Christian Community, Worship

“Why We Do What We Do.”

You may have asked yourself before, “Why do we do what we do in worship services?” or perhaps, “Who plans the order of the services?” or maybe even, “What are the requirements for leading any given part of the worship services?”

Different aspects of the worship services are purposefully planned for each Sunday morning
service. Those who lead the different aspects are essential in communicating our unity as
the body of Christ and our purposefulness in gathering to worship. If you won’t think me
irreverent, perhaps you will permit me to use the analogy of getting your car washed to illus-
trate designing and leading a worship service. Let’s imagine that our participation in a wor-
ship service is like getting our car cleaned by a professional business. Some of you may pre-
fer to wash your own car, but for the analogy’s sake let’s imagine that a full team is required for the job. Picture your unwashed car as an unplanned worship service that requires a team effort in order to plan, prepare, and achieve the goal of producing a clean car (ie. an intentional worship service). It is helpful to picture a worship service as a “vehicle” that provides for us an opportunity to give fully to God what He has already given to us, everything!

So, here is a quick comparison between the service of a professional car-washing business and the service needed during a Sunday morning worship service. The car-washing business provides: Welcome > Hospitality (ie. vacuum, a place to wait, etc.) > Rinse > Wash > Scrub > Rinse > Dry > Detail > Send Off. When compared with a Sunday morning service, the car-washing business’ order of service provides insight into the team effort and unity that is needed when participating in a worship service. Worship services may constitute: Welcome > Hospitality (ie. coffee, information, etc.) > Gathering Song > Prayer > Greeting (Passing of Christ’s Peace) > Scripture Reading > Songs of Response > Prayer > Sermon (Scripture Reflection and Application) > Prayer > Response to God’s Word (Individual and Congregational response) > Prayer > Offering > Announcements (ways to get involved and apply God’s Word in our lives together) > Benediction (Blessing/Sending).

Just as there are many different stations that require many people to work them in order to get your car cleaned, there are many different aspects to serving and leading in a worship service. We need you! We are all different parts of the same body, and each part offers something unique.
May God empower us through His Holy Spirit to be examples of Christ’ love, service, and leadership! Let us love, serve, and lead one another even as Christ leads us in worshiping our living God whose kingdom is among us!

Christian Community

“Eat, Pray, Live…Together”

Where Two or three

“In Their Midst”
by Burden Studio (”Where two or three are gathered
in my Name, there I am in the midst of them.”
(Matthew 18:19) 

“Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In his book Life Together, Bonhoeffer says that “whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ. What does this mean? It means first that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ. It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.”

Bonhoeffer’s definition of Christian community reminds me that we all individually find our identity in Jesus Christ, and because of that we Christians are only connected through and in him. We need each other. We cannot say to the weaker believers in our congregation, “you must leave,” or “we don’t need you,” or “things would be so much better without you,” for in doing so we would be casting out Jesus Christ. Just like the rest of us, their identity is in Jesus Christ, and he alone is our hope and salvation. As a community of Christians, we are united solely through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ now and forevermore!

Unity is important because our story of salvation is in God’s story of salvation through Jesus Christ. This is the reason we gather together in worship, gather together for Bible study, and gather together to share a meal. Bonhoeffer recognized that “our salvation is external to ourselves.” He said, “I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ.” This is true for all of us.

So, anytime we are gathered together let us remember that we gather and fellowship solely because of, through and in Jesus Christ.

“All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.” – Jude 1:25 (NLT)

Christian Community

Humanity in the “Imago Dei”

Imago-Arts-IMG_1518Do not allow your view of humanity to be skewed by the image of evil, rather view all of humanity through the image of God. We see the best of humanity in Jesus Christ who teaches us what it means to be human. For he alone restores the “likeness” of God to those who are being restored by, through, and in him.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” – John 13:34

Christian Community

An Evaluation of “For Whom Were Gospels Written?” by Richard Bauckham and “Patristic Counter-Evidence to the Claim that ‘The Gospels Were Written for All Christians’” by Margaret M. Mitchell


Bauckham begins his argument introducing two questions: 1) Were Gospels written for Christians or for non-Christians? 2) Were the Gospels written for a specific Christian audience or for a general Christian audience? The first of these questions he answers according to the scholarly consensus that all of the Gospels were written for a Christian audience. In answering the second question, Bauckham addresses whether or not the gospels were written for specific local churches or for the purpose of circulation to every late first century Christian community.


Bauckham constructs his argument by confronting the assumption on which arguments concerning the Gospels have been based, particularly, the view that the Gospels were written to specific Christian communities. He says, “The unargued assumption in every case is that each Gospel addresses a localized community in its own, quite specific context and character.”[1] Bauckham proposes an alternative to this view. The alternative consists of the Gospel writers writing for the purpose of reaching an audience in any church to which the Gospel might circulate and the Greek language understood. Bauckham’s purpose for arguing this alternative view is to open discussion that has not taken place, and to propose this view as more plausible than the localized view that the Gospel writer’s wrote for specific communities.

Bauckham makes some good points that require further investigation, but he makes certain assumptions regarding the Gospel writer’s intentions, especially in the Synoptic relationship. He says, “Most likely Matthew and Luke each expected his own Gospel to replace Mark’s.”[2] Although this is a possibility, Bauckham does not address the probability of Matthew and Luke adapting Mark’s story and style to meet specific needs for a specific purpose. While he does acknowledge that the churches in the first and second centuries were connected and diverse, Bauckham does not acknowledge the effect that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70ce would have had on the Gospel writers. The possibility of Jewish-Christian sectarian groups (groups that consisted of Jew and Gentile Christians that lived in isolation)  arising outside of Jerusalem immediately following its destruction in 70ce is not mentioned.


Bauckham argues that redaction criticism in the late 1960s attempted to claim that the Gospel writers were writing for specific situations within a Christian community. He says that redaction criticism developed an allegorical reading of the Gospels in hopes of “reconstructing not only the character but the history of the community behind the Gospel.” In her article, “Patristic Counter-Evidence to the Claim that ‘The Gospels Were Written for All Christians’,” Margaret M. Mitchell responds to Bauckam’s essay by examining patristic evidence for a pre 1960s interpretation of the Gospels being written for a localized community. Mitchell agrees with Bauckham, in that, redaction-critical readings can use allegory to the point of projecting onto the life of Jesus the concerns of a “hypothetically reconstructed local church community.[3]” However, Mitchell argues against Bauckham’s view that “all readers without exception before the mid-twentieth century missed the (alleged) hermeneutical relevance of the Matthean community to the interpreter of Matthew.”[4] Mitchell insists that the interpretation of gospels is more complex and ancient than what is presented in Bauckham’s essay.[5]

Reading Strategy:

Bauckham’s argument against a particular ‘reading strategy’ would be strong if every Gospel contained the same accounts. In using the example of J. Louis Martyn’s proposal for interpreting John 9 as a narrative of the Johannine community’s expulsion from its local synagogue[6], Bauckham argues for a general process that was taking place throughout the Diaspora. A question for this proposal is that if it really were a general process, then how come the other Gospel writers do not address it?

Another argument made by Bauckham is that everything that was written in the Gospels did not necessarily need to be pertinent to everyone who read them. One example he uses is Mark 15:21, where Mark mentions Simon of Cyrene as the father of Alexander and Rufus. Matthew and Luke do not mention Alexander and Rufus in their Gospels. This raises the question of why they were important enough for Mark to mention them in his gospel. Bauckham makes the observation that Matthew and Luke’s exclusion of Alexander and Rufus could be another example of how the latter of the Synoptic Gospels would abbreviate Mark’s texts.[7] Another possibility that Bauckham offers for Alexander and Rufus’ exclusion from Matthew and Luke is that they may have been alive when Mark wrote and dead by the time Matthew and Luke wrote their gospels. But if Alexander and Rufus were such important figures that most of the first century Christian communities would have known them (if Mark truly wrote for all the churches), then it seems that Matthew and Luke, having been recipients of Mark’s Gospel, would have known of their importance also.[8]

Gospels and Letters:

Bauckham makes a good observation concerning the Greco-Roman bios in asking, “Why should he [the Gospel writer] go to the considerable trouble of writing a Gospel for a community to which he was regularly preaching?”[9] Bauckham defines the genres of letters and Gospels in order to illustrate their use in the context of the writer’s absence. He says, “The obvious function of writing was its capacity to communicate widely with readers unable to be present at its author’s oral teaching.”[10]

Bauckham does not address the possibility of the Gospel writers writing for the sake of permanence and distinction. David C. Sim in his book, Apocalyptic Eschatology in the Gospel of Matthew, argues for reading the Gospel of Matthew as a work to an apocalyptic-eschatological Jewish Christian sect who has broken ties with Jerusalem and ‘formative Judaism’. Sim goes on to say that Matthew’s community was affected by a combination of factors stemming from the aftermath of the events from 66-70 CE. These factors included conflict with Jews, Gentiles, and the wider world of Christians. Matthew’s community was considered to be withdrawn from society as an alienated group.[11] If an apocalyptic-eschatological sectarian group of Christians were experiencing persecution from the rest of world around them, then a leader of the community may have seen the need for writing a Gospel that would distinguish those on the inside from those on the outside. A Gospel written in this context could have been used to promote group solidarity and social control within the sectarian group.[12]

Patristic Evidence:

Mitchell notes that although Bauckham uses the patristic sources from the second century to illustrate the travel patterns of the church leaders during the first century, he does not cite second century patristic sources regarding the origin and interpretation of the original readers of the gospels.[13] She says a possible obstacle for Bauckam’s argument is that early traditions associated each of the gospel writers with a specific locale: Mark with Rome (and/or Alexandria)(or Syria[14]), Matthew with Judea, Luke with Achaia, and John with Ephesus (and/or Patmos).[15] Bauckham dismisses the influence of Clement’s statement as proof that patristic sources thought of the gospel writers as writing locally, and says that it does not “strictly require this conclusion.”[16] Mitchell illustrates that Bauckham’s interpretation of Clement of Alexandria concerning Mark’s Gospel is incorrect. In her translation of Clement of Alexandria, Mitchell shows that in the tradition about Mark’s gospel there was no “‘envision[ing] of a gospel beginning to circulate’; here Mark’s gospel (singular – the text says nothing about ‘copies’) does not move beyond the Roman Christians who asked him to write it, who are presented as a rather specific group who in turn receive the document from him.”[17]

In another instance, Mitchell recalls Papias’s tradition about Matthew’s peculiar language, particularly about Matthew composing “the sayings” in the Hebrew language, which Bauckham does not discuss.[18] Mitchell makes the point that “for Papias language of composition differentiated Matthew’s readers from Mark’s readers.”[19] This would seem evident since not every Christian in the late first century spoke or read Hebrew. Mitchell notes that, “this presumption about the Semitic original of Matthew was to be a constant in patristic and medieval gospel interpretation, and from it considerable inferences about Matthew’s local community were made.”[20] In the third century, Origen inferred that Matthew’s gospel was written specifically for Jewish Christians.[21] Furthermore, Mitchell explains that this tradition “depends upon the assumption – held already in antiquity by such scholars as Origen and Jerome – that language, place and addressees of the gospels can be correlated with one another.”


Bauckam states in his essay that reconstructing the historical situation of the Gospel writer’s community has “no hermeneutical value since the Gospels were not addressed to or intended to be understood solely by such a community.”[22]  Contrary to Bauckham, Mitchell notes the importance of recognizing the historical situation of the gospels before encountering the text.[23] This is important for Mitchell’s argument because she illustrates that early Christian biblical interpreters were concerned with historical validation of apostolic or sub-apostolic authorship.[24] Bauckam makes the statement that only modern redaction critics “simply assum[e] that the question about the context in which a Gospel was written and the question about the audience for which a Gospel was written are the same question.”[25] Mitchell counters this statement with examples of Christian commentators who combine these two questions in their writing gospel prologues in medieval manuscripts, “which are based on complex histories that extend back to late antiquity.”[26]


Mitchell provides significant evidence from the patristic writings to show the plausibility that the thought of the Gospel writers writing for a localized community did not originate in the 1960s, as Bauckham proposes. According to Mitchell’s research, “patristic interpreters of the gospel thought it important to ask where when and to whom each of the four gospel was originally written.”[27]

Mitchell’s conclusion calls for movement beyond extreme dichotomies (“either the gospels were written for ‘relatively isolated, introverted communities’ or for ‘any and every Christian community’”).[28] Furthermore, Mitchell utilizes the works of Irenaeus and Origen to argue for a both/and theological approach to interpreting the audience of the gospel writers as local and universal.[29] I agree with Mitchell in her assessment that modern scholars should strive for “methodological flexibility” as we encounter questions that require different approaches.[30] Mitchell’s illustration of “universality and particularity in a deliberate theological and rhetorical tension”[31] in John Chrysostom’s work provides insight for modern biblical scholars to leave room for the mystery of God’s work and revelation.

[1] Richard Bauckham, ‘For Whom Were Gospels Writen?’, in The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 11.

[2] The assumption here is that since Matthew and Luke utilized Mark’s Gospel in their own works, they must have anticipated that their own Gospels were going to be circulated also (Bauckham, 13).

[3] Margaret M. Mitchell, “Patristic Counter-Evidence to the Claim that ‘The Gospels Were Written for All Christians’”, New Testament Studies, Vol. 51, Issue 01, January 2005, (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 37.

[4] Bauckham, 47.

[5] Mitchell, 46.

[6] Bauckham, 23.

[7] Bauckham, 25.

[8] Joel Marcus makes this rebuttal also (Mark 1-8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary [The Anchor Bible; New York, NY: Doubleday, 2002], 27-8).

[9] Bauckham, 29.

[10] Ibid.

[11] David C. Sim, Apocalyptic Eschatology in the Gospel of Matthew [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2001], 182.

[12] Sim identifies the specific functions of apocalyptic eschatology in five distinct groups that may overlap on certain points: 1. Identification and legitimation, 2. Explanation of current circumstances, 3. Encouragement and hope for the future, 4. Vengeance and consolation, 5. Group solidarity and social control (Ibid, 64).

[13] Mitchell, 47.

[14] Marcus, 36.

[15] Mitchell, 47.

[16] Mitchell, 48.

[17] Ibid, 49-50.

[18] Ibid, 53.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Bauckam, 45.

[23] Mitchell, 55.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Bauckam, 16.

[26] Mitchell, 57.

[27] Mitchell, 77.

[28] Ibid., 78.

[29] Ibid., 61-67.

[30] Ibid., 78.

[31] Ibid., 74.

Biblical Studies, Theology, Worship

Creation, the Establishment of Worship through God’s Good Work.


In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” [1]  Jesus declared to his disciples their identity and work in the world. The disciples were called “the light of the world,” and their work was to involve doing good works before others so as to bring glory to God. The Church was ordained by Christ to be God’s light, and shine God’s light by practicing good works for all of creation to see. As the author of light and good works, God created the natural processes in which good results stem from good works. Christ revealed to his disciples their identity in the world by appealing to their understanding of light’s role in Creation. In Creation, God spoke light into existence and separated it from darkness.  Just as all creation has seen the good work of God in creating light and separating it from darkness, so Christ called his disciples to be light separated from the dark state of creation. The disciples were to model God’s good work in Creation so that others would see their good works and give glory to God.  The disciples worshiped God in responding obediently to God’s greatest revelation of light, Jesus Christ. Creation responds to God’s revelation of good works that are done by Christ’s followers.

God established worship by revealing the good work of Creation to all created things. In response to God’s good work, all created things experience God’s goodness. God’s good work in Creation established Israel’s worship regimen.  In Exodus 34:21, the people of Israel were called to follow the paradigm of God’s good work in Creation by working for six days out of the week and resting on the seventh day. God’s good work in Creation also established worship for all humanity in the revelation of Jesus Christ. God’s revelation of Creation’s goodness to humanity culminated in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. God’s Spirit acknowledged the goodness of Creation to all people through Christ’s humanity.  “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.”[2]  In Jesus Christ’s humanity, God’s good work was revealed to all of creation as the means of restoration to God’s glory and goodness.

God’s order of Creation has been instrumental throughout history in dictating the worship of God. The Israelites were commanded to rest on the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, the day in which God rested after the good work of Creation was finished. Sunday has been the Church‘s designated day of worship since the 4th century and coincides with the first day of Creation on which God’s good work established light. God’s creation of light was also significant to the early Church because of God’s revelation of “the true light,”[3] Jesus Christ and his resurrection.  Justin Martyr, a second-century apologist, appealed to God’s Creation as a reason that the Church gathered on Sunday to worship when he told his pagan listeners, “we all hold this common gathering on Sunday since it is the first day, on which God transforming darkness and matter made the universe, and Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead on the same day.”[4]

God sees Creation as good, temporally, through the Holy Spirit’s revelation of Creation’s goodness to humanity.  Through the Holy Spirit’s revelation of Creation’s goodness to humanity, God initiates worship.  Humanity responds to God’s good work in Creation by extolling God, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works that I know very well.”[5]

In his Confessions, Saint Augustine reflects on the Genesis 1 account of God’s recognizing Creation as good.  Augustine reflects on the seven times that God declared the individual acts of Creation as good, and an eighth time, after Creation was complete, when God declared all of Creation as exceedingly good.  In Augustine’s questioning the nature of God’s work in time, Augustine discovers that God experiences the goodness of Creation through the Holy Spirit’s presence in humanity.  In Augustine’s reflection on the goodness of Creation, he says to God, “It is different for people who see creation through your Spirit, for you are seeing it through their eyes.  Thus when such people see that these things are good, you are seeing that they are good; whatever created things please them for your sake, it is you who are arousing this delight in these things; and anything that gives us joy through your Spirit gives you joy in us.”[6]

First Move: God’s Good Work in Creation established Worship for Israel.

Creation is God’s work of grace.  Karl Barth claims, “the very existence and nature of the creature are the work of the grace of God.”[7]  God’s selflessness models the nature and spirit of worship for humanity.  God acts, and creation responds by doing what it is created to do.  God’s acting is essentially God’s work in revealing creation’s purpose.  Barth says, “creation is the road to the covenant,… The covenant is the internal basis of creation…. This consists in the fact that the wisdom and omnipotence of God the Creator was not just any wisdom and omnipotence but that of His free love…. The fact that the covenant is the goal of creation is not something which is added later to the reality of the creature…. It already characterizes creation itself and as such, and therefore the being and existence of the creature.”[8]

A commandment that God gave to the Israelites that stemmed directly from God’s good work in Creation, is found in Exodus 34:21, which says: “Six days you are to work, and on the seventh day you are to rest. Even in ploughing time and in crop harvest, you are to rest.”[9]  This passage identifies God’s work in Creation as the establishment of worship.  God’s good work establishing worship in Creation is evident in the study of the Hebrew word, avad, in the context of Exodus 34:21.

In Exodus 34:21, the word ta’avod is taken from the verb root avad that means “work, serve,” and in many English translations of this passage the word ta’avad is translated as “work.”

The word avad comes from an Aramaic word which means “worship, obey (God).”[10]  The word ta’avod in Exodus 34:21, is related to the root avad in that it is absolute and means “labour, work, do work.”  The word ta’avod is the Qal, prefix, 2nd person, masculine, singular and seems to take the imperfect form.  Other possible translations similar to the word ta’avod that are absolute are “work for another, serve him by labour,” “serve as subjects,” “serve God or serve other gods,” or “serve with Levitical service.”  In the Niphal stem, the root avad can be translated “be tilled,” “cultivated,” or “make oneself a servant.”  In the Pual stem, the root avad can be translated “has been worked” or “was worked.”  In the Hiphil stem, the root avad can be translated “compel to labour,” “make to serve,” or “cause to serve.” In the Hophal stem the root avad can be translated “be led to serve” or “enticed to serve.”[11]

The idea of “work” for God in the Old Testament constituted allegiance to God by doing what God desired.  The command to live righteously and justly is a command to worship God through actions.  The Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament describes serving God as inseparable from being human.  To be human is to serve God.  “Being human without serving God is as impossible as being human without being active.  In the OT, “serving God” comprehensively describes relationship to God.”[12]

The correlation between “worshiping” and “serving” God is so closely connected to humanity’s living life that it is inseparable from being a part of everyday living.  What people do six days a week in “working,” “laboring,” and “serving” is for and because of humanity’s relationship with their Creator.  “Since ‘serving God’ indicates one’s relationship to God as a whole, it cannot mean ‘to do God a service.’  Instead, it signifies acknowledgment of God as Lord, an acknowledgment that requires one’s entire existence.”[13]

The Exodus 34:21 passage describes a renewal of God’s covenantal relationship with Israel.  In the verses before 21, there are pronouncements to do away with the worship of other gods to worship only Yahweh.  The culmination of these pronouncements seems to be verse 21, when the passage depicts a week long/total existence of “service/worship” to Yahweh.  “The rhythm of worship and rest following six days of work (21), in a close parallel to 23:12, with the addition of a statement not found elsewhere in the OT, that the rhythm of seventh-day rest is not to be interrupted even by the busiest work-seasons, plowing time and harvest time-this requirement, which would certainly have set Israel apart.”[14]

This type of work ethic would be contrary to the rest of the world’s laboring work requirements.  The command seems to indicate a day of rest for reflection on the previous six days just as God did after creating all things.  The command also seems to call for a reestablishment of purpose, “to serve/worship the one true God, Yahweh,” for the next six days and remain in the covenant.

The Torah contains several clues for translating ta’avod as “worship” in Exodus 34:21. In Deuteronomy 6:13, the word ta’avod is translated as “worship.”  This passage is a part of the shema, which Israel would use in worship everyday, not just one day a week.  In Deuteronomy 7:16, the word ta’avod is translated as “worship” to command the people of Israel not to worship other gods.  This passage echoes the call of Exodus 34:21, in that, it pertains to the fulfilling of the covenantal relationship setup in Exodus 34.  In Deuteronomy 10:20, the word ta’avod is translated as “worship” to command the people of Israel to worship only God and to remain faithful to the covenantal relationship with Him.[15]

The Israelites were to worship according to the model of God’s work in Creation.  God’s good work in Creation was prompted by covenant.  In Israel’s disobedience and worshiping of false gods, God calls them to remember who created all things and to remain in the covenant instituted by Creation in God’s love for them.

Second Move: God’s Good Work in Creation established Worship for all People.

The purpose of humanity’s creation and the establishment of worship is seen through the covenantal relationship that God established in Creation and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Barth says, “Divine creation is divine benefit. What takes shape in it is the goodness of God.”[16]  In Creation, God’s purpose is to reveal the ultimate goodness of Jesus Christ as a benefit for all created beings in order to secure the covenant between God and humanity.

In reflecting on Christ and the goodness of God’s work in Creation Augustine says, “in your Word, Your only Son, we saw them severally as good and collectively as exceedingly good; for what we saw was heaven and earth, the Head and the body of the Church which you predestined before time began, when there was neither morning nor evening.”[17]  If covenant is the purpose of Creation, and worship is God’s revelation to humanity and humanity’s response, then Jesus Christ is the purpose of Creation and initiates all worship.  Paul details Jesus’ work in Creation to the church in Colossae in writing, “For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-all things have been created through him and for him.”[18]  Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of God’s love for creation because in Jesus Christ, God became human.  The purpose and means of creation is Jesus Christ, and in him, all of creation sees God’s work of goodness within creation.

Christ became human to glorify God within creation.  In the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the plan of God’s redemptive work in the world is seen.  The German word for worship, Gottesdienst (“God’s service and our service to God”), “reflects a God who ‘emptied himself, taking the form of a slave’ (Phil. 2:7) and our service to such a God.”[19]  In the Incarnation, the Creator embodies the created and proclaims, “See, I am making all things new!”[20]

Jeremy Begbie details creation’s restoration through Christ’s resurrection in saying that, “On the third day, the destruction and distortion are transfigured and redirected.  In Christ, all that is ugly and subversive in the cosmos has been purified, beautified and fulfilled.  Therein lies the promise for the transformation of all things.  Like our bodies, which will be changed in resurrection from physical to spiritual bodies while still remaining bodies, creation will be remade by the God who promises never to let it go.”[21]  Paul communicated this restoration of the world in Christ to the Corinthian Church in saying, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!”[22]  Paul continues in saying that in receiving the Holy Spirit of Christ, the Church is given “the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”[23]

In Christ, there is new creation, because in Christ, creation is restored to God’s glory and goodness.  Begbie explains the significance of Christ’s work for the restoration of creation in saying, “the goal of transformation is clearly best thought of as re-creation, rather than ‘a return to Eden’, to what ‘once was’, a status quo ante.  The entire universe is summoned by the Spirit to a new future, a destiny not given ‘in the beginning’, a destiny centred – as the book of Revelation reminds us so clearly – on the one who says ‘Behold, I make all things new’.”[24]

The Church embodies Christ’s restoration through the sacramental worship practice of Baptism.  In Baptism, the disciple responds to God’s revelation in Christ’s resurrection.  James White says, “After Easter, lessons from the book of Acts are read as the story of the new creation begins with the resurrection.”[25] In Baptism, the follower of Christ accepts death with the promise of a new life, Christ’s life. Bonhoeffer describes this death as “not the act of an angry Creator finally rejecting his creation in his wrath, but the gracious death which has been won for us by the death of Christ; the gracious assumption of the creature by his creator.”[26]

The visible act of Baptism puts to death the individual’s life in exchange for the resurrected life of Christ. The individual, through the work of the Holy Spirit, is then a part of Christ’s Body in the world, the Church. The Baptized Church is alive and united in the Body of Jesus Christ. Through the death of baptism, the Church’s goodness and newness is being restored by God’s good work in Jesus Christ’s incarnation, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension.


Jesus Christ is the purpose of God’s Creation.  God’s good work in Creation is directed to humanity by the covenant and benefit of Jesus Christ. Christ is the greatest possible revelation of God to humanity; therefore, Christ is humanity’s greatest response to God in worship. Worship is established in Creation by God’s good work through and for Jesus Christ.

If worship is God’s good work in restoring all creation to God’s image and glory through Jesus Christ, then the followers of Christ are called to worship God through extending God’s work of restoration to all Creation. This is evident in the book of James, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”[27] In the example of Abraham, James says, “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works.”[28] Faith is only possible through God’s good work in creation. James continues, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.”[29]

Works is the spirit that brings the body of faith to life.  If faith is defined in Jesus Christ, then Christ’s followers proclaim their faith through their good works. We act out the goodness of God through works, because we have faith that God is restoring all of creation to a newness that has been actualized in the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. The world sees our good works and glorifies God by taking part in the restoration of God’s glory to all creation through the Holy Spirit. If Christ’s followers do not practice good works for the world to see and give glory to God in heaven, then their faith is dead, and left lifeless before the power of God that is established in Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

The Resurrection is the power of God to restore goodness! God is revealing, through the Church, the revelation of Christ to the world so that the world may respond. In worship, Christ’s followers actuate God’s restoration of goodness and newness to all creation, by responding to God’s revelation of Jesus Christ’s resurrection in this world, with good works. The act of Creation is worship to God because of God’s good work in and through the created work.


The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1


[1] Matt. 5:14-16 (NRSV)

[2] Jn. 1:14 (NRSV)

[3] See Jn. 1:9 (NRSV)

[4] Cyril Richardson, ed., Early Church Fathers  (Philidelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), 96.

[5] Psalm 139:14 (NRSV)

[6] Saint Augustine, Confessions (New York: Vintage Spiritual Classics, 1998), 337.

[7] Karl Barth. Church Dogmatics (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), 150.

[8] Barth. Church Dogmatics, 151.

[9] John I. Durham, Exodus. Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 3. (Waco: Word, 1987), 456.

[10] Francis Brown, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Glasgow: Oxford University Press, Amen House, London E.C.4, 1957), 712.

[11] Brown, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 712-713.

[12] Ernst Jenni, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1997), 829.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Durham, Exodus. Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 3, 461.

[15] Abraham Even-Shoshan, A New Concordance of the Bible: Thesaurus of the Language of the Bible Hebrew and Aramaic Roots, Words, Proper Names, Phrases, and Synonoyms (Jerusalem: “Kiryat Sefer” Publishing House LTD., 1985), 818.

[16] Barth. Church Dogmatics, 152.

[17] Augustine, Confessions, 340.

[18] Col. 1:16 (NRSV)

[19] James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), 26.

[20] Rev. 21:5 (NRSV)

[21] Jeremy Begbie, Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towads A Theology of the Arts (London: T & T Clark, 2003), 175.

[22] 2 Cor. 5:17 (NRSV)

[23] 2 Cor. 5:18-19 (NRSV)

[24] Begbie, Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towads A Theology of the Arts, 175.

[25] White, Introduction to Christian Worship, 76.

[26] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: SCM Press Ltd., 1959), 232.

[27] Jas. 2:18 (NRSV)

[28] Jas. 2:22 (NRSV)

[29] Jas. 2:26 (NRSV)

Christian Community, Worship

“Roll Away Your Stone”

Illustrating The Powerlessness of the Law and the Empowerment of the Holy Spirit using lyrics from the song

“Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford & Sons.

***Listen to “Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford & Sons before continuing***

Background Information: The Law is an extension of God’s grace to His chosen people, the Jews. The Gentiles (non Jews) were considered pagan because of their worship of many gods instead of the one, true God. What separated The Gentiles from God was their idolatry. The Gentiles were to recognize sin by looking to nature and their perception of the one, true creator God. (Rd: Romans 1:18-25) The Jews, contrary to the Gentiles, were chosen by God to be His people. God established a covenant relationship with the Jews beginning with Abraham. God initiated communion with them! The Jews covenant relationship with God consisted of both God and the Jews maintaining their part of the covenant in order to maintain their relationship. God extended grace through the Law of Moses so that the Jews would be able to recognize and abstain from sin that broke their communion with God.  However, in revealing their sin, the Law amplified the power of sin even more because the Jews were not able to keep the Law of Moses in order to maintain their communion with God as His people. Therefore, the Jews, in their inability to maintain their part of the covenant with God by keeping the Law, became just like the Gentiles being unable to maintain a relationship with God. The Jews received the curse (being kicked out of the Promised Land and taken into exile) for not keeping their part of the covenant, instead of the blessing (God’s presence with His people in the Promised Land). (Rd: Isaiah 49:13-17; Romans 2:12-29) God is faithful and maintained his part of the covenantal relationship and proved it by “doing even more than we could ever ask or imagine!” Praise be to God for Jesus Christ our Lord, who empowers us through the Holy Spirit to be free from enslavement to Sin! He recreates our identity as the children of God who have been restored to His Glory (image)! We who are in Jesus Christ are the “New Israel!”

“Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine.
Together we can see what we will find.”

This lyric line exemplifies our criticism of not being able to completely keep the Law on our own and bring about our own salvation. We are skeptical of our hope in Jesus Christ being able to fulfill the Law on our behalf. We ask the question, “Is resurrection, a new identity, really possible?” We then say to Jesus Christ, “If it really is possible, then you do it first!” This is where we find our true selves. Jesus Christ has resurrected from the grave with an indestructible life that has enabled and empowered us to live a new identity through the Holy Spirit!

“Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside.”

This lyric line is a reminder of our identity apart from the resurrected Jesus Christ. It is because Jesus Christ is resurrected that we will be resurrected! We have the same Holy Spirit that is in Jesus Christ! (Rd: 1 Corinthians 15:12-23)

“You told me that I would find a hole,
Within the fragile substance of my soul.”

This lyric describes our own inability to fulfill the Law leaves us feeling powerless, defeated, inadequate, broken, and worthless.

“And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals”

This lyric line depicts the broken state as we dwell in self-deception and pride that leads us to estrangement with God. We are made in the image of God and He is our origin. When try to give ourselves purpose we begin to redefine our origin in things other than God. God is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, who is our true origin. (Rd: Colossians 1:15-20)

“Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.”

This lyric line really helps us to see the point Paul is making in Romans 7. Paul sets up an imaginary figure in dialogue to illustrate the powerlessness of the Law. Paul is communicating that, if you really want to take fulfilling the Law seriously, this is the conclusion to which you will arrive. “What I want to do, I don’t do, and what I don’t want to do is what I end up doing. What a wretched man I am!”(Rd: Romans 7:14-25)

“It seems that all my bridges have been burned,”

This depicts our attempts to fulfill the Law and failing. In trying to fulfill the Law and trying to invoke our own salvation, we place ourselves in enmity with God. In our attempt to fulfill the Law, our sin becomes more evident because we are powerless to keep the Law. Paul indicates Jews powerlessness to keep the Law by recalling their exile from the Promised Land to Babylon and the destruction of the Temple.

“But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works”

This lyric exemplifies our discovery of true, undeserving grace. We are ready to accept our freedom from sin, on Jesus Christ’s behalf, through the reception of Grace by being empowered by the Holy Spirit.

“It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,”

This line illustrates the powerlessness of works and the empowerment of Grace. It is our encounter with Jesus Christ that changes our hearts and minds, and not in our attempts to perform acts of righteousness. It is not by works (works = “a long walk” to get home) that we would be able to work at keeping a Law that is impossible to fulfill on our own. (Rd: Ephesians 2:8-9)

“But the welcome I receive with the restart.”

This line details that it is only by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that we are able to receive and extend grace in every failure. The Holy Spirit enables us to live in the grace-filled Law of the Spirit. (Rd: Romans 5:12-21; Luke 15:17-24)

“Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.
Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.
Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.”

These lines are communicating a revisiting of our state when we try to pursue our own righteousness through performing works of the Law. Just as Isaiah communicates, when we encounter grace in the person Jesus Christ “our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Throughout our lives in times of temptation we reiterate our powerlessness to be able to fulfill the Law even when we try our very best to perform works of righteousness. God has revealed Himself to us! He has come to us, and not us to Him! Isaiah exclaims the words of the Lord to His people, “Here am I, here am I!” (Rd: Isaiah 64:4-65:1)

“Stars hide your fires, And these here are my desires”

This lyric line illustrates our pride. There are times in our lives when we indulge in self-proclaimed darkness and call for the stars themselves to hide their light. We still maintain a longing to be able to fulfill the Law on our own. Even our best attempts at fulfilling the Law are futile when we are confronted with the Holiness and grace of Jesus Christ. (Rd: Philippians 3:2-16)

“And I will give them up to you this time around.”

The confession that we are powerless, and not Lord over our own lives.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be free from sin that we may become slaves of righteousness. (Rd: Romans 6:14-19 & Roman 10:9 )

“And so, I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul!”

This lyric line accentuates our reception of the Holy Spirit as the reclaiming of our created identity seen in Adam and Eve, and even more so. Now, in our encountering Jesus Christ, we are not simply seen as created beings, we are now children and if children then we are heirs with Jesus Christ in his resurrection! Because of our encounter with Jesus Christ, we commune with God by the Holy Spirit of God dwelling with/in us! We “stake” our claim in our new identity, being empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Law and receive the full blessing of the Covenant, God’s presence! We are the first fruits of a new creation! (Rd: Romans 8:1-27)

“Hide your fires, these are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around.
And so, I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul!”

This phrase is reiterating our confession in our new identity. Paul exclaims in the beginning of Romans 8, that we who have received the Holy Spirit of God, by believing the word about Jesus Christ, are free from being slaves to sin.  We are free from sin; so that, we may become slaves to righteousness through the Lordship of Jesus Christ. What Paul is saying is that through our encounter with Jesus Christ we are empowered to be free of sin to become slaves to righteousness. This is why Paul can say with assurance that God is able to do “even more than we could ever ask or imagine!” Who imagined the cross would bring resurrection for us all!?

“But you, you’ve gone too far this time
You have neither reason nor rhyme
With which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine.”

This lyric line is a proclamation. Now, we have the ability, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to living in the law of the Spirit. It’s not that the Law is against Jesus Christ, the law is perfect. The problem was that we did not have the power to keep the Law. God fulfilled His part of the covenantal relationship with His people. The Law was an extension of God’s grace to His people so that He would be able to commune with His people by their becoming holy. The Law did not empower us to be able to keep it, but it did identify sin in our lives so that we may know how to remain pure and maintain a communion with our Holy God. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be able to do the sorts of things God always wanted us to do in fulfilling the Law. The end result being eternal communion with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. This is our reality/identity in Jesus Christ! (Rd: Romans 6:20-23)

***Once again, listen to “Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford & Sons before concluding***

Blessings and Peace,