The Drama of Redemption
This morning I gave a talk to a group of ministers in the Free Church of Scotland. At the start let me say, talking to ministers is significantly more nerve racking than talking to almost anyone else. I thought in today's blog that I would share a bit of what I said. We looked at 1 Corinthians 15, which has functioned like a lodestone for me. In the midst of trials and tribulations it has been an anchor for my soul. In it we see the entire drama of redemption and the implications of the Gospel play out. The amazing thing that comes out of all of this is that the church does not function as a side note or a peripheral part, but it is central to the entire story. Kevin Vanhoozer puts it this way:
The church too is not an event in the drama of redemption: every local gathering of two or three in Christ’s name is a happening, a living out of the new humanity made possible by the Spirit of Christ. The church is not an accident, a parenthesis, or an appendix in God’s plan of salvation but is arguably the climax of the drama of redemption. After all, the central plot of Scripture has to do with God forming a holy nation and bringing into being a people under his rule in his place.
1 Cor 15 tells us God's plan for the church, is that we be a redeemed people, conformed to the image of the Son, and made into an immense, incomprehensible, all surpassing expression of love between the Persons of the Trinity. It lays out for us this plan of God. It walks us through God's plan for his people from beginning to end.
You see what Paul knows is that there are competing stories in this world. Stories that would lay claim to being the ultimate story. He also knew that one does not combat the false stories solely with doctrines. It requires an alternative story. The beauty is that there is a better story. Paul lays forth the alternative which is infinitely better because it is true. All of the world's stories are false and empty, but the story of Scripture is better because it is true. Thus, Paul in 1 Cor 15 lays out the entire story. From creation to consummation and he says this is the drama of redemption.
He says that in the Garden Adam sinned. This sin brought nothing but death and misery into the world. Humanity has been hopeless since that day, and would remain so if God had not acted. So, God acts. He acts by sending his Son in the fullness of time to work salvation for sinners. The Lord acts by sending the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of men, moving them from the family that has Adam as its federal head to the family that has Christ as its federal head, and my conforming us to the image of Christ. This is the drama into which Paul says that we have been thrust.
Paul says all of this and he notes that the church is situated in the middle of this drama. Michael Horton says this:
Right at the place where the Suffering Servant has been exalted as conquering Lord, the firstfruit of a new creation, and the head of a body, he disappears. However, precisely in that place that is vacated by the one who has ascended, a church emerges.
You see, Christ's victory forms the church. A people who have been given new life and are now actors, not in the story the world wants them to play, but in the drama of our Lord and Savior. We become actors in Christ's drama. In this we have hope. We have hope because we know that there will come a day when he will put all things under his feet. He will defeat all his enemies. All rulers and authorities that are currently arrayed against the Lord and his Kingdom will be destroyed. The mind-bending thing about this is that we get to play a part in that drama. God gives us roles to play in his story.
It is God's drama of redemption that Paul uses to grab the hearts of those in Corinth. He knows that they are being told another story and they are buying that story. Paul shows them that God's story is infinitely better because it is true. Every other story sells you the false hope that you can be the star of your own show. You may be the star, but you are dead and if you want to be the star, your movie will only end in death. Being a small part of God's story brings life. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul holds forth the Gospel and the whole drama of redemption and says this story is far better than story the world is telling you. Live in that story.