Prscticing the Better: The Very Good Gospel

Lisa Sharon Harper’s book, ‘The Very Good Gospel’ provides the bridge for extending our look at practicing the better from the Old Testament into the New Testament. [1]  Her choice to use the phrase ‘very good’ is indicative of her view that just as ‘very good’ was the way the creation was described when it was fulfilled on the seventh day, so to it is the way of naming the New Testament as providing the fulfillment of the Message on the ‘seventh day’ (‘sabbath rest’ day referred to in the Book of Hebrews) of the new creation.  This has some significant implications.

First, it tells us that as we move into the New Testament, we do not leave the Old Testament behind.  Walter Brueggeman has rightly noted that the word ‘new’ does not meant that the ‘old’ is discarded, but rather fulfilled–the very thing Jesus said about himself and his ministry (Matthew 5:17). [2]. This is one reason why the Christian Bible contains both Testaments.  Like a progressing drama, it is one message in two acts.  And that is ‘very good.’ Nothing we have seen about practicing the better in the Old Testament will be displaced or discarded in the New.

Second, it tells us that ‘very good’ is the abiding trajectory that we follow as we move into the New Testament.  The writer of Hebrews rightly said that we do not see all things in subjection to God (sometimes, far from it), but we do see Jesus, and we follow him into the new creation, the final culmination of all things in God, the new creation (Hebrews 2:8-9).  
We follow the trajectory which light, life, and love set for us.  It is set for us initially (in the four gospels) and ultimately (e.g. Colossians 1:15-20) in the incarnation of Jesus–the Word made flesh, the Cosmic Christ (second person of the Trinity,) who personified light, life, and love.  As we follow him (i.e. live “inChrist”) we see the One in whom the practice of the better was fully revealed.  Upcoming posts turn to Jesus, the Christ–who is himself, ‘the very good gospel.’

[1] Lisa Sharon Harper, ‘The Very Good Gospel’ (Water Brook, 2016).

[2] Brueggemann notes this in various places in his writing.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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