Christ: Our Example or Our Gift? The Difference Is Paramount!

In American Evangelicalism, seeing Christ as our example is everywhere.  WWJD?  The Cross is our pattern for living!  Jesus has the tools for us to live our best life now.  Jesus is the ultimate life-coach.  I could go on and on, but you get the picture.  The interesting thing is that viewing Jesus primarily as our example is nothing new.  In fact, this is one way that North American Christianity is failing to clearly see the gospel just like the church of the past.  In other words, North American Christianity is finding itself becoming more and more like the church of the late middle ages as it misses the chief article and foundation of the gospel... that Jesus is not primarily our example but primarily our gift.  The differences between example and gift are paramount!  Not only are they profoundly different, but seeing Jesus primarily as our gift rather than our example brings faith, assurance, rest, peace and hope to our tired souls.        

Below are some comments on this subject from the good doctor, Martin Luther.  They were written in 1521 A.D.  Enjoy Christ as your gift today, He is your gift in the Word and Sacraments.
"Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into a Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples as the other saints do, as if the gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws.  Therefore, you should grasp Christ, his words, works, and sufferings, in a twofold manner.  First, as an example that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate... However, this is the smallest part of the gospel, on the basis of which it cannot yet even be called gospel.  For on this level Christ is of no more help to you than some other saint.  His life remains his own and does not as yet contribute anything to you.  In short this mode [of understanding Christ as simply an example] does not make Christians but only hypocrites.  You must grasp Christ at a much higher level.  Even though this higher level has for a long time been the very best, the preaching of it has been something rare.  The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that is your own.  This means that when you see or hear of Christ doing or suffering something, you do not doubt that Christ himself, with his deeds and sufferings, belongs to you.  On this you may depend as surely as if you had done it yourself; indeed as if you were Christ himself.  See, this is what it means to have a proper grasp of the gospel, that is, of the overwhelming goodness of God, which neither prophet, nor apostle, nor angel was ever able fully to express and which no heart could adequately fathom or marvel at.  This is the great fire of the love of God for us, whereby the heart and conscience become happy, secure, and content.  That is what preaching the Christian faith means..."
"Therefore make note of this, that Christ as gift nourishes your faith and makes you a Christian.  But Christ as an example exercises your works.  These do not make you a Christian.  Actually they come forth from you because you have already been made a Christian.  As widely as a gift differs from an example, so widely does faith differ from works, for faith possesses nothing of its own in them, yet they should not belong to you but to your neighbor."
"So you see that the gospel is really not a book of laws and commandments which requires deeds of us, but a book of divine promises in which God promises, offers and gives us all his possessions and benefits in Christ. "
Taken From: Martin Luther, Luther's Works: Volume 35 (Concordia Publishing, 1955-1986), 119-120.


Unknown said…
Thus Christian preaching is to preach Christ, and
Christian worship is the delivery of Christ to sinners, by God, through Word and Sacrament ministry. Solum Christum!