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Herman Ridderbos

The A-Team Blog has drawn my attention to the passing of the great Biblical Theologian, Herman Ridderbos. Their link tracks back to Between Two Worlds’ reflection on Ridderbos’ contribution to scholarship. From those comments, we can find Phil Gons’ extensive introduction and portal into Ridderbos ideas and links.

I picked up a copy of Paul: An Outline of his Theology during the second half of my undergraduate studies in theology and by the time I had finished college, it had become one of my most treasured books. Across four countries and countless miles, this book has been one of the few that I have consistently to hand, frequently consult and regularly reflected upon. After more than a decade of repeated reading, it still sets the standard for me in terms of Biblical theology.

Reading again, from page 433 onwards, I can see the way Ridderbos’ representation of Paul’s thought has shaped and merged with my understandings of the apostle’s message,

This grand vision of the world-encompassing significance of the gospel and of the expansion of the church causes him furthermore to involve the church that has already been brought to salvation in this missionary work in a great many ways, and to awaken the church itself to a missionary attitude. The church enters into it, and rejoices when people everywhere come to conversion (1Thess 1.9; 2 Thess 1.4). Its intercession for Paul and his missionary labor is repeatedly requested (2 Thess 3.1; Eph 6.18; Col 4.3). This intercession is a striving together with the apostle (Rom 15.30; Col 4.12). The church is also called to tangible assistance. With a view to his work Paul often makes an appeal to the church for assistance, in which a specific term is repeatedly employed, which we can translate by ‘to help on one’s way,” sometimes also by ‘to send out’ (c.f 1 Cor 16.6, 11; 2 Cor 1.16; Rom 15.24; Tit 3.13).

All this does not mean merely an incidental rendering of assistance, in which the church shows its sympathy for the work of the apostle, rather, its own mode of existence as a missionary church is reflected in it.

This missionary posture consists on the one hand, more indirectly, in the sanctification of the life of the church. It must be mindful of what is good, acceptable, and commends itself to all men (Rom 12.17); its friendliness and gentleness of spirit must be known to all men (Phil 4.5); it must walk in wisdom toward those who are without, not permit a good opportunity to slip by. Its word is always to be gracious, seasoned with salt (Col 4.5). The members of the church are to mind their affairs and to work with their hands, that they may walk decently, respectably, before those who are without, having no need of anything (from others) (1Thess 4.12). They must be in the forefront in good deeds, for these are good and profitable to men (Tit 3.8). The whole life of the church is to be such that an opponent to his shame has nothing adverse to say of us (Tit 2.8). This motif recurs throughout all the epistles of Paul in various nuances and elaborations: the life of the church must be a recommendation of its faith, in conformity with, ‘worthy of,’ the Lord (Col 1.10) and the gospel of Christ (Phil 1.27). In this last point the missionary element is very clear.”

This extensive quote (from a chapter on the edifice of the church), makes some crucial connections, interweaving the missionary sense of the church, with its ethical, theological and relational aspects. These words were a revelation to me 14 years ago and they continue to be an inspiration today.

[tags] Herman Ribberbos, Biblical Theology [/tags]

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About Fernando Gros

In his Tokyo studio Fernando combines his life-long passions for art and technology. On the road, he is always looking to take the next wrong turn, just to see what kind of images and stories might unfold. A photographer & writer, with a background in music, Fernando has lived in Chile, Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. Read More.

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