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cross

Cross
God Saves More
than People

Session 10
worship and prayer

• Sing 2-3 Worship Songs (project songs on PowerPoint)


• Pray out loud for the course and for God to reveal himself through it
and have each student pray for his or her neighbor at the same time that
10 God may reveal himself and his purposes in a deeper way, give vision
minutes and renewed passion for his work on earth to be done.

review of previous session


Ask students to summarize the most important points of the last session.
xx
minutes

video clip: the cross

group activity: homework review


I’d like us to first review your homework and application exercise for this
week. I asked you to read the article “e Historical Meaning of the
Cross” and answer the reflection questions at the end of the article, and to
xx come prepared to share your findings with other members of your group.
minutes

e article indicated that of most biographies that are around, few devote
more than ten percent of their pages to the subject’s death – including
biographies of men like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Steve
Biko and Oscar Romero who died violent and politically significant
deaths. e Gospels, though, devote nearly a third of their length to the
climactic last week of Jesus’ life. Only two of the Gospels mention the
events of his birth, but each chronicler gives a detailed account of the
events leading to Jesus’ death. It must be that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John saw death as the central mystery of Jesus. Nothing remotely like it
had happened before.1

But what did Jesus intend by it all? What did he think would happen
next? Why did he walk into trouble in this way? And why, after his own
violent death, did anyone take him seriously any longer, let alone
suppose that he was the living embodiment of the one true God?2 What
was the meaning of the cross and Jesus’ death? As the article indicated, it
is important that we distinguish between the historical meaning and the
theological meaning of the cross. e present article focused on the
historical meaning of the cross and ended with some reflection questions.

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How did you answer these questions? (Project questions on PowerPoint and
give participants time to answer them).

Let’s first take a few moments to dialog about the first four questions:

• What are your reactions to this article?


• Describe the meaning of crosses in the Roman Empire. Was this a
new insight for you? How does it compare with associations most
people have with the cross today?
• How do you react to this article’s claim, that Jesus’ death had not only
spiritual meaning?
• Have you personally seen the effectiveness of Jesus’ strategy in
disarming the powers work?

After about 5-10 minutes lead participants to dialog about the latter five
questions which are more personal:

• How does this article affect you in terms of your own personal faith
and your spiritual journey?
• What would it imply for you to ‘take up your cross’ in your
community/city? Would you be ready?
• What would it imply for people in your church to ‘take up their cross’
your community/city?
• What are ways that you and your church are called to take up your
cross? What issues and injustices in your community and city can
only be overcome by a movement of ‘cross-bearing’ disciples?
• What would happen in your community/city if a growing number of
churches took up their cross the way Jesus commanded his disciples to
do?

lecture: introduction: the theological meaning of the


cross
As we have seen, the historical meaning of the cross is very important, and
it is to our own detriment if we neglect its implications. We simply
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minutes
become less faithful followers of Christ when we do so.

In this session we will focus the bulk of our attention on the theological
meaning of the cross, though. e New Testament focuses on the
theological meaning of the cross – i.e. Jesus as the Savior from sin and evil
– far more than it focuses on the immediate historical meaning of the
cross – i.e. Jesus the social revolutionary. One of the reasons for this is
that the historical meaning of the cross was obvious to the contemporaries
of the New Testament writers – it’s like saying today that Jesus died as a
political prisoner or freedom fighter on the electrical chair or by a

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shooting squad – whereas the theological meaning needed exposition,
defense and practical application.3

So what happened on the cross? What did Jesus accomplish? What was
the purpose of the cross, apart from the historical meaning we already
looked at? What kind of salvation did he bring about? How could his
death and subsequent resurrection bring salvation and restoration to
the world?

Have a participant read the introduction to Scripture Study “e


eological Meaning of the Cross” (Project picture of windows and sky on
PowerPoint to visualize the idea of different theological meanings of the cross.)

In the following group study we will seek to look through six different
windows in our house onto the theological meaning of the cross. In doing
so we will see that the cross was God’s primary way to deal with the
powers of evil and destroy those forces who oppose his divine intentions
on earth. e cross was God’s way to set the stage for the renewal of his
creation to once more reflect his divine intentions: Shalom on earth as it is
in heaven!

scripture study 1: god saves more than people


In the following group study we’re going to seek to explain how and in
what ways God saves more than people! We will seek to explain the
xx theological meaning of the cross by looking through three different
minutes windows of our house. I’d like you to approach the texts you’re going to
study with the questions assigned to each group in mind. At the end, each
group will present your answers to the questions asked to the plenary.

Have participants turn to “Group Study: e eological Meaning of the Cross”


and divide them into six groups. Assign each group its texts – to study the first
three windows. Give groups about 15 minutes time to read the texts and discuss
their answers to the questions. Have groups present their findings to the
plenary. As groups present their findings, project the texts on screen via
PowerPoint and fill in insights they might have left out from below, using the
PowerPoint Outline.

1. rough Jesus’ Death God Defeated the Evil Powers

Group 1: Col. 2:13-15

e extremely vivid image Paul is using here, of course, is the triumphal


procession after a Roman victory. When a Roman general conquered an
enemy, he would make a triumphal procession into Rome, marching
though the city streets not only his conquering army, but his foe’s defeated

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troops, the hostages and booty taken and, finally, the vanquished general or
king. ey would proceed down the Via Appia to the Roman Senate.
Once they arrived at the steps of the Roman Senate, the general would
lead the king of the conquered nation by a chain up the stairs where the
Emperor was waiting. At the top of the stairs he would give the chain to
the Emperor and force the king to fall prostrate before the Emperor who
then put his foot and the defeated king’s neck. (Project picture of triumphal
procession on PowerPoint). It was, for any Roman general, the supreme
moment of his career when he was granted the right to such a triumphal
procession.4 Using this extremely vivid picture of a conqueror’s triumphal
procession Paul states that God defeated and disarmed the evil powers of
their authority. In other words, Jesus’ journey to the cross was a march to
victory, characteristic of a military leader who had triumphed over his
enemies. e people watching Christ limp to Golgotha witnessed the
political equivalent of a victorious Roman general entering Rome,
parading the defeated and vanquished principalities and powers through
the city they once sought to rule, disarming his enemies, and making a
public spectacle of them.5

In making a public spectacle of them Jesus exposed to the universe the evil
powers’ utter helplessness, leading them ‘in him’ in his triumphal
procession so that all the world might see the greatness of his victory. On
his cross, he made a mockery of the powers and authorities by disarming
them, i.e. by making their weapon – the cross – redundant. So how exactly
did Christ defeat the principalities and powers of the world’s cities and
empires? Paul tells us that on the cross Christ “cancelled the written
code” (i.e., the system or mosaic of religious, cultural, political and
economic rules and regulations which ordered all life throughout both
Judaism and the Roman Empire).6 He forgave our sins, freed us from the
authority of the city’s and empire’s systems over our lives, and granted us
freedom in Christ. By such redemptive action, the power of the systems
and their principalities (both earthly and demonic) has been broken, both
over the church and over all society.7 In other words, the work of Christ is
defeating and redeeming God’s enemies, which can be spiritual beings or
such things as the social, economic, and political structures that comprise
the elements of the kosmos and estrange both people and societies from
God.

Group 2: 1. Cor. 15:54b-57; Gal. 1:4; 1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-17

1 John 3:8 maintains that the purpose of Christ’s coming is to enervate


the devil, to eliminate his power, to destroy his effectiveness. If the world
is the battleground between God and Satan, this passage reminds us that
Christ came to the world to die in order to undo all that Satan has done in
the world among its people, systems, and principalities.8 Galatians 1:4
states along similar lines that Christ came to rescue us from this present

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evil age, in the here and now. e writer to the Hebrews makes it clear
once more that one of the primary purposes of Jesus’ incarnation and
death was to nullify the power of the devil and thereby free those held in
bondage by this evil tyrant. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he
too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him
who holds the power of death – that is the devil – and free those who all
their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2: 14-15).
Hebrews indicates that the devil continues to hold people in slavery
because of their fear of death. e devil does not possess control over
death inherently, but gained his power when he seduced humankind and
its systems to rebel against God. So how does the kingdom of Satan
survive? It survives by entrapping people in fear; the fear of being
shamed; the fear of “losing out,” the fear of physical suffering; and most
supremely, the fear of death – the ultimate weapon of the kingdom of
Satan. If you threaten the rule of injustice and oppression in a social
system, the maximum it can do to protect itself is to eliminate you by
killing you.9

What’s, then, the only thing that can undermine this reign of fear? e
cross! It takes the weapon of the kingdom of Satan, and turns it against
Satan. 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57 summarizes it well: e death of Jesus
effectively dealt with this problem because “he made atonement for the
sins of the people” through his death. He conquered death! We can be
released from Satan’s power and freed from fear of death to serve God by
the forgiveness or cleansing made possible by Jesus’ death. By his death
and resurrection Jesus has destroyed Satan’s final weapon.10

Unfortunately, the contemporary evangelical exposition of the cross fails to


notice that the cross does more than delivering us from our individual sin
and its consequences and giving us a ticket into heaven.11 Jesus died and
rose again so that, “by his death he might destroy him who holds the
power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were
held in slavery by their fear of death.” e primary role of Jesus, then, is
that of conqueror of evil because the central problem of our cities and
nations is the power of evil, whether seen in demonic beings, corrupt social
structures, or death itself. e work of Christ is seen as defeating God’s
enemies, which can be spiritual beings or such things as the social,
economic, and political structures that comprise the elements of the
cosmos and estrange both people and societies from God. e cross, then,
is a message of hope for those who live in fear of death, evil, supernatural
powers and oppressive systems. Christ died in order to rescue us from the
present evil age in the here and now. ere is no slightest indication that
the New Testament writers projected this rescue solely into the heavenly
realm. René Padilla underlines the importance of this model: “e church
today urgently needs to experience the cross as far more than the cultic
symbol of a privatized faith. It needs to experience it as God’s victory over

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the powers of darkness and therefore as a basis to challenge every
dehumanizing power that is destroying life in the modern world, be it
militarism or consumerism, statism or materialism, individualism or
hedonism.”12

2. rough Jesus’ Death the Cosmos and the Principalities and Powers are
Saved from Self-destruction

Group 3: John 3:16-17

John 3:16-17 is perhaps too well known for us to be analytical toward it.
We recite it without much thought, our minds shaped by it primary use –
as the Scripture passage used to introduce an individual to Christ. In the
light of such popularity, it is important to assert that the Greek word John
uses which is frequently interpreted individualistically (“God so loved Juan
Garcia that he gave…”) is not an individualistic word. It is the word
‘kosmos’ – the entire created order. It does not mean the physical earth;
the word ‘oikoumene’ was used for the inhabited world. Nor does it mean
people; the word ‘laos’ would be used if referring only to humans. e
word ‘kosmos’ was used in Scripture to refer to the universe, the heavens,
and the earth and all its inhabitants (both human and non-human), the
scene and systems of human activity; the order of things. It is an all-
encompassing word and means “the totality of existence.”13 To capture
the power and implications of what John was writing in this passage, let us
translate it this way:14

“For God so loved the cosmos that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God
did not send his Son into the cosmos to condemn the cosmos, but to save
the cosmos through him” or

“God so loved the entire created order – including people, systems,


structures, celestial beings – that he gave his one and only son,… so that
the entire created order might not perish but might have eternal life.”

It is crucial to understand that John chose to use the word ‘kosmos’ in this
passage. Perhaps the most precise of all biblical writers in his use of
Greek, John would not have used the word if he had not meant ‘cosmos’.
If he had simply meant ‘people’, he would have said so. In short, this
passage is not written to deal simply with the redemption of human
beings (although it includes them). It is referring to the redemption of the
universe, the geophysical world, the social systems, and structures of
humanity, and the entire human enterprise. In other words – the entire
created order. It is the ‘cosmos’ that God does not want to condemn and
have perish, but which he wants to save and for which he has provided a
way of salvation through his one and only Son.15 Christ’s death and

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resurrection, then, is giving remedy for the downward cycle of society.
God, through Jesus Christ, has made a way to restore the ‘cosmos’ – the
created order including people, systems, structures, celestial beings – to its
original purpose. Jesus’ death IS God’s way to redeem all things
unredeemed, and bring under the Lordship of Christ all things in
rebellion to him.16 ose who have been redeemed by him, are then called
to work with God in the redemption of all things not yet redeemed and
bring under the Lordship of Christ all things in rebellion to him.

Group 4: Colossians 1:15-20

ese verses are among Paul’s most illuminating statements about Christ
and the meaning of his death. Paul presents Jesus here as the cosmic
Christ.17 What he is specifically referring to is that both the socio-
political structures of society and the spiritual forces behind and within
those structures were created by Christ. ese created “powers are both
heavenly and earthly, divine and human, spiritual and political, invisible
and structural.” ey are the “inner and outer aspects of any given
manifestation of power”, according to Walter Wink. Paul goes on to say
that the powers and systems were originally a divine creation and were to
find their goal in Christ. ey were created for only one purpose: “To
glorify God and to enjoy him forever” – in other words, to be centered on
God and the service of God’s creation.18

It is interesting to note, then, that seven times, this passage reminds us


that God’s agenda is as big as “all creation”. Jesus’ blood was shed for the
restoration of “all things”. Why? “All things” were broken when sin
entered our world.19 Because of the fall, when the principalities and
powers turned against God in rebellion, creation can no longer support
life, including that of plants, animals, and humans, as effectively as God
intended. is inability introduced suffering into creation, such as hunger,
sickness, and social and cultural disintegration, as well as other problems.20
God loves his creation, however, and he wants “all things” reconciled to
himself.21 erefore, God sent Jesus as God’s representative to reconcile
all things to him and transform and redeem the systems and powers.22
Jesus, then, is not only co-creator with God of all the structures and
powers of the cosmos. He is also their redeemer. rough his redemptive
work on the cross, Jesus Christ has reconciled the entire cosmos (whether
things on earth or things in heaven”) to God. Who is reconciled?
Everyone. Everything. Not just people, but “thrones… powers… rulers…
authorities” (or as it says in other translations “thrones… dominions…
principalities… powers): the heavenly order (the angelic and demonic
forces) and the earthly order (the systems and structures, the material
world, all human beings). Everything and everyone!23 Reconciliation, as
it is used in this passage, then, has the sense of restoration. It assumes

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creation’s fall and God’s commitment to its restoration, so that it can fulfill
its purposes.24

Most of the evangelical church tends to interpret visible and invisible as


physical and spiritual, which limits Christian ministries to the spiritual
realm and prevents them from grasping the comprehensive ethical nature
of Christ’s reconciling work to which he invites us. As a result, far too few
churches equip their people to restore “all things”. Some concentrate on
spiritual salvation, where restoration begins. Others concentrate on social
and physical reform, to the neglect of spiritual regeneration. But the
church must equip its people to represent God’s whole agenda, to bring
“all creation” under the Lordship of Christ.25 A proper interpretation of
this passage, thus, makes it clear that God’s reconciling work embraces the
restoration of individuals as well as social, cultural, political and economic
structures. Christ is at work globally, and he is seeking to use his people to
transform societies and their systems, confront principalities and powers,
and work for public justice and human rights.26

Group 5: 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

ese verses contain Paul’s great declaration of the reconciling work of


God. e phrase that leaps out from this passage is, “All this is from
God.” is is where the focus must lie. Both the work of reconciliation
and the use of his people as agents of reconciliation are motivated,
instituted, and implemented by God. e Lord does the work –
sometimes through us, sometimes in spite of us – but it is he who does the
salvific work. at is how the world is to be transformed from a world at
enmity with God to a world at one with God: through the work of God in
Christ. e work God did and is doing through Christ is the work of
reconciliation. And it is not just individuals or humanity he is reconciling;
it is the whole world:27 all of creation, nations, people groups, systems,
individual persons, powers, and whatever else is alienated from God will
be reconciled through Christ. Reconciliation makes the most
comprehensive renewal possible. Everything becomes new as Christ has
opened the door for the entire world to be reconciled to him.28 We might
employ Paul’s declaration in 2 Cor. 5:19 (alternating two words) to show
the essential contents of the Old Testament…: “God was in Israel, seeking
to reconcile the world unto himself.” “In Israel” God did not succeed in
redeeming the world. It remained for him to act “in Christ” in order
finally to draw all unto himself.29 ose who have been redeemed through
faith in his atoning work, those who are “a new creation,” are called to a
“ministry of reconciliation”.30 How does this look like and what exactly
does this “ministry of reconciliation” involve?

Our task, in this ministry of reconciliation, is not the reconciliation itself;


only God can do that, particularly at the systemic and cosmic levels. Our

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task as people of God is to proclaim what God has already done. It is to
witness to that reconciliation by first being reconciled to God ourselves.31
If anyone is “in the Messiah”, what they have and are is… new creation.
Your own human self, your personality, your body, is being reclaimed, so
that instead of being simply part of the old creation, a place of sorrow and
injustice and ultimately the shame of death itself, you can be both part of
the new creation in advance and someone through whom it begins to
happen here and now.32 Second, it is to witness to that reconciliation by
becoming agents or ambassadors of that reconciliation to others; sharing
with the world (including those systems and structures which are no
longer living within their God-given purpose and in rebellion against
God) the Good News that they are already reconciled and can receive
God’s salvation if they so choose.33 Indeed, God uses humankind to work
out the full implications of his redemption. As the Redeemer’s
ambassadors, Christians are called to work for the redemption of the
creation in its entirety—family, the marketplace, the arts … and, of course,
politics. us, in the same way that humankind was commissioned to
work out the full implications of the original creation, believers are called
to work out the full implications of the redemption as it extends to all
things.34 Although harmony between God and his creation is restored de
jure in Christ’s work on the cross, it is the business of each and every
believer to engage the world, using the unique capacities with which each
has been gifted, to restore God’s original purpose for creation – Shalom –
in fact.35

3. rough Jesus’ Death the Created Order is Restored to its Original


Purpose

Group 6: Romans 8:18-25

is is a most amazing and truly mind-expanding passage. In verse 20,


Paul’s starting point is the fact that the creation had been “subjected to
frustration”. He is contending that creation – the world, the cosmos, the
universe – is enslaved to decadence and sin as much as are human beings.
Most certainly Paul is referring to Genesis 3, which says that human sin
also caused disruption and evil in nature. e material world shares
humanity’s destiny. “It was cursed for man’s sin … and is therefore now
deformed: impotent and decadent (Gen. 3:17, 19-22).36 Indeed, “the
whole creation has been groaning as in the pain of childbirth right up to
the present time” (v. 22). “It waits with eager longing for the revealing of
the children of God” (v. 19; literally, “waiting for the revelation of the sons
of God”). It waits for its delivery from sin and longs for its own salvation,
as much as humanity yearns for wholeness.37 Paul recognized that the
world is delightful as well as disastrous; orderly as well as chaotic. Sin is
so prevalent and so destructive that the whole creation is affected. Sin is
not just individual, it’s global. It’s infused in the bloodstream of the whole

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world, where sinful people create systems and cultures that promote and
protect evil, as well as good.

e good news is that God’s salvation through Jesus’ death is equally


universal in its availability and effect. Creation is as capable of being saved
by Christ as are we!38 Indeed, one day all creation will be rescued from
slavery, from the corruption, decay and death which deface its beauty,
destroy its relationships, remove the sense of God’s presence from it, and
make it a place of injustice, violence, and brutality. at is the message of
rescue, of “salvation”, at the heart of one of the greatest chapters Paul ever
wrote.39 e whole of creation has been created and now redeemed by
Christ. Not just humans! e whole created order will be made new!
Creation will enjoy the same benefits of salvation as will humans, and to
the same degree, for “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to
decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (v.
21).40 In other words, Paul basically says that through Jesus’ death the
present material universe is being transformed to fulfill the purpose for
which God created it.41 Reflecting on these verses the noted evangelical
scholar F.F. Bruce concludes: “If words mean anything, these words of Paul
denote not the annihilation of the present material universe on the day of
revelation, to be replaced by a universe completely new but the
transformation of the present universe so that it will fulfill the purpose for
which God created it.”42 Romans 8, thus, affirms that creation is so good
that God intends to purge it from evil and bring it to perfection.43 It is
the deepest New Testament answer to the problem of evil, to the question
of God’s justice.44 Notwithstanding, this liberation of creation will be
partial and imperfect until Christ returns to redeem it personally. Only at
the end of time, when Jesus returns, will it be fully restored.45

In the meantime, until Jesus’ return, the passage affirms, we humans have a
mandate to work with God in creation’s restoration. Christ calls his
followers to participate in the world’s systems, to promote his values and
love as we have opportunity; to participate with him in the first skirmishes
of the liberation of his creation. Christ’s saving grace starts its work inside
us, but simultaneously works its way out through our influence. God’s
power and purposes begin to penetrate our values, worldview,
relationships, career choices and community involvements. As God’s
managers of the earth, we then begin to reclaim the devil’s territory, as it
were, by redirecting social systems and cultural values so that people and
creation benefit instead of being exploited.46

group study 2: god saves humankind: how and in what


ways?

xx
minutes

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In the next group study we’re going to seek to explain how through the
cross, God saves humankind and in what ways. We will seek to seek to
explain some other theological meanings of the cross by looking through
three more windows of our house. I’d like you to approach the texts you’re
going to study with the questions assigned to each group in mind. At the
end, each group will present your answers to the questions asked to the
plenary.

Divide participants into three groups and assign each group its texts. Give
groups about 15 minutes time to read the texts and discuss their answers to the
questions. Have groups present their findings to the plenary. As groups present
their findings, project the texts on screen via PowerPoint and fill in insights they
might have left out from below, using the PowerPoint Outline.

4. rough Jesus’ Death Human Communities and Societies are Restored to


their Original Purpose

Group 7: 1. Cor. 10:16-22; 11:23-26; Gal. 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:14-22; 1


John 3:10-18

Jesus’ death tore down dividing walls by calling people from divergent
backgrounds to give up their differences and concentrate instead on the
generousness of Christ’s sacrifice. Christ’s death enables people to live in
koinonia (community/fellowship), as they become partakers in the
Salvation brought about by Jesus. eir koinonia with Jesus must manifest
itself in koinonia that crosses barriers with other believers, which is best
seen in the Lords Supper. e Lord’s supper is not a religious
remembrance ritual, but instead a call to “life together”, to forgiveness, to
sharing, to intentional community. Only in remembrance of the cross,
koinonia can deepen and mature, because it involves the crucifying of one’s
own self-justice, egocentrism, and selfishness – openly admitting one’s own
dark sides. e result is a preparedness to be honest and in open
communion with other Christians, showing oneself vulnerable.

rough Christ’s death, then, reconciliation between classes, races and


genders is possible. To be ‘justified’ is to be ‘set right’ in one’s relationships;
it is a ‘making peace’, a breaking down of the wall of hostility between Jew
and Gentile: the relationship between divine justification and the
reconciliation of humans to one another is not a sequential relationship.47
Christian fellowship that neglects the commandment of reconciliation and
doesn’t bridge gaps between rich and poor, “Jew and Greek”, man and
woman, thus, falls short of God’s vision for his church. Indeed, the
Christian’s calling is to show to a divided world that separation, alienation
and barriers of all kinds can be overcome through the reconciling power of
Christ. rough Christ’s death new societies can emerge. John explains
the community-creating power of the cross: “is is how we know who

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the children of Children of God are and who the children of the devil are:
Any one who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is
anyone who does not love his brothers. . . . is is how we know what love
is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our
lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his
brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in
him? Dear Children let us not love with words or tongue but with actions
and in truth.” (1 John 3: 10-18)

5. rough Jesus’ Death Individuals are Liberated from the Enslaving


Power of Shame

Group 8: Luke 22:63-65; 23: 11,35-39; Hebrews 12:2-3; 13:12-13

A reliance on Western theology has limited the breadth of understanding


Jesus’ death. One of these limitations is that, because the West has little
problem with shame, Westerners neither remember, nor teach, how the
cross liberated Christendom from the oppressive culture of shame.
Although the Western exposition of the cross often sees it as Jesus taking
our guilt upon him, the Gospel story says more. Here is how Luke
explains how the cross was as much about shame as about sin: e cross is
the ultimate expression of an Asian culture using shame to coerce one its
members to fall in line, to conform to its code.48 What crucifixion meant
to the Romans is expressed in Cicero’s words, ‘Far be the very name of the
cross, not only from the body, but even from the thought, the eyes, the ears
of Roman citizens’.49 For Jews, it was clear that everyone who died on a
“tree” was cursed and brought utter shame on his/her family.

In effect, what the New Testament is saying, then, is that in enduring the
cross, Jesus turned his culture’s weapon of shame against his culture, he
“scorned” or “despised” its shame. (Hebrews 12:2). He refused to be
ashamed of what they wanted him to be ashamed of. Instead, he made
them ashamed of what they ought to have been ashamed of. e cross
calls us to step out of the culture that uses shame to make us conform. We
are to follow Jesus: “Who also suffered outside the city gate to make the
people holy through his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the
camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.” (Hebrews 13:12-13)50

6. rough Jesus’ Death Individuals are Saved from Self-destruction and


Enabled to Enter into new Communion with God

Group 9: Romans 1:18-23, 28-32; 3:21-26; 5:7-11; 6:23; Matthew 1:21; 1.


Tim. 1:15

roughout Scripture, we observe that humans exercised the option of


choosing to distrust and disobey God’s calling on their lives, to sin against

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his Shalom ethic, and to alienate themselves from their Creator. e
choice to sin meant believing something false, allowing oneself to be
deceived, and submitting to Satan’s kingdom. By their choice they went
from light into darkness. eir mind was darkened; their heart was
hardened; and their conscience became increasingly insensitive to truth.
e spiritual life of humankind was dead. ey ceased to have fellowship
with God and subsequently ceased to have up-building relationships with
those ‘other’ than them. ey grew to love the darkness of evil. ey
became slaves to sin, for, increasing compromise with sin means decreasing
freedom and power to choose what is right. Sin bred poverty, corruption,
oppression, exploitation, violence and destruction. As sinners against
God’s vision of Shalom, humans are guilty – worthy not of respect but of
punishment, of destruction and eternal separation from God who is
Shalom. is is the basic argument of Romans 1-6.51 ose who don’t
repent and refuse to have their sins forgiven must face God’s terrible
wrath: abandonment by God and thus eternal separation from the source
of all love, justice and goodness. “e wages of sin is death” (6:23). It is
important to state once again that God’s wrath is not active punishment.
It is precisely the opposite: It is withdrawal of God’s protection; it is
letting people experience head-on the evilness of their own doings,
without averting the evil and intervening on peoples’ behalf.52

So what remedy is there? Paul explains that through Jesus’ death, Christ
took our sins upon himself to turn aside God’s deserved wrath and
punishment of sinners. To avert that God would no longer intervene on
humanity’s behalf and let their own wrongdoings fall on their head. As
Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary, it was literally the sin of the world that
was hanging there at that moment of history. Jesus became the sin of the
world. Yet, it was not Jesus who was judged on that cross, but the sin of
humankind that was judged and condemned. What follows is absolutely
central to the gospel’s portrayal of salvation: Jesus did not die on the cross
to reconcile God to us, as the blood atonement theory has it, but to
reconcile us to God.53 God loved humans so much to send Jesus to take
humans’ sin upon himself on the cross. Because of him – the only sinless
human – God will not withdraw himself from humanity and abandon us
to our own evil and the evil of the perverted principalities and powers.54
In other words, Jesus’ death allows a sinner, who has broken God’s
commandments and sinned against his Shalom ethics, to own
responsibility for oneself and to repent; to ask forgiveness; to get right
with God; to be born again; to get out of the slavery of Satan and begin a
life of obedience to God through repentance and faith. No matter how
sinful and broken, no matter how poor, oppressed and malnourished, we
can repent of our sins, receive divine forgiveness and enter into a personal
living relationship with the holy Creator that will last eternally. We are
saved, when we repent of our sin, believe in Christ and submit to the reign
of Christ and his vision of Shalom in our lives.55

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Have a participant read out loud the summary to the Scripture Study “e
eological Meaning of the Cross.”

group dialogue: your reactions to the theological


meaning of the cross
Let’s summarize and reflect and explore the breadth of the concept of
xx salvation we have read about in Scripture today. What insights/
minutes conclusions can we draw from these scriptures? Project the following
questions on PowerPoint and discuss them with the whole group:

Divide participants into two groups. Have the first group reflect on and discuss
the first two questions plus the quote. Have the second group reflect on and
discuss the last two questions plus the quote. Give them about 15-20 minutes to
discuss their answers.

Group 1:
• In light of all we’ve reflected upon in our exploration of scriptures
today – why did Jesus have to die?
• What difference would it make in our ministry and practice of our
faith for us to believe that God saves more than people? at God is
actively at work seeking to redeem the structures, the systems of the
city or nation – or even the city or nation itself?

Group 2:
• Holding to a doctrine of salvation as outlined in our Scripture Study
today, what would you suspect Christ would call the church to be and
do in your nation?
• Why do you think so many churches have been so reluctant to accept
the centrality of restoring Shalom on earth in the gospel?

Both Groups:
ink about how you would explain the Gospel to a non-believer after all
that we studied in this and the previous sessions. Take a few minutes to
formulate how you would present the Gospel of the Kingdom. Discuss
with your group members how you would go about it, and come prepared
to share your findings with the whole group.

homework assignment and application


For your homework for this week, there are three assignments:

xx 1. Read the following quote and reflect on it. Do you agree? What are
minutes specific ways that you as individual could put the insight from this quote

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into practice this week? What are specific ways that you could get your
church to put the insights from this quote into practice? ink of one
specific way in which you will put the insights from this quote into
practice this week, and share it with other members of your group. Be
prepared to share with them how you did, in next week’s session.

“In our ministry as churches we often have focused too much on


individuals rather than the whole cosmos. Because the church has defined
sin individualistically – the naughty things we individually do – the church
has then had to construct a theology of salvation that was individual and a
theology of mission of the church that was individual, thus missing the far
more comprehensive picture of what God has actually done to make this
world fully the world he created it to be. Salvation, as we have seen in
these passages, however, is individual, corporate and systemic; vertical and
horizontal. Jesus pleads us that we need to make a relationship between
preaching, advocating justice and ministering to the poor, by defining
redemption “as restoring the elements of creation to fulfill the purposes for
which God created them”. is understanding of redemption provides a
rational for Christians to pray for and work for the transformation of our
societies here on earth. Did Jesus ask us to pray that we might go to
heaven, or that the kingdom of heaven might come on this earth? e
latter of course! erefore the church must be focused on more than
people! It needs to be focused on individuals but also on the restoration
and transformation of the political, religious, economic and social systems
of its nations, including all the domains worldwide.”56 — Robert
Linthicum, Executive Director of Partners in Urban Transformation

2. Read the article “e Purpose of the Church”, answer the reflection
questions in the article, and come prepared to share your findings with
other members of your group.

3. Read the article “e eological Meaning of the Cross” to review the
material we studied today. If you feel like it, you can also read the article
“e Resurrection of Christ – e Historical Evidence” for your own
enjoyment.

closing prayer
Ask a participant to close in prayer.

5
minutes

total time:
xx minutes

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personal notes

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endnotes
1 ?
2 N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 103
3 Vishal Mangalwadi, Truth and Social Reform, 24
4 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 132
5 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 132
6 It is debated among scholars whether Paul is referring solely to the Jewish legal and

regulatory system or whether he is making reference to the entire “written code” that
regulated all life – both Jewish and Gentile – in the Roman Empire. is study has taken
it to mean the latter, but holding the former would not detract in any way from the
argument presented regarding this Scripture passage.
7 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 132

e forgiveness of which Colossians 2:13-15 speaks, then, is forgiveness for complicity in


our own oppression and in that of others. Forgiveness for complicity in the oppressive,
exploitative and controlling systems. Our alienation is not solely the result of our
rebellion against God. It is also the way we have been socialized by alienating rules and
requirements. We do not freely surrender our authenticity; it is stolen from us by the
powers. (Walter Wink, e Powers at Be, 90)
8 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 123
9 Vishal Mangalwadi, Truth and Social Reform, 126
10 Vishal Mangalwadi, Truth and Social Reform, 126
11 Many people around the world (including Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist etc. leaders) find

the Western Gospel to be obnoxiously cheap, because its beginning and end appears to be
that Jesus died so that Christians can get a free ride to heaven. (Vishal Mangalwadi,
Corruption and the Culture of the Cross, 37)
12 e Christus Victor motif, established in these verses, then, gets beyond an exclusively

individualistic understanding of sin and salvation and hints to the social and cosmic
aspects of salvation. is understanding of Christ’s death provides a rational for
Christians to believe that Christ can transform culture, since it recognizes that Christ is
Lord over natural and supernatural powers, over systems and structures as well as over
persons; his Kingdom is cosmic in scope.
13 e Greek word for world—kosmos—can be employed either broadly or narrowly. In

the New Testament both uses occur. We can only understand which usage is correct by
reading a particular text in light of the overall message of scripture. When we consider
the command to hate the world, or when we seek to understand Christ’s words that his
followers are not of the world, we must understand kosmos narrowly to mean the effects
wrought on the creation by the Fall. us, we should hate the effects of the Fall, and as
children of God we are obliged to flee from sin and remain distinct from the fallen
world. If in these passages we read kosmos broadly—as if it meant all of creation—we are
faced with the problem of squaring hatred of the world, as well as separation from it, with
Christ’s command to be salt and light in a world that is sorely in need of both. If we
separate ourselves from the kosmos (broadly construed) because we are not part of the
world, we forfeit the possibility of engaging as salt and light, for being salt and light
requires active participation in the creation. Furthermore, if we take Christ’s use of
kosmos broadly and in so doing retreat from engaging the world, then this implies that
the command to oversee God’s creation, given to man in Genesis 1, has been rescinded.
But there is simply no biblical support for such a position. Christ came to fulfill the law,
not abolish it. Indeed, scripture tells us that, “God so loved the world (kosmos) that he
gave his only Son” ( John 3:16). Here it seems clear that kosmos is intended in the broad
sense—Christ died for all of creation. (Mark T. Mitchell, A eology of Engagement for
the ‘Newest Internationalists’, e Brandywine Review of Faith and International Affairs,
Spring 2003, 16)

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14 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 120
15 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 120
16 It is important to note that if we take kosmos to mean all of creation, and at the same

time we take creation to be wholly evil due to the Fall (that is, if we deny creation’s on-
going structural goodness), then we have God loving evil and giving his Son for its
redemption. One only redeems that which is redeemable, and that which is redeemable is
necessarily good. Christ died for the totality of creation, which has been effaced by sin,
but the underlying structural goodness of creation remains intact. us the distinction
between sacred and secular is a false dichotomy. Instead, the creation, properly conceived,
should be seen in terms of two very different categories: redeemed vs. unredeemed—or
(and this is another way of saying the same thing), those under the Lordship of Christ vs.
those in rebellion. (Mark T. Mitchell, A eology of Engagement for the ‘Newest
Internationalists’, e Brandywine Review of Faith and International Affairs, Spring
2003, 16)
17 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 119

He is co-eternal with God (“He is before all things”… and the “firstborn over all
creation”). He is co-Creator of the universe and everything that is in it; everything
material and everything spiritual. He is even the ruler over the competing power
networks of the world, since he is the creator of thrones, powers, rulers, and authorities
along with “all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible,” they were created “in”,
“through” and “for” him. at is, Christ is the creator and sustainer of both the demonic/
angelic possessors of power and the political, economic, religious, and social systems,
structures, and personalities of power. ey were created, Paul contends, as an integral
part of the universe God had planned. (Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan,
119)
18 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 119
19 Bob Moffit, If Jesus Were Mayor, 61
20 Bruce Bradshaw, Change Across Cultures, 45
21 Bob Moffit, If Jesus Were Mayor, 61
22 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 119-120
23 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 119-120

Indeed, through his death and resurrection Jesus was the first to conquer death, “so that
in everything he might have the supremacy” (v. 18).
24 Paragraph based in parts on personal notes taken during a course offered by Robert

Linthicum entitled “Building a People of Power”


So once again, all things can reach fulfillment through Christ – whether things visible or
invisible, whether thrones, dominions and powers. is doesn’t mean, however, that
ultimately all things will be reconciled to God and redeemed as universalism asserts.
People, systems and powers still have a choice to reject God’s invitation. Nonetheless,
Jesus’ death and resurrection demonstrates that it is possible to overcome the worst evil –
death; that unredeemed people, systems and powers can be redeemed and brought under
the Lordship of Christ, if they so choose. Jesus’ death and resurrection furthermore
demonstrates that ultimately no people, systems or powers will be able to oppose God’s
will and vision.
25 Bob Moffit, If Jesus Were Mayor, 62

Reconciliation focuses on the conviction that the most basic thing about humans is not
their sin but their restoration. Reconciliation consists in spirited actions, often very
ordinary everyday ones, against the anti-creational forces that violate creation’s integrity
and degrade and destroy (Bruce Bradshaw, Change Across Cultures, 45-46)
26 Paragraph based in parts on personal notes taken during a course offered by Robert

Linthicum entitled “Building a People of Power”


Paul, in these verses, thus, offers Jesus as the Lord of the public sphere whose death
enables him to transcend individual needs to deal with global concerns.
27 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 121

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28 Paragraph based in parts on personal notes taken during a course offered by Robert
Linthicum entitled “Building a People of Power”
29 quoted in Arthur F. Glasser, Announcing the Kingdom, 17
30 Mark T. Mitchell, A eology of Engagement for the ‘Newest Internationalists’, e

Brandywine Review of Faith and International Affairs, Spring 2003, 17


31 Paragraph based in parts on personal notes taken during a course offered by Robert

Linthicum entitled “Building a People of Power”


32 N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 126
33 Paragraph based in parts on personal notes taken during a course offered by Robert

Linthicum entitled “Building a People of Power”


34 Politics, then, along with art and business and science and motherhood and mechanics

and cooking—the list is as long as creation is broad—are all in need of the redemption
Christ provides and which is administered through “Christ’s ambassadors”.
35 Mark T. Mitchell, A eology of Engagement for the ‘Newest Internationalists’, e

Brandywine Review of Faith and International Affairs, Spring 2003, 17


36 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 118
37 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 118
38 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 118
39 N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 126
40 Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan, 118

Since sin is not just personal, the whole creation needed to be saved. We see, then, that in
Romans Paul is teaching that there is no dichotomy between the individual and his
corporate environment (whether social or physical). It is all corrupted by sin. And God
has provided for the redemption of it all. (Robert Linthicum, City of God City of Satan,
118)
41 Paragraph based in parts on personal notes taken during a course offered by Robert

Linthicum entitled “Building a People of Power”


42 F.F. Bruce, e Epistle of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction and Commentary, 170
43 Bruce Bradshaw, Change Across Cultures, 46
44 N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 126

Unless creation as a whole is put to rights, it might look as though God the Creator had
blundered or was weak and incapable, or was actually unjust. No, declares Paul: the
renewal of creation, the birth of the new world from the laboring womb of the old, will
demonstrate that God is in the right. (Ibid, 126)
45 Paragraph based in parts on personal notes taken during a course offered by Robert

Linthicum entitled “Building a People of Power”


46 What begins as personal conversion results in societal change as God’s people impact

their families, coworkers, churches, communities, culture, and the environment! Where it
doesn’t, the conversion was not full. (Based in parts on personal notes taken during a
course offered by Robert Linthicum entitled “Building a People of Power”)
47 Melba Padilla Maggay, Transforming Society, 25

It is not that ‘faith’ occurs first as an inner existential leap of the individual… and then
God operates a change in him which enables him to love his brethren… ese two
cannot be distinguished. In other words, conversion does not take place in two moves –
first, a conversion to Christ, and then a ‘second conversion’ from Christ to the world.
Both occur in one single act.
48 Vishal Mangalwadi, Corruption and the Culture of the Cross, 34
49 Carson, D. A. 1994. New Bible Commentary: 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: e

new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) .
Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA
50 Vishal Mangalwadi, Corruption and the Culture of the Cross, 35-36
51 All people are sinners standing under God’s holy condemnation. “All have sinned and

fall short of the Glory of God” (3:23). ere is a clear consistent warning. e Holy

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Creator hates sin, though he loves sinners. All who sin stand under God’s wrath and
condemnation. A day of judgment is coming.
52 ?
53 God has renounced any accounting of sins; no repayment is required or even made

possible. God is not a stern and inflexible magistrate but a loving parent. Why, then, was
a redemptive act necessary? Because our resentment toward God and our will to kill leave
us unable to turn to God. God needs no reparation, but human beings must be extracted
from their own prison if they are to be capable of accepting the pure gift of freely offered
love… It is not God who must be appeased, but humans who must be delivered from
their hatred of God. Jesus absorbed all the violence directed at him by the authorities and
the powers but still loved them. If humanity killed the one who fully embodied God’s
intention for our lives and God still loves us, then there is no need to try to earn God’s
love. And if God loves us unconditionally, there is no need to seek conditional love from
the various powers who promise us rewards in return for devotion. (Walter Wink, e
Powers at Be, 92)
54 Jesus became sin for us. He took our punishment. He bore vicariously the wrath of

God upon sin. He died on the cross as our substitute. Since Jesus loved sinners so much
and became the sin of the world Himself on the cross, humans can find forgiveness for
their sin through faith in the death of Christ, as the final and complete sin-offering; they
can have a renewed relationship with God and life eternal rather than eternal separation
from God in the claws of evil.
55 ?

But conversely, if a person does not personally accept the death of Christ as a means to
his salvation from sin, then s/he cannot be saved; s/he will have to take the full
consequences of sin before a perfectly Holy God. Many people find it hard to accept that
the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the only means of finding forgiveness for one’s sin.
But who else ever became sin for the world? In the whole of human history Jesus is the
only one who took human’s sin upon Himself. Indeed, we can ignore the theological
meaning of the cross only at eternal cost to ourselves. e New Testament, consequently,
affirms that the renewal of society begins with the renewal of individuals who pass from
death to life, from unrighteousness to righteousness. e true key to Shalom lies with the
quality of life the people lead. Holistic reform can only happen as a consequence of
repentance. us, Jesus’ death on the cross brings together God’s wrath and God’s mercy.
It saves individuals from self-destruction/eternal separation from God and his Shalom. It
saves humans from having God eternally withdraw from humanity and give them over
the clutches of evil.
56 Based on classnotes from course by Robert Linthicum, Building a People of Power

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