I’ve often wondered why humans are entrusted with sex and with children, since we make such a mess of both. But what other way will we learn to handle both pleasure and responsibility, much less continue the human race? Whenever I question God’s ways of accomplishing His purposes, I always run up against the question of alternate ways. Every alternative has been tried and comes up short; God’s way, when undertaken in good faith (and by good faith), turns out to be best by far.
Still I wonder sometimes about an even greater responsibility: “[J]ust as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man but to please God” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). “Entrusted with the gospel” was fine for Paul; he’d seen Jesus face to face and spent a vacation in the Third Heaven. But now that Paul is no longer with us, who is “we”? In my imagination I look around, see no likely candidates, point hesitantly to myself: “Who—me?”
Surely there are better ways to spread the gospel than entrusting it to wispy creatures. The conspicuous flubs and failures of charismatic Christian leaders (Doug Phillips, Mark Driscoll, etc.) make me wonder about alternatives. What about periodic angel appearances—not too often, or it would get old, but once in a generation? Or angelic gospel bureaus scattered throughout the world, offering weekend retreats? Jesus could even come back to lead a revival every few hundred years, or whenever He’s ready (we’ll let Him decide). How about a gospel refresher course, a 30-day Jesus crusade, with direct-from-heaven preaching and miraculous signs on the side? How about a church taught by the best, with no doctrinal error or Scripture twisting, just the unvarnished truth. Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Why not?
A few considerations:
Direct-from-heaven application of the gospel seems as if it would be more effective, but Jesus met plenty of opposition when walking among us, even accompanied by signs and wonders. In writing to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks of the gospel in the midst of much conflict, out of the frying pan of Philippi (an arrest, a beating, and a night in jail) into the fire of Ephesus (another riot). He was only one step removed from the risen Christ, and did his share of miracles, yet still people disbelieved and strayed into error.
I am sometimes stymied by the great gulf between my experience and everyone else’s. How do I communicate to the world what is totally unworldly? How can that gap possibly be closed? But imagine God thinking such thoughts. Look at the great gulf between His Spirit and our flesh. How does He bridge that? We know how: by fusing Spirit with flesh. He “entrusted” Himself with the gospel by embodying the gospel. He complimented our flesh by taking it on; He glorified our bodies by rising again in a body; His righteousness becomes ours.
And so does His mission. “He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers in the divine nature …” (2 Peter 1:4). Partaking in the divine nature means we are partners in the divine project—not only recipients of Trinitarian love, but agents of that love. I’ve even thought of having business cards printed up: Janie B. Cheaney/ Agent of Reconciliation/ (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Participation in the divine nature means I’m not on my own. He fuses my flesh with His Spirit. I love reading about the work of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, but Acts is not just an exciting story—it’s a continuing story. Today is the day of salvation, beginning ca. a.d. 30; the work that began then goes on, uninterrupted, minus a few show-stopping miraculous signs. We have the same Spirit as Peter and Paul, equally “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” He is our seal of approval, of adoption, of authority. Authorized personnel only? That’s us. That’s me.