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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Household of God

I have been thinking lately about the nature of the church.  It's not hard to make that leap during Christmas as we think about what the incarnation means.  What does it mean that God has become Emmanuel, Jesus-in-the-flesh, God with us?  Then, make a short leap with me to Jesus' words to his followers -- "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" and think about what it means that the church has become incarnate, or as Paul writes in First Corinthians, "the body of Christ."  What does it mean that the church is a physical body called into the world?

To help in some of that pondering, I have been reading Lesslie Newbigin's lectures assembled into a book entitled, The Household of God.  Of course, I highly recommend it.  Warning, however, that you should read slowly and frequently go back to repeat a paragraph or a page.  It's dense stuff, though not hard to understand if you take your time.

Here's a sample worth pondering:

"... the life of the new man in Christ is both a reality now given, and a reality whose completeness awaits the day of Christ's return.  In this time 'between the times' we are made one in him by the Spirit -- and the Spirit is the spirit of promise, the earnest, the foretaste of the completed victory of God.  It is the mark of human life 'after the flesh', that is human life in its separation from God, that it seeks to have its fullness in itself as a present possession.  It is the mark of life after the Spirit that it looks always to God in dependence and hope.  It longs for the day of God's victory and places all its confidence in that.  Under the conditions of the flesh, the victory of God is known only as defeat.  The sign of the Cross is the sign under which the Church must ever live in the flesh.  When the Church, in the flesh, under the conditions of this present age, claims to have in itself the completeness of God's victory and therefore to be incapable of sin, it becomes precisely 'of the flesh' -- carnal.  The true mark of the Church's life in the flesh is the mark of the Cross, of life through death, of 'bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body' (II Cor. 4:10)."

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