In the last article in this series we observed that through Christ, Jews and Gentiles (and people of all divisions of humanity) have been and are being made into a new creation. Paul referred to the enmity that had existed between the two major divisions of humanity at the time when Jesus had come into the world. The healing of that division was by the reconciliation of both to God through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
When and how did that division take place? How significant was it? One must go back to the earliest chapters of the Old Testament to discover the roots of that division. We must also go all the way back to the very beginning to learn about the ideal for humanity God expressed at the time of man’s creation and to find how and why that ideal was not achieved.
When God created the first human beings He made them in His own image. This means more than that in the outward, physical sense man somehow “looks like” God. Indeed, being in the image of God denotes something far more significant than outward appearance. It has reference to a quality of being by which man partakes of the nature of God in some sense. This makes man something more than just a glorified animal. This also makes Christianity more than simply something to belong to as one would belong to a club since through the gospel man is being reconciled to God.
The knowledge God has for us to learn carries the most profound implications for the human race. It has to do with what we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to live in this world. It speaks to the fact that life has meaning and purpose. The knowledge of what we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to live in this world is available to us, as is stated in this text:
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
As we have argued in the preceding articles in this series, since God has designed for us, his creatures – or more especially, His new creation – to live in association with one another in a mutually supportive, self-replicating, growing and hence changing society, this places upon us the responsibility of learning just what this all means. In order to gain this knowledge it is necessary for us to have a comprehensive understanding of all of God’s revelation to us. By this I mean a knowledge of all the Bible, not just the New Testament.
It is my considered opinion that there has been a colossal failure on the part of most Christians and most churches throughout most of the past two thousand years to have an adequate grasp of God’s revelation to mankind. There are many things that have contributed to this failure. Without going into all these influences, we will simply make reference to some of them as we go through this series. You can tease out the various threads of influence if you wish to do so.
As a consequence of blending such things as Greek philosophy (Neoplatonism, dualism, etc.), Jewish and pagan ceremonialism, ritualism and Phariseeism in the early centuries of the church’s existence, what started out to be a simple, living relationship of believers with the risen Savior turned into the complex, institutional, dominating, controlling juggernaut of Roman Catholicism that stifled freedom of thought and expression that discouraged people from reading, investigating and learning for themselves what God truly wants of man.
The Protestant Reformation, while accomplishing much in breaking the power of Catholicism, stopped short of what should have been the ultimate goal. Instead of taking humanity back to God’s original intent for man, it substituted another form of institutionalism and with it a continuing domination of the thought and learning of mankind. Instead of freeing men to become simple followers of Jesus, the Protestant denominational system has offered what has been termed “churchanity.” One writer expresses it this way…
“This is truly the age of churchanity. Much these days, too much, is said about churching, having church, going to church, doing church, the corporate church, church organization, church authority, officers of the church, the work of the church, church treasuries, church buildings, church life, church planting, church attendance, church joining, church membership, church giving, church worship, church fellowship, church singing, church this, and church that, none of which can be found in the Bible. It has come to the point where it is the church that is being promoted instead of the Christ.” (Freerepublic.com/Churchanity, Neal Griffin, Helotes, Texas).
With this kind of emphasis given to “church” instead of Christ, the people who are caught up in this system are “churchians” instead of Christians. The teaching and learning that is done in these many churches is tied to the building up of the institution of whatever “flavor” it may be. All this is as a result of the failure of Protestantism with all its many offshoots to rid the world of all the false concepts that have insinuated themselves into the thinking of people who profess to be Christians.
It is high time for people to reexamine the whole business of what today passes for Christianity and begin moving more toward what God really wants of us, His new creation, both now and for the future. The past is past and we dare not attempt to live in it or to live with its failures. We are capable of moving to higher levels of learning and achievement, both individually and collectively.
Co-authored with Bill Van Dyke, Ph.D, Give Me Liberty: Restoring the Spirit of Jubilee examines the mission of Christ as viewed from the fulfillment of Jubilee and how legalism robs the church community of the joy Jubilee brings.
A Better Way is an exploration and critique of the traditional method of determining Bible authority and suggestions for a better approach to understanding the Bible.