Monday, January 21, 2013

Transgressions & Sins (part 4 of 5)

It was in spite of all of this that the love of the Creator God broke on and in to the scene of history, was demonstrated through the Christ’s self-sacrificial crucifixion, and unleashed into a fallen world as part of the power that raised up Christ from the dead.  The Apostle seems to insist that Resurrection power, which includes the love of God that makes one alive together with Christ, is contained in the message of the Gospel, and is made manifest in the Gospel proclamation that Jesus is Lord. 

Those who adhere to this grand statement, holding to this confession as the covenant marker of faith, have been exodus-ed from out of the realm of death, delivered from the exile attendant upon their transgressions, and now share in the eternal life (the life of the age to come) embodied in the resurrected Christ in the inaugurated kingdom of God, in full expectation of a coming consummation of that kingdom, along with the renewed physicality of a bodily resurrection (just like Jesus) in a renewed and restored creation (just like the one that God pronounced very good) upon Christ’s return. 

Because of that hopeful expectation which exists because, as Paul says, “by grace you are saved” (2:5b), meaning that his readers/hearers have been redeemed from exile and delivered from death into eternal life (here and now and in the age to come) as God’s gracious gift, there is an obligation to continue in demonstration of the same type of love revealed in and through Jesus, to bless all peoples through sharing the message of the Gospel, continuing the powerful, onward, life-altering march of the kingdom of the Creator God through the simple affirmation that yes, Jesus is Lord.   

Though all of God’s people had been dead in transgressions and sins, in exile from God’s promises because of that fact, that exile is ended, life is gifted, and death is overcome through the power that was set forth in the Resurrection.  This salvation, this being saved, which is a sharing in the gift of eternal life in union with Christ (confessing Jesus as King and living accordingly) because of the Gospel, while in the hopeful expectation of the Resurrection to come, is a gracious gift of God.

Paul makes a further elaboration on this idea of being “saved,” writing that “He raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).  Not only would this be taken as a statement of honor within the culture, as being seated with a king would have significant implications, this raising, being made alive together (2:5) as Paul says, is the exile-ending resurrection from death into Christ’s kingdom, as the people of God in Christ.  Does this mean that the point of the salvation is a dis-embodied existence in a far-away place, having escaped the evil world and the chains of mortal flesh?  If we want to be consistent with all of the Apostle Paul’s writings, we must understand the “heavenly realms” as yet another way in which he makes reference to the kingdom of God on earth that was inaugurated by Christ’s Resurrection (not to mention that heavenly realms can also be thought of as temple-related talk, which fits well with Paul’s broad insistence that believers are the temple of God---the place where heaven and earth overlap, which was also the way upon which the Temple itself was looked). 

Being raised and seated with Jesus, with its component of elevation to honor from a lower place or a place of shame (though the Christian, like his or her Lord, willingly embraces shame and takes the lowest spot---in this case, Paul seems to be speaking metaphorically), would appear to include the idea of being delivered from the exile of death that is an existence apart from the kingdom (and service to the kingdom) of the Creator God, and delivered into the kingdom of heaven that has been established on earth, enjoying a measure of eternal life as the Gospel is believed and proclaimed, and experience its power for salvation (eternal life).  

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