what’s the point? – people of god

In response to an irrelevant church, my first thought is to ask, “who are we?” Searching the biblical narrative, a common theme that broadly summarizes the church’s identity is “people of God”

We find in the biblical narrative a story about a loving God who created the heavens and the earth. Not only that, God created humans in his own image, calling them to bear that image in the world. And while humans have chosen to go their own way more often than not, God continues to call for a community – the people of God – to represent him to the world.

Old Testament: Here we read about the journey of a people living out the call to represent God. And while it’s a journey filled with failure and disappointment, God’s persistent love continually calls this “people” towards himself. We here phrases like “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Lev. 26:12) and “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I am God’” (Is. 43:12).

New Testament: Unfortunately Christians often interpret Jesus’ message to make the Old Testament unnecessary, which can lead to a neglect of the emphasis on the people of God as integral to biblical faith. But if we consider how Jesus himself declares that he came to “fulfill” the message of the Old Testament, not “abolish” it (Mt. 5:17-18), we see continuity in God’s mission through both testaments – a mission to establish a faithful “people of God” initiated with Israel and confirmed in Christ. And so we get language referring to the church as a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9) and a “chosen people” (Col 3:12) – language that continues to emphasize that being a Christian is a communal activity.

Now, making our identity as the “people of God” central to our understanding of Christianity contrasts a common alternative view to Christianity: the “Lone Ranger Christian” or perhaps more current, the “Jason Bourne Christian.” These approaches to faith suggest that a ‘strong’ Christian is someone who is completely self-sufficient, able to muster enough strength and courage to face whatever hardships come your way. And these types of people are looked up to in our society, as complete independence becomes a celebrated achievement all should strive for. But looking at the biblical narrative, God may call individuals to specific tasks and declare his love for us individually, but always within the greater context of his love for all people and his desire to create a people – the people of God.

For a great resource of this topic, check out N.T. Wright’s New Testament and the People of God

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