Kevin DeYoung, pastor in Lansing, MI and blogger at “DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed,” interviewed Andreas Kostenberger yesterday. Dr. Kostenberger is a Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Kevin specifically asked Dr. Kostenberger about his book entitled The Missions of Jesus and the Disciples (Eerdmans, 1998), the perspective of John’s gospel, the role of Jesus’ followers today, “incarnational ministry” (esp. as used by John Stott), and other aspects related to the church’s mission.
DeYoung: You argue that “[T]he Fourth Gospel does therefore not appear to teach the kind of ‘incarnational model’ advocated by Stott and others” (217). Why are you critical of this approach? What are the exegetical problems? Is there a way we should be “incarnational” in our ministry?
Dr. Kostenberger: The term that I think captures the nature of our mission according to John’s gospel is “representational.” That is, we are to re-present the message of redemption and eternal life in Jesus on the basis of the finished cross-work and resurrection of Christ. Clearly, John’s Gospel presents Jesus’ incarnation as utterly unique (read the introduction, 1:1-18!), so it is hard to conceive of John teaching an “incarnational model” in which the disciples share in Jesus’ incarnation in some way. Remember, my doctoral dissertation was just on John’s Gospel, and so I only addressed and critiqued an “incarnational model” from John’s vantage point. The major implication from this kind of “representational” model, then, is that we are to focus on the gospel message, not the messengers, and pass that message on faithfully and accurately in our mission to the world.
DeYoung: You also say “the church ought to be focused in the understanding of its mission” (219). Why is this focus important? When it comes to the church’s mission, what should be the focus?
Dr. Kostenberger: As I said at the end of my answer to the previous question, there ought to be a focus on the salvation message of the gospel. In keeping with John’s own purpose statement, our purpose should be to bring others to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so that they pass from death into life (5:24) and have eternal life. You see in John this single-minded focus on faith, whether in the pivot of the introduction (1:12) or at John 3:16. Maintaining a gospel focus will help the church avoid elevating secondary matters to primary importance and getting sidetracked from its primary mission.
Read the entire interview and DeYoung’s introduction to the interview and the subject of “incarnational ministry”.