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ANSWERS - 2
The Cross of Christ -
but not cross purposes with Christ!
Far less through crotchety querulousness, or vagrant variousness about the simple grandeur of His atoning death and offer of redemption to all, through it
A. What in the world is the use of Christians if they are
1) so spiritually minded that they are not really with it in this world? or
2) so worldly minded that they are no heavenly use for this world?
B. What is the essence of Christian conduct and conviction in life, so that it might be seen?
A 1) That is an excellent question. The short answer is simple. If Christians are spiritually minded (as distinct from spiritistically minded, more in vogue, to be sure, these days), then they are not WITH this world in the sense that they are not in its current, approaching its destination, have destinies of their own, divorced from its destiny.
This must not however be taken as identical with saying that they are not IN it, or able to be useful FOR it. We must avoid word play which might suppress the issue, which is a real one.
IF a person is spiritually minded, then he/she loves God, loves THEREFORE His word and words. GOD is a Spirit (John 4), and all other spirits are derivative from Him by acts of creation. To be spiritually minded means being of godly nature. IS THIS of earthly use? The question is a just one.
Is GOD of earthly use? That is the ultimate area to be researched for the answer, since all others are spiritual to the extent their natures, though derivative and created, have come to take on some of the moral and spiritual features - never of course the autonomy, as shown elsewhere - that is His.
First, God is of use to the world in this: it could never have existed in form, substance or intellectual components without Him. It is useful to something to have it exist, as distinct from not be, is it not?
Second, God is of use to the world in that He maintains it (Hebrews 1:1-3, 11:1-3), for without Him, the congregations and aggregations of components lack their designer maintenance, the power which causes being to be. Nothing is the source of nothing, and God is the source of whatever it takes for whatever it is to be. The ultimate source, He is yet not the immediate source of the misuse of the freedoms which He has created. THAT is entirely our affair, and that of those other spirits which indulge in free-lance spiritual activity, at will, within bounds set by God.
Third, God is of use to this world in that it is in such a mess, through misuse of freedoms irresponsibility, at the option of many of its inhabitants, that His long announced plans in due course, when His plans are complete, to remove it (II Peter 3 is detailed on this, as is Isaac 51) are the only remedy for its condition some will ever accept. Since it is horrid beyond measure in many of its current ramifications, this removal first of His people (Matthew 24) and then of the world, is a great relief.
No wonder many suicides disdain the terrestrial premises. They are, though still alert with much intense beauty, being despoiled, as are many of the human occupants, to the point that the whole mystery and wonder and delight of it are under assault. Education helps this dismal process enormously in this century, more and more teaching the young the lore of the spittoon life to which so many feel drawn. Expectoration of what is lovely, however is another matter. It has an end, as does this world.
Fourth, God is of use to this world in that He is the constant, current, indispensable source of renewal to individuals and opportunities for those schools and Colleges which are willing to return to reality, and to cease the elaborate pretensions with which alienated and irrational philosophy, with ever less plausibility, adorns them.
God is of no use to the worldliness of this world, and in fact opposes it, will judge it - to the point that James in Ch.1 notes that friendship with this world is enmity with God.
I think that answers your
question, except for this: Christians per se (Romans 8) ARE spiritually minded,
although none of them is perfect on this earth. Nevertheless there is a
CHARACTERISABLE spirituality which has visionary source and vital immanent
power from God to maintain it. These like salt on meat, improve the flavor,
even if to some, intent on the latest
As to that, they are to be removed in a while, so the world will be able to assess for itself what the difference was as it approaches the long forecast Armageddon. I do not plan to be around for this test, but on observations and principles, have no doubt what the result will be. I am glad not to be able to share it, and hope every reader will take steps to ensure he/she does likewise (II Thessalonians 2:7-12, I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 24:35).
A 2) What use are Christians if they are so worldly minded that they are no heavenly use in this world?
I am glad your question here is a little original, it has savor!
Not much: that is the short answer. However, as the above scriptures will show, there are no such things, though indeed some Christians go for a ride at some time or other, and unless you were God, knowing the beginning and the end of the escapade, and the discipline apportioned for it (as with David and Bath Sheila, that unillustrious episode of a delightful man momentarily in free fall), you might be excused for a hasty conclusion.
More broadly, however , the underlying point is this. IF people who SAY they are Christians are so worldly in vision, outlook and procedures that really even a genius in the area would be hard pressed to differentiate them from mere worldliness, filled up with this world and therefore with nothing of profound vision and clean, healthy and godly impact to give to improve this world: what then? ARE THEY ANY USE TO THIS WORLD? I am inclined to say, at the most general level: No!
My reason is this. Such people are a distortion, an anomaly, misleading, frauds, saying one thing and BEING another. There are probably millions of them in fraudulent churches, sometimes even in sound ones, milling about with words in their heads and the world in their hearts, neither knowing what they affirm nor affirming what they know, listings, verbal magpies, spiritual pick-up trucks without anything on the back! The world looks to them, is disappointed in its periodic almost Christian looking for something better, and then perhaps grows sour - or even sourer than it was at the first. This is net loss.
B. Underlying further still, is this question.
WHAT is the essence of Christian conduct and conviction in life, so that it might be seen?
Now I know what you mean here. You are not asking for a short series of doctrinal statements which MUST be believed, or a person is obviously not of a scriptural temper at all. SUCH things are most useful and are readily available, and have indeed often been formulated better or worse, relative to the Bible. However this is not your request. You want the difference in LIFE AND CONDUCT.
Of course, following I Corinthians 13, you at once say LOVE. But equally at once you say, a LOVE which REJOICES IN THE TRUTH, for that is IN I Corinthians 13. Now all those beautiful qualities, bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things are there. We are perhaps familiar with these, and if not, would need to commune over them; for here is part of the key.
LOVE and TRUTH are indispensable for the Christian, who also holds, shows and lives in accord with this word of Christ (who ought not to be left out, really, when one is considering what a Christ-man or Christ-woman, a Christian is).
That word? John 14:6:
I AM THE WAY, THE LIFE AND THE TRUTH. NO MAN COMES TO THE FATHER BUT BY ME.
Hence a Christian will show an unremitting tendency to judge all things by Him, learn all things from Him, do all things for Him - rather along the lines of Colossians 3:12-17 and 3:23; although Romans 16:17 and Titus 3:10 need to be considered when it comes to the team and its works.
But there is ONE CRITERION which MUST be focussed on heavily, for it is quite crucial. It is the site of one of Paul's GOD FORBID exhortations, or more strictly MAY IT NOT BE. It is found in Galatians , and is this:
GOD FORBID THAT I SHOULD GLORY EXCEPT IN THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, BY WHOM*1THE WORLD HAS BEEN CRUCIFIED TO ME, AND I TO THE WORLD. FOR IN CHRIST JESUS NEITHER CIRCUMCISION NOR UNCIRCUMCISION AVAILS, BUT A NEW CREATION.
On such people Paul invokes blessing in the next verse.
Now let us consider what this does NOT mean, for in so doing, we shall remove a vast array of potentially dead-wood, fraud, or confusion, and so aid the recognition desired.
A) This means that one does not glory in the SACRAMENTS, for they are NOT the Cross of Christ, for the very simple reason He did not hang on a sacrament, or atone for sin in a piece of bread. SACRAMENTALISM whether in baptism, mass, other Lord's Supper distortions and faith-pins, or other sacraments invented for user-friendliness or any other reason, is NOT a mark of the Christian, and since it is negatively energised in the apostle's assessment, thrust away with distaste, this is one separation between saint and pseudo-saint, so useful in seeking to see what would help this world!
B) Equally, it is not TONGUES, or experiential displays of any other kind which are critical, crucial or in fact, quite simply, to be GLORIED in. IF tongues are a sure sign of conversion (see A QUESTION OF GIFTS for refutation in more detail), or a cause of ticketing in some way among the saints, or a sign of sanctification, or the essence of Christianity, or even wholly necessary for every good Christian, then this is glory, is wrong, is non-Christian, is a bypass and is to be discarded as not relevant when seeking the answer to your question. Not relevant? In this, that such is NOT where one looks, and IS where one does not look. It is not what the apostle declares in this essentialising and rejection combined, in Galatians 6:14.
Hence it is not found in EXPERIENTIALISING or PERFORMANCE or more generally, in LITURGICAL solemnities - or for that matter in the inane folly of "holy laughter" - a liturgical extravanganza (see op.cit. above, for detailed refutation). We pass by the TRIES OF THE LITURGICAL AND THE THEATRICAL ALIKE.
C) Thirdly, this principle of the apostle means that the essence is NOT found in the episcopacy, Anglican, Roman Catholic, or any Orthodox parallel. I personally have never come to notice any of these prelates coming from heaven and hanging on the cross in sublime, divine expiation of sin, as Creator of the Creation, in the flesh!
Hence it is not in SACERDOTALISM that the matter is to be found.
D) Nor are we to be impressed, if we are to follow the apostle, with statistics. The phenomenon of church growth is a nice little managerial exercise, in which indeed without undue reticence, the rulers and proponents of this world may engage in giving advice to churches! How to boost your giving and so forth! Do you grow enough! Here is how! One sees it about in book shops.
We have grown by ten thousand in two years, are blessed, and hence spiritual and this is how we do it, and so should you... goes the patter.
But the Cross was not overwhelmed with popularity. They did not, as it were, need to have Mounties (if you will forgive what you may deem hideous anachronism, in fact designed to entice the mind to present reality) to deal with traffic jams in its near vicinity during the more oppressive moments of the taunts to torment in which the outstanding ecclesiastics of the day remorselessly engage. Some were even, we read, at a distance, and not all of these were enemies.
John Bunyan was not overwhelmed with popularity, though he served well, among the stinking, fetid places of his dungeon. Tyndale, strangled at papal impress according to reliable history, was not particularly photogenic, perhaps as his face turned blue. John the Baptist was no longer surrounded by crowds in prison; James, the brother of John, was not wildly massed about with crowds during Herod's excursion into people-pleasing by removing his body from active affairs IN THIS WORLD.
More directly, it was not statistics which hung upon the Cross. Christ did not say, Broad is the way to heaven, and many go in it. He said the exact opposite.
The answer to your question is not in THE STATISTICAL.
We could go on, but you may become bored, or more to the point, you may find your own imagination demanding of you, liberty to draw your own extensions to the application of this apostolic principle. Better then that you do it. These abound!
It is however time to be positive. The GLORY is FOUND in CHRIST, and in particular in His ATONEMENT, His CRUCIFIXION, and hence in all that preceded it to make it effective, and followed it to apply it. It is the same in the Olympic Games. It is not the simple performance, but its preliminaries and conditions and effects which constitute "the Games". There are medals and fouls, and falls, and financial arrangements, broadcastings and runnings and jumpings and drugs and spectators, and there is allegedly at least a spirit, and an aura, and an introduction which demonstrates this and that, and a flame, and there is history and so forth.
So in this CROSS of THE LORD JESUS CHRIST (by the way, it is OUR Lord Jesus Christ - is He yours? see to it won't you!), there are many things. There is the love of the Father who sent Him (John 3:16), the willingness of the Son to do it (Psalm 40), even to DELIGHT TO DO IT (we all know the coolness of cold charity, a virtual oxymoron, and perhaps more moronic still). There are the recipients of its bounty, when He bore their sins, all who would ever come to Him (Romans 8:32) with all the RESULTS of that.
However, in the end, there is the resurrection also (Romans 8:34, 10:9), without which the authentication would be missing (Romans 1:1-4), and the Shepherd too, whose great love for His sheep would be somewhat impoverished if He were not resurrected and alive to exercise it! Indeed, His Father would be impudently displaced if His procedure for gathering all things together in Christ were ruined by a simple matter of a corpse that rotted displaying an empty power, rather than a prophesied ease of accomplishment guaranteeing all that was, and is and is to be.
Does this strike your eye in the world? I thought not. It is however to be found in Christians, as a perspective, a passion, a preference, a principle, an eye in the storm, a focus for the mind, an enlightenment for the soul, a vision for the spirit, a draw for the heart, and without being able to redeem, being simply redeemed, the Christian yet loves to act in that spirit.
But there is more.
WHICH*1 THE WORLD IS CRUCIFIED
AND I TO THE WORLD".
The Christian finds in this, his necessary redemption, an end to the fascination of the world. If it took the action of the prince of peace, the immortal God as man, sending His Word in flesh, to overcome my sin and prepare me for true spirituality, then what is the use of looking to created things for my peace or place*2. They simply do not, because they cannot supply this. Hence I am as good as dead to it, and it is like dead fish to me (the sort that one would expect to be nearer to life, and which hence are in a dismal, malodorous and possibly slimy state). I WALK AS SEEING HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE (Hebrews 11:27), and LOOKING FOR A CITY, WHICH HAS FOUNDATIONS, WHOSE BUILDER AND MAKER IS GOD (Hebrews 11:10).
Does this in turn mean that I do not use the world? Of course not. It is a site for spirituality, a place for pilgrimage, its beauty is important as is peace in any part of it. However, it is still not the cynosure, the foundation, the desideratum or the way.
Further, the Cross is as defined by its Enactor, its Agent, its Sufferer, its Vicarious Victim, its own Christ. Hence the words God has given are the crucial descriptive and annunciatory vehicle of this thing, like an Olympic Program and History booklet, if they always wrote only truth and so forth. Characteristically, they will be so taken by the Christian, though as in other areas, he/she may dip and dive for some little time in diverse heavinesses.
Yet the word of Christ in the Bible is this: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My words" (John 14:23,26 cf. Matthew 7:21-27, 24:35, 5:17-21, II Timothy 3:16, II Corinthians 4:1-4, I Corinthians 2:9-13,14:27) . They are hard to keep if not received for the keeping! Another Jesus, another Spirit indeed, another gospel at your call - all this is freely available (II Corinthians 11:1-15), but it is not the Games, the games of God, those serious games, which do not leave His Son or His work the victim of a wordy world; but present with the work, the witness, and this, as the Cross itself, with the imprimatur of God.
These then are some of the
critical features to look for in terms of that essence in conduct and principle
to be looked for in Christians.
*1 The words "by whom" or "by which" which may occur in the translation of Galatians 6:14 ...? are both grammatically correct ?
Yes they are. Since however "THE CROSS" of our Lord Jesus Christ is the term in focus - in a phrase "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" - a term by metonymy in its context, bringing to light the whole plan of salvation from eternity in preparation to payment in history, indeed to redemption now, consummated even in body, in glory to come): there is a caution. (John Murray of Westminster Seminary was very keen on stressing this point about the vast ramifications of the phrase: a just one.)
Whether we write "by whom" or "by which" in our translation is optional; but the issue itself is unchanged: it is Christ and Him crucified (yea, rather risen, as Paul also stresses in Romans 8:34): it is THIS sacrificial focus of that Person which is for this declaration, central in the inspired apostle's theme. If therefore I write BOTH, one here, one there, in my renderings, it would seem not inappropriate, since EACH has its contribution to the whole, and any 'ambiguity' in the original seems here to me not to be the case. It is rather a comprehensiveness of reference, the one arm ensuring there is nothing merely wooden in view, the other that there is nothing 'spiritual' at all separate from the sacrifice which is central.
It is the pivotal
expression of love, of redemption, of power in that
it is ultimately a motion of centrality in a theme of glory,
in that of glory, there is none without love (cf. I Cor. 13), while of love there is none unprepared to face cost.
It is the combination of the sublime necessity for man, that he take as dire necessity, what is there freely offered, and relish with due and just praise, the glorious spontaneity for God in this, that there is none to force Him - which produces something of the glory of this inexhaustible wonder, so emphasised here by Paul. In this divine performance, it is the mode of His intervention which betokens the heart, the heart of lowly kindness which accepts the mode, it is the PERSON who does it, and WHAT He does and HOW He does it: it is all of this, it is Christ and Him crucified, yea rather risen.
In Galatians 6:14, this phrase refers to whatever it is that crucifies the world to me, and me to the world. There is no wood in a cross for me, since my body is quite intact. An example does not crucify me! Such a happening came to the One who suffered it, here Christ. What crucifies, then, the world to me, since it is the experience of the Christian, whether he/she be accorded a cross and iron nails or not ?
In Galatians, by context, it is and must be:
a) Whatever in substance
achieves this result, and
b) whatever is stated to do so.
Principle and practice are therefore called for in identifying the meaning.
Further, it must be
something that has "crucified the world to me"
- that is, it has a change of state effect, not merely an inspirational one, however important.
As to that change of state,
it is abundantly clear, that very term appearing is found in the extensive
exposition in the area of Galatians 2:20 -
It is the Greek perfect tense, something defined as having an enduring state consequent upon an action, as in English we might begin to obtain by saying, "I am released!" said the prisoner. Something happened and the effects continue to dominate, intrude, intervene, characterise the situation. Freed, he is free!
Thus this tense makes the point very emphatic. It relates in context in 6:14 :
a) to Christ
living in the apostle by His Spirit (Galatians 3:2).
b) to a life by faith "in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." This implies justification by faith (Romans 5:1-9), completed in nature (Romans 5:1 - "having been justified by faith" is the full meaning there).
c) to the love of God who so gave Himself in the Person of His Son.
d) to a vicarious giving on behalf of Paul and those who are Christ's.
e) Galatians 2:21 - to a gift of righteousness explicitly apart from works - as in Romans 3:25-28.
In Galatians 3, it is interpreted in yet more detail. In 3:10-13, it is shown to involve a redemption by Christ through His suffering a cursed condition, suffering the law's rigour for wrong-doers, in satisfaction of its requirements for those whom He saves, the Saviour Himself meeting these in all innocence for His own part (Galatians 4:4-7, I Peter 2:22-23, Isaiah 53:9), so that no added burden is there, merely personal innocence and vicarious guilt for others who receive this, His payment for them.
How FOOLISH! Paul exclaims
to start in the spirit and try and complete it with considerations of your own
performance (as he says in Romans 10, "being ignorant of God's righteousness,
and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the
God!") .This is a GIFT BY GRACE - not merely of grace, but its whole manner of impartation is of grace (Romans 5:15), so that Ephesians 2:8 is fulfilled, "by grace you are saved through faith, and THAT not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works lest anyone should boast. " Indeed, the "that" is neuter in gender, not agreeing with "faith" but with the concept given, the cycle, 'by grace you have been saved through faith', and as to that, it is literally, you are a having been saved one.
Accordingly in Galatians 3-5, Paul takes you from works to Christ's work, completing his exhortation by REQUIRING in the strongest terms, in 6:14, that you glory in NOTHING but in the cross of Christ. Not your works of this or that kind PLUS the cross, for then there is the determining glory in YOUR works. ONLY in His cross, His whole plan and performance issuing in redemption by His blood (Colossians 1:22, Romans 3:23-25).
In this way, a spiritual responsiveness arises in converted hearts (Galatians 3:5-6), a relationship to God as His children, a vital dynamic transforming them so that no longer is the world a focus, or cynosure, but Christ. Hence arises the certainty and security of salvation exhibited in Romans 5:1-11, for when it does not depend on YOUR works, it depends on HIS, and as to those they are complete (Hebrews 9:12-10:14).
The world ? it is exposed as if crucified in and for its own sinfulness, dying unredeemed in its faded glory and shabby shame (cf. John 14:30, James 4:4). As to the Gospel the world so neglects, while steeped in the stupour of sullen aversion, yielding to the soporific of sin: that in its clean and gleaming words and work, is ineffaceable in its integrity, incalculable in its majesty, as already preached by Paul (Galatians 1:6-9 cf. That Magnificent Rock Ch.3, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17).
As a child of God, one looks without enthusiasm on an exposed world. It is as if crucified in its guilt and vanity. On the other hand, one's sin that might lead to such singular pride of life, vanity of flesh and blindness as is its seductive facility, is exposed; it is crucified with Christ, gladly released to Him who remits it, pardons it, and by His presence through the Spirit, shines out its darkness with His radiance.
Again, these practical dynamics and spiritual transformations, together with their base in the actual redemptive payment of Christ, are not all that is in the declared mind of the inspired apostle in this field (I Cor. 2:9-13).
Thus in Galatians 4:2-5, we see that this Cross through which this vast intrusion into a misled universe is made for salvation of many, is in turn a planned, prepared event for a prepared Person - cf. Daniel 9:24ff., Mark 1:15, Matthew 3:2, and pp. 886ff., in The Shadow of a Mighty Rock (SMR). To the very fulness predicted so precisely through Daniel, the 69 groups of 7 years (or more literally sevens, but see context) had to be fulfilled before Christ, exactly as planned, would come to earth.
As to that (Luke 24:24-26), the gamut of disgrace that should pass over the sacrificed Son of God (cf. Isaiah 53:1-4) was foretold in much detail, as likewise the glory that should follow (SMR Ch.9). Indeed, envisaged way back in the time of Abraham, to such effect, as the apostle elsewhere teaches (Ephesians 1:4), that the very persons who shoudl benefit from this unqualified kindness were known before this time-space world was so much as created (cf. Titus 2:11-13, 3:4, John 3:16).
Meanwhile the transforming
power of this bodily resurrected, sympathetic and practical Christ (II
Corinthians 3:18, Luke 24:39-43, Romans 1:4) is continuing positively and
constructively to build and burnish the Christian's life and heart, so that not
only is there this crucifixion with Christ to be found and experienced, but
also the life of Christ. Thus Paul exclaims , "For me to live is Christ" , Philippians 1:21 - a fact
which the apostle equally denotes in Galatians 2:20. He lives by the life
of this same Christ (cf. John 14:19), as the Saviour Himself attested,
Let us return in emphasis to Galatians 6:14, which will permit glorying nowhere else but in the cross of Christ. It is therefore THIS, it is THESE THINGS, it is this action by this Saviour in this way and with these results, it is this divinely declared and vicariously procured salvation which is to be the centre and focus of glory; it is indeed the Christ Himself, this Jesus and not another (II Cor., 11:4) in whom we are to glory. It is in Him who so acted with such prodigious power, grace and effectiveness for our salvation, so that we might erupt into eternity, like a divinely declared spring, with Him whose natural habitat it is (cf. John 4:14). It is indeed precisely as declared by the saints in glory as shown in Revelation 5:5-6,9,12,13.
"Worthy," say they, "is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing..."
It is truly a lovely thing to see glory given where it is DUE!
As indeed indicated above: the scope is vast, the Trinity is greatly involved, eternity is connoted, eternity forward is aroused to view and accorded in gift; and the love of God is made manifest in the just doom of sin, looking fully as ugly as it is, when worn like a dagger on the heart of the innocent Lamb, the Saviour. Here the love and power of God, the mercy and grace is shown, displayed, placarded, its purpose like a light in the departing steps of time, and the eternal future for the redeemed showing with dazzling beauty the gift of grace (cf. Romans 5:15), and salvation by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10, Philippians 3:20-21, Ephesians 1:11).
Like happy hikers on the late afternoon beach, moving towards the sun, they who are by Him redeemed, have long, darker shadows, cast behind, while ahead the light beckons with radiance unspeakable.
By all this, the shabby
subterfuges and inert pretences to delude that many teach, and many follow ,
especially now (cf. II Peter 2:1) are seen to be like dross, dung, universe
garbage (cf. Philippians 2:8-9, 3:20-21), as far from glory as gloomy night
from the beauty of the day.
WHERE IS THAT GLORY ?
There then, there is what is glorious,