Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.Acts 16:6-10
Many have pondered on the effect of the Macedonian Call and the change in direction of the movement of the Gospel from heading eastward to heading westward. It certainly seems from the language used that Paul and Silas were intending to move toward the east and go through Asia Minor. Whether they would have continued in an easterly direction and gone on to mainland Asia we cannot tell. But all indications suggest that was the direction Paul and Silas were heading in. What would that have meant for Christianity if the thrust of the Gospel had been toward the East and China and then into Archipelago Asia rather than toward to the West and Europe? I have often pondered these questions and others.
The stock answer to questions such as these are:
The gospel moved into the heartland of the Roman Empire and was embraced by the Emperor Constantine. Later it was propagated around the world in the form of Roman Catholicism. David Pawson says from AD 30 to AD 400 the church captured the world. Helped by factors such as: Roman roads, one common language, Pax Romana – Roman peace, there was no need for visas and no passports were needed. The Church spread was spread by ordinary men and women. The church of Rome was not started by Paul or Peter. There were no buildings; no church structure. The organisation was based on the house church -with elders, deacons, evangelists, prophets, apostles. Rome was a religious supermarket. Pantheon – House of All Gods had been built in 27 BC and around the edge the niches were filled with all the gods of the Empire. A niche was offered to the Christians – Never! Now there is a statue of Jesus in the Pantheon – today. The niches are empty. The Romans registered all religions as religio licita – Legitimate Religions. At first Christianity was religio illicita. Illegitimate Religion. The Romans said to the Christians “you don’t believe in the gods”. Christians said to Romans “with all your gods you don’t have God”
Then in 312 AD the Emperor Constantine became a Christian and passed a decree that everyone must be a Christian. He made Sunday a day of rest and ended persecution. But now the Church was in a dreadful state. Now that they were free. Constantine called 300 bishops together in Constantinople at Nicius. Julian (the grandson of Constantine) commanded pagan shrines be opened again. But no-one came. All the world was Christian. Roman soldiers had brought the Gospel to England.
From there the Gospel was associated with world colonization and the great fleets of Europe coming from the European seafaring nations: England, France, Spain, Portugal took it to the world. These nations were the ones which colonized and Christianized. We hail the way the Gospel spread throughout the world but I ask was it a good thing? The initial thrust of the Gospel from person to person, home church to home church was stopped and replaced by organized, institutionalized religion. I often tell people true Christianity is not a religion. Any religion is merely a structured, human system of thought which controls and normalizes human endeavor. To be Christian is not to follow a regimented human belief system. To be truly Christian is to be subject to One whom we follow – Christ. Freed and released under the power and influence of His spirit living within. That is far different from the system and structures of Christianity under Constantine or Christianity as it was propagated under Roman Catholicism. When that happened Christianity lost something.
When Christianity is institutionalized and forced on people it has lost its heart. Look at the nature of the colonization of the world under the Conquistadors of Spain. Spain conquered Central and South America and introduced (no enforced) Christianity. Were the other colonizing nations any different? Oh yes there were differences in severity but all largely brought institutionalized religion. How sad! But yes the world was evangelized and now we are cleaning up the mess from that colonization.
I guess I am thinking at the moment of what would have happened if Christianity had moved East to India and China where perhaps Paul and Silas were heading before they were called to Macedonia? I am just being provocative which I do from time to time. Let me add some other elements to this mix to stir the pot so to speak. I will pick up the fallout from this “pondering Gem” in the following Gem. Bear with me for a moment. As long as this Gem doesn’t become ponderous.
One of the great disasters of history took place in 1271. That year Marco Polo’s father visited The Kubla Khan, supreme ruler of China, India and the East. He was so attracted to Christianity, that he told Marco Polo’s father, “Tell your high priest to send 100 men skilled in your religion and I’ll be baptized. All my barons and great men and their subjects will be baptized too. Soon there will be more Christians here than in all the rest of the world.” Oh ain’t that true. But nothing was done. After thirty years, only a handful of missionaries had been sent – too little and too late! Can you imagine how different the world would be today if China (1.388 billion), India (1.31 billion), and the rest of the Orient, had been converted to Christ?
Post WW2 in Japan they were spiritually adrift and began to ask whether the US success was based on their religion. At the end of World War II, General MacArthur pleaded with the church in America, “Send 1,000 missionaries to Japan immediately,” promising that in one generation it could be won to Christ. But post-war openness has been replaced now by other religious hybrids. Another opportunity lost. Again the call was not heard, and today less than one percent of Japan’s population is Christian.
Overall we have not done such a good job of evangelizing the East. Maybe that it is why the Gospel went West (deliberate choice of words).
Now let me do what I loved to do when speaking with youth in schools. Attach a seemingly unrelated element to a train of thought. Ah but is it really unrelated?
When Houdini was stumped
The Great Houdini claimed he could be locked into any jail cell in any country, and set himself free within minutes. And he made good his claim in every city he visited – except one. That day, something went wrong.
He entered the cell in his street clothes. As the heavy metal doors clanged shut behind him, he took from his belt a concealed piece of strong but flexible metal, and he went to work on the lock. But soon he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere. For 30 minutes he worked without success. Then an hour passed. This was much longer than it usually took, and he began to ‘stress out’. But still he couldn’t pick the lock. Finally, after labouring for two hours and feeling like a total failure, he leaned against the door, and too his amazement it swung open.
It had never been locked in the first place!
Most people don’t get beyond their first revelation. They enshrine it, build a fence around it and stay put.Ian Vail
To backslide: you don’t have to go backwards; Just stay put and God will move on.Ian Vail
You can never force anyone to follow Christ; it must always be a result of the freedom of the will.Ian Vail
To bring someone to Christ in any other way is to make that person an illegitimate child of God.Ian Vail
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do You mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.John 3:3-5