The Big Idea of Christianity
R.C. Sproul was once asked by a businessman, “What is the big idea of Christianity?” In this brief clip from his teaching series Pleasing God, R.C. Sproul explains that it is living life Coram Deo—before the face of God.
We listen to sermons, we read the Scriptures, we get caught up in the maze of the details of theology, but we long for the opportunity to cut through all of the fine points—the particulars of Christianity—and get down to the core, the very essence of what the Christian life is all about. That’s what we mean by discerning the big idea. So when this businessman said, “R.C., what’s the big idea?” I thought about it for a moment, and the answer that popped into my head came out of the 16th-century Reformation when the Protestant Reformers of that time had to define themselves to a watching world. And so they had to crystallize the essence of what their ministry and their movement was about. And out of that crystallization process came a phrase—of course, it was Latin—that was introduced and used frequently by Martin Luther to declare the essence of the Christian life.
Luther used this phrase: that the essence of the Christian life is to live one’s life, Coram Deo. Now that may be a strange phrase to you. Coram Deo, literally what it means is “before the face of God.” And what Luther was saying simply was this ‘that the Christian life means to live all of your life in the presence of God.’ You know sometimes we behave and perform with our lives, not for God, but for an audience that’s here. And that our behavior when we’re in secret may be different from how we behave when we’re in the presence of people whose judgment or approval we seek. We think for example of the prodigal son when he pled with his father to receive his inheritance early. How he squandered that money. But before he squandered that inheritance, what did he do? He went away into a far country where he was anonymous, where no one knew him, where he didn’t feel like he had to live under the scrutiny of somebody who might possibly disapprove of what he was doing.
Now, Luther says we should live our whole lives, not as people seeking the cover of darkness—where we have a secret life, a private life, that is hidden from the gaze of our friends or of authorities—but that our lives should be lived openly in the presence of God before the face of God practicing a kind of consciousness of God from moment to moment. Now we add to that a couple of other ideas, that the big idea of Christianity is to live Coram Deo, to live all of one’s life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the honor and to the glory of God.