175th Anniversary of AEC
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
The glorious days of Armenian Evangelical vitality, powerful testimony, and influence are now behind us. We can see them in the rearview mirrors offered by church historians. Causes may be found in the allure of physical comfort along with the daily pressures of life that have derailed our minds from the immeasurable value of the Gospel-treasure, which our pioneers passed down to us. The remedy needs to be sought in the epiphany experienced by the pioneers.
Paul refers to the Gospel of Christ as the unveiled “treasure” (2 Corinthians 4:7) for which he denounced his long-held pharisaic ideology; went against the powerful Jewish establishment; endured unbearable physical, mental and emotional agony; was severely persecuted; and eventually surrendered his soul at a politically motivated execution.
Was Paul thinking clearly? What was so special about this “treasure?” What could it offer that led Paul to renounce his pre-conversion, prestigious religious rank and the life of wealth, comfort and respect that came with it?
The Armenian Evangelical pioneers also discovered this “treasure,” and chose to act according to its surpassing value despite the risks. They renounced cowardly apathy, indifference and conformity. Their highly educated minds were stunned and captivated by this unveiled “treasure” that had neutralized Paul’s defenses. They too, for the sake of the Gospel, endured unbearable socio-economic hardships. They were ostracized and denied civil rights such as marriages, burials and baptisms; even their businesses were boycotted.
So, what is so exceptional about this “light of the knowledge of God’s glory,” which over the past two millennia, Christians have carried in their “jars of clay?”
Let us review the blessings of the Gospel of our salvation.
In addition to offering us forgiveness, the Gospel liberates us from the shackles of sin, which morph into destructive forces such as mistrust, insecurity, fear, selfishness, hatred, hypocrisy, jealousy, greed, conflicts, manipulation and the worship of gods such as status symbols.
The Gospel enlightens our minds and souls to the Truth Who sets us free to pursue genuine fulfillment in healthy, trust-based and mutually uplifting relationships. The Gospel disentangles our minds from the lies of sin to find security in God, profound fulfillment in His love, personal value in His applause, and life-meaning in His service. It places us on the pedestal of “love, power and self-control.”
The Gospel transforms those it captures into constantly maturing Christians, who are devoted to making the world a better place.
Gospel-based faith communities offer love, security and a sense of belonging. They raise men and women of faith, who live both as “light” and “salt,” attracting many to this treasure. The church of Christ enables believers to fulfill their higher-level needs for “love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization,” as postulated by American psychologist Abraham Maslow.
The Gospel is inconceivably precious to those who have been touched by it. They deem it worthy of all their resources – money, time, efforts, talents and more. Both Paul and the Armenian Evangelical pioneers lived out this faith.
How about us?
The last few decades have witnessed significant diminishing potency in Armenian Evangelical churches. Jesus’ parable of the sower hints at indifference, “trouble or persecution [and] worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth,” as probable causes.
The remedy is to be found in the life-changing epiphany experienced by Paul, the pioneers, and countless Christians throughout the centuries. Paul argues for this most poignantly when he urges us to grasp the vastness of Christ’s love. He implores that we may have the “wisdom and revelation” to grasp “the riches of his glorious inheritance.” We need to be overwhelmed with the unfathomable value of the Gospel-treasure. The Gospel-truth needs to permeate each and every one of our brain cells, while overwhelming, disarming, and expelling all alluring gods. The Gospel-truth will thus transform our minds, emotions and behavior.
This epiphany will compel us to “sell” all our possessions and buy the “field” where the Gospel truth is “buried” (Matthew 13:44). All other possessions will seem as “loss” and “rubbish” in comparison (Philippians 3:8). The all-time favorite hymn best articulates Paul’s thinking: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Today we enjoy the many blessings of God thanks to the Gospel-truth, which the Armenian Evangelical pioneers and their followers graciously passed down to us at the unaffordable cost of lost prestige, dignity, time, money, comfort, and more. Our children deserve no less. Christ and the example of the pioneers compels us to pass down churches that are more authentic, thriving and potent than the ones we inherited. Our children deserve the life-changing taste of the untainted Gospel-treasure.
We have no right to remain indifferent and be content with the status quo.
But first, let us pray for and seek the epiphany.