Salvation: Sector 5

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.

22 Responses to “Salvation: Sector 5”

  1.   Xander Says:

    I like what you are saying.

  2.   Jr Says:

    Thanks John Mark:

    I think that as long as it’s made clear that social transformation is NOT the Gospel, I’m all for it. Far too many people are confusing what we do with what Christ has done.
    Additionally, social transformation for the sake of social transformation is pointless and unloving. Finally, adequate preaching of the Gospel + more people being born-again = social transformation (via sanctification “For it is God who works in you…”).

    Grace to you, and enjoy the snow!

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Perhaps we might remember that it is God who works through us for social transformation. It is the “good news of the kingdom” that the imprisoned are liberated, the poor are served, etc. This is part of salvation itself, and it is the effect of the ministry and work of Christ.

      What snow? Call this snow? 🙂

      •   Jr Says:

        Hey, I went to college in NH, I know what snow is. 🙂 But then I lived in Florida. So being in a place where it snows even a little bit (living in Memphis now) is good to me. I love it!

  3.   Jennifer Gerhardt Says:

    So much of truth is both/and. Great post!

  4.   rich Says:

    at crossroadschurch corona ca Jr.
    we baptized about 3000 or 6000 (numbers like that are so strange i don’t remember which one it is i would think 6) this last year….
    hows that for social transformation…
    as the lord said how bout that little mustard seed plant.

    blessings all i am going to men’s groupe

  5.   rich Says:

    P.s more like 2600 still a lot of joyful noise unto our god blessings

  6.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Whenever I read about the eschatological inbreaking of God’s kingdom (which I also believe is about salvation), it makes me wonder…

    What if, when local church’s are being formed and decisions are being made in regards to polity, mission, values, etc…if we made these decision in light of God’s inbreaking kingdom. Or to put it another way, what if we made these decisions as though such a particular place is going to be the place where the kingdom of God is fully realized?

    I realize that as a church is still people, regardless of how bold such a decision making would be that the church would still fall short in being the actual kingdom fully realized. However, I also believe such a church, by the power of God working through his Spirit, would be a powerful witness among the world. And you know what…there is such a church described as I am talking about. The more I read some of the summary accounts Luke provides of the church in Acts the more vivid it becomes as to how much the earliest Christian lived out of the vision that God had already won his kingdom victory.

    Grace and peace,


  7.   Keith Brenton Says:

    I’m just curious – and not a particularly successful student of history (which explains why I frequently repeat my mistakes) – why did the social gospel movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries get such a drubbing from Restoration Movement churches? Was it just because other churches were going about doing good and we weren’t? Or was there more to it?

    •   K. Rex Butts Says:

      I’m not sure of any specific reasons to your answer but I know that in general, conservative/evangelical (C/E) type churches tended to see “good works” and social justice as a means to the end goal of bringing someone to salvation rather than seeing it as part of salvation. Thus when a movement, such as the social gospel movement, didn’t place the emphasis upon personal salvation from sin the way C/E churches did, it was viewed as a de-emphasis from the “real” gospel.

      Any ways, that has been my take for whatever it is worth.

      Grace and peace,


      •   Xander Says:

        Good works as a part of salvation?

      •   K. Rex Butts Says:

        I was not trying to imply that good works produce our salvation. What I believe is that alieviating poverty is equally a part of participating in God’s redemptive mission as is calling a person away from sin and into a “saved” relationship with God.

      •   Jr Says:

        K. Rex: This is just (deadly) incorrect. To say a message of alleviating poverty is an “equal” message to forgiveness of sins is a HUGE confusion of the Gospel. My goodness!

      •   K. Rex Butts Says:

        What I am getting at is that God’s goal of redemption for humanity is not just justification from sin but that humanity can live once again as it was created to live. Thus, helping to eliminate poverty or domestic violence is just as important as helping people turn away from sin/evil and turn to God because both sin and poverty or violence keep people from living the life God has created them for and is seeking to redeem them too.

        While I do not want to claim my words to be that of JMH, I gather that he is doing this series to show that “salvation” (or I think we could insert the term “redemption”) is larger in scope than just forensic justification from personal sin. I also believe these are some of the same conclusions that theologians such as N.T. Wright and Christopher J.H. Wright have tried to put forth in some of theri recent works which I (as well as others) find to be quite coherent with the totality of scripture (OT & NT) and its eschatological trajectory. And for the record, Jesus seemed to be equally concerned with social-justice as he was with people being enslaved to sin.

        Grace and peace,


      •   Jr Says:

        This is just a massively confused response. Which brings me back to my original comment. The confusion of a)the Gospel, with b)the fruit it bears in believers within themselves and throughout culture. They are are not equal. And Paul, very explicitly, defines the Gospel as “that Christ died for our sins…” (1 Cor 15:1-3) not “that poverty and violence be eliminated.” This is the whole point of Jesus in John 6:25-34. When you confuse the two “breads” people will only come for their fill and miss Him completely.

        I do not believe nor do I believe the Scriptures teach us that social justice is where it starts; but that it is just one instance of spillover (fruit) that occurs and practiced by those who are born-again.

        The equating of them in importance comes dangerously close to the prosperity gospel and/or a form of moralistic deism. Further, I fear we have an over-realized eschatology; which is what, I believe, N.T. Wright is also guilty of. (btw, do my CofC brothers read anybody else but ‘ol Tommy Wright these days?)

        At the risk of hijacking the thread I will end here. But I do thank you, brother Rex, for your kindness in word here.

        Grace to you –

      •   Jr Says:

        Please forgive my multiple typos. It’s late. I’m going to bed.

  8.   rich constant Says:

    great thoughts to me rex, thanks

  9.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    We read John Mark Hicks :-).

    Actually, some of the other well known people I read in addition to N.T. Wright which come to mind include some of Moltmann, Bruegemann, and the late Stanley Grenz besides others. And I was really impressed with “The Mission of God” by Christopher J. H. Wright.

    Any ways, even if we disagree, I don’t mind. I appreciate the dialogue done in a respectful (Christian) manner.

    Grace and peace,


  10.   John Says:

    John Mark

    What info do you have on the situation of our brethren in Haiti? It came up at Bible Study tonight and I don’t have a good response. I thought you or some other readers might have some detail.

    BTW John Mark, I bought your book, Come to the Table, last week.

  11.   rich constant Says:

    well I’m in beautiful San Juan Capistrano ca. typing on my daughter’s i mac. anyway…
    jee whizz sure was nice to read you two commenting on sector 5 ???? or was that from the old mindset my friends, i think???
    now then i think that ‘ol john mark ,and old tommy, are not tring to weight the form that you are calling fruit, which by the “samitical way” is true jr, and rex, the thrust i think is that there are many more avenues of expression that each member in the called out body can excersize depending on their predispositions in this world than waiting on the table sunday morning or giving money on sunday morning.
    in response to Rom.12.1. and thus the sector 5 becomes more specific in the application if we but say to ourselves i am doing this because god would have me to do the lords good in all that i am.
    so faith becomes a choice of going the speed limit and leaving a a little larger cushion in congested traffic so as not to cause the guy in back of me using the cell phone hit me causing 1000 people behind him texting to be late to work….
    faith is about choice…for those of us that are called to the purpose of god in christ the redempshion of the world by being god’s caretakers of it through our realized mission, a little here and a little there and comming together in true fellowship to share our joy in the grace and freedom of the choice that we are excersizing being a people of good works to the change of awareness of the people that we interact with every day, showing the respect and common goodness(grace) of god in the spirit. we are the true leaders in this world and we should humbly serve bring our body (church) into submission to Christ’s intrinsic charactor attributes, even using that trash can in a parking lot when i know that a % of the money goes to the
    street cleaner. and that iritates ME.
    pardon the lacl of spell check new o.p.system.

    :0) Blessings Everyone!


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