Parts I and II focused on 1 Corinthians 1:29-23, which is one of the key passages used to justify the Insider Movement. I have shown that Paul never said he became a Greek to the Greeks. The passage, in fact, defeats the concept that we can be Muslims to Muslims. Paul did say however that he became like a Jew to win the Jews.
Two principles of interpretation were used in the last two articles:
1) The text must be interpreted in its immediate context. The passage discussed is to be interpreted in view of the three chapters which make up the entire discourse of Paul on the issue of freedom as to whether to exercise or not to exercise the law.
2) The text must be interpreted in its broader context by comparing it with other passages on the same issue.
Because of the popular misinterpretations of this passage, I find it necessary in this third and final article to introduce a third principle of biblical interpretation that will help us discover Paul’s intent behind the passage under consideration.
3) Every text must be compared with the patterned lifestyle of the author. The author cannot be made to say something that is inconsistent with his normative actions.
It is not enough to read the text in its context or cross reference it with other passages, even within the teachings of Paul. The practice of piecing together verses from here and there to prove a point has been responsible for much of the false teaching spread by heretical sects. As I have demonstrated in a previous article (Sola Scriptura: Biblical authority in Missions. Penultimate paragraph, an anecdote from Matthew 10), interpreting any single text on its own can be misleading. The interpretation of any text must not contradict the main theme or message of the broader context or the normative teaching and lifestyle of the author.
Pauline Style of Ministry
To fully understand 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 it is necessary to compare Paul’s teachings with his lifestyle, which is recorded for us ever so amply in the book of Acts and in his epistles. Acts provides the background story and the geographic context of the epistles. The epistles and Acts are so intertwined with each other that it is quite possible to insert the epistles inside the book of Acts with a significant level of accuracy.
Here is a very short list of principles we can learn from Paul’s lifestyle to help us bring clarity to the passage we are dealing with in this series of articles.
1) Paul’s identity was clear to all, both before and after he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus. Before his conversion he was an ethnic Jew, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;” (Philippians 3:5)
His conversion changed his primary identity from being a Jew to a Christian (Christianos). Every one of his twelve epistles begins with this affirmation “Paul… an apostle of Christ Jesus.” He further declares: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2) And “I am not ashamed of the gospel…” (Romans 1:16) And “…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ….” (Philippians 3:8)
We do not find Paul hiding his identity or pretending to be someone he is not. We do not see him assuming the identity of his audience in such a way as to confuse them. He completely and unquestionably associated himself with Christ. This is part of his calling, “15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:15,16.
“The name” is a phrase that is used extensively in the new testament referring to Jesus. It is mentioned 41 times in Acts and the epistles. Ethnic Jews knew full well that Paul was no longer an insider. He had become a member of the “way” which he set out to persecute and destroy. The Greeks never thought that he was one of them, or an insider. They viewed him as one who “...seems to be advocating foreign gods. They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.” Acts 17:18.
Paul’s message was not familiar to either the Jews or the Greeks. It was a clearly different message that left his audience confused about what he was advocating but not confused about his identity. When they finally understood what he was advocating, many opposed him vehemently, both Jews and Greeks.
2) Paul preached the same message to Jews and Greeks alike. He did not modify his core message to accommodate the needs or wants of his audience. Here is the most powerful evidence of his uncompromising position:
“22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…” 1 Corinthians 1:22-23
It is amazing that Paul fully knew that his message was a stumbling block to the Jews and yet he did not water down his message to accommodate them. In the same way, he knew that the Greeks considered his message foolish because they exalted reason, wisdom, and knowledge. Yet Paul preached “…the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (I Corinthians 1:17) He did not come up with some culturally sensitive message to avoid a negative reaction by his hearers. He understood his audience very well. He knew what made them tick but he deliberately did not scratch them where they itched. Why didn’t Paul try to appease his audience by preaching a culturally sensitive message that would more likely be well received? Let Paul give us the answer:
“24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:24-25)
For Paul the gospel is an absolute that does not change with any context. He knew that accommodating his audience would not improve his results anyway. His missiology divided his audience into two groups, those who are perishing and those who are being saved. “18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Those called by God would recognize the power of God in the message of the cross. Those who are perishing will find the cross to be a stumbling block or foolishness, no matter how well it is presented. Who could say that Paul did not have the knowledge and the eloquence that would draw people to his message? Yet he emphatically wrote: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.” (I Corinthians 2:1) He knew that the real power is in the gospel message, not in the method.
For many years it has been my experience that those who are closed to the gospel will not be persuaded by any argument or clever technique. On the other hand, those who are open tend to seek Christ with a thirsty heart and can be ushered into the kingdom through a simple witness. Paul understood well that it is all about God, not about us. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6.)
3) Paul’s boldness often caused him persecution. One rationale behind the insider movement is the avoidance of persecution. Conversion is discouraged because of the negative repercussions it could cause on family and social relationships.
Paul did not seem to be overly concerned about his safety or the safety of people he preached to. His style was not irenic or conciliatory. His message was offensive to the general population. Although many believed, many opposed him, including leaders of the community who brought him to court numerous times. Behind his boldness was a vision of Jesus encouraging him and telling him “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent…” (Acts 18:9)
Paul’s attitude toward his imprisonment and suffering is expressed this way:
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”(Philippians 1:12) He was not deterred by anything: “19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19-20)
4) Paul’s missiology was clearly transformational. Pauline epistles are filled with contrasts between the old and the new. They remind us of our new position in Christ. Anyone in Christ is a “new creation, the old is gone, the new has come…” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And “…put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24) And “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
This transformation is expected of all cultures in order to unify all who experience new life in Christ: “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:10-11)
Application to Muslim Contexts
How do we apply the transformational gospel message in our ministry to Muslims? The answer may be shocking to my readers. But I ask you to prayerfully think it through before you react. Anyone who is more concerned about safety, preservation of family or culture or anything else than they are about the gospel is not worthy to be a disciple of Jesus. A true disciple is a true “follower of Jesus.”
Recently in the last twenty years or so, the phrase “Muslim follower of Jesus” has been used to identify those who accept Christ in their hearts, acknowledge him in their mind, yet still retain their Muslim identity. The reason for this is that they would avoid persecution and become more effective in reaching out to their own families. The sad thing about this strategy is that the phrase “follower of Jesus” has lost its original New Testament meaning. The gospels record to us what Jesus meant when he called the disciples to follow him.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn ” ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:32-39)
These verses alone are enough to convince us that following Christ includes leaving everything for his sake. Everyone invited to follow Christ needs to be told about the cost that is part and parcel of the call to follow him. Following Christ is not a meaningless action. You cannot follow Christ in your heart and openly dissociate yourself from him.
Before I lead Muslims to Christ, I ask them if they would be ready to give up everything for Christ. They need to count the cost early on. Then they are more ready to withstand the hardships that they will most assuredly face down the road. If they are fearful or hesitant, I encourage them to wait until they are ready. Of course I do not leave them alone at this stage. I work with them and study the word with them and explain the cost of following Christ. The results are usually much better than just extracting a sinner’s prayer from them without their understanding of the cost. Those who come to Christ knowing the cost are usually more passionate and understanding of the spiritual battle. They make a choice between the world and God’s kingdom, between their lives in the flesh and their lives in Christ. Jesus pointed this out to his disciples: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
5) Paul’s primary concern was the glory of God. He did not care what people thought about him, how they felt toward his message, or how they received his message. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) Paul’s first and foremost concern was the glory of God. He concluded the discourse of 1 Corinthians 8, 9 and 10 with this:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
No conclusion of these chapters is stronger than the one Paul ended with. It is all about God, not about the law or anything else. “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:32)
“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (II Corinthians 4:2)
When we do this we are not compromising the message. We must allow the gospel itself to be a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But we must not let ourselves be the stumbling block or appear foolish for foolishness’ sake. It is our responsibility to preach the gospel clearly while being careful not to cause anyone to stumble by being insensitive to their weaknesses.
The main purpose of Paul’s discourse that takes up three chapters in his first epistle to the Corinthians was to warn them against causing the weaker brother to stumble. He addresses the problem of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian believers is to help them resolve the confusion within the church caused by this conflict. Those of the circumcision group are legalists. They did not want the new Greek believers to eat meat sacrificed to idols because that would be against the law of God. The other faction in the church were grace oriented. They believed that in Christ we are free from legalism. They contended that “an idol is nothing” (1 Corinthians 8:4) and therefore, in itself, it has no spiritual significance. Paul argues that the problem is not with the meat itself or the idol, but rather with the significance of eating that meat in the conscience of the believers.
Paul’s position is consistent with all other teachings and his lifestyle. Paul was preaching a message that is transformational to any audience, Jews or Greeks.
I think it is clear the Paul (and all the other early disciples) considered themselves as Jewish. Obviously, since they were followers of the Jewish Messiah (Anointed/Christos). But Paul does say (Philippians 3), that what he used to consider as something to boast of, he now considered as worthless, leaving only Messiah to trust in. As a follower of Jesus, who kept the whole law (the only One to ever actually keep it perfectly), he obviously also kept the law, but he no longer trusted in his ability to keep the law as the way to be saved.
And he vigorously fought against those who insisted that the believers from the nations needed to keep the law in order to be saved. If even the Jewish believers are not saved by keeping the law, how can they insist that non-Jewish believers need the law in order to be saved? (Gal.2:14)
Malicious men then twisted these words of Paul, claiming that he taught the Jews to stop keeping the law of God. And it was in order to show that these claims were false that he agreed with the plan of the Jerusalem elders.
“His conversion changed his primary identity from being a Jew to a Christian (Christianos).”
> Nonsense. The name had not been invented yet when he was on the way to Damascus
“Every one of his twelve epistles begins with this affirmation “Paul… an apostle of Christ Jesus.” He further declares: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2) And “I am not ashamed of the gospel…” (Romans 1:16) And “…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ….”
> Plenty of Muslims that follow Christ would say the same…and so your point is????
“We do not find Paul hiding his identity or pretending to be someone he is not. We do not see him assuming the identity of his audience in such a way as to confuse them.”
> Ah… we agree! However, I am interested in how you interpret Acts 21 where Paul takes part in religious activities he no longer believes in the power of. Also in taking part in these he appears to be claiming insider status…
“22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.”
> What do you think Georges? To be honest these verses puzzle me. What is happening here?
“The reason for this is that they would avoid persecution and become more effective in reaching out to their own families. The sad thing about this strategy is that the phrase “follower of Jesus” has lost its original New Testament meaning. The gospels record to us what Jesus meant when he called the disciples to follow him.”
The same old repeated accusations many IM people deny to be true. Who is right? Does Georges know IM better than IMers? Perhaps he should read:
http://www.missionfrontiers.org/pdf/2010/04/24-30.pdf Instead of relying on anecodal accusations. Is reads:
“13. Some have said that Jesus movements within Islam exist so that Muslims can avoid persecution and suff ering for their faith in Christ. Is this true?
By far the most common reason Jesus-following Muslims give for staying inside their original
religious community is their burden and desire to see their loved ones experience the good news in Jesus. Their hope is that Jesus movements among Muslims would be like the earliest Jesus movement described in Acts 2:46-47. “
Troy says: “However, my question is, if this passage (according to your analysis, unless I have missed/misinterpreted something) refers to ministry to fellow, “weaker” believers, then why does Paul say in your selected passage that he does all this to “SAVE some”? Why does he say he “becomes like a Jew” that he might “WIN Jews”? If these people are already “saved” and “won” over to Christ, why does he here express his desire to “save” them?”
The weak & the strong clearly apply essentially to social position in Corinth.,(see the example of the misuse of the Lord’s supper in Chap. 11.) As you read Chap. 8 & the beginning of 9, it is clear that Paul is defending his servanthood as a role model for the Church.
In 9:19 however, Paul expands his argument of being a servant to all to include the non-believers. He says he is also a servant to the Jews, to those inside the law, to those outside the law, to the weak, and to “all men, that I might by all means save some.” (KJV)
In 10:1, we see that he is addressing “brethren.” So while the passages are intended for the Church, Paul states in 9:22 that he is in fact a servant to all in hopes of winning all. But to extrapolate this to mean Paul wants people to stay in their birth religion or even in their cultural patterns if they are unbiblical is not defensible by any standard of exegesis.
This one deviation from the main point of the passage does not alter the thrust of the passage which is teaching for the Church in Corinth.
Georges, you said in your conclusion: “Those of the circumcision group are legalists. They did not want the new Greek believers to eat meat sacrificed to idols because that would be against the law of God.”
Please be more subtle. Paul was of the circumcision group but was not a legalist (Paul kept the Law). The difference between Paul and the legalist is that Paul kept the Law out of love while the legalist kept the Law in order to be saved.
Then you said, “The other faction in the church were grace oriented. They believed that in Christ we are free from legalism.”
Again, please be more subtle. The other faction believed that we are free from legalism but not from the Law. We must keep the Law.
I hope I am being clear. Many times you’ve said that we are free from the Law. This is not true. We are free from LEGALISTIC observance of the Law but not from the Law itself.
Thus we are NOT FREE to eat food sacrificed to idols, commit adultery, steal, lie, murder, etc.
Thank you! That does indeed help. Perhaps it was too easy for me to not consider the fact that stumbling blocks can cause UNbelievers to stumble as well as believers. People can stumble even before they come to Christ. Thank you also for the verses you isolated.
I asked because in the three-chapter context, yes, he is talking about stumbling blocks for the most part with other younger believers, but in the immediate context he seems to be, as you pointed out, talking about evangelism. Thank you for the perspective and insight :)
Thank you for your input, however perhaps I could have worded my question better :) …
In your last three articles you have discussed how this passage in I Corinthians 9 refers to ministry/discipleship to other BELIEVERS, how to not make them stumble in abusing your freedom in Christ. You connected this with us abusing such freedom in Muslim lands that can lead new Muslim converts to stumble by seeing using our freedom in irresponsible ways, all conclusions I agree with.
However, my question is, if this passage (according to your analysis, unless I have missed/misinterpreted something) refers to ministry to fellow, “weaker” believers, then why does Paul say in your selected passage that he does all this to “SAVE some”? Why does he say he “becomes like a Jew” that he might “WIN Jews”? If these people are already “saved” and “won” over to Christ, why does he here express his desire to “save” them?
Hope that makes sense. Thank you again :)
I’ll give a try at your question:
“If this passage refers only to ministry to people who are ALREADY saved, why is he trying to “save” some? How do you “win” people who are already “won” over?”
I see this passage as being about both the saved and the not-yet-saved. Yes, chapter 8 (the meat part) is an example of someone who is a young believer, with a “weak” conscience. But, this example can also shed light on how to relate with not-yet-believers too, because we can learn that we shouldn’t give them the impression that we are participating in idol worship.
In chapter 9 Paul moves on from that illustration to others that contribute to his main point, including one about his rights as an apostle, and by verse 19 (the passage you refer to) he is talking about preaching the gospel, although again, his point can be useful for both evangelism and discipleship.
As I see it, Paul demonstrates the principle by speaking of 3 relationships throughout 1 Cor 8-9:
1. Mature believer and weak believer
2. Paul and the mature believers
3. Paul and the non-believers
Then in Chap 10 he warned them against idolatry using the history of Israel as an example, then contrasted communion and idolatrous feasts (saying that they are mutually exclusive), and concludes by emphasizing freedom balanced by the stumbling block principle, to be applied to both believers and non-believers. Notice that in his conclusion he specifically mentions 1. Jews, 2. Greeks, and 3. the church of God:
31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God– 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
Does that help?
Thank you for the kind words and also for the sincere question. I am not worried about people challenging me on biblical grounds.
Paul was concerned about the salvation of the lost.
“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race,
the people of Israel.” And “my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” Romans 9:2-4; 10:1
This passion and agony for the lost is behind his willingness to do anything so that by all means some will be saved.
The “some” echos what Jesus said that “”For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
(Matthew 22:14) He knew well that all his preaching was not going to save ALL. He was satisfied by saving “some.” If I have have not answered you adequately please let me know. God bless.
Thanks to ALL and EACH of you who have made this blog interactive and alive.
The interaction has been great. Beside some silly words here and angry words there, the discussions have been healthy and helpful. For long the two camps have not heard each other. I invite everyone to express your opinions about the issues not the people who share their ideas. We must be civil and remain passionate. I know some in the other camp who are sincere and love the Lord. They are often driven by compassion. We on the other hand can look heartless and that all we do is judge and hunt for heresy. It ain’t so. I want this blog to be about something rather than against something. We want to be about biblicalmissiology not about wrong missiology. So let us interact with the passage from the scripture. Honestly I saw a few do that and the rest are stuck on arguments. What did I write in the last four articles that have helped you? What insights have you gained? What have I missed? Where have I been wrong? Most of the comments have been about my conclusions and opinion as how to apply the meaning of the text practically. Please write and point out from the text where I have been wrong.
Thank you Georges. If only every Christian took as much care, logic, and context to learn from Scripture. It’s amazing how different the “church” would look and act. Thank you for pushing us toward Christ and the truth as He has revealed it in His Word.
I do, though, have one question concerning this passage, which I ask not to try to push any point of view, but simply because I do not know …
What then does Paul mean when he says “that I might save some”? Or when he uses the term “win”? If this passage refers only to ministry to people who are ALREADY saved, why is he trying to “save” some? How do you “win” people who are already “won” over?
Appreciate anyone’s input :) God bless.
Great series of articles. The main problem with much of the Insider movement is its lack of sound biblical interpretation. These verses and also others like the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
A huge point in this is that you can’t use the Jewish issue of some people clinging to the law and circumcision as the equivalent of a Muslim remaining within Islam and following Jesus (or a Buddhist, a Hindu or whatever. There is a continuity between Israel and Jesus. Jesus came out of Israel and was part of God’s history to Israel. Paul is dealing with the issue of Jewish ethnicity and the Gentiles serving God through faith in Christ. The law in Paul is not legalism in general, but the law of Moses. Therefore a Jew coming to Christ faces different issues than someone from another religion.They of course must repent and put faith in Christ alone, but they can see Christ as the fulfillment of what God has done in Israel.
However, there are some that say that Muslims can come to Christ and them use the Quran as their OT (I even heard Brian McLaren say that a native American could use their native religion as an old testament. This sees continuity between Islam and Jesus. Islam , unlike Israel which came before Christ and leads into Him, came after Jesus and preached a Jesus of another nature( i.e. “God does not beget nor is he begotten). Therefore we can’t say that Islam naturally leads one to Christ. When we get to Buddhism it is even more ludicrous given that it is atheistic.
Thanks, George for showing that Paul never meant what some people are saying about being a “Greek to the greeks” or a “muslim to the muslims.” What he said must be taken into context. I also thought of Acts 19: 23-41. Paul rejects the idol worship of the Ephesians. He didn’t say to them that they could see Artemis as a bridge to Christ.
Thank you, Georges, for this series of articles. In August of last year a local church, Christ the Rock Community Church in Menasha, Wisconsin, hosted a Jesus in the Qur’an conference. The instruction had as its premise the conflation of the Kingdom of God and Islam. From this came a Missiology C5 in nature that the rest of my comment describes.
“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor” (Galatians 2.15-18).
Here Paul says that it is through the works of the law and its inability to make us justified before God that the ultimacy of faith in Jesus Christ is understood. Note what he says proves him to be a “transgressor,” the rebuilding of what he has torn down. Transgressor (Ï€Î±ÏÎ±Î²Î¬Ï„Î·Ï‚) is a term with a background that conveys the imagery of battle: “warrior” or “foot soldier,” infantry beside the charioteer (Bauer 612). Within the immediate context, Paul is implying that to rebuild the religion he left is to, in effect, turn against Christ and the gospel. The presenters at the conference are transgressors of a type; they intentionally build Islam in the lives of Muslims: “God made you Muslim. Why were you born in a Muslim family?” That is what a leader in this heretical movement told a sixteen year old boy when the boy complained to the leader that some Christians had said he should leave Islam. The leader went on to say, “You know what, we have enough Christians in our church. We don’t need you, but your family does.” This man was rebuilding, discouraging repentance, and ultimately fighting against Christ. The dialogue went on to say that the boy went home and declared to his father, “I’m a good Muslim.” But the effect of true allegiance to Christ was prophesied by Jesus:
“For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother…” (Luke 12.52, f.).
Think of the crisis of faith with its implications as recorded by the Apostle Mark:
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it….For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels'” (8.34, ff.).
The cross, the symbol of the ultimate form of Roman capital punishment that was inherently unclean to the Jew, was scandalously offensive when associated with the Messiah. Yet this was the crisis that Jesus imposed on the minds of his hearers. Think of it: that which to the Jews was anathema was the symbol of their only hope! Not only did Jesus not minimize the symbolic impact of the cross, he maximized it by using it to show the Jews just how objectionable, problematic, and radical the life of his follower would be. Compare and contrast that which was presented in this IM conference: disregard for conversion, allegiance to Islam and indifference to the gospel, and the prioritization of temporal relationships over that of the radically allegiant relationship called for by the Son of God.