Thursday, June 19, 2014

Once for all

For Christ also died for sin once for all,
the just for the unjust,
so that He might brings to God,
having been put to death in the flesh, 
but made alive in the spirit;
I Peter 3:18

The great religious conflict - cross vs. crucifix.  The Catholics depict Jesus suffering on the cross and the Protestants emphasize the resurrection by hailing the empty cross.  It's a rather heated debate - if you don't believe me, just google it.  Chat rooms on both sides are heated - Catholics claim the Protestants focus on the resurrection to lessen their guilt but they choose to remember the suffering that saves them.  Protestants claim the body on the cross equates to idolatry and the 10 commandments warn of making graven images.  

These are the nice arguments - it gets pretty nasty after that…

So which is right?  Is it sin to have a crucifix?  Are we looking at nothing if the cross is empty?  Why does it even matter?

I want to encourage you, my friends, not to live in ignorance but to inform yourself.  This is not an argument over a Psalter (Reformed vs. Christian Reformed).  This is not a spat amongst family.  This is a debate between two belief systems:
  • One system requires penance and personal suffering, prayers to a holy mother as well as deified saints, rosaries, sprinklings, candle lightings and extra biblical writings
  • The other system puts its faith and trust in Christ alone - in what He did and that He died once for all - Jesus in my place.  It's not what I do, it's what He has done
  • One system embraces works for salvation 
  • The other embraces works because of salvation
  • One emphasize suffering
  • The other emphasizes grace
  • One has a Savior hanging on a cross, continuing to suffer as we sin
  • The other has a risen Savior, seated at the right hand of the Father, finished in His redemptive work, now interceding on our behalf
Many of us in the church believe that the Catholic faith is consistent with the Christian faith - that there are many Catholics who are Christians.  I am not the judge of the heart by any means, but I want to warn you today not to fall for the lie that Catholicism and Christianity are close cousins.  They're not.  They could not be farther apart.  Just as Mormonism claims to be a cousin - it's not.  Both Catholicism and Mormonism claim the name of Jesus, but their claims are not consistent with the Word of God because they add to the gospel. 

Let's take a quick look at the five Sola's, birthed out of the Reformation which was the result calling out the Catholic belief system in comparison to the Word of God:
  • Sola Scriptura - scripture alone - the Catholic Church said the foundation of faith came through scripture, tradition and the teachings of the Pope - the Reformers said scripture alone
  • Sola Gratia - grace alone - the CC said salvation came through a combination of God's grace plus merits earned from good works and penance, plus the good works of those who preceded you - the Reformers said grace alone saves
  • Sola Fide - faith alone - the CC said man is justified by faith and works - the Reformers said by faith alone - faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ
  • Sola Christus - Christ alone - the CC said we are saved by the merits of Christ and the saints, and Mary and all who intercede for us - the Reformers said we are saved in Christ alone
  • Sola Deo Gloria - the CC said the glory of salvation comes through and it thereby accredited to  Christ's works, Mary's works, the saints' works and the sinners works - the Reformers said the true gospel is that which gives glory to God alone
There is a big and ever widening gap between Christianity and the Catholic church and our verse above is a foundational one for the Christian faith - once for all - Jesus' suffering is complete and His work of salvation is finished - that's why He sits at the Father's right hand.  The suffering on the cross was so much more than the physical torture - it was bearing the wrath of God.  If Jesus continues to suffer when we sin (a Catholic teaching), then He could not be in the presence of His Father right now, as our sin would not be allowed in the presence of a Holy God.  No, His salvation work is complete - His death and sacrifice was sufficient - it is enough.

Back to the cross - I am not going to be legalistic and say it is sin to have a crucifix. There are much greater battles to fight.  But we need to be informed about where our imagery in the church comes from and understand the theology that is behind it.

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