Olowogbogboro: How the apostles broke through into the mind of the Gentiles by Poju Oyemade
As the apostles went out into the Gentile world to preach the gospel, they obviously came across a certain challenge. It was easy to tell the Jew about the coming Messiah and to use types and shadows in the old covenant and tabernacles with other historical events in Scripture to show that Jesus Christ who came in flesh was the Messiah and the true Saviour.
You could teach on why the law was given, Mount Sinai, the High Priest etc but not to the Gentiles who had no such concepts in their background. They knew nothing about Sinai nor Zion. They had no Scriptural background.
How then were they to preach Jesus? There must be a way around this they must have thought. Then they saw it. God is omnipresent and if so, His presence must be recognizable in the cultures of the people.
Paul said it this way in Acts 17:26-28 (KJV)
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring”- even their poetry spoke to this.
There must be a way through which the people who felt His presence tried to reach Him. They knew if they looked into their cultures they will find God’s presence and they could preach from there.
Paul clearly saw it. In Acts 17:22-24 (KJV) it says
“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you”
satan had clearly exploited the ignorance of the people to turned the people into idolatry.
Paul further explained to the Romans that even though the Law wasn’t given to the Gentiles, if you went into their midst you would find the presence of God witnessing in their consciences the same things the Law said.
Romans 2:14-15 (KJV)
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)”
Prof William Barclay, a man of Scottish origin and one of the finest theologians who has a version of new testament in print due to his vast knowledge in Greek had this to say about how John came to use the word Logos to define Jesus to the Gentile world.
“By the end of the first century the Christian Church was faced with an acute problem in communication. The Church had been cradled in Judaism, but now she had to present her message to a Greek world, to which the categories of Judaism were quite alien. As Goodspeed puts it: ‘A Greek who felt like becoming a Christian was called upon to accept Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah.
He would naturally ask what this meant, and would have to be given a short course in Jewish apocalyptic thought. Was there no way in which he might be introduced directly to the values of Christian civilization without being for ever routed, we might even say detoured, through Judaism? Must Christianity always speak in a Jewish vocabulary?’
Round about A.D 70 there was a man in Ephesus called John who saw this problem. He was perhaps the greatest mind in the Christian Church; and suddenly he saw the solution. Both Jew and Greek possessed the conception of the logos of God. Could the two ideas not be brought together?
Let us see the Greek background with which John had to work.
(i) Away back in 560 B.C there was a Greek philosopher called Heracleitus, who also lived in Ephesus. He conceived of the world as what he called a flux. Everything is in a state of change; there is nothing static in the world. But if everything is changing all the time, why is the world not an absolute and complete chaos? His answer was that ‘all things happen according to the logos’.
In the world there is a reason and a mind at work; that mind is the mind of God, God’s logos; and it is that logos which makes the world an ordered cosmos and not a disordered chaos. (ii) This idea of a mind, a reason, a logos ruling the world fascinated the Greeks. Anaxagoras spoke of the mind (nous) which ‘rules over all things’.
Plato declared that it was God’s logos which kept the planets in their courses, and brought back the seasons and the years in their appointed times.
But it was the Stoics, who were at their strongest when the NT was being written, who passionately loved this conception. To them this logos of God, as Cleanthes said, ‘roamed through all things’. The times, the seasons, the tides, the stars in their courses were ordered by the logos; it was the logos which put sense into the world.
Further, the mind of man himself was a little portion of this logos. ‘Reason is nothing else than a part of the divine spirit immersed in the human body,’ said Seneca. It was the logos which put sense into the universe and sense into man; and this logos was nothing other than the mind of God.
(iii) This conception was brought to its highest peak by Philo, who was an Alexandrian Jew, and who had the aim of joining together in one synthesis the highest thought of Jew and Greek. To him the logos of God was ‘inscribed and engraved upon the constitution of all things’. The logos is ‘the tiller by which the pilot of the universe steers all things’. ‘Every man is akin in understanding to the divine logos.’ ‘The logos is the high priest which sets the soul before God.’ The logos is the bridge between man and God.
Now we can see what John was doing when he uttered his tremendous statement, ‘The Word was made flesh.’ (i) He was clothing Christianity in a dress that a Greek could understand.
Here is a challenge to us. He refused to go on expressing Christianity in outworn and Judaistic categories. He used categories that his age knew and understood.
Again and again the Church has failed in that task through mental laziness, through shrinking from possible heresy; but the man who would discover a new continent must accept the hazard of sailing upon an uncharted sea.”- end of quote
Next time people ask you who is this Olowogbogboro you worship? simply reply thus He said
“Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me”