Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Southern Baptist Zion?

Do a Google search on the term “Southern Baptist Zion.” You will find diverse people with diverse convictions using this term in diverse contexts. I do not wish to stoop to such a degree of pickiness here as to call into question the beliefs and motivations of all who have used this term, at whatever time, for whatever purpose. But I do want to point out an underlying belief system that may well, on occasions, accompany the use of this term, that I believe goes against God’s will and purpose for us as Christians.

The name of this blog, “Love Each Stone,” comes from the Contemporary English Version’s rendering of Psalm 102.14:

We, your servants, love each stone in the city, and we are sad to see them lying in the dirt.

According to Commentator Adam Clarke, “this Psalm has been attributed to Daniel, to Jeremiah, to Nehemiah, or to some of the other prophets who flourished during the time of the captivity.” The reference here is to the city of Zion, almost certainly, in the mind of the original author, the physical city of Jerusalem. The writer of Hebrews, however, takes verses 25 to 27 of this same Psalm, and applies them to our Lord Jesus (Hebrews 1.8-12). Further on, God inspired the same author to write the following words, clarifying the spiritual meaning of Zion for us, who have become part of God’s people by grace through faith in the redemption bought for us by the blood of Jesus on the cross of Calvary:

You have now come to Mount Zion and to the heavenly Jerusalem. This is the city of the living God, where thousands and thousands of angels have come to celebrate. Here you will find all of God's dearest children, whose names are written in heaven. And you will find God himself, who judges everyone. Here also are the spirits of those good people who have been made perfect. And Jesus is here! He is the one who makes God's new agreement with us, and his sprinkled blood says much better things than the blood of Abel.

Hebrews 12.22-24 (Contemporary English Version)

Although some may see the metaphor of “Zion” as a useful term to describe the particular historical heritage, common beliefs, and spiritual fellowship we share as Southern Baptists, I believe this is an unfortunate choice of imagery, as God’s Word tells us that the true spiritual “Zion” is made up of “all of God’s dearest children;” and its membership is comprised of all those “whose names are written in heaven.”

You may well ask why is this particular issue such a big deal to me? Is it just a pet doctrine or personal soapbox of mine? The truth is that, as I have studied Scripture, the concept of God’s spiritual Zion, embracing all of us as born-again believers, and members of the Church Universal, has come to be a key part of my understanding of biblical ecclesiology, missiology, and eschatology. In short, I believe a biblically instructed worldview leads us to be vitally concerned with a correct understanding of, and corresponding emphasis on, the practical unity of God’s people throughout the world, down through the ages, as manifested through the many different ecclesiological expressions and currents that come together to form the true spiritual Zion.

I leave you to meditate on the following words from the New International Reader’s Version’s translation of Psalm 102.12-22, which, for me, have great missiological and eschatological significance:

But Lord, you are seated on your throne forever.
Your fame will continue for all time to come.

You will rise up and show deep concern for Zion.
The time has come for you to show favor to it.

The stones of your destroyed city are priceless to us.
Even its dust brings deep concern to us.

The nations will worship the Lord.
All of the kings on earth will respect his glorious power.

The Lord will build
Zion again.
He will appear in his glory.

He will answer the prayer of those who don't have anything.
He won't say no to their cry for help.

Let this be written down for those born after us.
Then people who are not yet born can praise the Lord.

Here is what should be written.

"The Lord looked down from his temple in heaven.
From heaven he viewed the earth.
He heard the groans of the prisoners.
He set free those who were sentenced to death."

So people will talk about him in
Zion.
They will praise him in
Jerusalem.
Nations and kingdoms
will gather there to worship the Lord.

5 comments:

Strider said...

God's Kingdom, His Bride, The Church is so much bigger than our pale little organization. I too resonate with this post and seek more and more to be a Kingdom kinda guy.

bryan riley said...

Wow. Great, great great! Jesus' teaching in the model prayer clearly was not insignificant: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!"

Alycelee said...

To have God's perspective about HIS kingdom and HIS church....
Reading those scriptures, I feel a real sense of anticipation about what God the architect is building for Zion - In Zion is much bigger than we can see or fathom.

Alan Cross said...

Great post, David. I am trying to send you an email, but I don't have a working email address for you. Could you please email me as to how I can get in touch with you? alancross@charter.net. Thanks!

Strider said...

David, I have written a post on baptism and I need your brilliant mind to come over and critique it.