Friday, 21 December 2012

The Lord of Heaven and Earth

The Days of our Service

The Bible makes clear that when Christ ascended, all power and authority was given to Him in the heavens and the earth.  When Christ sat down at the right hand of God, He sat down upon the Throne of heaven not to rest, but to rule over all things. 

On earth there are two kinds of human beings: those who know that Christ rules everything, and those who refuse to know it.  Those who don't acknowledge nor believe that Christ is their Lord nevertheless remain subject to His command and do His bidding--as Unbelievers--even whilst they remain ignorant of His dominion over them. 

Oscar Cullmann puts it this way:

On the one hand, the Church is the body of Christ himself, the highest possible reality on earth; on the other hand, the Church is subjected to Christ its Head just as are all other parts of creation included under his lordship.  [Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament (London: SCM Press, 1963), p.229.]

Describing the Church as the "highest possible reality on earth" is quite startling, yet true to Scripture.  After all, the Apostle Paul makes marriage and family relations patterned after the higher reality of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  (Ephesians 5: 32)  When Unbelief mocks the Church, as if frequently does, it is mocking the only hope for the world, the very body of Christ in the world, notwithstanding the Church's many sins, imperfections, and weaknesses.  The mocker is just as much a subject of the Lord Christ as the Church, but for the latter it is a subjection of joy, life, blessedness, and ultimately, glory; for the mocker, it is a subjection that will culminate in the wrath of the Lord being poured out upon his or her head. 
In order really to understand the relationship between the two realms of lordship, we must speak of the distinction between the members of the Church and the members of the total lordship of Christ.  The members of the Church know about that lordship; the other members belong to it unconsciously. . . .

The members of this Church must participate in his lordship in a special way.  To be a member of a "lordship" always means both to be ruled and to share in that rule, despite subjection to the head.  Here we encounter the major distinction between the lordship of Christ and of the Church.  We have seen that all creatures in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth belong to that lordship.  Thus all invisible powers and authorities together with their empirical organs (the earthly state, for example) are also members of his lordship.  They are placed completely within it, and, for this reason, the very people who understand the nature of the lordship, the members of the Church, owe obedience to the powers and authorities (Romans 13:1ff) [Ibid., p. 229f.]

For this reason, Christians and the Church are not revolutionaries.  Christians are compliant, obedient servants of the powers that be, because we self-consciously recognize that they too are servants of our Lord. 
Nevertheless, all the powers outside the Church are members of the lordship of Christ only in a very indirect way, for they do not necessarily know the role assigned to them within his lordship.  Everything that is said by Paul, and before him by Jesus, about subjection to Caesar and the state refers to a non-Christian state which knows neither Christ and his kingdom nor God the Father of Christ.  Even a pagan state like the Roman empire, therefore, can thoroughly fulfil the task assigned it by God in the lordship of Christ when it limits itself to its own quite definite role and allows the Church, the place where Christ's rule has such great significance, to "lead a quiet and peaceable life" (I Timothy 2:2).  A pagan state can play a role in Christ's lordship even though it does not know itself that it belongs to that lordship.  (Ibid. p.230)
Christians and the Church, however, are to be most jealous and concerned when the pagan state starts arrogating to itself authorities and powers not granted to it by our Lord. 
Because only the Christian knows of this subjection of the state to Christ's lordship, precisely in this sense the state has paradoxically a greater significance for him than for any other citizen.  On the other hand, when a state transgresses its limits, the Christian feels this much more strongly than anyone else, although also non-Christians can also notice the fact itself.  The Christian sees especially that the state has denied the lordship of Christ, that a demonic power has freed itself, that the "beast" has appeared. (Ibid. p. 230f)
We in the West live in a time of an ever growing arrogation of state power, with the state asserting and claiming authority and competency far beyond that appointed by Christ.  The despotism may be soft, initially, but it is becoming increasingly hard and bloody.  A demonic power has temporarily freed itself; the "beast" has re-appeared.  Such things are at the direction of the Lord and occur as a judgment upon our civilization.  Blood that is shed always returns to the land and people that shed it.  What we sow, we reap.  The people who refuse the Christ and choose Barrabas instead will eventually fall to the siege. 

The Christian knows this and feels it more keenly than any other.  But we do not despair for these days, too, are at His command and direction and they are the days in which He has called us to serve and in which we were meant to be.  And that, as Gandalf said, is an encouraging thought. 

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