We get letters. Most are very encouraging, but some take us to task for what we write. We don't mind the latter; in fact, more often than not it helps us to emulate the Bereans, making sure we are true to the Scriptures in what we present. Nevertheless, some letters mystify us. In justifying many of the highly questionable and--sometimes rather bizarre teachings, practices and spiritual movements in Christendom today, the writers seem to be oblivious to what God's Word says quite clearly regarding such issues.
Since much of what we see going on in the church and the world is at its root common to what Paul experienced, we have wondered about the critical letters he might have received in rebuttal of his epistles. Still more interesting, however, what if Paul were to have received responses then that were specifically related to what is taking place now in the professing church?
With that in mind, we present the following quasi-hypothetical correspondence:
FROM THE ECUMENICAL COUNCIL AT CORINTH : To Paul, an Apostle of the Christian sect. Sir. We greet you in the name of your god, Jesus. We represent your colleagues, fellow priests and ministers to the many gods whose shrines and temples bless this great culturally diverse city of ours. Our council has representatives of the disciples of Hermes, Poseidon, Athena, Heracles, Apollo, and the great goddess Aphrodite, at whose altars I serve. Our primary reason for contacting you is to let you know that you have been selected as a finalist for the "Temple Prize," a sum of money equal to your weight in gold and presented annually to the individual recognized for his outstanding contribution to progress in religion. That sum represents our appreciation for what you have accomplished. We have been amazed at how quickly your sect has grown and are confident that, should you win this rather substantial prize, you will put it to good use for the glory of your god, just as previous winners have faithfully served their deities with their reward.
In the process of narrowing down our selection, however, some troubling writings have been brought to our attention which we have been told bear your signature. These epistles seem to oppose all that our council and the highly revered Temple Prize stand for. The author of these writings refers to our deities as "dumb idols" and "devils"; he goes on at great length to warn your sect not to have any "fellowship with devils," claiming that there is only one god and there can be no agreement between him and the idols of our temples. This is all very distressing to the great cause of religious unity; yet, we are hopeful of better things from you as you hasten to resolve the concern before us. The Prize, you will be gratified to know, will be presented by the Grand Asiarch of the Temple of Aphrodite Urania, Queen of the Heavens, with the ceremony actually taking place in the inner sanctuary of our great goddess. A reception will follow for priests and worshipers of all creeds at the Unity Court of Religions.
FROM THE SPIRITUAL WARFARE STRATEGIC COMMAND CENTER IN EPHESUS:Greetings. While we have been blessed by your teachings in general, we marvel at how uninformed you are concerning spiritual warfare. You seem to recognize the powerful organization of the spirit world of demons as "principalities," "powers" and "rulers"and we do find helpful your teaching which encourages the believer to take up "the whole armour of God," and especially "the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Yet you remain terribly vague regarding the critical necessity of confronting demons.
Since you were with us last, God has raised up individuals to teach us to bind and loose spirits, identify territorial demons, utilize spiritual mapping, develop prayerwalking, and become more effective in tearing down demonic strongholds. We have also learned how to remove generational curses through identificational repentance. How is it that you were not aware of these spiritual techniques for vanquishing our satanic enemies?
You seem to be ignorant of territorial spirits, which must be bound in order for the gospel to advance. That became clear to us through word of your failure to convert Philippi. No wonder you could only cast a demon out of one young lady there—and even that led to your beating and imprisonment! Obviously, much strategic-level spiritual warfare was needed to bind the strongman of that city and thereby to assure your success.
We, on the other hand, have learned what brings victory. By marching around the temple of Diana here in Ephesus, our prayerwalkers have had great success in reducing the sales of her statuettes, as well as restricting the business of her shrine prostitutes. Whereas you were mute on the subject and the methods involved in spiritual warfare, we found information gleaned from converted pagan priests to be very insightful, particularly in learning the spiritual history of this great city. Our exorcisms also proved helpful, and provided us with intelligence from the demons themselves—that is, of course, after our commanding them to speak the truth.
Should you still be suffering from that "messenger of Satan," we have an eager deliverance team ready to set you free. However, we would ask you to please refrain from the feeble and questionable plea that Christ told you, "My grace is sufficient for thee." We feel that is a defeatist attitude at best, and certainly not suited for the spiritual militancy required in our times.
FROM THOSE AT CORINTH, "BEHIND IN NO GIFT" AND PROUD OF IT! Following your departure from your flock in this spiritually active Greek city, God has done a wonderful work by sending us ministers with a special anointing. The results can only be described as a revival among God's people. Yet you disappoint us greatly by making spiritual judgments from a distant place. You have missed the mark badly by not returning to observe in person the miraculous power here, the changed lives, and perhaps most tragic of all, by not coming to us privately before writing your destructive letters, that you might gain deeper insights through personal dialogue with us.
Because of your closed-mindedness you have missed this inspiring operation of the Holy Spirit. Whether at our love feasts or in our worship, God is working powerfully, sovereignly and in gratifyingly spontaneous ways. While it is true that we do not fully comprehend what God is doing, and at times the manifestations seem foolish to some, nevertheless we want more of what He has for us, and we praise Him for the outpouring of His Spirit.
Obviously you are blind to the validity of this special impartation when you protest, "God is not the author of confusion," and "Let all things be done decently and in order." How is it you cannot grasp that the Lord may be working in a new way, especially one which is much more personally transforming? Have you no fear of quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit of God?
FROM THE GACMPC (GNOSTIC APOSTLES OF CORINTH FOR A MORE POSITIVE CHRISTIANITY) : Dear Brother Paul. This is a most difficult letter for us to write, since the last thing we want to do is to lower your already poor self-esteem by appearing critical. However, because your self-image seems almost beyond recovery, we feel compelled to counsel you and we're concerned that your pessimistic mindset is creating a dramatically adverse effect on the churches here in Greece and elsewhere.
Perhaps you don't realize your own negativity. Here are just a few examples: To Timothy you wrote that you are the "chief of sinners"; to the Romans, that "no good thing" dwells in your flesh, calling yourself a "wretched man"; to us at Corinth, that you are the least of the "Apostles" and that you are "nothing"; and to those in Ephesus you write that you are "less than the least of the saints."
The Christianity you profess debases the value and worth of every Christian, as well as his God-given intellect. You make your own ignorance and folly apparent when you ask, "Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" Are you not addressing a people here in Corinth among whom philosophers and counselors reign supreme? Dare you undermine their heroes? What kind of positive witness is that? Can you not recognize that all truth is God's truth and that wisdom is abundant in writings of the world's greatest minds?
Of even greater concern, however, than your embarrassing us among these noble Greeks, is the humiliating context in which you set our faith. You claim that the Christian life involves struggles which may include hunger, poverty, homelessness, sufferings, distresses, perils, persecutions, while Christ's ambassadors are "made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day." Is this your testimony as an "Apostle" who finds "joy" in all such things? We Apostles here in Corinth know nothing of the sort. Seed faith has brought us great prosperity; and healings abound among us because of faith in our faith.
Small wonder that our brothers and sisters did not provide for your welfare while you lived among them. By your own words you have created your dire circumstances from which Christ came to set you free; you spoke those negative conditions upon yourself. Through lack of faith you have grossly missed the success Christ achieved for His own. Do you actually think you bring hope or help to those in tribulation by proclaiming that "our light affliction...is but for a moment"? And you would have believers here and in Asia "imitate" you? God forbid!! Thankfully, we know the power of positive confession.
FROM THE ECT COMMITTEE IN GALATIA:To Paul, our brother in our common faith. We love you, as we love all who name the name of our precious Lord and Savior. Good Paul, you have taught us so much. Yet, some here in Galatia have taken your words too literally, becoming somewhat closed-minded, even to the point of developing a critical spirit. Their un-Christian and divisive attitude has been directed at our dear friends of the circumcision persuasion.
Certainly that is not what you intended for us! Therefore, to make amends for these unloving brothers and to demonstrate to the religious community and to the world that we are indeed loving, we have worked feverishly to develop a document which would emphasize those things we hold in common with those of the circumcision. In addition, concerning the very issue upon which we still differ with the circumcisors, we shall continue to dialogue with them, our goal being to reach a consensus, thereby demonstrating our love through unity. We have had wonderful support for our reconciliation agreement thus far. Some of our most inspirational and courageous leaders have signed the ECT accord, that is, Evangelicals and Circumcisors Together.
To expedite this historic agreement, it would be helpful if you would sign the document and in addition write a word of exhortation to our group of dissenters. You might explain to them that the term "accursed" as you applied it to the circumcisors (who hold to so many of the beliefs we profess) doesn't mean what they think. Surely these divisive literalists would come to their senses and realize that their strenuous objections to adding one small requirement for salvation is simply hairsplitting. Such a minor adjustment to faith is simply not worth squabbling over, and hardly a reason for separation among those who love Jesus.
Thank you for your assistance in this, and please sign and return the enclosed ECT document at your earliest convenience.
It would be great if we could all just have a good laugh at the folly of the above letters. Sadly, that's not appropriate. All the hypothetical arguments listed (and there are many more) have been taken from published defenses by today's leading proponents of such teachings, practices or activities, as well as from correspondence we've received over the years. The idea that they might address their objections to the Apostle Paul may seem ridiculous, but some today actually have condemned his writings, especially where he directly contradicts their false doctrines or endeavors. On the other hand, many if not most such proponents of "new truth" are aware that nearly all evangelicals believe Paul's writings to represent what God commands. Thus they rationalize, twist or simply ignore his teachings.
The apostasy seems to be in full swing, ranging from ingeniously deceptive subtleties to powerful seductions of the most ludicrous kind. Nevertheless, we have the Word of Truth, ministered by the Spirit of Truth and Jesus who is the Truth, to keep us on God's path. Pray "without ceasing" for your fellowship, your pastor and all those of influence in Christendom, that they would not only have a "love of the truth," but boldly speak "the truth in love." TBC