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Simple Christianity


Paul was concerned that believers might lose what he termed “the simplicity that is in Christ”. He wrote, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3 KJV). Perhaps you think that concern was necessary only in the first century. However, it is far more important in this day that we are not corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
       I’ve watched different movements come and go across the church scene — healing campaigns, mass evangelism, the charismatics, praise and worship and holy laughter also known as the Toronto “blessing”. When you see these movements come and go, you wonder what is going to be next. What do we have that provides continuity? What do we have left? On the basis of the verse I quoted above, I would say “the simplicity that is in Christ”. We certainly need something with a stronger foundation than these passing movements, because they seem to cater to believers who are not stable, who do not know who they are and with what God has blessed them.
    Believers are tired of hearing simple sermons for simple Simons. In some churches, if the service went over one hour on Sunday morning the congregation would have roast preacher for lunch. I’m tired of those people who say, “Oh, doesn’t so and so have a wonderful ministry! When the power of God comes on him his trouser leg shakes.” The tragedy is that it is just as easy for Satan to deceive God’s people today as it was to deceive Eve. They go chasing after this man and chasing after that ministry, and forget what they have resident within. We must have something that lasts. It’s time we got back to “the simplicity that is in Christ”.

Creation or the Fall?

Let us go back to the Old Testament, to the beginning, to get a good foundation concerning what God has provided for us, “the simplicity that is in Christ”. When I ask people what they consider to be the most significant event in the Old Testament, their suggestions range from the creation of the world, God’s covenant with Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, to perhaps the prophecies concerning Christ. Fundamental evangelical theology usually considers that the most significant event in the Old Testament was the Fall. It’s not true! The most significant event was creation, and this is a very important concept.
    There is an incredible difference between basing your concept of Christianity on creation or basing it on the Fall. Using creation as our base does not mean that we ignore the Fall. We recognize that mankind lost their contact with God, but God’s original purposes are far greater than this hiccup in His plan for humanity.
    A creation-centered Christianity sees God as the God of blessing, the God who only wants the best for humanity, rather than seeing God as a policeman in the sky, ready to hit you over the head with His truncheon or night stick when you step out of line.
    If we are to understand “the simplicity that is in Christ”, we have to understand that God’s ultimate intention for His people was and is that they shall be blessed. God does not view humanity since the Fall as second-class citizens. He views them as people who have the power of choice and who can choose either good or evil. Yet because of our continuing human interest in death, in the negative, Christians put much emphasis on the Fall and on the non-Biblical term “original sin”.
    It grates me when I walk through the city and see some person whose motives are good but whose speech does not delight me. They “witness” to the passing throng and loudly proclaim, “I’m only a sinner saved by grace.” I may have lived as a sinner by my own choice before I found the Lord, but right now I’m not a sinner. I am God’s beloved child. I am God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 “workmanship”). Look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, and say, “I am God’s masterpiece, and God doesn’t produce any flops.” Everybody is a somebody with God.
    With this background, to understand “the simplicity that is in Christ”, let’s go back to how it all started. It started with a loving God who created human beings so that they could have love Him and have fellowship with Him, and so that He could lavish all His blessings on them. And God has not changed His desire or His design.
    The creation-centred concept of Christianity emphasizes original blessing, while the Fall-redemption concept emphasizes original sin. A creation-centred Christianity emphasizes the positiveness, the hopefulness, of human life on earth. The Fall-redemption concept emphasizes the negative, pessimistic attitude to life. The creation-centred concept talks about eternal life now, enjoying God’s blessings now. The Fall-redemption concept says you get all the blessings when you go to heaven.
    The creation-centred concept emphasizes the resurrection, and I’m reminded of the Acts of the Apostles, where the believers went everywhere, not telling people they were sinners but telling them that Jesus had risen from the dead and that they too could rise to newness of life. On the other hand, the Fall-redemption concept always talks about death on the cross — not that talking about the cross is wrong but there is a difference in emphasis.
    The creation-centred concept emphasizes creativity, which is really obedience to the Spirit of God resident within. The Fall-redemption concept emphasizes obedience to God’s laws. And so I could go on. I want you to see that there is a difference.

Adam’s “job description”

I firmly believe in a creation-centred Christianity. I believe that God is a God of blessing — there are many scriptures that show this in the Word, such as in Genesis 12, where God said to Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2 NIV). However, I want to go back to Adam, the first human being. In Genesis 1 we can read Adam’s “job description”, and because it is Adam, the first man, it is God’s intention for humanity. In I Corinthians 15:45 we are told that Jesus was “the last Adam”, and everything that Adam had, we now have in Christ. So it is important to study Adam in order to understand “the simplicity that is in Christ”.
    “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule [have dominion, KJV]…’ ” (Genesis 1:26). And then in verse 28, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…'” Notice those two words, “rule” and “subdue”. Remember, we’re reading about the garden of Eden, the “Hawaii” of the Old Testament, and we often think that all Adam did was to sit out on the grass, reach up and get a banana and watch the animals wander by. The birds were twittering in the trees and orchids were blooming everywhere — it was just perfect.
    Now if that was the case, I have to ask a question, Why does God instruct Adam to “rule” and “subdue” in a perfect Paradise? It is because God wanted Paradise to be run on the basis of a divine-human reciprocity, a co-operative effort. That was God’s desire for His human being.
    God was not going to do everything, and Adam by his own efforts could not do everything, but it was God and Adam in a perfect partnership. I believe you and I have the same privilege today in “the simplicity that is in Christ”. Without you, He will not, and without Him, you cannot. It’s a divine-human reciprocity, a co-operative partnership.

Assert your authority

God told Adam to rule, to have dominion “… over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26). Adam was to take dominion, to rule. How do you rule? You assert authority. You say to the dog, “Sit!”, don’t you? You don’t say, “Darling, sit down, pretty please!” If you do, the dog will take no notice of you. If you say, “Sit!” with strength and firmness in your voice, the dog sits. What have you done? You have asserted authority.
    It was necessary for Adam to assert authority over God’s creation. Verse 24 even mentions “wild” animals, so it was not a perfect Paradise where you could lie back and get a suntan every day. The number one item on Adam’s job list was to assert his authority over God’s creation. Adam’s authority was given to him by God, and so in reality what he was doing was asserting the will of the Creator over His creation.
    Now I believe that you and I in Christ can do the same today. When we assert authority over situations it is no different from what Adam went through. He had to rule, and if he did not rule he did not have dominion. And if he did not subdue, he was not in charge. Adam had to take dominion for the glory of God. The number one principle of rulership for Adam was “assert your authority”.
    Paul, the man who had the highest revelation from God that has ever been given to a human being, and who wrote about half the New Testament, said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7). He had fought a good fight. He had taken dominion. He asserted his authority over situations — shipwrecked several times, lashed a number of times, on many occasions he had to take the first jet out of town before they caught up with him. He got into some pretty tight corners, and in all those things he had to assert authority, and that was why he was able to say, “I have fought a good fight”. He also said in II Timothy 2:3, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” One of the translations has it, “Endure pressure…” We all know about pressure. What does a good soldier do? He asserts his authority to keep law and order. Let’s be like Adam and Paul. Let’s assert our God-given authority.

“Be fruitful and increase…”

The second item on Adam’s “job description” was that he should grow, he should reproduce. “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth…” (Genesis 1:28). Some think that Adam did a pretty good job, and that the human race has continued to do excellent work in this regard. Yes, God planned for all His creation to grow. One preacher has said, “God loves you too much to leave you as you are!” God has placed within you the ability to grow. Jesus was against things that would not grow — trees that wither and die, seeds that do not sprout. God expects growth.
    In many respects we ought to be growing Christians. “Be fruitful and increase…” How do we grow? Well, in two ways. We are to “grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18), among other things taught in the Word, but we also have to grow, to reproduce ourselves, just like Adam. “This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God… When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth” (Genesis 5:1,3). Whereas Adam was created in God’s likeness, Seth was created in Adam’s likeness. We, too, have to reproduce in our likeness.
    We need another believer like you, sitting at your side in your fellowship. And that will happen if you are a growing Christian, sending forth shoots of love. You see, sick people can’t normally help sick people. Poor people can’t help the poverty-stricken to get deliverance. Depressed people can’t help people who are depressed. We need you to be growing and developing into the kind of person that God intended Adam, and you, to be. “If everybody in the church was just like me, what kind of a church would this church be?” We need to ask ourselves that question.

The four-letter word

The third item on Adam’s job description was for him to work. “And no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground” (Genesis 2:5). Have you done any gardening lately? Pulled out any weeds recently? “Work the ground…” It took work. The story has often been told of the visitor to the farm who was impressed by what he saw. He said, “Hasn’t God created a wonderful place here?” And the farmer, who had come to the area when it was virgin country, said, “Well, you should have seen it when God had it on His own.”
    God intended the crops to be produced by co-operation. Adam was to work the ground in the garden of Eden, in Paradise, and God would give the increase. Today, we need committed Christians willing to work.
    I heard a good definition of involvement and commitment recently. Picture this: eggs and bacon for breakfast — the chicken is involved but the pig is committed! Today we need believers who will go beyond having their name on a church roll and become committed. There is work to be done!
    Verse 15 fulfils verse 5. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Adam was there to landscape it, to make it look even better than the original creation, and he was there to keep it in that state. So if Adam decided he would like a nice winding path here, he made that path, but he had to keep the path under control otherwise plants would grow over it. He had to control and subdue the creation. He worked. If you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat, the Bible says in II Thessalonians 3:10.

Rules and restrictions

The fourth item that Adam had to recognize was that there were restrictions upon his life. The element of self-control is vital. I once belonged to a group whose slogan was, “Do what you like so long as you like what you do”. That’s a fairly open statement subject to much abuse, and I no longer believe the Bible teaches that. “Do what God likes and like what you do” might be a better statement. There are always restrictions. Some restrictions are very clear in the Word, such as fornication and cheating and lying. Some are not quite as clear-cut and distinct. However, we must recognize that there are restrictions, there are no freedoms without fences.
    We have two dogs at home, and they stay within our backyard unless we take them for a walk on a lead. If we left the gate open and they got out, they could think they were in a wonderful, free world. Yet they might soon discover that it’s not quite the freedom they had longed for, especially when a car comes along the street and knocks them down. There are no freedoms without fences. Drive down the wrong side of the street, and you too might soon discover there are no freedoms without fences, no rights without restrictions.
    Adam had restrictions placed upon his life because he was God’s under-ruler. He was middle management, to put it in business terms. God said to him that he could do anything and everything except to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). That was the only restriction Adam had. It seems to me that it’s a caricature of Christianity when churches emphasize the restrictions more than they do the rights, the bondage more than the blessings that we have. Certainly there are restrictions, but these are not a problem when you impose them upon yourself in line with God’s Word.

“No suitable helper was found”

Not only did Adam have to assert his authority, to grow, to work and to recognize that there were restrictions. Adam also had to recognize that he needed help. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him'” (Genesis 2:18). Well, I’m not so sure about this one. I have said to my wife on a number of occasions that if sliced bread and electric blankets had been available I might have thought twice about getting married! I joke, of course. But let’s read on for a moment.
    “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (Genesis 2:19-20). God was quite capable of calling a dog a dog, but this was a partnership, a divine-human reciprocity. This was God’s living enterprise, and so middle management had to make some of the decisions.
    God paraded a kangaroo past him and said, “What do you think about this one? What would you like to call it?” And Adam said, “I’ll call it a kangaroo… but it’s not what I’m really looking for!” The purpose why God brought the animals past Adam was not only for him to name them but also so that Adam could find a helper. Now, wives, you should feel very happy about this, because Adam looked at all the animals and didn’t see what he wanted. Obviously a man’s best friend is not a dog! So in the same way as God and Adam were in partnership, God wanted Adam to have a third partner in the business as his helper. After God formed Eve to be his helper, Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). That was a close partnership.
    In God’s family we need the help of others. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (I Thessalonians 5:11). In addition, we have the support ministries to help “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12).

Applying the “job description”

God created the world because He wants us to be blessed, but you and I must apply these principles of rulership to enjoy all that He has for us. It’s not just a matter of saying, “Well, okay Lord, I’m ready to be blessed this week.” God is saying to you, “Well, when are you going to start asserting some authority? When are you going to start growing and do some work? When are you going to start recognizing that I am your partner?” It’s a divine-human reciprocity.
    If you are to understand “the simplicity that is in Christ”, you must go back and see the original blessing that God planned for humanity to have. If your blessings in Christ are better blessings than Old Testament blessings (see the Book of Hebrews), then are you seeing these in your life? Are you seeing the same kind of partnership with God working for you? Will you till the ground, so God can water it and cause the plants to grow and increase? Will you work, so God can bless the work of your hands? Will you give, so God can bless you in your giving?
    You have a part to play, and God doesn’t force His blessings upon you. He says to you, “Okay, come on, let’s get together on this thing. It’s you and Me, and together we can improve this situation.”
    Let me conclude with this thought. The word “simplicity” in II Corinthians 11:3 means to be uncompounded. Some translations use the word “singleness” — to have a singleness of devotion to Christ. Let’s get back to the simplicity that we have in Christ, and do it by applying God’s principles of rulership.

Copyright © 1991 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated,is from the New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/

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