The ring of faith holds the diamond of Christ.unknown
There are those who have a strong reaction to this term “Xmas”. The feeling is often as if Christ is being crossed out of the holiday. However, that is not what was is intended at all. It is rather a long-time used term too.
The X is actually the closest equivalent to the Greek chi character which, as you might have guessed, looks like an X. This is also the first letter in the Greek work for Christ (Χριστος). As such, a common short-hand for Christ was to simply write the Greek letter chi (Χ or χ).
So, Xmas is Christmas or, more specifically, Christos – mas.
But let us take one more moment to take a look at another component that often goes overlooked, the “mas” part. What does that refer to?
And we will address that in part 2 of Xmas . . .
- the promised and expected deliverer of the Jewish people.
- Jesus Christ, regarded by Christians as fulfilling this promise and expectation. John 4:25, 26.
- (usually lowercase) any expected deliverer.
- (usually lowercase) a zealous leader of some cause or project.
- (italics) an oratorio (1742) by George Frideric Handel.
c. 1300, Messias, from Late Latin Messias, from Greek Messias, from Aramaic (Semitic) meshiha and Hebrew mashiah “the anointed” (of the Lord), from mashah “anoint.”
This is the word rendered in Septuagint as Greek Khristos (see Christ). In Old Testament prophetic writing, it was used of an expected deliverer of the Jewish nation. The modern English form represents an attempt to make the word look more Hebrew, and dates from the Geneva Bible (1560). Transferred sense of “an expected liberator or savior of a captive people” is attested from 1660s.
Messiah has counterparts, as can be seen above, in Late, Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew. It is in the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament (OT) – that we see the related term from which we get Christ.
Regardless of which translation used, it remains a term that marks the deliverer, the anointed one foretold to come and save His people. As Christians, we know the Messiah to be Jesus. We call Jesus the Christ or Jesus Christ as this designates the same thing, the same truth about Jesus. The works of the New Testament (NT) were written in Greek which is why we see the term “Christ” so often whereas the OT commonly used “Messiah” as it was written in Hebrew.
Here is a great example of a term in which its accurate meaning becomes a little different from the common use. Let’s begin with the usual…
mid-14c., from Late Latin regenerationem (nominative regeneratio) “a being born again,” noun of action from past participle stem of Latin regenerare “make over, generate again,” from re- “again” (see re-) + generare “to produce” (see generation). Originally spiritual; of animal tissue, early 15c.; of forests, 1888.
Overall, there is a sense of “being made new” in this word. As suggested in the above etymonline.com entry, you could also use regeneration as a synonym for rebirth.
For those who are followers of “The Way” (aka original title for those later known as Christians), regeneration goes further.
It is a radical change.
You see, human beings have been corrupted by the curse of sin. This is why everything in us is tainted – even when we try to do good.
God is so holy (set apart) that we cannot even stand in His presence as we are. This is where regeneration comes in.
Regeneration is one of the elements that accompany a person’s salvation. By God’s grace, He regenerates us from our cursed state (gives us rebirth) such that we are thereby enabled to follow Him. Without God’s regeneration, we would continue to be lost in our corruption, left as rebels against Him.
It includes making us spiritually alive rather than being left in our dead state.
Regeneration is the beginning of preparation for each believer to one day be able to stand in God’s presence. …and it is all made possible through Christ!
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Stepping away from the “study of” terms we’ve had up to now, we get to the next term in the series – justification.
late 14c., “administration of justice,” from Late Latin iustificationem (nominative iustificatio), noun of action from past participle stem of iustificare “act justly toward; make just” (see justify). Meaning “action of justifying, showing something to be just or right” is from late 15c. Theological sense “act by which the soul is reconciled to God” is from 1520s. Meaning “act of adjusting or making exact” in typography is from 1670s.
Why would such a legal sounding term be involved with Christianity and the Bible?
To answer this we need to look no further than the books of Genesis and Romans. In Genesis, we have the record of the fall of man where the first humans committed the first sin against God. This cursed mankind with the corruption of sin which impacts us to this day. We stood condemned (in a legal sense) before a just God.
Justification is an important element. God is so holy that our good actions, thoughts, etc. are mere rags by comparison. God is so holy (set-apart) that many early followers feared they would die when in just a fraction of His presence. Our sinfulness has made us imperfect, corrupted beings and it is only through His light and truth that we know to be otherwise.
Christ’s work on the cross brought us salvation from our sin. Any who truly believe in Him can be saved from their sin and no longer face condemnation, thereby becoming justified before God – accounted just. This status is brought to us by Christ alone.
Two chapters come to mind from Romans that specifically talk about justification. These are Romans 4 and 5. Three particular verses would be Romans 4:25 ; 5:16 & 18. These would be a good place to start for further reading and study.
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Merry Christmas to all my readers and your families!
Enjoy this time spent with family and remember the greatest gift we could be given was given to us by God in the birth of His Son!
I’ll get back to regular posts next weekend.
There are many subcategories or areas of study within theology – each with their own names. You will be seeing these as we progress through this series.
For now, I want to zero in on an issue that some quibble over on the topic and that is in regards to division.
Theological differences have created splits throughout redemptive history. In fact, they have been going on since before Christ came and God’s followers began to be called Christians. The question at the heart here – was this division bad/wrong?
There are those today who see arguments made in regards to theology, see the divisions or lines in the sand drawn, and then proceed to over-react and label anyone standing staunchly on a particular theological position as effectively in the wrong or the downfall of the faith.
Their concern isn’t completely unfounded, sadly, as there are those who like to “major on the minors” as we say and will break fellowship with other believers over the tiniest differences of position. We do need to be aware of our limited-ness as created finite beings; however, this does not mean that God made us incapable of understanding any of His truth.
In fact, there are those from within the ranks of Christ and from without that have a false notion that theology is therefore bad because of their experiences with individuals who did as I’ve described. They are right to be concerned and to point out that there is a problem but their conclusion misses the mark.
Division is NOT the enemy here. Confused?
Christ said of Himself that “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one can come to the Father except through me”. Jesus isn’t mincing words here. He makes it quite clear that there is only one right path that it is through Him. There are NO other ways. As such, a natural division forms – those who come to the Father through Christ and those who do not. In other words, there are two groups of people – those in the Lord, His followers, and those who believe they have a different way commonly referred to as unbelievers.
This is a very simple theology that is quite plain in the Scriptures and it is clear that God is making a division. What’s more, many of the divisions that have occurred within Christendom were the result of heresies – refusals to submit to God’s revealed truth as found in Scripture.
So does theology divide? You bet!
Is it supposed to divide? Again, absolutely!
The people who start shunning theology, as a result, are making a theological stance to avoid anything potentially divisive and the truly sad thing is they commonly take it to the point of denying Scripture or saying they cannot definitively know. Not much of a faith at that point as they can no longer truly stand on anything. Granted there are those who will try but their logic is self-defeating. Either they’ll inevitably drop their claimed position under God or they will come to see their error and begin standing on God’s truth. …or worse they’ll try to insist on falsehoods and call it God’s truth – heresy.
So in summation & to finish:
- We shouldn’t make the minor topics of Scripture into major points of contention such that we break fellowship with one another. (I do recognize that this can be difficult as some will argue over what is minor & major)
- We engage in theology (the study of God) as we learn more about Him. You are either doing this or you are not; you are either learning truth or falsehood.
- Christ Himself divides the world – division is an intent here. Don’t take my word for it. Check out the following: John 14:6, Hebrews 4:12, Matthew 10:34, Revelation 1:16…
- We should be patient with one another as we grow in our understanding of God and the faith. We are all of us on a journey before God. When in error we need to be willing to lovingly direct the one in error.
- There should be division where people or individuals insist on standing with any view that disregards God’s revealed Word to us found in Scripture.
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Theology is commonly defined as the study of God.
[mid-14c., “the science of religion, study of God and his relationship to humanity,” from Old French theologie “philosophical study of Christian doctrine; Scripture” (14c.), from Latin theologia, from Greek theologia “an account of the gods,” from theologos “one discoursing on the gods,” from theos “god” (from PIE root *dhes-, forming words for religious concepts) + -logos “treating of” (see -logy). Meaning “a particular system of theology” is from 1660s.] https://www.etymonline.com/word/theology
Why do we (particularly as Christians) study God?
- We study Him to approve ourselves to God (2 Timothy 2:15). This includes coming to know more about God. This action reflects a valuing of Him in our lives and is another way we bring God glory.
- We study God to stand for our faith. We cannot live our faith or even point others to it without first studying to understand Him and the basis of our faith more. We study to become more transformed into the likeness of His son, Jesus Christ.
- We study for the ultimate reason – to point others to God. This is all the more clear when reading in the Gospels, the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:16-20) It is God’s intent to spread His truth to those who would follow Him.
Some writers of the faith may add more to this list, but to me, this is a good start as many of the things we will be looking at going forward (including the follow-up to this post) will effectively be looking at subcategories within the realm of theology.
Note: this is the first in a series – “-ologies & Key Terms“. The first post was broken into two pieces – the first laying the groundwork and the next digging a little deeper into a key question regarding division.
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There are a number of items the reformers diverged on from the Roman Catholic Church. Two of the key points made by not just Martin Luther would be the topics of indulgences and salvation.
For those who do not know: indulgences are grants made by the pope that people can then buy in order to reduce their time to spend in purgatory – a time decided by the weight of the individual’s sin.
Now, there’s a few problems with this. One of those being the many abuses of indulgences in the times before and during Martin Luther’s time. It was effectively used for whatever the Catholic Church wanted which even they will admit today was abused in those times. Interestingly though, the Catholic church still defends the use of indulgences as they see it producing a beneficial effect when not abused.
Another point of contention is found in what it depends on – this idea of purgatory and that the pope has power enough over it to grant these pieces of paper known as indulgences.
The pope has always claimed to be the “vicar of Christ” and thereby said to claim such spiritual authority. The issue: the arguments for this claim are shaky at best. We’ll touch on this more under the Salvation dispute next.
Purgatory, which is this place in between this life and the next involving excruciating waiting times before one day reaching heaven, quite simply has no biblical support. In fact, this is just one reason for why the Roman Catholic church declared the books known as the Apocrypha as part of the bible later – to attempt to have “scriptural” basis to argue for purgatory. Even with this move, I personally (as well as many others) question the argument to be made for purgatory as even the apocryphal literature is vague at best on even the idea – and this is coming from a person who’s actually read the Apocrypha.
So in summation: purgatory doesn’t even exist so the pope’s claims in regards to it go nowhere. I do not provide Scriptural references here because they simply do not exist that would truly support the idea of purgatory.
To be more specific, I am talking about salvation in relation to the Church.
Now, indulgences were a point of corruption that the Catholic church earned a lot of ire about from numerous people, not just Martin Luther and major reformers like him. Even with that in mind, it was the claims about salvation that truly began to draw a line in the sand.
Keep in mind that reformers like Martin Luther never had the original intent to separate from the Roman Catholic church. In fact, they were trying to point out abuses and doctrinal errors in order to have them debated and corrected. The Catholic church though was a world power that effectively had positioned itself as the controlling element in your soul’s existence after death.
So how did this change?
In Martin’s 95 theses, he laid out the case made in Romans about justification by grace alone. In other words, we are not declared righteous by any means of the Catholic church before God but by God’s grace first transforming us alone. This is often referred to as God’s regeneration in us to a state that we can respond to him in faith and it was all brought about by God’s grace – Sola Gratia (one of the 5 Solas of the Protestant Reformation).
What’s more is that all of this was discovered by simply reading and studying the Scriptures, something the Catholic church discouraged by limiting translations and putting the pope as the top interpreter. With the authority of Scripture put back at the center of the faith by reformers and the realization of the work of God’s grace, the other 3 solas of the Protestant Reformation naturally came and dismantled the Roman Catholic’s authority over one’s standing before God – I’m talking about salvation.
God’s grace (by grace alone) is what regenerates you to faith (by faith alone). This faith is not whimsical but is in an actual person who was dead, buried, and raised to life thereby conquering death (through Christ alone). We see this in God’s word, the Bible (by Scripture alone). Ultimately, it all brings glory to God and His awesomeness (glory to God alone).
We are effectively saved by God and His power and no others. We do not need the Catholic church to be saved.
With all this in mind, it is no wonder at all that the balance of power in Europe became forever changed. Not even the rulers of the day had to any longer grovel before the pope for their eternal life but only had to turn to God Himself. Granted, there were plenty of leaders who abused this change to their own ends and the conflicts of the time are the result. Even so, Christianity has never been the same since!
I praise God for the Protestant Reformation brought through the reformers He raised up so that we may know the truth of His Word!
For additional reading:
Hope you guys enjoyed the article. I apologize as it was delayed from my originally intended post of Sunday/Monday but I ran into some serious car trouble. Thankfully, it is resolving itself now. I enjoy writing these posts and look forward to the posts to come. The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is still on the way!