by J. Randal Matheny, editor
I assume our readers belong to a different class, but how many people who call themselves Christians have ever:
- read the Bible from cover to cover?
- seen or participated in the launch of a new congregation?
- converted a person to Christ?
- preached a sermon or taught a Bible study?
These are not exceptional activities in the New Testament. They are standard Christian actions. If, as some saints project, these are not common among us today, can we say we have restored New Testament Christianity?
Devoted to Specific Activities
Christians were a dedicated lot. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” Acts 2.42 ESV.
The verb “to devote” here means, according to Mounce, “to persist in adherence to a thing; to be intently engaged in, attend constantly to.” Bauer’s lexicon describes the verb in this verse to mean to “hold fast to, continue in, persevere in” BGAD.
Some Bible versions for challenged readers say it means to spend time doing these things. TIme is certainly involved. The first Christians gave much time to the church. But more is involved.
They were devoted to specific activities. Not just any activity performed in the presence of other Christians was considered legitimate. Nor did any activity performed in a specified location considered adequate for Christian meetings make it acceptable. Only a limited range of actions was authorized. (We’re familiar with this language, are we not?)
Let’s put it down where everyone can get it.
First, we do little, and we spend precious little time, for the kingdom of God.
- Bible reading? It’s a verse of the day.
- Prayer? It’s a phrase on the way out the door.
- Visiting the sick? We hire a preacher for that.
- Evangelism? That’s so 20th century!
Second, what little time we do spend with Christians or in the church building outside of a Sunday morning, we are usually (a) eating or (b) playing.
So we play instead of pray. We socialize rather than evangelize. We party with the pagans rather than joining in partnership to preach the gospel. We build monuments instead of edifying the body of Christ.
An Appeal to Repentance
This is an appeal to repentance. A call to return to basics. A plea to reject social life as a substitute for spiritual life. To focus laser-like on the singular mission of God to save humanity careening toward destruction.
If we are the church of Christ, we will be consumed by that one concern for which our Lord gave his life. It is past time to simplify our offerings to the world. We have a single item on the menu: the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified.
No Need to Decide
Paul wrote to fickle, political Corinthians, “For I did not resolve to know anything to speak among you except Jesus Christ and Christ crucified” 1 Corinthians 2.2 ACT; see also HCSB.
Paul’s decision was not a whim he thought he might try out in Corinth. It was his standard operating procedure. Everywhere. He had a single method: preaching the gospel.
He never had to rethink his methodology. He never stopped to reconsider how best to reach out to others. He never proposed parties or gimmicks or shows or special effects. What the verse actually says is, “I didn’t decide.” It was already decided for him. Preaching the crucified Christ alone was his “settled policy,” as A. C. Thiselton wrote, not some strategic decision that he hoped would sit well with the hearers.
Nor is it for us to decide whether or not we will preach Christ. It is not up to us to determine how to approach the work of God. The Lord did not leave it in our hands what to do. That has already been defined.
The only decision left is whether we will restrict ourselves to his plain and explicit will in the matter.