Note: The following are thoughts that have percolated in me after thinking about some of N.T. Wright’s material.
One of the amazing and wondrous aspects of God’s grand story is that human beings are created to be co-rulers with God over creation as we grow increasingly more into God’s character and fullness. And although humankind’s initial failure in Genesis 3 brought tragic consequences to the cosmos, God’s plan has stayed its course. In Jesus, God’s plan has found its fulfillment. A human being who is completely in the likeness of God is finally at the helm of the cosmos and his name is Jesus. And everything in creation is being reconciled to him (Col 1:20).
But wait! There’s much more!
Jesus is the firstborn of a new race of human beings, God’s new covenant people. We are Christ’s body, his fullness (Eph 1:23). We are children of God and co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). Christ reveals our future in God’s eternal kingdom. We are growing into his fullness so we may stand at the helm of the cosmos with him.
This means creation is directly linked to the Church’s present and future. Paul states in Romans 8:19-23, 26:
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies… In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Paul uses a violent word picture of childbirth to describe the connection between God’s people and creation. Something astonishing is being birthed! And as it’s being born, creation is laboring and groaning. And within creation, God’s people are laboring and groaning. And within God’s people, God’s Spirit is laboring and groaning. In other words, something cosmic is being birthed, but the seeds of it reside deep in God’s people through God’s Spirit.
What is being birthed? John describes it in Revelation 21:1-4. A renewed creation is being birthed! Ultimately this birth will be complete when Christ returns and fully strips corruption and sin from creation so it can be filled with the glory and presence of God. One day Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” will be fulfilled.
So what’s our part in all of this right now? How do we participate in the birth of this new creation in which we will ultimately be co-heirs and co-rulers with Christ? By how we live our daily lives in Christ.
Our present lives in Christ anticipate our existence in God’s future. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” This is startling! In Christ, our present lives have become bits of God’s new creation. In this way, God has given us a little bit of his new creation to practice on. So we practice for living and ruling fully in God’s new creation by training on the little bit of his new creation we possess – our lives in Christ.
Becoming a person who naturally obeys God from the inside-out is my part in bringing about God’s new creation as well as training me for my role in that new creation. How I live my life today is the beginning of my taking responsibility for God’s world. Learning to live my life in the fullness of Christ is my part of God’s world that I have been given responsibility for. And properly exercising my responsibility by cooperating with God’s Spirit to form Christ fully in me is my role in God’s cosmic story.