Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Creation/Redemption

I. There is no escaping the fact that the work of the Son finds its principle expression in the great dual motif of creation/redemption.

A. Creation. While the Father and the Spirit perform important jobs in the creation of the heavens and the earth, John ultimately recognizes the pre-existent Word, the second person of the Triune God, as the Creator.

1. John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being, that has not come into being” Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities –all things have been created through Him and for Him”

B. Redemption. Colossians 1:16, 12-22, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins…And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.”

1. Thus, the Lord of creation is the King of redemption. Biblically, the creation (from which culture is crafted) is no less important in God’s grand scheme than is spiritual experience. Christians are to live “embodied” lives in the concrete world.

II. The Role of Nature in the “Good News.”

A. The ability of creation to serve as metaphor for spiritual truth is replete in scripture.
1. Isa. 40:10. Isaiah’s prophecy of John’s ministry is followed by a reference to the creation that in striking terms is also called to get itself ready for the anticipated arrival of the King. “Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low, and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley” (v. 4).

2. Psalm 42:1-2. The psalmist regularly appeals to the workings of the creation to illustrate a myriad of spiritual truths, including his own need for God. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” Further, God’s Sabbath rest from all His work in creating the heavens and the earth serves as the basis for man’s spiritual rest in Christ alone for salvation (cf. Hebrews 4).

3. Jesus’ ministry. He demonstrates mastery over the creation, making the winds and the seas obey Him at His beckoned command. The message is that just as Jesus can still the storm on the outside, He can still the storm on the inside of the heart of man (cf. Matthew 14:17f).

III. The creation as an object of God’s saving intent.
A.In addition to the shifting movement of the creation serving as vivid metaphor of the living hope enjoyed by God’s people, it is more than that. The creation is also an object of the Messiah’s saving intent.

1. Gen. 1:2, Through the sheer act of creation God redeems the world from darkness, makes life to appear, and causes His temple to dwell in the midst of His creation.

2. In God’s covenant with Noah he pledges never again to destroy the earth with a flood, but to delay judgment by regulating the seasons and preserving life according to his purposes. God does not just covenant with Noah and his family, but also with “every living creature on earth” (9:10). Classic theology calls this covenant the Covenant with Nature or the Universal Covenant. This covenant, though it infers God’s eventual judgment upon the earth in fire, also serves as a redeeming action until the final judgment. Galatians 3:17 modern believers have a share in God’s covenant with Noah’s family.

3. See Romans 8.

4. To this point: These facts assume a mutual response: every part of the creation serves and recognizes the Lord’s redemption while redemption includes every part of the creation. Consequently, the creation/redemption are not parallel themes, but demonstrate one, Divine purpose applied to both the natural and the spiritual realms.

IV. The Cosmic Scope of the Gospel

A. Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities –all things have been created by Him and for Him” (Romans 11:36.

1. Nonetheless, since Adam’s transgression the world at large has been full of people, trends, ideas, and institutions that refuse to acknowledge the Son’s supremacy in everything. The gospel seeks to change that.

2. Colossians 1:19-20, Paul writes, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” Note that Paul does not say that God reconciled only the elect to Himself at the cross, but rather He reconciled “all things” to Himself (see also Ephesians 1:22).

3. People tend to restrict Christ’s death to a payment for the sins of His people at Calvary, but what his blood also purchased is a new creation where all sin, misery, death, and evil will be put asunder. God will renew the lower parts of the creation because Christ paid the price of its redemption. The cross is the fount from which all God’s saving objectives find expression.

4. The comprehensive nature of Christ’s redeeming work directly challenges the narrow perception of the gospel as articulated in the typical, modern-day evangelistic encounter that seeks to tap into people’s dissatisfaction with things generally or life in particular.

B. 1 Corinthians 15. “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand” (15:1).

1. The common evangelical understanding of the gospel focuses on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Paul’s powerful teaching does not end at the resurrection of Christ. Vss. 20-28.

2. New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, observes of Paul’s gospel presentation, “He [Paul] is emphasizing the universal scope of God’s reconciling purposes; nothing less than a total new creation is envisaged.” Through the remarkable event of the crucifixion all things were delivered over to Christ. It is as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was reconciling the world to Himself.” Because Christ created the cosmos for his purposes and glory his blood supplies nothing less than the foundation for cosmic redemption. It is within Christ’s reconciling purpose for the Universe that the individual finds significance and purpose.

3. Those that claim to minister the gospel yet are loath to apply its meaning to the tangible progression of history simply do not understand the full import of the gospel for all of life.

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