For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13-14)
In my last blog, I pointed out that the opponents of Paul in the book of Galatians accused him of preaching a message of Grace only to attract a large following to himself. To put it in today’s vernacular, they were accusing Paul of wanting to the big man on campus.
It was an ironic accusation because Paul’s experience was the exact opposite. Before he preached the offer of eternal life through faith alone by grace alone, he was already the big man on campus. As he points out, he was “advanced in Judaism” He was a leader in Judaism, and a leader among his “contemporaries.” When the Christian Church began to expand, he was chosen as a leader in persecuting it because it was a threat to Judaism and the “traditions” of the Jewish “fathers” (Gal 1:3-14). Paul had many people who looked up to him. He was going places.
All of that changed. He believed in the message of eternal life through faith in Christ and was commissioned by Him to take that message to the Gentiles. With this, Paul’s status changed dramatically. He went from a leader and rising star among the Jews to a persona non grata. The hunter became the hunted as the Jews attempted to kill him. We can only imagine what this cost him in terms of money, influence, and prestige in the community. From 2 Timothy as well as strong Church tradition, we know that Paul died basically alone and as a criminal of the state. What a far cry from being a big man on campus!
Once again the same is true for those who proclaim a Free Grace message today. The irony is that they too are accused of proclaiming the message of grace because it is what people want to hear and the message will find many followers. But, as in the case of Paul, the exact opposite is true.
Among evangelicals, it is safe to say that adherence to Free Grace theology is a sure bet to place one outside of the mainstream. Employment within many Christian organizations and ministry opportunities will be severely curtailed. It is difficult to find very many big men on campus among Free Grace people.
It has always been that way. When we study church history we find that those who held Free Grace views were always in the minority. The same is true today.
Of course, just because you are in the minority doesn’t mean you are right. However, we can certainly find affinities in the life of Paul. In addition, the accusation that Free Grace people are trying to tickle the ears of folks is patently false.