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Transforming: The Church as Agent of Change in the Story of Zacchaeus

The Church can become a transformational agent in society when people, who are daily being transformed into the image of Christ, determine to live out “Kingdom” principles in the various arenas of their personal lives. The effect is magnified when these same individuals collectively ask how those principles might inform and transform the business of being “in this world,” but not “of this world.” This life is made possible by the enabling presence and power of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us as a pledge of the fullness to come (Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Cor. 1:22).

God has always intended that our personal spiritual transformation have a societal impact.

A few practical suggestions rise from our study. First, pastors and spiritual leaders can facilitate this process by starting, encouraging, and supporting discipleship through relational mentoring. Jesus took the time to be with Zacchaeus in his home. The home was the site of intimate personal interaction and fellowship, and it was in this context that Zacchaeus had his transforming encounter with Jesus. Second, the so-called “friendship” model of evangelism finds merit in our story, not only because it has scriptural precedent, but because it provides a natural bridge and vehicle for mentoring new believers.8 However, relational discipleship must make an effort to include “non-believers.” Home cells, “Koinonia” groups and Bible studies, get cozy and comfortable with only Christians in attendance, but can also become exclusive. Such groups need to find, as Jesus did, common ground upon which to relate and have meaningful interaction, a setting where unbelievers have access to the Christian faith lived out and proclaimed by authentic Christians. Finally, as our story illustrates, faith must be made relevant to the practical issues of life. Salvation is the entrance into the kingdom of God, where God’s reign extends over the totality of our earthly as well as spiritual existence. It was our Lord Jesus who taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, KJV).



Next Issue (Winter 2009)

Transformation: The Church as Agent of Change in the Parable of the Good Samaritan



1 If Frederick Danker is correct and Zachaios is derived from the Hebrew Zakkai then his name points to the moral character of purity or uprightness. See F. Danker, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University Press, 2000), 214. Cf. R. L. Harris, G.L. Archer and B.K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 548.

2 Everett Ferguson points out that the word translated “defrauded” in 19:8 (Gk. sukophanteo) actually means to “bring false charges.” See E. Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co., 2nd ed., 1993), 88.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2008

About the Author: James D. Hernando, Ph.D. (Drew University), is Professor of New Testament at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. He is author of Dictionary of Hermeneutics (Gospel Publishing House, 2005), the commentary on 2 Corinthians in the Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament (Zondervan, 1999), as well as numerous articles and papers.

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