In The Right Direction

This book is a brilliant read for so many reasons. It comes on the back of his magnum opus, ‘The Mission Of God’ and has so much meat to chew on, enjoy and be changed by. Here’s a sample from his comments on Colossians 1:14–23 where he talks about how the Cross was sufficient for the redemption of all of creation including people. But as he does that he gives us a fascinating insight pointing us in the right direction.

“We tend to start with individuals who need to have their sin problem dealt with. The cross is the answer to that individual problem, so that you can be saved and go to heaven. Meanwhile, you need fellowship and company on the way to heaven, and that’s what the church is for, so you’d better join one. As for the world out there, we have to live in it until we get to heaven, but we should not get too obsessed with it, since only what is “heavenly” really counts. Individual → church → world → heaven. That is our trajectory, with its built-in dualism.

But Paul’s gospel works in the exact opposite direction. God has a very big plan indeed. Paul starts with creation –and relates that to Christ as its creator and sustainer. Then he moves to the church (v. 18), which will be the people of the new creation, because they are in Christ, who is the firstborn of the new creation just as he is the firstborn of the original creation. That is to say, the church belongs to Christ because all things belong to Christ, but also because the church is already, in this creation, the anticipation of the redeemed people of God in the new creation. Then, having spoken of all creation and of the whole church, Paul sums up their totality in the reconciling work of the cross (v. 20). Finally, having sketched the grand plan of God for the whole universe and emphasized the centrality of the cross within it, Paul adds –“Oh yes, even you too [“and you” at the beginning of v. 21 is emphatic], you get to be part of this! You who were Gentile outsiders [as described in Eph. 2:11 –12] can be among the reconciled, through faith in this gospel, which is now for everybody everywhere” (“proclaimed to every creature under heaven”, v. 23, could be better translated as “proclaimed in the whole creation / in all creation under heaven” [as in REB and ESV]; Paul sees the whole created earth as the sphere of gospel proclamation).”

Let’s get the order straight and a lot of the issues of our life will also line up in the right direction. For starters we’ll think more of Christ and less of ourselves.