No, contemporarianism is not a real word. Yes, it did have a red line underneath it, and yes, it is applicable to your spiritual life. Contemporarianism is defined by the International Brady Encyclopedia, as “the state in which one becomes discriminatory against those of their own generation.” The Pharisees had it, when Jesus proclaimed to them in Matthew 23:29-31: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” These people were so enamored with the righteousness of the prophets, and swore up and down that if they had existed back then, they wouldn’t have treated God’s servants the same way. No-sir-ee. If they had been around back then, those prophets would have been exalted, listened to, and obeyed. Riiiiiiight.
Hindsight is always interesting, isn’t it? The ability to look back 1000 years, after all the courses of action have taken place, and all the punishments for those actions have happened as well; it’s easy to say which one of those roads you should have taken. It’s kinda like one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels, where if you chose one course of action, it took you to page 38, but if you took the other one, you went to page 47, fell into the pit of snakes and got eaten alive. If you’re like me, you always looked ahead to both pages to see which one you should’ve taken.
And the Pharisees in Jesus’ time were no different. They looked back into the lives of their ancestors, saw which avenue their fathers should’ve taken, and glorified that one as the one that they themselves would’ve done. The problem is, their very actions demonstrated that they were following an identical path in rejecting Jesus. In Acts 7:51-52, Stephen tells them, “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become…” They were no different! A righteous Person had been sent to them, preaching words of truth that they should follow, just like the prophets of old, and they had condemned Him as a heretic, and crucified Him in front of everybody. Same song, different verse, and the destruction that came to them would be exactly the same as their fathers: swift, and just.
What were Jesus and Stephen driving at? Simply that they should have recognized the simple truth that was in front of them, and acknowledged it as such, no matter what time period it was in. By taking Jesus’ words critically, as Nicodemus had done (John 3), they would come to the same conclusion that he had, that “we know you have come from God as a teacher, for no one can do the signs you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Why did these people negate Jesus’ words? Probably, in part, because it greatly conflicted with their current status, both financially and socially, but also, because, in their minds there was nothing special about Jesus to begin with! Jesus rightfully said in Mark 6:4, that “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his own relatives and among his own household.” These people saw Jesus grow up, talked with His parents in the marketplace, knew His background; to them, He was just another kid from the other side of the tracks (Mark 6:4). And because of this, they refused to listen to Him, despite how profound His words were.
Jesus condemned the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida in Matthew 11:21-22, claiming that if the miracles that had been done in their nation of Jews had been done in a gentile nation such as Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented a long time ago (see also: Ninevah, Jonah). These biases are poisonous, and no amount of water-walking, fish-multiplying, blind-seeing miracles can overturn it. Let us not be so blind in our own approaches to scripture, that we turn away from the truth because of a personal problem we have against it, or the one speaking it. The people of old made that mistake, and were chastised and subsequently punished as a result of it. As Jesus also said, “Wisdom is vindicated by her children” (Luke 7:35).Last modified: February 19, 2019