I am so very blessed to share with you that Pastor Sheldon Wolf is now writing for God here at FGGAM. Pastor Sheldon is doing such a tremendous work at the First Baptist Church in Reserve, New Mexico! I served for many years as a circuit preacher at FBC in Reserve, I have such a special love for Sheldon and all the folks in Reserve.
A Gospel Prescription by Pastor Sheldon Wolf of First Baptist Church in Reserve, NM
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:1-4
“I had to talk to you as unspiritual, as yet babies in the Christian life, And my practice had been to feed you, as it were, with ‘milk’ and not with ‘meat.’ You were unable to digest ‘meat’ in those days…” That delightful Englishman as he has been called, JB Phillips, paraphrases the Apostle Paul as he admonished the church in Corinth. This is a verse with which a great many Christians are familiar, but I begin with it because I fear that many “hearing, have not heard.” What I mean is that all too often this passage is used to justify an attitude that sounds something like a Sunday school visitor insisting with much pomp and waving of arms to a room full of startled people he only met this morning, that he knows the precise identity of the Nephilim in Genesis 6. Or perhaps the long time member who suddenly starts wearing tassels on his clothing (the corresponding ear curls glaringly absent) and implies at every opportunity that if you were as spiritual you would do the same, and all of this because of what he heard at a conference. How about the college student who, after being exposed to some great theological treatise during the course of her studies, returns home with an eager charge of heresy ready to be hurled at church and nuclear family member alike.
These errors are a few contemporary illustrations of the kinds of issues taking place in the Corinthian church at the time of Paul’s writing. People were becoming divided into camps saying things like “I am of Paul” and “I am of Apollos,” and these factions were tearing the church apart. All of these errors, whether the contemporary ones I have offered, or the ones in Paul’s day, are diverse in terms of the kinds of people and the types actions, but they all have the same root; that is, misguided priorities. As well as bear the same fruit; that is, controversy and strife. Paul’s admonishment was simple, but it was not easy. His desire, indeed his command, was for the people in Corinth to recenter their focus on Christ, for when they looked from that corrected perspective, they would see that all that was meritorious about Paul’s teaching was that which elevated Christ and presenting the gospel. The same would be seen about the teaching of Apollos. It is my hope that in the studies we are beginning together, we can wisely and humbly put on the same lenses Paul prescribed for the Corinthians.
Now I’m sure, dear reader, that you’ve noticed the opening lines of the Gospel of Luke displayed above, which is our object of study, and perhaps you are wondering what relevance this detour through the situation in Corinth has to the passage at hand. Well our author, Luke, has a similar concern in mind, or at least gives us an occasion to meditate on a similar matter. Notice above in verse 4 Luke tells his reader that his intention for writing was that he might deepen Theophilus’ faith. This is quite profound because it implies that Theophilus is already a believer and has been taught the gospel. And yet, Luke, when trying to determine what would most edify, uplift, and secure his friend in his faith, decided that a detailed and as he says “orderly account” of the life of Jesus Christ is exactly what Theophilus needed. My hope for us walking together through this spectacular story is that we might recognize, regardless of how mature in our faith we may be (or think we are), we are always in need of this greatest of stories. We must avoid the error described by Chesterton and make certain that we have not “grown older than our God.” And, before I excite you with the journey we are about to set foot on, I felt it necessary to “fence the table,” as it were, at the outset. The journey we are about to embark on may appear to be a familiar one, and in many ways I pray that it is, but we must be careful not to presume, as the Corinthians did, that we have little time to trifle with the gospel, as if there are more spiritually mature issues to contend with. You see, the funny thing about the gospel is that it is both our “milk” and our “meat.” It is that which brings us into the kingdom of God as newborns, and the same gospel is the foundation of everything we come to learn as we grow in that marvelous realm.