The Nations of the Earth
A History of Idolatry and false worship
The Greeks had a monument to every god known at their time. Paul’s appeal at Mars Hill gives insight into his Biblical view of their history. Did Paul turn them back to one of their gods? Did he appeal to their own culture as God-given? No. In Acts 14:15-17 Paul preached to them;
Paul is certainly NOT saying that God has been present working in every culture from the beginning. Because of the witness of God in nature (Rom. 2) and by His provision, mankind knew He existed. But no nation knew God personally outside the nation God took and formed for Himself.
Now I realize, in the time we live with the popular teaching of Dominionism and Replacement Theology, that much of the church believes she has replaced Israel. They teach that it is spiritually incorrect to side with Israel or believe God is still going to use that nation (Satan always hates what God loves and has plans for). But the fact remains—all of Israel will be saved one day (Rom.11). God is not finished with the people He first called and formed to be His own and He is not finished with the nations either.
Let us consider the history of the nations and their desire to worship in their own ways (Acts 14). From Adam to Noah we find mankind degenerating into corrupt worship. The only time it ceased was from Noah after the flood for merely a few generations. Noah was born 1056 years after the fall. He was a true worshipper of God and was 600 years old (Gen. 7:6) at the time of the flood and he lived 350 years afterwards. Genesis 10 lists all of the descendants of Noah's three sons. Genesis 9:19:
All the families in the world descend from these men. After the flood the customs of the tribal people were shared from Noah’s sons. But they soon united to worship “God” contrary to the way He instructed man. Gen. 11:1-2:
After the flood the succeeding generations rejected the God of their fathers. The descendants of Noah's sons traveled east toward Babylon, which means that Noah's family of eight and their descendants lived west of Babylon (Israel is located west of Babylon). They traveled east and united in the plain of Shinar. Before they even built the tower of Babel they were in rebellion against God and abandoned the faith that had been passed down. We see this rebellion repeated in history on different levels, with the quick loss of faith by those who left Egypt along the way to the Promised Land and those entered the land. We see it again in these last days. Jesus said it would be like in the days of Noah before He comes back. We are not going to influence the whole world in Christianity but instead it will be full of rebellion, false worship and escalating violence.
It is very possible they were intent on re-establishing some of the practices they heard the people held in the pre-flood era as the story was passed down. God said “nothing they propose to do will be withheld from them.” It was about 150 years after the flood that the Tower of Babel, the Ziggarut, was built (Genesis 10-11). Most believe it was built so that they could seek other gods, in their own way. When the people came together to build the tower of Babel under Nimrod’s leadership they were one in language and purpose (Genesis 10:8-12). They were united which proves not all unity is a good thing.
God personally visited them and did the scattering to prevent the tribes, the families, from establishing a united religion that would leave the true God out (the scattering of nations took place with l70 languages). In the last day’s Babylon will be revived. God will let it succeed for a short time. Mystery Babylon will be the unity of all nations in worship together before God comes down once again to visit mankind and this time judge severely.
Gen 10:1-5 Gives the genealogy of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations. Genesis 10:32 states that “From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood ... into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.”
Abram’s father Terah, was in Mesopotamia, in Ur of the Chaldeans. He lived to be 205 years old. This all took place about 2100-2000 BC. Ur was a flourishing metropolis where there was commerce and trade between cities. They had a center tower, probably similar to the one at Babel, that was built to worship, among the many gods. The cities of Ur and Haran both had the moon goddess as their main deity. Terah, Abram and Nahor were Gentile idolaters. Terah, father of Abraham, worshipped “other gods.” God’s sovereignty is displayed in that He chose Abram who was no better or worse than anyone else at the time. He was called out from his country, his people, from their customs and, most importantly, their gods. Abraham left Haran and the Exodus was exactly 430 years later (Gen. 12:10; Ex 12:40; Gal. 3:17).
Genealogy -year BC Lived Year
Note: Chart dates are approximate dates from the Bible.
Abram/Abraham became the first Jew, or Hebrew. He crossed over and was brought into the land of covenant (approx. 2000 BC.).
Joshua 24:3: “Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.”
Egypt was the greatest civilization at this time of history. We know from history that the Pharaoh of Egypt, in the time of Abraham (Gen.12:14-20; Ps.105:14), was not monotheistic. We know from Scripture that before 1500 B.C. Israel was enslaved by Egypt which was not worshipping the true God. There were no redeeming qualities to be found then. Exodus 8:25-27 states: “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God in the land”. Obviously they had a different god. The gods of Egypt had nothing in common with the God of Israel. This is why the true God said,
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt … against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD” (Exodus 12:12).
These are the gods they had from the beginning. Thus God fulfilled Gen. 12:3; “God will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you.” This is part of the land covenant that God made with Abraham.
Prints, Crumbs and Pieces
Has God left His fingerprint on all cultures or are they manmade? Moses and the nation of Israel, that came from Abraham, were warned of the idolatry of the nations that came from Noah's lineage that have survived the flood and flourished.
Deuteronomy 12:30: “be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.”
The true God distinguishes Himself. He is continually called “the God of Israel”, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” in contrast to the gods of the nations.
Jer 46:25: “The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, says: “Behold, I will bring punishment on Amon of No, and Pharaoh and Egypt, with their gods and their kings-- Pharaoh and those who trust in him.”
2 Kings 19 speaks of the gods of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar. 2 Chronicles 25:20 says, “they sought the gods of Edom.” These are the gods of the nations—they were different gods. Not one nation had the same God as Israel, NOT ONE. So how are we to make a connection in the past to say their god had a son? How can they find any redeeming religious qualities in their cultures that God supposedly put there if they were not worshipping God? The fact is they were inclined to worship false gods. We couldn’t turn their false god[s] into the True One by stating their god had a son. Letting them think that their (false) god has the same qualities as the True God is not using wisdom to evangelize. Some people do this with Islam saying, “Allah had a son who is Jesus.” This is wrong to do. One is then changing the whole religion delivered to Muslims. The Quran itself says Allah (God) has no Son. Herein lies the danger of the modern contextualization, when there is a revision of a religion. We cannot forget or eliminate that one must have a revelation of Truth to truly be converted. Conversion does not take place by moving two opposing pieces together to illegitimately make them fit by the use of stories.
In Rom 3:29 Paul writes about the Law and faith and then says of God, “Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also” (see also Rom 9:24). However, Jesus makes it clear: “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). The God of all people is called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not of anyone else. He continually calls Israel His inheritance.
“Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God And there is no other” (Joel 2:27).
God calls Himself “The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:15). God is called “the God of Israel,” more often probably any other title, over 700 times. He is NOT called the God of any other nation, (Ps. 33:11-12; Exodus 5:1). Jesus is specifically called the “King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:11).
As one reads the Bible one will notice that Israel is unique among all the cultures and nations.
2 Samuel 7:23-24: “And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name-- and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land-- before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD, have become their God.”
To tell people that God has had his hand in forming their culture, that their god had a son, that He had a relationship to them is to make up a new way that is contrary to everything God has written to us through the Bible. It is affirming that culture’s god or gods are the true God without a covenant. This is a completely wrong approach to evangelism. It is false and can be damaging to the truth of the Gospel. The indigenous/cultural approach ignores Israel’s importance and then generalizes revelation, bringing it to its lowest common denominator by rationalizing that there are redemptive qualities put in these cultures by God. The problem is that one can find some kind of Bible story that is injured by a culture’s redefinition nearly everywhere in the world. It is like looking for a book but only finding scraps of paper spread out on the ground and trying to piece together a puzzle—it has already been put together in The Book called the Bible.
Where are the redemptive qualities that can be extracted from the world’s religions? Cultures that had long departed from monotheism in Noah's day sank into Polytheism, Totemism and Animism. The major tenets of Animism are basically the same the world over. Animism is the belief that all of nature is inhabited by spirits, i.e. trees, rivers, animals, stones, and people. Some believe they and nature were indwelt by a god that is more powerful than all the rest, sometimes called the “Great Spirit”. This is Pantheism or Panentheism). Totemism is where certain objects or animals are treated as sacred like birds, animals, plants or the earth (the theory of Gaia). All this is explained in Romans 1.
Where does YHWH allow for adoption of other culture’s beliefs? We do not see God’s approval of adoption of any nation’s customs into Judaism nor Judaism into their cultures. There was no syncretism for Israel or the Church. What we hear is “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” In this matter God did! Unfortunately we have thin skin on these subjects because some take offence to the narrowness of the Gospel. There is only one people God made into a nation and personally instructed. The Way today is a narrow road through His Son Jesus Christ whom He gave through Israel. Some want to widen it. You cannot Christianize another’s religious practice. When syncretism occurs Christianity loses its power, purity and its influence. This is a large issue in the Church todayjust as it was in the past. This kind of syncretism did much damage to the church after Constantine. Many doctrines were no longer necessary to believe and uphold to be Christian. People became members of the church through baptism. They then began to synthesize their pagan practices into the church. The people kept the same ways they worshipped in their culture and called them Christian.
The various nations may have known of a supreme God, but many religions had stories of other gods along with the supreme one. This is what is called Henotheism—one superior God over the others (like in Mormonism today). If all these cultures had a supreme God why is He not described the same? Why are there differences in the stories (legends)? Why did they battle each other? The historical evidence shows the majority believed in a supreme God did not mean Creator of both the heavens and the earth (all the creation that exists). This is proven by the sheer fact that they also had a sun god, a moon god, and other gods named after the planets and stars.
Just because certain people groups have recorded stories about a supreme god does not mean he is the same God presented in the Bible, nor does it mean they worshipped God correctly. God did not give Israel one way and another way to the nations. This new missiology is ignoring what the Bible says about why God took Abraham out and made a nation for Himself. Joshua said to all the people,
“Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods” (Joshua 24:2).
1 Corinthians 10:6: “Now these things became our examples….” v:11 “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.”
The Bible’s history is our example and it is to be our only source of revelation in knowing and understanding God and His salvation throughout history. Israel was the only nation God took for His own and He warned them about the other nations influencing them in their customs and worship.
Deut 9:4: “it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you.”
Deut. 29:16-18 (for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, and you saw their abominations.”
Deut. 8:19 God warns Israel of forgetting “the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them.”
This was God’s instruction to Israel, His called out ones:
Deut. 12:29-32: “When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, “take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
What other nation did the God of the Bible ever say held to His commands or worshipped Him correctly? One must make up history and deny the Bible’s account to come to any other conclusion.
Deut. 18:9-14: “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.”
Through Moses God said:
Deut. 28:1-2: “if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.”
Joshua 23:3: “You have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the LORD your God is He who has fought for you.”
We are told in Judges 2:21-23 that God did not deliver all the nations into the hand of Joshua but left some nations after Joshua died to test Israel. He did this in order to see whether they would keep the ways of the LORD."so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not." Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out immediately.”
Israel was not faithful all the time and was influenced when they intermarried with the other nations.
Judges 3:5-8: “the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods.”
Judges 3:5-8: “Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods. So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs.”
They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs. God called it “evil” to serve other gods. God’s instruction to Israel was to not intermarry because they would turn their hearts after other gods it defiled true worship. (As Solomon loved the women of the nations around him and they led him astray from his God I King 11:1-2)
Josh 23:11-12 “Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God. “Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations-- these that remain among you-- and make marriages with them, and go in to them and they to you.”
God warned if they go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations, make marriages with them, V.13 “the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to them.”
God warned Israel, over and over, NOT to worship Him as the nations do their gods. It does not make sense to believe God left redeemable qualities in these cultures if the Bible says clearly the opposite.
2 Kings 17:15-17: “They followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them that they should not do like them.” V. 39-41: “However they did not obey, but they followed their former rituals. So these nations feared the LORD, yet served their carved images; also their children and their children's children have continued doing as their fathers did, even to this day.”
Josh 23:7-9: “and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, "but you shall hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.”
Ps. 106:35-36: “But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; They served their idols, which became a snare to them.”
I King 14:22, 24: “Now Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins which they committed. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.”
If a culture is corrupted then what redeemable qualities can be found in its corruption? Nowhere do we find the Roman or Greek Empires called “redeemable” in the time of the inception of the Church. Surely they would have implemented these ideas that are used in missions today if they were valid. Not one time do you find God approving of a nation worshipping and obeying Him, except for Israel, whom he gave the instructions to. The Bible teaches that Israel is unique among the nations and their God is not the same. 2 Sam. 7:23-24: "And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name-- and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land-- before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? "For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD, have become their God.”
An Indigenous People Movement
I’m glad to hear people are working in two-thirds world countries and among natives and seeing results of the people coming to Christ. But, at the same time, there is an animosity that is evident with some of the people. We hear of curses on indigenous people because of the unrepentance of those who brought them harm. The indigenous movement wants the church to repent of any atrocities that have been perpetrated by “Christian” nations.
They believe we need Reconciliation Walks and apologies to various religious groups to make peace and to bring an openness for the Gospel. Do we see any examples of this in the Scripture? Did the Romans apologize to the Jews to heal the land? These may be good intentions, but it will not bring the desired results.
We should not belittle the wrongs that were done in various cultures under the name of Christianity but let me ask you a question. Have you personally done any atrocities to them? Should we take credit for something we did not do—good or bad? It is absurd to repent for those you have no connection to. To say the “white man” must repent for something we ourselves are not guilty of, or know who the people are that did these things, is absurd. You don’t admit guilt for something you did not do. They are laying to our account what God has not. I find this action to be manipulative and guilt ridden. We should not forget there were atrocities done on both sides, not just one (though one may exceed the other). Furthermore, it would make sense if one is going to repent for something they did not participate in, to not stop there. Why only repent for these actions? Why not go all the way back and repent for Adam and Eve’s sin and erase the curse on the earth from the beginning?
As Gentiles, indigenous people who received Christ are to be considered brothers and should not be stigmatized. Neither should those who are not indigenous. There are advantages to having them trained for ministry, Paul did with Titus. These spiritual exercises for national reconciliation, by repentance and marches, are not necessary. It wasn’t in the beginning of the Church, and it isn’t today. What people need to hear is the plain and simple Gospel message of God's proof of His love for them by sending His Son to pay for the penalty of their sins.
The Bible states in Eph. 2:15-19:
“having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Notice the people before His throne are from (out of) every tribe and nation but they are not the nations themselves. God redeems people out of cultures not the culture itself. They are all wearing white robes in heaven, not western designer jeans, not the newest fashions and not ancient tribal clothes. The emphasis is that we are all there and are in equality, as we have all come to the Lord the same way—through His Son.
The Jewish Expressions in the New Testament
“...we see God working in terms of Jewish culture to reach Jews, yet, refusing to impose Jewish customs on Gentiles. Instead non-Jews are to come to God and relate to Him in terms of their own cultural vehicles. We see the Bible endorsing, then, a doctrine we call biblical sociocultural adequacy in which each culture is taken seriously but none advocated exclusively as the only one acceptable to God” (Dr. Charles Kraft, Anthropology for Christian Witness, Orbis 1996).
Though I find agreement on a portion of the first point, I’m going to have to disagree with his point that non-Jews “relate to Him in terms of their own cultural vehicles” and “none advocated exclusively as the only one acceptable to God.” It was the Christian faith that completed Judaism. It was from a Jewish perspective that Paul and the Apostles taught the Scriptures, with numerous quotes from the Old Testament. There is not a Gospel for the Jew and another for the Gentile. Both groups had to learn to get along.
We are told by Richard Twiss, an American Indian:
The next 10 to 20 years will bring Native cultural expressions to the body of Christ that will be a tremendous blessing to many. Twiss repeats basically the same idea, “Biblical Christianity is never found apart from a culture. It is always part of a culture. The Christianity of the New Testament was a part of the Greco-Roman world of the 1st century. There is no such thing as plain Christianity. Christianity always expresses itself through a culture. It is unique in that it can be expressed equally well in any culture” (YWAM First Nations website)
Does Christianity express itself through any culture? What parts did Christianity take from the Roman culture? Paul did use certain portions from the roman culture for illustration but did not accept their religious practices or worldview. What parts of a culture should accepted? Are there any parts that need to be abandoned in a culture? Is Christianity meant to be apart from its Jewish origin or based on its Jewish roots? Let me give a few things to think on. Moses built a tabernacle that was a replica of what is in heaven. God did not show any pattern to be made from man’s culture but from what was in heaven (Acts 7:44; Heb.8:5). The one in heaven is still there. The way into the Tabernacle is illustrated through Jesus Christ being the veil and the High priest and that is part of the Jewish culture ONLY. God did not accept gentile priests or their temples. Some things in the Jewish religion are completed and we have dispensed with. We no longer sacrifice or have a Levitical high priest or pilgrimages to congregate in Jerusalem three times a year. There are other things related to morality that continue to be upheld.
You cannot say that the Gentiles had no obligation to the Jewish way of life in the New Testament. Paul taught Jesus from the Jewish cultural perspective because that is the ONLY culture that had the true God and a history with God working with them. In 1 Corinthians Paul used the feast days within the Jewish lifestyle to explain Christ. To say Paul did not teach in a Jewish context is to show ignorance of the Scripture. To claim it is not relevant to teach from a Jewish context is to separate it from its authors intent. To say one can worship God in his or her own cultural context removes one from Jewish Scripture. Paul constantly referred to the Old Testament and the culture the Jews lived in. Paul was “persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets” (Acts 28:23) not from their own religion. The freedom Gentiles were given was not so that they could continue in their customs and Christianize their culture, thereby making it acceptable. They were taught of their root that they were grafted into. To explain to them Christ, Paul taught them on the Jewish Feast days; the Passover, the death of Christ, the Unleavened Bread.
1 Cor. 5:7-8: “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
He taught about Firstfruits.
1 Cor. 15:20: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits”
He taught about the Trumpets.
1 Cor. 15:52: “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
So they had to have been taught the background from the Old Testament on what these things meant to understand sufficiently Paul’s analogy. He and the Apostles constantly quoted Old Testament passages to give the Gentiles understanding of God's doings in the past and their present. The gospels are related to the Jewish culture of their day. For one to say the Gentiles have no cultural identity to the Jewish faith is very wrong—it’s ignorant. All the gospels take place in the Jewish lifestyle of their day and are explained from a Jewish frame of reference. Even our Communion, which is the Passover meal is taken to remember Christ.
“And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24).
You can’t understand a good portion of the New Testament without the context and background of the Jewish culture. Jesus used the Matzoh to represent Himself, His own body, as the Passover lamb.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? (1 Cor 10:16-17).
It was God that instructed the priesthood and the sacrifices. When some of the Corinthians took communion they mixed their former cultural ideas of making a party of it. Paul then rebuked them for not keeping it sacred. If one follows the Bible, they will find that a good portion of their culture is not conducive to anything God instructs us. If they use their ancient rituals or customs in Christianity, it is wrong. However, I need to clarify that we can appreciate and enjoy the diversity of cultural customs in dance, food, music, and architecture as long as they do not carry any spiritual implication. We are not to join in participation with other religious practices. Paul gives the principle of freedom in the New Covenant by using the extreme example of meat sacrificed to idols. We can eat this meat because food is necessary and cleansed by our prayer of thanksgiving, but we are not to use the ceremony as if it is clean—only the meat.
Without the Jewish prophets there would be no revelation passed on to us today. Romans 16:25-26:
“… the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations.”
Only the Bible accurately contains the gospel and the history, teaching and prophecy surrounding it. No nation had the knowledge of the Gospel or the requirements of the Law. Paul makes it clear, as an Apostle writing the word of God.
Ephesians 3:1-7” “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles-- if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.”
Thus the fulfillment in Gal. 3:8-9:
“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”
Gal. 3:14: “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
This faith comes from hearing God’s word, no other word. In Acts 15:13-16 James answered, saying,
“Men and brethren, listen to me: “Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.” And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:’ After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up.”
True worship was given to the Hebrews and it is to be made known and taught to the Gentiles and that both Jews and Gentiles can worship together in Spirit and in truth. What He is not referring to is a revival of native worship and customs, calling them Christian.
1 Thess. 1:8-9: “Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
What a testimony these Gentiles had in a very pagan culture! Leaving their idolatry they had in their culture for centuries. How did they do it? It tells us: by the Word of God, the Gospel.
Luke 24:47: “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Mt.28:19: teaching them all that I have commanded you.
This is the Gospel mandate, not to return to your culture and find ways to worship God through it.
No matter what culture one is from, one must know on a personal basis the Jewish Messiah who was prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures. In Acts 10:42-44 Peter in his sermon to the Gentiles states:
“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” While Peter was still speaking these words the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.”
What prophets is he talking about? The Jewish prophets—not Greeks, Romans, Babylonians or men of any other nation. The bible tells us a very different story than what is found in the other cultures.
Paul, speaking of the Gentiles, wrote:
Ephesians 4:17-19: “having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
This exactly coincides with what he wrote in Romans 1. Eph. 2:11-12 also states:
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh-- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands--that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
The Bible says Gentiles were without God having NO hope in the world. That is a very different message from what we are hearing from some of the promoters of cross-cultural evangelism today. One needs to look further into these subjects to be acquainted with what is being suggested as a better way to win the nations.
Notice what Paul also says.
Eph. 2:13-19: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, (that wall in the holy place that kept the Gentiles out) having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two (the body of Christ), thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off (Gentiles) and to those who were near (Jews). For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
What was unheard of in the Old Testament has become a reality by the Gospel. Jews who were separated from the nations by the Law and the covenants are now united in the Spirit of God.
We may need to adjust our strategy to reach different people, but there are lines drawn that we should not cross. Deficiency in understanding doctrine leads to this type of experimental openness. A do-it-yourself approach that is biblically illegal has a crossing over from each side to merge beliefs and form new ones.
What I have written may not sit well with those promoting these concepts. I understand the pressure of not being grouped as one of those who are not open to “new” and “fresh” ideas; or being accused of being stuck in the “old ways” of doing things. I think we all need to be open and flexible to a certain extent, however if “old ways” means to be stuck with the tried and true way in the Bible instead of joining in with the newest trend in evangelization then I can accept that identification. Numbers are not the proof that we are doing is right. I can only feel remorse for those who want to have us become partakers of their trendy ideas without any hesitation without considering the direction they are taking.
God, through Abraham, made the Jewish people a nation. No other nation had this relationship. He made covenants with them several times and this is why the Bible says salvation is of the Jews. The Gentiles are grafted in through the New Covenant (Rom. 11) Jesus the Messiah. Jesus said in John 14:6: “I am the Way”. There is no other way to God. There is something more important to consider for evangelism. If you disconnect Jesus from Judaism then you have rejected the Bible's revelation. You are separated from the source of history, knowledge, wisdom and power.