How did the early Church lose its way?
How deep is your faith?
These days, with Greek thinking firmly embedded in the Western church, there are grey areas. Let us examine these by first looking at minimum requirements for someone professing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The absolute minimum is the belief that Jesus died on the cross then returned to life days later. With the exception of ultra-liberals (such as the woeful David Jenkins, the Bishop of Durham a few decades ago, who declared the resurrection a ‘conjuring trick with bones’) anything other than agreeing with the following verse is inconsistent with a Christian faith:
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (1 Corinthians 15:14)
What we Christians believe is that a body that had been tortured, battered and horribly crucified, that had been laid to decay in a cold tomb for three days, had fully returned to life, had been able to eat and be touched, had displayed the crucifixion holes and had appeared to different groups of people at different times and places over a forty day period and then had been witnessed flying upwards into the sky. This is totally believed by all Christians, otherwise their faith is useless. Yet it’s all rather improbable to say the least, isn’t it, for those of us brought up in our Greek educational system? Perhaps some just don’t give it much thought, just accept it. In which case, let’s take it a step further:
The death of Jesus on the cross has a purpose for the whole of humanity. In fact we are to believe that his death and subsequent resurrection has the power to grant the deposit of the Holy Spirit and full payment of eternal life, to all who acknowledge this purpose and pledge to turn from their old ways and follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit. There is, of course, a huge back story to this, with reasons provided for the underlying mechanism, but sadly not all Christians agree exactly which mechanism is in operation!
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
So what a miracle this is! For a human being anywhere in the world, irrespective of sex, age, culture, background and circumstance, to slip from death to life, from Hell to Heaven, on the basis of this one-time act by Jesus Christ in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago. This is a major miracle and all Christians believe in this. Then there’s the miracle of Jesus’s birth, being born from a virgin womb, in accordance with prophecy and for the given theological reason of providing Jesus with both human and divine characteristics. Interestingly there are some Christians who don’t believe this fact, although I declare that it is still a part of our bare minimum requirements for entry to the Kingdom of Heaven.
So here we are with these three basic foundational miracles: a dead body being resurrected, the resurrection process having a potential effect on billions of other people, and a virgin being impregnated by God. Yes, these are all true, otherwise we are all in deep trouble!
Then we go a stage further and read about the miracles that Jesus performed in his three year mission in Israel. He performed miracles of nature, healings, deliverances, raising of the dead and you don’t need a full list. We accept these miracles as signs of his Messiahship, though some will allow their Greek nature to offer naturalistic reasons for some of them. For instance, some have suggested that rather than walking on water, Jesus was actually walking along a ledge or was standing in a small boat!
Some Christians insist that they are New Testament people and do not esteem the Old Testament in the same way. But it’s not all about us, and what we’re prepared to believe, is it? This is God’s master-plan for mankind we are looking at here. These so-called New Testament Christians are quite happy not to defend the miracles of Moses, or the parting of the Red Sea or the tricks with the sun (Joshua) and shadows (Hezekiah) mentioned earlier. Or what about the Days of Creation and the story of Adam and Eve? Yet all of this pales into insignificance when compared to the basic minimum faith required to be a Christian. Why do they have the faith for this, but not for many of the miracles recorded in the Old Testament? What is the nature of their faith? We will venture a little deeper in the next article …
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp