What is salvation?
In my first post in this series I proposed the below chart as a way of answering that important question. In this post I will comment on the fifth sector (5).
|Personal||Forgiveness of Sins and Relationship with God (1)||Moral (Inner and Outer) Transformation (2)||Resurrection of the Body (3)|
|Communal||One Body of Christ: One New Society (4)||Reconciliation and Social Transformation (5)||The Fullness of the Kingdom of God (6)|
|Cosmic||Resurrection and Exaltation of Jesus (7)||Redemptive Emergence of New Creation (8)||New Heaven and New Earth (9)|
Sector 5 identifies salvation as the communal sanctification of the body of Christ living in a broken world. This body, through sanctification, becomes the instrument of God’s transforming work through which the kingdom of God breaks into the world for healing, reconciliation, justice and peace. Through the church–the community of God–the kingdom of God is realized as an alternative community to societial brokenness and thereby becomes both a witness and a means to the reality of the kingdom of God in the world as well as the communal embodiment of redemptive hope. But no matter how progressively realized the kingdom is within the present age, the community of faith (the church) awaits its full redemption in the eschaton.
That is a grand picture but, alas, an unfulfilled dream…at least in some respects. Just as Yahweh intended Israel to be a light among the nations, so Yahweh intends for the church to shine in the darkness. Like Israel, however, the church is tainted–sometimes even dominanted–by the darkness and does not appear as an alternative to worldly values but one its consumers.
Nevertheless, God is present by the Spirit in the body of Christ to sanctify and transform a people for good works in the world for the sake of the world. The church is a people for others rather than a people for themselves, but it is a people moving progressively (we hope!) toward the full realization of the kingdom of God on the earth. The church works for reconciliation and social transformation–it is for the world rather than isolated from it.
The community of God is a testimony of God’s goal for the broken creation. It is a place where peace, reconciliation and justice should reign as a witness to the world of what it is to become. The church loses its witness when it fails to embody God’s goal for the creation. When the church is filled with wars, emnity and injustice, then it participates in that which it is intended to transform. The church, in the present, is a mixed bag of worldly brokenness and redemptive hope.
There is some discussion about whether the church is the kingdom realized or a sign of the kingdom to come. I tend to think both/and rather than either/or, but I also appreciate that the words must be nuanced. The church is the kingdom realized but not fully realized. The church is a sign of the kingdom but yet more than a sign. The church waits for an apocalyptic in-breaking of the reality of God upon the earth, but it is also the presence of God upon the earth in jars of clay.
Thus, in the present, the community of God is constantly undergoing progressive sanctification; it is always becoming and it never arrives. There is always yet more to be and yet it is more than it was. The church between the already and the not yet, between the first and second comings of Christ, is engaged in a process of communal sanctification. It is never everything it should be (thus, the kingdom is never fully realized) but it is always more than its brokenness by the presence of God within her (thus, the kingdom is realized by divine presence). The church progressively–despite its slips and lapses–becomes the kingdom of the God even though it awaits the fullness of that kingdom at the coming of our Lord.
The church, then, is a both a promise and a presence of the future; it is both a sign of and a realization of the kingdom of God.