The Essence of Christianity

Photo by steve_lodefink - CC BY 2.0

My love affair began in Mr. Sweeney’s fifth grade class. No, a cute little female didn’t catch my eye. It was science that captivated my heart. Through our class chemistry set and a number of hands on experiments, my passion to understand how things work grew and grew.

Through junior and senior high school I found myself drawn deeper in all of my science classes—except for biology that is. At that level biology seemed to involve nothing more than memorizing long lists of complicated names. If we could distract the teacher with some obscure question about parasites, you could be sure that we’d work collectively as a class to keep him off track for as long as was teenly possible.

It came as no surprise to others that I eventually pursued a chemistry degree at a local university (IUP). I sincerely wanted to know the secrets behind the universe and science promised to provide the answers to my search. While at college, three things happened that would forever change the course of my life. I surrendered my life to the amazing God, I met my wonderful wife and I discovered that science gave false appearances, making promises she could not keep.

Photo by JacobMar1ey - CC BY-SA 2.0

Fast forward to the year 2012. In a sense, science is now a scorned former lover, but my passion for understanding burns as strongly as ever. So here I sit writing about The Essence of Christianity. And after more than 40 years of searching, I am finally able to distill (admittedly, I’ve never completely let science go) all I’ve learned down to a mere four words.

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6 (NASB)

That’s it! The Essence of Christianity (and therefore life) is “faith working through love”!

I know, the Scripture reference is somewhat obscure—it’s not one you’ll find on any common memorization list. And it seems so simple, indeed almost anti-climactic. But, oh, how this phrase is packed with power! If only we could grasp the true depths of its significance, our lives would surely be transformed!

Photo by Sam Hakes

Some may understandably accuse me of oversimplification. After all, this short phrase says nothing about Jesus or the cross or the resurrection. But when I say “faith,” I speak of a word saturated with the power of the cross. And wasn’t it the Apostle Paul, the writer of at least 31.57 % of the New Testament, who stated (Romans 13:10 and Galatians 5:14) that love is the fulfillment of the Law?

The Amplified Bible provides additional expression to the Greek word energeō, which is most commonly translated as “work.”

“For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.” (AMP)

There is so much more to unpack with both the meaning and significance of The Essence and I’ll be sure to do my best in future posts. For now, however, I’d like to ask you to take some time to ponder this passage, asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate its meaning in your heart. It will be time and effort well spent!

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