NOT BY MIGHT, NOR BY POWER, BUT BY MY SPIRITFor I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:12 ESV)
Having lived in this world for almost three-quarters of a century, a large part of that in the traditional institutional church scene. As one would hope I awakened to a few things, especially during the last 20 years or so.
One stand out matter is the fact that the relationship between the principles of what is naturally of this world and the principles of the religious world, which imagines itself as “Christian”.
There is no discernable difference between the two, because the difference is only a matter of perceived place, and not of nature.
Both the world and what I like to call “Christianism” use the same methods of rhetoric and theatrical skills to elevate the emotions, moving, stimulating, craving, which often among hearers becomes an addiction.
Pathos, tears, contempt, hatred, anger, melancholy, pleasure, and all the plethora of human emotions are the same, but presented in a different context. We sit through these performances (for that is what they are), and leave, with little effect, if any.
As I heard a church musician once say as he left the building,”That was a better jam session”. Excellent music, a fresh face in the pulpit, maybe a change of place to break the monotony, etc., but what has really been going on?
About thirty years ago a denominational newspaper had a headline, “Guess Who Was in Church with You this Morning?” The answer was,”SATAN”.
Was that newspaper discerning something we who name of Christ are missing?
If so,how Satan must laugh behind his religious mask of “Christianism”!
One of the marks of current “Christianism” is the expectation of a highly cultured mind with a keen sense of the beautiful and the fashionable, and the idea that this must be seen to be apart from such as the mundane, plain, and unsophisticated, ordinary seaminess of those who are convicted otherwise.
The mundane, plain, and unsophisticated is unpleasant and offensive as far as this world is concerned, but, we forget it is not the mindset of one who has a personal living relationship with God, through the finished work of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
We cry to God to do a “new thing” among us, when the “new thing” has already been done, in and through the Son of God. Everything in the life and service of the Apostle Paul was the the result of the fact that he received the Gospel he preached and lived by "by revelation", not simply by intellectual assent.
Preachers and teachers, as well as you and I, may know the Bible word for word, as we may another book (one fellow I knew could quote several books of the Bible, word perfectly), and yet we may still be spiritually dead in our sin, whilst living the the lie of beautiful and the fashionable, religious people.
Scriptures reveal a lot about the knowledge of God and,the truth regarding His Son, as the foundation (cornerstone) of eternal life, resulting in being set free, doing the works He does. They also reveal clearly that simple intellectual assent to facts found by academic study,research and reading, will not find that relationship with God.
Above all Scripture makes it clear that it is this “revelation” of which Paul speaks, a revealing by the Holy Spirit (John 16: 7-11), which takes what we know intellectually, and brings it to living reality deep in our being.
The best knowledge of the Scriptures, an amazingly accurate comprehension of Christian doctrine, and the constant “doing of Christian work”, no matter how “holy” we imagine it to be, using only our natural talents, will get us no further towards God, than if we knew nothing, and did nothing.
By the same token the clever rhetoric, and writing, skilfully presented by using Bible content and themes, may cause, both speaker and hearers to remain wrapped in the shrouds of spiritual death.
People cannot be argued into the presence of God, no matter how well reasoned. They may be captivated by the skilful presentation of the orator, and they may even be touched emotionally (as I have occasionally been).
Only the Holy Spirit can instigate spiritual new birth and the quickening (bringing to life) of the spirit in humankind.
It would seem that the Apostle who authored our text was a very ordinary, unsophisticated, even ugly, little military man, who had an encounter with the living Christ, and became a potent force in the Family of God, and yet, would be frowned upon by the many who assume they have reached some religious high note of holiness in today's world.