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THE GOSPEL TO THE CULTURES

Carlos Padilla, March 2014

 

The Gospel to the cultures of the world during the last two millenniums has been finding, in many cases, allied social structures, but enemies in others. Interestingly, the Gospel does not depend on one particular culture, but how ever it has been perceived dressed with them along the course of these twenty centuries after Yahshua, Jesus Christ. Initially many thought that it was only for the Jews, then for the Greek and Romans, etc.

The matter we are looking into, this time is to find out, to what depth, in our days, the Gospel that we preach is pure, is the original of Christ, and to what extend it may be permeated or our own culture, and how this affects it's efficiency in those who come from different cultures, or from our own, as we live in a world becoming more globalized.

This global world, it could seam that it has taken away the ethnic and cultural identity of the people that live in the more cosmopolitan cities, but that is far from true. As soon as we go deeper, as soon as we touch the matter of religion today for some a taboo, or a politically incorrect for others we find that each individual maintains, in one way or another, some ancestral foundation of religious belief, and ways of deciding in life, linked to his culture. On the other hand we find isolated cultures, like tribes and remote cultures, where religion is the first topic that we find in their way of life.

If we want to take the Gospel to people of other cultures, we have to understand, first of all, what is a culture, how to share the Gospel without out culture, but also how to share the Gospel in our own culture. Finally for that purpose we will take a look at Biblical Texts of different cultures, fore the Bible includes more cultures than we imagine. To start with, we must be able to expose the pure Gospel, free from cultures, the universal message, timeless and eternal, for each soul in particular. If you did not notice, to this point we have not spoken of Christianity, about tradition, nor about Church, this we will cover latter.

 

WHAT IS A CULTURE?

Firs of all we must understand what a culture is. But before we go to the possible description, I would like to take you into considering briefly a few cultures of some known people: What was Adam's culture? Abraham's was from Ur of Chaldea (Genesis 12), the one of Moses was from Egypt (Exodus 2), from Sheba was that of their Queen (1Kings 10), the one of Naaman was Syrian (Luke 4:27), that of the widow of Zarephath was Sidon (1Kings 17), the one of Cyrus was Persian (Ezra 1), oriental that of the wise men that visited Jesus Yahshua in His birth (Matthew 2), or Samaritan the one of the good man (John 4). The one of the centurion was Rome (Luke 7), Jewish the one of the apostles, various the ones of the first Fathers of the Church. The one of Augustus of Hippo was Greek, the one of Thomas Aquinas was Italian. German the one of Martin Luther, French the one of John Calvin. Spanish the one of Reina and Valera, English-Scottish the one of King James. Italian the one of Da Vinci or Polish the one of Nicholas Copernicus, English the one of Francis Bacon, or Isaac Newton, or north American the one of Billy Graham. More people can be found when studying the History of the Church. Or the culture of each of us. God is with those who love Him, no matter their culture, their race, their origin, because we all have the same origin and the same possibility to live with God in eternity, en the same Kingdom, with the same culture of God.

So as we consider, from Adam to our days, going past Babel and it's tower, until we arrive to the culture of Internet, and now especially to the culture of social media, the cosmovision of many of the 7.000.000.000 people that inhabit the planet in the XXI century is really dense, for those who have had access to education. But there is another event half way, that would change history for ever: Pentecost. That Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit came and manifested to the apostles speaking in different tongs, he did it to many cultures that shared the celebration. The list we can read in Acts 2:9-11.

But, what is a culture? A culture is a way of life of a group of people. This includes the addition of knowledge of all kinds, whether philosophical, historic and sensorial learned through history that are transmitted since childhood and that have forged a way of life, based in previous experiences, science, myths and realities, ethic and moral that configure their laws, that once they form part of the race, of the place they where brought up and lived, and that are implanted in the mind. To these learned experiences that are "received from your fathers" (1Peter 1:18) we'll add art, music, dances, feasts, celebrations, dressing fashion and foods. Last we must know the superstitions and the religion used to seek the favour of the providence. All this that unites the members of a clan, group, ethnic or society, is a culture.

When we know, at least in a general way and it's basic concepts, the culture of a person, and if possible some of his personal baggage, we can share the Gospel in a way that he can understand, that has the meaning that Yahshua, Jesus Christ teaches through His Spirit. At this point we can remember Paul in the Areopagus of Athens and the way he preaches Jesus as the unknown God, in reference to the altar with that inscriptions, in Acts of the Apostles 17:16.

 

THE PURE GOSPEL, FREE OF CULTURES

The purpose of the Gospel is to introduce God to us in a personal way, and the message that wants to transmit to us, is for this life as for eternity. We must achieve that the person understands that God loves him, that all his errors, sufferings, pain that has caused, is cleansed before God, before the Father of all, who is also the just Judge and Creator of life and of the universe. The word "sin" is a synonymous of corruption, a word we hear every day with regards to politics, business, society, youth, and some churches. Sin is an illness in the human heart, that all inherit and need fixing. If we recognize we are sinners, corrupted, and what we have done, how we have lived, and "repent" (changing that way - our mind) we come to Him so that He will forgive us, equip us, bless us and fill us with His essence; something that God offers to all of us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man has given His live for us, in our place, in that Cross, being holy and free of sin, as ultimate form to prove to us how much He loves us, becoming one like us in the midst of suffering of humanity of all cultures, to the point of death, even death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). The Cross must be the point to explain to every culture, including the western, because many do not know what it means.

Every man, every woman, all children, the elder, no matter when or where they have lived, will have this opportunity that God will hug them for ever. Before Christ, God has always loved those that had a heart ready to receive the Word of God, as we saw in the people of the Biblical History that were not of the people of Israel. After Jesus Christ and through the Gospel, in the same way as all those who receive the message of the Word of God, together will receive in resurrection for eternal life in Paradise, the Kingdom of God. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household! Acts 16:31.

The lives of those who have truly received this message, changes for ever. If we have managed to share it without attacking a culture, or not introducing us as of a better culture, we will have taken away the first obstacle. The way of life to which we invite to follow will be determinant for the new son of God.

 

CULTURES IN THE CHURCH

The Church is made of saved people from all the cultures of the world. However, each church may be different culturally, the important thing is that it maintains the pure Gospel, and when mixing with each culture where the church is established, does not keep those spiritual practice that, being original from that culture, are against the Gospel, nor keep old deities, nor cults dressed as Christianity with Biblical people, like the Catholic Church has done in its syncretism. On the other hand, we find in the protestant and evangelical churches, the matter of denominations, which divide the Church into different congregations, as if cultures.

Every Christian is "brought up" spiritually influenced by one or another denomination, know it or not. The question to what extreme are they charismatic and emotional cultures, or Baptist, Lutherans or Calvinists in more conservative cultures or those lacking expression of the experience of the believer. Many Christians, because of their culture or because the way they are, are not given to express their feelings nor worship, while others do it anywhere. Nor one thing or the other is more holy. We just need to look into music, and how it changes in every culture, but in churches, the music for worship, even though different, we worship God with the heart, no matter the rhythm or expression. All this God knows and receives through His Spirit.

And last, in churches we may find obstacles which are cultural that manifest in the form of traditions, that convert in false gospels based in the effort of the believer to gain his own salvation by good deeds, actions or rituals; this must be radically excluded, for it's not Biblical; will some churches be able to do this? Other false gospels like the one of prosperity to the poor, or of healing to the sick with no resources, more than gospels they are ways to win those people in need. A rich and learned will believe that the Gospel of Prosperity has no Biblical foundation and it's correct, but that God blesses and prospers those who love Him is true, and those who live under poverty line, will hear it with hope. Also the sick with no first class medical insurance, or with no public medical resources in his country and receives healing as part of the Gospel, even though is not, but yes part of the blessing of God in all times, will receive it with hope; Or are we going to limit God almighty, if He wants to heal someone today? It will finally be the level of Christian maturity what will enable us to share the things of God with the brethren of every congregation, and to worship God or serve Him with any of them, who truly are. If we are going to be able to leave our denominational garment and all the other impediments will depend on us; We will all be accountable to God whether we have been obstacle or balsam to the Church.

 

HOW TO SHARE THE GOSPEL TO OTHER CULTURES WITHOUT OUR OWN?

Once we have learned to share the pure Gospel, free from cultures, it is necessary to deepen in the Message to those who receive it form other cultures, not doing it from ours. For that, first of all we must have basic knowledge of the culture of the other, as well as being able to identify which are the signs of identity of our culture with which we are used to live every day. The missions are a good example to learn to understand a culture, a language, a religion and social ways of communication, to share the Gospel in an understandable way to the other. For that, we can refer to the words of Yahshua (Mark 10:14) when referring to the children. They have no prejudices, have no problem with ethnics or cultures, which is evident in any school where there are many cultures and where parents educate their children to accept others.

The cultural clashes that happen between the people, for example, from western and oriental cultures, can be so radical that immediately provoke rejection. An example can be the intent to evangelize a Chinese by a western European. Or the intent of a Chinese converted in his country, to evangelize a European Catholic. Both cases require knowledge from the other to avoid rejection. A Chinese needs similar references to wisdom, honour to those who passed and behaviour, while to a European one has to talk from a Biblical origin of the Gospel, and the true Church, the one existing in times of Jesus and the apostles. Therefore a previous study of the culture of our neighbour is basic to win them to Christ.

Today, in the majority of international cities of a large number of countries, we find the cultural mixture. In some cases we find ghettos, entire districts limited to ethnics or immigrants of the same country or zone. However it is interesting to observe that depending on the cultural level, people of different cultures, origins, religions and social origins can live together in the same areas, finding that ghettos are produced when the education level is low. The Gospel breaks all barriers, whether ethic, race or origin, before God. God loves us all, because in Christ: ...There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, fore you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28.

 

SHARING THE GOSPEL TO OUR OWN CULTURE

Jesus said to Nicodemus: ...Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God... John 3:3. Jesus preached the Gospel to a master of Israel, to a very relevant one in His own culture, the one He had adopted when He became a man. Jesus obviously knew His own culture better than anyone. We are obliged to know our own, as well as those religions that influence it. Only that way we can argue using the Bible against false beliefs, superstitions, and the ruts of the lack of faith, the philosophies and mythologies of the society in which we live.

Our last challenge to win souls for eternal live, through the Gospel, is found in our own culture. There will be two situations: those who have known Jesus Christ in a Christian culture, and those who have in another. The first will suffer persecution when introducing to other branches auto-proclaimed Christian, even to other denominations, in his effort to correct with the Bible, the other, but will win many who have a heart ready for God and the Truth of the Bible. The second will suffer persecution of their own culture and religion, to the eyes of who they will seam as betrayers and heretics. But they will also win many who have a heart ready for God and the Truth of the Bible.

The religious foundations of many cultures are rooted in the need that is built upon the believer to obtain benefits from the deity through sacrifices, rituals and actions of different kind in the tradition. In some, ancestral, they would sacrifice their own children. This takes us to Abraham and Isaac, and we can use it to take the believer, from such an impacting event in Genesis 22, to the Cross of Christ, the last and final sacrifice. Every ritual, own personal, or religious effort must be finished at the foot of the Cross of Christ. The good deeds must not be believed to bring personal benefit to us, but on the contrary, to benefit others who need them, and use them to share God's love, the true Gospel, without own merits, religious indulgencies, money, sacrificial rituals or penitence.

 

BIBLICAL TEXTS OF DIFFERENT CULTURES

Psalm 67 ...God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. 2That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. 3Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. 4O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah. 5Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. 6Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. 7God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

Isaiah 66:18 ...For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. 19And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.

Habakkuk 2:14 ...For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

We can remember even relevant people like Ruth, with a book in the Bible, who is of Gentile origin, in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

Acts of the Apostles 8:26 ...And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

There are many more Texts in the Epistles, where we find the Gospel to the Cultures: From Acts, to the Romans, to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to the Hebrews.

Revelation 7:9 ...After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

 

CONCLUSION

We started knowing what a culture was, and how important it is to know, at least the basics of the culture of the person or group of people to whom we bring the Gospel. Also we analyzed the importance of being able to share the pure Gospel with no print of our culture. As well, we learned the importance it has, to know how to differentiate between culture and denomination in the churches, to be able to adapt to all, making an effort in becoming better communicators knowing ourselves as knowledgeable of the limitations they impose the Church in general, at the same time it allows us not to accept what is not Christian in the churches that place their traditions before the Bible. Finally we have considered the importance of knowing our own culture, with two objectives, to know how to bring the Gospel to our own culture, and to know which concepts are of our culture and will become an impediment to evangelize people of others.

The Gospel has arrived to almost all nations and cultures, and there are Christians in all of them, of all race, ethnics and social class in all nations and cultures preaching the Gospel. This is another prophecy about to be fulfilled, that of the Great Commission, prior to receiving Yahshua in His coming to establish the Kingdom of God for all, for eternity.

We shall finish this exposition of the Gospel to the Cultures with the most important Text of the entire Bible which resumes the Gospel for all souls, no matter their race, their origin nor their culture:

...For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16. Amen!

 

 

 

  • For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Prophecy of Isaiah 9:6.


  • I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6. Words of Yahshua - Jesus Christ.
  • You want to know God, but you know the way is not through organized religion, nor by sects, nor by society. The world has failed. ...I pray for them;  I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours... John 17:9. Prayer of Yahshua - Jesus Christ.


  • If you really seek God, begin today the new life though the true hand of God. The Gospel is the message for all nations, no matter their race, their origins or culture. God is the saviour of those from humanity who open their hearts to Him.


  • ...Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  1Corinthians 15:58.

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