The Chinese Church Under Pressure – Part 9, Re-creating Mankind

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What is the Church?, Part 4: The Holy Spirit Is Working Through Us to Re-Create Mankind

At the end of history, the church God has built in particular places will be clearly manifest. Right now, these churches are like scaffolds, which when removed will reveal the glorious, holy city. Within the visible church lies the invisible, heavenly church. This invisible, heavenly church is the one-and-many humanity whom God will re-create according to his will, and which at the end of history will be fulfilled through the re-creation and regeneration of the church as a whole.

Not only this, but the doctrines of creation and salvation will be united at the end of history. The purpose of redemption is new creation and re-creation, fulfilling the one-and-many humanity according to God’s will in Genesis 1:26. After Adam and Eve fell, the redemptive and re-creative work of Christ, the Second Adam, fulfilled the ultimate purpose of God’s will to create a one-and-many humanity. The church today is the people of God, the one-and-many humanity created according to God’s will. The church is the body and Bride of Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the temple of the Spirit.

All this describes God’s image-bearers. God’s name is carved on their foreheads, and their names are recorded in the Book of Life. The dimensions of the holy city form a cube: it is the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s temple. This is a holy temple-city; the city of the most holy place, a place of complete union with God and Christ, of intimate communion with God. God’s glory is perfectly manifested there, and there is no need for the sun or moon, because God is their light. The Lamb is their temple, and they need no other. The city is the collective one-and-many humanity, redeemed and re-created. It is also the ultimate church. Today’s church is the construction site in which the Holy Spirit is building a new creation.

You and I – pastors, preachers, each and every Christian – are builders of this holy city, and also builders of the ultimate humanity. The Holy Spirit is working through us to re-create mankind. Is there any job in the world better than this? Not only will the names of the twelve apostles or the twelve tribes be carved on the holy city, but our names, too, because those who are in the Book of Life will have their names carved in the city. “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). God will count all our afflictions.

The church today is the historical, concrete re-creation of the people of God according to his will in Genesis 1:26.We can also look at the church retrospectively from an eschatological, final point of view. The church today is the final holy city that will be built, but which remains temporal in history. It is like the Lord’s Supper, with a manifestation in this world right now. When Christ says, “This is my body,” and breaks the bread, he is fulfilling his promise every time through the Holy Spirit. He places the bread among us, and through the Spirit, leads us to his throne. Just as Christ is sacramentally present among us (Ephesians 2 describes the church as his body), so also the church (the ultimate holy city of mankind) is sacramentally present in this historical and temporal space.

Today, the church is being continually built and created according to God’s will. According to God’s will and with the preservation of the Spirit, the church reveals that their souls belong to the Lord, the eternal Christ that reigns in heaven forever. At the same time, the church is salt and light on this earth, calling out to a kingdom in darkness. The people in darkness will then see the true gospel of God and come into the house of God to complete the process of redemption and re-creation. Our loyalty and love belong to God; but God has predestined us to live outside the city of Jerusalem – a dark but temporal place. This reveals our heavenly identity; and is itself a revelation of the gospel and a blessing to the world.

Under this ecclesiology, how do Chinese pastors view today’s situation? How do they view the holy city? Even Jesus Christ, when he was in this world, did not manifest as we expected, with twelve legions of angels to rescue himself from the hands of the Romans and the Jews. When Peter pulled out his sword and chopped off the ear of the servant of the high priest, Jesus ordered him to sheathe his sword. The kingdom of God and Jesus Christ himself manifest the theology of the cross; it is seen most clearly as Jesus hung on the cross.

Do we want to know Christ? Look at the cross. The theology of the cross is the best argument against all the prosperity gospels of this world. Some prosperity gospels are direct: if you believe in the Lord, you will have benefits. Some are indirect: your family relationships will be better if you believe. This is all important, but it is not the focus of the gospel.

In this world, the clearest manifestation of the eternal king, Christ, is the likeness of the cross. The church is in the world for all to see, and the church follows the way of the cross. This tension teaches us to understand the church more.


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Read the whole series below:

A Historical Review

Synopsis: The current round of religious persecution in China is fundamentally an issue of ultimate allegiances. “The government used to be laissez-faire, but now they need to hear everyone say: ‘I love you.’”

Synopsis: Modern day China is the result of a clash between cultures. Before its engagement with the West, China viewed the world according to two categories – its kingdom and the barbarians outside. 

Synopsis: A discussion of the authority structures that exist in China due to the long legacy of Confucianism. Authority belongs to the emperor as given by heaven and total loyalty to superiors is necessary for the Chinese system to function. 

Synopsis: A two-millennia old system of governance does not easily change overnight. “Yuan realized the universal and interconnected Chinese system could not be transformed into a republican or parliamentary system simply by changing it on paper. In a public discussion in America, he said: “If we do not even have citizens, how can we have a republican system?”

Synopsis: In the past, while China was busy getting rich, the government had confidence in its full legitimacy to rule and there were fewer questions of loyalty. But now, in this time of reconstruction, they ask: “Do you love me? If you do, you must raise the national flag. If you love me, you will register [your churches].

What is the Church?

Synopsis: When a culture desperately needs the message of the cross (not the prosperity gospel, but the central message of Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection) and it is given, the gospel not only crosses and transcends cultural boundaries, it produces long-lasting fruit. 

Synopsis: Chinese pastors are asking the question, “What is the church?” The answer is crucial for determining their response to the government. As they try to define their theology of the church, these pastors are going beyond considering its attributes, to trying to understand the very nature of the church.

Synopsis: In the light of Genesis 3, the most important question to ask is not, “How can we be saved,” but rather, “How can the creative will and plan of God to make a perfect humanity be fulfilled?” The answer is the one-and-many humanity God is calling to himself to make up the church.

Synopsis: Today’s church is the construction site for the new creation God is building and which will be revealed in the final day.

Synopsis: The persecution and challenges the Chinese house church currently faces are no different from those faced by the early church in Acts. The authorities of this world always challenge the church with the same question: “Who do you love?” The extent to which the church’s response to this question is informed by its union with Christ will determine its faithfulness to the Lord in the face of persecution.

Synopsis: Moving forward, we must ask: are we protecting ourselves, or are we doing it for the gospel? A lived-out ecclesiology will inevitably encounter suffering.

 Translation provided by Moses, Jane, Ryan, and the China Partnership translation team.

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: Loving People Through Prayer
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Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
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Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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