so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:10 NASB)
The church is God’s theatre to heaven and earth. Without embracing God’s full expression on this earth, the church with all its varied expressions, we will never understand God’s multifaceted wisdom.
The Greek word for manifold is (polupoikilos) which expressed the idea of multifaceted. It was used to represent an intricate embroidery of flowers of many colors. In the New Testament, it is was used to express “most varied” or “many-sided.” Every believer in Christ has a theology. All Christians need to know what they believe and why they believe it, yet those who write systematic theology need to understand their limitations. They need to grasp their need for other believers, especially with those with whom they may not agree. Theologically speaking, they may be producing a bouquet of flowers of only one color.
I was nurtured early on as a Christian in charismatic circles. I don’t like labels, but back then and even now, we have tension between those we call fundamentalists and charismatics. Though I was raised spiritually on the charismatic side, I always felt I was too charismatic for the fundamentals and to fundamental for the charismatics. On one occasion, I was asked by a Baptist pastor to be on the planning committee for a Billy Graham crusade. It was a smaller city held by one of the associate evangelists of the Graham organization. One of my charismatic friends said to me, “you’re not going to work with those Baptists, are you? They do not even believe in speaking in tongues.” I was a young Christian, and it shook me. I started to wonder if I should be working with this crusade. I prayed about my involvement, and something did set well with me about what my friend had said. I continued my participation in this evangelistic effort, and I learned that these Baptists had forgotten more about evangelism than I would ever know. Concerning reaching the lost, it was honey straight out of the rock. If I had allowed the bias of my charismatic friend to affect me, I would have missed this rich learning experience.
On another occasion, I was attending a charismatic church. We wanted to start a Christian school. I was a school teacher and had been asked to help in the planning of the school. The Elder in charge of the school piloted a small plane. The Elder, the Pastor, myself and another teacher flew from western Pennsylvania to Virginia to attend a conference on how to start a Christian school. The church that held the conference would have considered a fundamentalist Baptist Church. For lunch, they put us on a bus and took us to a steakhouse. On the way, back the Pastor stood up and said that we would make a stop at his Christian bookstore. He also added, proudly, that in our bookstore there is “absolutely no charismatic materials.” I was sitting directly in back of my Pastor on the bus. You could almost see the hair on the back of his neck bristle. Most on the bus got up and went into the bookstore, including me. My Pastor and the other two members of our Church appeared as if they were glued to their seats. I was sorry the Pastor of the Baptist Church felt like he did. Was I disappointed about his attitude toward charismatics? Of course, I was, but should that have kept me from learning something from him? I do not remember buying anything, but I came away understanding a little more about another part of the Body of Christ. We are going to spend eternity together in heaven; maybe we should get started here on earth.
Of course, we should try to clarify what we believe based on the Word of God, yet we all know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9). God has designed the Body of Christ so that no one group has a corner on the market of truth. Theology always has to be within the limits of orthodox Christian thought, but if it is, to discard it, is to take a flower out of the bouquet of God’s earthly expression. As Augustine said, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”
Maybe the reason we have no unity or experience liberty is that we lack charity for others in the Church. Perhaps we should restate Augustine’s quote. If we put charity, love for the brethren first, then unity and liberty might fall into place. If we never understand our need for other Christians not like us, we will never have the manifold wisdom of God.
Image used with permission by Microsoft.
Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places” YWAM Publishing