The Gospel Story As Told by the Primitive Churches and As Told Today

Two Stories: One is the Gospel tale as it was told in the second and third centuries (as best I can tell it). The second is the Gospel tale, or one version of it, as it is taught in the U.S. today.

I changed the first line of story #1. Apparently, any suggestion that the Garden of Eden might be a parable makes story #1 unreadable. Story #1 does not require the Garden of Eden to be a myth.

Story #1

Whether it is historical or not, the Garden of Eden is an explanation of our reality. Though humans could simply obey God and live in joyful relationship and prosperity with him, they consistently choose to determine right and wrong for themselves. Walking away from God, the only source of true life, they received the result of their choice: spiritual death. No longer attached to God, spiritual forces of wickedness took them over (Eph. 2:1-3). Humans cannot free themselves from this slavery, nor can they see it despite all the wickedness that surrounds us (2 Cor. 4:4).

God is and always has been a merciful God, quick to forgive everyone except those who stubbornly persist in their evil ways (Ex. 34:6-7; Ezek. 18:20-30). God chose his own nation through whom he would show his love and his remarkable way of life to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, that nation, too, chose to persist in its evil ways. No matter how hard God tried and whether he showed kindness or anger, they persisted in evil (Rom. 2-3). While this was no surprise to God, it was and continues to be a surprise to humans (Rom. 7). That long period of forbearing evil (Rom. 3:25) and winking at sin (Acts 17:30) was not so God could find out we are slaves to sin. God always knew, but humans needed long example to convince us that we are slaves. God was always hoping, and asking, that we humans would reject our self-rule and return to joyful relationship with him (Isa. 1:16-20; Jer. 7:21-24; Micah 6:8).

God’s nation kept rejecting all his messengers and messages, so the world did not get to hear of the mercy of God (Eph. 2:12). Finally, God sent his Son. His Son came to the earth, lived the way a human should live, in fellowship with God (John 5:19), then gave his life as a ransom for the human race, buying their freedom from spiritual wickedness and slavery to sin with his own life, his own blood (Matt. 10:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6).

Of course, the spirits of wickedness knew they could simply enslave mankind again, and they rejoiced at the capture of God’s only-begotten Son, through whom God had created the earth in the beginning. What they did not realize is that the Son of God would tear apart the shackles of death, “bind the strong man,” and plunder the domain of wickedness (Mark 3:27; 1 Cor. 2:8).

Having risen from the dead, he offers to all who will come to him the freedom that he bought and fought for. Once again, through the Son, we can have fellowship and friendship with both God and his Son, resulting in everlasting life (Jn. 17:3; 2 Cor. 5:14-21).

This new relationship with God is not as easy as it was for Adam and Eve. We are not in the garden, but we in are a world enslaved to sin because many still reject both the Son and fellowship with the Father. Because the followers of the Son are in fellowship with God and are more powerful than the spirits of wickedness, they fight off the attempts to enslave them. Because God is love, they love, and they fight to bring others under the dominion of the Son who sets humans free.

They will continue to do so until the time of opportunity is ended. Then all who have made their way into the kingdom of the Son will shine forever, while all who rejected him and chose disobedience to God will be destroyed along with the spirits of wickedness who kept them captive.

Story #2

The story of Adam and Eve is history. God told Adam not to eat from the tree of good and evil, but the devil tricked Eve into talking Adam into eating it. God, worried that Adam and Eve might eat from the tree of life and become immortal, barred the passage to the garden they lived in. Now it is no longer visible or maybe even submerged under the earth.

God cannot bear any disobedience at all. He never forgives anyone even the slightest sin because he is too holy and just. Anyone who disobeys in any way must die (Hab. 2:13? James 2:10? Ezek. 18:20, but note vv. 21-30). God does not want to kill humans. Even though he must kill humans because he is so holy and just that he cannot forgive sins, he really wants to forgive sins, so he allows humans to kill animals so they don’t have to be killed. In fact, when Adam and Eve sinned, God killed animals in their place and gave them the animal skins as clothes.

Even then, God is not really accepting their sacrifice, nor is he simply showing mercy when the Old Testament says he shows mercy. Instead, he is looking forward to the eventual death of his Son in the place of all humans because that is what actually allows him to forgive. This must be why King David said God doesn’t want sacrifices but a repentant heart (Ps. 51:16) and why God desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6, a verse Jesus quoted in Matthew 9:13)

Humans continued to sin, and God kept allowing them to kill animals in their place. Adam’s son, Cain, did not understand this, so he offered grains to God as a sacrifice. Plant life can’t atone for human life, so God rejected Cain’s sacrifice. Cain got mad and killed his brother because his brother offered an animal sacrifice. God let Cain go anyway. He even stamped Cain with a stamp on his forehead so that people would not kill him.*

* The real story is that Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because he was evil, and Abel’s was accepted because he was righteous (Gen. 4:7; 1 Jn. 3:12).

God eventually took for himself a nation, and though they had sacrifices to cover their sins, they were so evil God overthrew them despite their sacrifices. Then, finally, when the time was right (Gal 4:4), God sent his Son, through whom he created the universe, to be the ultimate sacrifice. The Son never committed a sin, and he was divine, and therefore he was qualified to be the one great sacrifice that would allow God to forgive all the sins of mankind once and forever.

After paying for all sins with his life, the Son rose from the grave, and everyone who believes that he died for their sins will have their sins forgiven no matter what they do.


Which story do you think is more biblical?

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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15 Responses to The Gospel Story As Told by the Primitive Churches and As Told Today

  1. Philip Barker says:

    I’m sorry this is unpleasant Paul. No, I don’t have people around me like that. I’m not in fellowship with anyone. Having returned from Myanmar with no real roots anywhere, we tried a couple of churches but it didn’t quite happen. Now we are in lockdown again. I have one good friend here who I speak with on the phone now and then, but we don’t see so much of each other because of where we both live. Anyway, I get what you are saying, I just can’t seem to make any steps forward right now, not even small ones. I will keep going, after all, what choice do I have? There’s no going back. Jesus Christ is Lord and I believe it with all my heart, but when I look at my life, it just seems to suggest I’ve made a mental assent to that fact and I’ve not received it in my heart. Tomorrow is another day, so I’ll hang on in there and wait until I can join a church again, as we hope to be moving home soon. I just need to forget the past and what I think I know and start off with the basics. It’s not going to be easy. I won’t write anything else on here. Thanks Paul.

    • Paul Pavao says:

      I wasn’t complaining about our discussion, Phil. I should have been more clear. I really meant that I would love to be closer and to be able to fellowship with you on a regular basis so we could talk. I hate feeling powerless to help. You need a breakthrough, even if it is a surer confidence in the love of God. It can be hard to believe that God is for us! Meanwhile, I will be praying diligently, at least today.

  2. Philip Barker says:

    Not sure about all this; there’s elements of truth and error in both, so it’s hard to say which version is more Biblical. Reading the first sentences of both versions, I see in the first version that the garden of Eden is a parable. Genesis 2:8 onwards states that God planted a garden in a place called Eden, even describing the location. That’s good enough for me to believe it was a real place and not a the second version it states that the story of Adam and Eve is history. The maternal genealogy of Jesus in the gospel of Luke shows Adam as the first. That’s also good enough for me. Struggling a bit after that, so I hope, Paul, that you will enlighten us all as the point of your question, and/or an answer!

    • Paul Pavao says:

      You’re not the only one that could not even read story #1 if there was a suggestion that the Garden of Eden might be a parable. I thought people would gloss right over it because that was not the point.

      • Philip Barker says:

        So what is the point?

        • Paul Pavao says:

          The two points I was concerned about when I tried this story method were: 1. God was always merciful; he did not need Jesus to die for him; and 2. Jesus died to save us completely. He did die for forgiveness of sins, but we need deliverance from slavery to sin as well, and that was central to the atonement (Rom. 6).

          Knowing some previous questions you’ve had, let me clarify that last point. Jesus did NOT die so we could condemn each other for not being perfect. He died so that we could be free from sin’s slavery, which does not happen magically, but is promised to those that have virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love increasing in them because they are diligent (2 Pet. 1:3-11).

          • Philip Barker says:

            Thanks Paul, I cannot disagree with any of that. As always, whenever anyone asks a question (as you did about the two stories) I want to know the answer. I couldn’t answer your question so I threw it back to you, wanting you to answer 1 or 2. That’s how I am; black/white, yes/no, right/wrong. I’m not wired to “find the deeper meaning within” or another way to find an answer. That’s why I condemn myself and others. The reason for this (apart from my hard-wiring, which of course can be re-wired or re-booted) is because I’m trying to do it myself in the shortest possible way and with minimal effort. I am, in fact, powerless. I have not come to the end of myself whereupon I can “receive the Holy Spirit”, without whom I am unable to see the attributes that you listed from 2 Peter increase in measure in my life. Only the Holy Spirit can change a man’s hard-wiring. Right?

            • Paul Pavao says:

              “Only the Holy Spirit can change a man’s hard-wiring” seems to me to be the kind of statement you are talking about: black/white, yes/no, right/wrong. I think there are people who by great effort change their own hard wiring, and others can be changed with therapy, whether from a professional or friend. There was a therapist who helped Leonardo DiCaprio play Howard Hughes by making him OCD. Apparently, getting re-wired away from OCD with the same Dr. was a difficult process that took almost a year and caused him problems in his life. To get to the point that I think you really want to know, though, I agree that knowing the will of God and having the power to do it comes from the Holy Spirit.

              • Philip Barker says:

                Sorry, I’m going to have to cut to the chase; the list of attributes that you listed from 2 Peter are not qualities that are consistent in my life. I draw the conclusion that 1) I’m unsaved, or 2) I am being saved but am, as you put it, not being diligent. Diligent in what? Whatever your answer is to that question will lead me to ask “how do I do that without the power of the Holy Spirit?”
                In short I fail the test because it seems that I do not operate in/have not received the Holy Spirit, etc. etc. and round and round we go. That’s my life. I know the truth, just can’t live it out.

              • Paul Pavao says:

                Hi Philip. Comments like this kill me. You are not the only one I know who goes through this. Obviously, I think the things in 2 Peter can only be done with the Holy Spirit, but what of a person who says, “Apparently, then, I do not have the Holy Spirit.” Much more pleasant is the interaction with a dear friend who is stepping forward bit by bit, reading the Scriptures, making small commitments, and carrying them out. I told him, “That is the work of the Holy Spirit.” We have to face reality, though, not wish things were different. Do you have people around you giving you advice and checking on you? Praying for you? Encouraging you? Telling you what the see of God’s influence in your life?

  3. Paul, Thank you for your response comments to me. I am sorry you do not seem to get a many here reading and commenting on this article because I find it of interest [As I do with a # of your other past article posts] . I hope and pray that you and those you Love are Blessed by True Grace by way of True Faith.

  4. Paul thank you for your getting back with me and your comments. True Grace to you.
    The Atonement It Is The Central Doctrine
    Washing My Garment/Robe In His Blood
    In His Eternal Debt/Grace
    He Died To Make Man Holy
    It’s Not Just 6 Words To A Song
    They Have Eternal Meaning

  5. I have visited here foe some time now to see if anyone has chosen #1 or #2 but no answers. I would like to know myself for each answer contains truth. Is There a 3rd answer that is out there ?. Looking forward to the Truth.

    • Paul Pavao says:

      Hi Kalel. I am a little puzzled as to why I had to approve your comments. Normally, comments from previous commenters go right through. I will say that there are probably several other versions of the redemption story. I had one guy on Facebook who heard absolutely none of the first story except “The Garden of Eden is a parable.” Even after I tried to explain that saying it was a parable did not exclude its being historic, he could focus on nothing else than the fact that I myself do not regard it as historic. (I use “historic” where he would use “literal” because parables that are not historic can have literal meanings.) I don’t get a lot of comments on this blog even when I get over 100 readers of a particular post.

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