Posted by: Billy Marsh | August 24, 2008

The Blessing in the Curse

Bible and Mission ~ Richard Bauckham

Bible and Mission ~ Richard Bauckham

Though New Testament Theology isn’t the field that I read as widely in as others, I still try to expose myself to as much of it as I can since it came in close second to being my Ph. D. minor behind Reformation Studies. And reading Richard Bauckham is one of the highlights of engaging the wide-world of literature on the NT.

Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World sounds like the title of just another cookie-cutter monograph on how to relate the gospel to postmoderns; thus, you’d expect the author to cover the usual topics like absolute truth, relativism, objectivity, the unchanging essence of the gospel, evangelism methods, and so forth and so on. However, when you see a title like the one above attached to Richard Bauckham’s name, then you know better than to expect the ordinary.

Although I haven’t quite finished his book yet, Bauckham has presented material relating to the theme of mission in the Bible in a way that I’ve never really heard before. Maybe that shows how little I’ve read on the biblical theology of mission, nonetheless, I have already grown in my knowledge of the mission focus of God’s Word in leaps and bounds. This type of theological fruit is even more telling since Bauckham’s book began as a series of lectures and even now only boasts about 120 pages.

The brief selection below was part of a section that was just as informative as it was striking. To have the ability to write with such an exegetically-driven mind and a theologically-informed heart, Bauckham provides the reader with some very exciting reading material. Here he is discussing the broad topic of universals and particulars with respect to God establishing his divine relationship with Israel (the particular) in order to make his name known to all the nations of the world (the universal) so that all peoples might partake in his redemptive covenant. In this case, Bauckham is showing how the biblical witness manifests this truth through the concept of blessing and curse. I won’t explain it any more than that. To do so would be to undermine the force with which the passage below should come across, not to mention how my efforts would dull the enjoyment of the eloquence of his interweaving all of these major themes together:

Through the story of Israel curse continually accompanies blessing (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:12-16; 27-28), but the ultimate goal of God’s promise to Abraham is the blessing that will prevail over the curse. It does so when the seed of Abraham, the singled-out descendant of Abraham, the Messiah, becomes ‘a curse for us . . . so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles’ (Galatians 3:13-14). It is in this light that Paul can call the promise of Abraham that the nations will be blessed the gospel (Galatians 3:8). The secret of the promise is the bearing of the curse so that the blessing may prevail. The gospel is that in Jesus Christ the curse has been set aside and God’s creative purpose for the blessing of his creation is established beyond any possibility of reversal. God’s last and effective word is his blessing. It is a particular word, spoken in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, broadcast by those who like Paul cannot but pass it on, so powerful is its effect, overflowing with blessing from those who, blessed by it, become a blessing to others (35-36; emphasis mine).

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