its turn the same sense of vulnerable, gentle, but powerful self-giving love. (pp. 218-219)

Church

Wright makes it clear that the church messes things up quite frequently. Nevertheless, he has this to say on the matter:

  1. “…[F]or every foolish or wicked Christian leader who ends up in court, in the newspapers, or both, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands who are doing a great job, often unnoticed except within their own communities.”
  2. “…[W]e must never forget that the way Jesus worked then and works now is through forgiveness and restoration… The church is not supposed to be a society of perfect people doing great work. It's a society of forgiven sinners repaying their unpayable debt of love by working for Jesus's kingdom every way they can, knowing themselves unworthy of the task…”
  3. “The way in which Jesus exercises his sovereign lordship in the present time includes his strange, often secret, sovereignty over the nations and their rulers.” (pp. 220-222) Part of the church's role is to call these rulers to account.

This was a long chapter and I just hit the high notes. If you are just now joining in with me as I work through this book, you can catch up here:

Simply Jesus: Part One

Simply Jesus: Part Two(a)

Simply Jesus: Part Two(b)

Simply Jesus: Part Two(c)

 

Simply Jesus: Part Two(b)

As I said in the last post of this series, I am breaking Part Two of Simply Jesus into posts covering three chapters apiece. This post covers chapters 9-11.

The Kingdom Present and Future

In this chapter, Wright offers four examples, both before and after the time of Jesus, to show how the Jews believed that the kingdom could simultaneously be both present and future. The kingdom was “now” when announced and “still to come” in the sense that there was work to do to bring the kingdom to completion.

The four would-be messiahs or established “kings” that he surveys are, respectively, Judah the Hammer (Judas Maccabeus), Simon the Star (Simon bar-Kochba), Herod the Great, and Simon bar-Giora. All four, while having at least some of the seven themes of the exodus (pp.64-65), had at least two main parts: 1) a great battle to fight and victory to win (themes of wicked tyrant, chosen leader, and victory of God); and 2) to cleanse or rebuild the temple (presence of God). By exploring the history of these characters, it doesn't take much imagination to see why Jews started following Jesus around, wondering if he might actually be the Messiah.

(What is interesting, is that Judah the Hammer and Herod the Great were both “successful” in their endeavors. Yet, neither one had a right to David's throne by way of lineage. Plus, it was obvious to Jews that things were still not quite right.)

Battle and Temple

The battle that Jesus came to fight, was not so much against Rome or corrupt Jewish leaders, but against “the quasi-personal source of evil standing behind both human wickedness and large scale injustice” (p. 120), the satan. Wright explains that when the kingdom of God comes on earth as in heaven, “It's a clash of kingdoms: the satan has his kingdom, God has his, and sooner or later the battle between them will be joined” (p. 125). Jesus initially won the battle by being tempted in the wilderness but would fight the final battle on the cross.

Jesus is indeed fighting what he takes to be the battle against the real enemies of the people of God, but it is not the battle his followers or the wider group of onlookers was expecting him to fight. Jesus has redefined the royal task around his own vision of where the real problem lies. And he has thereby redefined his own vocation, which he takes to be the true vocation of Israel's king: to fight and win the key battle, the battle that will set his people free and establish God's sovereign and saving rule, through his own suffering and death. (p. 126-127)

Jesus' “cleansing of the Temple” would have been similar to Jeremiah's smashing of the pot (Jeremiah 19) and interpreted as God's judgment on the Temple. As we saw earlier, cleansing/restoring the Temple was a royal task for the king to perform, which makes sense of the question that the Jewish leaders asked Jesus: “By what authority are you doing these things?” (e.g., Mt 21:23) This action could only mean that the Temple itself had become obselete:

It looks as though everyone knew that Jesus was in some sense or other pronouncing God's judgment on the Temple itself – and by implication, on the present regime that was running it… [W]hen Jesus stopped the changing of money…and the selling of sacrificial animals, he was effectively stopping the sacrificial system itself, for a brief but symbolic moment. And if you stop the regular flow of sacrifices, you bring the Temple to a shuddering halt. It no longer has a purpose. And if you do that…it can only be because you think Israel's God is now acting in a new way. (pp. 129-130)

Space, Time, and Matter

Chapter 11 has been one of my favorite chapters so far. The sections are “Redefining Where God Dwells” (space), “Time Fulfilled” (time), “A New Creation” (matter), and “A New Kind of Revolution.” I will briefly summarize these sections:

  1. Space – Jesus redefined sacred space around himself as the new Temple, where heaven and earth overlap. “Heaven and earth were being joined up – but no longer in the Temple in Jerusalem. The joining place was visible where the healings were taking place, where the party was going on…, where forgiveness was happening… [T]he joining place…was taking place where Jesus was and in what he was doing. Jesus was…a walking Temple. A living, breathing place-where-Israel's-God-was-living.” (p. 133)
  2. Time – The time of fulfillment, the time to which all of the sabbath days, sabbath years, and years of Jubilee (if Israel ever actually practiced it) were pointing, finds its significance in Jesus' public career.
  3. Matter – The material world was meant to be filled with the glory of YHWH. Not least in Jesus' healing ministry, but also in the Transfiguration (e.g., Mt 17:1-13), it is evident that God is restoring the created order. In other words, “new creation” is breaking into the old one.
  4. Revolution – Jesus' movement had some similarities to other revolutionary movements of that period, but his was still strikingly different. Here we must debunk a few common misperceptions about what Jesus was doing: He was not a) telling people how to “go to heaven,” b) starting a military revolution, or c) simply doing things to “prove” his divinity.

From what I've posted so far, how does this view of Jesus and the message of the gospels differ from the Jesus and gospel you have learned about?

Gospeling the Gospel: Noun and Verb in Close Proximity

As promised in the last post, this will be the last of the tedious, analytical posts for awhile. Thank you for your patience so far as we take baby steps in understanding what the NT means by the word “gospel.”

In this post, I just want to look at a few places in the NT where the noun (euangelion; Gk. εὐαγγέλιον) and verb (euangelizo; Gk. ευαγγελιζω) are in close proximity.

Examples:

  • Rom 1:15-16 – “…to gospel you who are in Rome… For I am not ashamed of the gospel…” (…ὑμῖν τοῖς ἐν Ῥώμῃ εὐαγγελίσασθαι… Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον…)
  • Rom 10:15-16 – “…How beautiful are the feet of those who gospel good things... But all did not obey the gospel…” (…Ὡς ὡραῖοι οἱ πόδες τῶν εὐαγγελιζομένων τὰ ἀγαθά. ἀλλʼ οὐ πάντες ὑπήκουσαν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ…)
  • 1 Cor 15:1 – “…the gospel I gospeled to you (plural – y'all)…” (…τὸ εὐαγγέλιονεὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν…)
  • 2 Cor 11:7 – “…I gospeled the gospel of God to you (y'all)…” (…τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγέλιον εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν…)
  • Gal 1:11 – “…the gospel gospeled by me…” (…τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπʼ ἐμοῦ…)
  • Rev 14:6 – “…having the eternal gospel to gospel…” (…ἔχοντα εὐαγγέλιον αἰώνιον εὐαγγελίσαι…)

There we go. Now we can move on. 🙂

Gospel (Verb): Initial Observations of NT Usage

Okay, I think this is the next to the last tedious, analytical post (for now). After this post, I want to do a brief one looking at the sentences where the noun and verb forms of “gospel” are in close proximity. After that, we will introduce the rubber to the road. 🙂

This post and the previous one are by no means exhaustive or infallible. I am just trying to get a general idea of how the biblical authors used the noun (euangelion; Gk. εὐαγγέλιον) and verb (euangelizo; Gk. ευαγγελιζω) forms of “gospel.” If you would like an exhaustive list of the occurrences of these words in the NT, look here. Also, if you see something I've missed or haven't thought about, please let me know. I am hoping to start some dialogue with these posts.

The verb form of “gospel” means: “to bring/announce/proclaim good news”; is sometimes translated in the HCSB as “evangelize” (e.g., Acts 8:25, 40; 14:7); and for our intents and purposes, it can literally mean “to gospel.”

Knee-jerk observations:

  • Some passages talk about the “good news” or “gospel” being proclaimed to the poor. (Mt 11:5; Lk 4:18 and 7:22; cf., Is 61:1)
  • Some explicitly tell of Jesus and the disciples “preaching the good news (gospeling) about the kingdom. (Lk 4:43; 8:1; 16:16; and Acts 8:12)
  • Others tell that the gospel is about Jesus. (Acts 5:42; 8:35; and 11:20)
  • The gospel proclamation is related to the Sabbath rest. (Heb 4:2 and 4:6)
  • A couple show that angels gospeled about the births of John the Baptist (Lk 1:19) and Jesus. (Lk 2:10)
  • A more general use concerns Timothy's bringing Paul and Silvanus “good news about [the Thessalonians'] faith and love.” (1 Thes 3:6)

How do these understandings compare with what you have always thought when you heard (or said) the word “gospel”? How does it compare to the evangelism (or gospeling) that you have heard?

Gospel (Noun): Initial Observations of NT Usage

Today, I went through the list of the NT occurrences of the word “gospel” or “good news” and just focused on the noun form, euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον). I hope to examine the verb forms in the next day or so, and I might even take a special look at passages where the noun and verb forms are in close proximity to one another (e.g., 1 Cor 15:1 – “…the gospel I gospeled [literally] to you…”). I know I said we would get through the tedious work, but there is still some more to do. 😀

Here are some knee-jerk observations:

  • Every reference of the gospel in Matthew is “the gospel of the kingdom” (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας) except 26:13.
  • In Mark, the only use of the word that has a qualifier is in 1:14, where it says “the gospel of God” (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ) [followed by a kingdom announcement in v. 15]; every other reference just says the “gospel.”
  • Acts 20:24 says, “the gospel of God's grace” (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ). [followed by Paul's saying that he preached the kingdom in v. 25]
  • In Paul's usage: Rom 1:1 – “gospel of God” (εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ; cf., Rom 15:16; 2 Cor 11:7; and 1 Thes 2:2, 8, 9)…
  • Rom 1:9 – “in the gospel of his Son” (ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ)
  • Rom 15:19 – “the gospel of Christ [Messiah] (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ; cf., 1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 2:12; 9:13; 10:14; Gal 1:7; Phil 1:27; and 1 Thes 3:2)
  • 2 Cor 4:4 – “of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς δόξης τοῦ Χριστοῦ)
  • 2 Cor 11:4 – “a different gospel” (εὐαγγέλιον ἕτερον; cf., Gal 1:6)
  • Gal 2:7 – “the gospel of [for] the uncircumcised” (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας)
  • Eph 1:13 – “the gospel of your salvation” (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς σωτηρίας ὑμῶν)
  • Eph 6:15 – “the gospel of peace” (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς εἰρήνης)
  • 2 Thes 1:8 – “the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ)
  • 1 Tim 1:11 – “the gospel of the glory [glorious gospel] of the blessed God” (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς δόξης τοῦ μακαρίου θεοῦ)
  • In 1 Pet 4:17 – “the gospel of God” (τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίῳ)
  • In Rev 14:6 – “[the] eternal gospel” (εὐαγγέλιον αἰώνιον)
  • Some occurrences are merely preceded by “the” or some kind of pronoun (e.g., his, my, our, etc…)
  • There are also some occurrences where “gospel” is in the genitive case. (In English, it looks like a prepositional phrase: e.g., “truth of the gospel” in Gal 2:5, 14; “mystery of…” in Eph 6:19; “faith of…” Phil 1:27; etc…”)

Be thinking about this question: What is the gospel? Is it all about forgiveness of sins? …justification by faith? …grace? …eternal life? …going to heaven when you die? (all things I have heard as being synonymous with the gospel) Did Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all preach the same gospel? Does the gospel you are hearing (or have heard) line up with the gospel of these passages? Are we sharing the same gospel?

 

Also, if you notice that I have a reference that is wrong, please let me know!!!