A Trinitarian perspective on Christian ministry

In Karl Barth's Theology of Relations, Dr. Gary Deddo notes that human being is fundamentally "being-in-relationship" - both "with God" and "for God." Based on this insight, Gary suggests a "six-fold grammar of family relations." In a previous post I applied this grammar to Christian counseling. Here I apply it to Christian ministry in general - our Spirit-led participation in Jesus' incarnational, "place-sharing" ministry with all humanity.
  1. The God whom we worship in Jesus Christ is the Triune God who exists in loving covenantal communion and who has created, reconciled and redeemed all humanity for participation in that very communion of Father and Son in the Holy Spirit. Human relationships are the context in which this communion may be communicated and reflected.
  2. As human beings, we have our personhood only as a gift of being in covenantal communion with God, which calls for our personal participation. This life of fellowship is to be manifested in lives of worship as the Church of Jesus Christ. It is in this context that each one of us, no matter what our life experience, hears and is reminded of our true identity as children of God and finds the norm for right (righteous/healthy) human relationships. Gary’s point here helps us understand the value of church-based ministry where we bring the healing fellowship of the body of Christ to bear on people's struggles.
  3. The church is a covenant community and as such can be understood as the household of God with God as our Father and Jesus as our Brother. It is the original ‘Family’ by which all other families are to order themselves in correspondence and witness to it. This is the true source for the renewal and healing of broken relationships—within both biological families, the family of the church and the family of humankind at large.
  4. We are called to be “our brother’s keeper”—to relate, in love, with all people. Being able to do so is a divine gift of personal and covenantal participation in God’s relationship with all people in Christ. Such participation constitutes a witness to, a correspondence to, an image of, God’s creation of us in promise with a view to our fulfillment. God does this by bringing us up by the Spirit to maturity according to the image of Jesus Christ and through his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, intercession and coming again.
  5. Healthy human relationships (including relationships with oneself), are ones ordered after the pattern of being of members of God’s own household, the Body of Christ, where its members acknowledge one Father and one Brother over them all. They see themselves as elder and younger brothers and sisters and all being the children of God, who belong together in a maturing communion with God by the Spirit, thereby becoming conformed to Jesus Christ.
  6. These individuals, as humans in relationship, are then equipped and sent out to serve and equip others, thus extending this fellowship to others that they too might be included in the one family of God by that same Spirit. This ministry to other of God’s children is a high calling--an important “sending” of the Spirit.


Anonymous said…
This theology attracts me, but I have the following questions with regard to your comments about 'all humanity being in Christ'.

1/ What is the meaning of - Galatians 3: 26-29...it says v26 'For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ' ....this implies that many haven't been baptised, and therefore haven't put on Christ. v29 '...if you are Christ's...' implying that there are at least some who aren't Christs.

2/ 2 Cor 3:5 "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test? " there are some that fail the test.

I really want to believe what you are saying, but it has to be in accord with Scripture.

Is it therefore possible to be 'In Christ' ie all the human race....but then a subset (believers) have Christ in them?


Ted Johnston said…
Dear anonymous,

I appreciate your heartfelt question--it is an important one, indeed.

It is important that we account for all of the Biblical testimony concerning both who Jesus is and what he has done; and the personal response of individuals to that reality. The former is the objective truth of how things are; the latter is the subjective/personal experience of that reality. We must account for both, and we see this happening in Scripture.

For example, in Paul can speak of all people as "reconciled to God in Christ," and then urge individual people to "be reconciled" to God (see 2Cor 5:19, 20). Superficially, this might sound like double talk, but it is not. Though all people, because of who Jesus is and what he has done, are in *union* with God, in Christ; not all people are in *communion* with him. While God has reconciled all people to himself in the person of his Incarnate Son, not all people are trusting and living in that reconciliation--their is a distinct difference between those who believe and those who do not.

In Colossians 1:19, Paul speaks to this universal reconciliation as already accomplished in Christ (v20), then in v21 speaks of believers as having at one time (i.e. before they came to belief) as being "alienated from God...enemies in [their] minds because of [their] evil behavior." So again, all people (including all non-believers) are in union with God; but only believers are in communion.

Note as well, that the evangelical invitation is not "believe and then God will receive you," but "because God has received you, in Christ, believe."

One way to think of this is to note that the "indicative" (the reality of our identity in Christ as accepted children of God) *precedes* the "imperative" (the action we must take to believe and in believing to obey). It is only because of what God has already done for us in Christ, establishing for us a new identity (the indicative), that we are able then to respond in faith (the imperative). As you read scripture always look for both of these and I think you'll find that the indicative always precedes the imperative. This is the "calculus," if you will, of God's grace.

I hope this is helpful to you.