Gospelising Jubilee Church: a statement of the journey

Posted on 23 Dec 2015
  1. What is Gospel?

“Gospel” is a familiar term to both Christians and Non-Christians. In the faith community, it generally refers to the narrative of Jesus’ salvation or a bible verse such as John 3:16. In the early centuries of the Roman Empire, “gospel” refers to the good news of the enthronement or birth of a King. In fact, the word “gospel” in the original text means good news, it is not a term exclusively used or created by the church. In the much earlier days, when prophet Isaiah proclaimed to the people of Israel regarding God’s action to revive their nation and bring about an eschatological new creation[1], to the people of God and the rest of the world, this was good news. Therefore, the word “gospel” will mean different things when we look at the origins of the word.

Yet, if the mission of the church is to evangelize, we must carefully discern the mystery of the gospel and explain it properly.For the Church, the Gospel has a rich content. The Gospel embodies the heart and mind of God made visible through His act of creation and the created world at the time of creation. There are God’s thoughts, acts and even intentions of things to be fulfilled. The sustaining act of the Trinity God among us (the created) is an everlasting promise; this is the essence of the Gospel. This Gospel existed from the beginning at the time of creation.

God initiated life and living through His act of creation. God, through his power, upheld the universe and turned it from darkness, chaos and emptiness to light, order and abundance. Sustaining life and living requires God’s continuous act of creation and renewal! God treasures all His creation. This is His eternal intention, the divine grace we can truly rely on. Otherwise, the created will be helpless to continue, but drift along aimlessly. Humankind will certainly be lost, turning from truth to ruin. Without God upholding it, the universe will only see lifelessness (as the state before creation) in darkness, chaos and emptiness – a state of death!

Therefore, our Gospel must be told beginning with the Trinity God who created, is still creating and re-creating! Through the writings of the bible we are able to trace the footpaths of this gospel in human history. This Gospel finds its perfect fulfilment in the life of Jesus, the one we know as our Saviour. This is also the Gospel that thousands of Apostles and Believers have testified and spread with their lives.

  1. What Is Gospelization?

Since the Gospel has been bestowed on humans and the created world by God since the time of creation and is the grace for sustaining life, therefore given this understanding of the eternal assurance, we should give thanks and praise for life, living and the potential of all living things on earth and know that we should treasure this with humility! We are willing to live for God because we understand this Gospel, and use our lives to spread this Gospel through the Church to brothers and sisters, and through our lives of service – to live because of the Gospel, through the Gospel and for the Gospel. This is the revelation of a life of gospelization!

In Romans Chapters 1 to 11, Paul expounded on the meaning of the Gospel of God for Jews and non-Jews. Particularly in Chapter 6, Paul mentioned that regardless of Jews or non-Jews, all believers who are baptised into Jesus Christ are in union with Christ, and this union means to live to God and not to live to sin and death. Thereafter in Romans Chapter 12, Paul urged the believers to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to God, as this is what God is happy with and as a matter of course. Such a sacrifice of life means that we should not follow the world, should not live according to the values of the world, but to renew our minds and examine the will of God that is good and pure[2]. This process will cause our lives to be renewed and to become gospelized.

When the New Testament talks about Christian living, it refers to a life essence that cannot be separated from Christ. A Christian lives to belong to Christ, to be united with Christ, to be in union with Christ, to die with Christ, to resurrect with Christ, to be in heaven with Christ, to put on Christ, to wear Christ, etc. Paul’s proclamation was even more thorough and complete: “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2: 19-20)

Furthermore, Jesus compared himself to a grapevine and said: “the branches must remain in the vine” and instructed his followers not to exist as a useless entity but to live with a sense of belonging, and live in union with Christ looking to God the Father, to carry the cross and follow Jesus. And in this entire process, the Holy Spirit urges us to continually be in union with Christ, to entrust our lives to Christ and live like Christ!

Everything about Jesus Christ is God’s new creation and His ultimate plan for renewal in us! Receiving this ultimate plan, believing and being in union with Christ will trigger the process of gospelization in the lives of believers and in the Church.

  1. Let’s talk again about creation, anti-creation and new creation  TheGospel that continues!

Generally when we talk about creation, our first thought will be the incident of God’s creation of the universe that is recorded in Genesis Chapters 1-2. God’s act of creation covered in the bible does not only refer to the incident of creation or the religious concept of creating from nothing. The entire bible from the creation incident in the first two chapters of Genesis to the new creation in the last two chapters of Revelation thoroughly describes and testifies that the Trinitarian God is a creating God.

From the narrative of the creation of the whole universe in Genesis, we see the appearance of the created (the sky and the land, the celestial body, all living things, the earth and humans). They live and function in a disciplined manner (all living creatures, be fruitful and increase in number, mankind appointed as God’s representative to rule over all the earth). Such a living condition was made all the more special because God continued to live with the created – God made the heavens and the earth His abode. And all these, God said were good! The Garden of Eden and its running reflected God’s wish and hope for living! Life in the Garden meant that different created things relied on each other and complemented each other. It is not difficult for us to imagine and experience such a God, in such a setting where humans and the world are in harmony, and this living world was what God set out to create and what he regarded as good.

In this harmonious world of life, God’s power established (sustained) the order of life (this is also the meaning of righteousness). Nevertheless, it is not a given that this setting can continue normally, nor is it a natural occurrence, it is in fact God working within it! Therefore, God’s presence is the assurance that humans and all creation can survive and continue to live out their perfect potential!

In other words, humans’ respect and obedience to God should come naturally and is the basic condition for survival. This basic condition for survival should come with a display of vitality and form that reflects God’s image and likeness, so as to become representatives of God on earth among all creation, and let the potential and meaning of God’s creation be displayed and sustained.

If we use the word “creation” to describe this entire survival relationship and positive energy, then “anti-creation” would be the situation that is the inverse and total opposite. Anti-creation is akin to returning to darkness, emptiness and chaos, a situation like death. Any situation that results in disobedience to God, distancing from God or removing oneself from God to go into an independent self-sustaining state is anti-creation. Humans were never meant to be independent and self-sustaining, hence a life that opposes God and cuts off relations would naturally be in a state of “sin” and “death” (because it has left the source of life)! Human history has repeatedly shown us instances of humans opposing God because of their desertion or self-righteousness.

Nevertheless, God’s response to human acts of anti-creation such as betrayal and self-righteousness is instead continual renewal (as opposed to destruction); it is new creation, it is God’s act of salvation, it is grace. Salvation is God taking out everything from “corruption” and “death” and bringing in new settings for living (for instance God sent the disobedient Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden to fend for themselves, and God brought the suffering people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land). God actually continuously and repeatedly repairs the broken situation; He displays reconciliation and renewal through this, such that the original meaning of creation does not fall into nothing. In narrating God’s process of this new creation, the bible uses a lot of related topics and incidents such as: promise, blessing, instruct, God’s people, covenant, law, tabernacle, synagogue, God’s spirit, etc.

According to the creation-anti-creation narrative, Jesus is the ultimate manifestation of God’s creation-anti-creation act and purpose. In the New Testament, words and phrases used to describe Jesus are all linked to God’s creation, such as: life, light, the Word of God (Word becoming flesh), righteous man, Son of God, Emmanuel (God with us), new Adam, new Israel, King of Israel, God’s likeness, new Holy Temple (God’s dwelling place), etc. Through Jesus Christ, God carried out His work of re-creation, and once again redeemed those who betrayed Him, and once again showed that God has not given up on His intention of the original creation (before this the act of new creation was when He chose the people of Israel, after which, everything about Jesus actually also completed God’s act of new creation with the Israelites).

Jesus Christ was the Word became flesh and lived among us, went through life, triumphed over death, and now sits on the right-hand side of God the Father. Through everything that happened in the life of Jesus Christ, God proved that Jesus Christ who lived the perfect God-pleasing life, was resurrected with his human body, and now sits on the right-hand side of God the Father every day, and this is the act of new creation. Paul said: our life is now hidden with Christ in God[3]! We who live in these earthly bodies are now hidden in the one who triumphed in flesh, Jesus Christ. This is the act that is revealed to us (through creation, the people of Israel and the Jesus incident), manifested and completed for us by the Trinitarian God (through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we are able to understand this mystery).

If we believe and are willing to inquire and understand the salvation narrative and its truth and meaning about living, we will discover that we are also part of this narrative (because we already believe in Jesus and are hidden in Him), and have already been entrusted to witness the truth about this salvation (the contents of the Gospel). When we live as such (the response of an obedient life), we are actually in the communion of the Holy Father, Holy Son and Holy Spirit Trinitarian God[4]! In other words, we have been gospelized! Such a beautiful thing, amen!

  1. Gospelising Jubilee Church

The Gospel series of Jubilee Church consists of Course A &B. Course A is entitled “Jesus and I “ and Course B, “The Walk with Jesus”. The Gospel series was Jubilee’s equipping lessons for those intending to be baptized in this church or for those intending to transfer church membership to Jubilee. Nearing the end of 2014, the LED Ministry, under the guidance of the Pastoral office, began reviewing the current Gospel series. The review is in view of the vision to gospelize the church and the purpose of improving learning effectiveness.

Simply put, the revised Gospel series will include the following new elements: –

  1. Gospel A will have 5+1 lessons while Gospel B will have 8+1 lessons. The +1 lesson aims to provide an overall summary for the course with emphasis on learning feedback and personal consolidation of key learning points.
  2. Many lesson plans are developed using the narrative approach to present the bible content. Participants will be facilitated to study the bible teachings as stories – with settings, characterization and plots. Through identifying these elements and class discussions, Participants will be able to make meaning from the stories and hence, of the Gospel.
  3. The design of the Gospel lessons takes into consideration adult learning principles, with an aim to encourage active and collective learning. Learning will no longer be provided by passive listening of lectures but constructed through a combination of lectures, individual and small group activities, reflective thinking, discussions and sharing.

5. References

Creation-Anti-creation- New Creation (as at 08102014)

  •  This idea was first proposed by:

Clines, D. J. A. The Theme of the Pentateuch.  Sheffield, 1997.

  • Exploring the notion of “creation” in OT:

 Anderson, B.W.  ed. Creation in the Old Testament. Fortress, 1984.

From Creation to New Creation: Old Testament Perspectives, Fortress, 1994.

Creation versus Chaos, Fortress, 1987.

Clifford, R. J. and Collins J. J. eds. Creation in the Biblical Traditions. CBQMS 24.1992.

Simkins, Ronald A. Creator & Creation: Nature in the Worldview of Ancient Israel.   Hendrickson, 1994.

Brown, W. P. and Mcbride, S. D. eds. God Who Creates: Essay in Honor of W. Sibley Towner. Eerdmans, 2000.

Fretheim Terence E. God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of   Creation. Abingdon, 2005.

Middleton, J. Richard. The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1. Brazos, 2005.

MacDonald Nathan, Elliott, Mark W. and Macaskill,Grant. eds. Genesis and Christian Theology. Eerdmans, 2012.

Day, John. From Creation to Babel: Studies in Genesis 1-11. Bloomsbury, 2013.

Batto, Bernard F. In the Beginning: Essays on Creation Motifs in the Ancient Near East and the Bible. Eisenbrauns, 2013.

Evans, Craig A. Lohr, Joel N. and Petersen, David L. eds. The Book of Genesis: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation. Brill,2012.

Pass, Stefan. Creation & Judgement: Creation Texts in Some Eight Century Prophets. Brill, 2003.

Hess, Richard S. and Tsumura, David Toshio.  eds. I Studied Inscriptions From Before The Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11.               Eisenbrauns, 1994.

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Creation, Un-Creation, Re-Creation: A Discursive Commentary on Genesis 1-11. T & T Clark, 2011.

Huddleston Jonathan. Eschatology in Genesis. Mohr Siebeck, 2012.

Moberly, R.W.L. The Theology of the Book of Genesis. Cambridge, 2009.

Goldingay, John. Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel. Vol 1. IVP,2003. Pp.42-192.

Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Faith. Vol.2. IVP, 2006. Pp.647-732.

Alexander, T Desmond & Baker, D.W. eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentatuech. IVP, 2003. 中的文章:“Cosmology”, “Creation”, “ Eden, Garden of ”, “ Genealogies” , “ Genesis, Book of ”, “ Tabernacle”, “ Theology of  Pentateuch”

Boda, Mark J. and McConville J. Gordon.  eds.  Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets. IVP, 2012. 中的文章: “ Cosmology”,“ Creation Theology” , “ Eschatology”, “ Spirit of Yahweh”

Longman III, Tremper & Enns Peter.  eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament Wisdom, Poetry & Writings. IVP, 2008. 中的文章: “Chaos and Death”, “ Creation Theology ” , “God ”, “  Righteousness”, “Wisdom”

Loning, Karl & Zenger, Erich. To Begin with, God Created……: Biblical Theologies of Creation. The Liturgical Press. 2000.

[1] Isaiah 52: 3-12 (note verse 7). In Isaiah Chapters 40-55, God proclaimed to His people His intention for an eschatological new creation!  In Jesus, we see God’s purpose completed, hence the New Testament calls Jesus the new creation, the eschatological Adam, the final Isaiah, the new Temple, etc.! For further details about creation and new creation, please refer to 1.4.

[2] Romans 12: 1-2. In the next chapters up to chapter 15, Paul wrote about who Jesus Christ is (Gospel) in order to address the internal life issues encountered by the Roman Church. Paul wanted believers who belonged to Jesus to put on Christ and to treat one another in Christ’s likeness (Gospelization). Segregating and regarding Romans chapters 1-11 as faith doctrine (theory) and chapters 12-15 as life application would make it impossible to see the true meaning of “Gospelization”.

[3] Colossians 3: 1-4; Ephesians 2: 5-7

[4] We will prepare another article “From Creation to New Creation” to understand in detail the key contents of the entire bible.

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