The People of God: Part 1 of 7

In Hebrews 11-12, the author lists the “people of old” (11:2) and describes them as the people of God who lived “by faith.” The author retells the ancient story of God and his created, chosen and called people who are now part of the “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (12:1). This story of the people of God throughout the generations informs and encourages God’s people in any generation; however, the author explains that God’s story and purposes for his people are fully realized in the life and ministry of Jesus. Thus, the people of God should fix their eyes on Jesus and follow his example of devotion, service and mission. They should look with hope to the day when they will be “made perfect” (11:40) and when they will enter “the heavenly Jerusalem” (12:22). In essence, the author of Hebrews is presenting a biblical theology in this section, drawing together the entire biblical narrative while using the theme of the people of God.

In similar fashion, the next several posts will retell the biblical story while presenting that the biblical theme of the people of God is at the heart of biblical theology. The entire biblical story tells of God’s involvement in creating, choosing and calling his people. Therefore, the people of God are those who encounter and belong to God and who are called to worship, to service, to mission and to hope.

The Protological People of God

In the opening chapters of the biblical narrative, God reveals his unique and high point of creation through the forming of the first man and woman. God intimately “formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen 2:7). Then, God lovingly took a rib from the man and made the woman (Gen 2:21-23). God created the first man (Adam) and woman (Eve) in his image so that he could enter into loving relationship with his creation. This first couple was to depend on God as an act of worship and to partner with him through service by overseeing creation and furthering God’s purposes for it. They were to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). Thus, God’s intention for his protological people was to live in loving relationship and cooperative partnership with him and each other while experiencing his manifold blessings and abundant life.[1]

However, following this remarkable vision of God’s intention for his people is a crucial turn in the story’s plot. Genesis 3 depicts “the great human crisis”[2] that threatens God’s intention for his people and begins the unraveling and downward spiral of humanity and creation.[3] The story in Genesis 3 describes “a self-serving move made by humanity out of a sense of distrust and fear and in an effort to secure its own control, survival and well being”[4] resulting in the distortion and fracture of the relationship with God and with one another. This is visible through the stories in Genesis 4-11 that recount the “rebellion, violence, bloodshed, and destruction”[5] perpetrated by humanity which ultimately leads to the isolation and insecurity of humanity. The people who once encountered God and experienced a sense of belonging with him and with each other were engulfed in their own self-sovereignty and self-reliance.[6]

[1] Brad E. Kelle, Telling the Old Testament Story: God’s Mission and God’s People (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017), 42. [2] Kelle, Telling, 43. [3] Kelle, Telling, 43. [4] Kelle, Telling, 43. [5] Kelle, Telling, 43. [6] Kelle, Telling, 54.

Sundays During the Early Church Period

The Early Church stands among the storied people of God, and so they participated in and performed (lived out) the Theo-drama—God’s drama of redemption in the past, present and future. God’s redemptive drama culminated in the life and ministry of Jesus, and so Christ’s redeeming death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming are the earmarks of the Christocentric metanarrative of the “already-not yet in full” Kingdom of God. This was the good news that the Early Church proclaimed and celebrated and was the reason they began gathering on Sunday—the Lord’s Day (the day of Jesus’ resurrection).

During these gatherings, Christians were committed to the reading of the Scriptures, to commentating on those readings, to singing hymns, to prayers, to the kiss of peace, to offerings, to partaking of the bread and cup (as the broken body and shed blood of Jesus) and to departing benedictions.[1] The Early Church gatherings were marked by joy, gratitude and celebration. Justo Gonzalez writes, “A new reality had dawned, and Christians gathered to celebrate that dawning and to become participants in it.”[2]

In the book of Acts, converts to the Jesus movement are typically baptised immediately, whereas in the Early Church there was an emphasis on catechumenate which was “a period of preparation, trial, and instruction prior to baptism.”[3] This was due to the gospel expanding throughout the Greco-Roman world resulting in the large influx of Gentiles becoming Jesus followers. Most of these new Gentile Christians would have needed a lot of instruction regarding God’s story with the Jews and how that story leads to the good news of Jesus for the world.[4]  After the catechumenate period, catechumens were baptized early in the morning on Easter Sunday. Once they were baptized, they received white robes signifying new life in Christ (Col 3:9-12; Rev 3:4) followed by their first eucharist with the community.[5] 


[1] Justo L.González, The Story of Christianity, Rev. and Updated, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2010), EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship” [2] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship” [3] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship” [4] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship” [5] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship”