As I said in the introduction to this series, I’ve decided to look at the source of the “food” that the church needs to take in to be healthy. I’ve divided the sources into three types: 1) directly from God, 2) from other believers, and 3) from others. Now, in reality, all “food” for the church comes from God. However, in some cases, God works more directly; but in other cases, God communicates in a more indirect manner.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness just after he was baptized by John, at one point he responded, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 ESV, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3) In this post, I look at food that God gives to the church through nonbelievers and worldly society and culture.
Because of (what I think is) misunderstandings concerning the church’s relationship to unbelievers and worldly cultures and societies, this may be the source of “food” for the church that is consumed the least. Actually, this kinds of “food” is consumed quite often by some believers, but not in an appropriate manner. The church tends to fall to one extreme or the either: 1) ignoring everything that comes from nonbelievers/culture or 2) accepting everything that comes from nonbelievers/culture.
There are scriptural examples of God speaking through and working through nonbelievers to communicate (i.e., “feed”) his children. The most obvious example in the Old Testament is the pagan prophet Balaam in Numbers 22-24. However, there are many other examples of God using nonbelieving kings, other individuals, and nations as his “servants”.
Similarly, in the New Testament we find examples of God using nonbelievers and cultural elements to speak to his children. For example, Paul quotes non-believing poets when speaking with or writing to others (see Acts 17:28 and Titus 1:12).
In these cases, Paul shows us how to use the words of nonbelievers in a positive way, without accepting everything that the person says as truth from God. Instead, with Paul being aware of what is being said in the wider culture, God is able to direct Paul (through those writings) to associate with his listeners/readers.
Obviously, these accounts do not indicate that everything Balaam or the Greek/Cretan poets said was from God. Thus, once again, discernment is necessary in order for the church what (and if) God is saying to them.
What would add to my discussion of God “feeding” his church through nonbelievers and culture/society?
A Healthy Diet for the Church Series
2. “Food” given directly by God
3. “Food” given by God through other believers
4. “Food” given by God through nonbelievers/society/culture