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John Frame on the Political Mission of the Church

There’s a great deal of debate over the degree to which the message of the NT was “counter-imperial.” There’s also an ongoing debate over the nature of the church’s mission.

Here are thoughts from John Frame, whom we interviewed for our series on political theology last year: “ . . . in a well-planted church, people should eventually be taught what Scripture says about politics (above). The first church planters of the Book of Acts did not stress politics (except for the Kingdom of God, a very political concept). But eventually, as in Rom. 13, they dealt with the political implications of the Gospel.”

Elsewhere Frame sums up the political implications of Jesus and his mission (paragraph breaks added for clarity):

So historia salutis [salvation viewed from a historical rather than personal perspective] focuses on non-recurrent historical events of a corporate, public, and visible nature. As such, Scripture often describes it in political terms.

The history of salvation is the coming of the Kingdom, to allude to Herman Ridderbos’s important volume by that title. God calls Israel to defeat by his power all the ungodly nations of Canaan. These are holy wars, and God promises Victory to Israel when she is faithful to him. John the Baptist, and later Jesus, preached “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

The apostolic church preached “Jesus is Lord,” Kyrios Iesous, a phrase with a deeply political meaning. The Roman emperors proclaimed their own Lordship; the Christians proclaim the Lordship of Jesus. The Romans crucified Jesus, and later persecuted the church, because they thought Jesus presented himself as a rival Caesar. The Romans, of course, misunderstood Jesus’ claims in some ways; but in other ways they were deeply insightful.

The mission of the church was nothing less than to establish a new world order.

Frame’s comments on the Roman’s perspective square with the assessment, made by a number of NT scholars, holding a moderate position on the “Fresh Perspective,” or the degree to which the NT is counter-imperial.