The Spirit of the Lord, §8: Missio Dei and Missio Communionis

The mediation of Christ frees us from the impossible task of achieving the shalom which only the Messiah can accomplish for us and only the Spirit consummate in us. The mediation of Christ thus frees us from impossibility and frees us for limitless possibilities. The mission of Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to God frees the elect community for the mission of bringing salvation “to the end of the earth.” The missio Dei establishes the missio communionis—the mission of God establishes the mission of the community. To be sure, the two missions are not identical: the former reconciles humanity to God, while the latter proclaims the actuality of this reconciliation to the world. The former accomplishes the reality of shalom; the latter bodies forth this shalom into the world as the first fruits of the promised kingdom in which “righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (Ps. 85:10). The triune God fulfills the mission of reconciliation in order to free the community of faith for the mission of proclamation. The Deus pacis establishes the communio pacis (Rom. 15:33; 1 Cor. 14:33). Jesus thus proclaims to the disciples after his resurrection, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn. 20:21). As the Father sent the Son on the divine mission to definitively accomplish the peace of the world in his death and resurrection, so too the Son sends the faithful community into the world as the cruciform communion of peace. The God of peace (Deus pacis) sends forth the communion of peace (communio pacis) on a mission of peace (missio pacis).

If the missio Dei revolves around the promised Messiah, then the missio communionis must be understood in the closest possible relation to Israel as the original covenantal community of mission in the world. The church—as the ekklesia or assembly of those “grafted” onto “the rich root” of Israel (Rom. 11:17-24)—is called to live in conformity with the Israelite community, no longer as those in bondage to sin, death, and the law, but rather in bondage to Immanuel, God with us and for us in Jesus Christ: “my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Rom. 7:4; cf. Heb. 2:14-15).

We should notice three important details in this passage from Romans: (1) The death and resurrection of Christ correspond to our own death to sin and our own resurrection to new life, for he “was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). In other words, as discussed earlier, (2) Christ’s death is actually our death. In his death to sin, we too died to sin; in his resurrection, we were raised to new life. To put this another way, the death of Christ is the negative side of reconciliation, and the resurrection is the positive side. Good Friday removes the “old self” in bondage to sin and death; Easter establishes the “new self” in bondage to God in faithful solidarity with the Israelite community. Finally, (3) because we are joined to Christ—forming the “body of Christ” (cf. Rom. 12:5, 1 Cor. 12:27)—we are also for that reason joined to each other. We died to sin in Christ’s body in order to belong to Christ as his body, and because we belong to Christ we also belong to one another, including our neighbor. We were elected in Jesus Christ in order to become the missional body of Christ through his once-for-all sacrifice—a communal identity newly actualized each moment according to Word and Spirit. By the grace of God we thus participate in Christ and become his ecclesial body through the awakening and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of bearing fruit in the world. Our covenant fellowship with Jesus Christ according to the love of God and the power of the Spirit determines our corporate identity as the corpus Christi.

Comments

WTM said…
I find myself wanting a bit more Holy Spirit in this post. It's between the lines, but you should make it more explicit.

And yes, I know that 'Spirit' is in the title of the series, but we should not let formal aspects stand in for material concerns.
D.W. Congdon said…
That's fair. I added the Spirit line just to get it in there, but I won't actually discuss the Spirit in depth until near the very end (see the outline).

How do you think I should expand my discussion of the Spirit here? Or would it be better to leave the Spirit out altogether here and save it for later?
WTM said…
The Spirit is the means of the union between us and Christ, which you discuss toward the end. That is where I was looking for it most.