Saturday, February 29, 2020

Luther: The True Christ Gives Sanctification

“For there is no such Christ that died for sinners who do not, after the forgiveness of sins, desist from sins and lead a new life. Thus [the antinomians] preach Christ nicely with Nestorian and Eutychian logic that Christ is and yet is not Christ.

 “They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach de sanctificatione et vivificatione Spiritus Sancti, “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extoll so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, he has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men— we die unto sin and live unto righteousness, beginning and growing here on earth and perfecting it beyond, as St. Paul teaches.

 “Christ did not earn only gratia, ‘grace,’ for us, but also donum, ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit,’ so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, ‘Christi! Christi!’ He must be damned with this, his new Christ…

“Our Antinomians fail to see that they are preaching Christ without and against the Holy Spirit because they propose to let the people continue in their old ways and still pronounce them saved. And yet logic, too, implies that a Christian should either have the Holy Spirit and lead a new life, or know that he has no Christ.”

-- Martin Luther, On the Councils and the Church, LW 41:113-114

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Hot-Tub Religion

"Worship -- in the sense of telling God his worth by speech and song and celebrating his worth in his presence by proclamation and meditation -- has been largely a form of entertainment calculated to give worshipers the equivalent of a sauna or Jacuzzi experience and send them away felling relaxed and tuned up at the same time.

"Certainly true worship invigorates, but to plan invigoration is not necessarily to order worship.  As all that glitters is not gold, so all that makes us feel happy and strong is not worship.  The question is [not a matter of the 'style' of the service] but whether a God-centered as distinct from a man-centered perspective is maintained -- whether, in other words, the sense that man exists for God rather than God for man is cherished or lost."

-- J. I. Packer, in the Introduction to "God the Evangelist" by David Wells

Denying and Defying the Authority of the Bible

There is more than one way to defy the authority of Bible (which amounts to defying the authority of the Lord whose Word the Bible is).  I was reminded of this after reading an article about trends today in the United Methodist Church.

The most obvious way is to deny that the Bible really is the 'Word of God', and to say that it’s essentially just the words of men.  This is the perspective and practice of the theological “liberal”.

But there are at least two other ways of defying the Bible’s authority, in actual practice.  One is to affirm the authority of the Bible in general terms but then, in specific matters, to insist that it can be interpreted in different ways on a given matter, so that the best thing to do is make room for all those interpretations.  This is the perspective of a growing number of evangelicals on some of the key ethical issues of the day.

But there’s at least one more way of defying the Bible as 'sufficient rule in all matters of faith/belief and practice' – and that is to, again, officially affirm the authority of the Bible, but then, in actual practice, to let other factors (e.g., pragmatism, personal agenda, people-pleasing 'politics') override the commitment to Biblical principle.  This is what you find the Pharisees doing in their interpretation and application of the 5th Commandment – which the Lord Jesus exposes and rebukes in Matthew 15:1-9.

The crucial point to recognize is that in ALL the above scenarios the Word of God has been effectively (to use Jesus’s word) “nullified.”   It is bad enough when liberals do it, but it’s surely worse when self-described “Bible-believing evangelicals” thus defy the Scriptures, and the Spirit of God who inspired them.  And are we even aware of (or honest enough to admit) the ways that this last category are being played out in the Church today?

Friday, February 21, 2020

"Let us give to every part of the public worship its proper place, but let us beware of placing any part of it above preaching. By preaching the church of Christ was first gathered together and founded, and by preaching it has ever been maintained in [true] health and prosperity" --  J.C. Ryle

Saturday, February 15, 2020

What Is Repentance? (TDNT)

“…radical conversion, a transformation of nature, a definitive turning from evil, a resolute turning to God in total obedience (Mk.1:15; Mt.4:17; 18:3)….  This conversion is once for all.  There can be no going back, only advance in responsible movement along the way now taken.  It affects the whole man, first and basically the center of personal life, then logically his conduct at all times and in all situations, his thoughts, words and acts (Mt. 12:33ff. par; 23:26; Mk.7:15 par.).

“The whole proclamation of Jesus…is a proclamation of unconditional turning to God, of unconditional turning from all that is against God, not merely that which is downright evil, but that which in a given case makes total turning to God impossible….  [e.g., the rich young ruler]

“It is addressed to all without distinction and presented with unmitigated severity in order to indicate the only way of salvation there is.

“Repentance calls for total surrender, total commitment to the will of God….  It embraces the whole walk of the new man who is claimed by the divine lordship.  It carries with it the founding of a new personal relation of man to God….  It awakens joyous obedience for a life according to God’s will.”

-- "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament" (Kittel)

Proclaiming Good News to 'the Poor'

'The poor in Luke [4:18] are not merely those who are financially deprived. Financial deprivation may be in view, but that is not the fundamental meaning of “poor” for Luke. The poor are those who are deprived of covenant promise-fulfillment.

'They are God’s faithful people who have longed for the kingdom of heaven, for God to arrange everything under the lordship of his Son, to enact his righteousness upon the earth. Since the time of Adam, they have been deprived of this.

'They are those who suffer under the tyranny of sin and Satan, whose rule is embodied in the present world rulers who exalt the wicked and condemn the righteous.

'Jesus hasn’t come to be the equivalent of today’s caricatured Social Justice Warrior who wants to take from the rich and give to the poor in a simple monetary transfer. Jesus has come to bring true social justice that destroys the power behind all tyranny that exalts the wicked and oppresses the righteous.

'The good news is that God’s faithful people who are currently deprived of their rights as God’s faithful ones will be exalted over the wicked.'

-- Bill Smith "Total Salvation"

Is the Lord Jesus Really the Head of Your Church?

As a practical matter, being a Christian means living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and living under his lordship means living in accordance with his teaching and commands (John 8:31; Matt. 28:20) -- and the only place to find those teachings is the Bible. 

This practical principle is true for individual Christians, but also applies to churches, to congregations as a whole.  It applies to pastors, ministry leaders, board members and members of the congregation.  This means that, in any given decision that a church faces, the most important and relevant question for each leader and lay member to ask is NOT, what do I prefer, or what do most people I know prefer, or even what does a given leader prefer.  The crucial question for all involved is:  "In the decision we now face, what would be most faithful to the teaching of Scripture?"

As J.I. Packer has written,  “The Christian principle of biblical authority means, on the one hand, that God purposes to direct the belief and behavior of his people through the revealed truth set forth in Holy Scripture; on the other hand it means that all our ideas about God should be measured, tested, and where necessary corrected and enlarged, by reference to biblical teaching…..

"Authority in Christianity belongs to God the Creator, who made us to know, love, and serve him, and his way of exercising his authority over us is by means of the truth and wisdom of his written Word….. And since the Father has now given the Son executive authority to rule the cosmos on his behalf (Matt.28:18), Scripture now functions precisely as the instrument of Christ’s lordship over his followers…." [Matt.28:18ff.; 2 Tim.3:16-17]

-- J.I. Packer "Concise Theology" (p.16)

Faithful Gospel Proclamation Includes Repentance

'The glorified Christ placed beyond all doubt that repentance is to be a part of gospel proclamation, when he declared on the evening of his resurrection from the dead: “This is what is written: that the Messiah should suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance for … forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed . . . in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47).

'As did John the Baptist before him (Matt. 3:2, 8, 11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3, 8; Acts 13:24; 19:4), Jesus himself preached repentance in the imperative mood (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15), characterized the very purpose behind his coming to people in terms of calling sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32), warned that unless sinners repented they would perish (Luke 13:3, 5) and unless they were converted . . . and became as little children, they would never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3), denouncing whole cities that would not repent while commending Ninevah for repenting at the preaching of Jonah (Matt. 11:20-21; 12:41; Luke 10:13; 11:32), and declared that heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7, 10).

'The apostles, on their preaching missions throughout Galilee, “Preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12), and they continued to be true this aspect of their Lord’s commission throughout the book of Acts (Peter in Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; Paul in Acts 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). The author of Hebrews indicates that “repentance from dead works” is a first principle of the doctrine of Christ (Heb. 6:1).'

--  Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 723.

(HT: Chris Braun)

Converted People

"...By the baptism of the Spirit Jesus imparts the divine power that creates those who are subject to the divine rule, i.e., converted people....." -- "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament"