Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Mission of the Church

What follows is my summary of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, Section 22 (The Mission of the Church), first subsection.

1. The Word of God and the Word of Man in Christian Preaching (743)

Jesus Christ is the revealed Word of God (743). Holy Scripture is the written Word of God: the human words witnessing to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the form of the Bible, the Word of God manifests and maintains his absolute authority and freedom in relation to all other powers. In that form the Word of God also creates and sustains the relative authority and freedom of the Church and “becomes the object of the Church’s preaching” (744); i.e., the proclaimed Word of God. Jesus Christ: the one living Word of God in three forms: revealed, written, and proclaimed. Not although but because Church proclamation remains subordinate to the biblical witness, and those prophets and apostles remain subordinate to Jesus Christ, so “in the preaching of the Church as well we have to do with the Word of God…and therefore with God Himself” (745). By the grace of the Word revealed and written, preaching becomes “God’s own proclamation” (746).

The preaching of the Church is the proclamation of God. This identification is true despite all appearances to the contrary (748). Alone we would instantly prove it false. Its truth, however, is established not by us but by Jesus Christ. He was proclaimed Son of God by his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). The Church received this revelation and his commission to proclaim it. As the head of the Church, Jesus Christ continues to bear witness to himself through it. It is his absolute authority and freedom that establishes the relative authority and freedom we need to speak truly of God in spite of ourselves (749).

There is nothing automatic about God taking our preaching about him and making it his proclamation to us. All the ignorance, error, and foolishness of our preaching persuades us of that (751). Yet grace alone can finally persuade us that the identity is true. “Jesus Christ in the power of His resurrection is present wherever men really speak of God” (752). His true light is what reveals the darkness of our words without him (752). In fact, it is God’s own demand that everything we say about him “be said purely, correctly, seriously, strictly and weightily” that ultimately exposes our vanity. Yet it is God who also puts our bad words to good use for our salvation and his glory (753). God alone also exposes and overcomes our opposition to hearing his Word of judgment so that we might hear and live his Word of grace as forgiven sinners (754).

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.