The Father Creator has given all authority to Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, who said to His disciples: "Truly, truly I say to you, he or she who hears my Word and believes in Father God who sent me, has eternal life;" but let the world come forth and be helped by Me and all my believers. "Those who do good, as I am resurrected, so will you, rise from the tombs" to eternal life. To those "who have done evil," will suffer, to the resurrection of final judgment in the "lake of fire." (John 5:21-30; Revelation 20: 12--15). While this this statement is pretty clear, it gets murkier when we act in community; thus: the rise of The Protestant Mega-Church.
The Evangelical Protestant Mega-Church (500 to 50,000 members) has the facility, and choice, to train up believers in the Word, such that with spiritual maturity, individual and small group, missional covenants to the world can be genuinely given and maintained. So, out of the "crowd" (defined in Apostolic article) approaching church each week, let's look at some fresh input (Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, a Mega-Church leader, in the Wall Street Journal on Christmas in 2016):
Mega-Church Encyclical (1) Believe that the Gospel teaching of Jesus takes root in people and really helps people to lead a good life, for a good society, for paths to Eternal Life, which answers the basic question behind paragraph #1 above - What is the Purpose of Life? (2) Receiving the Holy Spirit, Christian believers have the mind of Christ and with courage, encounter brokenness, our own and others. When we do this we are encountering Jesus in others, and can be led to help real time. But it at all starts with God's Gift, with what God has Given us.
How do human beings become Given Followers of Christ?
Authors Note: Your personal CHRISTmas gift: let no man or woman judge whether you are not one of the given. This specific word given (δίδωμι) occurs 431 times in the Old and New Testaments. Let us trace its use and understand the meaning and implications of being drawn to the Tranformative Rule of Maker God.
Overview of the Concept of Given
The work of Maker God in the covenantal giving of chosen human beings to Jesus Christ is enacted by the positive response of Jesus Christ to human beings who are drawn to Him. The following scriptures are key to understanding this tranformative rule of Maker God.
All who are given, accredited and drawn to Christ, whether they are deceased or alive at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:11–22:21), receive the Holy Spirit.
This Spirit is given as a counselor to Followers (John 14:1-4,15-17, 25-27; Romans 5:1-8; II Corinthians 5:16-18) who are the righteous (Romans 8 and I Corinthians 15).
Please note, lest we become distracted by judging one another: only Father God knows who is among the given. Maker God has designed and planned and determined:
(1) all things in the establishment of His physical world (cosmos),
(2) all the plants and animals, and all natural beings, which inhabit His world, and
(3) all of the human beings that He created to bless and keep His world.
As of 74 AD, when most of The Parable of the Messiah Scrolls takes place, initially given human beings (Israel in the Old Testament) failed in their obedience and collective, covenantal relationship to Maker God. In 4 BC, Maker God sent Himself in the form of a dual-natured earthly son (Jesus ben Joseph) and Heavenly Son (Jesus Christ), to reconcile many given human beings (Abraham’s physical and spiritual descendants - see Genesis 15:17-19) to Himself.
In the Messiah Scrolls novel, as in John’s Gospel, chosen human beings, given by God to Jesus son of God, were drawn to Jesus, heard His Words and Signs, and had faith in Him. Those included:
(a) Jesus’ Disciples, who were thus commissioned:
“Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves … they will deliver you up to councils … flog you in their synagogues … drag you before governors. When they deliver you up do not be anxious …for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak but the Holy Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
(Matthew 13:10-11, Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10)
The disciples came and said to Jesus, "Why do you speak to them in parables (analogies)?” Jesus answered: “To you has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
Disciples with Jesus were told, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
(b) Followers during the earthly ministry of Jesus who were given His signs and had faith (in Greek σημεῖον or semeion means a sign, prodigy, portent or unusual occurrence, transcending the common course of nature or natural theological considerations),
(c) Followers given the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in 30 AD, and
(d) Followers in Messiah communities who have been given and drawn to Jesus from Pentecost to the present day.
All those who had faith are spoken of as being given (John 6:37, 39, 10:29, 17:12) by Maker God the Father to Jesus Christ the Son:
“The Father loves the Son and has given all things unto His hand.” (John 3:35, 13:3)
“All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him or her who comes to me (e.g., has faith) I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me … that I should lose nothing of all He has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise up him or her at the End of Days." (John 6:37-40)
“No one can come to me (e.g., have faith) unless it is given Him by the Father.“ (John 6:65)
“My Father who has given them to me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of his Father’s hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:29).
Jesus' prayer to the Father: "Since thou has given me power over all flesh and to give eternal life to all whom thou has given Him; I am not praying for the world but for those that thou hast given me." (John 17:2, 9, 11, 14, 22, 24)
In the garden, before his arrest, Jesus said to Peter, ”Put your sword in its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me." (John 18:11)
Jesus appeared before Pilate who said, “Do you not know I have the power to crucify you?" Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above. Therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:10-11).
The Importance of Our Faith
In summary, the action of Father God in "giving" human beings to Jesus Christ is enacted by the positive response of Jesus Christ to those given human beings drawn to Him. This given or giving can best be understood in the sense of Maker God accrediting human beings who by faith are to become believers drawn to the Son (John 6:44). This is how, through faith, individuals come to God. (For examples of this, blending scripture with imagination in the Messiah Scrolls, see the dialogues of Apostle John with Tertius, Lydia, Luke, Apollos and Mary the Scholar in the two chapters "Golgotha" and "Law of Eternity").
Does this interpretation of given deny the justice of an egalitarian God? What about those not holding faith in Jesus Christ, and thus bound to the Roman culture in 74 AD, or for that matter those entangled in the secularized, consumer culture of today? Are those not given by God the Father to Jesus the Son? Dear friends, interpretively, regardless of one's current ideas or belief milieu no human can judge another as to inclusion or non-inclusion in the given of Maker God.
The human state of being not given does not necessarily mean not cared for. Maker God may at any time either have mercy or carry out judgment on whom He decrees, regardless of whether a human being is given or not given. “Caring for” is a priority of Maker God, who can at any time make exceptions to His own prior determinations.
Therefore, God's ability to change a human's status from not given to given and vice versa becomes a providential exception that tests and/or proves the Transformative Rule of Jesus Christ in Maker God’s order of Given-ness.
As God told Jeremiah, "Be Watchful!" This exception recognizes our continuing wickedness. Even if our state is given, righteousness is no guarantee that we won't go to Hell.
(1) Jesus fed the 5000 men (counting women and children, about 12,000 people), the only sign/σημεῖον factually recorded by all four Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-34; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15). This story exemplifies God's concern for the totality of His Creation: the Manna, Ladle or Bread of Life provision for feeding everyone, including the “least of those” in the first century culture.
First century Jesus Followers knew that for their community/world to be sustainable, all Followers, as taught by Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46), must be concerned for "the least of these/us." First century men and women who did not possess this "ladle orientation", who did not share their resources freely (Acts 5:1-11; Mark 10:1-17), along with those who deny, distort or block the provision of the Divine Bread of Life (Exodus 16:11-36), will come under God's judgment, whether they are given or not given.
(2) Jesus' ethos (prevailing spirit and attitude of a culture) is one of caring for all people, not just those given by the Father to the Son. Modern day "charitable toward believer and unbeliever” activities (exemplified by Christian churches and charities that feed everyone, not just believers) are in the traidtion of the feeding of the 5000 (12,000) at Galilee, where Jesus fed even those who lacked faith in the face of overwhelming signs and evidence.
Although in the first century mega-church, only the given/drawn became faithful, all had the natural choice and freedom to attend and be fed. First century Followers considered this a supportable Jesus taught praxis. Some non-followers contended that all 5000 should be considered given/drawn - able to choose on their own whether they believed what Jesus preached and performed on the Galilean mountain side. As factually recorded in all four Gospels, that was not the case.
So it is today. If not for the advent of Jesus Christ and Christianity, charitable care and giving, amounting to billions of dollars, would not exist as it exists today. The congiarium described in The Parable of the Messiah Scrolls is equivalent to Maker God's provision of ALL daily needs for "the least of these" - whether in a Tertian villa or the agora (equivalent to the suburbias and skid rows of today). This natural provision is from Maker God, regardless of whether the recipient is given or not given, ever thankful or oblivious.
(3) It is my view that the rise of the Evangelical mega-churches are making the hard choices, becoming Maker God's way of carrying this congiarium to the world, both wealthy and needy, as well as challenging more traditional Protestant churches (those 90% of churches that today have fewer than 200 members each) for a similar missional covenant, fulfilling Christ's Charter to care, "bless and keep," ALL of His creation.
(4) What is the role of given-ness to the atheist or non-believer who is a "good person"? Many of these assess themselves as not given, yet live out a Bread of Life or Ladle ethos toward the care and feeding of all people. Such praxis does not automatically lead self-declared unbelievers to the state of becoming a given/drawn believer. Hollywood and celebrity broadcasting has convinced us that the enlightened (Steve Allen, Kurt Vonnegut, as examples), upon physical death, in consideration for their generosity during their earthly lives, are due a blissful entrance to a peaceful life in Heaven.
Sadly, naturally accumulated earthly social benefits cannot lessen the wrath visited upon self-deceiving unbelievers in the End of Days, resulting in both a physical and spiritual death (Psalm 1:5-6; 19:1-6; John 3:31-36), administered by the very Jesus that the unbeliever has previously decried, denied, dissed or dismissed, also assuming He could be easily prevailed upon. The sword that guarded the non-believer from entering Eden during his or her lifetime will again be seen coming out of the mouth of the mounted King of Kings at the Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-21).
Sadly also, atheists don't even realize that in their recruiting using the word "evangelize" (which means "to convert or seek to convert someone to Christianity) is like shooting your father and complaining your an orphan. Atheists are orphans who need to respect those of belief as well as disbelief, developing their own lexicon to attract non believers ("The absolutism underlying the atheist pitch also seems out of step with the spirit of our 'tolerant' times") rather than name calling rubes, dissing those "in the grips of God." For current atheist attempts at adopting Evangelical simulacra see "Where Atheists meet to Evangelize" NY Times April 13, 2014.
However, this author softened the harsh reality towards atheism/unbelief in the first century Messiah Scrolls narrative. TertiusFX and the Apostle John imaginatively thought it possible that the unbelievers' natural, elemental anima, whether in the form of compassion, care and charity as opposed to rube-ing and dissing, might be a window into some inner experience of praise, competence, hope or other virtue(s). "Who. but Lord God, is to judge that this searching has not triggered the unbeliever's conscience leading to a given-ness and being drawn coming to the surface?" This quotation from Tertius in the "Law of Eternity" chapter is really a request to God for Mercy and even sounds like something Pope Francis might say.
In summary, an unbeliever's natural, orphan theology may or could show true concern about the meaning of life; a searching that will leave even the most contentious unbeliever without excuse before God (Romans 1:18-25; 2:14-16) and may even ignite their senses to keep searching. Only Maker God knows the true final state of an unbeliever's own choice to be led by his or her conscience. In my story, John gives credence to this possibility in his exegesis on John the Baptist (John 3: 31-36) in the "Law of Eternity" chapter. Let us pray that this may be the non-believers' equivalent to an existential leap of faith, mercifully "doing what the law requires" (Romans 2:14-16) e.g., searching and ultimately discovering the true Presence of God (Acts 17:22-27).
On the other hand, upon those who are clearly blaspheming, non-believing, or just not truly searching, the wrath of God shall surely rest. (John 3:36). Let those of us who believe pray earnestly for all those who are still searching, that Thy Will be Done in mercy. Amen!
The author wishes to thank the following for inspiration upon this subject; the Holy Spirit, Apostle John, John the Baptist, Luke the Theologian, Paul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo, Anselm of Bec, John Calvin, Paul Tillich, Martin Heidegger, Erik Erikson, C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, Ron Youngblood, Rick Warren, Rick McKinley, Doug Webster, R.C. Sproul, Richard Bauckham, and particularly Emmanuel O. Tukasi and his work on, and observations about, God's accrediting and determinism as found in the Gospel of John.
D. W. Chatelain
Christmas 2013-2017 Don7000@comcast.net
Note from Don Chatelain: My wife Martha is an artist member of Christians In the Visual Arts (CIVA). We received the following meditation from Cameron J. Anderson, CIVA's Executive Director, and I wanted to share it with you. (I have added paragraph breaks and fixed one typo.)
Blessings to you all!
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light"- Isaiah 9:2
Friends of CIVA,
In the Church at least, the weeks leading to Christmas invite us to consider both the reality of Christ's humble birth in Bethlehem and his triumphal return in the Eschaton. During this Advent season my meditations have centered on the latter, the coming of Christ the King.
With the stories and images of unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut still fresh in our minds, my impulse is to cry out: "Lord, come quickly." But the horror of Sandy Hook merely amplified what we already knew: there is so much about the world that is wrong, so much that needs healing, fixing, and mending. Not infrequently, this neediness - and not least our own need - is too much to bear.
Wise solutions to our besetting problems seem to elude the powerful, the committed, the brilliant, and even the prayerful. Consequently, in the believing community we rightly long for the Day when Christ the King will return to make it right.
My initial meditation on the neediness of this world gave rise to a second: I have never lived beneath the rule of an active monarch, under the powerful hand of royalty. As one who prizes personal freedom and autonomy, it occurred to me that while I claim to desire the coming rule of Christ, his dominion could seem strange, even uncomfortable.
In fact, the birth of Jesus introduced a sudden and sharp turn in the road: it turns out that none of us is the center of the universe. Rather, we are all subjects in a kingdom. Fortunately, the Kingdom of God is marked by benevolence and generosity, not tyranny. It is a domain wherein the One who is all powerful comes to serve. Under God's rule and reign, the powerless will be safe. Cruelty will come to an end. Troubled spirits will be healed. The disabled and disenfranchised will discover true agency, even creativity. The tyrants and mongers of power and war will be handed their permanent "pink slips."
If you can find a quiet moment - even five minutes - tonight or tomorrow morning amid family, travel, food preparation, and gift-giving, set the crazier apocalyptic end-of-the-world stuff to the side and imagine a day when God's plan and purpose for this world is accomplished. Our world belongs to God and he will set it right!
Those of us in the art world - even traditionalists - prize "thinking outside of the box." Edginess is often our badge of honor and questing after the "new," habitual. But if there is some reality more edgy, radical, unconventional, or transformative than the coming rule of Christ, I would be curious to know what that might be.
The staff and board of CIVA wish you the peace of Christ this Christmas Eve.
Cameron J. Anderson
Executive Director, CIVA