Salvation: Sector 4

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 fourth sector (4). 

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 4 identifies salvation as the past inauguration of a new society of humans reconciled to God, each other and the cosmos. This alternative society is dedicated to following Jesus into the world for the sake of the world in continuity with the mission of God in creation and Israel. This society is the renewal of God’s missional intent as God works through humanity for the transformation of humanity and the cosmos.

As a past moment, it is rooted in God’s eternal election, the divine creative intent, the gracious call of Israel and the mighty act of God in Jesus. God chose a people through election. God created a community–both in the beginning and in Israel.  In Jesus God renewed and rebuilt a community upon whom God poured out the Spirit for the communal reconciliation of world.

The body of Christ, that is, the church, established by and rooted in the mutual love of the Father, Son and Spirit, is a new communal reality where all the fallen boundaries of the world are overcome. In the body of Christ humanity is one as it transcends the socio-economic, ethnic and gender barriers present in this evil age. Those distinctions neither determine nor bound the body of Christ.

We are the body of Christ in which the Spirit of God lives.  The life of the Spirit is an eschatological life, an empowering presence that constitutes and maintains the unity of the body. Pentecost (Acts 2), within the Luke-Acts narrative, is the overlapping (to use N. T. Wright’s language) 0f heaven and earth and is thus the constituting moment where a new community is animated and empowered to become the body of Christ on earth just as it is heaven.

The body of Christ already exists as a reality in the heavenlies in a way that is unencumbered by the brokenness of the present world. It is a heavenly reality in which all who have been reconciled to God participate. In the heavenlies we are one–reconciled to God, each other and the cosmos–even though on earth we live in broken and flawed relationships.

The church, therefore, is already one. There is one body, but it is cracked, scarred and divided in its present earthly existence. The mission of the church is, in part, to manifest this unity on earth just as it is heaven–and that is the story of sector 5.

Consequently, we pray that the will of God may be done on earth just as it is in heaven.  We pray that the body of Christ as it is know in heaven will also be known upon the earth. We pray for the unity of heaven and earth where the body of Christ might be fully experienced as one and we will know ourselves as God knows us, that is, we will experience the oneness of humanity in Christ as the body of Christ.

14 Responses to “Salvation: Sector 4”

  1.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    I have a request…that sometime in the future you do a post (perhaps a series) on the pursuit of Christian unity. I love how you describe the church as already unified in the “heavenlies” but not yet in its earthly existance…thus church unity is tied to eschatology…is something to be pursued but is also something that ultimately will only be complete in the eschaton (is that correct?).

    If that is correct, how to we pursue unity. The reality that the cosmos will not be ultimately redeemed until the eschaton does not me that the church just sits around and waits for the return of the Lord. So it should be the same with unity. I have given up much of my belief that the historic approach our herritage has taken to pursuing unity with the entire body of Christ holds the answer to the question (for the fruit it has produced is painfully evident of its flaws). I also think there are some recent scholars (William Abraham, Alister McGrath) who are raising some critical questions about Sola Scriptura. Still we must pursue…and in a new emerging paradigm as we are on the forefront of now along with the new possibilities and problems that arise, I think the question of unity is ever more pressing (and the question has a huge missional significance for our time).

    Grace and peace,


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I agree that unity is an eschatological reality that is already present in the heavenlies but marred by brokenness on earth. However, as you indicate, we are call to manifest that unity now, heal the brokenness and become a reconciled community on earth. This is the process of communal sanctification which, I think, is always incomplete as we live in our Adamic flesh. So, we are instruments and signs of the unity but we will not fully realize that unity until God’s kingdom fully breaks in.

      •   K. Rex Butts Says:

        So how do we pursue that unity (and more importantly teach others in the local churches we lead to pursue that unity, especially in the recognition of different beliefs and values pertaining to the essence of what being a Christian means? For example, when I preached for the Ithaca CoC (Ithaca, NY), we did a good job of practicing unity with other local churches (non CoC’s) that shared what we might call a theologically conservative or evangelical understanding of the Christian faith and this allowed us all to work together on several kingdom activities including the high-school coffee house that our church hosted (which was supported by the other churches)…and this was all done without each local church giving up any of its own particular beliefs and values. We did not, however, have anything to do with most of the mainline churches which shared some very different theological values from us. And frankly, after hearing one pastor from one of those churches describe the “historical” Jesus’ relationship with Mary and Martha in vulgar terms…I did not want to have anything to do with him (and the people who though like him). Yet I still felt like my attitude of writing him and others like him off, just helped foster division rather than seeking unity. At the same time, I knew that the pursuit of unity just could not ignore the white elephant in the room (our theological differences).

        I did learn a lot about unity and true Christian love that does not know of denominational/tribal boundaries from my time in Ithaca, NY…and my experience is something I wish other CoC’s could learn to experience.

        Grace and peace,


        P.S., as always, thanks for your continued teaching on this blog.

      •   rich constant Says:

        just a thought
        just maybe sorta like in the talent’s”responsibility according to ability”
        we get the Spirit and the vertical connection with our father (a relationship because of the love of the trinity’s inherent goodness and purpose)
        although the limits of the interaction with the vertical (could probably and is i think in most of the parables),is because of the buts and the although that are inherent in our theological traditions and personial issues, along with the notion that we can’t be anything but fundamentally right…
        keeps us from a horizontal relationship, with out inhearent reservations with each other.


        look at the holy spirit with a pitcher of water pouring water as needed into a glass connected to a tube connecting another glass look at each and every one of us as a partly filled glass exactly level with the glass that the h.s. pours water into.

        now then relationship/unity/faith /hope/
        horizontal and vertical…
        want more water????
        exercise what we have and more will be added.
        might even move a mountain


      •   rich constant Says:

        In each and every congregational body we need to grow up into the image and likeness of him.

        POST TITLE
        Who is Wise and Understanding Among You (James 3:13)?

        “There is, however, an alternative lifestyle. It arises out of the wisdom “from above”—it is pure, peaceable, gentle, submissive (yielding to others), full of mercy and good fruits, without vacillating (genuine), and without hypocrisy (sincere). It begins with purity (spiritual integrity) and yields attitudes and characteristics that connect with others as we live submissively, mercifully and peacefully with others. It is an integrated character—a wholeness that is genuine, sincere, merciful, submissive, gentle and peaceful in relation to others—that displays good fruits (or the good deeds of 3:13).

        This person, shaped by divine wisdom, sows peace and harvests peace. They are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9); they are called the children of God.”

    •   Alec Bryant Says:

      Hello Rex from 2009! It is I! Alec from 2023. Greetings to you old friend. I think that unity is eschatological, but is unity really ultimately to be fully realized upon the parousia? I don’t think so. I think the old restorationist view of things is correct. I also think this view has been abused. Anyway. I welcome other thoughts on the matter. Blessings.

  2.   Xander Says:

    So this is after the resurrection where the beleivers have been adopted into the family of God and continue to spreading the gospel, in the manner of Jesus, on the physical earth?

    As we mature and understand the nature of who we are in Christ, we become more unified until the end when we physical world has been stripped away and we are spirit?

    Am I even close?

  3.   Terrell Lee Says:

    What powerful motivation to be the church!

  4.   rich constant Says:

    i have a question john mark i think it belongs in this quadrant,concerning the resurrection of the body.

    if you wouldn’t mind saying a few words on matt.27.52-53…it seems like an itch i have always needed to scrach, but then i wonder if if is really there.

    for me thanks.
    blessings on turkey day. 🙂

  5.   Jason Coriell Says:

    I want to express how deeply I appreciate this series, especially the grid that encapsulates the salvific work of God.

    I have shared this with many friends and associates. It has provided me with some traction in talking about God’s work within us in terms beyond the personal dimension, without disparaging the personal dimension.

    I see also a tool that can help promote continuity with past preaching emphases and more recent emphases.

    I look forward to future posts.

    I would make one superficial suggestion. You may need to move away from the term, “quadrant,” since quadrant suggests 1 of 4. I’m fond of “sector,” as descriptive of the various intersections of time and scope. Anyway–thank you for communicating the fruits of your study and work.

  6.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks, Jason. And you are exactly right about “quadrant”–I have used it inappropriately. I think “sector” is much better.

    I am a fan of the both/and. Rather than rejecting personal aspects of salvation (and much of the theology that has helped us understand it), we can add the communal and cosmic emphases to the mix for a more comprehensive and integrative approach to salvation.

    Peace, John Mark


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