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Grace Theology Press, www.gracetheology.org

Literally or Literarily Speaking

In my university training, I remember taking courses about the Bible as Literature and Advanced Poetry. I was the only guy in classes filled with female English majors. What I was doing there is a long story for another time. But in those classes, we spent much time on language, locution, illocution and the structures used in language with the specific form and function of words, which included the use of metaphor.

The Bible is filled with metaphors regarding soteriology. It contains an expansive use of terminology that is aimed at conveying a deep truth to be both objectively known and subjectively experienced. (See Bullinger’s Figures of Speech in the Bible.)

Soteriological metaphors or linguistic linkages include those that come forth from the arena of Roman law concerning our citizenship and Jewish law with the use of the term “justify” or “righteousness,” both derived from the same lexical family. Metaphors also involve cultic terminology including “holy rights” manifested in the concepts of propitiation built upon the mercy seat and “sanctification” based upon a holy sacrifice. The medical metaphor of “healing” and the military metaphor of “rescue” or “deliverance” are paramount. The concept of commercial exchange is used with the ideas of “redemption” or “reconciliation.” The family metaphor is utilized concerning “kinship” as expressed in the ritual of a “wedding” and the relationship of being a “child of God” through “adoption,” as well as the future family promise of being “heirs.” Perhaps the most memorable is that regarding life and the life processes of being “born,” “reborn,” “born again” as a “new creation,” which is “eternal life.”

However, is it possible that these literary linguistic concepts are not simply metaphoric word pictures but are actually linked to time space reality? Could it be that the “Body of Christ” is more than simply a picture but is in fact a physical and metaphysical reality manifested not only in time space but also manifested in multiple multidimensional venues? We know the angels observe the church and see the grace of God through our lives individually and the church corporately. Is it possible that Paul actually means that we are “seated in the heavenlies with Christ?” Is it actually possible that when Jesus says, “Lo I am with you always,” He actually means just that?

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Managing Editor,
Grace Theology Press