One thing we see in Paul’s Gospel message @ Mars Hill is the tremendous flexibility Paul employs when sharing The resurrected Christ Jesus with the Greek & Roman world of his time. In fact a study of the early church shows a great diversity in thought and practice concerning this transcended Lord of the created Universe and His Father in the liberty of the Spirit.
In Christianity today there are basically two methods the “born into” method and the “born again method, I had the benefit of experiencing both during my lifetime, being “born into” a Catholic family in upstate N.Y. and becoming a “born again” Christian in my youth in California. It is this later method of God realization that I want to focus on for the purposes of this article today.
Becoming a born again Christian was traumatic for my Father seeing it as a bit of a betrayal of our Families religious tradition, and in hindsight I wish I had been more sensitive to his heart. It did not help that I was immediately taught to doubt the salvation of my entire family and that indeed their eternal destinies were on the line. Is there any doubt that as a born again neophyte I was absolutely insufferable to be around, spouting bible verses at the speed the Thompson machine gun. Not to mention my obsession with the ends a coming anti-Christ and Hell for all who defied this Bible inspired truth for these last days. I think by this time you guessed that I was “born again” or saved if you like during the early 70’s in Southern California, the hot bed of pre-trib, Dispensational, rapture, end times madness country. I share my story or rather my journey @ 56 because I believe many can relate to it and just maybe it might help whosoever put the pieces together in their own mind.
Let me take a moment for me to share with you how I was taught to “share” our gospel and I say our gospel because I now understand it was not the Original Gospel.
1st You were born a Sinner & Dead spiritually
2nd God is Holy and can’t look upon any sin
3rd God sent his son to pay the price you owe Him
4th If you receive this gift then God can let you into His holy Heaven
5th if you don’t receive this gospel message you get the only thing you deserve, eternal separation from a Holy God in pain and agony.
So you can see why I was so insufferable? This is very serious stuff here and if you know me at all you know that I truly love people, especially the strays or what we called the lost. I will tell you this with all my will power I proclaimed this message believing it to be part and parcel with the word and will of God. What of the billions that would never hear of this Holy God who paid the price but needed them to confess he did it in order for them to benefit from it? I wasn’t sure but it didn’t sound right but everyone I called friend assured me this was the Gospel Truth, bible verses included. All the books I read told me this, the Pastor on Sunday told me this, as well as all the Anointed guys and gals on TBN. How could they wrong and more importantly how could God’s word be wrong, I guess I better keep my doubts to myself and say amen.
It wasn’t until I began to study and read other points view beyond my biased presuppositions that I began to realize that The Gospel was a story of the Love of God in Christ and not His Holiness making demands on humanity they could not keep. It was during this time that I say the Gospel of the Love of God in Christ was far more flexible then I had been taught or that I was teaching others because by this time I had become a Pastor of an Evangelical Church. Now what was I to do, talk about being between a rock and a hard place I now longer believed what I was preaching?
The answer came to me but I knew it would be a long a painful journey I had to discover Jesus all over again, I had to unlearn and relearn, I had to ask better questions and think much bigger then my indoctrination would allow. None of this of course can really occur in a bubble and you guessed it, I began to be watched as I searched for this Bigger Love Gospel I was sure was at the heart of God’s plan. I was asked why had I begun to stray from the script, the one enshrined in the Church bylaws, with a long list of verse citations to back it up. It all came to head one Sunday afternoon when while walking into my inquisition it came to me that I followed God and not man. That I knew I had just begun to discover the real Christ the one my heart had desired for so many years, the Jesus Christ beyond doctrine and dogma and the certitude they create. So I walked out unemployed by man but fully ready to follow the leading of the Spirit in my heart. So this brings us to the flexible Gospel I actually promised to share with you from Paul’s Mars Hill Gospel proclamation, but that I am afraid will have to wait until my next blog.
The first view is the Calvinist View which simply stated is this. Salvation is 100% a work of God but He does not intend on Saving everyone, but those He chooses are eternally safe, Christ did not die for all humanity but only the elect. Our Part in this matter is merely to preach the absolute sovereignty of God and those Chosen will respond because they have been given the spirit of grace to do so.
The second view is the Arminian View which simply stated is this. Salvation is 99.9999% a work of God and the rest is your freewill which you must exercise in order to receive it. Now some believe at this point Salvation becomes guaranteed and others do not. Our part in this matter is to tell them without faith in Christ they will most certainly perish in Hell. Those we do not reach with this message, God can’t save for his hands are tied according to our part in proclaiming the Gospel and mans part in confessing belief in his life time.
The third view is that of Jesus Christ which simply stated is, that “He is Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” Your responsibility in this mater is to proclaim the full love of God in Christ and to walk in that same love in this life. Reach as many as you can with this Real Heavenly Love, but in the finished work of Christ is the guarantee for those we do not reach “that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord to the Glory of God” and then God sorts it out.