Adopted as Sons through
The Crucified-Christ and the Promise-Spirit
(This is an excerpt from the message I preached on March 23, 2014 on the Amharic Service. I summarized and added few reflections that I couldn’t because I exceeded the time allotted)
If every one of us gets the “megaphone”, we all have our own opinions as to how transformation could come about in the church of the living Christ. How can we grow in faith? How can we be transformed? How can we receive power? etc… However, we should note that the answer we give could be commending or condemning. I have not noticed that until I see the seriousness of the matter being dealt by Paul the apostle in the book of Galatians. A group known as the circumcision-party (Gal 2: 12) who prized themselves as having an inside track with the God of Israel, whom these gentile Christians come to call their God, announced that gentile Christians must receive the old mark of being part of the people of God, which Paul calls “the works of the Law”. These are keeping food laws, circumcision and observance of days. Paul affirms that faith building and life transforming message is the proclamation of the gospel that has a crucified-Christ at its center. This is the very offense of the Gospel. Paul repeatedly claims that his proclamation of the gospel is true to the core because, unlike others, he kept the crux, the stigma, the offense and the foolishness of the message that simply bring two competing, unparalleled, contradicting, paradoxical and oxymoron statements.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
To the Gentiles….
Believing in a crucified Christ, for the gentiles, is foolishness; because such statement is equivalent of saying “waterless-ocean”, depthless-depth, Fireless-fire. It makes no sense. It is like leaving in someone’s voice-mail “if you don’t get this massage call me!? This makes no sense. I would not possible know to call you if I do not get this massage. Power is something the gentiles seeks. If Christ, as its name implies is the one who is anointed to be King,what is he doing on the cross. crosses are for rebels and weak. Greeks and Romans din’t like humility. Humility was something of a weakness. Acting like one was acting like a coward. Nevertheless, the foolishness of God is wiser than the most elite intellectuals of all centuries combined. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. In this paradoxical statement, all the fullness that God has for us is contained. “…all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.”
That is why Paul’s message is centered upon a crucified-king, and it is the gateway to all Christian life and maturity: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
To the Jews….
To the Jews, a gospel proclamation that has Chris–crucified at its pinnacle was not only paradoxical, but also flat out offensive. How would you like to say to a devote-catholic that the pope is an Ex-child molester! It is an offensive remark. Proclaiming a gospel that simply climaxes on a crucified-messiah, whom the Jewish people had been waiting for centuries to deliver them, would be considered as outrageous and offensive as the statement above. But why? It is because, from the biblical perspective, he who is hung on a tree is accursed. Actually accursed by YAHWEH himself (Duet 21: 23). If this Jesus, so called “Christ” was crucified, he could not have been Israel’s Messiah. Because hung on a tree is a disapproval or capital punishment in God’s kingdom. However, this is what marked Paul-the-Pharisee from Paul-the-Christian. This was how Paul thought about Jesus and the Christians, before his encounter with the risen Messiah on the road to Damascus and his incentive for persecuting Christians. He now gets it. He was accursed for us, in our place. In his own words “the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Gal 2:20″ Or to use, Peter’s words, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Therefore, the gospel simply, unashamedly, proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth who had been accursed by God is the holy Messiah. He is now believed to be the world’s Messiah and is worshiped as one with Yahweh.
The church in Galatia… O foolish Galatians!
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.”
The apostle was baffled by their absurdity! He remarks that it takes foolishness to do what the Galatians did. When I was a young man, I heard a story that once a crude boy went to a blind beggar on the street and hand him a lottery ticket, pretending that it was Ethiopian dollar. then would ask him 90cent change in return, again pretending that he was donating 10cents to him. It was very cruel of this young boy. Nevertheless, it takes a blind-man and a cruel boy in order to pull this through. The Galatians church, likewise, traded the “Christ-crucified” for the “works of the law” (circumcision, food laws, and observance of days). According to Paul, the only possible explanation for this absurdity, rhetorically (not literally), is that someone had done witchcraft on their eyes (the original suggest such witchcraft). Who has bewitched you? To prove their absolute damning foolishness, Paul presents four evidences:
- First, he asks penetrating questions that all has to do with the reception and operation of the Holy Spirit .
- Second, he presents the evidence of the scripture to reinforce his first point
- Third Paul presents a salvation-historical evidence showing how Faith precedes the giving of the Law and follows after it as its climax , thus the Law as covenant-ratification was temporary. Faith-in-Christ is now the term of the new covenant that determines membership in the family of God, to which the Law was serving only as a distant shadow.
- The fourth and final appeal is the Sonship of the Galatians through adoption . The promise of sonship given to Abraham is now fulfilled in you “gentile Galatians” who are not by birth Abraham’s seed. How did this happen? By works of the Law or by the hearing of Faith!? However the Galatians were adopted as sons to Abraham’s family through the true seed of Abraham, the obedient Son. Because of his redemptive work now the racial boundaries have been forever abolished. A new law is in town. There is no distinction
The 21st Century Church….
The letter to the Galatians appears to be a no-problem for us. We believe in Jesus! We believe that he is the Christ. More importantly, we believe that he was crucified. “It is not our problem!” Also, for us this stigma of the gospel is all removed because of our cultural-historical milieu.
The stigma of the cross is forgotten. Actually, a cross is a religious symbol! We tie it on our neck and we paint our churches with crosses. We placed crosses on almost every where. Our facebook and other social media accounts are filled with crosses. We are all right thank you! By the way, no Christian would ever do this whatsoever in the first century. There are documents passed down to us that mothers would not even discuss about the subject of the cross with their Children. They did not want them to know about it. It is a shameful way to die. It is a symbol of capitol punishment (death penalty) in the first century, like an electric chair or lethal-injection machine in our day. Christians in the first century, because they were considered enemy of the state, were put to death by being eaten alive by wild animals or by being crucified, for instance by Emperor Nero, the great persecutor of the church, who also put to death Paul and the other apostles, according to church tradition. Why would anyone hung an electric chair or injection bed on his facebook account? That is the reason why Christians in the first century used the fish symbol, due to its phonetic similarity with the word Xristos, Christ.
Here I am not for a second suggesting that we should abandon the use of crosses nor am I saying it is wrong to use crosses as religious symbol; just as Islam has the crescent moon. It is a good reminder what Christianity is all about. What I am saying is that because of our too familiarity with the word cross, we have lost the stigma that associated with it. We must recover its biblical context in order to understand well.
Second, works of the Law means quite different for us. We don’t think in terms of circumcision, food laws, (except for health reasons and we also assume that Moses gave food laws because he cared for their healths….He would deny this assertion by the way!) However, the works of the Law is now replaced with “7 keys for successful life…and…10 Principles for living victoriously”. Good advises, mental helps, best life enriching messages and uplifting therapeutic words are the new works of the Law. As one writer puts it “Christ/Cross-less Christianity” is the dominant Christianity. The general presupposition is as long as people are helped, it has to be good. But that is not the heart of the gospel. The gospel is all about news, news about our Lord and at the heart of this message is a crucified Christ. May the Lord of Glory fill our church with this and the implication of what it means for him to be crucified. The difference is biblical maturity.
Paul proclaimed it so much so that his proclamation portrayed Him as Crucified before their eyes. This is not a portrait done by a painter with 11X17 matte paper. It is a portrait done by repeated proclamation and preaching of the crucified Lord and its implication for the believer. This begins with preachers! Preachers changing their messages.
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
What this means is that the implication of the proclamation of Christ-Crucified is massive and life changing. First of all though it appears to be a simple message, it contain power unto salvation. Second, Christ has called us to discipleship. What it means to follow Christ in this life, is to carry our crosses and follow him. Suffering is part of the equation for Christian maturity! Finally listen to what it means for the Apostle to know Christ. It is experiencing the experiences of the crucified-Christ and risen-Lord!
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
© 2014 – 2015, Samson Tilahun. All rights reserved.