The Crux of the Faith
By Shawn Tomlin
In this piece we are going to discuss something not normally talked about in Reformed circles. The theology of the cross and its opposite, the theology of glory. Although not normally discussed, an understanding of these two stances can help us to come to grips with what true orthodox Christianity is.
Let us first start with definitions. Starting with the theology of glory, a person expects it all to be won by themselves, all to be conquered by themselves, to find all the answers by themselves, and expects God to do what we think is right and beneficial for us. The theology of the cross expects none of that, in fact, it expects the opposite of all that. The focus of a theologian of glory is himself, whereas a theologian of the cross put all their focus on Christ. Which do you think is more biblical?
The crux of our faith, the center and sole focus will always be “Christ and Him crucified.”
If you chose the theology of glory, you are wrong. The focus should never be on ourselves, but only on Christ. Always on Christ. Why would we want to focus on ourselves? As Isaiah states, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” We are never going to win every battle, never going to conquer it all in life, we will never find all the answers, and we are never in a position to demand anything from the LORD. As Paul says in Romans 9:20, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” The truth is, if we find ourselves not focusing on Christ, we will revert to the sinful default of focusing on ourselves. There we won’t find salvation, forgiveness of sins, or justification. All that we are going to find there is our sin. Martin Luther, the man who coined the terms theology of glory and theology of the cross, once said, “The only thing we contribute to our salvation is sin and resistance.” The theology of glory can’t work and never will work.
Theology of glory sounds positive though, doesn’t it? Like we are focusing on the glory of God. The focus is not Soli Deo Gloria, it is our own glory. The theology of glory is man-centered. Our sin causes us to warp like an old piece of lumber, to the point that when we look out, all we see is ourselves, and we worship that, we glory in that. The theology of the cross, in contrast is where true glory is. Its focus is Christ. Those redeemed by Christ no longer are warped in sin, so we can look out and see our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are brought to an understanding of our helplessness in our sin and how the gracious actions of our God redeemed us from eternal damnation.
Now the correct answer to that previous question is the theology of the cross. Christ should always be at the center of everything, not only our worship, but every breath we take. The “crux” of our faith must be, as the word implies, the cross. At the cross the wrath and grace of God intersect. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 says, “For indeed, Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.” Paul understood, as did all the apostles, that the crux of our faith, our sole focus, wasn’t ourselves, or the things we expect or demand from God, but our sole focus should always be “Christ and Him crucified.” Nothing else. Peter tells us exactly why Christ is the center of our faith in 1 Peter 2:24-25, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” The crux of our faith, the center and sole focus will always be “Christ and Him crucified.”
“The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.”