Tuesday, April 03, 2007


After church on Sunday I was fellowshipping with one of my good friends and I asked him for some feedback on the lesson that I had just given. I did so on this occasion because during the lesson on Galatians 5:1-15 I made a statement that was either miss-stated or just plain wrong. Both are conclusions are completely plausible given what was said and the difference would depend on what I meant when I said what I did…. Ok, if that wasn’t convoluted enough, let me summarize the situation.

“You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)
In this passage there are a few words and phrases used that seem to cause readers’ eyebrows to go up (they did for me). The concerning phrases are “severed from Christ” and “fallen from grace” because I have seen them used as arguments for the fact that someone can lose their salvation. Put another way, some people use this text to argue that you can become un-justified before God. I fully and whole-heartily reject this notion based on the overwhelming testimony of Scripture.1

There are passages of Scripture (like this one) that can seem to be in conflict with that theology, and so I wanted to explore that for a bit. My basic point to the class was three fold:
  1. The texts of John 6:35-44; 10:27-29, and Romans 8:28-30 are so explicitly clear about the security of the believer. Once he or she is truly saved, there can be no doubt as to the truth of the doctrine of eternal security.
  2. The letter to the Galatians is addressed to a church that has genuine believers in it (Peter and Barnabas are mentioned by name), but there are also unsaved false teachers in their midst. The audience is diverse enough that we cannot use this passage as a sweeping contradiction of eternal security. Basically, I appealed to the context (audience) of the whole letter when making this point.
  3. The overall flow of Paul’s argument in the book is to contrast the impossibility of works righteousness with salvation by faith apart from works of the Law. This truth is conveyed very clearly in various places in the letter including the above verse.
"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." (Galatians 2:21)

“Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.” (Galatians 3:21)
After having made this point, Stu, my good friend, pointed out that the context of this verse was utterly clear and that Paul was speaking to those people who are trying to be justified by works and that they are not connected with the gospel of Christ. My comment in class and afterwards to Stu was one of frustration over having poorly stated what was going on there. But even more so, I was frustrated that the direct context of the verse didn’t hit me in that same (and correct) way until he voiced it. God bless the discerning, loving, and gentle correction of Christian brothers and sisters.

After I thanked Stu for his “iron sharpening iron” addition to class, we continued talking and my use of the word “Christendom” was brought up. Over the past few weeks this word has been creeping more and more into my vocabulary in an attempt to make a distinction between all things and people who would call themselves “Christian” and true Christianity. My concern is that there are so many people, denominations, religions, and world views that are lumped into what culture calls Christianity that it has made this group indefinable and vacuous amalgam.

So, in an attempt to show my disassociation with groups with heretical doctrine that culturally fall under the all encompassing umbrella of Christianity, I refer to that group as Christendom. Technically speaking, these two words are synonyms, but since the latter is almost never used and virtually unknown in the common vernacular, I am using it in order to elevate the use of and the definition of Christianity to only include those who hold to the doctrines set forth by the Bible. Namely the views expressed by the five “solas” of the reformation (sorry Rome) and the Trinity (sorry T.D. Jakes; sorry Gov. Mitt Romney2) to name a few.

I did not mention the doctrines of grace and various doctrines on Spiritual gifts in the above list for a reason. I believe that those issues are very important, but I can (and do) disagree with family and good friends of mine on some of these issues and I think that they’re wrong. However, regardless of who is right or wrong on these secondary issues3, and I do firmly believe that there is a right and a wrong, that does not thrust one outside of true Christianity where Jesus Christ is truly worshiped.

In other words, when I use the word “Christendom” I am referring to the world wide community of people who would call themselves Christians, and it would (or may, depending on the context of my statement) include Roman Catholics, Modalists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, Protestants, and many more groups. And when I use the word “Christianity” or “Christian”, I will attempt to reserve its application to those groups who at least claim and seem to try and hold onto the essential doctrines of Scripture.

1 Please read “The Perseverance of the Saints (a.k.a. Once Saved Always Saved)” for more information on this topic.

2 He’s a member of the Mormon religion, and they believe that Jesus is a created being. That’s enough to make them heretics and outside of the bounds of Christianity.

3 They secondary in relevance to the central and overall message of the gospel, but not secondary so as to show that they are unimportant. Please see Fundamentalism for more thoughts on the "secondary" topic.

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