Focal Passage: Colossians 1:24-27
Iranian house church pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2010 after being convicted of apostasy. Nadarkhani, who had been in prison for over a year, was convicted of converting from Islam to Christianity and for encouraging other Muslims to do the same. The court ruled that Nadarkhani was born Muslim, and ordered him to “repent” of his Christian faith. The pastor replied, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”
The judges ordered him to return to Islam. Nadarkhani refused. Iranian Christians say the government targeted pastor Nadarkhani because of the rapid growth of the house church he pastors, which now has more than 400 believers.
Nadarkhani’s spiritual journey parallels that of the Apostle Paul. Paul was born a Jew, not a Christian.
At a particular point in his life (Acts 9) he became a Christian. His conversion was dramatic, and in obedience to God, he was led into a ministry of church leadership and evangelism. Although he targeted fellow Jews for conversion to Christianity, invariably the real success in his ministry came from Gentiles. For his faithfulness as a Christian pastor and minister, Paul was arrested and put into prison on several occasions. The letter to the Colossian Christians is one of the four prison letters that Paul wrote. Paul knew suffering. Paul could rejoice that he had been deemed worthy to suffer for his Lord.
Of particular note here (v. 26-27) is Paul’s use of the word “mystery.” In Paul’s Jewish world, Gentiles were second-class citizens. To become “God-fearers” was a step up for them, but the idea that Gentiles could be true spiritual equals to Jews was a stretch. But this was Paul’s point.
It is Christ’s Church, not man’s. Therefore, in Christ all are equal. There is no Jew or Gentile, just Christian.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – As of Jan. 30, 2012, Nadarkhani was still alive.)