- Read Colossians 1:15-23 here.
- If you missed Sunday’s sermon (6 June), you can listen to it here.
- Follow the rest of this discussion here.
I stumbled across an article in the May 2010 Gospel Advocate with the title “Losing Our Distinctiveness” that expressed concern that Churches of Christ are blending in with other churches/denominations and losing our distinctive attitudes, beliefs, and customs. There’s obviously a lot that could be, and has been, said on that topic. I find it more concerning that long-time CoC members can probably defend weekly Lord’s Supper more quickly and thoroughly than they can define “justification”. The Bible contains no biblical teaching on the former topic while numerous times the NT calls Christians “justified” and discusses “justification”. I believe we should worry more about our relationship with Christ than our relationship with other churches in the community.
That little exercise on the soap box brings me to the next thesis our series “The Church OF Christ”. The Church OF Christ should understand the cross of Christ.
At it’s core, the crucifixion of Christ fits into a simple story. Sin separates us from God. We deserve punishment. In death the sinless Jesus was punished on our behalf, allowing God to forgive us and restoring our relationship with him.
But this simple story raises more questions than it answers…
- Why does sin separate us from God?
- Why did Jesus have to die?
- Why did his blood have to be shed?
- What’s the big deal with sacrifices?
- Was Jesus really sinless?
- Was Jesus really God?
- How could Jesus really take on everyone’s sin throughout time? That seems to much for one person.
…and suddenly it’s not such a simple story. Acknowledging the complexity of the cross equips us to study and understand it further.
I’m indebted to Theology for the Community of God by Stanley J. Grenz for prompting me to construct a little chart of Four Perspectives on the Cross. Even in my simple story I use competing imagery. Does sin separate me from God? Does sin make me guilty before God? Yes, and Yes. Separation and guilt may take place at the same time, but they’re not the same thing. They’re two separate threads in the same cord. Yet often we fail to distinguish and understand them.
Recognising these perspectives allows us to present the Gospel in different ways, to connect with people at different points of life.
Relational: Someone feeling alone and isolated may connect best with the message that in the person of Jesus and through the cross, God reached out to establish relationship with us.
Legal: A person living a rebellious lifestyle may need to confront the eternal consequences of their sin, and then respond to the pardon available because of Christ’s sacrifice.
Cosmic: People who feel that their life is out of control, enslaved by Satan, sin, health, habits, relationships, etc. may find hope and courage knowing that Jesus’ death brings freedom for them.
Moral: In a “get mine” culture, people seeking a higher ethic can hopefully understand that the death of Christ imposes a “love others” ethic upon his followers. Without his example Christians have no motivation to pursue goals that differ from broader society.
So now it’s your turn.
- Do you agree that these are different perspectives, or am I splitting hairs?
- Are any of these perspectives more important than another?
- Do you relate to one of these perspectives more than another?
- Are there other ways of viewing the cross that should be included in the discussion?