Two Identical Definitions of Christianity. What is the way of the Cross? Important questions we must answer. Audio Homily 2010


Synopsis: The Epistle and Gospel for the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross both contain identical 'definitions' of Christianity. They both involve the cross, which is an instrument of death and of life. All Christians must voluntaily be crucified with Christ, and tak up their cross. This is explained by our Lord's instruction that we must 'lose' our life to save it, and His uestions: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? We must understand this if we are to truly live the Christian life and know Christ.

More homilies on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross are HERE

Galatians 2:16-20 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Mark 8:34-9:1 34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. 1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

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3 Responses to “Two Identical Definitions of Christianity. What is the way of the Cross? Important questions we must answer. Audio Homily 2010”

  1. Shawn L says:

    In hearing the sermon, and in considering the reading from Paul, my question was: what did Paul mean when he said that we are justified by faith, not by works of the law?
    Clearly, Paul wasn't teaching antinomianism, i.e., that we can believe in Christ and then live however we want. Yet, he seems to be pretty adamant that whatever role works play in the Christian life, they contribute nothing to our justification. And it seems that in Paul's mind, 'believing' and 'doing' are two different things, otherwise how could he distinguish (and oppose) faith and works?
    So my questions:
    1) Are we justified because we "take up the cross"?
    2) Or do we take up the cross because we are justified through faith in Christ, apart from the works of the law?
    3) Or is Paul not referring to all works, but just the ceremonial aspects of the Jewish Law? (In which case, we ARE justified by works, just not Jewish works).
    Help please! (Next sermon topic?)

  2. Dear Shawn: I am a pastor, and not a scholarly one. I would have had to look up antinomianism if you had not been so kind to define it, since I had forgotten the definition.

    In some ways I am a poor candidate to give anything near a definitive answer. I preach to teach and inspire and equip my flock to live the Christian life. The nuances you mention are way over almost everyone’s head. I think you can think of the group which would understand this in our church.

    I have a little saying that “we are not saved by our works, and we will not be saved with works” (or something like that – it probably changes a bit now and then).

    Of course, we are saved by grace, with which we must cooperate. This cooperation is the taking up of our cross, following the way of Christ, to know Him by experience. So I would not agree a statement like: “we justified because we take up the cross”, however, we will not be justified if we DO NOT take up our cross.

    I read St Paul in this way. Nothing we can do makes us deserve mercy, but we must “do” to obtain mercy. We love him because he first loved us. We react to God’s mercy by changing. Without the effort to change, we cannot be saved. I think this effort involves the way of the cross.

    I think St Paul was referring to all works. He was not specifically referring to ceremonial washings, etc. Nobody can fulfill the law, since if he is guilty of it on one place, he is guilty of it all (a poor paraphrasement, but I am sure you get the reference).

    I am not a systematic theologian. I am just trying to take up my cross and encourage and help others to take up theirs. Because of my position in life as a pastor, I have little cause to delve deeply into this complex theology, since there are always those present who can only digest milk. As I said before, I am a poor candidate to tie all this up in any kind of systematic order.

    I just know that I do not love God enough, and neither does my flock, and this is our main problem.

  3. Deborah says:

    Shawn, here are my 2 cents, the way I understand it:

    Faith (as defined in Hebrews 11:1) is not so much belief, as the ability to see things that cannot be seen through human perception, alone.  As believers, "we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7) Of course 'seeing is believing' as they say–so it is connected to belief.
    To be justified is to be made just–to be made righteous.  I think Paul is saying that we are not made righteous by what we do but by our faith, the way we see things.  The way we see things effects not just what we do, but our very being.  It changes who we are.  I could do all the good works in the world and if I was still a cold hearted sinner, inside, "if I have not love, it profits me nothing". (1 Cor. 13:3) But, as we learn to see things as they are we become humble, loving and grateful beings…and from this love springs the good works to which we have been called, and the willingness to take up our cross.
    The question of whether we carry our cross in order to be justified or because we are justified is sort of a "which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" deal—faith, from which comes the ability to become righteous, to be made just, is given to us by God but it is manifested in works that produce more faith.  Taking up the cross is both a result of faith and justification and also produces it.  I strive to be kind and I fast* because I have been given the eyes to see that these are the right things to do.  But in being kind and fasting, I am given even more faith, can see even more clearly, that these are the right things to do. 
    *Being kind is a manifestation of love.  Fasting, is a form of taking up one's cross–a means to an end.  The end, of course, being genuine love for God and for one another.

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