The Chinese Church Under Pressure – Part 8, Re-created Through Redemption

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What is the Church?, Part 3: One-and-Many Humanity, Re-Created Through Redemption

The church is diverse and yet one, the image and form of God. Genesis 1:26 says: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” In this passage, the phrase “God said” is different from previous uses of the phrase. Earlier his words are imperative, commands that must be fulfilled. This is a self-dialogue within the triune God and is revelatory in nature.

God writes down his plan in this sentence because he wants us to know his will. This is not a creational command, but an eschatological revelation. When God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” the image and likeness belongs to all three persons of the Trinity. Humanity is the image and likeness of the one-and-three God.

Second, God said man is to have dominion over all things: the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the livestock, all the earth, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God’s plan is not just to make an image of the one-and-three God, but to fill the earth. Only then can humans have dominion over the fish in the sea and the birds in heaven. The will revealed by the triune God is to create the one-and-many humanity. God is one-and-three; humanity is one-and-many. This one-and-many humanity collectively reflects the image of the one-and-three God, and in them forms a collective humanity. This collectivity means they have one will, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and they worship one God. This will is to fulfill the mission the Lord has given to them. Humanity is also to fulfill the mission to multiply and fill the earth and continue creation.

Humanity fulfills the commands of God and reflects the image of God. The love and worship humanity gives God is a natural characteristic of image-bearers. Their love for one another also reflects the love within the triune God. The image and likeness is an individual person, but it is also a collective humanity. The will of God is to create a whole humanity.

God revealed his will in verse 26. In verse 27 he created male and female, commanding them to multiply and fill the earth. This is the implication and interpretation of verse 26. Chapter two shows us concretely how to have dominion by managing and guarding. Guarding the garden is the responsibility of a priest. The passage also shows how to continue to multiply and fill the earth.

Verse 26 mentions that God made man after his own image, after his likeness. Was God’s purpose completed here? Was it completed at the end of chapter 1? The end of chapter 2? The end of chapter 3? It was never completed. Then, Adam and Eve fell and plunged humanity into the massive problem of sin. Genesis 3 ended the wonderful plan of creation that started in Genesis 1:26. The creation of God’s images was not completed. The end of Genesis 3 leaves humanity one big question: can the creation of humanity be completed?

The entire Bible is in suspense because of what happened between Genesis 1:26 and chapters 2 and 3. God’s answer is that, through redemption and regeneration in Christ Jesus, Genesis 1:26 will be fulfilled. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“What will happen to me? How can I be saved?” are good questions. But a better question from the perspective of the Bible is: “How can the creative will and plan of God (the plan to create a perfect, one-and-many humanity in God’s image) be fulfilled after the fall of man?” The entire process of justification in Christ, sanctification, and adoption is not only to grant salvation; this salvation includes sanctification, glorification, and re-creation.

Eventually, God will fulfill the will he revealed in Genesis 1:26. What is the form of that fulfillment? Let us turn to Revelation 21-22. Genesis 1-2 reveal God’s initial plan for us; in Genesis 3, his plan was not fulfilled, but was stalled by the fall of man. Revelation 21-22 shows the final scene of God’s redemption and re-creation: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:1-2).


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Genesis 1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Heaven is the dwelling place of God. Created land was given to man, but God is present in his creation, in heaven. Even today, after his resurrection, Christ is at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. Heaven and earth are created realities, and the heavenly court belongs to God. He is revealing himself from there, and he reigns from there. Today, Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father, where he reigns. At the end of history, the heaven in which God reigns, the holy city of Jerusalem, and the holy saints and holy Lamb come down from heaven to earth. This forms the new heavens and the new earth. In its midst is the holy city, which is the ending and fulfillment of creation at the end of history.

In Revelation 21:2, Jerusalem is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Then we come to 21:9-10: “Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…”

There are two cities: one is Babylon, the harlot who belongs to destruction; the other is the holy city, Jerusalem, which belongs to God forever. Jerusalem will have the glory of God, its radiance like various gems. There are 12 gates, with 12 angels, and on the gates the names of the 12 tribes; there are also the 12 names of the apostles of the Lamb on the 12 foundations. There are all kinds of jewels, such as topaz, in the city. These are the jewels that were set in the ephod of the High Priest and bear the 12 names of the tribes of Israel. At the end of history, the holy city of Jerusalem is a symbol of humanity. 

At the fork of the river is the city that belongs to God. Revelation 22:19 reads: “And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” The passage speaks of the tree of life, the removal of one’s share, the holy city, the book, and so on. This points to the final fulfillment of God’s creation according to his image and his likeness. This is the one-and-many humanity, perfectly made in the image and likeness of God, which God has re-created through the process of redemption. Humanity is manifested by a holy city as a symbol, which shows it is a city of mankind. This one-and-many humanity is the eschatological perfect image and likeness of God. This one-and-many humanity, the Bride of Christ, is the church.


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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Chengdu: Opportunities and Challenges
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Moses in the Wilderness: On the Run
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Chengdu: Relaxed, Comfortable, Leisurely
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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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