Christianity In Action

By Tom Wacaster


The book of Philemon takes up less than one full page in my Bible. Though small, it tells in a remarkable way the story of how Christ comes into the lives of men and women and, acting as leaven, slowly changes individual lives and the society in which they live. Perhaps just as importantly, this little book tells how Christianity sweetens the relationship between men who otherwise might be at odds with one another. I like the way Hastings put it: “Christianity tells how Christ steps in to dissolve the bitterness, to soften the misunderstandings, to put us right with one another in the little things in which we often go wrong, and finally to set our varied relationships on such a footing that our little circle of friends or associates shall become part of that blessed society of souls which is the Kingdom of God.” The background leading up to the writing of this epistle is a story in itself. Yet, it is what comes out of that story that provides us with the greatest value. There are two characters in the story: Philemon and Onesimus. Philemon had been converted by Paul, and it would appear that their friendship had grown over the passing of time. Onesimus was a slave; Philemon’s slave. One word sums it up. A “bond slave” (as the Greek puts it), with no essential rights of his own. Onesimus must have grown weary as a slave and made his escape, taking with him something of value belonging to Philemon. He must have fled to Rome to get lost in the maze of human debris and there spend his ill-gotten gain. Somehow, he came in contact with Paul. How, or under what circumstances we are not told. Paul took the man, taught him, converted him, and molded him. When the time was right, Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon to make things right. This letter we now have in our possession by divine inspiration, is Paul’s plea that Philemon receive Onesimus back and treat him as a brother in Christ. From this epistle we learn two lessons on human relations.


First, this little epistle tells me that Christianity enriches the relationships in life. When Onesimus ran off, Philemon had lost an indifferent and insolent slave. Onesimus was a Phrygian slave, and history tells us such men were stubborn and hard to deal with. Paul’s observation that Onesimus had been “unprofitable” to Philemon, leads me to believe that Philemon’s loss was not all that big a loss. When Onesimus returned to Philemon he was a different man. He had been a slave to whom duty was drudgery and life was miserable beyond description. Did Philemon accept Onesimus back? Who can doubt it? Both were now brothers in Christ, and everything else being equal, Onesimus’ relationship to Philemon was forever altered. Whether now as a slave under Philemon’s house, or returned to minister to Paul, to Onesimus duty was music, and life was lit with love. Your relationships in life may not be ideal. You may have a poor employee, or a pathetic boss, but Christianity does not giver either the right to worsen that relationship. One author put it this way: “The conditions of life may not be good, and the relations in which we stand to one another may not be ideal, but Christianity, when it is real, will make them as good as they can be. When Christ comes in, the whole outlook of life and work and service is lifted above the narrow horizons of our own pleasure, or even the accepted standards, and becomes centered on Christ.”


Second, Christianity breaks down the barriers that keeps the brotherhood of man from splintering into thousands of fragments thereby producing civil unrest. Don’t tell me the book of Philemon is not relative. Look at what is happening in Portland, Washington, Wisconsin, Chicago, and Minneapolis. When Christ came into the lives of Philemon and Onesimus, he gave them the essential tools and understanding in life to break down those barriers that keep men from acting the best toward each other. It was Christianity that broke down the institution of slavery in Rome. It is Christianity that broke down slavery in America, and the rest of the civilized world. It is Christianity that will break down the civil unrest and racial tensions that are spilling out into the streets of America, even as I write these lines.


I once read of a play depicting the life of Abraham Lincoln, and with which I will close this article. One scene in that play depicted an aging, black preacher by the name of Fredrick Douglas, who was invited to visit Mr. Lincoln in the White House. When he walked into the room, the President invited Douglas to take a chair. Douglas was reluctant to sit down, and said to the President, “No sir. I am black and you are white.” “No, no,” replies Lincoln, “we are just two old men talking together.”

The Glory Of The Cross

By Tom Wacaster

“But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). The backdrop for these wonderful words from Paul is centered in the arrogance of the Judaizers who desired to glory in having successful in persuading the Galatian brethren to accept circumcision. The popularity of Judaism in Galatia evidently set the stage for insincere teachers to make an outward show or carnal appeal. Paul thus exposed the real objective of the Judaizers in trying to compel Gentiles to be circumcised. They were not genuinely concerned about the spiritual welfare of the people but were greatly concerned in showing their loyalty to Jewish rites and customs by winning proselytes to Judaism through the church. When a Christian yielded to them to these Judaizing teachers, it was another trophy in which they could boast and glory.

What is it about the cross of Christ that draws men to Jesus? Surely it is not the fact that it was some instrument of death, for other means of execution remain to this day as symbols of only infamy and disgrace. Who has ever written a song about the electric chair, or what poet has ever glorified the gas chamber or the hangman’s noose? But let men erect a cross in their yard, or display it upon a billboard, and immediately the attention of those who see that cross is drawn to one figure in history Who made that cruel instrument famous. Let someone display an electric chair in the front of their yard and the onlooker might wonder why such a display. But his attention would not be drawn to any particular figure in history. But let a man put a cross in his yard and immediately those who pass by think of Christ and Christianity. From the fields of Arlington Memorial Cemetery in Washington, D.C., to the beaches of Normandy, and around the world, grave yards have been graced with small crosses at the head of each tomb declaring the hope that men have in a resurrection - a resurrection found only in Christ, and made possible because of His death upon the cross. Oh yes, “On a hill far away, Stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suffering and shame.” For 2,000 years the cross of Christ has cast its beacon of hope across the tumultuous seas of human misery and sin, and the message of the gospel is so closely associated with that cross that to speak of the one is to bring to mind the other.

There are numerous passages that emphasize Paul’s attitude toward the cross. He intended for his preaching to emphasize the cross (1 Cor. 1:17), he recognized the “word of the cross” as being God’s saving power (1 Cor. 1:18), and he preached “Christ crucified,” the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks, foolishness, but to the saved, “the power of God, and the wisdom of God”(1 Cor. 1:23-24). In his preaching he was determined “not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). He preached that God reconciled Jew and Gentile “in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16). He may very well have had tears running down his cheek as the wrote the following: “For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:18-19). 

Why ought one to glory in the cross of Jesus Christ? The very purpose of the Cross compels us to glory in that Cross. I ask again, “Why?” It is the greatest evidence of God’s love for man (Rom. 12:1; John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8). It manifests the Lord’s own great love for man. He willingly gave Himself that men might be saved (Acts 20:28, Eph. 5:25, 1 Pet. 1:18-19, 2:24-25). His death on the cross fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17, John 19:30, Col. 2:14, Rom 7:4). It provided the way for the New and better Covenant (Matt. 26:28, Heb. 8:8-13, Heb. 10:9). His death on the cross made possible forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22, Rom. 4:25, 1 Pet. 1:18-19). In the cross the blood of Jesus was shed by which our Lord purchased the church (Acts 20:28, Eph. 5:25). The cross brought a new people into the world. Paul called them a “new creation” (Gal. 6:16). That new people are the bide of Christ (Eph. 5:22-30, Rev. 21:2, 21:9, 22:17).

Consider, therefore, two thoughts relative to the cross of Christ and the glory associated with it: The Person of the Cross, and the Power of the Cross.


Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself” (John 12:32). Jesus did not say, “If Abraham be lifted up”! He did not say, “If Moses be lifted up!” He did not say if some prominent politician, wise sage of ancient Greece, or some orator from institutes of higher learning be lifted up! But He DID say, if “I be lifted up.” The apostle John informs us that Jesus was speaking of “what manner of death he should die” (12:33). Many a man had died by crucifixion; others would follow in His train. It was not the crucifixion, but the One Who was crucified thereon that is important. Time and space would fail us if we were to attempt an exhaustive examination of the life of Jesus Christ. As Phillip Schaff so eloquently put it:

Who would not shrink from the attempt to describe the moral character of Jesus, or, having attempted it, be not dissatisfied with the result? Who can empty the ocean into a bucket? Who can paint the glory of the rising sun with a charcoal. No artist’s ideal comes up to the reality in this case, though his ideals may surpass every other reality. The better and holier a man is, the more he feels his need of pardon, and how far he falls short of his own imperfect standard of excellence. But Jesus, with the same nature as ours and tempted as we are, never yielded to temptation; never had cause for regretting any thought, word, or action; he never needed pardon, or conversion, or reform; he never fell out of harmony with his heavenly Father. His whole life was one unbroken act of self-consecration to the glory of God and the eternal welfare of his fellow-men. A catalogue of virtues and graces, however complete, would give us but a mechanical view. It is the spotless purity and sinlessness of Jesus as acknowledged by friend and foe; it  is the even harmony and symmetry of all graces, of love to God and love to man, of dignity and humility of strength and tenderness, of greatness and simplicity, of self-control and submission, of active and passive virtue; it is, in one word, the absolute perfection which raises his character high above the reach of all other men and makes it an exception to a universal rule, a moral miracle in history. It is idle to institute comparisons with saints and sages, ancient or modern. Even the infidel Rousseau was forced to exclaim: ‘If Socrates lived and died like a sage, Jesus lived and died like a God.’ Here is more than the starry heaven above us, and the moral law within us, which filled the soul of Kant with ever-growing reverence and awe. Here is the holy of holies of humanity, here is the very gate of heaven (Schaff, History of the Church, Electronic Edition).

We glory in the cross because of the One Who died there. God come in the flesh (Phil. 2:5) became a Servant, submitted Himself to the Father in all things, and stands at the head of the human race as the only Man (if we dare call Him that) who lived a sinless life, and surrendered that life that men might be saved. Napoleon Bonaparte paid this tribute to the Person of Jesus:

I know men, and I tell you Jesus Christ was not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and other religions the distance of infinity. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and myself founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon sheer force. Jesus Christ alone founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men will die for Him. In every other existence but that of Christ, how many imperfections! From the first day to the last He is the same; majestic and simple; infinitely firm and infinitely gentle. He proposes to our faith a series of mysteries and commands with authority that we should believe them, giving no other reason than those tremendous words, ‘I am God.’ (Napoleon Bonaparte).


The Cross has a drawing power to it (John 12:32). What is it about the Cross that “draws” men to Jesus? For one thing a glorious Savior died thereupon (Acts 2:22 ff). A glorious love prompted it (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10). Innumerable glorious blessings flow therefrom (Eph. 2:16). A glorious church was made possible by it (Eph. 5:25-27).  The glorious coming, with its attendant heavenly reward, was made possible by it (Tit. 2:13; Eph 5:25-27; 1 Cor. 15:22-26; Phi. 3:21); and the glorious Gospel became a reality through it (1 Tim. 1:11; 2 Cor. 3:16-18). The message of the cross, the Gospel, is God’s power to save men (Rom. 1:16). That Gospel is heaven’s pledge, the sinner’s plea, the Christian’s hope, and the devil’s defeat. I cannot fathom the intricacies, nor can I fully understand how men are changed by the words of that message. But history has proven the words of Jesus true. When Jesus Christ was born into this world Rome was on the throne and paganism at her right hand. From one end of the empire to the other, from the center to the circumference, idolatry and paganism ruled supreme. It is somewhat surprising to learn, therefore, that just fifty years after the death of our Lord on the cross there was a church in every principle city of the Roman Empire. Christianity had swept across the Roman empire with such force that Rome with all her centers of infidelity crumbled in the wake of the preaching of the Gospel. The impact of Christianity was nothing short of phenomenal. Will Durant concluded, “There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fiery tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has ever known. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.” Even by human standards of measurement the change that was wrought throughout the known world was swift. Like a prairie fire, the Gospel of Jesus Christ dethroned idols, swept away pagan strongholds, overcame ungodliness and brought to the empire an evangelistic fervor and newness of life unlike anything offered to man prior to that time. 

By human standards Christianity should have been defeated before it ever got off the starting block.  Instead it succeeded.  It succeeded because of the zeal of the people.  Coming out of pagan darkness into God’s wonderful light (Col. 1:12-13), those men and women of the first century were willing to give their life for the cause of Christ.  Their voices could not be stilled nor could the fire that burned within be quenched.  As one author noted, “No law could be passed stringent enough to shut their mouths. No torture could be devised sufficiently horrible to hush their testimony. They laughed at death and despised the cross and the stake in their happy, earnest effort to win others to Jesus Christ. When ten were slain, a hundred took their place. When the hundred died, a thousand sprang from the blood-reddened sands to die in turn, in the hope that their testimony might be sealed with an evidence of their sincerity.”   But behind it all was the unshakable faith in the reality that Jesus was raised from the grave, and that they, themselves, were promised immortality if they would but remain faithful to their Lord.  The message for us is simple.  If Christianity could so conquer and captivate a nation steeped in idolatry and immorality, what makes us think that the glorious Gospel is not just as powerful in our generation as it was when Rome opposed our Lord, and lost?  Indeed, it is. May our lives demonstrate that same unconquerable faith of those early Christians who gave their lives in service to Him Who died for us that we might live!


Dear friend, that cross, and all that it stands for demands some kind of response. Men can ignore it, ridicule it, mock it, and seek to eliminate its presence, but in so doing they stumble over the One Who Himself said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself” (John 12:32). It has been more than forty years since Lois Cheney wrote the following lines:

I once saw a cross so big

It was as high as the church

In front of which it stood.

It was made of railroad steel

And it was very dramatic,

And I was moved

And I was impressed

As I walked by and away from it.


I once saw a cross so lovely,

It was a work of art,

Carved and polished

It was made to look

Both strong and delicate,

And I was moved

And I was impressed

As I walked by and away from it.


There once was a cross

Not so high; not so lovely

It was not a work of art.

Rough, full of splinters

Uneven, unsymmetrical

Its simple mystery


And I cannot walk by it

And I cannot walk away from it. 

"In The Beginning Was The Word"

 by Tom Wacaster

Some of the most profound statements were made by John in the first few verses of his account of the life of Christ. First, there is an affirmation of the eternality of the Word.   With words that grace the very beginning of divine revelation, John takes us all the way back to "the beginning."  And while Moses began with the precise point in time, and looked forward to the coming of the Word, the Messiah, John takes exactly the same moment in time, and looks back into eternity.  Moses started with the works which God did, and John began with the One Who performed those mighty works.  At whatever point in time the "beginning" may point to, the "Word" already existed.  Hence, the Word did not COME into existence; it always did exist!

Second, there is a clear affirmation of the deity of our Lord.  When John said that Jesus was "with God," he was literally saying that He was "before the face of God."  Our English word 'with' translates the Greek preposition 'pros, and is the same word used in Mark 6:3 where it is said the inhabitants of Nazareth expressed their astonishment about Jesus by asking, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?"  The very word used by Mark implies association in the sense of free mingling with others of a community on terms of equality.  Hence, the "Word" was not some impersonal principle, some "force," or eternal truth, but an intelligent, active personality.   

Third, this "Word was God."  The Greek is more properly rendered, "and God was the Word."  Our English translations do not grasp the full import of John's statement.   In the Greek language there is a "definite article" that appears in the phrase preceding.  John had stated there, "The Word was with the God."  Here that article is conspicuously absent. John simply says, "the Word was God." The absence of the article stresses quality rather than quantity.  A better rendering would have been, "and divine was the Word."  

Finally, John declares that "the same was in the beginning with God." The Word was "in the beginning" thus showing reference to TIME. The Word was "with God" thus showing association or relation. The Word "was God," thus showing ESSENCE or being."   Tenny ties verses 2 and 3 together.  "Having thus established the position of the Logos in the world of concept, the writer revealed His position in the world of action" (page 65).   But rather than being a mere reiteration of what was written in verse 1, John here states that the Logos actually shared a place with God in the beginning of all things.  It was precisely this equality with the Father that so enraged the Jews and led to their rejection of Jesus their Messiah.  

Now let’s make some application. What does all this mean to you? to me?  First, it clearly sets forth the deity of our Lord.  As the Divine and Holy One of Israel, we owe Him our allegiance, yea our very existence.  Christ is not some "segment" of our life to be plugged into on Sunday, and then disassociated from the remainder of the week.  How can we claim allegiance to our Creator when it is convenient to us, but ignore Him when He or His demands get in our way? Second, John's use of the word "Logos" to describe this Divine One implies that our Lord's predominant role in the relationship of God with the world is one of communication.  It is through our Lord that the fullness of the Godhead was made known; it was through the work of our Lord that God's divine revelation came to light.  In short, all that Jesus Christ did or said was heaven's message crying out to man!  Why is it that so few are listening?  Could it be that we have our ears closed?  Has the wax of the world clogged our spiritual ears so that we cannot hear the message from heaven?  Has the noise of the world drowned out the pleas from heaven?  Third, this passage implies that the Word is active in bringing about heaven's purpose.  So it has been; so it continues to be; so it will be when He comes again.  So far as past action, it was He Who created the universe.  So far as concerns the present, "all things are upheld by the word of his power" (Heb. 1:3).  So far as the future, He is coming to judge all men in righteousness.  

Friend, read John's opening words again!  Hear the message!  Reflect upon the truths revealed therein, and then act upon those truths.  To do otherwise is to commit spiritual suicide.