I never considered myself the retiring type. But here is: I’ve retired.
After 49 years of training, pastoring churches, working in Christian radio, developing software, and teaching, I’m not looking back. I’m looking forward to pursuing my passion with the time I have left.
It took me decades to discover the question to ask. Finally, just nine years ago, I nailed it down. New Testament scholars often note that Jesus made the kingdom of God the centre of everything he did and said. My question: What difference does it make if we do too?
Talk about transformative! Everything — the narrative of Scripture, the topics for theology, the church as the embodiment of the king in his world — everything finds its place when King Jesus is the centre.
The gospel is the restoration of everything under Jesus as our God-appointed global leader:
Colossians 1:13–18 (NIV)
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Did you notice the connectedness? Kingdom culture dissolves our individualism and isolation, because a kingdom is a community under a king.
That’s my biggest problem with retirement: I’ll miss bouncing ideas off my workmates, exploring how to practice together Christ’s regal transformation of the world.
Yet, this message is so much bigger than me. Holy Spirit is restoring this gospel, so I’ll stay in touch with those who practice it locally and frame it globally.
For example, Joshua Jipp is building a New Testament theology around the theme of Jesus as God’s anointed king (Christ/Messiah). He explains:
The central argument of this book is that the messianic identity of Jesus of Nazareth is not only the presupposition for, but is also the primary (though certainly not exclusive) content of, New Testament theology. I invite the reader to explore with me the question: How much of the NT’s Christology can be understood as messianic discourse? Certainly not all of it, and yet, I want to propose that Jesus’s messianic kingship is something of a root metaphor, a primary designation and driving image for making sense of NT Christology. That is to say, not only do the major NT compositions presuppose Jesus as the Davidic messianic king but they are also creative expansions upon the earliest Christian confession that Jesus is the Messiah of God. And, as we will see, this has significant implications for the NT’s construal of the role and activity of the Father and the Holy Spirit. If Jesus’s messianic kingship is one center point for NTT, then theological reflection upon how his messianic kingship informs our dogmatic and practical theology is worthy of consideration for each generation.
— Joshua W. Jipp, The Messianic Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2020), 3–4.
Many other New Testament scholars (Michael Bird, John Barclay, Matthew Bates, …) are also helping us to shape our understanding of the gospel in line with what Jesus called the gospel of the kingdom. That in turn reframes how we ask people to respond to the gospel. As Jipp says:
Paul’s explicit definitions of what the gospel is come in the little proto-creeds of Romans 1:3–4 and 1 Corinthians 15:3–5, as well as Pauline christological hymns and narratives such as Phil 2:5–11 and Rom 10:1–13. Given that the Pauline gospel climaxes in God’s enthronement of the messianic king, the right response to this king is one of allegiance and fidelity.
— ibid, 13–14.
So, yes: I’m retired. But I can think of nothing greater to live for than complete transformation of the world in the One who sits on the throne and declares, Behold, I am making all things new! (Revelation 21:5).
Update 2020-12-02: Scot McKnight just recognized Joshua Jipp’s book (quoted above) as one top books of New Testament studies released in 2020.