By: Frances Swaggart
Last month we discussed the “communitarian”philosophy and how it prevents, rather than aids, in the proclamation of the True Gospel Message. Truth becomes compromised for the sake of greater community cooperation. Even the church’s understanding of mission work has now been affected. It used to be that the term “missionary” described an individual who felt specifically led by God to go to foreign fields and preach the absolute Truth of His Word. The Gospel Message of Christ and Him Crucified burned like a flame in his heart, so he was compelled to warn the lost that, in order to have Eternal Life, they must accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Today, however, we are hearing new language such as the term “missional.” It is a subtle switch, but the term “missional” actually speaks of societal/community improvement, not the preaching of the Cross. The missional church does not start with Biblical beliefs. Instead, they begin with actions. They view any “good work” as a starting point through which theological “truths” will later emerge. “. . . Being missional means following the journey wherever it leads as long as it corrects society’s evils . . . The content of the gospel (that God has offered a path to escape His coming wrath) is the core issue to a missionary but irrelevant to one who is missional . . . To them, a focus on the content of the message is a distraction at best and harmful at worst” (Bob DeWaay, The Emergent Church Undefining Christianity. p 31-32). This is, in essence, the same as the New Age ideal anticipating a worldwide Utopian society. It is incredible that we now have a large portion of the church practicing New Age mission work instead of fulfilling the Great Commission!
The only way to truly improve society is to see people accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior on an individual basis. If men have a heart change through the hearing of the Gospel Message, then society will begin to change for the better, but if the hearts of men are not changed, society will not change either. God never intended for the Christians of this world to unite with the worshippers of other world religions to try and cure the ills of society. There is no example of such in the Bible. Rather, the opposite is demonstrated over and over again. In II Chronicles 19:2, we find that Jehu rebukes King Jehoshaphat for his alliance with King Ahab. “And Jehu the son of Hanani the Seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Should you help the ungodly, and love them who hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon you from before the LORD (the Lord was very displeased with Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab, and there would be repercussions, even as the word ‘wrath’ proclaims, and which we shall see; sin must never be taken lightly or with impunity; in fact, sin is so powerful that the only answer to this dilemma is the Cross [Heb. 10:12]).” In II Chronicles 18:3, we saw where Jehoshaphat formed this alliance with King Ahab. “And Ahab king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead? And he answered him, I am as you are, and my people as your people; and we will be with you in the war.” I would ask the reader to review Chapters 17 and 18 of II Chronicles. Also, in II Chronicles 16:7, we find Asa being rebuked for his unholy alliance with Ben-hadad. “And at that time Hanani the Seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD your God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of your hand (is it possible that God makes plans for us which speak of great victory, and we forfeit those plans by our faithlessness? Rather than trusting Him, we trust man).”
THE MODERN CHURCH!
What if, instead of preaching the Gospel on Mars’ Hill and correcting its citizens for their idolatrous worship of other gods (Acts 17:16-34), the Apostle Paul had appealed to the citizens’ so-called “better nature,” asking them to join him in working for world peace? What if, like so many of our modern “preachers,” Paul had reasoned to himself, “After all, we all worship God and want the same things in life, right? So, let’s just join together and work for the ‘greater good’ of Rome.” What an unimaginable loss for the cause of Christ that would have been! Thank the Lord, we know that no such thought entered Paul’s mind. Scripture makes it clear that Paul was burdened, not for the “greater good” of the community, but for the citizens’ lost conditions. Paul’s spirit was “stirred within” because he saw the city given over to idol worship. Any man truly called of God will have a burden for souls. Day and night, this will be the cry of his heart! Where are such men of God in the modern church?
THE WORSHIP OF HEATHEN GODS
About 500 years before the time of Paul, Athens was at the zenith of its power. It was famous for its great culture and philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. After the Roman conquest of Greece, Athens became a part of the Roman Empire, and even though its great fame was now history, Athens still nurtured the memory of its past. Its temples, like the Acropolis, were still beautiful examples of the best in Greek architecture. The Athenians made gods out of their renowned philosophical concepts; hence, the city was full of monuments and statues. Essentially then, their own culture, wisdom, and learning had become their gods. But, of course, as all imaginations of men, their culture was jaded, their wisdom was sensual, and their learning was erroneous. Therefore, their “gods” were completely corrupt and worthless. “Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them” (Jer 10:14). Demon spirits, however, will try to give credence to any “god” other than the One True God. Supernatural manifestations may even occur in order to fuel belief in idols. People actually end up worshipping demon spirits they believe are good gods. Satan doesn’t really care who or what you worship as long as you don’t worship the Lord.
The same types of idols are created today. Modern man also celebrates his own achievements, education, and points of view more than he worships and admires the Lord! We make “heroes,” “stars,” “role-models,” etc. out of the people who epitomize the ideals and aspirations we consider significant. We love people who are “the best” at whatever skill they’ve mastered no matter from where their power source and/or inspiration came. But Paul, knowing the idolatrous beliefs of the Athenians, went into the synagogue and marketplace daily to dispute their ideas. The marketplace was the busiest section of the city, said to be the central seat of commercial, forensic, and philosophical intercourse as well as the “busy idleness of loungers.” It was near the Pnyx, the Acropolis, and the Areopagus. Actually, the greatest form of entertainment in those days was the marketplace speakers. When one speaker finished giving his particular ideas on any given subject, another would instantly take his place. The crowd would agree, disagree, or just simply be amused. Keep in mind these people were rank pagans with no clue whatsoever as to the existence of the One True God. The word “philosophy” simply means “a pursuit of wisdom, the purpose of life, and/or a search for truth.” All types of philosophy abound and ever have done so! However, they are all man-originated. But it was in this mix that Paul took a turn to minister and speak something much greater than mere philosophy to this crowd! What a day – when the Light of the Gospel finally breaks through all men’s hopeless musings! Paul was indeed more educated than any of these men of Athens, but it was his knowledge of the Lord that made the difference. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of Knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).
Bible Christianity is far removed from all the philosophies of men because Faith is the ingredient, not intellect. God has built the entirety of His dealings with man on Faith (Heb. 11). Consequently, all the answers to all of man’s questions begin with believing God’s Word whether it makes sense to our human minds or not. One Man dying on a cruel Cross to atone for the entirety of the sins of all mankind is not logical in man’s way of thinking, yet it is the objective Truth of God, which will never change! Philosophies invented by men change by the day, but because God is Perfect, His Words never have to change! When Paul “preached unto them Jesus and the Resurrection,” the crowd was perplexed. This teaching was completely outside of all Greek thought. Just the mention of this man named Jesus seemed foolish and inconsequential to them. The word “resurrection” seemed ridiculous as they had no knowledge of the type of Resurrection Paul spoke of. So, they called Paul a babbler and went daily to laugh at what “the babbler” had to say. In actuality, though, Paul’s message could have been dangerous to both him and anyone who would accept what he was saying. If they considered Paul to be introducing a new divinity, he would have been committing a forbidden act under Roman law. When they perceived he was teaching new doctrine, they took him to Mars’ Hill, the Supreme Court of Athens. Acts 17:23 states, “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an Altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, Him I declare unto you.”
The phrase, “I found an Altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD,” discloses to us the direction the Holy Spirit gave to Paul respecting this message, which would place him within the bounds of Roman law. In other words, this way he was not preaching a foreign god per se, but making known to them the one whom they had already included in their devotions but just did not “know.” As usual, the Holy Spirit led and guided as only He can do! God was truly unknown to these troublers. Keep in mind, modern Believers are not being taught to be Spirit-led; this will result in both a loss of souls and, perhaps unnecessary, adverse consequences for Believers themselves. Acts 17:32 states, “And when they heard of the Resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear you again of this matter.” Their mocking came out of sheer unbelief. Most of the Athenians would not listen and, therefore, lost the greatest opportunity to receive Eternal Life. They rejected Jesus and, therefore, rejected Life. So Paul left, but, as he left, “certain men clave unto him,” which presented the fact that a few did believe whole heartedly and recognized in Paul’s message the “true words of life.” Acts 17:34 states, “Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” “Dionysius the Areopagite” was a member of the great Court of Athens, this particular phrase pertains to him as one of the judges or justices.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST
You see, Paul chose to preach Christ and Him Crucified rather than join together with the Athenians to promote “peace,” “cooperation,” and “community.” True, he only left behind a few Believers, but among those few could be found great heroes of the faith. Eusebius, one of our Church fathers, said, “We are told by an ancient writer, Dionysius the pastor of the Church of Corinth, that his namesake Dionysius the Areopagite, of whom Luke says in the Book of Acts that he was the first who embraced the faith after Paul’s discourse in the Areopagus, became the first pastor (Bishop) of the church in Athens.” It is further said that Dionysius suffered a cruel martyrdom.Thank God Paul was more interested in the souls of the citizens of Athens than with making them global citizens! A few found Christ, and those few led others to Christ! See, a preacher may only gain one convert at the time of his preaching, but when that seed is planted, it can continue to bear fruit and multiply! It’s not about immediate numbers, but the eternal impact of the genuine and uncorrupted seeds we’ve sown. God will bring the increase!
Try to imagine Jesus being invited to the Pharisee’s annual meeting at the temple to speak on how they could all work together to make a more peaceful Rome? Maybe he would say something like: “Let’s just put aside your flawed interpretation of the law and my claim of being the Son of God. If we do this we can unite together for the good of man.” See, how ridiculous and how unbiblical all these efforts of “unity” really are?! Yet we are being told today that Muslims and Christians can work together as “one.” No, Christ did not nor does he lead His Children to become a part of situations and alliances where we are not allowed to speak the truth, where we are not allowed to expose blatant heresy, where we are not allowed to win converts to Christ. Now, if a tornado or other catastrophe hit my town and my neighbor needed help, yet happened to be a Muslim, of course, I would help him! This would be a true Christian act of kindness toward another human being with which the Lord would be pleased. But, today’s organized religious efforts to supposedly bring healing to the Planet are actually being used as tools to stifle the proclamation of the One True God! They are distractions which prevent preachers from exposing the vain idols of men! And, as well, they are creating a worldwide religious governmental system, which the Bible tells us will eventually be headed by the antichrist. This is actually Satan’s master plan designed so that he, himself, rather than Christ, will be worshipped as the savior of mankind.
May we all be willing to be considered “fools for Christ’s sake” as was Paul on Mars’ Hill. May preachers today forsake the pursuit of this world’s respect and become true Prophets of God. “. . . For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to Angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honourable, but we are despised” (I Cor. 4:9-10).