There is no doubt but that the apostle Paul scaled to spiritual heights that few others will ever reach and exalted experiences that few ever know.
Yet in his letters to the churches, the Apostle never writes as if this type of “spirituality” and “heavenly” living were the exclusive province of the initiated and privileged few.
Rather, he writes as if he were someone nearing the summit of a mountain and happening to look back down and finds to his surprise and dismay, that they are not there with him but are still struggling on the lower slopes and getting vertigo in the foothills.
The Apostle is up there enjoying the view and the fresh air, while many of his fellow believers are clinging on for dear life by their fingernails weighed down by earthly cares and preoccupations and struggling with sinful desires and cravings.
It is clear that we Christians, often live beneath our privileges as the people of God , it is also clear that we have no one but ourselves to blame for our lack of progress and growth in the Christian life.
We simply do not avail ourselves of the many helps and spiritual resources provided by God for our welfare and progress in the Faith.
There is certainly nothing ‘snobbish” or “elitist’ about the Apostle’s dealings with the various groups of believers and individual Christians he reaches out to.
Rather He “comes across “as someone gracious and loving and wholeheartedly and selflessly seeking their earthly blessing and eternal good.
That he stands on his authority as an “apostle of Christ” in dealing with many issues in the churches is constantly evinced, but Paul the “sinner saved by grace” and “fellow soldier of Christ” is exhibited just as surely, if not more so.
It is very difficult to have fellowship with people who display a constant sense of superiority and “holier than thou” attitude.
We may admire those who display or evidence spiritual maturity and eminence but it is human nature to regard them as being somewhat apart from the mainstream and beyond any serious emulation on our part.
So we content ourselves with a sensible mediocrity and blend into the crowd with their humbler aspirations.
We see in many Christian groups the “cult “of personality where one particular leader or group of leaders hold sway over their followers to such an extent that the “rank and file” hang on to their every word and make the ”Super-Apostles’” rule their law.
They themselves dwell in “ivory towers” of joy, wealth and peace and promise to show their devotees the way to obtain similar blessings and status in return for a contribution to their cause.
I see none of this self aggrandizement in any of the “Apostles” and certainly none in “The One” who, could have, if he had wished, taken the throne of this world from the hands of the tempter, but instead humbled Himself by coming in the “likeness of sinful flesh”and walking the way of the Cross.
Christ and the Apostles , rather than exalting themselves, chose to deny self and live in humility with the expectation that God would lift them up, even while living in the World, here and now, to dwell in the “heavenly places” and at the appointed time raise them up, both soul and body to be forever with the Lord.
I may be mistaken but my reading of the apostle Paul is that, in imitation of his Master, he would have been eminently approachable by anyone and everyone
He was to be found day by day “in the trenches” striving and suffering with the all the other “soldiers of Christ”.
Paul would have been the first one to be found at the place of greatest need and also where there was the most likelihood of spiritual threat and danger to the Body of Christ.
He would not have thought it below his dignity to perform the lowest service of love to the humblest saint and follower of Jesus.
There was no self attribution of perfection or of having “arrived’ at the mountain top about the Apostle Paul, but rather the repeated urge and plea for Christians to “soldier on”, “fight the good fight of faith” and join with him as a “fellow pilgrim” and “soldier of Christ, to strive to attain the “full stature of Christ, arrive at the heavenly realm and partake in ultimate victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Born of a virgin”
Most professions, Sciences and “disciplines” have developed a terminology and vocabulary that those, without familiarity and intimate knowledge of these areas, have difficulty comprehending.
When the experts in these various fields discuss facets of them the uniformed “layman” has great difficulty in making heads or tails of what they are talking about.
Theology has, over the centuries of history, developed a language very much its own and for the average Christian it has been the temptation to take a great deal of Christian doctrine and belief on trust rather than engage in personal study in order to understand it.
Today, more than ever, it is felt by some that because Christian Theology is a source of so much disagreement and contains a great deal that seems nebulous i.e. hazy, confused, it is better to settle for a blissful ignorance rather than lose ourselves in its vagaries.
They limit themselves to gaining the minimum amount of Christian understanding in order to be saved and leave the rest to the “clever and wise”.
The Roman Catholic Church has always said that ignorance is the mother of devotion but it has rather proved the hatchery and breeding ground of grievous errors and heresies.
A great area of theological discussion and controversy and a constant source of incredulity for the opponents of Christianity is the “Virgin Birth” of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The idea of a human birth occurring outside of the normal means of conception and by miraculous means is outside the “realms of possibility” both for atheistic humanism and “liberal” Christianity alike.
Some have said that the “infancy” narratives were added on later and sourced from “Oral” traditions of dubious veracity.
The skeptics may have a great respect for Christ, his life and teaching but they cannot swallow the more miraculous aspects of the gospel narratives. Some in the church today would throw the “Virgin birth” of Christ overboard entirely and yet keep the Resurrection intact. As if the one were more credible and plausible than the other.
In the main however the scoffers deny the miraculous “lock, stock and barrel” and retain only a “sanitized “and “humanized version of Christianity.
Modern redefining and redacting apologists for Christianity teach that the value of the life and ministry of Christ is not lessened if we consign the “Virgin birth” and miraculous signs surrounding it, to the realms of “pious fiction”.
The later additions made by Roman Catholicism with regards to the “Perpetual Virginity” and “assumption of Mary” etc. only tend to muddy the waters making it hard to separate fact from fiction.
The Bible believing Christian’s acceptance of the Scripture record of Christ’s birth, while an article of faith is does not call for blind credulity.
There is more than enough in the Bible narratives themselves to command their acceptance and belief as to their veracity
They are free from the sensationalizing spirit that accompanied the pagan stories of the “gods” so called and have nothing of the ludicrous elements as found in the “Gnostic” “gospels”.
The accounts themselves bear all the “hallmarks” of veracity and especially in the gospel of Luke’s case, careful research and truthfulness.
Once conceding, the reality of the “miraculous” wrought through the Almighty power of God, we are filled with wonder at the Incarnation and accept its contribution to the understanding of the divine nature and ministry of our Lord and Saviour
That it illuminates the inherent sin-lessness of our Lord as well as teaching His true nature as “very God“ yet truly man, reinforces to our mind and affections God’s great mercy and our Lord’s great condescension as well as the infinite value and saving power of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.
That the innocent sinless Son of God should come as a babe into a sinful world and that He should “taste death” (Heb.2:9) and bear and atone for sin and gain the redemption and salvation of his people is foundational to our belief as Christians.
To hold to anything less robs the gospel message of its saving efficacy and will never be owned by the Spirit’s accompanying power.
Sad to see you go!
For good or ill I was weaned on television, and as a child I can still remember that some scenes and events portrayed on the “small screen” had a great if short lived emotional effect on me.
Whether it was hiding behind the couch when the “M.G.M.” lion roared or shedding tears when the final credits of The “Bugs Bunny “ show and “Lassie” show came on, it triggered an emotional response in me similar to the departure of a dear friend or the terror of a lion leaping out on me from the T.V.
I remember that I felt great sorrow at the thought of my favourite “cartoon” characters going away and that I might not see them again.
Also, the thought of “Lassie” wandering lost and alone with “end title” view of “her with paw raised up waving “goodbye” was poignant in the extreme.
No doubt as we grow older it becomes more difficult to move us to tears. We are conditioned not to “blub” and appear weak.
That some people are more emotional than others is apparent to all , yet others tend to show little emotion , (thank you ”Mr. Spock”) and others still suppress any and all emotion even to the point of harm.
We may reasonably feel suspicious of any Christian belief that resides wholly and solely in the often transient emotions and depends on the maintenance of holy and spiritual feelings. These emotions and feelings of exist without out being balanced by a true and as far as possible understanding of what and why we believe.
Contra-wise we should feel the some concern about the truth of a belief in Christ and profession of Christianity that reaches only to mere intellectual assent and no further.
If our Christianity resides in one part of our “psyche” to the exclusion of the others, we can reasonably question the balance and utility and may be even the reality of our profession of Christianity.
God’s dealing with us is designed to reach into every corner of our being.
True we may be touched initially in one part of our “being” or the other, yet it must permeate with the “Spirit’s” aid, our entire “being” to work its wondrous change in our lives and make us effective instruments to convey Christ’s light to the World.