4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
We got as far as v.5 in the last post. We are reading 1:4-8 as a Call to Worship in our hypothetical “Resistical” Worship service. John completes his Trinitarian blessing as he turns to Christ and gives him a far more detailed treatment than he does the Father or the Spirit. Hint: that is important!
“Jesus Messiah” – John’s threefold description of Jesus (v.5: “faithful witness”/”firstborn of the dead”/”ruler of the kings of the earth”) and his threefold description of his work (vv.5-6: “loves”/”freed”/”made”) lead in a straight line to the first affirmation of the Theological Declaration of Barmen against the Nazis in 1934.
“Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.”
John, our worship leader, voices the threefold description of Jesus Messiah, and (I imagine) the congregation responds back with the threefold description of his work (bold). Thus the whole church cries out in one voice acclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord.
The church’s unison reply is worth a closer look. The tenses of the verbs are crucial. Jesus, the ruler of the king of the earth, “loves” us (present tense), has “freed” us (past tense) and “made” us (past tense) his people. This is Exodus language. We know Jesus’ love today, right now, this moment, because of what has done for us in the past.
-“freed us from our sins by his blood”: forgiveness of sins is a far bigger matter than simply my individual misdeeds. N. T. Wright says:
“The ‘forgiveness of sins’ was a huge, life-changing, world-changing reality, long promised and long awaited. It was the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes for restoration, coupled with the sense that when Israel was restored, this would somehow generate a new day for the whole human race.”
Now there’s some hope for you!
-“made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father”: further, Jesus’ death for us means that we have been restored to our creational vocation as royal priests (Exodus 19:5-6), those authorized as divine image-bearers to represent God, reflecting his will and character throughout the creation and protecting nurturing creation to its full flourishing.
Now there’s a challenge for you!
The one who has done all this for us and for the world is the one to whom it is right and appropriate to attribute “glory” and “dominion.” These do not belong to Caesar; they belong to Jesus. Caesar is an interloper in the god-game, a sham, a pretender. He puts on a good show but he cannot change the reality of the world nor can he make us who we are meant to be. His image is counterfeit – 666 as a later part of John’s vision will put it – to the 777 we are intended to bear.
John responds back to the congregation invoking the culmination of the Old Testament story in which he and they (and us) live. This story ends (which means, of course, begins anew) with King Jesus return to claim his rightful rule over the earth (v.7). What it means that those who pierced him will “wail” is revealed throughout the rest of the story.
A worshiping congregation is a resisting congregation to whatever the powers that be they confront. A beastly regime may be doing and portending many evil things, but it will not prevail nor will the gates of Hades resist God’s rule.
We will become all God meant us to be. And that means in our present context our Trump’s reign: RESIST!