“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come”(2 Corinthians 5:17) (ESV). Without the ability to distinguish between what is new and what is old, one fails to achieve what is intended. One of the invariable truths concerning such distinctions, is that a Christian gets depressed where ordinary people are impressed, or vice versa.
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”(Matthew 5:11-12) (KJV).
Being persecuted by people who falsely say all manner of evil against one, can, obviously, cause a lot of depression to ordinary humans. But the author of Christianity insists that when such things happen to a Christian—that is the only time to rejoice and be exceedingly glad. It is a question of whether one believes, or does not believe in Jesus.
Another way of appreciating the significance of Scripture is to consider the effect of its opposite application. For instance, the opposite application of Matthew 5:11-12, is that when people truthfully speak highly of one, the person needs to be exceedingly depressed.
This concerns all manner of praiseworthy activities—as causing people to show their sincere appreciation. One of the reasons why it is impossible for mere scholars to understand Scriptures is that they need to be converted first. It is only the converted people who can understand the fact that being highly spoken of, is a cause for depression.
“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”(John 5:43-44) (ESV).
Some people may say Jesus was jealous—considering that other people were being praised, while He was not being praised? Jesus may as well have been jealous. Bear in mind that Jesus was God in the flesh, who came to save humanity, whom He loved, even at creation.
“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments”(Exodus 20:5-6) (ESV).
This spells one of the reasons why one must be exceedingly depressed when people speak highly of one. Indeed, God is a jealous God who does not share His glory with anyone or anything created by Him. While God visits the iniquity of the fathers on children, to the third and fourth generation, of those worshipping other gods: What about those taking pleasure in being worshipped?
Paul is regarded as having been the great servant of God. But on several occasions Paul also expressed being depressed by those displaying such foolishness, as not perceiving the reality of wrongness in their behaviour. Those people could not differentiate between the person bringing the gospel and Jesus Christ.
“For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarrelling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,” or I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:11-13) (ESV).
At one stage, Paul and Barnabas had to rent their clothes, frantically running to stop those behaving like that. All this shows that the two apostles were so depressed by the foolishness of those, unable to distinguish between the apostles and God (Acts 14:8-18). But, as verse 18 shows, those idol worshippers could not be restrained from such foolish behaviour.
Sadly, even today, a casual observation reveals that Christianity is based on Paul’s writings, more than on teachings of Jesus in four gospel books. A very good example is that of hierarchical structures in Christianity. Virtually, all Christian groupings are highly esteemed by Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, doctrinally? (1 Timothy 3:1-13 & Titus 1:5-9).
Ironically, being accorded with qualities of elders and deacons, as prescribed by Paul, is what should cause a Christian to be depressed. Jesus said a Christian should be exceedingly glad, only when people falsely say all kinds of evil—which is the opposite of what Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:2, for instance.
More so, what would be the motive behind one aspiring the office of overseer? “The saying is trustworthy if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task”(1 Timothy 3:2) (ESV). Even though Paul declares that the saying is trustworthy, I do not believe it. This is as long as it is not based on what Jesus taught. Whatever is trustworthy, has to bear the words of Jesus.
Incredibly, while Christians identify well with what Paul said about qualities of Church leaders—most of them grumble, when considering what Paul also said in 1 Timothy 2:8-15? However, no-one would have any problem—if taking verbatim everything taught by Jesus. Everything spoken by Jesus is stable datum.
What Paul and the other apostles said, ought to agree with Jesus. Or else, such instructions ought to be regarded as applicable, only to the intended audience, of their time. Jesus, Himself, stated that anyone taking His words verbatim, would be like someone building his/her house on solid rock (Luke 6:46-49).
Jesus was consistent on issues of Church leadership, as would be expected to guide the disciples. See (Matthew 18:1-5, Mark 9:33-37 and Matthew 20:20-28). He reiterated this principle when lambasting the Scribes and Pharisees. Who, incidentally, represented what traditionally prevailed—even as it still prevails in our time. His disciples were to behave differently:
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one father on earth, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12) (ESV).
Jesus declared that He came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28). He was demonstrating a principle that differs from those aspiring to be Bishops, for instance. There is also no way a person can obtain approval of other fellow human beings, without violating Scriptures, like Mathew 6:1-4 (ESV):
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”.
What Jesus implies is that when, somehow, I get inspired—as to donate a million dollars to construct a Church building—I should be very careful. I could be highly spoken of, for such a noble donation. At my death, the Church building could even be named after me—as St Andrew Masuku House—or something like that.
Good as this gesture appears to be—Jesus says the honour and praises received, would have concluded my reward. I would have no part in God’s Kingdom. The method of giving that Jesus recommends, invalidates special treatment on me, even though having sacrificed that much?
This is why it is always imperative to be depressed, when being highly spoken of. However, the story would be different, if I would have anonymously donated that amount. My status and treatment in that church community would not change. But the anonymously made donation would cause Church members to direct their praises to God, instead of me.
This is how it ought to be, in all Christian endeavours. There is no need to seek approval of other people—except doing what one is inspired to do, at any given time. Actually, it is undeniable that the phenomenon of denominationalism springs from people taking the glory of Christ to themselves.
Christ would not be in picture, in those mystically kaleidoscopic denominations. It is the founders of those Church groupings who take the glory, not Jesus Christ. Sadly, this appears as will remain to be—for some time—as embedded in customs and traditions. I suppose Paul introduced this behaviour without being aware of its impact—in his instructions to Timothy and Titus? See also [The enigmatic Sons of peace, represent truth].
This does not necessarily mean that Paul has to be despised for saying things without accurate information from Jesus. Paul was a former Pharisee, himself. I have no doubt that most of what he wrote—but without Jesus’ authority—was influenced by his Pharisaic background.
But it is outside a Christian’s mandate to negatively evaluate Paul, or any of the apostles, for that matter. Except to appreciate that, through their dealings with the early disciples, they were used by God to also help us appreciate Jesus’ services. Possibly, God deliberately allowed imperfection in their conducts? See [Condemning Religious leaders is condemning self].
Of course, Paul was sincere in everything he taught. What misses many Christians is that Paul’s letters were not directed to those of our time—but to those with whom he was communicating. This is just as any person can be susceptible to becoming dogmatic about issues, when influenced by background, more than Christ’s teachings.
This is one of the reasons why Paul was depressed by people who sought to equate him with Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). The purpose of the early apostles was to point people to Christ, instead of pointing people to themselves. The mandate of the apostles was not to express their personal views to the people.
Their epistles were not designed to be taken as doctrine, by those of today. A Christian is spiritually directed, and not directed by books of Law and Prophets (Luke 16:16). There is no trace of truth in what Paul said, in Scriptures like 1 Timothy 3:1-13.
Why and how can a Christian be compared—as to be better or worse than others? Can one evaluate God who dwells in another Christian? The missing point is in failure to appreciate that a Christian is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Without humility, it is impossible to be a Christian.
However, what is important is to study those epistles—though being careful to deduce personal opinions, as compared with the teachings of Christ. In Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Paul has strong argument to refute those attempting to take him to task for teaching what Jesus did not say.
In recent times, some people superimposed all manner of criticisms against Herbert W. Armstrong—the late founder of the Worldwide Church of God. This was after it had been discovered that he, actually, misled the group through his various teachings. But the same man is well-known for having thundered words like: “Don’t believe what I say, but believe what your Bible says!”
Paul never taught anyone to disregard the teachings of Christ, in order to abide by what Paul taught. What is even more significant, for Christians, is that they are judged as individuals, concerning what Jesus taught. And not, necessarily according to groupings or what those group leaders teach.
The conduct of a Christian is evaluated on the basis of applying what Jesus taught, without consideration of respective denominational leaders, necessarily. This is why Jesus talked about need to, either, consider building on rock, or foolishly considering building on sand (Matthew 7:24-27).
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’”(Matthew 7:21-23) (ESV).
If one were to randomly ask each of the respective Christian groupings about the meaning of this Scripture. Chances are that they would assert that this passage refers to those of other denominations—not them. That would be because each feels comfortable in what makes them different from other denominations.
Even as I write, I am aware that there are many Christians who would not take time to read Christian material from strangers. As long as there would be scarcity of information concerning the background of such authors?
Most Christians seek to, either credit or discredit the author—without even bothering to check whether what is said links with Christ or not. Nothing is surprising with that kind of behaviour—as portraying what sustains the current civilization. People seek to append valuable information onto human beings, rather than unto Jesus Christ.
But all this cannot take away the simple truth in that Jesus is the only authority in Christianity. The only time that those Christian leaders ought to be depressed—regardless of their luminous Christian titles—is when people truthfully highlight their praiseworthy achievements. Glory belongs to the one and only author of Christianity—Jesus Christ. See [What’s in a title, if not to deceive?]
In as much as Paul talked about acceptable virtues of a Bishop to his protégé, Timothy—such virtues are not what describes a true Christian? Actually, careful analysis reveals that such virtues describe the opposite of what a true Christian is.
Paul, himself, was a true Christian—when considering the fact that his calling into apostleship did not take his background into consideration. May the reader also take time to review the following previous postings:
It is my sincere conviction and hope that anyone reading these articles with an open mind, may be transformed. But there is nothing that identifies me as deserving to be acknowledged and appreciated, whatsoever. Except that anyone who finds value in these articles should glorify God—the only one who is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
All confusion that we see in Christianity, today, is not from God. It is only the wise who take time to question their stand and begin to, accordingly, relate to their only Creator. The rest will continue in the comfort of deceiving others and being deceived. I do not think it is possible to ever eradicate that reality?
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99