Friday, May 26, 2006
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto your name give glory, for your mercy, and for your truth's sake. (Psalm 115:1)
The whole of our lives are to be lived for his glory,
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31)
In Medieval Catholicism only Popes, priests, cardinals, monks and nuns, living a specifically religious life were thought to be honouring God. The Reformation smashed such spiritual elitism. The Reformers emphasised the importance of ordinary life. They prized marriage and child rearing over and against the celibacy of the Catholic clergy. People were taught to glorify God in the home, in the fields, in their trades and professions. The lowliest tasks were dignified and sanctified by godly living.
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:17)
The arts were liberated from the patronage of the Church and artists painted not just saints and Bible-pictures, but people, landscapes, flowers, birds and crowds at work and play. The glories of creation and ordinary life were worth celebrating. We would not have the paintings of Rembrandt, Turner and Constable apart from the Reformation.
Music was simplified so that whole congregations, not just trained choirs could sing God’s praises. Bach was a child of the Reformation. Mendelssohn, in the 19th Century celebrated the Reformation with his great “Reformation Symphony”.
Science was encouraged. Calvin taught that God has written two books, the book of Nature and the book of the Word. Both are worth studying. The Catholic Church, mainly because its view of the universe owed more to Aristotle than the Bible, notoriously stifled scientific research.
Let all be done for the glory of God! Our self-obsessed culture and need obsessed Churches need to hear this authentic Reformation emphasis more than ever. Jonathan Edwards calls us to make the glory of God our chief joy and delight,
Our chief end is to enjoy God and glorify him forever! If we grasp that, we will be truly biblical Protestants.
Jonathan Edwards on the enjoyment of God here
Thursday, May 25, 2006
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2: 8-10).
Human works do not come into it at all. The Roman Church of the 16th Century gave far too place for human effort in salvation. Sola gratia was an attempt to bring Western Christendom back to its roots in Augustine's theology of grace.
It is God’s loving grace that moved him to save sinners. Our salvation can be traced back to God’s sovereign and gracious choice in election. God did not choose us because he knew we would believe. He chose us as sinners and determined in Christ to give us faith unto salvation. Paul wrote of God,
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel
(2 Timothy 1:9 & 10)
Arminianism teaches that God chose to save people because he foresaw that they would repent and believe. This undermines sola gratia. Biblical Calvinism emphasise the invincibility of God’s electing love. Donald Macleod reflects,
The popular view of the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is that Arminians teach that God loves all men whereas Calvinists teach that God only loves the elect. This is a gross oversimplification. We are talking of two entirely different kinds of love. To the Calvinist, redeeming love is God’s determination to actually save. Far from believing that God loves all men in this sense the Arminian does not believe that God loves one single human soul in this sense. For him, God’s love does not go beyond offering salvation. The last word lies with the human will. The Almighty stands helpless outside the door of the heart, the handle on the inside. He is defeated by man’s No! Electing love, by contrast, means that God doesn’t take No! for an answer. He opens the door, not roughly, from the outside, but gently, from the inside, so that we come to Christ ‘most freely, being made willing by his grace’. (p. 215 Behold Your God!, 1995, Christian Focus Publications)
By grace we were chosen. By the grace of God, Christ tasted death for every man, that he might bring many sons to glory. (Hebrews 2: 9 & 10). By grace we are drawn to Christ and by grace we are kept to the end.
We sing with John Newton,
Amazing grace how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
Salvation by grace alone is the basis of true godly living. Holiness is a matter of glad obedience to a gracious God, not trying to earn our salvation by works.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14)
This healthy emphasis on grace alone humbles man to the dust and exalts the saving love of God.
Sovereign grace o’er sin abounding,
Who like we Thy praise should sing?
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the righteousness of God and the statement ‘the just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17). Then I grasped that the righteousness of God is that righteousness by which though grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on new meaning, and whereas before ‘the righteousness of God’ had filled me with hate, not it became inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.
This is the Bible’s teaching,
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
Justification is God’s declaration that the sinner is righteous in his sight.,
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness (Romans 4:5.)
The basis of justification is the death and resurrection of Christ,
who was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:25.)
Christ alone saves us by faith in him alone.
This foundational doctrine of the Reformation needs to be safeguarded today. Biblical scholars such as Tom Wright, the current Bishop of Durham teach the so-called “New Perspective on Paul”. The “New Perspective” makes justification a matter of “Who are the people of God?” not “How can a sinner be right with God?” This view is becoming increasingly influential. But it robs the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith of its God-ward emphasis. Justification is primarily about God declaring a sinner righteous in is sight, not who belongs to the people of God.
Justification does impact on the doctrine of the Church – all believers have access to God in prayer through Christ. We need no priestly intervention. Christian Ministers are gifted and called to preach to and lead they people of God. But all Christians believers constitute a “royal priesthood” with access to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9).
Justification by faith alone safeguards the free, gracious aspect of the gospel. We are justified apart from our works. But the faith that alone saves does not remain alone. The faith that justifies works through love (Galatians 5:6).
Justification is the basis of assurance,
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8: 31-35)
Luther was racked with guilt when he was a devout monk, because he could never be sure that he had done enough to satisfy God. Justification by faith alone points us outside of ourselves, away from our works, moods and feelings to Christ. He has satisfied God’s justice. His righteousness is counted to us by faith. Therefore we can by joyously confident that we are accepted in the Beloved.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The Reformers insisted that Christ alone is Saviour and that his work is sufficient to save us from our sins. This is the clear teaching of Scripture:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
(1 Timothy 2:5 & 6)
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needs not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. (Hebrews 7:26 & 27)
One sure-fire characteristic of Evangelicalism was that Christ died as our substitute, bearing the penalty of our sin. But Steve Chalke, card carrying member of the Evangelical Alliance, infamously said that this teaching is tantamount to,
child abuse – a vengeful Father punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed.
In an online article, Redeeming the Cross – The Lost Message of Jesus and the Cross of Christ, Chalke claims that the penal-substitutionary model of the atonement is the product of Reformation teaching as set out by the 19th Century American Theologian Charles Hodge. Hodge is the real Theological bogey man for Chalke. He blames him for popularising the penal substitutionary view of the cross that he finds so objectionable. Chalke prefers the pre-reformation view that Christ was offered as a ransom to Satan.
You do not have to be a dyed in the wool Calvinist to accept that penal substitution is the hallmark of an evangelical understanding of the cross. An 18th Century critic denounced the teaching that “the sacrifice of Christ was destined to appease vindictive justice” as “frivolous and blasphemous notions.” John Wesley responded, “These ‘frivolous and blasphemous notions’ do I receive as the precious truth of God.”.
Partly as a result of this controversy, penal substitution is regarded by some evangelicals as simply one theory of the atonement, rather than the very essence of the biblical teaching of the cross. But, if death is the penalty for sin and Christ died for our sins, then his death is by definition both substitutionary and penal. Listen to the apostle Paul as he reminded the Corinthians of the gospel that he preached to them,
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
No wonder that Don Carson, in his Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, could write of Steve Chakle and his fellow “Emergent Church” leader Brian Maclaren,
I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything, both McLaren and Chakle have largely abandoned the gospel.
Do unbelievers need to hear of Christ in order to be saved? You might have thought that Evangelicals of all people would answer YES! But this is no longer the case. Billy Graham was asked, whether “it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they have been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible?” Graham replied, “Yes it is”. Billy Graham is not alone in his sentiments.
In April’s Evangelicals Now! John Benton wrote of his sneak preview of this year’s study guide for the Spring Harvest/Word Alive events.
It has been put together, with assistance, by Steve Chalke, well-known for his dismissal of the cross as a penal substitution. The guide deftly presents various options rather than definite truth on various major doctrines. And a drift away from a clear need for decision for Christ is betrayed in such quotes as the following from Newbigin: ‘The position I have outlined is exclusivist in that it affirms the unique truth of the revelation in Jesus Christ, but is not exclusivist in the sense of denying the possibility of salvation of the non-Christian.’ This really shows a concern to say things which are culturally acceptable at the expense of the gospel…the price of drawing in all the punters seems to be defection from historic evangelicalism and biblical truth. No doubt, Spring Harvest mean well, but this spells disaster
The Reformers believed that people needed to hear the truth in order to be saved. That is why they translated the Bible into the languages of the people, and preached the Word of God to the masses.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14)
The Reformation calls us back to a explicitly Christ-centred gospel and spirituality. What could be healthier for the Church?
John Owen on the glory of Christ here
Did Jesus know that he was God? here
Steve Chalke and the cross of Christ here
This is part 2 of a series on the "sloas" that arose from a couple of posts on Biblical Protestantism (see below)
Monday, May 22, 2006
The Protestant Reformers rejected all that. Luther saw that the basis for Christian truth is the Bible only. Tradition is valuable. The Reformers often quoted from Augustine and the other Church fathers. But the Bible alone is authoritative. When Luther was urged to retract his criticisms of the Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms, he said, “My conscience is bound by the Word of God. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.”
Luther was being entirely biblical,
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16.)
On this basis, Evangelical Protestant Churches give central place to the Bible. The Reformation rediscovered preaching. The pulpit took central place in the Church-building and people gathered to hungrily devour the preached word. All the Reformers were first and foremost preachers of the Word.
We admit no continuing revelation either from the Pope’s “infallible” directives or from the experiences or visions of mystics who claim that the Spirit has spoken to them. We will not allow liberal Theologians to tell us what parts of the Bible we can believe today. We allow the Bible to judge our age, not the other way around. We hold to the total reliability and inerrancy of the Bible as the unique Word of God.
knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20 & 21)
The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy has been criticised by some influential Evangelical scholars. They are unable to confess that the Bible is without error. Such people claim to hold a high view of the Bible without holding to full inerrancy. Evangelicals who have moved away from the older position are in danger of jeopardising the gospel that is based on the testimony of Scripture. Iain Murray warns us,
A person who believes the gospel and is yet uncertain about the whole Bible will get to heaven in spite of the inconsistency of thought. But we cannot stop there. That same inconsistency, if condoned, has the potential to undermine all saving Christianity. Belief in the trustworthiness of Scripture is essential for the preservation of the Christian faith as a whole. (p. 312 Evangelicalism Divided, Banner of Truth Trust, 2000)
The Bible alone! This principle gives us a sure objective guide in our confusing world of post-modern thinking where anything goes. The Bible makes us wise unto salvation and is a sure guide to heaven.
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple
Friday, May 19, 2006
Enter the "Exiled Preacher" Tardis and vote for you all time favourite preacher from history.
Who will it be?
Leave a comment on this post to explain your choice.
We need to go back to the great truths rediscovered at the Reformation if evangelicalism is to have a future as a movement that is faithful to the biblical gospel. We do not go back to the Reformation as an arbitrary point in Church history. The Reformation was an attempt to re-form the Church’s life and teaching in the light of the New Testament. Chris Sinkinson discusses the changing shape of evangelicalism and says,
If we take the Reformation as our starting point then evangelicalism is born out of a theological rediscovery. Of course there is a breadth to the Reformation but the breadth is held together by a shift in the location of authority from church councils and traditions to the Bible. Ultimately, to be evangelical is to be biblical in our approach to the knowledge of God and life.
As a movement stemming from the Reformation, evangelicalism is essentially creedal. Not only that, there are clear doctrinal commitments that make up the creed. (Table Talk, Issue 14. Summer 2005, Published by Affinity)
The doctrinal foundation of the evangelical movement is found in the Bible-based creeds and confessions of the Reformation and Puritan periods: The 39 Articles of the Church of England, Westminster Confession of Faith, Savoy Declaration and 1689 Baptist Confession. These confessions differ on matters such as church government and baptism, but they all give expression to the great biblical doctrines that were rediscovered at the Reformation.
Evangelical doctrine, rooted in these Confessions, is not ill-defined and endlessly flexible. Spurgeon said of the 1689 Confession. “This ancient document is a most excellent epitome of the things most surely believed among us”. May we continue to hold fast our profession.
But what truths lay at the heart of the Reformation? The Theology of the Protestant Reformers crystallises around five great principles. Sola Scriptura, Solo Christo, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia and Soli Dieo Gloria. This series will continue with a consideration of the Five Solas of the Reformation and their value for us today.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Let me begin by defining terms. The word “Protestant” has very negative connotations nowadays. The word is perceived to refer to a narrow, bigoted intransigent mindset. This is partly because the troubles in Northern Ireland have often been reported by the media in terms of the tensions between Protestant and Catholic factions.
This is unfortunate. The word did not originally mean to protest against something so much as to speak up for ones views. Word first used in the context of the Reformation, at Holy Roman Empire’s Diet of Speyer in 1529. The diet had been called to discuss the religious and political issues that had been raised in Germany by the reforming activities of Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli. The princes and city representatives who supported reform found themselves in a minority. But they united behind a “Protestatio”, affirming their shared reforming beliefs. For some years, the word “Protestant” simply meant Germans who supported the Reformation. Only later was the term applied to Reformed people in general. For that reason, Dairmaid MacCulloch, in his Reformation, Europe’s House Divided (Penguin History, 2004) prefers the word “evangelical”, arguing,
That word has the advantage that it was widely used at the time, and it also encapsulates what was most important to this collection of activists: the good news of the Gospel, in Latinized Greek, the evangeluim. (p. xx)
Macculloch makes a helpful point here. The Evangelical movement clearly had its origins in Reformation.
Words do change their meaning over time. The word “Protestant” in English usage, was redefined along nationalistic lines. The original, religious meaning of the word was gradually chipped away. As a result of the Reformation in England, the whole country was regarded as “Protestant” over and against the Catholic countries of continental Europe. This was so much so that Christopher Hill could write that, ‘After 1688, “the Protestant interest” and “England” came to be used as interchangeable terms’. (P. 56 Puritanism and Revolution, Penguin, 1990). Elsewhere, Hill recounts this anecdote to illustrate his point,
The word ‘protestant’ in this context came to have political, or nationalistic, significance. When Nell Gwynn was mistaken by a hostile crowd for King Charles IInd’s French mistress, she said reassuringly, ‘Be silent good people, I am the protestant whore’. What mattered was her patriotism, not her theology. (p. 297, The English Bible and the Seventeenth Century Revolution, Allen Lane Penguin Press, 1993)
We need to recapture the original meaning of the word “Protestant”. As Nick Needham points out, we should not ashamed to be Protestant Evangelicals,
The term “Protestant” has often been completely misunderstood as meaning simply a negative protest against Rome. Originally, however it had a far more positive meaning; to “protest” was a transitive verb which meant to declare, to affirm, to set forth a position. (It survives in this meaning when a person “protests his innocence” or a lover “protests his love” for his beloved.) The first Protestants were not only protesting against medieval Catholic errors; they were also “protesting the gospel”, declaring the positive truths of Scripture which medieval Rome had neglected, obscured, distorted, or denied. It is therefore in correct that the term “Protestant” would loose its meaning if Roman Catholicism either reformed itself or ceased to exist. As long as there is a gospel, there is something to protests – to declare, affirm, and set forth to the world.(P. 137, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part Three, Renaissance and Reformation, Grace Publications, 2004)
In this sense we must be biblical Protestants, as was the apostle Paul who wrote,
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. (Philippians 1:7) [epmasis added]
He urged to Philippians to join in with this “protestant” ministry,
Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). [emphasis added]
Jude too was a good biblical protestant,
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 3)
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
It is probable that the world shall be more like heaven in the millenium in this respect: that contemplation and spiritual employments, and those things that more directly concern the mind and religion, will be more the saint’s ordinary business than now. There will be so many contrivances and inventions to facilitate and expedite their necessary secular business that they shall have more time for more noble exercise, and that they will have better contrivances for assisting one another through the whole earth by more expedite, easy, and safe communication between distant regions than now. The invention of the mariner’s compass is a thing discovered by God to the world to that end. And how exceedingly has that one thing enlarged and facilitated communication. And who can doubt but that yet God will make it more perfect, so that there need not be such a tedious voyage in order to hear from the other hemisphere? And so the country about the poles need no longer be hid to us, but the whole earth may be as one community, one body in Christ.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Click here for an excellent campaigning website by Care not Killing
Click here for a video presentation by the Christian Medical Fellowship & Lawyer's Christian Fellowship
Click here to sign an online petition against the Bill.
I will be giving an interview on this subject to BBC Radio Wiltshire at 7.05am BST on Friday 12th, so I would value your prayers.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion Book II Chapter 16:19.
Friday, May 05, 2006
There is no consensus on what is "the true religion". We face the challenge of presenting the gospel to a society in which many other versions of faith and non-faith are competing for adherents. We cannot take the hitherto predominance of Christianity for granted. It was wrong ever to do that. Each new generation has to be evangelised. Yet this is what we are here for. The Lord has given us a great opportunity along with that responsibility. The mission field is on our doorstep as well as overseas.
Click here for full article by Gordon Murray, Chairman of the Protestant Truth Society.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Geoff Thomas - A Calvinist in Cyberspace
Visit Banner of Truth Articles here . See also Geoff's blog here .