Friday, April 15, 2016

Chrysostom and 21st century Christians

After considering Chysostom's words again, it is apparent that context would have been helpful.  One glaring omission in the quote, as short as it is, is Jesus Christ.

Many Christians today (and even a large number of non-Christians) would agree with Chrysostom's words as they are written.  Why are we saved?  Because we are beloved by God.  In other words, just because God loves us.

Apparently, that means God either does not pay attention to our sins, or ignores them, or never was really bothered by them to begin with.  It means that there is no reason to repent, no need to turn from wickedness, and no point in pursuing godly living.  It means that the Ten Commandments are a farce, and God was kidding about his judgment and his wrath.  It means that we don't have to take God seriously at all -- except when he tells us that he loves us.  Even though we can laugh off everything else God says and does, we firmly believe that we will go to heaven because God--whom we would not take seriously in any other aspect--loves us.

This is what you are left with if Jesus Christ is removed from the picture--a god who is neither to be feared or taken seriously, and yet whom we expect will give us a place in heaven and who loves us.  Does this seem contradictory yet?

Therefore, Jesus Christ is absolutely essential to God's love for us.  Jesus is the one who reveals God's love to us.  God is serious with his Commandments, and he promises (not merely threatens -- God issues no empty threats) hellish torment to any who do not keep his Commandments.  But God also sent Jesus Christ to fulfill and obey all of the Commandments for us.  Then Jesus credits us with the work he did.  We are credited with work we did not do -- "not by laboring and sweating."

Then Jesus Christ made himself sin and a curse for us.  He bore our sin and its consequent punishment.  He endured the hellish torment at the cross.  He suffered and died the cursed death so that our death will not be cursed.  We are saved by Jesus' sufferings and death -- "not by fatigue and suffering."

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)  This is what Chrysostom was preaching about.  But when Jesus is left out, whether in a short quotation or in an entire sermon, God's love is at best in doubt or at worst not to be taken seriously.  Only in Christ are these things sure.

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