Jesus into Paul
Embodying the Theology and Hermeneutic of the Whole Gospel
The New Wine and Old Wineskins
1st - 4th Beatitudes
5th - 8th Beatitudes
For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything;
but a new creation is everything!
The irony of something new is that it creates either joy or controversy, depending on how we feel about the old. Whatever controversy (e.g. sadness, uncertainty or resistance) emerges involves a comparative process between old and new based on a limited epistemic field of what we know or can rationalize. This irony was evidenced when Copernicus (a Catholic canon, 1473-1543) presented a new model of the world—a heliocentric model in which the earth revolves around the sun—to refute the old geocentric model constructed by Ptolemy, and hereby threatened the basic beliefs of the church. Ironically, the new model of the world also remained within a limited epistemic field, despite opening the way for new knowledge from scientific inquiry. The influence of this new approach essentially narrowed down our knowledge just to the probable. This narrowing process was further evidenced by a “Copernican shift” in philosophy, in which theocentricity was replaced by anthropocentricity: “a methodical beginning from the human being, the subject, his reason and freedom.”
The new has always been unsettling in human history, particularly in a comparative process with a limited epistemic field. This was the issue for Nicodemus when Jesus introduced him to the new born from above—from outside the universe and human contextualization. What Nicodemus was introduced to is what Paul distinguished in his Galatians letter above: that is, the new is distinguished from what exists or prevails in human context, and therefore cannot be compared or confused with that. Beyond what can be compared in a limited epistemic field, Paul earlier defined this new reality as emerging from Jesus (2 Cor 5:17) and later clarified it theologically as those relationally involved with Jesus in his theological trajectory and relational path (Rom 6:4). What interposed the original creation and existing life from outside the universe—in the relational action of God’s strategic, tactical and functional shifts—was a new creation and its new life for the human condition, yet not without controversy for those remaining within the limits of the old.
In God’s relational action there are complex theological dynamics which converge in Jesus’ theological trajectory and relational path to constitute the whole of God’s thematic relational response of grace to the human condition. The roots, growth, outcome and maturing of the new creation were integrally signified in a metaphor used by Jesus about the new wine (Lk 5:33-39). The focus of new wine provides us with an integral understanding of the new creation and its related issues.
When Jesus initiated the Lord’s supper for the pivotal table fellowship, the “cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:20). The disciples had yet to understand the significance of the new covenant for relationship together in the context of God’s kingdom, since immediately after the supper they disputed about which of them was the greatest (Lk 22:24-30, cf. 13:29-30). While Jesus exposed their reductionism and constituted their relationships in the relational wholeness of his kingdom, the disciples evidenced their need to be changed (cf. Mt 18:1-4)—that is, the process of redemptive change in which the old dies so the new rises. This is the significance of the new that Jesus anticipated at the earlier table fellowship with the parable of new wine. This parable tends to be used incorrectly to emphasize new forms and practices, but the new is about changed persons experiencing new relationship together (the focus in Lk 5:34-35). Perhaps, at that stage, the disciples only practiced ontological simulation of the new by following just Jesus’ example without relational involvement with his whole person. Yet, redemptive change was soon available for them when Jesus fulfilled his salvific work, as the Lord’s supper pointed to signifying his sacrifice for the new covenant relationship.
In this new wine table fellowship, Jesus addresses the juxtaposition of “eat and drink” (the new) and “fast and pray” (the old). The shift from the old to the new is more than a paradigm shift but the transformation that emerges from Jesus’ anticipated sacrifice behind the curtain for the relational outcome of new relationship together in wholeness with the veil removed. Their new wine table fellowship anticipated their new covenant relationship without the veil such that they could enjoy the vulnerable presence and intimate involvement of Jesus without the constraints of the old. The veil can be understood as the gap between the universe and that which is beyond, the barrier between human limits and the transcendent God, the qualitative distance between the human heart and the heart of God, and the relational distance between the human person and the whole of God. The absence of the veil, therefore, is critical for new covenant relationship together; and the new wine table fellowship is only a function of this new creation. In his emphasis of the gospel for all people, Luke’s Gospel further highlights this process. Various table fellowships Jesus had with persons (Levi, Lk 5:27-31, a prostitute, Lk 7:36-50, Martha and Mary, Lk 10:38-42, Zacchaeus, Lk 19:1-10) disclosed this process of the new wine, yet it also brought controversy. Why all the controversy about the new wine table fellowship that fulfills the human condition? This is a question that needs to be addressed even today amongst ourselves. The answer necessarily involves both how the new is defined and the old is perceived.
While the source of the new creation is clearly from outside the universe, the seeds of the new wine are planted in the innermost of human life (Eze 11:19; 36:26). Therefore, the new wine emerges only from inner out and not from outer in (Jer 31:31-34; 2 Cor 3:3). A foretaste of the seeds of this relational dynamic was given when Moses summoned all the Israelites back to covenant relationship together with God (Dt 30). Understood in relational terms, this is a key dynamic underlying either the unfolding of God’s blessing (30:16,19) holding life together in the innermost (“heart,” from inner out, vv.1-2,6,10,17) for the wholeness in the gospel (“Life,” vv.15,19-20), or the only alternative of reductionism (“death,” “curses,” vv.15,19). In this underlying relational dynamic, we are accountable to distinguish ourselves (“choose life,” v.19) in reciprocal relational response from inner out in the primacy of relationship together (“loving the LORD your God,” v.20). This is a foretaste not only of the new wine but the unsettling it brings: accountability to distinguish ourselves in reciprocal relational response as whole persons in relationship together face to Face with the whole of God.
The unfolding of the blessing from God’s face to bring change for new relationship together in wholeness (siym for shalom) is the integrating dynamic for the new creation. What then unfolds in the OT is not a history of events, or the narrative of situations and circumstances of a people. Rather what unfolds is the primacy of relationship and the relational progression of God’s thematic relational response to the human condition, and the whole of God’s involvement with the people of God in relationship together (as evident in Moses’ summons above). An outline of God’s thematic relational action and response includes the following:
God’s definitive blessing integrates the relational progression unfolding in the OT to the NT. This is what is embodied and fulfilled in the NT; thus the OT is not only about the past or simply old (e.g. superseded) but inseparable in the relational dynamic of the OT into the NT. Therefore, the whole gospel is not an NT phenomenon emerging with the incarnation of Jesus and was developed by Paul. The whole gospel originated even before creation and has unfolded in relational progression since (Eph 1:4; Mt 25:34). This outline continues in the NT:
As God’s relational dynamic unfolded from the OT into the NT, it extended from Jesus into Paul. Yet, this process cannot be limited to their historical human contexts, for example, Jesus and Paul were both Jews. Here in human contexts, of course, their stories neither end nor, just as important, did their stories begin. This is certainly obvious for Jesus, though this is usually not the focus for the origin of Paul’s story. Jesus and Paul extend us further than their prevailing human contexts to the divine (divine and deity used interchangeably) person of Jesus and Paul’s primordial human person; therefore, they take us deeper to the innermost whole of both God’s divine being and human being, of which Paul was not merely a Jew but more importantly a human person in the image of God. The story of the divine person and being integrally emerges in the story of Jesus, and Paul’s story is the reciprocal emergence of the human person and being. These are seeds of the new wine that cannot remain buried. While each person lived in human contexts, they cannot be limited to those historical frameworks and thus be defined by them. The new wine emerges only from inner out and, at best, can only be simulated from outer in. Paul’s story emerges wholly as the person and being God created from inner out because it converged with Jesus’ story to be redeemed, recreated and made whole. These are their integral stories for the gospel of wholeness further constituted by Jesus into Paul.
God’s relational dynamic of both the OT into the NT and Jesus into Paul always unfolded integrally from inner out with nothing less and no substitutes. The reciprocal response of nothing less and no substitutes for inner out is the critical issue that creates controversy about the new wine and that confronts the old in us. God’s relational dynamic from inner out with nothing less and no substitutes gives primacy to the qualitative and relational and, therefore, renders all else secondary—not necessarily unimportant but nevertheless secondary. Anything less and any substitutes from us, even with good intentions (e.g. Peter), make the secondary primary, thereby reducing the primacy of the qualitative and relational and, unintentionally or intentionally, reinforcing the old. By its nature, the seeds of the new wine are planted in the innermost of human life for the emergence of the new wine from inner out in the primacy of new relationship together in wholeness with no veil. What emerges from these seeds is irreducible and nonnegotiable, notably to secondary matters and the old of human contextualization.
As we shift our lens to perceive the convergence of Jesus and Paul along with the Spirit, and understand the relational dynamic that not only integrated them in the gospel but also further unfolded and extended them in the new creation family of God (the church) to the eschatological relational conclusion of the whole of God’s thematic relational action, then we gain whole understanding of the human relational condition and the whole of God’s thematic relational response since creation to make whole his creation in the innermost. Jesus is the integral person in the relational process to the new wine but not the central figure around which all this revolves theologically and functionally. As the embodied whole of God, Jesus fulfills the Face of God’s relational response; Paul is transformed by it and thereby extends its relational dynamic, and the Spirit brings it all to completion. Fragmenting any of their persons or all of them together has critical consequences for the relational outcome of the new wine—namely for the new wine table fellowship in the primacy of relationship together without the veil (signified in Jesus’ parable, Lk 5:36-37). When the distinguished Face of God is embodied in whole, and vulnerably present and intimately involved, then his family “eat and drink” in face-to-Face relationship together, not by maintaining relational distance in “fast and pray.”
In spite of any controversy, the seeds of the new wine sprout to grow the new wine, whose qualitative and relational expansion cannot be contained in the old.
Part of misinterpreting or inadequately understanding the new wine involves again Jesus’ relational language. Jesus was not focused on situations and circumstances in life and, for example, being innovative in what we do in those situations and circumstances to maximize them. The seeds of the new wine are planted in the innermost of human life, not in secondary matter. Jesus’ primary concern is not about what we do but for who we are and how we live. Therefore, in relational terms Jesus engages the ontology and function of those present (even his critics) and unfolds the whole ontology and function of the new creation—in contrast and conflict with reduced ontology and function. This contrast in ontology and function was demonstrated in this context by Levi’s transformation for the relational outcome of the new wine table fellowship together as family (Lk 5:27-32), further constituted later with Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10). The new wine emerges only from the inner out of ontology and function made whole in the innermost. When the new wine emerges from redefined and transformed persons, then its relational outcome is unmistakable in the family relationships together with no veil.
By engaging the ontology and function of those present, Jesus challenged their theological anthropology. In his concern for who they were and how they lived, Jesus addressed their identity. Since Jesus did not separate theology from function, he defined the inseparable interaction between their theological assumptions and identity formation. That is, who we are emerges from our theology, and the identity formed determines how we will live. This underscores the three major issues discussed throughout this study: (1) how we define ourselves, which then determines (2) how we function in relationships, which together further determines (3) how faith and church are practiced. By interposing the new wine into the process, Jesus discloses the theological dynamic that redefines who we are and transforms what we are and how we live. Therefore, both our identity and its relational outcome are contingent on the theological dynamic we assume with Jesus.
Theological anthropology and Christology converge at table fellowship with Jesus, as Peter experienced in Jesus’ footwashing. The clarity and depth of the identity emerging from this theological interaction is contingent on the completeness of Christology and its integral influence on theological anthropology. This completeness and integral influence are inseparable from Jesus’ own identity—signified as “the bridegroom” at the new wine table fellowship (Lk 5:34). Yet, Jesus’ own ontology and function are identified further and deeper than this.
While the embodied Jesus was distinctly Jewish, and his predominant surrounding context was Jewish Galilee and Judea, the person Jesus presented (who and what) and how he interacted at the various levels of social discourse were a function of a minority identity, not the dominant Jewish identity. That is to say, Jesus functioned in a qualitatively different way than prevailing Judaism, yet he was fully compatible with OT faith and the teaching of Scripture—not as a religious code but as a relational process with God. He was uniquely both part of and apart from the religious mainstream; the latter was reflected in conflicts with certain religious leaders and by tension with would-be followers, as discussed previously.
One advantage of his minority identity was to clearly distinguish his significance from the prevailing majority—including from the broader context pervaded with Greco-Roman influence. A major disadvantage, however, was to be marginalized (i.e. considered less, or if not intrusive even ignored) by the majority or dominant sector. This disadvantage is problematic at best for his followers and can precipitate an identity crisis, that is, if his followers are not experiencing the truth of who, what and how they are. Yet, the experiential truth of his followers’ identity is a relational outcome of embracing Jesus in his identity, the clarity and depth of which become a christological contingency. In other words, the specific identity of who Jesus is (or perceived to be), determines the nature of their involvement together, and will be definitive for who his followers are or become.
The key, and thus the contingency, is who Jesus is. If who Jesus is defines the basis for our identity as his followers, then Jesus by necessity is both the hermeneutical key and the functional key for identity formation. This, of course, makes our life and practice in discipleship contingent on our working Christology—specifically, whether or not it involves the embodied whole of Jesus.
When Jesus said in his formative family prayer “I sanctify myself” (Jn 17:19), this was not about sanctifying his ontology but about sanctifying his identity to function clearly in the human context to distinguish the whole of his ontology. Since Jesus’ ontology was always holy (hagios), this sanctifying process was mainly in order that his followers’ ontology and identity may be sanctified (hagiazo) in the experiential truth of his full identity (as Jesus prayed). Moreover, since Jesus’ embodied identity did not function in a social vacuum with relational separation, it is vital to understand his sanctified identity for the experiential truth of our identity to be in his likeness and our ontology to be in the image of the whole of God (as Jesus further prayed).
What is Jesus’ sanctified identity? As the embodiment of the holy God, Jesus’ identity functioned in congruence with the origin or source of his ontology. Earlier in his formative family prayer, he indicated the source of his ontology as “I myself am not of the world” (vv.14,16, NIV). “Of” (ek) means (here in the negative) out of which his identity is derived and to which he belongs. Yet, this only points to Jesus’ full identity. In his prayer he also defined his function as “in the world” (v.13, cf. Jn 13:1). “In” (en) means to remain in place, or in the surrounding context, while “out of” the context to which he belongs, thereby pointing to his minority identity. It is the dynamic interaction of Jesus’ full identity with his minority identity that is necessary for the significance of his sanctified identity. They are conjoined, and if separated our understanding of who, what and how Jesus is is diminished. This fragmentation signifies an incomplete Christology that is consequential for the clarity and depth of identity to emerge.
The conventional perception of the holy is something sacred thus set apart or separate from ordinary things. This is not incorrect since hagios denotes separated from ordinary or common usage. Yet, this tends to limit our understanding of ‘sanctified’ and to predispose us either to separatist practice or to unattainable practice for function in the world. Jesus’ minority identity was not as a separatist but functioned with relational involvement in the surrounding context of the world, specifically in the common’s context (koinos, cf. Mk 7:1-2). His minority identity, however, was a minority not because it was quantitatively unique or different but rather due to his qualitative depth and relational clarity distinguished from the common’s function—always while in the common’s context (cf. Mk 7:15). The qualitative depth and relational clarity of his minority identity could only function as an outcome of the dynamic interaction with his full identity.
As Jesus prayed, without the function of his full identity there is no truth and function of his minority identity; and without the functional truth of his minority identity there is no experiential truth of his full identity. This interaction is a function of relationship, not doctrine, piety or ethics, a function of a relational process not a missional paradigm. Accordingly, whole understanding of this interaction emerges from a relational epistemic process, not a conventional referential epistemic process. Sanctified identity is the relational outcome of this ongoing relational dynamic, the function of which is the ontology of the whole and holy God embodied in Jesus and extended in his followers by the Spirit.
In relational terms and not referential, Christian identity must by its nature be qualitatively rooted in and ongoingly relationally based on Jesus’ identity. On this irreducible and nonnegotiable basis, Christology is basic to our identity; and any reduction of our Christology renders our identity to a lack of clarity (as “light”) and depth (as “salt”), consequently precipitating an identity crisis (“no longer good for anything,” Mt 5:13). Therefore, questions like those by the disciples (“Who is this?” Mk 4:41) and Paul on the Damascus road (“Who are you?” Acts 9:5: cf. Jn 8:25) need to be answered in complete (pleroo) theological determination for the answer to be definitive of the qualitative and relational significance of both the incarnation and the gospel. The disciples struggled with this relational epistemic process, while Paul received the epistemic clarification and hermeneutic correction to engage the whole of Jesus for relationship together without the veil—the relational outcome of the new wine redefining who Paul was and transforming what he was and how he lived.
Directly related to the above questions are questions such as “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9) and “What are you doing here?” (1 Kg 19:9,13). These are questions from God involving our theological anthropology (discussed earlier in chap. 2), and related theological assumptions of Christology, that are critical for identity formation. Both sets of questions need to be answered to define the depth of our theology (as signified in “Do you also wish to go away?” Jn 6:67), and to determine the depth of our reciprocal relational response (as signified in “do you love me?” Jn 21:16). Our response emerges from the primary identity of who we are, and the identity we form emerges from our theology, that is, the interaction between our theological anthropology and Christology. The ontology and function that result are contingent on this theological process.
Leading up to their new wine table fellowship, Levi certainly had not knowingly assessed his theology, but he was taken through this theological process by meeting Jesus. He had a critical identity issue to address in the presence of Jesus’ whole person, who relationally disclosed an ontology and function in contrast and conflict to his. Since Levi’s identity was a product of a comparative social process defining persons by what they do, as a tax collector he was relegated to the bottom of the social ladder—unable to climb higher, even if he had had more wealth and influence as a chief tax collector (e.g. Zacchaeus). This was consequential both for how others defined and thus saw Levi and for how Levi defined and saw himself. The underlying theological anthropology of this reduced ontology and function is based on the ontological lie rooted in the human condition: the value or worth of persons measured by what they do and have is always relative in a comparative process that otherwise renders persons to a social position of less (cf. 1 Cor 4:6-7), thereby defining their condition in ontological deficiency (cf. Gen 3:5). In other words, this is human identity based on a deficit model of being less than the prevailing standard, or unless one can assume a position of more that would only be relative to an inevitable comparison to someone else having more (cf. 2 Cor 10:12). The deficit model is the prevailing human alternative for identity formation and shaping relationships together that ongoingly needs to make up for an identity deficit—the ontological lie for human ontology and function signifying reductionism and its counter-relational work, both of which are in contrast and conflict with Jesus’ identity of whole ontology and function. His disciples clearly demonstrated this deficit dynamic by arguing among themselves over who was the greatest (Lk 9:46), even at their pivotal table fellowship (Lk 22:24), by asking Jesus for the answer (Mt 18:1), by the request of James and John (Mk 10:35-37) and their mother (Mt 20:20-21), all of which caused further tension among the disciples (Mt 20:24; Mk 10:41). Whether or not Levi participated in this later, he openly addressed his critical identity issue by responding to Jesus’ whole person in reciprocal relationship together, therefore engaging the theological process that redefined who he was and transformed what he was and how he lived. Levi’s ontology and function was no longer relegated to an identity deficit based on the ontological lie, and clearly became the identity of the new wine.
The above dynamics evidence that the new wine identity does not emerge merely from having a belief system in Jesus. The human context ongoingly exerts influence and pressure on our belief system to shape it based on the ontological lie, and consequently to construct our identity from a deficit model and to shape our relationships accordingly. If our theological anthropology is not clearly distinguished from the human context’s influence by the integral influence of our complete Christology, our ontology and function are subject to broad interpretation or determination. The following discussion further evidences contextual influence.
The basic issue underlying our knowledge to define the origin of the human person and to determine how persons function was raised to Job by God (Job 38:2,36). The extent of epistemology depends on its determining basis—for example, a prevailing epistemic process or a relational epistemic process. Job learned that he spoke beyond what his knowledge warranted, resulting in ontological deficiency or ontological insufficiency (42:5). This issue also needs application today to human ontology and what can be said about origin and function.
Origin: Developments in molecular biology have further illuminated the evolutionary process with knowledge of the human genome. This has established the evolutionary development and make up of the human species, casting serious doubt about Adam and Eve as the first humans from which all others came. Theistic evolution has been proposed, with God as creator of all organisms who used the evolutionary process to bring forth humans. This view can be affirmed with a major addition that would be compatible with Scripture and congruent with God’s creative and salvific actions. This major addition is to distinguish the quantitative human body and the qualitative human person. Unlike classic dualism, however, this addition involves wholeness, in contrast with some reductionism fragmenting the whole person. That is, the quantitative human body and genome developed in the evolutionary process, which God used at some point to create the human person by enacting on the human body a quality from God’s likeness to make whole the human person from inner out. It is this qualitative-quantitative human person, created in the image and likeness of the whole of God, who cannot be accounted for by a mere quantitative evolutionary process, and whose function cannot be explained by merely quantitative measures without the consequence of ontological deficiency or insufficiency. In other words, the quantitative human body and genome cannot be separated from this distinguished quality and still have the human person. When the qualitative is not integral to the quantitative life of humans, the consequence is to reduce the defining integrity of the whole person, therefore fragmenting the person’s wholeness to something less than whole—for example, parts without integration and coherence. This deficit dynamic underlies the ontological lie that transposes into ontological deficiency and an identity deficit. Moreover, this consequence not only impacts the individual human but also, and equally significant, affects their relationships with one another—the consequence from both the influence of reductionism and its counter-relational work. These combined consequences compose the human condition, the human relational condition. The relational consequence may not be measured in quantitative terms but in the reduction of quality in relational involvement and in the absence of wholeness in relationships together, which modern communication on the Internet has compounded exponentially. The wholeness in relationships together signifies both the qualitative image of the whole of God and the relational likeness of the relational ontology of the Trinity, which are created in the human person to distinguish the whole ontology of persons and to determine their unique function to be whole as qualitative persons bonded in relationships together in their innermost—nothing less and no substitutes. Anything less and any substitute of this wholeness involve the human condition and the human problems emerging from such reductionism in the human context, and therefore are in contrast and conflict with the new wine identity.
Function: The human genome finds its outworking in the human brain. Neuroscience has been accumulating extensive knowledge of brain function. The science involved in the origin and function of the human body is neither good news nor bad news, and Christians need to understand this. How this knowledge is used, however, can be good or bad, depending on what it defines and determines. Applied to human function, for example, such knowledge can be used for positive gains to extend human longevity, or it can be used for unnecessary intervention to prolong physical life simply because medical science can, without any significance or meaningful gain. Whenever such knowledge reduces the human person to a quantitative human body, what is defined and what is determined from that definition cannot be whole, only ontologically deficient. The results from any ontological insufficiency at best can only be ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of the whole person created in God’s image and the whole relationship together created in God’s likeness. The quantitative can never account for the qualitative, though, as previously discussed, neuroscience research does point in the direction of the qualitative, for example, with increasing awareness of feelings and right hemisphere brain function in contrast to the left hemisphere. The quantitative separated from the qualitative can never be whole, which some neuroscience research is discovering about the inherent human need and problem for quality human relationships. Inadvertently, neuroscience has illuminated the bad news about sin as reductionism, not in rational or moral terms but in cognitive terms exposing the negative effects of reductionist practices—albeit by neuroscience’s use of reductionist means. The quantitative illumination of the sin of reductionism is good news both for further understanding the human condition and for helping us to understand the full significance of the Good News of God’s creative and salvific actions. The use of such quantitative knowledge in interaction with, and thus with epistemic humility to, God’s communicative action is compatible with God’s self-revelation in nature and in Scripture, and on this basis is congruent with the relational context and process by which the whole of God is vulnerably present and relationally involved with human persons and all of creation, the human genome included. Anything less and any substitutes cannot be whole but only fragment human ontology to a deficit condition, and reductionism’s counter-relational work further fragments human function to be apart from the relationships together necessary to be whole in the innermost to fulfill the human relational condition and need.
The good news for the human person, and thus the human condition, is the whole knowledge that God communicates—“Listen now, and I will speak” (just as Job experienced, Job 42:4)—and further interposes to our relational condition for the change necessary for new relationship together in wholeness without the veil. This was Paul’s pivotal experience on the Damascus road. Accordingly, in Paul’s theological forest pleroma (complete) Christology is God’s relational dynamic of grace and agape relational involvement from which emerges conclusively pleroma soteriology. Paul’s antecedents from the Jesus tradition—the new covenant in Christ’s blood (1 Cor 11:2,25), being saved by Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Cor 15:2-4)—are illuminated further and deeper by Paul with epistemic humility (cf. 1 Cor 11:23; Gal 1:12; Eph 3:3-4). Christ’s death for Paul was less about the sacrifice for only saving from sin, as necessary as that was, and more about his relational involvement saving to with his sacrifice removing the veil for intimate relationship (cf. 2 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:14,18). The miracle of the resurrection for Paul certainly involved the historical fact, physical reality and propositional truth of Christ rising from death, but even more significant, it deeply involved the new covenant relationship of wholeness together with God as his new creation family (1 Cor 15:17-19). As Paul made clear to the church at Corinth, faith as trust functioning in reciprocal relational response to Christ is not futile because the face of Christ is wholly involved relationally for the redemptive means of being saved from reductionism to fulfill God’s relational purpose of being saved to God’s relational whole together. Those who belong to Christ have risen together with him to become “his body, the pleroma of him who pleroo [completes, fulfills] all in pasin, the whole” (Eph 1:23; cf. Rom 12:4-5).
The irreducible and nonnegotiable identity of the new wine emerges entirely from the inner out of ontology and function made whole in the innermost. As the new wine emerges from persons redefined in who they are and transformed in what they are and how they live, the relational outcome is clearly distinguished in the intimate relationships with no veil, belonging together in the innermost as the new creation family. This relational outcome is rooted in the fulfillment of Jesus’ formative family prayer for those who belong to him: “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one” (teleioo from teleios, i.e. whole, God’s relational whole, Jn 17:23). Therefore, the definitive relational outcome of relationally belonging to the pleroma of God is the ontology of God’s new creation family. And the ontological identity of this new creation ‘already’ is the church family, “so that the world may believe…may know…” (17:21, 23; cf. Eph 3:5-12).
Paul provided further theological and functional clarity for the depth of the ontological identity of God’s new creation family. As the relational connection with Christ is completed by the reciprocal means of relational trust, the following ontological and relational changes take effect. From relational involvement in the process of redemptive change in being “baptized into Christ” (eis, dynamic relational movement to the person of Christ), the relational outcome is the new identity of who we are and whose we are (Gal 3:26-27). For those who now relationally “belong to Christ” (3:29), Paul clarifies this new identity (4:1-7). The primary identity of who we are emerging from the relational outcome of adoption involves both of the following: (1) the ontological change from inner out essentially of a minor enslaved to reductionism (4:3) to the ontology of sons/daughters (4:6a; 3:26) by the redemptive relational work of the Son (4:4-5); moreover, the new identity involves (2) the relational change in God’s family from a mere place as minor/slave to the relational position of son/daughter and hence an heir (4:7; 3:29). These definitive changes together clearly compose the new identity not only of who we are but conjointly whose we are.
Given the new identity of those relationally belonging to Christ—signifying the ontology and relational changes of who and whose we are—nothing less and no substitutes can define our ontology or determine our function. This new identity does not emerge from merely belonging to God’s family theologically, or by the mere certainty of any truth-claims. Nor does it emerge from merely having faith/belief(s), or by mere membership and participation in a church—both of which can be engaged by reduced ontology and function. As Paul made unequivocal, “so you are no longer…but are…” (4:7), that is, eimi, verb of existence here, not a mere copula, in second person singular, as a result definitive for each person belonging to Christ.
Moreover, when Paul said “no longer” (ouketi), he also means no further, not any more and not again in reference to previous or other identities (as in Gal 4:8-9). This points to the reality in human life that there are multiple sources/inputs which go into the ongoing process of identity formation. Identity is not a static condition defining who persons are, or a singular signifier determining what and how persons are. Various influences, both past and present, shape human identity, making it fluid, transient, ambiguous, elusive or even amorphous. Therefore, what is necessary for identity not to be fragmented—which defines and determines persons by reductionism—is for the primary identity to be rooted and ongoingly involved in the definitive whole of Jesus’ sanctified identity in order for the innermost of the person to be made whole from inner out. This innermost is the person’s ontology, whose function from inner out is signified only by the heart for the involvement necessary to live whole with no veil (cf. 2 Cor 3:18). It is this ongoing involvement of the person’s whole ontology and function from inner out that constitutes the ontological identity, which is irreducible and nonnegotiable to other sources/inputs/influences having secondary parts in a person’s identity formation. This process points to Jesus disclosing decisively that those rooted in and ongoingly involved with him have wholeness despite facing the world’s reductionism (thlipsis, Jn 16:33).
The new wine identity—of persons redefined in who they are and transformed in what they are and how they function—involves a process of identity formation that distinguishes this identity from common incomplete and fragmentary identities. For the wholeness of his followers, Jesus made definitive the integral process of identity formation necessary for the clarity and depth of identity to emerge, develop and mature. The outline of this process was clearly distinguished in the beginning of his major discourse in the Sermon on the Mount: the beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12).
When our identity adequately informs us of who, what and how we are, there is opportunity to experience wholeness and the satisfaction to be whole—which Jesus points to in the beatitudes with “blessed” (makarios, fully satisfied). The problem, however, with most identities in general and Christian identities in particular is that these identities only inform us of who and what we should be, and thus how we should act. This merely defines what we need to do in order to be associated with that identity without defining our integral ontology; this then becomes a process of trying to measure up to that identity so that we can achieve definition for our self—an ongoing effort to erase an identity deficit. The theological and functional implications of such a process for Christian identity are twofold: First, it counters and hereby nullifies God’s relational work of grace, and then in its place, it in effect constructs human ontology from self-determination.
As we discuss identity formation, it seems necessary to distinguish identity formation of the new wine from identity construction. Identity construction describes the human process of quantifying an identity for a measure of uniformity or conformity to some standard (cf. Gen 11:1-4). New wine identity formation involves a qualitative growth and maturation in a cooperative relational process with God for wholeness (cf. Gen 17:1-2). It is problematic if any identity constructions substitute for or are imposed on this identity formation. Therefore, since the ontology of the whole person is a vital necessity for the identity of Jesus’ followers as the new wine, it may require identity deconstruction of many Christian identities to get to this ontology. While any identity deconstruction would not be on the basis of postmodernist assumptions, it has a similar purpose to discredit ontological simulation and epistemological illusion. Yet, this would not be merely to expose reductionism but to go beyond it for the relational whole of God distinguishing new ontology and function. This describes Jesus’ major relational discourse with his disciples and the whole context of the Sermon on the Mount.
New identity formation involves the necessary functional convergence of identity with righteousness and human ontology in a dynamic process based on God’s grace in order to go beyond the reductionism exposed (deconstructed) by Jesus to be whole. This integral process, summarized in the Sermon on the Mount (discussed initially in chap. 5), is composed by the following: To go beyond reductionism (Mt 5:20), our righteousness necessitates an identity of clarity and depth (5:13-16), which requires the ontology of the whole person; and, in reflexive action, the significance of this process necessitates righteousness to make it functional, which further needs wholeness of identity for our righteousness ongoingly to go beyond reductionism; therefore, this must by nature involve the human ontology created in the image and likeness of the whole of God—all of which are constituted by the whole of God’s relational work of grace, functionally signifying the relational basis of whose we are. This process of integrally interrelated function is crucial for our understanding and practice, which Jesus illuminated in the beatitudes to establish his followers in his call to be redefined, transformed and made whole.
The beatitudes taken together establish the whole identity of his followers. I affirm, rather than each beatitude understood independently, they constitute interdependent functional characteristics of the basic identity for what, who and how his followers are. Joined together in dynamic function, the beatitudes form the outline of the integral process of identity formation. Not surprisingly, Jesus began the process by focusing immediately on the ontology of the person and giving us no basis to define our self by what we do or have.
Though Jesus was not explicit in the beginning of his discourse about the irreducible importance of the heart, the function of the heart underlies everything he said and all that we do (e.g. Mt 5:28; 6:21). The innermost person, signified by the heart, constitutes the qualitative distinguishing the person, and we cannot assess what and who a person is based merely on aspects from the outer-in person—notably what we do and have (cf. Mt 15:10-20). Yet, since the latter perception is a prevailing perceptual-interpretive framework for human ontology, whole Christian identity forms essentially by beginning with the process of redefinition of the person from the inner out. When we functionally address redefining our own person from the inner out, however, we encounter a major difficulty. Once we get past any resistance, what is it that we honestly see of our person as we look inside? This can become an issue we may rather dance around.
In the first three beatitudes (Mt 5:3-5) Jesus provides us with the critical steps in the process of identity formation as the new wine, that is, to functionally establish his followers in his call to be redefined, transformed and made whole, therefore clearly distinguished from reductionism.
First Beatitude: When we honestly look inside at our person, Jesus said the natural effect would be realization of the condition signified by “poor in spirit” (v.3). This condition is deeper than an identity deficit from a comparative process. “Poor” (ptochos) denotes abject poverty and utter helplessness; therefore this person’s only recourse is to beg. Just to be poor (penes) is a different condition from ptochos because this person can still, for example, go out to work for food. Penes may have little but ptochos has nothing at all. Ptochos, Jesus immediately identifies, is the true condition of our humanity, which precludes self-determination and justification. This is human ontology after the Fall, yet not the full ontology of the whole person which still includes the viable image of God. Without the latter, ptochos would be a worthless person, and this is not Jesus’ focus on the ontology of the person. Nevertheless, ptochos does prevail in human ontology, which clearly makes evident the need for God’s relational work of grace. This juxtaposition is what we need to accept both about our person and from God—not only theologically but functionally because anything less than ptochos counters God’s grace, for example, by efforts to measure up, succeed or advance on the basis of what we do and/or have. By necessity, however, the ptochos person ongoingly appropriates God’s relational work of grace to relationally belong to the whole of God’s family, as Jesus said, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Yet, ptochos only begins the process of forming this new identity.
Most of us are resistant to operate with this self-definition, especially if we define ourselves by what we do or have. We may be able to accept this “spiritually” in an isolated identity but for practical everyday function in the real world, to live with this self-definition is problematic. While any alternatives and substitutes masking our true condition may make us feel less vulnerable, we will never be able to dance completely around the truth of our condition and this reality of human ontology.
In this first critical step in the formation of the new wine identity, Jesus provided no place or option for self-determination. Who and what we are as his followers is determined only by the function of relationship with him as whose we are; and how we are in relationship together is only on his terms, which constitutes the relationship and thus our identity in God’s grace. By this, Jesus discloses unmistakably that God’s grace demands ptochos of our person (the honesty of heart) for ongoing relationship together to be whole—the same honesty of heart he strategically disclosed to the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:23-24).
Second Beatitude: Since the ontology of the person (from inner out) is never static, Jesus extends its dynamic function in this next critical step. When we are indeed ptochos, our honest response to our true condition is to “mourn” (pentheo, lament, grieve, deep sadness, v.4). If we accept our condition as ptochos—and not merely perceive it as penes, that is, a deficit needing to be overcome—then mourning would be the natural response of our heart. Yet, too often we insulate ourselves from such experience, though unknowingly we may get depressed. The tension involves issues of self-worth, which revolve around ptochos in terms of how we see and feel about ourselves. We tend not to recognize this matter because our heart is unaware of experiencing pentheo, likely only feeling insecure.
In this second critical step in the process of identity formation, the person is taken further and deeper toward being redefined, transformed and made whole. This necessitates the functional ontology of the whole person, contrary to a reductionist practice which insulates the heart or keeps it at a distance of diminished involvement. The dynamic necessary is to open our heart and expose the pentheo by fully acknowledging, admitting and confessing our ptochos—which may not only be about one’s own condition but also the condition of humanity in general.
The ironic influence of reductionism on human ontology is the simulation and illusion to be strong, self-determined, self-sufficient, and accordingly not in need of redefinition and transformation. In contrast and conflict, persons who pentheo address reality without reducing the person, yet not in self-pity but by vulnerably opening their person to God. In this vulnerable relational process, their whole person is presented to God for comfort, healing, cleansing, forgiveness, and deeper involvement, so they can experience God’s intimate response—as Jesus assured “they will be comforted” (parakaleo, term used for every kind of call to a person which is intended to produce a particular effect). As Jesus further relationally disclosed ongoingly in his sanctified identity, the whole of God is relationally vulnerable to our humanity, and we must (dei) relationally reciprocate in likeness with what and who we are in our innermost. Functional intimacy in relationship involves hearts open to each other and coming together. Intimacy with God, therefore, necessitates by nature that our heart functions in its true humanity (as “in spirit and truth”)—nothing less and no substitutes. The process from the first beatitude to the second engages this qualitative relational involvement. And these two critical steps involve the relational moments we extend our person to God the most openly and hereby give him the best opportunity to be with us—parakaleo not from outer in but for our ontology inner out.
Since identity is rooted in whose we are, its formation is contingent on the ongoing function of this relationship—its further and deeper growth. While pentheo defines only a degree of experience relative to each person—no set quantity of sackcloth and ashes—God does not let us remain in a state of gloom and perhaps fall into depression or despair. God’s thematic relational action never unilaterally allows for human ontology to remain in reductionism but only functions to make us whole. As Jesus did with tax collectors, a prostitute and others lacking wholeness, he extends God’s relational work of grace to us in our helplessness, pursues us vulnerably in the poverty of our humanity, redeems us (the parakaleo mainly from the common’s enslavement of reductionism) back to his family (on the terms of the Uncommon), therefore transforms our whole person for intimate relationship with the Father, and formally by covenant (through adoption) constitutes us as his very own children permanently belonging to the whole of God’s family (“theirs is the kingdom of heaven”). This relational process defines God’s thematic relational response only as family love—a process based on the whole of God’s relational work of grace, which continues as the basis for God’s new creation family to experience now even further and deeper in whole relationship together as the church until eschatological completion of God’s whole. This operationalizes the relational progression constituted by Jesus in his tactical shift, the ongoing function of which he summarized in this major discourse.
Third Beatitude: The experiential truth of this relational reality is not usually functional in a linear process as it is reflexive (back and forth). God’s thematic relational response and ongoing vulnerable involvement with our humanity, most vulnerably disclosed in the incarnation, demonstrate the faithfulness and righteousness of the whole of God whom we can count on to trust intimately in reciprocal relational process. As we go up and down, in and out in our ptochos and pentheo, the initial relational experiences of God’s family love rightfully conclude with only one understanding of our person. This understanding forms the core function of the redefined self, the new identity of the transformed in Christ.
In the interrelated critical steps involved in this process of self-understanding, Jesus defined the core function forming the identity of his followers: “the meek” (praus, v.5). While the sense of meekness should not be separated from ptochos, praus (prautes, noun) denotes to be gentle—that is, not hard or resistant to live as one truly is. Praus involves heart function conjoined with overt behavior to demonstrate what and who one is. Contrary to most perceptions of “meek,” this function is not timid weakness but humble strength and truth of character based on one’s true condition. How this specifically would be demonstrated or expressed can be defined best by the various behaviors of Jesus with others. Whatever its form in a particular situation, the most significant issue is that there is no lie or illusion about one’s person in being meek (including being humble).
Yet, meekness is not so much a characteristic of the Christian person, especially by which to be defined and thus to behave. The latter only simulates humility. Rather it is, most importantly for the whole person, a function of relationship both with God and with others. Being meek is a core function in relationship with God for two reasons: (1) with no illusions about self-determination and justification (ptochos) and with response to one’s pentheo, the only basis and ongoing functional base for the person’s life and practice is the whole of God’s relational work of grace; and (2) on this basis, relationship together is only on God’s terms, hence irreducible and nonnegotiable by human persons. God does not work by any human agenda, notably for self-determination and justification. Being meek is this core function involving the relational process of turning away from the falsehood in self-autonomy and entrusting one’s whole person to the grace of God; this is basic not only for conversion but for ongoing sanctification.
Furthermore, who and what this meek-humble person is and how this person functions also must by nature be involved in relationship with others in two qualitatively distinguished ways: (1) with God’s grace the basis for the person, there is no basis for comparison with others, for climbing any human ladder or one-upmanship, and accordingly no basis for stratified relationships which reduce the whole person, but rather a qualitative loving involvement with others (without employing reductionist distinctions) in the relationships necessary for wholeness; and (2) therefore this relational involvement allows no basis for the function of individualism which gives priority to the individual agenda and reduces the primacy of the intimate relationships necessary to be God’s whole. Praus then is a clear function only of ontological humility, relational humility as well as epistemic humility (cf. Paul’s critique of the church, 1 Cor 4:7; 8:1-2).
Meekness is a direct relational outcome of the first two critical steps (beatitudes) signifying the above functions of relationships. There is no theological or functional basis for any other self-assessment, regardless of how much one does, has or accomplishes. Yet, we encounter difficulty when lies or illusions keep us from facing our ptochos or experiencing our pentheo. In strong contrast, being meek also signifies a functional admission of one’s enslavement—that is, not being free from some form of self-sufficiency (even in a collective context), self-determination (even with a theology of grace), or self-centeredness (even in acts of service)—and one’s need for redemption.
Jesus said the meek “will inherit the earth.” This is not a result of what they do but only a relational outcome constituted in relationship with Jesus and by his relational work of grace. These beatitudes have roots in the promise from the OT covenant, yet Jesus was not taking us back into that context but extending and fulfilling God’s thematic relational action. The meek's inheritance is not the earth per se (or land, cf. Ps 37:11), with a sense of redistribution for the poor and dispossessed. This inheritance is not about a place, situations or circumstances. This is about the distinguished context of God’s whole and dwelling, hereby the relational context in which their inheritance is the whole of God for relationship—just as it was for the OT priests and Levites (Nu 18:20, Dt 10:9). The meek (as the poor in spirit, and so forth) are “blessed” (makarioi), that is, fully satisfied, because God is vulnerably present and intimately involved in their life—the relational outcome of God’s definitive blessing (Num 6:24-26). Therefore, this is about well-being and wholeness experienced as the relational outcome of God’s covenant love and faithfulness, of Jesus’ vulnerable grace and truth (Jn 1:14), that is, as with the Trinity who is intimately involved together in their “spirit and truth”—nothing less and no substitutes. This blessed relational condition cannot be reduced merely to happiness about one’s situation and circumstances; everyday life is not reduced to our situations and circumstances. In this redefinition of self, the irreducible importance of our whole person (from inner out) and the nonnegotiable priority of intimate relationship together become the perceptual-interpretive framework for what we pay attention to. And the full relational significance of being makarioi is the ongoing relational outcome of these and the rest of the beatitudes in the integral process of new wine identity formation.
Reductionism is an ongoing challenge to this process, from which we cannot underestimate our need for redemption. The issue of inheritance makes this evident, raising the question of inheriting eternal life. Inheritance was not possible in the ancient world from a position of enslavement. Redemption (payment made for one’s release) was necessary to change this relational condition, which was the critical error of relationship made by the rich ruler who pursued Jesus (Mk 10:17, discussed in chap. 5). Merely being freed, however, was insufficient to establish a relational position necessary for inheritance, which was the critical error of relationship likely made by the lawyer who queried Jesus (Lk 10:25). The redemptive history of the whole of God’s thematic action has had a singular trajectory, which Jesus’ vulnerable redemptive work constitutes and the Spirit brings to completion. This purpose is the trinitarian relational process of family love composing a new covenant (by fulfilling both the charter of the original covenant and its relational significance): relationship together as the whole of God’s family, in which we permanently belong as God’s very own children through adoption (Jn 1:12-13; 8:31-36, Gal 4:4-5, Eph 1:3-5). This new creation family is the relational outcome of the relational progression fulfilling Jesus’ formative family prayer (Jn 17:20-26), and the complete soteriology of what he saved us to. Without the process of adoption constituted in Jesus’ functional shift—however this process is interpreted that composes the relational reality of becoming the sons and daughters of God (cf. 2 Cor 6:18)—we would be in a relational position of enslavement, or merely redeemed for no relational purpose and outcome, consequently leaving unresolved the human relational condition “to be apart” from God’s whole.
While reductionism may not discount the theology of adoption, it either separates the purpose of redemption from it, consequently using the concept of redemption merely to promote the freedom and autonomy of individualism, which becomes functionally enslaving. Or reductionism creates an illusion of being free, masking any enslavement. Meekness (in process with ptochos and pentheo), however, by signifying a vulnerable admission of one’s enslavement and need for redemption, becomes the functional clarity of the relational posture necessary for submission to the God who can redeem us from our enslavement and make us whole. The alternative is a false sense of strength or freedom, or the lack of humility, exhibited by those who avoid acknowledging their enslavement, and thus think they are free (e.g. Jn 8:33). Without meekness there is no relational involvement with God’s relational work of grace on God’s terms, only renegotiated terms; without God’s relational work of grace there is no adoption; without adoption there is no relational position in the whole of God’s family, much less an inheritance. In relational terms, the seeds of the new wine have not sprouted for the emergence of the new wine identity, whole ontology and function.
For Paul, the relational dynamic of adoption involves the integrated outcome of belonging as possession, relationship and ontology. Those adopted ‘in Christ’ now belong to God, who “put his seal on us” (2 Cor 1:22), that is, the identification of ownership as God’s possession (peripoiesis, Eph 1:14). More importantly for Paul, in distinguishing God’s relational whole from the human shaping of reductionism, those adopted into God’s family also relationally “belong to Christ,” the pleroma of God, thus relationally belonging to the whole of God (belong rendered in the genitive case, 1 Cor 3:23; Gal 3:29; 4:4-7). Equally important in this relational dynamic, since “Christ belongs to God” both relationally and ontologically, by relationally belonging (not ontologically) to Christ those adopted also relationally belong to each other as well as belong ontologically to each other in wholeness together (1 Cor 3:22; 12:15-16; Rom 7:4; 12:5, belong also rendered by ginomai, verb of becoming, and eimi, verb to be).
What unfolds in this theological dynamic ‘in Christ’ is the integrated outcome of belonging. The emphasis of the theology of belonging for Paul in his theological forest is on relational belonging and ontological belonging to signify the new covenant relationship and the new creation. Relational belonging dynamically interacts with ontological belonging in the new creation, and their interaction is the relational outcome of the full soteriology in being saved to wholeness in God’s family together (2 Cor 3:18; 5:16-17; Col 3:10-11). Moreover, conjoined with the integrated outcome of belonging, the relational outcome of adoption in the dynamic of nothing less and no substitutes (the theological dynamic of wholeness) is the relational ontology and identity of the new creation of God’s family as the church (Eph 1:22-23).
Hence, adoption is not a mere doctrinal truth in which to secure our faith. Adoption must by its nature be an experiential truth, which is an ongoing function of reciprocal relationship together with relational responsibilities that the Spirit cooperatively brings to wholeness (cf. Rom 8:6,15-16). And any functional enslavement practiced by Jesus’ followers (notably Peter) counters this experience of intimate relationship together as family. Therefore, the function of adoption is the very heart of the relational significance for our ontology, and accordingly our identity—who and what we are, and whose we are—which makes definitive the relational posture of meekness as the core function. Further implications of adoption will be discussed in later chapters.
Fourth Beatitude: Identity formation is an ongoing process of growth and maturation, which is implied in this beatitude. The relational progression for Jesus’ followers implicit in the beatitudes leads us to the next identity function for growing the new wine: “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (v.6). The experience of the first three beatitudes, establishing vulnerable involvement with Jesus who takes us to the Father to become a part of his very own family, provides the relational process and the context of family to understand the fourth beatitude.
In contrast and conflict with reductionism, righteousness is not a mere conformity of actions to a given set of legal and ethical standards but about the relational responsibility which is in keeping with reciprocal relationship between God and his people (his family). Going beyond reductionism necessitates the shift in righteousness from merely exhibiting character traits and practicing an ethic of right and wrong—our common notions about integrity and being upright—to the distinctly deeper qualitative involvement of what, who and how to be in relationships—both with God and with others. New identity formation of Jesus’ followers necessitates this same shift and becomes inexorably integrated with the process to righteousness for the clarity and depth of their identity. Therefore, this fourth identity function is not a pursuit about ourselves, though it certainly further and more deeply constitutes our ontology and identity as his family in an essential process of transformation.
Our definitive and functional understanding of righteousness comes from the righteous God’s action in the context and process of relationship. Righteousness is no static attribute or quality of God but always a dynamic relational function. Righteousness is the immanent relational function of God which all other persons can invariably count on from and with God. By the nature of being righteous, this distinguished involvement is the only way God acts in relationship; moreover, by the nature of being righteous, this ongoing relational involvement is the only way God functions. That is, righteousness is intrinsic to the ontology of what, who and how God is.
“Hunger and thirst” represent the primary acts to sustain life and to help it grow, which is a metaphor for this basic pursuit. To pursue righteousness is to pursue how God is, and accordingly to pursue what and who God is—that is, the ontology of God. In other words, this ongoing pursuit of righteousness is the basic relational process of pursuing God and of becoming like God in relational function, not in ontology (e.g. by some deification). This involves the process of transformation (cf. Eph 4:24) of our whole person (from inner out) to the image of the Son (metamorphoo, 2 Cor 3:18, cf. Rom 8:29; 12:2), who is the image of the whole of God (cf. 2 Co 4:4); the relational outcome of this process further constitutes our ontology as the imago Dei in likeness of the Trinity, the function of which in relationship together with no veil makes us whole. The functional purpose of this process of ongoing transformation is only relational: first, for deeper relationship together with the whole of God as family, and further, for more deeply representing the Father to extend and to build his family with family love (the immediate relational responsibilities of those adopted). This defines the relational significance of the new wine identity and clearly distinguishes that identity formation must include this process of transformation in order to be whole.
As these beatitudes interrelate, therefore, pursuing the righteousness that goes beyond reductionism involves not seeking character traits or ethical behavior but vulnerably pursuing the very qualitative and relational innermost of God and compatibly reciprocating to participate further and deeper in the whole of God’s life (cf. Mt 6:33). Without this qualitative relational significance of righteousness, our identity will merely exhibit shallowness or ambiguity in who, what and how we are in relationships. For those who “hunger and thirst” for the relational righteousness of God, Jesus asserted “they will be filled” (chortazo, to be filled to satisfaction) because their whole persons will experience deeper intimate relationship with the whole of God as family together with no veil. This is the growth function of identity formation denoted by the fourth beatitude. The other beatitudes will converge in this process shortly.
As the formation of
the new wine identity develops in clarity and depth, God’s new
creation family increasingly is challenged both in its life together
and in the surrounding context of the human condition. Therefore, in
congruence with the relational dynamic resulting in adoption, the
ontology and function of the new church family must always be in the
dynamic of ‘nothing less and no substitutes’ for whole relationship
together, which Paul integrally made unequivocal (Eph 4:1-6, 13-16,
22-24). As these theological dynamics of wholeness, belonging, and
ontological identity converge in Paul’s theological forest, at the
same time the dynamic of reductionism and its counter-relational
work are always seeking to redefine the qualitative-relational
process constituting their theological interaction and to reshape,
reconstruct or otherwise fragment the relational outcome emerging
from their theological integration. In relational terms, the
consequence of this contrary influence is that the new creation
family is rendered to an ambiguous ontology and shallow function;
and its new wine identity is reduced of its clarity and depth that
by necessity distinguished it in human contexts. This conflict for
Paul necessitates distinguishing the truth of the whole gospel
clearly from “a different gospel” (Gal 1:6-12). In his polemic for
this conflict, Paul made definitive two critical and necessary
conditions to constitute the only gospel, both of which he implies
in Gal 3:28:
The reciprocal relational means for experiencing this definitive whole relationship together as God’s family was also at the center of this conflict for Paul. He understood that this issue is unavoidable and ongoing unless understood in its proper context. In Galatians, the conflict of relational means appears to be between “the law” and “faith” (Gal 3:1-26). Yet, this would not only be an oversimplification of Paul’s polemic but also a reduction of the law as God’s desires and terms for covenant relationship, as well as a reduction of faith as the necessary reciprocal relational response to God’s promise of covenant relationship together. Paul put the issue into its full perspective.
Galatians represents Paul sharing the functional clarity for the whole gospel to address their current issue, situation and related matters in order to take them beyond the human contextualization of reductionism (not only of Judaism) to the further and deeper contextualization of God—the whole of God’s relational context of family and relational process of family love embodied in the whole of Jesus. Within God’s relational context and process, the law neither reduces nor renegotiates the covenant relationship. In reality, as God’s terms for relationship together, the law is wholly compatible with the covenant and even is a vital key for the emergence of whole relationship together. That is, not as a functional key to fulfill the promise (3:21), the law serves rather as a heuristic framework (paidegogos) for both learning our human condition and discovering the source of its whole solution (3:10, 22-24; Rom 3:19-20).
Paul’s focus on the law addressed the condition of human ontology in two vital ways, both of which perceived the law as God’s desires and terms for covenant relationship:
When Paul refers to “the law of Christ,” this is God’s law/desires constituted by Jesus’ whole ontology and function in the incarnation (cf. 1 Cor 9:21b), who takes the law of Moses further and deeper into the whole of God’s relational context and process. By vulnerably embodying God’s relational ontology and function, the pleroma of God is the hermeneutical key to interpreting God’s law/desires and the functional key for its practice in relationship together (as Jesus defined in the Sermon on the Mount, Mt 5:21ff), which by necessity requires whole ontology and function (as Jesus implied about practice of the law in likeness of the Father, Mt 5:48).
This became the critical issue for Paul because human ontology is inexorably embedded in the sin of reductionism; and this enslavement needs to be redeemed for human ontology and function to be freed to become whole. Yet, whole human ontology is constituted only by the redemptive relational dynamic of adoption for relationship together in God’s family. Reduced human ontology is incapable of a response which would be compatible to Jesus for this relationship together. In Paul’s whole perspective, the issue underlying the law is nothing less than the issue of human ontology. Therefore, his discourse on the law challenges existing assumptions on human ontology to expose reduced human ontology, while his discourse on faith assumes the definitive ontology that illuminates the whole human ontology and function needed for relationship together in God’s family—and which also fulfills the law of Christ (Gal 5:6; 6:2).
The reciprocal relational means both necessary to receive and compatible to respond to Jesus for whole relationship together is the issue for Paul, which then necessarily involves human ontology. When human effort is relinquished—namely, cease in self-determination and desist in shaping relationship together—and replaced by the relational response of faith, Paul adds for functional clarity that we are no longer under the paidagogos of the law (Gal 3:25). Paul is only referring to the law’s paidagogos function. This does not mean that the law (as God’s desires and terms for covenant relationship) is finished and no longer functional for the practice of faith (5:14; 6:2; cf. Rom 3:31; 1 Cor 9:21). Paul in truth wants the law to be fulfilled by human persons, and he may confuse us by stating that the law cannot be fulfilled by human effort (Gal 3:10; 5:3). By focusing on the relational involvement of agape (5:14), however, he makes definitive how the law is or is not fulfilled. By necessity, this engages the two conditions of human ontology (whole or reduced), and Paul differentiates their respective involvement with the law (5:6; 6:15). Whole human ontology functions from inner out in the relational response of trust to be vulnerably involved with God and others in family love—just as Christ functioned (cf. Jn 15:9-12)—thereby reciprocally responding to God’s desires and terms for relationship together. Reduced human ontology, in contrast and conflict, functions from outer in to try to fulfill the quantitative aspects of the law, consequently renegotiating God’s terms for relationship by human terms shaped from human contextualization. This reductionism essentially redefined relationship with God to mere relationship with the law, which then disembodies the law from the whole of God and God’s desires for relationship together. For Paul, the underlying issue between function by law and function by faith is clearly between reduced ontology and function and whole ontology and function. The relational consequence of the former is not only the inability to fulfill the law but enslavement to the reductionist futility of human effort (Gal 5:3-4). The relational outcome of the latter is to receive and respond to Christ for whole relationship together with nothing less and no substitutes.
The new wine identity emerging from these dynamics is irreducible in ontology and nonnegotiable in function. This integral process of identity formation necessitates the ongoing integration of identity and righteousness. For Paul, righteousness is the relational function of the heart that lives not according to reduced notions of by faith but in whole ontology and function in the image and likeness of the whole of God (Col 3:10; Eph 4:24). This inner-out function of the heart signifies ontological identity, the primary identity necessary to have wholeness despite the presence of reductionism (Col 3:15). Therefore, ontological identity is definitive of who the person is and the determinant of what and how the person is. And the integrity of identity is rooted in a person’s ontology, which needs to be whole or its integrity will be fragmented (cf. Paul’s discourse about the church at Corinth). As Paul summarized in Galatians 6:15, any function of reductionism is without any ontological significance of existence (eimi); only the new creation exists in ontological wholeness. Also, the credibility of identity is rooted in a person’s righteousness, which must not be fragmentary (cf. Peter’s hypokrisis, Gal 2:14) or it will lose both its credibility and the integrity of wholeness in identity (cf. Jesus’ expectation of righteousness as whole ontology and function, Mt 5:20). The whole of Jesus’ identity in the incarnation was based on the integrity of his ontology and the credibility of his righteousness, which persons could count on and trust in relationship together. The image and likeness of his whole ontology and function is what we are transformed to (2 Cor 3:18) and who we become (Col 2:10; 3:10), and only on this basis how we function (Eph 4:24; Col 3:15; cf. Ps 71:15). Therefore, anything less and any substitutes defining our ontology and determining our function are a reduction of our wholeness together, a fragmentation of the ontological and relational whole of who we are and whose we are in Christ.
Moreover, as our identity reveals the underlying roots or heart of how we define our ontology and determine our function, our primary identity also signifies the composition of our gospel—if it is whole or reduced. Paul’s gospel and thus his own identity were not defined and determined by what he had and/or did (both past and present, cf. Phil 3:7-9) or even by his current weaknesses (2 Cor 12:7-9). In his polemic for the gospel and against reductionism, Paul made definitive both the ontological and relational changes which must by nature (dei) compose the truth of the whole gospel and its relational outcome. It must by the nature of who and what Jesus embodied as “the image of God” and relationally involved of the whole of God’s ontology and function “in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4,6). Anything less or any substitute is not the gospel of the glory of Christ, the gospel of wholeness, but a different gospel of reductionism.
The new wine identity emerges, develops and matures entirely from whole ontology and function. As the new wine grows from redefined and transformed persons, its relational outcome is distinguished unmistakably in the primacy of family relationships together with no veil—signified in the table fellowship of the new creation.
As Paul theologically and functionally clarifies the new creation, there is a realistic sense interjected in his message: “As for those who will follow this…wholeness be upon them, and mercy” (Gal 6:16). Perhaps his disappointment or frustration with church practice has affected him (Gal 1:6; 4:9; 5:7). Nevertheless, the term for follow (stoicheo) involves progressing within a certain framework. This engages the perceptual-interpretive framework by which Paul defined ontology and determined function. For Paul, he follows Jesus’ whole ontology and function in the relational progression of Jesus’ theological trajectory and relational path for the relational outcome of the new creation family. Stoicheo requires the qualitative and relational framework of the whole of Jesus to progress to this relational outcome.
At the first new wine table fellowship, the disciples present did not taste the new wine yet but could only be associated with it. Their perceptual-interpretive framework still reflected the old in their transition to be redefined and transformed. The practices of the early disciples and early church raise further questions about the relational outcome of the new wine, questions that still need to be raised today. What is this relational outcome? Where do we see it? Why don’t we see more evidence of it? What are the issues involved here?
When Paul interjected that “mercy” (compassion, eleos) be upon those who follow in this framework, he is building on Jesus’ framework of discipleship that involves Jesus’ distinguished relational process and progression disclosed at the new wine table fellowship (Mt 9:10-13; cf. Mt 12:7)). This relational dynamic also interacts with the integral process of identity formation in the remaining beatitudes for the further development of his followers—“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy…” (Mt 5:6-12, discussed below). God’s relational response of grace underlying this relational dynamic constitutes Jesus’ theological trajectory and relational path, the relational outcome of which involves mercy, compassion. Yet mercy must be experienced first before it can be extended to others. This necessitates whole understanding and experience of God’s relational response of grace in Face-to-face relationship.
Complex theological dynamics converge in the mercy enacted by the whole of Jesus in his theological trajectory and relational path. The relational process of Jesus’ vulnerable involvement led him to the cross for the atonement sacrifice necessary for Face-to-face-to-Face relationship (Rom 3:25; Heb 9:11-28; Mt 27:51; Heb 10:19-25). As the “sacrifice of atonement” (hilasterion, Rom 3:25), Jesus is both the place (relational context) and means (relational process) for the propitiation and expiation of sin. This dynamic must by the nature of atonement always be seen, understood and thus experienced as Jesus’ relational work of redemptive reconciliation. Therefore, once Jesus’ sacrifice for atonement was completed, the torn curtain was no minor detail in the events of the cross; nor is it merely symbolic but in improbable relational terms it opened up the Holy Place of God’s intimate presence to be vulnerably involved in direct relationship together Face to face. Jesus’ sacrifice unmistakably constituted “the new covenant in my blood,” as he disclosed in communion together (Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25). This composed the improbable of Jesus’ theological trajectory and the intrusion of his relational path.
The removal of the veil, a necessary condition for the new covenant relationship Face to face, was contingent on the nature of the sacrifice. Prior sacrifices behind the curtain were insufficient to open direct access to the whole and holy God. Nothing less and no substitutes of God in whole can constitute this sacrifice to bring about this relational outcome; likewise, nothing less and no substitutes of our whole person, with all our sin (notably as reductionism), can receive and respond back to the whole of God in the depth of Jesus’ relational process and progression for the wholeness of reciprocal relationship together in the innermost of God’s holy presence, with God’s holy involvement and by God’s holy relational work of grace. Anything less and any substitute of God or of our persons will be insufficient to enact or engage the depth of Jesus’ relational work of grace, consequently cannot reconcile life together in the innermost of relationship without the veil with God (Eph 3:12) and in relationship together with no veil in God’s family (Eph 2:13-16; 2 Cor 3:16-18). Paul claims to be sufficient (hilkanos) only in the new covenant (2 Cor 3:5-6).
The primary focus of the new wine is not being redeemed from the old, as Paul clarified for the gospel (Gal 4:4-6; Rom 6:4). Though being saved from sin is a necessary condition for the new wine, it is insufficient for the relational outcome of the new wine. The relational outcome of God’s relational response of grace cannot be experienced in just the atonement for sin but necessarily also what Jesus’ sacrifice saves to that emerges solely without the veil: the primacy of whole relationship together as God’s family that is reciprocal both Face to face and face to face. It is a critical reduction of God’s grace, therefore, to make the primary focus merely being saved from sin because there is no relational outcome beyond this truncated soteriology; moreover, there is no accounting of the sin of reductionism because such an accounting necessitates being saved to wholeness—the integral relational outcome of God’s relational response of grace.
A truncated soteriology may appear to claim God’s grace, yet, at best, only in referential terms, because there is no relational involvement with God’s relational response of grace. Contrary to a relational outcome, the relational consequence is the lack of emergence of the new wine. The integral reality of the complete soteriology is imperative for our whole understanding and experience: God’s relational response of grace accounts for our sin in the relational dynamic that no longer counts our sin against us (Rom 4:6-8) but also holds us accountable not to engage in sin in reciprocal relationship face to Face (e.g. Rev 2:4; 3:2, 19-20). The primary sin in reciprocal relationship is keeping relational distance, which involves our shaping of relationship together. Peter’s refusal of Jesus’ footwashing involved this sin in their relationship that prevented face-to-Face connection with Jesus’ whole person vulnerably involved, thereby precipitating Jesus’ vital critique in relational language “you have no share with me” (Jn 13:8). Earlier, when Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees (Lk 5:8), his posture certainly reflected humility before God; yet this posture can also either take place in front of the curtain or be a substitute for deeper involvement face to Face. In relational response of grace, the distinguished Face of God—in the integral relational significance of kneeling before us to wash our feet—is vulnerably present and intimately involved for the sole purpose of ongoing reciprocal relationship together Face to face. Furthermore, Jesus’ atonement sacrifice removed the veil, and to engage in relational distance essentially negates his sacrifice and denies his relational work of grace constituting the new covenant relationship, which then relegates us back in front of the curtain in the old covenant (cf. Gal 5:4). Therefore, we cannot maintain or justify relational distance as Peter did and expect to experience God’s relational response of grace and the relational outcome of the new wine.
In a truncated soteriology the sin of reductionism is not accounted for, as a result our understanding of God’s grace at best is fragmentary and more likely distorted. A reduction of God’s grace commonly occurs today in the doctrine of saved by grace through faith and not works, taking Paul out of the whole context of his pleroma theology (e.g. by referencing Eph 2:8-9). This so-called “gift of God,” however, is perceived through an interpretive lens that pays attention to this gift in the referential limits of a gift, while ignoring the relational process embodying the gift. This not only prevents the relational outcome of God’s response of grace but promotes a relational consequence as pointed to above in Jesus’ post-ascension critique of churches.
It is immeasurable for our whole understanding and experience of the relational outcome of the new wine, that God’s grace is not reduced to our terms. The irreducible experiential truth and nonnegotiable relational reality are that grace is not a gift given, a resource shared and an action enacted by God in the context and for the purpose of unilateral relationship. Grace only creates the opportunity for reciprocal relationship together, for which the recipients of God’s relational response of grace are responsible and therefore accountable. As Jesus made clear to various churches, God is not unaffected by the sin in reciprocal relationship; and as Israel’s relational history evidenced, God has reciprocated with his own relational distance (“hide my face from them,” Dt 31:17; 32:20; Isa 1:15; 45:15; 54:8). In other words, God’s grace comes with relational demands. Compatible with God’s relational response, the demands of grace are irreducible and nonnegotiable that God wants the whole person from inner out for the relationships together necessary to be whole as the new creation family in likeness of the whole of God. Congruent with God’s relational response, grace ongoingly does not allow for anything less and any substitutes.
Whole understanding and experience of God’s grace emerge in Face-to-face-to Face relationship, with the relational outcome constituted by mercy (compassion) from God and on this relational basis constituted with mercy for others. This ongoing reciprocal relational process, distinguishing the relational outcome of the new wine, further engages the integral process of the new wine identity formation in the remaining beatitudes.
Fifth Beatitude: Jesus’ call to his followers to be redefined, transformed and made whole is increasingly realized by ongoing involvement in the whole of God’s relational context of family and the experience of his distinguished relational process of family love. This ongoing involvement and experience reconstitute how his followers function, not just reform them. The whole outcome of being the relational object of the Trinity’s loving involvement and of experiencing further intimate relationship together cannot remain a private (even within a group) or solely individual matter. If this relational outcome is confined to a private context (personal or collective), it will become ingrown, self-serving, and ambiguous or even shallow, and thus fragmentary. If this outcome is reduced to an individual focus, it will become enslaving, not redeeming and transforming, and consequently incomplete. Therefore, as the relational outcome of life together in wholeness, Jesus necessarily extends the process of identity formation to relationships with others.
With the relational outcome emerging from the previous beatitudes, this next function of identity formation (Mt 5:7) is more than a restatement of Levi and Hosea 6:6 (Mt 9:9-13), and of the lawyer and the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). This function is not merely about mission or fulfilling what is rightfully expected of us. It is integrally focused on the ontology of what persons (his followers) have become (in the relational progression) and on the emerging identity of who they are and whose they are, and thus how they function in relationship—not only with God, not only among themselves, but now also with others.
Mercy (eleos, compassion) denotes action out of compassion for others which responds to their distress, suffering or misery. Yet, such acts can be performed merely out of missional service or Christian duty—perhaps with paternalism, intentional or inadvertent—without the relational involvement of a person who essentially has been in their position. With the mercy experienced from God’s relational response of grace, Jesus’ whole followers from inner out become more than good servants but first and foremost become intimate personal recipients (as adopted children) of compassion (Gal 4:4-5; Eph 2:4-5). Accordingly, in reciprocity from this redeemed and transformed ontology, this person functions to extend that compassion in likeness of relational involvement with others—notably with those lacking wholeness (or value) and suffering the relational condition “to be apart” from the whole.
Reductionism would define this beatitude to promote the act and benefits of mercy, not the relational involvement of persons with other persons; consequently, its practice of mercy would signify either paternalism, even with sacrifice, or a quid pro quo in human relations. Jesus, however, leads the process of identity formation deeper in contrast and conflict to go beyond reductionism. The relational outcome of vulnerably following Jesus in the relational progression constitutes the ontology of the whole person and the relationships necessary to be whole. It naturally follows then: being compassionate (eleemon) is a given function in identity formation, not an option; and those persons are blessed (makarios, fully satisfied) because they are relationally functioning with others in qualitative involvement for wholeness and fulfilling God’s relational desires in the innermost for his creation. In the process these persons ongoingly experience deeper compassion themselves, not suggesting their own future problems but the further relational outcome indicated in the next beatitude.
Sixth Beatitude: The deeper compassion the compassionate also experience involves the relational work of God’s grace. These persons, who are being further redeemed and transformed, are engaged in the process of becoming whole by involvement necessarily both from their whole person and in the relationships together constituting the whole. These next two beatitudes outline what is involved in this process to wholeness, and therefore the maturation of our identity.
The tendency in a context pervaded by reductionism, even though not enslaved by it, is to pay more attention inadvertently to the behavioral/activity aspects of our life and practice. We readily make assumptions about the qualitative presence and involvement of our person in that behavior or activity. A relational context and process make deeper demands on our person; the whole of God’s relational context and process hold us accountable for nothing less and no substitutes than our whole person—the demands of grace. Accordingly, we should never assume the ongoing condition of our heart nor the state of our relationship with the whole of God. Wholeness is contingent on their qualitative function.
A shallow identity lacks depth. A shallow person lacks the presence and involvement of heart (cf. Mt 15:8). Persons lacking heart in function (even inadvertently) lack wholeness. Intimate involvement with the whole of God (i.e. who is unreduced) necessitates an ongoing process of our hearts open and coming together--God’s nonnegotiable terms. As discussed previously about holy, the Uncommon and the common are incompatible for relationship, further necessitating our ongoing transformation to “the pure in heart” (katharos, clean, clear, Mt 5:8) to be compatible. This katharos is not a static condition we can merely assume from God’s redemption and forgiveness. God’s relational acts of grace are always for relationship, thus “pure in heart” is a dynamic function for deeper relationship to be whole together. This involves a heart functioning clear of any relational barriers or distance, functioning clean of Satan’s reductionist lies, substitutes and illusions—signifying the catharsis of the old to be constituted in the whole of the new. Yet, any subsequent turn from the heart interjects gray matter, making our function ambiguous.
An ambiguous identity lacks clarity. An ambiguous person lacks clarity of one’s ontology. Christians lacking ontological clarity lack the qualitative distinguishing them from the common’s function in the surrounding context, notably from reductionism. Being distinguished includes from the mindset, cultural practices and other established ways prevailing in our contexts, which we assume are compatible with God but effectively shift relationship with the holy God to our common terms (cf. Rom 8:5-6). When the identity and ontology of the Uncommon cannot be clearly distinguished from this common function (even in a Christian subculture), this generates ambiguity in our identity and counteracts wholeness for our ontology—which increasingly becomes life and practice without the whole person and without the primacy of intimate relationships necessary to be whole (cf. Col 3:15). The theological implication is that the Uncommon and common can neither coexist in functional harmony nor can their functions be combined in a hybrid. The functional implication is that the tension between them must by nature always be of conflict, the nature of which is ongoing and, contrary to some thinking, irremediable. Therefore, “pure in heart” also signifies catharsis of the common to be constituted in the whole of the Uncommon.
The function of the depth of this person’s heart will have the relational outcome to more deeply “see God.” The significance of “see” (horao) implies more than the mere act of seeing but involves more intensively to experience, partake of, or share in something, be in the presence of something and be affected by it. This depth of significance in “seeing” God in the substance of relationship is the intimate process of hearts functionally vulnerable to each other and further coming together in deeper involvement to be whole—the purpose of Jesus’ sanctified life and practice and formative family prayer (Jn 17:19-26). When our ongoing experience (not necessarily continuous) with God is not horao, we need to examine honestly where our heart is and address any assumptions. If, for example, we don’t dance around our ptochos and pentheo, our heart will respond with greater functional trust and vulnerable intimacy—the relational posture of submission to God’s terms signified by meekness. It is only when we assume or ignore this inner-out aspect of our person that we essentially keep relational distance from God, hereby impeding the process to be whole and the relational outcome of the new wine.
The early disciples’ struggles were essentially with heart issues, and consequently they had difficulty seeing (horao) God even in Jesus’ vulnerable presence (Jn14:7-9). Without a clean and clear heart there will be shallowness in our identity formation and ambiguity in the ontology and function of our person (both individually and together) in ongoing relationship with the whole of God. The catharsis of both the old and common make the sixth beatitude critically evident as the contingency function in the process to be whole and for the maturation of our identity as the new wine.
Yet, wholeness is never about only the individual person, nor about just the person with God. The next beatitude extends the process.
Seventh Beatitude: While this beatitude integrated with the sixth outlines the process to wholeness, it is also conjoined with the fifth beatitude for the person made whole to function in the relationships necessary to be whole. As the process of the new wine identity formation engages others in relationship, there emerges a distinguished presence and involvement that is neither ambiguous nor shallow. Yet this beatitude is often not fully understood or integrally enacted.
Peace is generally perceived without its qualitative significance and with a limited understanding of the relational involvement constituting it. As discussed previously about Jesus approaching Jerusalem in his triumphant entry, he agonized over its condition: “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace” (Lk 19:41-42). “The things that make for peace” is a critical issue focused on what belongs to peace, and thus by necessity involves the persons who bring this peace, not just the work of peace.
Reviewing previous notes on peace, in the classical Greek sense peace is perceived as the opposite of war. The NT, however, does not take its meaning of peace from this source; its concept of peace is an extension from the OT and of the Hebrew shalom. The opposite of shalom is any disturbance to the well-being of the community. That is, biblical peace is not defined in negative referential terms by the absence of any conflict but in positive relational terms by the presence of a specific condition of ontology and function. Throughout the Bible the primary concept of peace is well-being and wholeness. Peace is a general well-being which has both an individual dimension and a corporate/collective dimension. This wholeness extends to all aspects of human life and by necessity included salvation and the end times but it certainly is insufficient to limit it to the latter. Going beyond the mere absence of negative activity, all of this involves what must be present for peace; this is what belongs to peace—and is more than commonly understood or even wanted.
The gospel is clearly affirmed by this peace (cf. Acts 10:36; Eph 6:15). This is the peace in which Jesus constituted his followers, and distinguished from conventional peace (Jn 14:27). It is thus insufficient to signify the gospel of peace with a truncated soteriology (only what Jesus saved us from) without the relational outcome of what he saved us to. The whole gospel’s salvation necessitates the relationships together of the whole of God’s family in which Jesus constituted his followers to be whole as the new creation. Wholeness is intrinsic to this peace, and to be whole is a necessary relational condition for those who bring this peace. Who then are the peacemakers?
Their identity is clearly defined by Jesus as the sons and daughters of God (v.9), not God’s servants but the Father’s very own children (cf. v.44-45). This tells us not only who and what they are but whose they are and how they are as peacemakers.
The adopted children of God have been made whole in God’s family and partake of the new wine communion together with the whole of God without the veil. As whole persons receiving the whole of God’s relational work of grace, it is insufficient for God’s children merely to share mercy (compassion) with others. It is also insufficient for them merely to engage in the mission (however dedicated) to reduce violence, stop war or create the absence of conflict. On the basis of the ontology of who they are and whose they are, how they function to clearly reflect the depth of their wholeness—thus the relational responsibility to represent the Father and to continue to extend his family—involves a deeper level of relational involvement. “Peacemakers” (eirenopoios) denotes reconcilers, those who seek the well-being and wholeness of others, just as they experience (cf. 2 Cor 5:17-18). The reciprocal nature of the process of peacemaking is both a necessary and sufficient condition for peacemakers. This means not only to address conflict but to restore relationships in the human condition to wholeness, just as God’s thematic relational action and the relational work of the Trinity engage.
In these seven beatitudes Jesus defined the natural relational flow from repentance to redemption to reconciliation to wholeness. Jesus functioned vulnerably in this relational flow and ongoingly engaged the relational work necessary to be whole. While peace describes interpersonal relationships only in a corollary sense, the condition of wholeness and well-being is the new relational order of the new creation as the whole of God’s family (as Paul made definitive, Eph 2:14-22; Col 3:15). Peace, therefore, is a necessary condition for the relational outcome of the new wine. Moreover, each emerging act of reconciliation and peacemaking must function in the same natural relational flow to become whole. This will further the relational process to wholeness for others and will deepen the wholeness of those so engaged, and therefore the maturation of the distinguished clarity and depth of their identity.
Yet, the experiential truth and reality of this wholeness is intrusive to others, which is unavoidable for those following Jesus’ relational path.
Eighth Beatitude: The reality for human life and practice is that reductionism prevails; and not everyone is seeking resolution to the human relational condition “to be apart” from the whole. Consequently, in this last function of their whole identity Jesus made clear to his followers the repercussions of being composed in his call to be redefined, transformed and made whole: the function of this new ontology in relational involvement with others will encounter strong negative reaction “for righteousness’ sake…on my account” (vv.10,11). Identity formation of his followers remains incomplete until they experience this consequence of their ontology and function in the world, which may include some Christian subcultures. That is to say, the relational outcome of the new wine includes this repercussion in human contexts because by its nature it is intrusive to the human shaping of relationships together.
Along with the benefits and responsibilities of belonging to his family as one of the Father’s very own, this consequence is another given unavoidable function in their identity. These repercussions are not the result of being doctrinaire, condescending or otherwise relationally uninvolved, though Christians certainly have experienced reactions for these reasons, justifiably or not. Nor are these reactions against only certain servants of God, which our notion of prophets often gets reduced to (v.12). These are the relational reactions from others to God’s children who are functioning whole in their reciprocal relational responsibility (“for righteousness’ sake”) as the Father’s very own to extend the whole of God’s family (“theirs is the kingdom”) to others in the relational righteousness of family love vulnerably constituted by Jesus (“on my account”). The new wine emerges in his call to be whole and to make whole.
This last beatitude is the consequence of both the qualitative distinguishing the ontology of God’s people and the relational involvement of their function, both of which intrude in the human context. Just as the prophets and Jesus experienced, this is the relational outworking of the identity of being in God’s family and intimately involved with the whole and holy God (the Uncommon). This may be a difficult identity function to embrace, and so in our thinking we may tend to limit it to unique situations for only a minority of Christians. Yet, the relational reality is inescapable that not only is the qualitative distinguishing the Uncommon incompatible with the common function but in conflict with it also; anything less reduces the ontology of the Uncommon and those who have become uncommon. And relational reactions from the common function will come in all forms and varying degrees (even from within Christian contexts) as long as the uncommon relationally extend themselves to the common with a critique of hope for change.
To avoid those reactions is to reduce our ontology and function to a level more ambiguous and shallow. To function as a peacemaker, for example, merely by being irenic, consensus building and unity forming is insufficient, and tends to become the ontological simulations and epistemological illusions of reductionism shaped in a hybrid theology. This beatitude’s last function integral in identity formation completes the process of being whole, both individually and together as family, in the human context suffering the relational condition “to be apart” from the whole. The repercussions are an integral part of the new wine fellowship, which Paul was blessed to participate in with Jesus and desired to grow in further and deeper (Col 1:24; Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 1:5; 4:10; Phil 3:10). Nothing less and no substitutes for this whole define the new wine identity and determine its relational outcome as the whole of God’s family. Anything less and any substitutes for wholeness of our identity lack the clarity and depth for our righteousness to go beyond the reductionism that Jesus made imperative for his followers in this major discourse (Mt 5:20). The resulting ambiguity and shallowness will neither be fully satisfying (makarios, “blessed”), nor be taken seriously in the world.
As the consequential function of the new wine identity, this beatitude must not be taken lightly or be lost in our identity formation; to do so is consequential for the relational outcome of the new wine.
The above eight beatitudes are the interdependent functions which together formulate our whole identity in who, what and how we are as Jesus’ followers and whose we become in the relational progression as his family—therefore distinguishing the ontology of the person and the whole. The beatitudes taken separately are problematic for makarios (fully satisfied, beyond being merely happy), since some beatitudes seen individually strain to be defined as blessedness; moreover, any beatitude by itself does not yield the relational outcome connected to it. Blessedness is synonymous with wholeness, and to be fully satisfied emerges only from vulnerable involvement in the whole of God’s life who has removed the veil for intimate relationship together.
The beatitudes together, however, are only the outline of the integral process of identity formation. Functionally, this process immediately addresses the whole person by opening our heart to be redefined. In the relational process, Jesus (in conjoint function with the Spirit) redeems us from the old (and the common) and transforms us to the new (and the uncommon) to be made whole in relationship together with the whole of God, whereby to function whole in likeness of the Trinity, including making whole in human contexts. The beatitudes’ integral process, therefore, is ongoing and its outline is not just linear but reflexive in our identity’s growth and maturation. As identity issues of ambiguity and shallowness become resolved, our identity as Jesus’ followers takes on a distinguished qualitative presence with others in the world. This is the basis for Jesus’ definitive declaration immediately following the beatitudes that we are the light and the salt, in which the ontology of we is the whole understanding of the light and the salt that integrally distinguishes the relational outcome of the new wine.
Implied in this identity formation and the relational outcome of Jesus’ new wine fellowship is the relational process of discipleship. Along with identity, however, discipleship easily becomes ambiguous or shallow, lacking the clarity and depth of this relational process. For this reason Paul interjected “As for those who will follow” to his message of the new creation (Gal 6:16), therewith challenging those to follow in progression within Jesus’ qualitative and relational framework for discipleship.
The early disciples demonstrated an ambiguous, if not shallow, discipleship that focused mainly on what they did in serving with minimal relational involvement with Jesus. While discussing what is primary in life, Jesus disclosed the defining paradigm for serving him: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also” (Jn 12:26). Jesus’ relational imperative has some parallel to Copernicus’ presentation of a new model of the world. That is, embracing Jesus’ new model for discipleship (in contrast to a prevailing rabbinic model) required a paradigm shift: a radical reordering of one’s beliefs, way of living and perceptual-interpretive framework—a shift from the quantitative work to be done (the focus of diakoneo, serving) to the qualitative function and primacy of relationship (the focus of akoloutheo, following), and accordingly a shift from a view and function of the person from outer in to a view and function of the person from inner out. In Jesus’ framework for discipleship, his paradigm for serving implies both the primacy of relationship (making the work secondary) and defining the person and determining their discipleship in qualitative terms from inner out. That is to say, to distinguish his followers, Jesus assumes a change to whole ontology and function in the qualitative image and relational likeness of the whole of God (“where I am, there will my servant be,” eimi, verb of existence). Anything less or any substitutes of this whole ontology and function—no matter how well-intentioned and dedicated to serve Jesus—is a reduced ontology and function based on shaping and constructing discipleship by human terms, which may be the prevailing model even in churches (cf. Rev 2:2-4; 3:1-2); such terms no longer follow Jesus only on his relational terms.
This is a common reduction of discipleship that prevailed in Peter’s life and signified the gap in relationship the early disciples had with Jesus (Jn 14:9), and that prevails for many Christians and churches today. Therefore, in Jesus’ discipleship framework, his paradigm for serving requires a transformation, the redemptive reconciliation that restores persons and relationship together to the wholeness of the gospel distinguishing the new wine—the integral relational flow of which is irreducible and nonnegotiable to human terms, regardless of how sincere, committed and doctrinally correct. This was Paul’s experiential truth of relationship together intimately following the whole of Jesus from the Damascus road (2 Cor 3:16-18), and Jesus’ relational framework that composed the whole of Paul and his witness as well as the whole in Paul and his theology.
Understanding the various parts of Paul’s synesis (whole understanding, Eph 3:4, cf. Col 1:9; 2:2) makes clear that the whole of his witness and the whole in his theology were deeply rooted in pleroma (complete) Christology. Following Jesus’ whole ontology and function in the relational progression of Jesus’ theological trajectory and relational path is how the relational Paul emerged from the historical Paul to compose the theological Paul. The experiential truth of the fullness of Christ’s whole ontology and function by necessity involved pleroma soteriology making functional ‘already’ the relational outcome of being saved to God’s new creation family. The whole of this family was developed as the church’s ontology and function by Paul, signifying the pleroma of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). In the complex theological dynamics of Paul’s theological forest, God’s whole family in transformed relationships together without the veil is the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor 3:16-18; 4:3-6), the gospel of wholeness in the face of Christ’s whole ontology and function (Eph 2:14-16; 3:6; 6:15), the pleroma of God (Col 1:19-20; 2:9-10; 3:10-11)—all emerging for Paul in the dynamic of nothing less and no substitutes. Therefore, in his theological forest the theology of ontological identity emerges only from the theological dynamic of belonging, both of which are inseparably integrated and rooted in the theology of wholeness.
This wholeness is the primary identity that defined Paul’s ontology and determined his function (the historical Paul notwithstanding), and the identity by which all who relationally belong to Christ need to be contextualized to be whole, both as persons individually and collectively. The relational outcome of God’s whole family together is the ontological identity of conjointly who we are and whose we are. Whose we are is always the determinant of who we are, never the converse or there is reductionism by human shaping. And the what that whose we are determines for who we are is always about family, not about the individual. Whole persons have been set free by Christ not for self-autonomy but are freed to be whole in whose we are, that is, in likeness of the whole of God (2 Cor 3:17-18; Gal 5:1, 13-14; Eph 4:24-25; Col 3:15; cf. 1 Cor 8:1). Wholeness for the person is contingent on wholeness in relationship together, therefore the whole person is inseparable from and indispensable for God’s new creation family—which in Paul’s theological forest is the church, “the pleroma of Christ who makes all whole in the whole” (Eph 1:23; cf. Rom 12:4-5). For the whole of Paul and the whole in his theology, there is no other relational outcome from the gospel of wholeness—the “new creation is everything” for those who follow the whole of Jesus in the new wine fellowship with the veil removed.
Old wineskins are implied in the anything less and any substitutes discussed above. Certainly then, old wineskins both constrain the flow of the new wine and reduce it of its qualitative and relational significance (par. Mk 2:22). The nature of old wineskins emerges with any reduction of ontology and function, thus from an ambiguous or shallow identity with relationships still having the veil, in contrasting and conflicting function with Jesus’ new wine table fellowship.
Jesus disclosed the new wine when the issue of fasting was raised to him. His response is inseparable from his major discourse for his followers in the Sermon on the Mount. Focused on efforts of self-determination, Jesus exposed trying to get closer to God through fasting from outer in (Mt 6:16-18). This effort to establish one’s righteousness (dikaiosyne, 6:1) assumes a reduced ontology and function that constrains the person in an outer-in discipline having no qualitative significance from inner out, and consequently has no relational significance to God. For Jesus, this fasting is an old wineskin that cannot contain the new wine. In Jesus’ relational language, reduced ontology and function are both incompatible and incongruent with whole ontology and function; and the nature of old wineskins is reduced ontology and function, defining the person from outer in and determining relationships still with the veil—unable to be vulnerably involved with God face to Face in the nature of the new wine, the new covenant, the new creation family.
Old wineskins are the relational consequence of becoming embedded in an ontological lie from reductionism that imposes an identity deficit, in which a person struggles to erase any deficit by efforts of self-determination in what one can do (e.g. fasting). The more control one can exercise over this process, the more certain the results of one’s efforts can be expected. The pursuit of certainty, however, requires a reduction epistemologically, ontologically and relationally in order for the control needed to succeed in self-determination—notably narrowing the epistemic field to the probable and minimizing vulnerability in relationships. This is how God’s terms for covenant relationship outlined in the torah have been reduced to a behavioral code, how persons seek to become justified by what they do, how Jesus’ teachings become disembodied to mere principles to follow, how the new wine gets put into an old wineskin. The nature of old wineskins, therefore, is the nature of the human condition in its reduced ontology and function, seeking self-determination and self-justification by its reduced ontology and function in order to overcome the deficit for its reduced ontology and function. And, accordingly, old wineskins emerge from an ambiguous or shallow identity necessitating the veil in relationships, because it fails to engage the integral identity formation of the first four beatitudes and pursues a reduced righteousness from outer in rather than whole righteousness from inner out (contrary to Mt 5:20).
Old wineskins first emerged in the primordial garden in the form of the fruit for self-determination and then with their loincloths for self-justification, and most significantly in their relational distance (Gen 3:6-10). The ontological lie from reductionism imposed an identity deficit to create an illusion of climbing the ontological ladder to a higher status: “you will not be reduced…you will become like God” (3:4-5). Constructing the tower of Babel was another old wineskin of reduced ontology and function seeking to climb the human contextual ladder for self-determination and justification (Gen 11:1-4). These examples demonstrate that old wineskins can have the appearance of something new (the fruit), innovative (loincloths) and a new venture (the tower); yet their reality is merely an illusion for reduced ontology and function.
The influence from human contextualization for innovation and new ventures has accelerated in the modern world of science and technology. At the same time, these efforts have also required a reduction epistemologically, ontologically and relationally in order to produce results. For example, the illusions of new skins developed by the recent changes in media technology are consequential for diminished involvement in relationships and minimalizing the quality of life, even though they have greatly increased our information, productivity and other quantities in life. As noted previously, such innovation stemming from modern technology has only reduced the primacy of the qualitative and the relational. These results, however, witness to the limits of what can emerge from reduced ontology and function. The new wine does not emerge and flow from the changes of innovation but only with transformation from inner out of whole ontology and function.
Shifting from innovation and its ambiguity of function and usefulness, we turn to a more practical approach. Pragmatism is another old wineskin constraining the new wine that needs more attention if the concern is for the flow of new wine. While a pragmatist may have significance by not separating theology from its practical function—in this sense Paul can be considered a pragmatist—pragmatism has a purpose and concern of less depth. Pragmatism should not be confused with pragmatics in linguistics that concerns understanding the meaning of messages in the relational context of the speaker—an ongoing necessity for Jesus’ relational language and messages. In a more limited concern, even with good intentions, pragmatism involves the effort in discipleship that focuses primarily on situations and circumstances, and concerns what is most practical in them. With this narrowed-down focus and concern, pragmatism essentially reduces the relational involvement of the whole person with God by shifting this primacy to the situations and circumstances. Often unknowingly, this limits the relational process of discipleship to outer-in engagement by redefining one’s person from inner out to outer in, thereby renegotiating relationship with God on our terms. By reordering the primacy of relationship, pragmatism unintentionally promotes the counter-relational work of reductionism and reduces the whole ontology and function constituting both the new wine and its discipleship, therefore disregarding Jesus’ relational imperative for his followers.
Jesus’ conflict with the reductionist segments of Judaism involved their pragmatism in contrast to their needed relational function in the covenant relationship together. Pragmatism also emerged at another new wine table fellowship to try to constrain the new wine (Mt 26:6-13; Jn 12:1-8). The new wine flowed from Mary with her vulnerable involvement in relational response to Jesus. The expensive perfume was secondary to the primacy of relationship together but the disciples made it an issue of discipleship in primary response to the situation of the poor. By rebuking Mary harshly (par. Mk14:5), they demonstrated the limited concern of their pragmatism, therewith exposing their continued reduced ontology and function that still had not tasted the new wine but indeed tried to constrain it. In contrast and conflict, Jesus fully experienced the primacy of Mary’s involvement and the depth of her discipleship—celebrating the new wine together and anticipating her flow of the new wine to give clarity and depth to “wherever this gospel of wholeness is proclaimed in the whole world” (Mt 26:13).
The new wine distinguishing God’s whole on God’s terms always involves making choices. Choosing what we will pay attention to and what we will ignore. Choosing what is a greater priority, what is primary or what is secondary. Choosing what will define our person and what we will not let define us. Choosing how we will define others and how we will not define others. Choosing how we will be involved in relationships and how we will not do relationships. Choosing the uncommon (holy) over the common. Choosing zoe over bios, the qualitative over the quantitative. Choosing to live more by the opportunities of kairos than by the constraints of chronos. That is to say, choosing to be whole, to live whole and to make whole. Yet, these choices are not about human agency but about involvement in reciprocal relationship together in response to God’s relational grace, the basis and ongoing base for relationship together to be whole.
Making these choices signifies celebrating the whole, signified in the new wine table fellowship. With each choice, we celebrate God’s whole and being whole in communion together. Making the choice may be difficult but what also emerges in making it is celebrating the whole of God’s new creation family together. This is the family responsibility which we humbly submit to and thankfully account for in the relational process of family love because we are “not left as orphans” but have been adopted into God’s family. Therefore, we celebrate our redemption to be free to make these choices. We celebrate our transformation to make these choices in family love. We celebrate our reconciliation to make these choices for relationship together in God’s new family. And we celebrate making these choices in relationship together without the fragmenting presence of the veil. In other words, by making these choices we celebrate being made whole to be whole in order to live whole and to make whole, God’s whole on God’s terms.
The critical choices made by persons in the first new wine table fellowship and then by Mary involve not choosing the secondary (fasting and the old wine, ministry to the poor) over the primacy of whole relationship together from inner out. The choice to live vulnerably in relationship together to be whole is what the Father seeks (Jn 4:23) and the Son searches for (Rev 2:23b) and pursues in post-ascension (Rev 3:20). The choice of the primacy of relationship together and building intimate communion together as family is the choice of God’s relational whole on God’s relational terms. Making this choice, as Mary beautifully made with Jesus, is the experiential reality of having good news, in which Mary’s whole significance has yet to be established today because of a fragmentary gospel. By making this choice in the primacy of God’s relational terms to live whole in vulnerable relationship and to build intimate communion together as the new creation family, even at the expense of ministry, they celebrated God’s relational whole—which is indeed the experiential truth and functional significance of the gospel. Accordingly, in this choice and the celebration signified with it, they experienced even greater depth of living whole. This is the flow of Mary’s new wine that needs to distinguish our gospel today, indeed for the whole world.
These two new wine table fellowships clearly demonstrate the importance of making these choices and celebrating God’s whole in conjoint function in order both to enjoy the breadth of being whole and to experience the depth of living whole—the makarios (fully satisfied) from the beatitudes and from the relational outcome of God’s definitive blessing. Making the choice and celebrating God’s whole converge most definitively for his church family in relationship together when they function in Eucharistic worship. Celebrating in Eucharistic worship is the most integral opportunity of God’s new creation family to build intimate communion together. Yet, this distinguished opportunity is not a mere spiritual tradition and practice of faith merely engaged before God; such practice may signify still being in front of the curtain. Tradition easily becomes a substitute for deeper involvement in relationships without the veil, and hereby serves as an old wineskin. Thus, what we participate in and how we participate are vital; that means even the logistics are important to help us build God’s relational whole that holds us together in our innermost. This communion is a qualitative function only of relationship, intimate relationship together with the whole of God, therefore relationship not embedded in the past or simply anticipating the future but relationship vulnerably functioning in the present. By removing the veil with his sacrifice, Jesus constituted the new creation family ‘already’. In Eucharistic worship, when his church functions in vulnerable relationship to build intimate communion together, his church family in whole ontology and function experiences the height of relational involvement with the whole of God.
Together with the presence and reciprocal relational work of the Spirit (the Son’s relational replacement), Jesus’ transformed followers are theologically and functionally reconciled together to be the new creation whole of God’s family in likeness of the Trinity, ongoingly in the trinitarian relational process of family love. At this integral new wine table fellowship with the whole of God, his church can celebrate God’s whole only as church family together without relational distance, not as relational and emotional orphans functioning as orphanage. Without this relational celebration of God’s whole, our Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, pneumatology and eschatological hope become merely narrowed-down referential doctrine essentially disembodied with nothing qualitatively distinguished to practice and relationally significant to experience both with God and with each other together. The only alternative left to practice and experience in this relational condition is “old wine,” that some say “The old is good or enough” (Lk 5:39).
Jesus raised up Paul to extend and exceed his relational work of the new wine fellowship (Acts 26:16; Jn 14:12). Vulnerably involved with the whole of Jesus and in reciprocal relationship with the Spirit, Paul became the hermeneutical key for the theological and functional clarity of the church as God’s family in whole ontology and function. Therefore, even circumcision and uncircumcision became old wineskins for the new wine fellowship in his perceptual-interpretive framework—“neither…is anything.” For Paul, as a reduced person made whole, the new covenant and new creation were indispensable for the gospel, irreplaceable for its relational outcome, and irreducible for its emerging ontology and nonnegotiable for its ongoing relationship together. Nothing less and no substitutes either defined Paul or determined his theology and function. The flow of the new wine in the new covenant and creation constitutes the relational dynamic of Jesus into Paul, and the who, what and how of Paul embodying the theology and hermeneutic of the whole gospel.
The new creation is everything, ‘already’.
 Hans Küng, The Beginning of All Things, 46.
©2012 T. Dave Matsuo