Thaumádzo is the Greek term which means: to be amazed, shocked, surprised, or astonished. In the Apostle’s letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul begins with the first century version of WTF?
What is Paul seeing? What were these people doing that was so shocking to Paul? Why was Paul so affected by it, when others in the church were not? I’ll be working through these questions and more in this series. Like I mentioned last week, this is vital whether you are a religious person or not, so please, take the time to explore this with me.
“I am astonished because you are so quickly turning away from the one having called you by (the) grace [of Christ] to (a) different gospel.” Galatians 1:6
We saw last week that the Good News (Gospel/ eúaggélion) was a complete scandal to both religious and non-religious (gentile) people because it was too good to be true. Religion works in binaries when we can separate the valid from invalid. Both stumble because the default belief is that God plays favorites (just like we do). The Gospel is the message and power of grace that says; “Nobody is separated from God.” Religion hates this idea and that is why the gospel subverts institutional power.
Equity among everyone makes God seem unjust. “It’s not fair if those people get the same as us…” (Matthew 20:1-16)
So if God has put things right (Justified) all humanity, and our religions are no longer stairways to heaven, then why do some people reject this idea? My premise for this series is that modern Churchianity has truncated the gospel and essentially turned away from its far reaching, inclusive message of Grace for the exact same reasons the church in Galatia did. And that reason is:
We really want God to hate some people. Essentially, we make God into our own image and we assume that the justice of God works like the justice of man. Religion like justice based in retribution, but God’s justice is based in restoration. The Jewish religion says “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy” (Leviticus 19:18) but Jesus comes along and says “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus is revealing what God is like in distinction to what religion thinks God is like.
Most religions teach we are to somehow love our enemies, while simultaneously believing that God is not going to do likewise? WTF?Paul’s understanding of Grace is that we were all separated from God. We were all without God in the world, but through the work of Christ by abolishing, eliminating, ending (katargéo) the law (Ephesians 2:15), both religious and non-religious people receive the same benefit of God dwelling within us. Religion has been replaced by faith (belief) and the temple has moved from the outside to the inside. For Paul, God has erased the dividing lines of hostility.
Thus religious and non-religious people both stumble over the gospel because each wants to insist a dividing line still exists between man and man and between man and God. It sounds like this: “Not everyone can be with God in heaven…” This is called unbelief or lack of faith. It means the Good News is just too good to believe. Even now, some reading this are insisting on a dividing line between themselves and “those people.“
Does it anger you? Does it seem unjust? Impossible? Are you grumbling?
As a result of our refusal to see others as ourselves and extend them the grace that God has offered us, we retreat from the Gospel into religious frameworks that separate the sinner (Gentile) from those of faith. This give institutional religion uncapped power to create a hybrid gospel that the sheople trust more than the Gospel. It sounds like this: “God has loved all people and made them savable, but each person must pick our particular religion and practice….or else.“
If Paul were here today, he would look at the state of Christianity and say the same thing as he did to the churches in Galatia. He’d say: “WTF…. THIS IS NOT THE GOSPEL !!! You are seeking man’s approval! You should be accursed for adding requirements to the Grace of God! That is man’s (religions) gospel construction project, not the one God showed me! AS IF there was another Gospel, DON”T YOU GET IT? Excluding some is NOT GRACE.” (Galatians 6-12)
I wonder how many Churches would be able to hear these words of Paul? Perhaps you are not able to see how Gods grace through the work of Christ can effectively save every soul that ever lived whether they convert to a religion or not. Maybe in your mind, the idea of universal inclusion is heretical because you have been taught as Paul suggests by “another Gospel.” Is it possible that your whole life someone has “bewitched you” (3.1) by telling you that conversion to a religious framework is required for saving faith?
I hope you will not reject this premise or this series. I can prove that Paul’s understanding of the gospel is far wider than you may have ever imagined, and certainly wider than any supposed “orthodox” tenant will ever allow. Does that make me unorthodox? They said the same of Jesus, so I’m ok with it.
Will you be like the Galatians and abandon the Best News in the history of the world in favor of a hybrid version that ultimately makes salvation the work of man? Will you forfeit the freedom offered to you in favor of a fear based religious burden that weighs down your life and robs you of your time and gifts?
May I invite you to explore this scandal? Ask the Spirit to show you if I’m offering New Wine that won’t presently fit in your old wineskin? Don’t make up your mind right now. Do not fear. Don’t just react. Sit with this. Walk with me and lets explore what the bible reveals. Please, don’t stumble over this. Step carefully and wisely and receive the new wineskin I’m offering.
Which Gospel is more powerful and victorious: The one where only a few are worshiping around the throne of Heaven while most of humanity suffers, or the one were every soul that has ever lived is somehow there? Which Gospel honors Christ more? Is Jesus about RETRIBUTION or RESTORATION? You know the answer. No one celebrates the team that loses most of the time. This is why Paul is astonished and why we should be too.
If I am understanding the message of Paul, then heaven and hell are not so much eternities to which we go, but eternities from which we live.