Lately, I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite academic books on the church: Paul’s Idea of Community by Robert Banks (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004). Like almost any book, there are both positive and negatives aspects – strengths and weaknesses. But, this book has a special place in my own heart.
Why is this a special book for me? This is one of the first books that I read in which I was encouraged that my understanding of the church could be presented in both popular and academic formats. There have been several other books since then, but this was one of the first.
Chapter names like these would persuade most of my blog readers that I would like this book (and they would be right): “Church as Household Gathering,” “The Community as a Loving Family,” “The Community as a Functional Body,” “Physical Expressions of Fellowship,” “Gifts and Ministry,” “Charisma and Order,” and “Unity in Diversity among the Members.”
But, this time, as I read through the book again, I was intrigued by Banks’ description of salvation as freedom (in Paul’s writings). I especially enjoyed this summary:
To summarize, freedom for Paul consists of three main components:
- from certain things, e.g., sin, the Law, death, and alien powers
- for certain things, e.g., righteousness, conformity to Jesus, suffering
- resulting in a personal and life-giving experience of liberty.
- upon Christ, who terminated humanity’s enslavement through his death and resurrection
- upon the Spirit, who communicates Christ’s life and purpose as a received divine gift rather than innate possibility.
- with others, since liberty leads to service and can only be practically defined in relation to their needs
- with the world, since the universe itself will experience the liberty of transformation along with those who are Christ’s
- giving liberty a social and cosmic, as well as a personal and theocentric, dimension.
Our relationship with one another as the family of God (the church) is definitely based on the person and character of God himself. In the same way, however, our relationship with one another is also based on the salvation (and resulting freedom) that we have in God through Jesus Christ enacted by the Holy Spirit. Thus our salvation and our freedom are personal, but not only personal; it is also mutual and communal, in the sense that our connection with God is also interconnection with one another.
When we are set free from (independent of) our sin, we also become dependent on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and interdependent with one another.
Most of us (and I included myself in this) focus on one aspect of salvation (freedom, as Banks describes it above). We focus on being set free from sin. Or we focus on our dependence on God. Or we focus on our interdependence with one another. But, a more complete understanding of salvation (freedom) would include all three aspects of independence, dependence, and interdependence as listed above.
Which of the three aspects of freedom/salvation listed above (independence, dependence, interdependence) do you think you primarily focus on? Do you see any benefit in including all three in our understanding of salvation/freedom?