There are a few basic principles that Paul lays out here which will help us on a day to day basis. The first is Paul’s approach to those who have come into the fold but without any kind of theological backing. We would call them the “unchurched” today. Those who have come into the church without any kind of background or understanding of what this “church” thing is all about. I don’t know if you have been noticing but we are getting more and more people who come from that background. Our automatic tendency is to teach them how to do church. My automatic tendency is to glean from them what they need and what their desire to serve the Lord looks like. It is so important to try not impose upon anyone our understanding of what church ought to be, but rather live into a church which is formed a shaped by the Holy Spirit, which means in our understanding, formed and shaped by all of the different inputs and visions and ideas from all who are present. A growing phenomenon within our church is a whole group of people who attend, but aren’t members. We need to move away from thinking that only the membership has the right to shape and mold the church into what it would like, but rather give a voice to all who would want to be a part in whatever form they want to be a part. I shouldn’t say this, but there is a big part of me that wonders the purpose of membership. I know, congregational meetings are important and you can’t just have anyone speaking and giving their thoughts because the danger is that those who don’t have a vested interest would sway the group and then pick up and leave without any skin in the game. I get that, but there is a certain sense of entitlement that would be good to be disposed of in some shape or fashion. The first part of this chapter addresses the gentiles coming into the church. Unfortunately, Paul calls them “ignorant”. Probably not a term that I would use.
From there vs.6-7 addresses the question that many want answered: Who is going to make it into heaven? Do you notice Paul’s answer? He tells us: Do not say in your hearts. I interpret that as Paul telling us that we should not even be asking that question. It is completely up to God. But we like to imagine what it would be like to put some people in and keep others out. That is not our place, says this Scripture. Instead, Paul tells us, all those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. That should make it easier for us to live our lives when we don’t have to worry about the eternal status of those around us. I know that there are a number of people who worry about their parents, or their children because they are not sure if they know Jesus. It is a fair concern, but I think these verses provide us with the assurance that God is ultimately a just and gracious God. We have a task to raise our children so that they will be exposed to Jesus, and to let our parents know the love that we have for Jesus. But we cannot in any way force our parents, or our children, or our spouses, to become believers in Jesus. Our children we have a responsibility to bring them to places where Jesus is proclaimed (church, Sunday School, youth group etc.). But worrying about their salvation is simply not something that we can impact. On the other hand, trying to make our spouses come to church will almost always be counterproductive.
Then we are provided the missionary verses that ought to strike purpose in all of our hearts. These are verses that call us out of our stupor of self-contentment and make us realize that we have all been called into proclamation. Look at vs.14. It speaks directly to the fact that people simply will not know about Jesus if we are not the ones to let them know about him. How are people to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Lord of our lives, our very Creator God, if we do not let them know. It should be incredibly motivational to get us out there and unashamedly proclaim his goodness to those that we meet.