SQUARE PEG, ROUND HOLE
[ROAD BLOCKS to ONENESS?]
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
FEBRUARY 21, 2015
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28, RSV)
Back during the Charismatic renewal days, we sang a chorus that began: “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.” That thrilled me because I thought it meant we would eventually all agree on Christian principals. Sadly, that renewal went the way of all such spiritual reformation projects. Pardon my non-theological language, but it pooped out. What a bitter blow to those of us who, having been deprived of the Spirit for so long, had a new awakening of God’s power in the present time. Spiritual gifts in the hands of babes, however, are somewhat akin to putting an AK47 assault rifle in the hands of a 4 year old boy who is itching to go shoot the bad guys. It’s a dangerous proposition.
God knew what He was doing, of course. There are some things, spiritual and physical alike, that you only learn what it is, by experiencing what it isn’t. I was and still would be, if God didn’t reign me in from time to time, an enthusiastic disciple of the Charismatic movement. He showed me that AK47 metaphor to let me know that no way, no how, was I ready for the kind of power that I perceived could turn the world upside down like the disciples of Christ did, as recorded in the Book of Acts.
Since God is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow, I still have hope, that this kind of power will be manifested, but in reality, what I did not see, was that an even greater power is being worked out in God’s children. How is it greater? He is working from the inside out. If spectacular miracles would really change the minds and hearts of men, as I’d hoped would happen with my first husband, then there would have been no disapproving and disbelieving Jews, because multitudes of them witnessed Jesus’ healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding thousands, and yes, walking on water. Yet, where were they when the temple guards captured Him and turned Him over to the Roman authorities. Where were they? Probably shouting, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” The miracles were amazing, thrilling, death defying, and yet, they didn’t make converts, they did, however, and still do, give hope to those enduring deprivation filled lives.
The One who could fill the empty spots in their hearts was right in front of them, but God had blinded their eyes so that they could not see nor hear nor experience Him in that time. This is why Jesus spoke in parables: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding: you will be ever seeing but never perceiving’.” (Isa. 6:9-10; Matt. 13:11-14, NIV). Jesus, of course, was speaking of the principal of election.
A quick foot note here. The elect are always chosen for the benefit of the non-elect. Abraham was the elect in his day, and as we know, the fulfillment of the promise God gave him was Christ, who came to bless everyone (Gal. 3:8). Being one of the elect is not an easy job, for they are the ones dragged through the cactus patches and the cleansing fires first, so that they can reach a hand back to help someone still struggling to get through, to understand the process.
Paul explained this mystery: “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear to this very day’.” (Isa. 6:9-10; Rom. 11:5-8, NIV). If God had left it that way, His plan would be monstrously unfair, but Paul never leaves us in any doubt as to God’s intentions: “God has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all.” (Rom. 11:32, Phillips)
In the short haul, God’s dealings with men may seem extremely arbitrary and unjust, but when you consider His master plan of the ages, which is revealed in Christ, that in HIM should all be blessed (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:8,16), then we can better endure what is happening in the world today. I’ve often told the Lord that I wish He had a different plan to mold me into His image and likeness, but for as much as I dislike the cactus patches and fiery furnaces He has dragged me through, I do admit that they certainly do the job of cleansing off the dross.
His refining fires burn off the wood, hay and stubble, in order to purify the sons of Levi, which we are by faith. Malachi’s account of this process has always made me twitchy: “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” (Mal. 3:2-3, NIV) Based on that, I concluded long ago that parts of me (mostly the unseen parts) are pure gold. And when He’s finished, He will make all of us gleaming like purified gold and silver.
Until then, the thought that the diverse children of God could ever be one seems like a mirage, shimmering in the distance. Paul affirmed that when Christ “ascended on high, he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (Eph. 4:8, RSV) He identified those gifts: “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature man-hood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-13, RSV)
It is my opinion that the elect, those who are being purified, are mostly the square pegs unable to fit into the round hole of organized religion, and it is that friction, that tension between the priests and elders (round holes, assigned to maintain the status quo) and the prophets (square pegs who bring God’s word to men), that causes the saints to grow and the church to remain vital. We need both.
The Lord gave me this title yesterday, and my first thought was, “Whoa! Unity or Oneness in the body of Christ is above my pay grade.” I asked Him what He wanted me to know, and His answer was very simple: “When You finally comprehend that you ARE already ONE with Christ, you will then see clearly that you are one with everyone else.” Chew on that a while and I think it will bless you as it did me.
In his Commentary on Romans, Karl Barth elucidates Paul’s sometimes difficult to understand theology found in the book of Romans. Two of Barth’s conclusions have helped me immensely in understanding what it means to be One in Christ. 1) “All men are standing on the same step before the righteousness of God,” and 2) “God has only one direction: forward.” He talks about the folly of trying to start your own church with the knowledge that you have received, declaring that you will make a bigger mess than the church you left.
Barth explains the difference between the Church of Esau (the non elect) and the Church of Jacob (the elect): “Only for the Church of Esau are fences necessary to mark off Israel from Edom, Jews from Gentiles, believers from unbelievers. When in the eternal ‘Moment’ the Church of Jacob dawns in Christ, the fences are broken down, and the Gentile Esau enters the service of God and participates in the divine promise. And with Esau enter the hosts of those who stand outside” (Chapter 9, “The Tribulation of the Church”). End Quote. He also concludes that all of us currently belong to the Church of Esau AND the Church of Jacob, which shall be fully revealed in us in Christ.
Father, we thank You for the process of burning off the dross, uncomfortable though it is. We also thank You that the Oneness we seek with Christ and with each other is Your job to bring forth. When the refiner’s fire has done its work, we will be one in the Spirit and one in the Lord. We know that this is not our reward based upon our credentials, our works, or our lineage. It is a gift of Your Spirit poured out in unconditional love to Your children. What You began, You will finish. Until then, we join our voices with all the saints, past, present and future saying, “Alleluia. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Amen