The People of God: Toward an Evangelical Ecclesiology
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ABSTRACT THE PEOPLE OF GOD: TOWARD AN EVANGELICAL ECCLESIOLOGY Juan Ramon Sanchez, Jr., Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2015 Chair: Dr. Gregg R. Allison This dissertation argues that in a day of ecclesiological confusion among evangelicals over who belongs to the church and what the mission of the church is, the biblical concept of the image of God interpreted in its textual, redemptive-historical, and canonical contexts reveals a common pattern for the people of God that serves as an interpretive key to understanding the identity, nature, and mission of the church. Chapter 1 recounts much of the confusion over the doctrine of the church within evangelicalism and exposes the need for such a proposal. Chapter 2 proposes that the creation of man as God’s image reveals God’s purpose to create (1) a people with whom he will relate in a father/son relationship (sonship) under his rule and care (covenant), (2) a people who will dwell in his presence to serve him as priests (priesthood) and (3) a people who will represent his sovereign rule on the earth (kingship) by exercising dominion over creation by extending the borders of the sacred space and reproducing the divine image through godly offspring until the entire earth is filled with the glory of God (mission). Thus, it establishes the foundation for the thesis that the concept of the image of God communicates sonship, kingship, and priesthood within a covenant relationship in which God’s people serve as God’s instruments by which he establishes his kingdom on the earth. Chapter 3 shows how the pattern for the people of God established in the garden continues in Abraham and Israel. It also shows that king David is a prototypical image bearer who points to a future messianic Adam who will ultimately establish God’s kingdom on the earth. While Israel failed to keep covenant and image God faithfully, judgment is not the final word. Instead, the biblical storyline looks forward to a new covenant yet to be established by a faithful Davidic messiah. Chapter 4, then, investigates the new covenant passages in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel by utilizing Isaiah 54-56 as a structure for understanding what the new covenant entails. Chapter 5 addresses the New Testament data related to Jesus as the last Adam. The chapter shows that Jesus is the Son of God from David’s line who came to restore Israel on the basis of a new covenant. This messianic mission reveals that Jesus is the true and faithful image of God who inaugurates the kingdom of God on the earth and begins populating it with the divine image by gathering a people through the gospel. Chapter 6 shows that the pattern of the people of God established in Genesis 1 and 2 is also found in the church: sonship, kingship, priesthood, and mission within a covenant relationship. This chapter argues that the New Testament applies the language of Israel (Exod 19:4-6) to the church (1 Pet 2:9) because it is the new Israel constituted on the basis of the promised new covenant, created to serve as a corporate Adam for the purpose of mission. As a corporate Adam, the church is called to image God on the earth and fulfill the mission of eschatological ingatheing until the return of Christ. Chapter 7 provides theological conclusions from the biblical data in the previous chapters and proposes a definition of the church that helps to clarify the identity and mission of the people of God under the new covenant. And finally, it proposes a path toward constructing an ecclesiology that is biblically faithful and culturally appropriate.