Christian Symbols – The PX or Chi-Rho Symbol

This was the second symbol in an Advent series called Christian Symbols. Advent is the Church season that remembers Christ’s first arrival and looks forward to his return. Each of the symbols is tied to Christmas, as Advent in many ways is a countdown to Christmas. Before this message was given, the following passages were read: 1 Samuel 16, 1 Peter 2:1-10, and Matthew 16:13-19.

It’s a commonly seen symbol within Church settings and a mainstay feature of Christian decorating. It looks like a P with an X superimposed over it. Many Christians might call it the PX symbol with no idea what it means or represents. That P and X are actually the Greek letters Rho (the P) and Chi (X).

The Meaning of Chi-Rho

The Chi (X) -Rho (P) symbol is an abbreviation of the Greek word, Χριστός. When transliterated into English, Χριστός becomes very recognizable to the English reader – Christos. Χριστός is Christos, which is Christ. Christ as many of us know is not Jesus’ last name. It’s a title. Χριστός means “anointed one.” Χριστός in Hebrew is מָשִׁיח, which in transliteration is māšîaḥ. That looks a lot more familiar to English readers as Messiah! Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one.

Chi-Rho (the PX symbol) is simply a shorthand abbreviation for Christ.

To anoint someone is to pour oil on their heads. In the Old Testament, we see three offices among God’s people that have an installation by anointing. When Samuel was told to go to Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be king, Samuel knew he’d need some oil to do the anointing, so he grabbed a horn and filled it with oil and made the trek to Bethlehem. In addition to kings being anointed into their official position of service, prophets and priests were also anointed.

As the Christ, Jesus serves in all three offices: Prophet, Priest, and King (PPK).

Christ and Christmas

In preparation for celebrating Christmas, we can meditate on how all three of these offices are manifest in the birth of Christ.

Prophets speak the word of God to people. Jesus himself is the Word of God! John says at the opening of his Gospel that the Word was in the beginning with God and was himself God and that the Word became flesh. That becoming flesh was the conception of Christ in Mary’s womb and his birth on Christmas is when the Word that was made flesh was born and held in the human hands of his mother (Mary) and step-father (Joseph). You cannot become a greater prophet than being the very Word of God coming to be among mankind in the flesh.

Priests represent God to man. They also represent man to God. They play the middle man. Jesus does this as nobody else can since he is both fully God and fully man. His unique ability as priest is manifest in his way of sacrificing. Levitical priests in the Old Testament had the task of taking people’s animal offerings and sacrificing them to God on behalf of the one bringing the offering. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would make a sacrifice for himself for the forgiveness of his sins and then a sacrifice on behalf of God’s people for the forgiveness of their sins. Serving as a priest, not in the Levitical order, but in the order of Melchizedek, Jesus did not have to make a sacrifice for himself before offering a sacrifice for others, because he had no sin of his own to be atoned! Jesus being fully divine never sinned. This meant that Jesus as our high priest could offer himself as the sacrifice, which he did on the cross of Calvary. That sacrificial offering of himself that atoned for the sins of mankind, once and for all, could only take place because of Christmas (the Incarnation, his taking on of flesh, being born among us – Emmanuel).

King! Well, at Christmas we usually focus on Jesus’ kingship. In our Christmas nativities, we have the wise men offering their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They came seeking the King of the Jews. They weren’t there for his birth, but their visitation is tied to the short Christmas season that ends on January 6th, the day the Church historically observes as the wise men’s time of meeting Jesus. Most of our Christmas carols speak to Jesus’ kingship over and above his other anointed offices of prophet and priest. We tend to readily get Christ’s office of king at Christmas, as well as during all of Advent as we long for our king to return.

Chi-Rho in History

In all of my interweb searches, the dates I see placed for all of the surviving Chi-Rho images from ancient times are usually in the 4th century. The image above is a catacomb image of Peter of and Paul with the Chi-Rho between them. It is rather certain that Chi-Rho was used among Christians earlier than the 4th century, but its popularity and utter dominance on the Roman scene came in the 4th century (probably why most of the dates I see are dated to that time period).

The day before the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD, Constantine saw a vision of a cross in the sky. His troops that were with him also witnessed this sign. With the cross was the message: “By this sign thou shall conquer.” That evening, he had a dream reaffirming what he had seen that day. So on the day of the battle, he had all his men mark Chi-Rho on their shields. He also placed Chi-Rho over his banner that marked his location on the field. Did all of these events happen as I have just shared? Probably. This account comes to us by two contemporaries of Constantine, Eusebius and Lactantius. As we study Scripture, we see that God has intervened in such direct ways within history.

It is for certain that Constantine won the battle and from that day, he declared the Roman Empire to be Christian. The Chi-Rho symbol then took over the empire. The Chi-Rho even appears on the tails side of a Constantine coin that is dated to 317 AD. Look at that snake being conquered, vanquished, under the Chi-Rho?

Chi-Rho Application for You

I know that many Christians get uptight about Christmas being reduced to X-Mas. They see it as yet another assault on Christ. Another maneuver to remove Christ from Christmas. The first time I saw the X-Mas was on the first Simpsons’ Christmas special. Homer’s Christmas decorating was a horror. All the reindeer were sliding off the roof and the sleigh and Santa were a tumbled mess on the ground and only a few lights flickered. His neighbor Ned however had the perfect house with decorations all over the yard, house, and roof. On the roof, Ned spelled out in lights, “Merry X-Mas.” It confused me. I was told it was shorthand for Christmas, and on the roof, yeah, maybe he would have ran out of room, so he shortened it. The character, Ned, is a Christian. He wouldn’t be intentionally removing Christ from Christmas, would he? That’s not his character.

Once, when writing Christmas cards, I wrote too much and ran out of space. To squeeze in Merry Christmas and still have room to write, “Love, Andy”, what did I do? I wrote, “X-Mas.” Then… to make sure whoever received knew I wasn’t assaulting Christ, I added a P onto that X. I wrote Chi-Rho. This meant I was actually writing Christ. And it made me think, maybe that’s how I should write Christmas all the time, and for good measure, I’ll add an extra s to the end to highlight that the day is Christ’s Mass! Maybe we all can do that. It could make Christ stand out all the more in the holiday that carries his name by so many who don’t worship him.

Finally, in application to yourself, remember this when you see Chi-Rho: YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. You are an anointed one. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, and so are you in your baptism. Peter says in 1 Peter 2 that as you come to Christ the Living Stone, you are a little living stone, being built into a spiritual house, in which Christians are royal priesthood who proclaim praises of him who called us out of darkness into his light. There you have it. As a Christian, following Christ, you too work in all three offices. You are royalty, as a prince or princess in God’s family. You are a priest who represents God to people, and you represent people to God. We do this largely through our prayers. In our prayers, we are placing people before God. And as we proclaim his praises and tell of his marvelous salvation, we are operating as prophets, speaking God’s Word.

Merry Chi-Rho-Mass!

God and Money: Wealth and Giving

This is a Bible Study based on John Cortines and Gregory Baumer’s “Seven Core Principles for Biblical Wealth and Giving” from their book, God and Money. I have made 3-videos that accompany this outline of their work. Suggested or possible answers for the questions below are in the videos.

God and Money Part 1
God and Money Part 2
God and Money Part 3

The Four Principles for Biblical Wealth

Principle One: Everything we “own” actually belongs to God.  Everything. 

What does Colossians 1:16 say about all things?

What does 1 Chronicles 29:11 say about God’s relationship to all things?

Does this include you? What does 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 say? 

When you have earned something, consider what these verses say: Psalm 144:1, Romans 13:1-2, and Colossians 1:17.  Who gets the credit? 

Principle Two: Our wealth and possessions should be used for God’s purposes. 

Matthew 25:14-30 – ““For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Stewardship is the active and responsible management of God’s creation for God’s purposes.

Does this mean we need to just spend less and sacrificially give and give until it painfully hurts? 

Consider 1 Timothy 6:17 and Psalm 128:2 when answering this question. 

Principle Three: Wealth is like dynamite, with great potential for both good and harm. 

Proverbs 30:8-9 – “give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
    and profane the name of my God.”

How is this principle expressed by Jesus in Luke 12:34? 

Principle Four: Worldly wealth is fleeting; heavenly treasure is eternal. 

Luke 12:13-21 – “Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

What’s the take away from this parable? 

Three Core Principles on Giving

Principle Five: Giving generously to the poor is a moral duty in a fallen world.  Does God promise material abundance for all people in Scripture? 

Instead, what does Scripture indicate to be expected in life, even for many followers of God? See Genesis 3:17-19 and Psalm 60:1-3. 

What does Scripture say about the poor in the land and the appropriate response?  See Deuteronomy 15:11. See also James 2:5-7, 14-17. 

Principle Six: Giving should be voluntary, generous (even sacrificial), cheerful, and needs-based. 

How do the following verses demonstrate the Biblical support for this principle?
When reading these verses, how do you see this principle followed (or lacking) in your life?  And, how do you see this principle followed (or lacking) at your congregation? 

Group 1 – 2 Corinthians 8:3, 9:7
Group 2 – Malachi 3:10, Proverbs 3:9-10, Luke 6:38
Group 3 – 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, 2 Corinthians 8:4-5, Acts 20:35, Matthew 25:31-45
Group 4 – 2 Corinthians 8:2-3, Philippians 4:17-18, Mark 12: 42-44

“How much should I give to be generous?”  Is this question helpful?  What can it imply about your relationship with God? 

Instead of asking how much we should be giving to be generous, is there a better question we ask?

“Am I giving generously in such a way that _____________________________?” (The fill in the blank answer is in the part 3 video above.)

Principle Seven: Giving generously breaks the power of money over us. 

1 Timothy 6:9 – But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

Ecclesiastes 5:10 – “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.”

Luke 12:15 – “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Where is  your self-worth and value found? 

Where is your contentment found? 

“In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things… the figure of the [Christ] Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.”  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reading God’s Word – 4 Principles and 10 Steps

First – What does God’s Word say about reading God’s Word?
Second – What are some proper steps to reading and understanding a Bible passage?

Four Principles for Reading God’s Word

  1. Since the Bible is God’s Word, it must be spiritually discerned. 

    1 Corinthians 2:12-14 – “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
  2.  Pray for wisdom in understanding God’s Word before reading and while reading!

James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” 

 3. All Scripture testifies about Jesus, so seek Jesus in every text you read. 

John 5:39-40 – “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” 

4. Scripture interprets Scripture.

1 Corinthians 14:32 – “The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.”

Ten Steps to Reading and Understanding a Bible Passage

  1. Pray, asking for wisdom and to see Jesus in the passage. 

  2. Biblical and Historical Setting
    • Who wrote it?
    • Who was it written to? 
    • When was it written?
    • Why was it written?
    • What historical people, dates, and places are named in the passage?

  3. Immediate Literary Context
    • What precedes the passage?
    • What comes after the passage?
    • How does the passage fit into this immediate context?
    • What purpose does the passage have within the immediate context?

  4. Historical and Cultural Context
    • What historical events are explicitly or implicitly mentioned in the passage?
    • What social and cultural norms are explicitly or implicitly mentioned in the passage?

  5. Doctrines
    • What doctrines are directly mentioned in the passage?
    • What doctrines are indirectly mentioned in the passage?

  6. Parallel Passages
    • What passages in the Bible contain the same or similar words or phrases?
    • What passages in the Bible mention the same people, places, or events?
    • What passages in the Bible reference the same doctrines?
    • What passages in the Bible are being quoted, referenced, or alluded?

  7. Law Application
    • What commands, demands, or expectations are directly stated in the passage?
    • What commands, demands, or expectation are indirectly implied in the passage?
    • How do those commands, demands, or expectations apply to myself and those in my life? 
    • What consequences for sin are named in this passage?
    • What is stated in this passage about mankind’s sinful condition? 

  8. Gospel Application
    • What blessings and good promises of God are directly stated in the passage?
    • What blessings and good promises of God are indirectly implied in the passage?
    • How do these blessings and good promises of God apply to myself, those in my life, and to all people who have faith in Christ? 

  9. Translations
    • Compare translations of the same passage. 
    • What is similar or the same within all of them? 
    • What is different and can different implications be drawn from these variant translations? 
    • Look at the Greek and Hebrew readings of the passage to see what is happening in the sections of the passage that have variant translations.  Likely that section is difficult to translate into English, either due to words having multiple meanings in Greek and Hebrew or due to a part of speech or method of emphasis within the language that is not readily available in English. 

  10. Word Studies
    • Pick out a few words that seem important or central to the passage and see where else they appear in Scripture and how that word is used throughout the Bible. 
    • Use a Hebrew or Greek interlinear Bible to discover what the key or central words in Greek are and conduct a word study using a lexicon.  See where else in Scripture that word appears and how it is translated differently or the same across the whole of God’s Word. 
    • Does one author use this word in one sense and another author use it in a different sense?  Do these findings given guidance in understanding the meaning and use of the word in the passage at hand? 
    • How was this word used in secular Greek culture and writings? 

Repent from Greed and Love of Money – Bible Verses

A lady wants Scripture to share with her brother who from her perspective has rejected God and his siblings over a love of money and the sin of greed. The siblings in the family are all mostly in their retired years and have inherited the family farm. They rent the farm out to others to work and they make very little from this rent. Four of the siblings want to keep the farm in the family, but the one greedy brother who has made a large chunk of financial gain from another property sell wants to sell the farm. His desire to sell versus the desire of his other siblings has driven a great wedge in the family. The brother has increasingly become hostile towards the others and is even working deals with nephews and nieces behind the scenes looking forward to a future opportunity to make more money. This man is already in his 70s. It appears as if he is not attending Church anywhere now. His sister literally thinks he has rejected God for his love of money. The following are the verses and commentary I provided her to consider sharing:

Ecclesiastes 5:10 – “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”

Your brother needs to realize that he will never be satisfied with the amount of wealth he has.  Even if he sold the farm, it wouldn’t be enough. 

What is he saving for?  What are his goals?  What is the point?  To give a large chunk of change to his kids?  What would be the meaning in that?  What would give value to that?  What would give such a gift to his kids eternal value? How will they responsibly use the money if they do not know the Lord, because he has not taught them the Lord and his ways? 

Hebrews 13:5 – “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

He’s not content with what he has… he’s not content with you, his family!  He has in fact lost his family due to his love of money that will never be satisfied. 

Luke 12:15 – “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

What is most valuable in this life?  Is stuff your life?  Is money your life?  If it is… that’s a very sad and empty life. 

Matthew 6:24 – ““No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Is he serving Jesus with his money?  Or is he serving himself?  Who does he love? 

Proverbs 13:11 – “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.”

If the farm is sold it wouldn’t be dishonest, but to coerce and continue to badger and to cut off family members because he alone desires to sell the farm to get a big chunk of change is selfish and self-serving and self-seeking.  That large stash he gains will little by little fade to nothing.

Proverbs 15:27 – “The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live.”

What has he brought to his household through his love of money?  What has he lost because of his greed?  In his time of dying, who will be by his side?  What has he cut off from his family by his greed? 

Proverbs 28:25 – “The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper.”

He has stirred up much conflict within your family by his greed.  Is he trusting in the money and not the Lord?  What is he seeking after?  If it’s not the Lord, he will whither and die! 

Matthew 6:19-21 – ““Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What he is storing up for himself will be stolen from him.  What he has stored up will be destroyed.  It will wear out.  It is of this world which is destined for fire!  Instead, he needs to seek the things of God of eternal merit and heaven.  That is where his heart needs to be set. 

Luther said that anything we love, trust, or fear above all else is our god, our idol!  We all commit idolatry in some form or fashion.  All sin is ultimately rooted in a falling short of trust in God, love in God, or fear in God.  Some idolatry however is rejection of faith, a rejection of God!  All idolatry if unrepented leads to death – eternal death – as the rejection of faith (a state of unbelief and unrepentance) is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, the unforgivable sin.

He must repent, turn from his love of money and greed and turn to Jesus for forgiveness of his sins! 

Matthew 16:26 – “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

2 Peter 3:8-18 – “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”