Dear pastors and ministry leaders:
When it comes to renewal (the GCI-USA theme for 2017), knowledge of God (theology) is both our point of beginning and guiding light on the journey. This is true whether the topic is the renewal of our leadership (the theme for the February Equipper), or the renewal of our theological vision—the theme for this issue, featuring articles from Joseph Tkach and Gary Deddo launching a new series of articles titled Clarifying Our Theological Vision. In this series, we’ll be clarifying (and refining) some of the key terms and concepts we use to communicate the incarnational Trinitarian theology that has been vital to our journey of renewal. Please read these articles carefully—I pray they bless you personally, and through your preaching and teaching, bless many others.
Speaking of theological renewal, if you are like me, you need to be reminded daily of God’s lavish grace and love. Concerning that gospel message, I was blessed in my personal devotions recently by reading an article by Alan Torrance concerning his father JB. I was particularly moved by a paragraph that poignantly notes God’s heart and deep affection for all humanity. It moved me so much I just had to share it with someone (you!). Here it is:
For JB, Scripture witnesses to the good news that God created us to be his daughters and sons. Indeed, God’s primary purposes for humanity are filial, not legal. The Torah spells out the obligations of the God who, in love, delivered Israel from the land of Egypt to be his sons and daughters. It is when we discern that God’s purposes from beginning to end (old and new covenants) truly are “filial” that we are liberated to look away from ourselves (“excurvates ex se”) in joy and confidence to live in the light of the love by which God addresses each one in Jesus Christ as his beloved, forgiven children.
This affirmation of what the loving, relational God intends for all humanity reminded me of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians. So I turned there and read this:
Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)
This passage is a profound reminder of the glorious truth that God the Father, in and through his incarnate Son Jesus Christ, and by his Spirit, has reconciled all humanity to himself. And now, through the church’s proclamation of the gospel, God invites all people to receive that reconciliation and thus be transformed. With that inspiring thought in mind, I returned to Alan Torrance’s article, where he goes on to say this:
For JB, God transforms sinners by presenting them with the gospel— the good news that the Son has taken what is ours in an act of love, healed and transformed it as a gift of pure grace. It is in and through the recognition, therefore, of the length and depth and breadth of God’s love and the extent of God’s forgiveness that the Spirit gives us the eyes to see that we belong to him by right of creation and by right of redemption and in and through this recognition brings about our transformation.
Alan’s and JB’s words, in harmony with those of the apostle Paul, convey a glorious and powerful gospel truth, which I summarize this way: Because of Jesus, you are reconciled to God; now live into that glorious, liberating reconciliation.
Because of what God has done, in Christ, for all humanity, there need be no fear of punishment or death. All have been reconciled to God (all have been included)—their sins forgiven, washed away by the blood of Christ. And now, as they turn to Christ with repentance, in faith, they receive that gift of reconciliation. The “old man” is cast aside in the watery grave of baptism and the “new man” rises up as the Spirit makes his home in them, going about his work of transforming them into the likeness of Jesus Christ. This renewal, in union with Christ, by the Spirit, is the life the Triune God intends for all people.
As we enter Holy Week and the season of Easter, let’s remember that our identity is in union and communion with Christ as God’s beloved children. Easter is a time for us to focus on renewal, for it reminds us that we have been and continue to be renewed by the Living Word Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I pray that in this season of Easter, your personal devotions and your participation in corporate worship will be filled with the joy and excitement of the gospel, leading to renewal of your commitment to sharing the good news with others. May the truth that God has reconciled all humanity to himself in Christ so permeate your life that you earnestly desire is to share that truth with others so they too may live in the righteousness of God that is theirs in union with Christ.
Easter blessings to you all,
Dr. Greg Williams
GCI Vice President and Director of Church Administration and Development