The message of the gospel is plain and simple and it has always been this way from the very beginning. At the Incarnation God united Himself to humanity. So simple in fact that the academically elite at that time were astonished that such lowly people were said to be included and claimed to be united to God. The spiritual elitists put themselves through blood, sweat and tears over many years to be included among their peers showing they had really tapped into the truly spiritual matters. They were often made to jump through all sorts of hoops and live to a set of self-determined moral standards. They were astonished about all the things the gospel claimed by people who appeared to have no knowledge of such matters. It appeared as though they really did not need to do anything at all.
Nevertheless, academic schools showed some interest in the gospel. Usually it was to find some sort of middle ground where the differing ideas could be blended that would benefit both sides. It was during these early years of the ancient church where it first encountered the heresy of limited atonement. These were the spiritually elite of the ancient philosophical community who believed that one had to have special knowledge and be chosen to be part of this community. There were times when these super apostles would succumb their followers to abuse and manipulation to get them to fall into line with their self-determined, arbitrary ideals. It was like dangling the carrot just out of reach so that a person was never able to grasp the security they needed to know they were included. Following their strict rules of moral behaviour often expressing a kind of superiority over others was characteristic of this movement. Failure to comply would often lead to ridicule and excommunication from fellowship. Those who adhered to their highly idealistic lifestyle would be the chosen or elected.
In contrast, these early Christians could go anywhere in the world and meet others who believed the gospel having full confidence in what was confessed would be the same. That is, when God became human, when Jesus Christ was born, when the Word became flesh, the Triune God joined Himself to every human being. To see God in this way can only lead to this conclusion: In Jesus Christ, God and humanity are reconciled. In Jesus Christ, God has such a grip on us that there is no way He can let go, even if we were to condemn ourselves to hell, God’s love will never cease and He will never let us go. God is with us because He is for us. He is so much for us that in His Incarnation He is lovingly and eternally united to us. This cannot be undone.
The spiritually elite thought it ridiculous that, firstly, God would allow Himself to become defiled by assuming evil matter such as human flesh and live in evil existence. They considered all matter to be evil and all spiritual things to be good. Secondly, the idea that all were included was even more outrageous. Even as early as the turn of the first century, the Christians were given the derogatory term, katholikois. Modern Latin theology would have us believe it meant “the universals,” (not universalists).
When we use the term “catholic” we are not thinking of the Latin origins of this word. It was originally a Greek term. It is made up of two words kata and holos meaning respectively throughout α space and whole entire or, together, throughout the whole entire space. Just like the term Christian was suppose to be derogatory so also this term katholikois was derogatory. Likewise, the church at the time embraced this term and adopted into their theological language.
If we take Matthew 13:33 (and Luke 13:21) into account then this gives us a clearer idea of the implications of this term. In the making of bread, the yeast is like the kingdom of God which works its way throughout the whole entire ingredients filling all space and becomes one with the flour without detrimentally effecting it but rather benefiting and bringing life to it. When the Word became flesh, when God became human, when Jesus Christ was born, like the yeast, He filled all human beings and was united to them. In addition, He not only filled all human beings but filled throughout the whole entire space of creation (Col 1.15-20; Heb. 1.1-3; John 1.1-14). In this context, the term Katholikois, which is rendered Catholic, was embraced by the church as truly reflecting the Incarnation.
It is this simple. When Jesus Christ was born, God united Himself to all human beings. Sure people can go into great depths to better understand the implications of the Incarnation. Yet, it is not essential. Knowing Christ is in us and is speaking to us by His Spirit the loving whispers of the Father is as much as we need to know. To simply know Christ is in you because it was in the Incarnation God placed Himself in us His peace and goodwill towards us all. We did not put Him there!
We shout this from the rooftops! Christ in you! Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see will know we are not corrupting the gospel but allowing its purity to shine through. It is not something we need to argue to make people see and hear. It is the Spirit of Christ in people who will open their eyes to see and open their ears to hear. It is not about who says what about what the gospel is or isn’t. It is about the Person of God showing up and speaking to us face-to-face in common union, human to human, with His creatures. He continues to speak to us in the Spirit, in us, bringing to mind all that He said.
If we face opposition then let us be opposed. Personally, I don’t care if people disagree with me. I just move on. I only interest myself in the people who are willing to listen. I find people who are not Christian are more than delighted to hear what we have to say. The average person on the street are not really interested in complicated and technical discussions like the epistemological relevance of the homoousion or hypostatic union or mimesis or limited atonement or sanctification or other terms that often do nothing but stroke the egos of the academically elite. In normal conversations around the dining room table, or on the street corners, or at our social gatherings, such highfalutin discussions bears no real significance to Christians on the ground floor. The flow of discussion from those in the highest echelons of academia and those who have little or no education should be seamlessly simple. Jesus Christ needs no other lens of these often extraordinary complicated elitists’ discussions for people to see the astonishing and utterly staggering truth He reveals in His own Person. His truth is shocking, it is plain and it is simple. Christ is in you and you did not put Him there!
There is no way around it. Sharing the gospel is confrontational. It requires engaging with people. It not only requires us to really speak what Christ has disclosed to us but it also requires that we really, truly and sincerely listen. When we engage with people in our community, we begin to hear and see the Spirit at work in ways that we often can never predict nor anticipate. The outcome is often miraculous. The line of conversation is often spontaneous. Sticking with the simple truth often leads people to connect the dots in their own way and in their own time.
I have found most people have some idea there is something or someone out there but have no idea who or what it is. The gospel says this person who is out there has created all things. This God became human, whom we call Jesus Christ, proving who He is through all things He said and all the miracles He performed. He was killed and crucified by the people He called His own but three days later He rose from the dead. Because God became this Man Jesus Christ means God now lives in us and is eternally and lovingly united to us. He speaks to us personally and we must listen to Him.
Now some people will love to hear this and embrace it. Most Christians I have come across hate this with a vengeance. Others are frightened by what I say and almost run to get away from me. (I must be really scary). Other faiths such as Islam, Bahai, Hindu and Buddhist are astonished at the things I say. I am past trying to convince those who are convinced otherwise. I just want to clear up all the misconceptions out in the general community.
We are long past trying to figure out how to make our gospel relevant to modern people. The truth of God disclosed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ is relevant to all people for all time. I believe the purpose of academic study is to make sure the message we deliver is as true and as clear as it was in the very beginning. We must endeavour to make sure that our confession is the very same as was confessed from the very beginning. If we are struggling to make our gospel relevant to people in the community, then we must question the kind of gospel we are trying to deliver and determine if there is any truth in it whatsoever. If the community don’t buy what the mainstream church is trying to deliver, then what we are attempting to deliver might very well be a fraud. If our confession today is not the same that was declared in the very beginning, then we must ask ourselves why this is so. Confession is rendered from the Greek word, homologos, (ὁμόλογος). It means more than just “confess.” In the right context, it means to say the same thing in such a way that we assent to and agree with the truth revealed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. When the ancient church used this Greek word, it was with reverence in fear and trembling to say the same thing in unison that was declared from the beginning as testified in Scripture.
I have shown there were two groups of people very early in the ancient community, the spiritually elite who believed in a from of limited atonement, and the church who believe the Incarnation as the Kingdom of God who has worked His way throughout the entire space of Creation. When Jesus Christ was born, He united Himself to the whole of the human race where His being filled the entire universe. Christ is in all people. The two, the spiritually elite and the church, cannot blend. It is either one or the other. In advocating for the wider community, I find that much academic material is out reach of the common everyday person who goes about their day-to-day business. To let alone access and participate in such a community one has to jump through the hoops and endeavour to conform to whatever is on offer, sometimes at extraordinary expense. An elitist community has been created that is quite often far out of reach of those on the ground floor creating a dualism between those who are theologically educated and those who are living their day to day lives. These people in this academic community often are the only ones who understand each other. Those outside are left wondering what the hell they are talking about. One has to ask if we have allowed the elitism of old to creep into the modern church with the prestige and position on offer to entice and lure people away from our duty towards serving our fellow human beings offering a special knowledge reserved for the privileged few. The stage of ministry is not paved with and adorned with prestige, honour, degrees, doctorates and gold. Rather, it drenched in the blood of the martyred saints.
Are we trying to attract people into something that has only a snippet of truth? If there is one Lord Jesus Christ and one Church bringing all Christians into one house, why is it that we are at each other’s throats? There are in excess of 30000+ denominations around the world who suppose to be adopted children of God set by God’s own decree, sealed in His own blood. Yet, we can hardly agree on anything. This is in contrast to the ancient church during the second century where the confidence in the truth was universal throughout the known world. The Incarnation meant the being of God was united to our human being and filling throughout the entire space of creation. Over the first few centuries what was known to be the truth was formalised into what we now know to be the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. If one spends the time to read through the early church fathers, they will find many of the Creed’s clauses were written previously as formal statements. This creed was the fruit of the New Covenant. This creed was not something novel but reflected what was believed in unison, saying the same thing that was said from the beginning. To put it most simply, it was assumed knowledge that when the Word became flesh, when God was made Man, when Jesus Christ was born, God united Himself with the whole human race.