Laos at the Marketplace

 

 

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Laos at the Marketplace

Dr Alex Tang

Text: Galatians 1:15,16

15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased  16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,

 

I.                    The Damascus Encounter

Acts 9:1-9

The encounter on the Damascus road can be considered to be the pivotal point of Christianity. Just as the discovery of the wheel has revolutionised technology, the discovery of the printing press, the spread of knowledge and the discovery of penicillin, medical progress. As these events set in motion other events that resulted in the improvement of human civilisation, the Damascus encounter set into motion  a series of event that affected the eternal destiny of many people.

Before that, Christians or followers of the Way were limited to a small group of people who were regarded as a cult by their own people. Their leaders like Peter and James were very ethnocentric. Salvation is only for the Jews as Israel is the laos. Loas is a Greek word, which meant the people of God. These leaders cannot believe that people that are not of Jewish origin can ever be part of the laos. That is why they remained in Jerusalem and converts were made from the Jews. Even when God allowed persecution to drive them out of Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria, they still work with the Jews. When a flourishing Gentile church appeared in Syria, they just could not believe their ears. It is against this background that Paul had his Damascus Encounter.

 

II.                 Paul of Tarsus

It is not accurate to use conversion because Paul had not turned to a new religion and another God. He continued to worship the God of the Old Testament; the event was not a conversion but a vocation. He was called to become a missionary of the Christian way of understanding the God and the religion of his fathers. The close link between reveal and the call to preach the gospel.

Some verbal communication is implied together with the heavenly visit. Paul writing to the Galatians said he received revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  Gal 1: 11-16

15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,

Objectively as the revelation was, it was experienced inwardly as well as outwardly: it was granted, as Paul puts it, not merely ‘to me’ but ‘in me’. He speaks as if the call and commission were part of the one conversion experience.

1.1.1           The Call to a Person

First, God set him apart from birth. Paul knew that God had providentially set him apart from birth and that all his life to this point was a preparation for his ministry as a proclaimer of the gospel of God’s grace.

Second, God called Paul by His grace. This is a reference to the time of Paul’s salvation. He responded to God’s efficacious call and received Jesus Christ as Savior. In Romans (8:30) Paul gave the sequence of God’s work in salvation: “Those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”

Third, God was pleased to reveal His Son in Paul. Blinded as he had been to the deity of Jesus Christ and thinking that the Nazarene was a fraud, God gave Paul an outward vision of Christ on the Damascus Road and later an inner revelation concerning the full significance of the person and work of the Savior.

 

1.1.2           The Call to a Mission

The purpose of this revelation was that Paul might preach Him among the Gentiles. The Book of Acts gives full account of Paul’s ministry to the non-Jewish world on his missionary journeys. He became known as the apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:15; 13:46-47; 26:20; Rom. 11:13; 15:16; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 2:7).

 It cannot be precisely dated when the conversion/vocation took place but it cannot be more than three years after the crucifixion.

 

III.               Our Damascus Encounter

1.1              Our Call to Jesus

Basic to all our beliefs are that we have can have a personal relationship with God. This God is the one who calls and draws us to him. This God is the one who took on our sins and died for us on the cross at Calvary. This God is One who loves us so much that He not only gave us His Son as a living sacrifice but also gave us the Holy Spirit as a collateral that He will fulfil His promise of eternal life to us.

 

1.2              Our Call to the Great Commission

Matt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The command is clear. Go and make disciples. But the context is not given. How do we make disciples in Johor Bahru in the beginning of the 21st century? How are we to interact with a society that either ignores our beliefs or are openly hostile to it? Making disciples does not exist in a vacuum. We are to make disciples in their cultural historical context i.e. in their community with their own culture. Otherwise, we shall be repeating the mistakes of Western missionaries who tried to produce ‘Christians’ which are ‘colored Europeans.’  One missionary in Africa insisted that all young Christian female converts cover their breasts. What he did not understand is that in that culture, only prostitutes cover their breasts!

 

I would like to suggest a few models of interactions.

(a)   Separation Model

The separational model draws on biblical emphases such as Christians being ‘aliens and exiles’ in the world (1 Peter 2:11), and that we are not to ‘love the world’ (1 John 2:15). It is characterised in history especially by the pre-Constantinian church and the Anabaptists. It emphasises the Christian’s separation from the world and withdrawal from public life.

(b)   Identification Model

The identification model draws on Old Testament examples of Joseph and Daniel, in public life and on Jesus’ incarnation as an expression of his concern to identify with the world with all its contradictions. Historically it is represented by the Constantinian church and civil religion. This model sees the Christian as living simultaneously under God’s law in two realms, the church and the state (representing the world), since both are ordained by God. But this means that the Christian is often caught in the tension between the two. Caught in the conflicting demands inherent within this model, the danger for the Christian is to slide into accommodation with the world.

 

(c)    Transformational Model

The transformational model draws on images such as Christians being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Mat 5:13-16) and the total thrust of biblical. It is identified with Augustine and Calvin historically. This rejects the idea of withdrawal emphasised by the first model and that of the accommodation in which the second model often slips. It accepts the distinction of the Christian living in two separate realms, the church and the world, but sees the church as being in position to convert and change the structures of the world into something which is more in tune with God’s laws. Unfortunately, as we look around us, the church has less and less influence on the world. In places where the church does have some influence, the church itself becomes riddled with conflicts and legalism.

 

(d)   Incarnational Model

The above three models are rooted in some aspect of biblical teachings but then to emphasis one at the expense of another. The fourth model is the incarnational model following the example of Jesus Christ. Webb wrote.” Jesus identified with the world; was separate from the ideologies that rule it; and by His death, resurrection and Second Coming assured its transformation. “ Identified with the world, Jesus accepted slavery, divorce and Roman taxation and He seek to transform the world by changing people.

Paul followed his example. In his years of ministry, Paul ‘grew where he was planted’. From his tentmaking shops, he will disciple people with the empowerment provided by the Holy Spirit. He mixed with the common people and worked in the marketplace.

In little more than 10 years, Paul established churches in 4 provinces of the Empire: Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. Before AD 47, there were no churches in the province. In AD 57, Paul spoke as if his job has been done and was planning to go further afield.

 

Concluding remarks

            Each of us has to choose our context of interaction with the world. We who are called to a personal relationship with a living God and have a mission to make disciples. We can adopt the separation, identification, transformation or incarnational model. But choose we must. For we are the laos in the marketplace. God has placed us, His people in the marketplace for a purpose. He did not call all to be ‘full time’ workers. He, with His supreme wisdom has placed us where He wants us to be. We are here not by chance. The influence we yield in our business or our profession is given to us for a purpose. We need to be the laos in our given workplace.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

Reference

Robert Webber, The Secular Saint: The Role of the Christian in the Secular World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979)

Hwa Yung, Christian Ethical Thinking in the Asian Context

 

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