Bauckham’s next strand of ‘particular to universal’ relates to Israel’s King and his throne in Zion. For OT believers, Zion is the seat of God’s universal rule, the temple being an earthly version office heavenly throne. The Davidic kings also were supposed to be the earthly version of God’s heavenly rule. However the reality fell far short of this ideal. Not only were they unfaithful, they didn’t rule over the whole world as Yahweh does. Kingship was an ambiguous symbol for Israel, full of tensions.
These tensions were to be resolved in the Messiah. His reign would be universal, his solidarity with humans total. The specificity of Jerusalem as centre is lost in the NT, but the particularity of the King is not: both throne and rule are located in Jesus of Nazareth.
Bauckham then draws conclusions from his analysis of these three strands: worldwide blessing through Abraham/Israel revealing God to the world/God’s universal rule established through the King.
He comments that while none of these equals mission, yet together they make the church’s mission intelligible within the biblical metanarrative. They establish directions in which later the church’s mission can flow. The NT gospel is not novel in its universal view-point. Election was always God singling out some for the sake of others.
Ultimately all these particularities come together in the election of the man Jesus before they can become truly universal. And the church of Jesus Christ is therefore caught up in this movement out.
This conclusion is where big B brings home the bacon. This was the problem he started with: a loss of confidence and clarity about mission in our post-modern context. And he has shown how the Scripture story, rightly understood, gives us back a reason for mission. Bauckham’s key word here is ‘intelligible’: he has shown us that, in spite of a century of uncertainty, mission still makes sense.
That’s worth its weight in gold.
I love it that instead of wrangling with postmodern critiques in the abstract and trying to construct a defense of mission, RB just goes to Scripture and retells the story. And when he’s told it, he can just say, “The church is caught up in that. Deal with it.” So he stays on the front foot throughout. He tackles it through theology, rather than through politics or general philosophy or ethics. Nice.