Christmas Mashup

Well, it’s that time of year again. I feel like I’m pretty much alone on this issue so “why not give up?” I ask myself.

I dunno.

Maybe I will.

Maybe we shouldn’t base our faith on scripture alone?

Maybe some tradition is good?

Maybe a lot of tradition is not only good but needful?

Maybe tradition is safe guard?

Maybe I’m just messin’ with ya…lol

Yours in the Lord,

jm

“WE HAVE NO superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority.” – Spurgeon

Everyone Loves Christmas!scrooge-1
The Christmas festival is the celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God. It is occupied, therefore, with the event which forms the centre and turning-point of the history of the world. It is of all the festivals the one most thoroughly interwoven with the popular and family life, and stands at the head of the great feasts in the Western church year. It continues to be, in the entire Catholic world and in the greater part of Protestant Christendom, the grand jubilee of children, on which innumerable gifts celebrate the infinite love of God in the gift of his only-begotten Son. It kindles in mid-winter a holy fire of love and gratitude, and preaches in the longest night the rising of the Sun of life and the glory of the Lord. It denotes the advent of the true golden age, of the freedom and equality of all the redeemed before God and in God. No one can measure the joy and blessing which from year to year flow forth upon all ages of life from the contemplation of the holy child Jesus in his heavenly innocence and divine humility.

Johnny Come Lately:
…the festival of the birth of the Lord is of comparatively late institution. This may doubtless be accounted for in the following manner:

In the first place, no corresponding festival was presented by the Old Testament, as in the case of Easter and Pentecost.

In the second place, the day and month of the birth of Christ are nowhere stated in the gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined.

Again: the church lingered first of all about the death and resurrection of Christ, the completed fact of redemption, and made this the center of the weekly worship and the church year.

Finally: the earlier feast of Epiphany afforded a substitute. The artistic religious impulse, however, which produced the whole church year, must sooner or later have called into existence a festival which forms the groundwork of all other annual festivals in honor of Christ.

The feast of Epiphany had spread from the East to the West. The feast of Christmas took the opposite course. We find it first in Rome, in the time of the bishop Liberius, who on the twenty-fifth of December, 360…

(“The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” John Calvin, Institutes, 1.XI.8)

Christmas was introduced in Antioch about the year 380; in Alexandria, where the feast of Epiphany was celebrated as the nativity of Christ, not till about 430. Chrysostom, who delivered the Christmas homily in Antioch on the 25th of December, 386, already calls it, notwithstanding its recent introduction (some ten years before), the fundamental feast, or the root, from which all other Christian festivals grow forth.

Of Pagan Origin: 
The Christmas festival was probably the Christian transformation or regeneration of a series of kindred heathen festivals—the Saturnalia, Sigillaria, Juvenalia, and Brumalia—which were kept in Rome in the month of December, in commemoration of the golden age of universal freedom and equality, and in honor of the unconquered sun, and which were great holidays, especially for slaves and children. (Schaff’s footnote: The Satumalia were the feast of Saturn or Kronos, in representation of the golden days of his reign, when all labor ceased, prisoners were set free, slaves went about in gentlemen’s clothes and in the hat (the mark of a freeman), and all classes gave themselves up to mirth and rejoicing. The Sigillaria were a festival of images and puppets at the close of the Saturnalia on the 21st and 22d of December, when miniature images of the gods, wax tapers, and all sorts of articles of beauty and luxury were distributed to children and among kinsfolk. The Brumalia, from bruma (brevissima, the shortest day), had reference to the winter solstice, and the return of the Sol invictus.)

The OG Festival: All About the Incarnation
The feast of Epiphany on the contrary, on the sixth of January, is older… It refers in general to the manifestation of Christ in the world, and originally bore the twofold character of a celebration of the birth and the baptism of Jesus. After the introduction of Christmas, it lost its reference to the birth. The Eastern church commemorated on this day especially the baptism of Christ, or the manifestation of His Messiahship, and together with this the first manifestation of His miraculous power at the marriage at Cana. The Westem church, more Gentle-Christian in its origin, gave this festival, after the fourth century, a special reference to the adoration of the infant Jesus by the wise men from the east, under the name of the feast of the Three Kings, and transformed it into a festival of Genthe missions; considering the wise men as the representatives of the nobler heathen world. Thus at the same time the original connection of the feast with the birth of Christ was preserved. Epiphany forms the close of the Christmas Cycle. It was an early custom to announce the term of the Easter observance on the day of Epiphany by the so-called Epistolae paschales, or gravmmata pascavlia. This was done especially by the bishop of Alexandria, where astronomy most flourished, and the occasion was improved for edifying instructions and for the discussion of important religious questions of the day.

Does Romans 14 give us a defense for keeping Christmas? I’ve seen v.5 cited often as a general defense for the keeping of holy days.

It reads;

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

Well folks, I don’t believe it applies to Christmas, just read the passage in context. The passage is speaking to the church at Rome made up of Jewish converts and Gentiles. Some wanted to keep old Mosaic holy days while other did not.

Gill explains this passage is;

“not to be understood of days appointed by the Christian churches for fasting, or abstinence from certain meats, either once a year, as the “Quadragesima”, or Lent; or twice a week, as Wednesdays and Fridays; for these are things of much later observation, and which had never been introduced into the church of Rome in the apostle’s time; nor were there any disputes about them: much less of days of Heathenish observation, as lucky or unlucky, or festivals in honour of their gods; for the apostle would never say, that a man who regarded such a day, regarded it to the Lord; nor would have advised to a coalition and Christian conversation with such a man, but rather to exclude him from all society and communion:”

If Paul isn’t defending Christian liberty to make up and keep holy days what is his point?

“it must be understood of Jewish days, or of such as were appointed to be observed by the Jews under the former dispensation, and which some thought were still to be regarded; wherefore they esteemed some days in the year above others, as the days of unleavened bread, or the passover; particularly the first night, which was a night to be observed throughout their generations; and in their service for it to this day”

Ahh, that makes sense. Gill continues;

“but let it be observed, that the man that did so was one that was weak in faith; the same man that ate herbs, because he would not be guilty of violating those laws, which ordered a distinction of meats to be observed, the same weak man esteemed one day above another, imagining the laws concerning the distinction of days were still obligatory, not rightly understanding the doctrine of Christian liberty, or freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law”

The context of Romans 14 doesn’t support the introduction of unbiblical holy days. It just doesn’t.

I don’t believe ‘keeping Christ in Christmas’ will sanctify the day.

Don’t get me wrong, celebrate Christmas any way you like, I would never prevent you from doing so…I just don’t see a biblical reason for the celebration.

The Puritans didn’t either.

They went a step further and had it banned because of the open drunkenness and debauchery that attended the celebration. The Puritans were wrong for trying to ban Christmas. I wouldn’t ban the ‘holiday.’ (I also wouldn’t ban a gay pride parade, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa…I just don’t want tax dollars funding them.)

Christmas is one of our cultural traditions that I will participate in, just like Thanksgiving, but not because I am a Christian or because I believe it is a Christian Holy Day.

Keep a holy day if you like its up to you.

Gill on Christ’s Mass:

It directs to the observation of several fasts and festivals, which are no where enjoined in the word of God, and for which it provides collects, gospels and epistles to be read: the fasts are, Quadragesima or Lent, in imitation of Christ’s forty days fast in the wilderness, Ember weeks, Rogatian days, and all the Fridays in the year; in which men are commanded to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving. The festivals, besides, the principal ones, Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide, are the several saints days throughout the year; which are all of popish invention, and are either moveable or fixed, as the popish festivals be; and being the relics of popery makes us still more uneasy and dissatisfied with them.

Source: The Dissenter’s Reasons for Separating from the Church of England, Occasioned By A Letter wrote by a Welch Clergyman on the Duty of Catechizing Children. Intended chiefly for the Dissenters of the Baptist Denomination in Wales.

“Festival days, vulgarly called holy-days, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued.” Westminster Assembly, martinDirectory for Publick Worship (1645)

Albert N. Martin is a straight shooter. In a series on Christmas he outlines the history of the practice in connection with Christian liberty. It was a blessing for me personally and wanted to share it with others who may struggle to avoid keeping days, etc.
Christmas and the Christian 01
Christmas and the Christian 02
Christmas and the Christian 03
Christmas and the Christian 04
Christmas Liberty 01
Christmas Liberty 02
Christmas Liberty 03

Do Demons Love Christmas?

 

krampus

Friends on facebook have already started posting pictures of ChristmasTrees! Oh, well. Christmas is my favorite secular holiday, you will not find me “keeping Christ in Christmas” (He was never there in the first place) but enjoying this secular holiday with friends and family.

“The Demons it may be would once or twice in a Week trouble her for a few minutes with perhaps a twisting and a twinkling of her eyes, or a certain Cough which did seem to be more than ordinary. Moreover, Both she at my house, and her Sister at home, at the time which they call Christmas, were by the Demons made very drunk, though they had no strong Drink (as we are fully sure) to make them so. When she began to feel her self thus drunk, she complained, “O they say they will have me to keep Christmas with them! They will disgrace me when they can do nothing else!” And immediately the Ridiculous Behaviours of one drunk were with a wonderful exactness represented in her Speaking, and Reeling, and Spewing, and anon Sleeping, till she was well again. But the Vexations of the Children otherwise abated continually. They first came to be always Quiet, unless upon Provocations. Then they got Liberty to work, but not to read: then further on, to read, but not aloud, at last they were wholly delivered; and for many Weeks remained so” (Cotton Mather, Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions (1689).

Sure, Mather may have been a little extreme, maybe. But isn’t it extreme the way people celebrate Christ’s Mass?

Is the Keeping of Christmas Pleasing to the Lord?

IS THE KEEPING OF CHRISTMAS PLEASING TO THE LORD?
by Robert D. Gracey (1935)

Christmas, a name that has lost its one-time charm!

Years ago when we were children, Christmas was to us a name associated with the purest joys of earth. It stood for giving and forgiving, for love, self-sacrifice and neighbourliness. Even the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, held no charm like December 25th. Such as they were, there were always enough little gifts to go round the large family circle. And, literally, the day was scarcely over before we were laying plans for the next year’s happy family reunion and celebration.

• The Reproach of Being Different

We do not keep Christmas now. It was a terrible wrench to give it up. But, thank God, there are many others who are prepared to share the reproach of being different to the majority of those about them; who are willing to forego the popularity which might be theirs by simply joining in the popular enjoyments of the times; who place faithfulness to Christ in His absence before personal pleasure.

The Scriptures say nothing about the disciples of the Lord Jesus celebrating the anniversary of His birth. On the other hand, there are many references to the commemoration of His death, the Breaking of Bread, which was evidently to take place on the first day of each week. See Luke 22: 19-20; 1 Cor. 11: 23-26; Acts 20: 7.

Like many other things which affect people generally and which have more or less of a connection with Christianity, the kindly sentiment and activities connected with Christmas-keeping have doubtless had a softening effect upon this Godless world. But think how this ostensibly religious festival has become commercialized! Theatres, restaurants, stores and business concerns generally, have come to depend upon it annually as a source of revenue. True, it is still to many sincere persons a time of family reunion and of simple, natural pleasures,
but can any true lover of the crucified Saviour, the rejected Son of God, afford to overlook how He must regard these annual celebrations which bear His holy Name?

• The World’s Idea of a ‘Merry’ Time

As another has pointed out, if on the occasion of celebrating the birthday of a dead patriot one were to arise and eulogize him feelingly in well-chosen terms, those gathered in his memory would be delighted. Alas, how different it would be if a lover of the Lord Jesus Christ were to stand up in any one of most of the Christmas Day gatherings large or small and tell out in simple, heartfelt language the story of the humble circumstances of His miraculous birth; of His pathway of untiring service, yet of rejection, culminating in His vicarious death on Calvary’s cross; of His burial, resurrection and ascension and of the glorious prospect of His soon coming to take those who love Him to be forever with Himself.

Who would hesitate to admit that such a theme, even on Christmas Day, is not the world’s idea of a ‘merry’ time? To venture to tell of the Saviour’s dying love of His hatred of sin yet compassion for sinners, and of His holy perfections so delightful to the heart of God, would indeed be inappropriate and unwelcome in the great majority of Christmas Day parties or audiences.

• Objections

‘But’, says a fellow-Christian, ‘what you have said so far does not apply to my case at all. The fact that so many leave the Lord Himself out of their Christmas Day activities does not mean that everybody leaves Him out.

‘For me the Day is filled with thoughts of His lowly birth, of the visit of the magi who brought Him gifts of “gold, and frankincense and myrrh”.’

‘The family reunions, the renewing of friendships by means of greeting cards and visits, as well as the providing of food and other presents for the poor, are joys connected with Christmas that are almost sacred.’

‘In fact, I hold the Day itself so sacred that I would give up my position rather than consent to work on December 25th! ‘

• God is Calling Attention to Death of Christ

That is all quite understandable. No doubt your convictions and feelings are perfectly honest and sincere. Your motives too may be the best. But our convictions and feelings and motives, even at their best, are an unreliable guide in themselves. Cain’s motives may have been good enough when he thought to give an offering of the fruit of the ground, but his offering nevertheless was not acceptable to God. The important thing was not Cain’s intention, but God’s requirement what would be pleasing to Him.

Cain’s offering overlooked the necessity of blood-shedding; Abel’s, on the other hand, gave evidence that he valued in type the death of Christ, so he offered a lamb; and it says that “The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect”.

Surely no lover of the Lord Jesus who reads his or her Bible prayerfully and in dependence upon the Spirit of God, can fail to see that God is calling special attention to the death of Christ rather than to His birth.

• A Device of Satan

Not only does the word of God make no request of us to commemorate the Lord’s birth, but, as we have already noted, it gives no intimation that the earliest disciples marked its anniversary. Nor does Scripture indicate the exact date of His birth.

Turning to accredited encyclopedias – e.g., Encyclopedia Britannica – we find the speculation as to the probable date ranged in early centuries from January 6, March 28, April 19 or 20, May 20, November 17 to December 25th! December 25th was evidently a day originally connected with sun-worship. My own suspicion is that Christmas-keeping was a device of Satan – who according to 2 Corinthians 11: 14 is transformed into an angel of light with a view to creating a place where Christian and unconverted might eventually meet on common ground in the Name of the Lord Jesus. If my suspicion is correct, Satan’s plan would seem to have proved to be one of his masterpieces, for Christmas calls supreme attention to the birth of Jesus whereas it is unmistakably evident from the Scriptures that God would have us constantly engaged with the efficacy of His atoning death.

Commemorating the Lord’s death involves reproach, which is true Christian ground. Heb. 13: 13. Commemorating a day which is generally accepted as His birthday involves no reproach whatever; on the contrary, to fail to keep it is sure to cause misunderstanding and reproach.
Evidently, therefore, not to keep the Day as the masses do is consistent for those who “esteem the reproach of Christ”, Heb. 11: 26.

• Three Questions

To those therefore who are really concerned as to whether or not they should ‘keep Christmas’, I would commend prayerful consideration of three questions:

Do I keep Christmas to please myself?
Do I keep it to please others?
Do I keep it to please the Lord?

The beloved Apostle Paul indicated that he felt the need of such concern as to matters in his own life, for he says in writing to the Corinthians: “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him”, 2 Cor. 5: 9. Of the Lord Jesus it says that He “pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me”, Romans 15: 3.

I am persuaded that in the face of the word of Scripture, of history and of present-day conditions, the question of Christmas-keeping will not be a difficult one for the Christian whose honest concern in life is to be pleasing to the Lord.

R.D.G.
Westfield, N.J., December 7, 1935

The Origin of Christmas

More reading from my fav Dispensationalist. (at least he was a Calvinist)

THE ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS
by J. N. Darby

The church gives a yearly round of fasts and festivals, so that mere outward events may be before the mind without any dealing of God with the individual soul …

Scripture says, “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe”; but this foolishness of God dealing with the individual does not please the wisdom of the church. It has its own way of doing it. It keeps days, and months, and years. They turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which they desire again to be in bondage.

“I am afraid of you”, says the apostle. It was, he tells us, going back to heathenism … except Easter, which was the Jewish Passover, and Pentecost, and perhaps some more recently added saints’ days, the church festivals were deliberately and formally added from heathenism. Christians, so-called, would have festivals, and they tacked on Christian names to heathen ones.

The great Augustine informs us that “the church” did it, that if they would get drunk – which they did even in the churches – they should do do in honour of saints, not of demons. One of the Gregorys was famous for this, and left only seventeen heathen in his dioceses by means of it. And another Gregory, sending another Augustine to England, directed him not to destroy the idol temples, but to turn them into churches; and as the heathen were accustomed to have an anniversary festival to their god, to replace it by one to a saint.

It was thus Europe, Africa, and Asia Minor as least were Christianised. Sicily, which in spite of all efforts had remained heathen, as soon as it was decided that Mary was the mother of God at what I must call the disgraceful and infamous general council of Ephesus, gave up all her temples and churches. It was as easy to worship the mother of God as the mother of the gods. But everywhere drunkeness in honour of the saints, and even in the churches, took the place of drunkeness in honour of demigods, the great Augustine and other fathers bearing witness.

Such were the festal anniversaries.

Christmas having been – and it is still celebrated in heathen countries – the worst of heathen festivals, to celebrate the return of the sun from the winter solstice, without a pretence that Christ was born that day, but as they could not stop the revelry, they put Christ’s birth there. Such, in real fact, is the church’s celebration of anniversaries and saints’ days. This is certain, that the apostle declares that it was a return to heathenism, so that he was afraid his labour was in vain – avowedly turning the great and mighty parts of Christianity, by which God acted upon souls, to bring them into blessed and divinely-wrought relationship with Himself, individually and collectively, into certain outward events, or outward facts, and exclusively to their announcement as occurring at particular times. “I am afraid of you”.

In result the gospel is founded on a series of mighty and divine facts, by which, through the foolishness of preaching, God, in the power of the Holy Ghost, does act on individual souls for salvation, and gather them into one. The church system makes of them a set of outward events, historically remembered by anniversaries.

J.N.D.
Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, 29: 330-32

 

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Cathar Pater Noster

Cathar Pater Noster Prayer

A candidate seeking admission into the Cathar church would knee before the Elder and repeat the Lord’s Pray phrase by phrase following the Elder’s lead.

Our father, which art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our supersubstantial bread,
And remit our debts as we forgive our debtors.

And keep us from temptation and free us from evil.
Thine is the kingdom, the power and glory for ever and ever.
Amen.

Pater noster qui es in celis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum;
adveniat regnum tuum.
Fiat voluntas tua sicut in celo et in terra.
Panem nostrum supersubstancialem da nobis hodie.
Et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
Et ne nos inducas in temptationem sed libera nos a malo.
Quoniam tuum est regnum et virtus et gloria in secula.
Amen.

Verse 11. – Give us this day our daily bread τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον Here begin the petitions for our personal needs. The first is for earthly food, the means of maintaining our earthly life. For “in order to serve God it is first of all necessary that we live” (Godet, on Luke). Give us. The order in the Greek emphasizes not God’s grace in giving, but the thing asked for. This day. Parallel passage: Luke 11:3, “day by day (τὸ καθ ἡμέραν).” The thought suggested there, of continuance in the supply, is seen also in the verb (δίδου). Daily (ἐπιούσιον); and so Luke (compare especially the classical appendix in Bishop Lightfoot’s ‘Revision,’ etc., pp. 195, etc., and Chase, loc. cit.). It will be sufficient to do little more than indicate the chief lines of proposed derivations and interpretations of this ἅπαξ λεγόμενον.

(1) Ἐπὶ οὐσία

(a) physical, “for subsistence,” sufficient or necessary to sustain us;”

(b) spiritual, “for our essential being” (cf. Jerome’s rendering with a literalism that recalls the rabbis, super-substantially.

(2) Ἐπὶ εἰμί “to be,” “bread which is ready at hand or suffices” (similarly Delitzsch, in Thayer, s.v.). The chief and fatal objection to both

(1) and

(2) is that the form would be ἐπούσιος (cf. especially Lightfoot. loc. cit., p. 201).

(3) Ἐπι εϊμι, “to come;”

(a) with direct reference to “bread” – our “successive,” “continual,” “ever-coming” bread (so the Old Syriac, and partly the Egyptian versions), that which comes as each supply is required; the prayer then meaning, “Our bread as it is needed give us to-day” (so apparently Dr. Taylor, ‘Sayings,’ etc., p. 140); (b) derived mediately from ἐπιοῦσα σξ. ἡμέρα (cf. Acts 16:11; 20:15; 21:18), “bread for the coming day,” i.e. the same day, if the prayer be said in the morning; the next day if it be said in the evening (so Bishop Lightfoot). Between (3) (a) and (3) (b) it is very difficult to decide. Against (a) is the fact that it is hard to say why the common form ejpi>onta would not have served; against (b), while the use of the word is perfectly consistent with casting all care upon God for to-morrow (Matthew 6:34), there still remains the fact that there is some tautology in saying, “Our bread for the coming day give us to-day,” or even the formula in the parallel passage in Luke, “Our bread for the coming day give us day by day.” On the whole, perhaps (3) (a) presents the least difficulties. Bread. It is very doubtful if to use this petition of spiritual food is anything more than a legitimate application (made, indeed, as early as the ‘Didache,’ § 10.) of words which in themselves refer only to material food (see further Chase, loc. cit.).

Source

Second Source

The Great Exchange

The Great Exchange and Forensic Justification in the Early Church Fathers

by Craig Truglia of Orthodox Christian Theology
The Great Exchange

Some Catholics and Eastern Orthodox like to say Martin Luther invented the concept of the “Great Exchange.” The Great Exchange, in short, teaches that Christ bore the punishment for our sins, thus satisfying God’s need for justice, but at the same time credited us Christ’s righteousness.

A graphic representation of what 2 Cor 5:21 amongst other Scriptures teaches about the Great Exchange.

The Scripture is abundantly clear that Chris bore the penalty for our sins:

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed (Is 53:7).

My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities (Is 53:11).

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors (Is 53:12).

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Col 3:13, 14).

To doubt that Christ bore our iniquities and paid their penalty on the cross, is in my mind, is completely unthinkable. Being that there are Catholic apologists that for whatever reason reject this plain statement of fact, my response to them is that this is not an idea Luther invented.

The Epistle to Diognetus, written in the second century, understood the ramifications of Christ baring the burdens of our sins, if not also crediting us His righteousness:

He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors (Chapter 9)!

The underlined is where we may infer that the Epistle taught the positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness. However, because it is inferred it is not convincing to Catholics or Eastern Orthodox who find it hard to believe that unrighteous men like us can really be credited fully righteous as Christ.

It is not an idea that is explicit in the Scripture. We may infer it from passages that speak of us being “in Christ” and others such as Eph 5:31-32 which speak of the Church’s literal union with Christ. The idea is, if the Church (with its believers) are literally one with Christ, they my be accounted as righteous as Christ upon judgment.

Indeed, this is an interpretative stretch, but one that appears justified by 2 Cor 5:21 which states, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christians are not merely made righteous or credited as righteous in a theoretical sense, but really “become the righteousness” specifically “of God” and not their own, an “alien righteousness.”

Now, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox reject this for legitimate interpretive reasons, but also because of its ramifications. If believers are in union with Christ, and this happens upon faith in Christ, then good works wrought in holiness really do not make one more righteous in any way. Instead, it is Christ’s righteousness that really makes us righteous, not us conforming or doing something in accord with Christlikeness. Hence, we can be really unchristlike, but be accounted fully as righteous as Christ due to our union with Him.

This does not mean that by necessity all Christians achieve equal awards in heaven. The Scripture mitigates against this as does the interpreters of the early church, specifically Jerome in his letters against Jovanian.

However, it does mean that our justification is a completed act because of what Christ done, not an ongoing event. Our union with Christ does not increase in time, rather it gets consummated specifically upon Christ’s second coming.

This is why Protestants teach “Forensic Justification,” which in short means that justification is a completed and not a ongoing act. We simply can point to Scripture that uses the words “believed” and “justified” in the past tense to show that the event already occurred. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox accuse of of preaching a novelty. However, let our argument be based upon the Scripture and not tradition, because we are not the first to traditionally to espouse the idea. Cyril of Jerusalem writes:

Oh the great loving-kindness of God! For the righteous were many years in pleasing Him: but what they succeeded in gaining by many years of well-pleasing , this Jesus now bestows on you in a single hour. For if you shall believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, and shall be transported into Paradise by Him who brought in there the robber. And doubt not whether it is possible; for He who on this sacred Golgotha saved the robber after one single hour of belief, the same shall save you also on your believing (Catechetical Lecture 5, Chap 10).

Chrysostom concurs in his exegesis of Rom 3:26:

He does also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores of sin suddenly righteous. And it is to explain this, viz. what is declaring, that he has added, That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus. Doubt not then: for it is not of works, but of faith: and shun not the righteousness of God (Homily 7 on Romans).

Now, because all of this seems a great deal more theoretical than the negative imputation of our sins onto Christ, Catholics and Orthodox will accuse us Protestants of coming up with an innovation. I must respectfully disagree.

For one, Augustine interpreted 2 Cor 5:21 as teaching the positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness:

He does not say, as some incorrect copies read, He who knew no sin did sin for us, as if Christ had Himself sinned for our sakes; but he says, Him who knew no sin, that is, Christ, God, to whom we are to be reconciled, has made to be sin for us, that is, has made Him a sacrifice for our sins, by which we might be reconciled to God. He, then, being made sin, just as we are made righteousness (our righteousness being not our own, but God’s, not in ourselves, but in Him); He being made sin, not His own, but ours, not in Himself, but in us, showed, by the likeness of sinful flesh in which He was crucified, that though sin was not in Him, yet that in a certain sense He died to sin, by dying in the flesh which was the likeness of sin; and that although He Himself had never lived the old life of sin, yet by His resurrection He typified our new life springing up out of the old death in sin (Chapter 41, Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love).

Many Protestant interpreters like to say that Jesus Christ was fully obedient to the letter of the Jewish Law, henceforth fulfilling the Law and its righteous requirements on our behalf. Not all ECFs affirmed this idea, but Athanasius did and he writes specifically that it is this righteousness that is credited to the Church:

It is necessary therefore it is necessary to believe the Holy Scriptures to confess him who is the first fruit of us to celebrate the philanthropy of him who assumed our nature to be struck with wonder at the great dispensation to fear not the curse which is from the Law for Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law Hence the full accomplishment of the Law which was made through the first fruit must be imputed to the whole mass (Athan Synops Sacr Script lib vii in Epist ad Rom Oper vol ii p 125, see link here).

Jerome concurs:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law being made a curse for us Properly He was not under the curse because in all things He perfectly fulfilled the Law And therefore in the matter of debt our debt has been paid off by his curse so that He should set free from all obligation those who pass over to faith (Comment in Epist ad Galat iii, see link here).

Chrysostom also concurs, stating in his comments on Rom 8:4–

For the righteousness of the Law, that one should not become liable to its curse, Christ has accomplished for you.

Now there is more on the topic, but I think I have shown enough from both the Scriptures to justify Protestant doctrine and tradition to show that our doctrine is not an innovation. In fact, I would say that the burden of proof is on those that would teach that righteousness is infused into a believer and not a completed event:

An eternal rest remains to those who in the present life have wrestled legitimately which rest is given not according to the debt of works in way of just retribution but is bestowed to the grace of an abundantly bountiful God to who have hoped in Him(Basil, Homily on Psalm 104, see link here).

An eternal rest remains. It is a completed state, it is not a state that continues and grows over time. To God, the author and perfecter of our faith, be the glory forever. Amen.

 

How was it with Cornelius?

Law and gospel

How was it with Cornelius?

Cornelius and his friends whom he had invited over to his house, do nothing but sit and listen. Peter is doing the talking. They just sit and do nothing. The Law is far removed from their thoughts. They burn no sacrifices. They are not at all interested in circumcision. All they do is to sit and listen to Peter. Suddenly the Holy Ghost enters their hearts. His presence is unmistakable, “for they spoke with tongues and magnified God.”

Right here we have one more difference between the Law and the Gospel. The Law does not bring on the Holy Ghost. The Gospel, however, brings on the gift of the Holy Ghost, because it is the nature of the Gospel to convey good gifts. The Law and the Gospel are contrary ideas. They have contrary functions and purposes. To endow the Law with any capacity to produce righteousness is to plagiarize the Gospel. The Gospel brings donations. It pleads for open hands to take what is being offered. The Law has nothing to give. It demands, and its demands are impossible.

Our opponents come back at us with Cornelius. Cornelius, they point out, was “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people and prayed God always.” Because of these qualifications, he merited the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. So reason our opponents.

I answer: Cornelius was a Gentile. You cannot deny it. As a Gentile he was uncircumcised. As a Gentile he did not observe the Law. He never gave the Law any thought. For all that, he was justified and received the Holy Ghost. How can the Law avail anything unto righteousness?

Our opponents are not satisfied. They reply: “Granted that Cornelius was a Gentile and did not receive the Holy Ghost by the Law, yet the text plainly states that he was a devout man who feared God, gave alms, and prayed. Don’t you think he deserved the gift of the Holy Ghost?”

I answer: Cornelius had the faith of the fathers who were saved by faith in the Christ to come. If Cornelius had died before Christ, he would have been saved because he believed in the Christ to come. But because the Messiah had already come, Cornelius had to be apprized of the fact. Since Christ has come we cannot be saved by faith in the Christ to come, but we must believe that he has come. The object of Peter’s visit was to acquaint Cornelius with the fact that Christ was no longer to be looked for, because He is here.

As to the contention of our opponents that Cornelius deserved grace and the gift of the Holy Ghost, because he was devout and just, we say that these attributes are the characteristics of a spiritual person who already has faith in Christ, and not the characteristics of a Gentile or of natural man. Luke first praises Cornelius for being a devout and God-fearing man, and then Luke mentions the good works, the alms and prayers of Cornelius. Our opponents ignore the sequence of Luke’s words. They pounce on this one sentence, “which gave much alms to the people,” because it serves their assertion that merit precedes grace. The fact is that Cornelius gave alms and prayed to God because he had faith. And because of his faith in the Christ to come, Peter was delegated to preach unto Cornelius faith in the Christ who had already come. This argument is convincing enough. Cornelius was justified without the Law, therefore the Law cannot justify.

Martin Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians