I was listening to a young man the other day talk about his journey to Christianity. As he began to discuss his life, I became overwhelmed at how God orchestrated events in his life to draw him to Himself. Though this man grew up in a country that is not so friendly to Christianity, God made a way for him to hear the gospel.
Listening to his story, I began thinking again about the growth of the early church and how God made a way for the gospel to spread in those early centuries. Though it is true that the disciples did face difficulties (read here), there were also several things that created a path for Christianity to grow.
Here are a couple of them…
First is the pax Romana. Some have suggested that Christianity would have been “inconceivable had Jesus been born a half century earlier.” But due to the control of the world by one power, Christianity entered the world at a time of peace, the pax Romana.
One could travel throughout the entire Roman world by the roads built by the Romans with relative ease and peace from war. Robert Wilken writes that “never before had so many different peoples enjoyed such a measure of security and freedom of movement. As Rome conquered the world, it made the world welcome.”
Second is the spread of the Greek language. While the pax Romana made the “world welcome,” the spread of the Greek language, after the conquests of Alexander the Great, “provided a common language for communication, trade, education, and intellectual life.”
Theologian Michael Green places much emphasis on the Greek language and the spread of Christianity. He writes, “Greek was a sensitive, adaptable language, ideally suited for the propagation of a theological message, because for centuries it had been used to express the reflections of some of the world’s greatest thinkers, and thus had a ready-made philosophical and theological vocabulary.”
Was it just a coincidence that Christianity emerged when it did? Or was it divine providence that prepared the world for the birth of Christianity?
Paul writes that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4). Some have held that this “fullness of time” refers to the items listed above, the pax Romana and the Greek language, and how they made it possible for the gospel to spread. Others believe that “fullness of time” is a specific time period that must be met.
PersonalIy, I think it’s easy to see how God worked in opening doors for the spread of the gospel in the first century. Regardless of how you view God’s sovereignty and days of old working together, we all can agree that God works and moves through history and events.
I write this way because of the story of the young man from the Middle East. Thought its mysterious, God apparently opened and closed certain opportunities for him which eventually, led him to a place to hear the gospel.
Paul asked the church in Colosse to pray for him “that God may open to us a door for the word” (Colossians 4:2). Paul seems to understand that it is God who makes a way for the gospel to spread.
Therefore, maybe we should not only see our salvation as by God’s grace, but also the opportunities we had to hear about it as well.