I have been asking in this series of blogs, “what is the purpose of the Christian life?” To this point, I have been suggesting that it is to imitate and fulfill the mission of Jesus. In the last post I argued that the coming of Jesus was in fulfillment of all that the OT promised. In order to understand the mission of God’s people, however, we need to go deeper for a bit.
God dwells among us
The God of Christianity is worth knowing. He is transcendent. He is glorious. He is Holy. And He is love. This God, and we could go much further in our description of His magnificence, desires to be made known. God is not simply concerned about making sure we go to heaven when we die, or that we don’t go to hell. He desires to be in relationship with us.
One of the great promises of Scripture, often deemed the “Immanuel Principle,” is found in Leviticus 26:11-12, “Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”
We see here that God’s desire is that we might dwell with Him, or He with us! This promise reverberates throughout the OT and finds expression in the great covenant promise of Ezekiel:
“My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons' sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people” (Ezek 37:24-27).
Now at this point, it might be easy to jump to the book of Revelation and see that the ultimate fulfillment of this promise is present in the description of the New Jerusalem:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them. . . . He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son” (Rev 21:3, 7).
The purpose of the Christian life, then, is to imitate Christ and fulfill His mission which was to make God known.
In order to understand the significance of this promise for the life of the people of God today we must reflect on two key elements of the Immanuel Principle. This will be my next two posts.
Are “pro-life” evangelicals inconsistent in their ethic?
The answer to question is, “yes.” We all are inconsistent in our ethic to some extent. What I intend to suggest is that “pro-life” evangelicals are, often unwittingly, radically inconsistent. Let me say at the outset that I am a “pro-life” evangelical.
I often cringe when I hear my fellow evangelicals proclaim that they are voting for the “pro-life” candidate. I cringe because this seems to mean that they are voting for the candidate that opposes abortion. This may seem all well and good to those who are “pro-life.” But, if one is truly “pro-life”, shouldn’t that mean that one is pro “all-life” (i.e., not just the unborn)? And, if so, shouldn’t that mean that there are many issues for which we must be concerned?
If we are truly “pro-life” should we not then care for the millions who are dying from starvation and hunger related diseases? And what about the millions suffering from the lack of access to clean water? There are a multitude of factors causing such hunger and the shortage of water. My point, however, is that those who are “pro-life”, such as myself, must demonstrate the same level of concern for these people as we do for the unborn.
And if we are truly advocating for the unborn children, then should we not care about societal issues that lead to unwanted pregnancies? Should we not also care for the mothers?
In addition, I think it is tragically ironic that most advocates of “pro-life” agendas deny the reality of global warming. It is, of course, hard to quantify the effects of global warming. We know that higher temperatures make ocean waters warmer and this appears to be directly related to an increase in more intense storms. Higher temps also dry up forests and increase the intensity of wildfires. Drought conditions are also linked to food shortages. Heat related deaths also appear to be on the rise due to global warming. The global rising sea levels has serious effects on the millions (or ten of millions) who live in coastal regions and on low elevation islands.
It appears well established that millions of lives are at risk annually from the effects of global warming. So, then, if we elect a person strictly because they are “pro-life” and, yet, that elected official fails to support measures that may curb global warming, are we truly electing officials that are “pro-life”?
We could, of course, make this quite a lengthy article, and not merely a blog post, by noting the multitude of issues related to injustices against the poor and the marginalized—including mass incarceration, racial injustices, as well as the current refugee crisis and more. But I think the point has been made: being “pro-life” must come to mean being “pro-all-life.”
Now, I know how some of my evangelical friends might respond. They will contend that the unborn child is in a different category because they are innocent human beings and have done nothing to deserve their plight. Though this is true, it is missing the point.
Before I respond, allow me to digress for a moment. The biblical call (it is legitimate to bring in the biblical call at this juncture because I am speaking to evangelical pro-lifers, whose foundation is the Scriptures) is for the people of God to advocate for justice: especially for the poor and oppressed. As Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.”
The laws of the Old Testament, epitomized in the ten commandments, were centered on justice: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice . . .” (Micah 6:8). Biblical justice was primarily aimed at the poor and the marginalized who had little to no recourse to justice otherwise. The command to rest on the seventh day, for example, was embraced by the workers in the fields and not the owners of the fields. The law was designed to keep the owners from exploiting their workers by demanded that they provide a day of rest for the laborers. The commands against coveting and murder were also aimed at protecting the poor who had no recourse for justice when they were exploited.
To suggest, then, that the unborn are in a special category fails to reckon with both the point I am making here and the overall biblical injunction to advocate for justice. Biblical justice is wholistic. To be “pro-life,” from a biblical perspective, means to be “pro-all-life.” One should not choose some life, even if they are in a special category, and neglect others.
Furthermore, to counter the argument that the unborn are in a special category because they are innocent, we must note that most of the the refugees didn’t choose their situation either—this is especially true for the children. Those who live in low lying areas of the world tend to be the poor. Yet, they are generally impacted much more severly from global-warming and its effects. Mass incarceration in the US unjustly affects people based on the color of their skin. Yet, no one chose to be born a certain color.
I plead, then, with my evangelical brothers and sisters, that we must begin to lift up our eyes and see a world that is full of injustices. I, too, weep for the unborn children who are never given a chance at life. But, I have learned to weep also for the millions who are suffering from the effects of ruthless dictators and evil regimes that have caused them to be displaced from their ancestral homes, and from the millions who are living in poverty because of the color of their skin, and the millions who are suffering from the effects of global warming.
If we are going to be “pro-life,” we must learn to be “pro-all-life.”
 The response of many evangelicals here is that global warming is not caused by human activities but is simply a natural cycle of weather. The evidence does appear to counter this notion.
In my last post I asked the question: what is the purpose of the Christian life? I suggested that the purpose of the Christian life and the call of God’s people is to carry forth the work of Christ. In order, then, for us to understand our mission as the people of God, we must understand the mission of Jesus.
The Mission of Jesus
One way to comprehend the mission of Jesus is to recognize that in addition to His coming to die and rise again, He also came to do what Adam, Abraham, and the Israelites were called to do. Namely, to be a blessing to the nations by making God known both to the nations and to the whole of creation.
Let me explain:
First, it is essential to see that the NT story is the continuation of the OT story. Now, there is typically very little objection to the claim that in the coming of Christ the OT is fulfilled.
The problem is that for many Christians the notion that the OT is fulfilled is often limited to Jesus’ fulfilling the sacrificial laws and prophecies pertaining to His death and atonement. The writers of the NT, however, seemingly want us to know that everything is being fulfilled in Jesus. The whole story was about Jesus.
Jesus and the fulfillment of the OT
The gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy (Matt 1:1-17). Matthew informs his readers that the genealogy is intentionally divided into three equal parts of fourteen generations:
“So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations” (Matt 1:17).
The first part of Matthew’s genealogy divides the story from Abraham to David (Matt 1:2-6a). In doing so, Matthew affirms that Jesus is the true descendant of Abraham and the rightful heir of Israel.
The second part of Matthew’s genealogy separates the time from David to the deportation to Babylon (Matt 1:6b-11). From this we learn that Jesus is the true descendant of David and, thereby, the rightful King.
The third section of the genealogy extends from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah (Matt 1:12-16). The significance here, for Matthew, is that the story of Israel and the OT, which ended with the nation in exile, is coming to its fulfillment in Jesus. The end of the exile is here in Jesus. God is restoring His people and fulfilling His promises in Jesus.
This is precisely what Luke demonstrates in his account of the story of Jesus. Luke’s opening reference to the things “accomplished among us” (Luke 1:1) and his concluding statement in the mouth of Jesus that “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44) forms an inclusio; which is an author’s way of framing a work in order to set forth his purpose.
Clearly Luke views the whole story of Jesus as the fulfillment. Luke wants his readers to view the entire story of Jesus in light of the things that “have been accomplished among us” (Luke 1:1). This includes far more than Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection. After all, the Gospel of Luke has twenty four chapters and only two of them (Luke 23, 24) describe the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The Gospel of Mark associates Jesus life, death, and resurrection in terms of the coming of the Son of God—note the inclusio of Mark 1:1 and 15:39: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1); “The centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (15:39). It is important to note that the title “son of God” was used for both Adam and Israel. The Gospel of Mark, then, is an announcement that Jesus is the true Son of God, and that in Him the call of Israel is being fulfilled.
That the Gospel of John views the story of Jesus in terms of a larger narrative that extends beyond Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection is evident from the opening “In the beginning” (John 1:1); a clear allusion to Genesis 1:1.” This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus, after rising from the dead, appears to His disciples and then “breathes” on them (John 20:22). The word for “breathe” here is the same term used in the Greek version of Genesis 2:7, when Adam became a living being after God “breathed” on him. It is also used in Ezekiel 37:9-10, a passage that looks forward to a future restoration of God’s people.
The gospels present the coming of Jesus in a manner that far transcends His role of dying and rising for our sins. This in no way is meant to diminish the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
It is through His death and resurrection that Jesus defeats death and establishes His kingdom. In fact, Jesus’ death and resurrection are not only essential to the story of redemption, they are, as we will explore more fully, essential to His mission, and, consequently, to our mission as the people of God. If, after all, Jesus establishes His kingdom through death and resurrection, then it stands to reason that the people of God further the advancement of the kingdom through their deaths and resurrection.
 This is why Paul can say that Jesus is the true seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16).
 Though we could be generous and make it two and a half chapters if we wanted to the include the end of Luke 22 and its description of Jesus’ arrest.
 Cf Gen 5:1-3; Luke 3:38.
 Cf Exod 4:22; Hos 11:1.
What is the purpose of the Christian life?
In previous posts I have argued that the goal of the Christian life is to grow in the likeness of Christ. Now, I wish to address the question: what is the purpose of the Christian life?
I am going to make a statement that may very well sound blasphemous. I assure you that it is not. So, before you cease reading, please allow me to clarify. The statement is: “Jesus did not finish the job.” Granted, this sounds extremely blasphemous; downright heretical. Nevermind my plea for clarity. You should stop reading this blog. Clearly I do not hold to an acceptable theological position. Before you do that (I hope it is not too late. Though if you are reading this sentence, I guess it is not), allow me to clarify.
The reason why this statement looks blasphemous is that for most Christians “the job” that Jesus came to do is usually limited to: atoning for sin, defeating death, inaugurating the resurrection, and providing for the forgiveness of sins. If this is all that is meant by “the job,” then, of course, Jesus finished the job.
But, what if “the job” extended beyond these? After all, if “the job” was only to die and rise again, then why did Jesus minister for three and a half years? Why didn’t He just get baptized, go to Jerusalem, and die? Or, better yet, just go to Jerusalem and die? And why do the gospels make so much of the life and ministry of Jesus?
Now, I suspect that some might respond here by saying that the life and deeds of Jesus serve as a model for us. We should be kind like He was. We should love our enemies like he did. We should pray often like he did. These are fine suggestions. Surely, as we have seen, there is a call to imitate Jesus.
The NT writers intimately connected the ministry of Jesus to the coming of the kingdom. In other words, according to the NT the totality of the life and ministry of Jesus, as well as his death, resurrection, and ascension, and the coming of the Spirit, mark the beginning of the kingdom of God, or the New Creation.
What is essential for us grasp, both in regards to understanding the NT and the purpose of the Christian life is that in Christ the new creation has begun, but it does not end with Jesus!
The purpose of the Christian life and the call of God’s people, then, is to carry forth the work of Christ. Consequently, in order for us to understand our mission as the church, we must understand the mission of Jesus—which I will elaborate on in the next post!