Christian Symbols – The Saints Symbol

This blog post was first delivered as a spoken sermon during a mid-week Advent series called Christian symbols. Isaiah 7, Romans 5:12-21, and Matthew 1:18-25 was read first.

The third symbol we’re looking at today is the Saints Symbol!  I think that is what most readily comes to mind for most of us Americans – The NFL is one of our national religions, after all. And when it comes to football fans there is no more a religious group than those that root for the New Orleans Saints! 

The symbol however predates the football team. 

This symbol is called the Fleu De Lis.  That is a French name that means Flower of the Lily.  It is a symbol of the French Royalty!  For the French Monarch it is to represent perfection, light, and life.  Louisiana the state and New Orleans the city have deep French roots – hence the symbol for the NFL team. 

The Fleur De Lis is said to be a Lily, while some say it is originally supposed to be an Iris.  Lily’s are white and this flower has a strong connection to Mary – the mother of Jesus our Lord.  Mary in classical art is often depicted with a white Lily in her hand!  This white lily is to represent and signify her purity and chastity. 

There is also a link to the Trinity – Three Petals – that are white for purity and holiness – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Both of these Christian connections to the Fleur de Lis serve well for us in our Advent season leading up to Christmas. 

The Virgin Mary conceived the Son of God by the Holy Spirit whose Father is God!  Here in the Christmas narrative, the birth of Jesus Christ, we have both images of the Fleur de Lis front and center – The Virgin Mary and the Trinity. 

It is of course through this miraculous, supernatural conception that Jesus, the eternally begotten Son of God entered the world.  His entrance revealed must explicitly that God is Triune.  The revelation of the multi-person nature of God was present in the Old Testament, but revealed directly and plainly in the conception of Jesus and later at his Baptism and later still through Jesus’ public teachings! 

The virgin birth is so central to Christmas – without it – there would be no Christmas.  There would be no Christ.  There would be no Christianity. There would be no salvation.  Because of this great goodness for man that comes through the virgin conception, it is no surprise that the teaching of the virgin conception is under attack. 

Comedians make jokes about the virgin birth – Some girl gets pregnant out of wedlock and goes, “Surprise, God did it.” And heathens laugh.

Religions completely redefine it. I’ll give just one example. Within Mormonism, Elohim (the name Mormons give to God the Father) came down in human form and impregnated the virgin Mary.  She was a virgin who had actual sex with God – thus having a natural conception though be it by God. She was a virgin who lost her virginity to God, and God the Father has a human body in this imaginative retelling.

Sociologists and Psychologists claim the virgin conception is a myth – an ancient and repeating myth.  They point across cultures and see this recurring phenomenon.  One example is that of the Buddha – born in India, it is said that the Buddha came into his mother’s womb as a white elephant during a dream!  However… she wasn’t a virgin.  She was already married and the marriage consummated. 

And a growing number of confessing Christians might shrug and say it doesn’t really matter if it happened as a virgin conception or not.  What matters they will say is that people believe in Jesus, or that might just say that the peace, love, and light that the Christmas narrative symbolizes is what is important. And for the more conservative, yet loosey-goosey Christian, it would be said that what matters most is that he died and rose from the grave for our sins.  However… if we can’t trust and accept the virgin conception because it defies our known reality and functioning of biological procreation then what else must we doubt or remove from Scripture? All of it would be my response and that’s the response we see the doubters [or their kids!] eventually taking.

With God, all things are possible – including a virgin conception and birth. When one embraces the revelation that God created all things out of nothing through his speaking them into existence, it becomes rather child’s play to consider a virgin conception.

Again and again in Scripture, we see that all humans are by nature sinners.  Again and again in Scripture, this inherited sin is credited to Adam!  It is not credited to Adam and Eve, or even to Eve, but it is always credited to Adam, just as we saw in Romans 5. Adam is the one whose sin is to blame for all of us being sinners by nature.  From Adam until Jesus, every man and woman came from a human father and was sinful by nature.  Jesus broke that pattern. 

“Just as Adam produced Woman without a woman, the Virgin produced the Second Adam without a man.”
― Atom Tate

Scripture does not directly say this, but it appears as if the sin gene is passed on through the father’s seed. Jesus had no earthly father.

Jesus’ humanity came from his mother.  Jesus’ divinity was his from the very beginning, though in his assumption of a human nature, God is his eternal Father and he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is mind-boggling and Scripture doesn’t answer all of our questions, but again… with God, all things are possible and we believe by faith.

In his names, given to him, we see the importance of the virgin birth. 

Emmanuel – God with us. Of course, he is God with us. He was born of a virgin! He must be God with us.

Jesus – The Lord Saves. Because he is God with us, he is the one who can do what we cannot do for ourselves. He is here to save us from our sins.

Whenever you see the Saints symbol, now you have a lot more to think about besides, “Who dat?” Saints fans will get that.

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!

Christian Symbols – The Jesus Fish

In 2022’s Advent season, I’m giving a midweek sermon series sharing the origins and meanings of various Christian symbols with applications to Christians as we look forward to the return of Christ and prepare ourselves for the celebration of his birth at Christmas. Before this sermon, Genesis 22, John 3:16-21, and Matthew 4:18-21 were read.

Before we speak about the Jesus fish symbol tonight, I want to share how the most well-known symbol of Christianity is being used in Egypt by Christians.

I had a student from Egypt – he visited family in Egypt and told me that the Christians in Egypt, who are almost always Coptic Christians, a branch of the Orthodox Church, are always at risk of losing their physical safety, and especially when going to Church.  The student said they have guards at their churches and to get into the Church, the Egyptian Christians would have to show their wrists to the guard to get in… on the wrist was a cross tattoo!  It proves they are Christian and that the mean no harm.  He told me that the Christians would have to check their cars for bombs before starting their cars to leave church! 

Being a Christian is serious business in Egypt, there are no cultural Christians, a country which is about 90 percent Islamic population.  The constitution specifies Islam as the state religion and the principles of sharia as the main source of legislation.[1]

I met a Georgia Gwinnett College student this year who was a Coptic Christian and I asked him about these reports I had heard, and he pulled down his sleeve and he had the tattoo… it’s very small, but it was clearly a cross.  He confirmed the reports I heard from the student who had visited family in Egypt. 

It is said that the Jesus Fish has a similar origin.  It was a marking to signify that you were Christian, but it was done in secrecy – it was a symbol that was only known among the Christians.  The concept is that under Roman persecution in the first centuries of the Church, Christians would make the top half of the swoop of the fish with their foot in the dirt and the person they were speaking to if Christian would make the other swoop – proving they were a safe person to speak to about Jesus.  This is a popular account of the origin of the fish, but it’s not based in any evidence.  It’s pure speculation.  The earliest preserved markings of the fish come on tombstones that don’t have more clear markings that say, “This person was a believer” but with the invocation of Jesus’ name no where to be found, so it is assumed that it was a secret mark to show the dead were Christians.  But there is evidence of these marking also as use in markets and entry ways to homes to proclaim the person is a Christian.  And there is nothing to verify that they would half draw a fish to check if who they were talking to was a fellow Christian.  Personally, it doesn’t seem to fit with what we see concerning their boldness in the Bible and in the centuries following to boldly proclaim the Gospel under persecution. 

The Egyptian cross emerged in a different way too… It emerged in 640 AD when Egypt was conquered by Muslims, and Christians who refused to convert were forced to receive a tattoo of a cross on their wrist and pay a religious tax for not being Muslims[2] (something that still occurs today for some Christians in Egypt – the tax that is).  The Christians in Egypt today choose to mark themselves as Christians.  What was once a mark of persecution is now embraced as a mark of boldness and perseverance.  People of all ages are persecuted and killed over this cross, and yet the tradition lives on. During protests and funeral chants, this phrase is often repeated: “With our souls and our blood, we will protect the cross.”[3]

The symbol of the fish was certainly used among Christians in times in which there was persecution against the Church – was it a sign only known among Christians, maybe or maybe not, but it’s a sign that was used and displayed.  It’s a sign that we call the Jesus Fish today because we know the fish is to represent Christianity, but in every way the fish was created to represent Jesus and in fact to tell a confessional creed about who Jesus was and is!  It’s a symbol that points us to Christmas and the birth of the Son of God, our Savior. 

Let me demonstrate this for you.  Many today might think the fish is a symbol that was chosen to fit the call that Jesus gave to his disciples to be fishers of men, or a reminder of Jesus’ miracles of multiplying fish for food, or his first disciples being fishermen by trade. 

There is so much more to this that we miss as English speakers.

ιχθύς is the 1st century koine Greek word for fish. The early Church used this word as an acrostic.

ι – Ἰησοῦς – Jesus
χ – Χριστός – Christ (the anointed of the Lord)
θ – Θεοῦ – The genitive case of Θεóς, meaning “of God”
ύ – υἱός – Son
ς – σωτήρ (ς is at the end of words) – Savior

Together ιχθύς represents the confession of faith – “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”

And is this not the message of Christmas? Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, our Savior!

This message was proclaimed by the early church with another symbol that likely predates the fish.  It is the Christian Wheel symbol.[4] 

Tertullian (c. 160-220) in his treatise on baptism, De Baptismo 1, reasons that as water sustains fish, “we, little fishes, after the image of our ichthus, Jesus Christ, are born in the water (of baptism) nor are we safe but by remaining in it.”[5]

Jesus is our Fish!!! Have you ever heard that one before?  I hadn’t until preparing for this Advent message.  From what I have read thus far on this subject, Tertullian wrote these words in Latin, but when he got to calling Jesus our fish, he wrote Icthus in Greek.  This shows that it was certainly well known that ICTHUS meant more than just fish – this acrostic had spread far and wide for him to drop a Greek word in the midst of Latin with no explanation or translation following it.  

Jesus Christ Son of God Savior!  That is the central creed of Christianity.  That is the good news of Christmas. 

Jesus is the Son of God came into the world – not to condemn the world but to save the world.  Just as we read from Genesis 22 and John 3… What was asked of Abraham, God actually did… He provided his son to be the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. God gave his one and only son for your salvation, for you to have eternal life. He gave this provision for everyone and for all who hear and believe they are saved.

May we, this Christmas, be so bold as to make sure we display and make prominent this message – that Christmas is not just Santa and presents and hard eggnog and naughty elves parties – this is the day of peace and favor from God to all men because on this day in the City of David your savior – the Christ – has been born. 

To quote an old hippie saying about having long-hair in the 60s – “Let your freak flag fly” – Let people see Jesus and know Jesus in your life this Advent as we lead up to Christmas.  Amen. 


[2]  They choose to mark themselves today unless the parents mark their young children to help ensure they cannot so easily convert to Islam under pressure. 




The Kings of Isaiah

Isaiah 1:1 places Isaiah within history: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”  Uzziah reigned from 792-740 BC; Jotham reigned from 750-735 BC; Ahaz reigned from 735-715; Hezekiah reigned from 715-686.

King Uzziah

King Uzziah is also known as Azariah.  He reigned 52 Years, a very long time.  Isaiah 6:1 indicates that Isiah began his ministry in the year Uzziah died.  2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chronicles 26 give an account of Uzziah’s reign.  Uzziah fortified Jerusalem (2 Chron. 26:9-10, 15) and he reorganized Judah’s army with 2,600 mighty men of valor who oversaw an army of 307,500 men (2 Chron. 26:12).  Uzziah experienced great prosperity during his long reign and was able to extend Judah, taking back land from the Philistines, while also extended Judah into the lands of the Arabians and the Meunites (2 Chron. 26:6-7).  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 15:3 and 2 Chron. 26:4), but the high places remained and sacrifices were still offered at these locations dedicated to false gods.

Despite doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, Uzziah’s success led to pride that brought him great punishment from the Lord.  2 Chronicles 26:16-23 recounts that Uzziah took the place of the priests, burning incense in the House of the Lord.  And as a result, “The Lord touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5).

King Jotham

King Jotham reigned for 16 years.  2 Chronicles 27:2 summarizes his reign as follows: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord according to all that his father Uzziah had done, except he did not enter the temple of the Lord. But the people still followed corrupt practices.”  Two of his major accomplishments as king were fortifying the hillsides of Judah and beating the Ammonites, receiving a huge tribute from them.  (2 Chronicles 27:3-5) During his reign, northern Israel was taken by the Assyrians.

King Ahaz

2 Chronicles 28:1-2 tells us that King Ahaz “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel.” During his reign Aram led by King Rezin and Israel led by King Pekah partnered against Judah. (Isaiah 7:1-16) Isaiah told Ahaz to not be afraid of them.  Isaiah prophesied that their invasion would fail, that their lands would be taken down by the Assyrians. (Isaiah 7:3-9) Despite this prophesy of safety from his adversaries, Ahaz sought to partner with King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria for protection.  (2 Kings 16:7-9, Isaiah 7:13, 20) In an attempt to show his submission to Tiglath-Pileser, Ahaz instructed Uriah the priest set up an altar like the one he saw in Damascus.  He had the altar to the Lord brought out to sit alongside this altar pagan altar.  (2 Kings 16:10-18) During Ahaz’s reign, Assyria defeated Israel in 722 BC.

King Hezekiah

King Hezekiah was the last king of Isaiah’s time of prophetic ministry.  Hezekiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done” (2 Kings 18:3).  During Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria threatened Jerusalem.  (Isaiah 36:1-22) Against this threat, Isiah Prophesies that Judah will be delivered.  (Isaiah 37:6-7) Even though this prophesy is given with the assurance of protection for Jerusalem, Hezekiah still prays in response for deliverance.  (Isaiah 37:14-20) The angel of the Lord fulfills Isaiah’s prophesy and answers Hezekiah’s prayers by utterly wrecking the Assyrians, striking dead 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians while the slept.  (Isiah 37:6) Sennacherib was later cut down by the sword by his sons while he was worshipping his god, Nisroch.  (Isiah 37:7-8)

As noted in the opening of this paper, many have noted that the first 39 chapters of Isaiah are predominantly law based, focusing on the wrath of God against a rebellious people, and that is the message of chapter 39.  Isaiah prophesies to Hezekiah that Judah will be taken by the Babylonians:

“Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (Isaiah 39:5-7)

Sticking to the concept that the last 27 chapters of Isaiah focus on God’s redemption of his rebellious people, chapter 40 opens up with the good news that God will restore Judah:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isiah 40:1-5)

Luther’s “A Brief Instruction on what to Look for and Expect in the Gospels”

There is, besides, the still worse practice of regarding the gospels and epistles as law books that teach us what we are to do, and the works of Christ are pictured as nothing but examples to us.  Where these two erroneous notions remain in people’s hearts, neither the gospels nor the epistles may be read in a profitable or Christian manner; they remain as pagan as ever. – Martin Luther

Luther Reading               The above quote serves as Luther’s closer to the opening paragraph of “A Brief Instruction on what to Look for and Expect in the Gospels,” which he wrote in 1522.  Luther was on the move to reforming the reading of the Scriptures.  After coming to no agreement with Rome over the indulgence controversy and finding himself excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1521, it was now time for him to solidify the Reformation movement he had begun which involved teaching his followers (both laity and pastors) how to read the Bible and to proclaim the Gospel.  The proper reading and use of the Scriptures were paramount to freeing the Church from her “Babylonian Captivity.”  In this brief, yet instruction-packed unterricht, Luther explains how there is only one gospel, how we should see Christ coming to us in that gospel, and how all of the Scriptures are properly read and understood through the gospel!

Central to Christianity, central to the Reformation, is the message of salvation in Christ alone, that is the gospel, and as such, for Christians to know how to read and use the Scripture, Luther must first make it clear what the gospel is: “a discourse about Christ, that he is the Son of God and became a human being for us, that he died and was raised, that he has been established as a Lord over all things.”  In other words, the gospel is a story of Christ and all of who he is and what he has done for us sinful men.  With this definition Luther is letting us know that when we refer to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as gospels, we are not saying that there are four gospels, for there is one and only one message of salvation.  Even though the four biography writers give different details of the life of the Messiah, and in fact none of them give all of his words and miracles for us to read, there is still just one gospel.  From this definition of the gospel Luther stresses that the evangelion is not bound within or wholly formed from a compilation of these four canonical biographies of Christ – the good news is found in the epistles too!

When we see this message of Christ and his saving work for us men, Luther says that we should not see this work of Jesus of Nazareth as an example by which we are to live – to emulate – to work our ourselves!  No, we should primarily see the work of Christ as being for us.  You should see Christ for you.   This means that whenever you see Christ going somewhere, anywhere, speaking, teaching, healing, walking on water, raising Lazarus from the dead, whatever miracle or work of Christ you might see from any Biblical text, you should see yourself in that text – see Christ coming to you, to heal you, to teach you, to save you from sin, death, and the devil, to be your all-sufficient savior.

Next, Luther points the Church to the whole counsel of God’s Word, id est to the woefully neglected Old Testament scriptures.  All of Scripture testifies to Christ, and since Christ’s person and work is the gospel, Luther explains that the gospel as found in the four gospel biographies and the epistles serves as the guide to reading and understanding the Old Testament.  Here too, the prophets, in particular “Moses the law-giver,” are not examples of how one should live.  Their words should not be taken as a handbook on how to live your life; their words primarily reveal the gospel – reveal Christ, though it is not so clearly realized in most cases, until Christ was incarnate and revealed himself personally by stepping into history, before then sending the Holy Spirit to illuminate our understanding of the Scriptures after his ascension.  This means we should not forsake the diligent reading of the Old Testament, which so often we do in our day as the Church also did in Luther’s.  To emphasize the consequence of this error, Luther ends his instruction with the following statement: “What punishment ought God to inflict upon such stupid and perverse people! Since we abandoned his Scriptures [referring to the Old Testament], it is not surprising that he has abandoned us to the teaching of the pope and to human lies.”

In summary, Luther taught that when we read Scripture, we should expect to see the gospel in our reading, we should see the gospel as Christ working for us in all that we need, and that we should expect to see this work of God for us in all of the Scriptures that we read.