Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | April 24, 2006

What Seperates Christianity?

Last night the kids and I were watching Home Alone 2, which is about a 10 year old kid (Kevin McCallister) who gets separated from his family during a vacation.  (The ending was hilarious)  He gets separated by taking the wrong plane and arrives in New York City where he runs into the same pair of criminals that tried to rob his house in the first movie.  During the course of the story Kevin encounters a homeless lady who is always surrounded by pigeons. They entered into a discussion about Christmas and the subject of behavior came up.  When Kevin admitted he had done some bad things, the lady encouraged him to perform some good deeds since they “cancel out the bad ones.”  It really caught my attention since it is relevant to our recent topics.

This concept of performing good deeds to cancel out the bad is a common belief that humanity maintains.  We know this by examining human religions (Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Shinto, etc), which at their core consist of this doctrine of meriting right standing.  The only exception to this is the Christian religion, which reveals that Jesus Christ merited our right standing.  He merited salvation on our behalf, since we were incapable of doing it ourselves.  There needs to be a qualification concerning this, however, since the majority of confessing Christians do not believe this.  Thus, the majority of confessing Christian’s either do not agree with, do not understand or ignore the Gospel message. Lord only knows why this is the case, but the solution cannot be to ignore this problem.

For anybody who may be joining us for the first time we are currently conducting an overview of Basic Christian belief.  We thought it would be prudent to conduct this overview due to the confusion and ignorance that exists in the public square about these beliefs.  We began this series by examining an ecumenical (universal) creed of the Church called the Apostle’s Creed (see I believe in God – post for the contents of this creed).  For the last four days we have been reviewing the portion of the creed that states:

“I believe in Jesus Christ…”

In order to help us understand the meaning of this creed we have been using the teaching from the Heidelberg Catechism (see 4/19 post of the history of this document).  This series will continue through the major creeds and confessional standards that explain orthodox beliefs.

As we noted above, we have asserted that the Christian faith is unique to all other religions believing that right standing with God can only be merited by Jesus Christ.  Today we look at Question 32 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which provides a summary of why we are called Christians:

         Q. But why are you called a Christian? 

A. Because by faith I am a member of Christ 1 and so I share in his anointing. 2 I am anointed to confess his name, 3 to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks, 4 to strive with a good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, 5 and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity. 6

1 1 Corinthians 12:12-27:   …Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.
2 Acts 2:17 (Joel 2:28):  And it shall be in the last days', God says, 'That I will pour forth My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall dream dreams…   1 John 2:27:  As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
3 Matthew 10:32:  Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  Romans 10:9-10:  ..that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  Hebrews 13:15:  Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to the name.
4 Romans. 12:1:  Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.1 Peter 2:5, 9:  …but you are a chosen race, a royal preisthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
5 Galatians 5:16-17:   But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh…Ephesians 6:11:  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 1 Timothy 1:18-19:  …fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
6 Matthew 25:34:  Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' 2 Timothy 2:12:  If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us…

According to the Scriptures cited above and the catechism, it is by faith we become united with Christ.  Being united with Christ we then share in His anointing, which qualifies us to be called “Christian”.  There are no works that we can perform to merit this title, it is a free gift based upon the work of another.  We see this in the following statement by John Calvin:

Surely Paul accomodates those wirds to this use when he teaches that every part of our salvation rests with Christ that we may glory in the Lord alone (1 Cor 1:30-31).  His meaning is this: whoever thinks that he has anything at all of his own rises up against God and casts a shadow upon his glory.  Institutes II.XIII.1 

This concept is foreign to other religions in the world.  The critique of this view seems to be that it provides no deterrent for the believer to transform his life.  The response to the critique is provided in the forthcoming statement and references.  The Christian is called to transform his life and strive "against sin and the devil."  However, the motivation does not come from a need to perform good deeds to cancel out the bad, thus meriting salvation.  No the motivation comes from an expression of gratitude and thanksgiving for the free gift of salvation promised in the Gospel message.  This concept is not without controversy and throughout Church history the inability to reconcile this mystery of grace has been grossly misunderstood.  Nonetheless, based on the council from Scripture this is the only logical conclusion that can be made.  As we continue in this seris we will reexamine this concept much closer, but for now we will let today's statements stand for themselves.  Until next time God's blessings be upon you.

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