Monday, October 31, 2005

Reformation Day

Blessed Reformation Day!
I invited some friends and family over to our place on Saturday (29 Oct) to celebrate and learn a little about the Reformation. I had prepared a Power Point presentation with voice-over as an introduction to the Reformation. After that we watched the new Luther movie on DVD.
At first I didn't know what to expect from them all.
I invited everyone to be there at anything from 14:00 onwards so the kids could play and swim together. At about 16:30 I started the fire for the "braai" (barbecue) and we ate at about 18:00 or so. While we ate I let them watch the Power Point presentation on my friend's notebook connected to our 72cm TV. The presentation went down well. After watching the presentation we had some desert while the kids ate ice cream outside. After all this I set the kids up in my study to watch the cartoon movie Robots while we watched the Luther movie in the lounge.
In the end the evening went down well and I hope that it made at least some of them think about our heritage as protestant Christians!
I don't know of any churches around our area that even mention the Reformation on Reformation Day or as traditionally done, the last Sunday before 31 Oct! It is a pity since most Christians have no idea of the history behind what we believe. Each Christian should at least have a broad knowledge of an overview of the Reformation and why it happened.
Just thinking...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Spiritual warfare

I am glad that someone with the background and theological aptitude such as Phil Johnson, the PyroManiac, wrote on the subject of spiritual warfare, calling his blog post "Real spiritual warfare is not like a round of Doom". He followed that up with "Picking up where we left off Tuesday..." and also "Now, let's get personal." These posts are excellent and you would do well to read them.
The concept of spiritual warfare has been so abused, misused and hyped by various segments of the church, thereby leaving it bereft of the real Biblical meaning of the phrase. Most of the time "spiritual warfare" is turned into "spiritual fanfare!" What with marches, prayer walks, shouting and thinking that walking over a piece of real estate they have now claimed the land for the Lord! Nothing is claimed for the Lord like that! Didn't that real estate already belong to the Lord? He is already the Lord of the universe. He doesn't need us walking over soil to claim it for Him!
"(4) For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (5) We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2Co 10:4-5 ESV)
It is very clear that spiritual warfare has nothing to do with the physical world we live in! Verse 4 ends with destroying strongholds and verse 5 starts with explaining what those strongholds are: arguments and lofty opinions against the knowledge of God and taking thoughts captive. Ok, so now we know what those strongholds are. Note that Paul does NOT say that these strongholds are demons!
How will we destroy those strongholds then? It has to be through the preaching of the unadulterated Word of God and the bold proclamation of the gospel! It is the truth of God that will destroy the arguments and opinions that stand against God!
Let's stop all this "charismaniacal" fanfare and get down to the nitty-gritty of true Biblical spiritual warfare!
Are you with me?!
Just thinking...

"Evolving" bird flu

At Answers in Genesis, there is an interesting article that covers the whole idea of the "evolving" bird flu epidemic.

"So is bird flu evolving? In a sense, this is a semantic trap. If ‘evolution’ is defined to mean ‘change’ or ‘genetic change within a population’, the answer is a clearcut ‘yes’. But most people hear the word ‘evolution’ and think that it means the fullblown story—molecules to mathematicians, and so on. And it simply does not follow logically that demonstrating that organisms can change shows that they are capable of the sort of change required to turn microbes to microbiologists."

You can read this article further at AIG.

Just thinking...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

South Africa and Communism

Communism has long been shown as a dead dog! It is a system that goes against human dignity in that it does not see people as individuals created by God as individuals. All that Communism sees are a bunch of workers/revolutionaries that can forward its own deceptive and underhanded purposes, or the opposite bunch that must be conquered and subjected to the same deceptive and underhanded purposes.
It seems to me that the communistic ideals of the ANC here in South Africa are starting to rear its ugly head more and more. Of all places, it is showing itself in what must be the most vulnerable division of government... public schools. In a news article called Mpuma shames 'dunce' schools, education MEC for Mpumalanga Siphosezwe Masango voiced his opinion about what he sees as proper education in South Africa.
He is reported as urging teachers "to indoctrinate pupils with 'revolutionary' zeal and Africanist political ideology." In his own words:
"This has to happen because South Africa must produce a truly patriotic intelligentsia that is an unapologetic disciple of the African Renaissance and the New Partnership for Africa's Development... Our education [system] must therefore deliver [pupils] that (sic) cadres who are moulded and baptised in our revolutionary ideas."
If teachers embrace the idea of politically indoctrinating pupils, Masango would view them as "progressive" patriots.
For those who are so enamoured with the ANC as the rulers of South Africa, this is typical communistic, revolutionary speech! I have never fallen for the idea that the ANC is non-Communistic and that they really have the best for this country in mind. Communism does not think in terms of what is best for the people of a country. It is what is best for those in power.
Communism believes in revolution, not in profitable and beneficial change to the people. In communistic revolution, the attempt is to break down in some form or another to make the playing fields even. Make everyone poor, or make everyone stupid! Once they have accomplished this they can start producing non-thinking clones earmarked for what can be called modern "slavery." In this way the masses can be controlled because they have been indoctrinated from young to only think and act based on the government's mould of revolutionary ideas. Free speech will then be seen as a crime against the revolution and will be harshly dealt with. On the other hand, free speech will still be enshrined in the constitution; however, this free speech will come from indoctrinated drones!
An education system that does not purposefully strive for students to become thinkers in their own rights, is no education system at all. In this case Masango should be called the MEC for Indoctrination. It will NOT be education! True advancement in education can only come when the students are taught to think for themselves. If all are indoctrinated to think the same, there will be zero growth in academics. South Africa will then lag even further behind the rest of the world than they already are.
Just thinking...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Without truth, wrong doctrine

When we come to God devoid of the truth as presented by God in the Bible, then our worship to God is merely empty, heartless gestures of self-centred grandstanding before men!
It is our responsibility to be diligent in our stand for the truth! No-one else can do it for us! Sure, we must love people. That is a direct command from Christ Himself. However, true Biblical love will rejoice in the truth (1 Cor 13:6). To not rejoice in the truth means that in your "love" you are rejoicing in unrighteousness! This is by no means true Biblical love!
My son told me yesterday that another boy in his class asked him to give him a "wedgy!" They are only eight and still think that this is fun. When I asked him why he did it, he simply said that the boy asked him to do it! This created an opportunity for me to ask him another question. If someone asked him to push them over a cliff, would he do it? He immediately saw the predicament he was in. Should we do bad things to people just because they ask us to? No! In love we will not do it!
To not rejoice in true truth, we might as well push someone like that over a cliff. When a person is approaching a cliff at high speed we need to tell him of the impending danger and do our utmost to stop him from plummeting to his death. If the church's teaching starts to err, it becomes our responsibility to bring in correction. The same holds true for individuals who teach false doctrine.
"But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God." (2 Cor 4:2) Are you adulterating the Word of God? Are you making light of the truth of the gospel? If the gospel is the message about salvation, then you MUST realize that the truth of the gospel is of utmost importance. It is literally a matter of life and death. Do you want to mess with this truth, and risk the lives of many? Apart from ensuring that the way we live is correct before a holy God, we also need to ensure that our teaching is in order (1 Tim 4:16). Living and doctrine cannot be separated! Correct doctrine (and its application) will lead to living correctly. The truth sanctifies us! "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15) Are you indeed doing your utmost to present yourself to God as one approved, one who rightly handles the word of truth, or do you have something to be ashamed of? (Tit 2:7)
In Paul's mind, the truth of the gospel was so central to his very existence that he spoke a curse out on those who preach a different gospel. "(8) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." (Gal 1:8-9 ESV) Paul is so adamant about the importance of the gospel and the truth that it is, that he spoke out a curse on false teachers. Why in the world would we think that we know more than Paul and bless these false prophets?! The church has accepted such false teachers wholesale and allowed them to frequent the airwaves, pulpits and the printed page wherever and whenever they want to!
It is time that the church once again make a stand for the truth and clearly and definitively speak out against heresy! (1 Tim 1:3) False teachers are to be rebuked (Tit 1:9),  not welcomed in our midst as brothers in Christ! "(9) Everyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (10) If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, (11) for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works." (2 Jn 1:9-11 ESV)
The truth is important. We are in the days when relativity reigns supreme, and I am sad to say, that this relativity has crept into the church too. Much of the church have come to the point where whatever works is used as truth. "(3) For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, (4) and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Tim 4:3-4 ESV)
The problem with the church is that in many denominations and movements (e.g. Charismatics, etc) the cross is just not enough. They see the cross only as a starting point. It is point A and we need to get to point Z. The fact is that everything in the Bible, every promise, every blessing, is tightly wound up in the cross! In all of Paul's travels and accomplishments he could still say: "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Gal 6:4) When it came to the knowledge that Paul desired, he also said: "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Cor 2:2)
In his book When I Don't Desire God, John Piper wrote:
"[T]he cross must be central in the fight for joy. We must put ourselves under its preaching on the Lord’s day, and we must preach it to ourselves all day every day. Don’t neglect the corporate hearing of the word of the cross preached. I stress preached because I do believe that God has ordained that the word of the cross--and all things in relation to the cross--be preached and not just taught or discussed." (p77)
When we move away from the centrality of the cross, we move away from the truth of the gospel!
Just thinking...

War on anti-Christmas warriors

If you are as sick as many Christians are out there of Christmas being shoved under the rug everytime Christmas comes around, then why don't you see what John Gibson has to say:
I seem to have set off a small firestorm with my new book "The War on Christmas [...]."
Secularists are angry. Religionists other than Christian are angry. Christians are angry. All angry for different reasons and demanding what they want.
So here's what I want and here's why I wrote "The War on Christmas."
So, if you think that there is a controversy over Christmas where you live, write to John Gibson at
Just thinking...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Without truth - empty, heartless gestures to God

Something that is also dear to me is the concept of truth. Now I have to admit that I am no great philosopher and no theological guru. However, truth, especially Biblical truth is absolutely important to me.
Many branches of the church are still into pragmatism and simply cannot comprehend Biblical truth when it confronts them from the pages of the Bible! If a person's life changes as a result of "clucking like a chicken" then these people are quick to assume that it had to be God that made the person cluck. The same goes for things like "holy (?!) laughter" and other similar experiences. To them the experience determines truth. It then becomes easy for them to take their experiences to the Bible and twist and deform the Scriptures beyond recognition to make it fit their experiences. The fact is that in many religions today, people are changed for the better through some mystical experience. Many times these experiences are very similar to the clucking-Christian experiences! Should we, based on these "results," simply accept these experiences as from God, or should we still apply Biblical discernment?
This idea fits the bill in terms of preachers that are being followed such as the Word-of-Faith crowd with Kenneth Copeland, and also faith-healers such as T.B. Joshua. Because Copeland's ideas work for him and others, it suddenly becomes the truth no matter what he preaches and believes. Truth is determined by success and we all know that success is a very fickle playmate. Simply ask Job! T.B. Joshua seemingly had a lot of healings and people flock to his church to be healed. Again, because of all the healings going on there he is immediately equated with being a great man of God. "And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray." (Mt 24:11) How will many be led astray? I believe it is by tweaking their heresies to look like the truth. Otherwise people all over will see right through them! "For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." (Mt24:24) This is happening everywhere! People see signs and wonders and just accept it as from God. No discernment is applied to these false prophets!
How many times do we read in the gospels that people were amazed or astonished at the miracles of Jesus? I can't think of any instance off-hand. However, the people were amazed at the teaching of Jesus! "And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching." (Mt 7:28) Also see Mt 22:33; Mk 1:22; 11:18 and Lk 4:32.
The doctrines of men are being spread everywhere by men with little regard for the truth. Many of them are claiming to be preaching the truth, but they are not. Pastors are allowing these men to preach their poison in their pulpits because these pastors are deceived themselves! "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; (9) in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Mat 15:8-9 ESV) When men and women travel all over the landscape preaching the doctrines of men, then they worship God in vain since their hearts in reality, are far from God. Honouring God with our lips just is not enough! God demands that we worship Him in spirit AND in truth. Many of these people claim to be worshipping God in spirit; however, I would want to know what spirit?
There is a critical balance between knowing the truth and knowing God. It is important to always seek the balance here. There are those who have little regard for the Bible, but a very high regard for spiritual things. They regard fellowshipping with Jesus much higher than the Word that Jesus brought. It is great to fellowship with the Lord, but if we do not get into the Word, or let it get into us, then our worship of God will be one-sided. Relationship is correct, but without truth it does not amount to much. While driving in my car some time ago on my way to work I thought about the whole issue of truth and relationship with God. A god that is only interested in relationship cannot be trusted, since trust can only be based on truth; without which true relationship cannot exist. If the very God that gave us the Scriptures and showed us how important the truth is by putting it in writing suddenly tells us through the "spirit" that truth (through which doctrine and theology are derived) is no longer that important, then I have STRONG doubts that it is not the Spirit of God speaking! The only way we will know how to worship, is to know the Word of God. The truth will make us worship the true God. The reason why the JWs and Mormons have gone wrong is because they did not regard the truth of the Scriptures to be enough. We need to worship in spirit and truth. Worship has to be complete. Without either one of these it is no longer true worship of the Living God. (Jn. 4:23-24) What happens when we stop living for the truth, and anything else is just Ok? Self becomes exalted. (Rom. 1:25) Truth will reveal itself, and God will be worshipped in the end. (Jn. 7:17; 8:32) Our motto should be: "The supremacy of Christ or die!"
In several places the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth. (Jn. 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Jn. 5:7) For those who feel that it is more important to flow with the Spirit than to study the truth, I find it quite ironic that the very One who only brings truth will inspire people not to study and know the very Word He inspired! If anything, the Spirit will lead people to study the Bible to know its truths, because the Bible says that "he shall guide you into all the truth." (Jn. 16:13 – ASV) The spirit that leads people away from the study of God’s Word must be discerned and shown for what it is. How can He who inspired the writers of Scripture be the One who leads people away from those very Scriptures?
Sanctification or holiness will not come without the truth. Any holiness devoid of the truth is meaningless, simply leading to empty gestures of heartless worship to a God that demands truth! In Jn 17:17 Jesus prays that the Father "sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." Sanctification without the truth of God's Word? Never! You cannot have the one without the other. Truth will lead to sanctification and sanctification cannot be accomplished without truth!
Deny or twist the truth, and all I can say is that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." (Rom 1:18)
Just thinking...

Monday, October 24, 2005

A 'Wow' from Matt Gumm!

I recently got a 'Wow!' from Matt Gumm at Still Reforming about my post on The Reformation. Thanks, Matt!
On a more serious note: Reformation celebrations are happening this coming Sunday at your local church--that is if they care at all about what they believe!
I do believe that we--as the global church--need to take a hard look at the Reformation and what it did for us as a church! That is why I wrote the post called The wayward church - neglecting the Reformation.
In very layman's terms: if your church is not doing anything about commemorating The Reformation, then you need to let it know "to catch a wake up!"
Just thinking...

Which Bible book are you?

I know, I know! It is a bit corny, but I decided to check anyhow!

I found this little questionaire at The Reluctant Puritan's blog and thought to check it out. I was all ready to say, "Ah, you got it wrong!" In my own mind I saw myself as a Romans person.

You Are Romans
You are Romans.

Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, there you have it! I am a Romans person. Just like I was going to tell them.

Just a little light-heartedness for a Monday!

Just thinking...

Who's Free? God or Man? A study on the "choices" of man in salvation


I grew up in a church community that are decidedly believers in "free-will" (Arminians). I even studied theology at a Bible school that is Arminian. That is where I am from and that is what I believed and taught very staunchly.

In 1996 I joined an email discussion list on theology and met a whole bunch of weird guys who did not believe like I did at all. They called themselves "Calvinists." Well, like about 99.99% of Arminians I did not know much about Calvinists apart from the caricatures I was taught by my lecturers and my church pastors from the pulpit. Lots of email debate surrounding the issue of free-will ensued on this list. The more I debated these Calvinists the more I realized I didn't understand their theology, and what I was taught about them was mostly untrue (e.g., robots, fatalism, etc.). I then started listening to them with an open heart to hear what they had to say and to try and comprehend their theology. Someone on the list recommended Loraine Boettner's The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. I ordered it from Canada and started reading.

It was 1998 by now and after reading Boettner, I was fully convinced of the Reformed Doctrines of grace. From that time onward I no longer consider myself an Arminian or free-will exponent. I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God and hold to the 5 pillars of Calvinism, explained by the acronym TULIP.

T - Total inability (the effects of sin)
U - Unconditional election
L - Limited atonement
I - Irresistible grace
P - Perseverance of the saints

God's sovereign control

God's sovereign control stretches far and wide and influences this planet in all its facets. To deny that God is in absolute control of every part of this planet is to deny the teaching of Scripture. When looking at what Scripture tells us concerning the extent of God's control over His creation, it becomes quite ridiculous to deny that same extent of control over the affairs and lives of men. God has control over the universe - Ps. 103:19; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11; the physical world - Job 37:5,10; Ps. 104:14; 135:6; Mt. 5:45; brute creation - Ps. 104:21, 28; Mt. 6:26; 10:29; nations - Job 12:23; Ps. 22:28; 66:7; Ac. 17:26; man's birth and lot - 1 Sam. 16:1; Ps. 139:16; Is. 45:5; Gal. 1:15-16; "random" acts - Prov. 16:33; Mt. 10:30; the righteous - Ps. 4:8; 5:12; 63:8; 121:3; Rom. 8:28; the needs of His people - Gen. 22:8, 14; Dt. 8:3; Phil. 4:19; prayer - 1 Sam. 1:19; 2 Chr. 33:13; Ps. 65:2; Mt. 7:7; Lk. 18:7-8; the wicked - Ps. 7:12-13; 11:6.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Weird blog display - last update

Well, the display problems have been sorted out!
One of my posts, The Reformation - Unleashing salvation, caused the problem. For some reason, and I am not that reason, that post suddenly had thousands of <span> and <font> tags between paragraphs. I really don't know how they got there. My guess would be the editing facility.
Anyhow, I am glad it is back to normal again!
Praise the Lord!
Just thinking...

Weird blog display - update

I use the Opera browser which I think is far superior to anything Microsoft can conjure up and even better than FireFox. However, I installed Opera 9.0 Build 8031 and it is since I have done this that my blog does not display correctly. It does display correctly on FireFox. I know some of you are saying now, "You see, FireFox is better!"
In your dreams!
The company that brings you the best in browsing
Just thinking...

Weird blog display

I don't know if anyone can help me, but this morning I edited my latest blog post online, and when I published it, Blogger informed me that I must republish my blog 10 minutes later (it has been saying that for the last hour and a half) and that my post was saved and viewers would still be able to view my blog.
However, this weird display was the result. My blog just doesn't display correctly anymore.
Help! Anyone!?
Just thinking...

The Bible being trivialized - continued

...continued from The Bible being trivialized.

I found this information at PyroManiac upon his return to his blog.

When I last wrote about the trivializing of the Bible I thought I had seen it all. It seems like Thomas Nelson Publishers have really gone nuts! Doesn't it strike you odd that the next picture of the cover of their newest addition to their teen-mag-Bible type New Testaments is aligned to cater to the basest natures of worldly men?

Nelson mocks the Bible!

Nelson has lost its sense of modesty in a modern world that is always tugging at the most scandalous nature of mankind. "Sexcess!" "Success with the opposite sex!" This is like reading the cover of one of those female magazines such as Cosmopolitan. I think there is something like CosmoGirl. Maybe there is something like CosmoMan. Even if not, this is what I would imagine the cover would be like. At least the "Sexcess" part!

If we try to sell the Bible to people, do we have to become the world to draw the world? Sorry, Nelson, we are in the world but not of the world. It is time for Thomas Nelson Publishers to clean up their act or perhaps we should simply boycott their books! Perhaps if they feel it in their bank balance then they will stop this drivel!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Preaching the Word

I was riding in my car to work this morning and I started thinking about preaching the Word.

Many preachers claim to be preaching the word. But, are they?

It is quite obvious that if the preacher only gives his own opinions, then he obviously is not preaching the Word!

The next question is, when are preachers actually preaching the Word? It is fairly difficult to simply make a positive comment as to when preachers are preaching the Word. However, it is easier to go into the negative as to when they are not!

It is my contention that when preachers have not done their homework in preparation for their sermons, then they are not preaching the Word. In these situations it is much easier to fall into the my-own-opinion trap! What does this homework entail?

First, it is important to spend time in prayer when preparing a sermon. Preparing a sermon is not preparing a speech with simple logic involved or just relaying facts. A sermon is to be an explanation of the Word of the Almighty God! Therefore, time must be spent with the Lord in preparing the sermon.

Second, the Scriptures must be pored over extensively. Too many sermons today, especially topical sermons, have a proof-text here and there and that is about all that the sermon contains. On the other hand, quoting many verses can mean just as little if they are not used wisely. Spend time in reading and rereading the passage in question as much as it takes.

Third, a sermon not based on proper exegesis will certainly become self-opinionated instead of Christ-centered.

It is my opinion that most topically based sermons end up being strewn with opinions not found in the Bible. It is certainly possible to preach topical sermons based on good preparatory exegesis--which lends itself to systematic theology--but on the other hand, I have seen (and heard) from experience that almost no topical preacher is a good exegete. It is so much easier to pick a topic to preach on and then to throw a couple of verses at the topic than to actually spend time searching the Scriptures and applying good hermeneutical principles to those Scriptures.

On the other hand, expository preaching lends itself to proper exegesis. Now hear me! I am not saying that you cannot be lazy when using expository preaching and end up preaching useless sermons. The nature of man is to take shortcuts where they are available! I am also not saying that good exegesis cannot be used in topical preaching. What I am saying is that one is forced more in expository preaching than in topical preaching to do exegesis. Now I know, you all have lists of preachers that are good at one style of preaching and preachers that are bad at another. That is not my point at all. I am not looking at the preachers per se in this point, but rather at the type of preaching and the preparation involved. What I particularly like about expository preaching is that it forces you to look at the context and to build the sermon based on the context of the passage, chapter and book!

Fourth, once the preacher is done with his own exegesis, it is always helpful to use good commentaries. I know that there are preachers, especially these new fandangled charismatic types, that believe that they do not need to use commentaries to help them in preparing their sermons. "Pride comes before a fall." The absolute conceit in this approach is telling. It is for this very reason that so many of these preachers have gone off the rails and are preaching erroneous doctrines at best and heresy at worst! There are many great men of God that have gone before us and they had wisdom and insight that most of us can't even dream of.

C.S. Lewis has something extremely wise to say about the reading of new as opposed to old books. This can easily be applied to the use of commentaries:

"There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about "isms" and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

"This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself.

"Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o'clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why--the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity ("mere Christianity" as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them."
Continue reading.

Obviously, commentaries should not be used as a shortcut but rather as corrective or confirmatory tools.

Fifth, here many laymen and preachers disagree with me, but I believe that preachers today must become well-versed in Biblical Greek and/or Hebrew. Martin Luther wrote way back in 1524:

"In the measure that we love the Gospel, let us place a strong emphasis on the languages. For it was not without reason that God wrote the Scriptures in two [primary] languages, the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. Those languages which God did not despise, but rather chose above all others for His Word, are the languages which we also should honor above all others. It is a sin and a shame that we do not learn the languages of our Book."

Someone compiled a list of reasons as to why we, and in my opinion preachers most of all, should study New Testament Greek:

"1. You are always subject to the choices of the translator(s) in doing Biblical studies if you do not know the original languages.

" a.. Even though you may trust those translators, nevertheless it is more useful in doing serious study to know the language yourself.
b.. Unless you can read Biblical Greek, you have forever limited yourself to low-level study aids. The inability to research commentaries and lexicons that deal with the original language again means that you have decided to let someone else tell you what the Bible says: commentaries that are not based on the original languages are inadequate.
c.. It gives you access to the best scholarly journals and books in biblical and theological studies.
d.. It gives you a greater independence as an interpreter of Scripture

"2. It takes you a step closer to the people who used the language 2000 years ago.

" a.. It gives you a broader and deeper understanding of the linguistic and cultural milieu in which the NT was written.
b.. It gives you a new appreciation of the richness and depth of the sacred texts, which previously you have come to value even though you have perceived them only through a veil, dimly.
c.. Studying the Bible in the original languages brings a new dimension to the scriptures that simply does not get portrayed in English. It allows you to interact with the scriptures in a new way.

"3. Studying the Greek NT provides a way to get a fresh look at what the text is actually saying. It may help to overcome some of our preconceived notions of what the English text says.

"4. Studying New Testament Greek should turn a good NT scholar into a better one. [But it won't turn a bad one into a good one!]

"5. It helps you learn the grammar of your own language, and hopefully, makes you a better communicator in that language.

"6. It is great intellectual training.

"7. But, most of all, it's fun!!!!!!!"

Most preachers who give all kinds of reasons for not studying Greek are simply too lazy to do so! Others are too involved in things that have nothing to do with the ministry, and are sitting in waste-of-time meetings and treating the church as a business!

Last, I am sure that we can add many more to this list of points, but for now, return to the first point and start it all over again. Preparing a sermon is not a once off linear event. It is a cyclic, iterative process. Repetition on preparing sermons will help iron out difficulties.

So, when preachers go through this iterative process it will help getting rid of their opinions so that they can actually preach the Word and not just their own words or opinions.

Preachers owe it to their congregations, but most of all to Jesus Christ, to preach the Word and only the Word, or else to get out! If a preacher is not preaching the unadulterated Word of God, he is not representing God, and can in a certain sense be labeled a false prophet. As a preacher, where do YOU fit in?

Just thinking...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The wayward church - neglecting the Reformation

When I look at all the churches around today, I sometimes wonder why so many of them are into weird stuff and weird people such as "clucking like chickens," "holy (?!) laughter," "hissing like snakes" and Kenneth Copeland, T.B. Joshua and many other weird and wonderful fads.

It is not always easy to come to such a conclusion, especially when there are many different reasons why this could happen to the church.

I personally believe that there must be an overarching reason that can include almost all other reasons.

This reason, I believe, is the neglect of a remembrance of the Reformation brought into the light by Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517, he nailed his 95 Theses against the door of the Wittenburg church in Germany, mainly against the selling of indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church. Luther wanted dialogue with the church concerning this abuse. However, soon indulgences became a small speck on the wall of the great doctrines to be restored by the Reformation.

Many churches today, with pastors supposedly trained theologically, don't even know when Reformation Day is! Some are very concerned with Halloween, yet have NO alternatives to celebrating Halloween! Hellooo! What about Reformation Day? Reformation Day is the same day as Halloween. Traditionally Reformation Day is celebrated on the last Sunday before October 31. This year that Sunday is October 30.

The church is losing and indeed forgetting the important doctrines of the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ, and I fear it is going to end up in the same state as the Reformation time Roman Catholic Church! The people are no longer taught about the fundamentals of the gospel and why those fundamentals are so very important. Today it has become more important for pastors to preach feel-good sermons than teaching their people the fundamental truths of the gospel. To many of these churches the wonderful essential doctrines of the gospel have simply become passé. What do these people believe? Many of them probably believe that they are Christians, but yet have never heard a sermon on what defines a Christian theologically.

If we can start remembering why the Reformers fought so hard to bring the church back to the truth, then just perhaps we will start teaching that same truth. Many Christians tend to minor on the majors and major on the minors. However, many of them don't even know what the majors are, so how can they ever not major on the minors?

The reason why people do not get into the tough stuff of the Bible is because pastors keep feeding them byte sized, scaled down trinkets of "minors!" People are being treated like babies that cannot chew solid food. As a result when you dish up the solid food of the Scriptures to them, it is too tough to chew.

It is for this reason that we need to start highlighting the fundamentals of the gospel that the Reformers battled to bring back to the church.

What are you going to do about Reformation Day? Is it going to go by once again without mention, or are you going to make people aware of this day that can help us return to the important doctrines of the gospel?

Just thinking...

The Reformation - Unleashing salvation

1. Introduction

What is The Reformation and what is a Reformer?

The term Reformer is used to describe those men who desired to reach back to the foundations of the Word of God and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in light of human traditions and ecclesiastical corruption. A reformer’s intention, when applied in this way to church history, was particularly seen in the reformation of the corrupted Roman Catholic Church.

The phrase The Reformation refers to that great restoration of the Biblical gospel and the resulting schism with the Roman Catholic Church that was initiated by Martin Luther on 31 October 1517, when he nailed his 95 theses of contention with the Roman Catholic Church.

2. The Reformation Genesis

2.1 Papal infighting

Although the start of the Reformation is seen as 31 October 1517 with Martin Luther, there were many that preceded Luther in their search for truth. In fact, the seeds for the Reformation were planted more than 100 years before Luther was born.

Pope Gregory XI (1370-1378) returned to Rome from Avignon to reinstate Rome as the papal city on 17 January 1377. However, his death in 1378 left an opening for the next pope. Since the pope is elected by the cardinals and the majority of the cardinals were French, the Italian people would not stand for the election of a Frenchman who might want to return the papacy to Avignon in France. At this, an Italian mob invaded the building in Rome where the election was to take place and ensured that no cardinal could escape. After deliberation the cardinals elected an Italian who took the name Urban VI, who subsequently was crowned the next pope on easter Sunday, 1378.

Urban VI was not a wise man and neither was he cautious. He preached against the ostentatiousness of the cardinals and other abuses. In order to remove the power of the French, he decided to appoint a majority of Italian cardinals. Unfortunately, he announced this plan to the French before actually doing this.

At this point many thought he had gone crazy. More and more of his cardinals joined his opposition. Upon these events, he appointed 26 new cardinals from his own supporters. However, by now, the defectors have declared Urban VI a false pope and as a result his cardinals were also false. The defectors then elected a new pope who called himself Clement VII.

After Clement VII’s election he sent his forces to Rome against Urban VI. However, he was sent back by Urban VI’s troops. Clement VII then took up residence in Avignon. This became known as the Great Schism. As a result the Roman Catholic Church had two popes! This meant that Europe was divided between the two popes. Several popes followed in each line.

Finally, the two cardinals’ councils got to meet together. They finally decided to depose the two rival popes and elected one new pope who called himself Alexander V. However, the two rival popes refused to accept the councils decision, and henceforth there were three popes! Alexander V died and John XXIII was elected in his place. Neither of these two popes was able to end the schism. The Roman Catholic Church today accepts only the line of popes following Urban VI. The rival popes of Avignon and the Pisan popes (Alexander V and John XXIII) are considered to be antipopes.

Finally, after great political manoeuvres and fugitive popes, Martin V (1417-1431) was elected as the sole pope. The end of the Great Schism finally came in 1423.

2.2 First Reformers

2.2.1 Wycliffe

The first reformer to be noticed is John Wycliffe. He is known as the morning star of the Reformation; a star rising upon a new day. Wycliffe was born in 1330 AD and died in 1384. He attended Oxford University, receiving his doctorate in 1372. Most of his life was spent teaching at Oxford, and studying God's Word in Oxford’s extensive library. He was a brilliant scholar who mastered the late medieval scholastic tradition, and was recognized by John of Guant (The Duke of Lancaster) as one who was extraordinarily gifted in theology and preaching. Not only was he an able clergyman, but he was also involved in state affairs. Wycliffe performed diplomatic duties for the crown, and wrote extensively on supporting civil government.

Wycliffe was well respected and had a wide influence with his teaching and preaching. He wrote against the Roman Catholic church on many doctrinal points. He did not believe in the clerical ownership of land and property, as well as papal jurisdiction in secular affairs. He also believed that those clergy who lived in open immorality, as many of the corrupt "popes, bishops, and priests of the time," should relinquish their positions the moment they came upon unrepentant open sin. This would have included much of the political corruption found in the Catholic church, and if Wycliffe’s biblical teachings were heeded, many of the priests, bishops, cardinals and popes would have stepped down rather quickly.

In reaction to Wycliffe's open "defiance" of the Roman Catholic church and the Pope’s authority, a Papal bull was issued against Oxford to impede him from teaching. It also noted that Wycliffe was to appear before a "hearing" which, unsurprisingly, charged him with heresy against the mother church. He did attend that hearing and was formally charged with heresy. The Catholic church was adamantly opposed to his teachings, especially when he attacked the Mass. He also rejected all ceremony and organization not mentioned in the Bible (which would have excluded almost everything the Romans Catholic church performed), as well as the heretical doctrines of transubstantiation and the clerical "power" of the priesthood. His views on doctrines were more and more closely matched with that of Augustine. Nevertheless, as a result of his political connections, Wycliffe was not arrested at this hearing.

Wycliffe's best known work was that of the translation he accomplished from the Latin Vulgate to English. Though he did not translate the Bible from the original languages (the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) he still placed the first English Bible into the hands of the people. The translation was made available to the English people through the hands of the Lollards (or "poor preachers") These Lollards were Wycliffe’s trained lay preachers who took up the task of spreading the Gospel even in light of the anathema of the Roman Catholic Church. They traveled with their Bible, and the clothes on their back, gaining sustenance by those who would take them in.

Wycliffe died in 1384 from two strokes. The Roman Catholic church never caught him to burn him at the stake. In spite of this, 40 years after his death, they dug up his bones and burned them to ashes, scattering them in a river, and formally excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic church.

2.2.2 Hus

The next great figure of Reformation thought (which at this time was simply an adherence to the truths of the Bible) was a Bohemian monk named John Hus (Jan Hus). He lived from 1372-1415. He studied at the university of Prague, and later became a professor there. He took priestly vows, and served the Catholic church for a time, until his conversion through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In 1402 Hus was appointed rector and preacher of Prague's Bethlehem chapel, the center of the Czech reformed movement. During these years, many of Wycliffe's expositions of the Word of God moved the true Church closer and closer to biblical thinking. By 1407, adopting many of the same biblical insights, Hus was clearly identified with this kind of reforming thought by the Roman Catholic church.

Hus wrote and preached against papal indulgences, clerical abuses of power, immorality of high living within the Catholic clergy, and the veneration of the Pope. He wrote to promote piety and godliness, rather than riotous living and excess which the Roman Catholic church allowed.

In 1414, Hus was summoned by the Archbishop of Prague to stand before a official hearing on his doctrines--the Roman Catholic church believing Hus was a heretic and yearned that his preaching be stopped. Since Hus refused this charge, and continued to preach the Gospel, the Roman Catholic church summoned him, under pretense of "safety", to appear and present his case before the Catholic tribunal. Instead of allowing him a fair trial, they arrested Hus and imprisoned him; Hus' case was never really heard. He did stand "trial" and was convicted of being a heretic. He was burned at the stake by the Catholic church on July 6, 1415. Hus sang hymns while he died.

You may have heard the phrase, "your goose is cooked". This was first coined from the martyrdom of this reformer. Hus' name in German sounded like "goose". Thus, as he was burned, they coined the term "Hus is cooked" (or, "your goose is cooked") in German. Yet, Hus said to the Archbishop during his trial, that though he--the goose--be burned at the stake, another will come--a swan--to teach and preach the doctrines of the Bible; to finish the work of reformation which had begun. This swan would be no other than Martin Luther in the early 1500’s.

2.2.3 Tyndale

After John Hus, the next noteworthy reformer is William Tyndale. He was born in 1493 AD, and died a martyr in 1536. He was educated at Oxford, and became a prominent Greek Scholar. He had obtained a copy of Erasmus' Greek New Testament and vowed before the Lord that "nothing" would stop him from learning the Greek language. He was prominently skilled as a Greekscholar and attempted a translation of the Bible (the NT) from original Greek to English. He sought to publish this translation but was turned down at every corner for the rights to publish; especially since he appealed to the Roman Catholic Church. They did not want the laity to gain hold of a copy of the Bible in their own tongue lest they misinterpret it; the Romans church believed that only the mother church is able to rightly interpret the Bible.

Tyndale secretly finished the translation with the help of colleagues, and smuggled the new translation into English hands. During a dinner meeting among priests and bishops where Tyndale was present, he said that he "defied the Pope and all his laws" and vowed that "a plough-boy would know more of the Scriptures than they" so help him God. That English Bible did find its way into the hands of the plough-boys, yet, through Roman Catholic influence, King Henry VIII set his indignation against Tyndale and required the translation to be burned. Henry did this because Tyndale, among others, would not consent to the marriage of the King to Anne Bolin, subsequent to his divorce of Catherine of Argon. Tyndale had written a treatise on Christian growth which King Henry VIII read. In it the king saw that Tyndale was "sympathetic" towards "monarchs" because if priests abused their power, kings had the right of judgment and justice against them. Henry VIII favoured this since the Pope had refused to annul his marriage with Catherine. King Henry ultimately set himself as the Defender of the Faith, above the Pope. So Henry VIII was partial towards Tyndale at first, and desired to meet him, though ultimately the King found out that Tyndale, because of Scriptural warrant, could not condone the King's divorce, and in his writings has stated that divorce was sin. Henry allowed the Roman Catholic church to arrest Tyndale. Tyndale was caught, arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. While he was being tied at the stake, Tyndale prayed that the "eyes of the King would be opened." In 1536, he was strangled to death and then burned. After his death, the circulation of the English Bible providentially found its way into the hands of King Henry VIII. In seeing the masterful work done, Henry issued an edict that every church was to have one of these Bibles on display in their chapel. Henry did make one adjustment to the Bible, and that was the insertion of the header which pronounced him Defender of the Faith on the title page. Although posthumously, Tyndale's prayer was heard.

3. The Reformation Exodus

3.1 Martin Luther

Just after Tyndale came upon the reformation scene, another young monk named Martin Luther commenced a great stir in Germany. Luther was an Augustinian monk who, after much study, was persuaded by one of the later Reformation standards, "Sola Fide" (Faith alone), early in his walk with Christ. It was during his study of Paul’s epistle to the Romans where he was consumed by the divine and supernatural light of conversion. The text read, "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17 quoting Habakkuk 2:4.) Luther was a monk who felt the full weight of the Law of God resting upon his shoulders--that Law he was unable to keep, and thus, he, being a sinful man, was under the wrath of a holy God who condemned him for his sin. Not until Luther's conversion was this weight lifted. He had previously attempted to "work" for his salvation through the vain prayer of the rosary, priestly confession, contrition, penance and the like. He would often spend upwards of 6 hours in the confessional trying to account for the days' sins, but the moment he left the booth, he would remember one more, and fall under great guilt and sorrow. Only the atoning blood of Christ had the ability to wash the stains of those sins away.

Luther, after his conversion, posted his 95 theses to the door of a chapel in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. This instigated a great controversy since he attacked the indulgences of the Roman Catholic church which were the bread and butter of the papacy. He was branded as a heretic, and was labeled as a conspirator among the "Hussites", the followers of John Hus--the goose. Luther was the swan which Hus "prophesied" about. Luther ultimately was forced to defy the pope, and the papacy, though in the beginning he desired to reform the church, not break away from it. However, he found no medium of compromise.

Luther was not invited to Strasbourg to debate with Dr. John Eck. Actually, Luther's colleague, Dr. Carlstadt, was invited as a representative of these "novel" reformation teachings. The meeting was to be structured as a debate. Luther was not invited because if he had left the Wittenberg area, he would not be under the protection of the German Prince Elector Duke George of Saxony, who was favourable to Luther. But because the invitation gave Carlstadt and "any whom he may invite" safe conduct, Luther decided to attend, as well as Phillip Melancthon. Here Luther had his famous debate with Dr. John Eck. Luther defied Eck and astounded him with his extensive learning. Though Eck tried to stand his ground, he was taken back by the reformer's biblical stance and prowess. Those adhering to biblical truth knew Luther stood firm. He brought forth the truth of God and stated "The plough-boy with scripture is mightier than the greatest Pope without." He was obviously charged with heresy. But was not arrested at that time.

Luther was summoned by King Charles and the Bishopric to stand trial for his work. They beckoned him a summons to appear in the city of Worms before the king while under the crown’s safe conduct. Luther was under the impression that he was attending a formal debate to present his views but this was not the case. Luther was to attend the meeting, called the Diet of Worms, and defend himself. The King and Roman clergy had his books strewn upon a table in plain view. Luther was beckoned to come forward, and was asked two questions, 1) Are these your writings? Luther conceded they were. Secondly, 2) Will you retract them? Luther's response was "Most gracious emperor! Gracious princes and Lords. His majesty asked me two questions. As to the first, I acknowledge as mine the books that have been just named: I cannot deny them. As to the second, seeing that it is a question that concerns faith and the salvation of souls, and in which the Word of God, the greatest and most precious treasure either in heaven or earth, is interested, I should act imprudently were I to reply without reflection. I might affirm less than the circumstance demands, or more than truth requires, and so sin against this saying of Christ:--whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father in heaven. For this reason I entreat your imperial majesty, with all humility, to allow me time, that I may answer without offending against the Word of God." Luther was given one day to reflect on these things. That night he prayed this prayer:

O Almighty and Everlasting God! How terrible is this world! Behold, it openeth its mouth to swallow me up and I have so little trust in Thee! How weak is the flesh and how power is Satan! If it is in the strength of this world only that I must put my trust, all is over! My last hour is come, my condemnation has been pronounced! O God! O God! O God! Do thou help me against all the wisdom of the world! Do this; Thou shouldest do this Thou alone for this is not my work, but Thine. I have nothing to do here, nothing to contend for with these great ones of the world! I should desire to see my days flow on peaceful and happy. But the cause is Thine and it is a righteous and eternal cause. O Lord! Help me! faithful and unchangeable God! In no man do I place my trust. It would be vain! All that is of man is uncertain; all that cometh of man fails O God! My God, hearest Thou me not? My God, art thou dead? No! Thou canst not die! Thou hidest thyself only! Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it well! Act, then, O God stand at my side, for the sake of they well beloved Jesus Christ, who is my defense, my shield, and my strong tower." After a moment of silent struggle, he thus continues: "Lord! Where stayest Thou? O my God! Where art Thou? Come! Come! I am ready! I am ready to lay down my life for Thy truth patient as a lamb. For it is the cause of justice-it is Thine! I will never separate myself from Thee, neither now nor through eternity! And though the world should be filled with devils,-though my body, which is till the work of Thy hands, should be slain, be stretched upon the pavement, be cut in pieces, reduced to ashes, my soul is Thine! Yes! I have the assurance of Thy Word. My soul belongs to Thee! It shall abide forever with Thee! Amen! O God! Help me! Amen!"

The reason I included this at length, is because it is characteristic of the spirit behind the Reformation. Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Calvin, Beza, and all the Puritans had a disposition which trusted in the power of Jesus Christ and the Lord God alone. They were very aware of their inherent weakness and their sinfulness.

Luther appeared before the Diet once more the next day. He gave a long speech in defence of his works. And in conclusion replied in this way to the question of recantation:

When he had ceased speaking, the Chancellor of Traves, the orator of the Diet, said indignantly: "You have not answered the question put to you. You were not summoned hither to call in question the decision of councils. You are required to give a clear and precise answer. Will you or will you not, retract?" Upon this Luther replied without hesitation: "Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning,- unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted,-and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience." And then looking round on this assembly before which he stood, and which held his life in its hands, he said: "Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!"

Luther spent a great time in hiding after that meeting. As a matter of fact, his colleagues (friends of Duke George) kidnapped him that night in fear of his life, threw a sack over him and "stole" him away. This was unknown to Luther, yet, it most assuredly saved his life. He then spent a great deal of time in hiding. He took this time to teach, catechize, preach, and translate the Scriptures into the German tongue. One of the greatest Reformational works was written by Luther is called The Bondage of the Will. Luther believed this was his greatest work. It is still available to buy today and deals with a refutation of Erasmus’ denial of total depravity and a setting forth of the biblical picture of man’s total inability to save himself. Luther died in 1546.

3.2 Ulrich Zwingli

While the Reformation was commencing in Germany under the guidance of Luther, Switzerland was beginning in an extensive Reformation as well. Two priests converted to Christianity were taking the country by storm. The first was named Ulrich Zwingli. He is the third most prominent Reformer of the time. He was born in 1484, in Wildhaus, St. Gall, Switzerland and showed early promise in education. His genius can readily be seen in his music and the ability to play 8 instruments. He studied at the University of Basel where he was captivated by humanistic studies. Zwingli was ordained a Catholic priest and served in parishes in Glarus for ten years (1506-1516), and Einsiedeln two years (1516-1518) until he was called to be the people's priest as the Great Minister in Zurich.

After a long struggle with the moral problem of sensuality, he had a breakthrough much like Luther's, which cast him upon the waters of the Scriptures. The Scriptures produced in him a hostility to the medieval acetic practices of the priesthood, of which he wrote vehemently against.

Zwingli took Zurich to spiritual Reformation, by the grace of God. He preached straight through the Gospel of Matthew, which in those days was very rare to preach exegetically and continually through one book. It transformed the people to embrace the heart of the Reformation. Zwingli was killed during a war at that time in which he ministered to the soldiers. He died on the battlefield.

3.3 John Calvin

The greatest magisterial reformer to rival the eminence of Martin Luther during this time is John Calvin. Not only was Calvin an astounding man of his time, but his theology, resting upon Augustine, and upon the Apostles and Jesus Christ, shaped the theology of the Puritans.

Calvin was extraordinarily gifted by God. He was born in 1509 in Noyon, Picardie. His father was a notary who served the bishop of Noyon, and as a result of this connection Calvin, while at the age of 12, received 2 chaplainries which in turn paid for his education. Although he commenced training for the priesthood at the University of Paris, his father, because of a controversy with the Bishop and clergy of the Noyon cathedral, now decided his son should become a lawyer. (Luther also studied law and left it to become a priest as well). Later he studied at Bourges where he became converted, and joined the reformation cause against the Roman Catholic heresy.

After his father died, Calvin returned to Paris where he joined friends there and wrote his Institutes of the Christian Religion. It was published when he was only 27. This work is one of the best products the Reformation produced. It has marked Calvin forever as a father of Reformed Thought.

While Calvin was pastor of the Eglise St. Pierre and spent much of his time preaching, his greatest influence came from his writings. Both his Latin and his French were clear and his reasoning lucid. He wrote commentaries on almost every book of the Bible, all of the New testament except The Revelation of the Apostle John. He produced a great number of pamphlets, of which is notable The Necessity of Reforming the Church. It is a short work which should be read by every pastor today. But most important of all, his Institutes were rewritten a number of times and published through 5 editions. They began as a small book of 6 chapters, and were finished in the much larger work of 79 chapters.

Calvin's influence through the Reformation was specifically seen in his work in Geneva, Switzerland. Though he was not happy to take up this work as chancellor over the entire city, still, if God desired to use him there, he would no doubt stay. A maxim which he vigorously lived by, even to his detriment, was, "Eat little, sleep less, and study more." Calvin’s work in Geneva resulted in the creation of a religious paradise where the Scriptures ruled the hearts of men from the rich to the poor. When John Knox visited Geneva, he said that it was as if "visiting heaven on earth." The Lord used Calvin to convert the "city" into a religious city-state and a central hub of learning during the time of the Reformation.

4. Justification by faith alone

The secret of Luther's power and influence lies in his heroic faith. It delivered him from the chaos and torment of ascetic self-mortification and self-condemnation, gave him rest and peace, and made him a lordly freeman in Christ, and yet an obedient servant of Christ. This faith breathes through all his writings, dominated his acts, sustained him in his conflicts and remained his shield and anchor till the hour of death. This faith was born in the convent at Erfurt, called into public action at Wittenberg, and made him a Reformer of the Church.

By the aid of Staupitz and the old monk, but especially by the continued study of Paul's Epistles, be was gradually brought to the conviction that the sinner is justified by faith alone, without works of law. He experienced this truth in his heart long before he understood it in all its bearings. He found in it that peace of conscience which he had sought in vain by his monkish exercises. He pondered day and night over the meaning of "the righteousness of God "(Rom. 1:17), and thought that it is the righteous punishment of sinners; but toward the close of his convent life he came to the conclusion that it is the righteousness which God freely gives in Christ to those who believe in him. Righteousness is not to be acquired by man through his own exertions and merits; it is complete and perfect in Christ, and all the sinner has to do is to accept it from Him as a free gift. Justification is that judicial act of God whereby he acquits the sinner of guilt and clothes him with the righteousness of Christ on the sole condition of personal faith which apprehends and appropriates Christ and shows its life and power by good works, as a good tree bringing forth good fruits. For faith in Luther's system is far more than a mere assent of the mind to the authority of the church: it is a hearty trust and full surrender of the whole man to Christ; it lives and moves in Christ as its element, and is constantly obeying his will and following his example. It is only in connection with this deeper conception of faith that his doctrine of justification can be appreciated. Disconnected from it, it is a pernicious error.

The Pauline doctrine of justification as set forth in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, had never before been clearly and fully understood, not even by Augustine and Bernard, who confound justification with sanctification. Herein lies the difference between the Catholic and the Protestant conception. In the Catholic system justification is a gradual process conditioned by faith and good works; in the Protestant system it is a single act of God, followed by sanctification. It is based upon the merits of Christ, conditioned by faith, and manifested by good works.

This experience acted like a new revelation on Luther. It shed light upon the whole Bible and made it to him a book of life and comfort. He felt relieved of the terrible load of guilt by an act of free grace. He was led out of the dark prison house of self-inflicted penance into the daylight and fresh air of God's redeeming love. Justification broke the fetters of legalistic slavery, and filled him with the joy and peace of the state of adoption; it opened to him the very gates of heaven.

Henceforth the doctrine of justification by faith alone was for him to the end of life the sum and substance of the gospel, the heart of theology, the central truth of Christianity, the article of the standing or falling church. By this standard he measured every other doctrine and the value of every book of the Bible. Hence his enthusiasm for Paul, and his dislike of James, whom he could not reconcile with his favourite apostle. He gave disproportion to solifidianism and presented it sometimes in most unguarded language, which seemed to justify antinomian conclusions; but he corrected himself, he expressly condemned antinomianism, and insisted on good works and a holy life as a necessary manifestation of faith. And it must not be forgotten that the same charge of favouring antinomianism was made against Paul, who rejects it with pious horror: "Let it never be!"

Thus the monastic and ascetic life of Luther was a preparatory school for his evangelical faith. It served the office of the Mosaic law which, by bringing the knowledge of sin and guilt, leads as a tutor to Christ (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:24). The law convicted, condemned, and killed him; the gospel comforted, justified, and made him alive. The law enslaved him, the gospel set him free. He had trembled like a slave; now he rejoiced as a son in his father's house. Through the discipline of the law he died to the law, that he might live unto God (Gal. 2:19).

In one word, Luther passed through the experience of Paul. He understood him better than any mediaeval schoolman or ancient father. His commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians is still one of the best, for its sympathetic grasp of the contrast between law and gospel, between spiritual slavery and spiritual freedom.

Luther held this conviction without dreaming that it conflicted with the traditional creed and piety of the church. He was brought to it step by step. The old views and practices ran along side with it, and for several years he continued to be a sincere and devout Catholic. It was only the war with Tetzel and its consequences that forced him into the position of a Reformer and emancipated him from his old connections.

5. Conclusion

The Reformation under men like Wycliffe, Hus, Zwingli, Tyndale, Luther and Calvin, solidified the Biblical doctrines of the faith, recapturing the true faith from the Roman Catholic church's counterfeit faith. The content of this victorious reaffirmation of biblical doctrine can be summed up in the five slogan terms of the Reformation. Here is a brief summary of their content:

Sola Christus: Christ alone. That only through the work of Jesus Christ alone may a man be saved. It is not by foreseen faith, or by good deeds, or by human merit that a man may obtain faith - these are all works stemming from a wicked and depraved heart which all men possess. Rather, it is solely on the merit of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. Man’s salvation is exclusively accomplished by God's work through his Son.

Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone. That Scripture is final authority for salvation and sanctification for the Christian. It is not by papal edicts, or priestly verdicts which have authority over the consciences of men. A man’s conscience may never be bound by human inventions or traditions, but only by the Word of God alone. Where the church and the word of God differ on doctrine, the Word of God takes supreme prominence.

Sola Gratia: Grace alone. Works that are accomplished by human effort have no place in the salvation of the soul. Men are miserable wretches in the sight of God. They are unworthy and worthless. Men are only saved by the electing grace of God in Christ. God is never obliged to save anyone. He acts completely by mercy and grace on those who are undeserving.

Sola Fide: Faith alone. That a person may, upon one act of believing, be justified in the sight of God for all eternity. It is a belief by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. It is one act to be justified by faith, then the remainder of the Christian life is a glorifying of God through holiness and obedience of a purified life. One cannot mix works and faith for salvation. Faith alone, as a gift given by Christ, and applied by the work of the Holy Spirit, is the efficient cause of justification.

Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God alone. All things live and move and have their being to glorify God. God will be glorified in everything. He is glorified by those in heaven under His mercy, and is glorified by those in hell who glorify His justice. God shall be glorified by the saint and the sinner. Men shall reflect back to Him the radiance of His worth. All that men do will ultimately be for His glory, and for none other.

Originally from my website Teachingtruth.

Just thinking...

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