What the Bible Says About the Bible (Psalm 119) – R.Cammenga

SB cover-July 2014-SynodAnother part of my Sunday reading was this article from the July Standard Bearer (the “Synod 2014″ issue) by Prof.R.Cammenga. Writing under the rubric “Taking Heed to the Doctrine”, Cammenga is currently treating the doctrine of Scripture, specifically its “Revelation, Inspiration, and Infallibility”.

He has been treating these subjects under a sub-section titled “What the Bible Says About the Bible”, and is up to “the Testimony of the Psalms” (and with Psalm 119 in particular). Here are a few wonderful sections from this article that define what God’s Word is – and is for us as Reformed Christians who base all we believe and all we practice on this holy Book.

The Bible is a book like no other book. The Bible is the word of God. …The Bible is the word of God as a whole, and the Bible is the word of God in all its parts. From beginning to end, the Bible is God’s word. What it says, God says. From Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21, God is speaking. In every book, in every chapter, in every verse, we are confronted with ‘Thus saith the Lord.”

This is what the Bible teaches about itself. The Bible proclaims itself to be the word of God. What is true of the Bible as a whole is also true of the Old Testament.

…Psalm 119 sets forth every important truth regarding the word of God. The truth of the word of God from A to Z is set forth in Psalm 119. This is very significant. The longest chapter in the lengthiest book of the Bible is not devoted to an exposition of the truth about marriage, the family, the church, the Trinity, or the coming of Christ. But this acrostic psalm is devoted to the truth of God’s word itself. This is of great significance. And undoubtedly the significance is that foundational to all truth and every individual truth revealed in Scripture is the truth that the Bible is God’s word. The psalm is an ode to God’s word. In the psalm, God’s word is exalted. And the psalm makes plain the central place that God’s word occupies in the church and in the life of the believer individually.

This is the main, really the only subject, of Psalm 119. In nearly every one of the 176 verses of the psalm, God’s word is referred to. Nearly every verse of the psalm contains a reference to God’s word, by means of one of the synonyms for God’s word that appears throughout the psalm… (pp.422-24).

The Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy – R. Scott Clark

The Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy by R. Scott Clark | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014Yesterday I read the next main article on the theme of this month’s Tabletalk. It carries the above title, treating the chaos and confusion that reigned in the papacy of the Western church in the 14th century.

R.Scott Clark, professor of church history and historical theology at Westminster Seminary (West-CA), sees this as a teaching lesson to show that Rome’s contention of a clear succession of popes from Peter to the present day is invalid, as well as unbiblical.

I believe you will profit from knowing this side of the church’s history during this century. You will find Clark’s full article at the Ligonier link above. Here is a portion of it to get you started.

TENUOUS CLAIMS

Like Christians during the Avignon crisis, we live in an age when authority and order seem to be dissolving before our eyes. Some Christians, who are sensitive to these cultural shifts and to their effect upon evangelical churches, see the problems reflected in liturgical changes and general spiritual and ethical chaos. They are thus attracted to Rome on the basis of her claim to continuity with the past, ostensible unity, and stability.

The Avignon crisis is just one of many examples from the history of the medieval church that illustrate the futility of seeking continuity, unity, and stability where they have never existed. The historical truth is that the Roman communion is not an ancient church. She is a medieval church who consolidated her theology, piety, and practice during a twenty-year-long council in the sixteenth century (Trent). Her rituals, sacraments, canon law, and papacy are medieval. The unity and stability offered by Roman apologists are illusions—unless mutual and universal excommunication and attempted murder count as unity and stability. Crushing opponents and rewriting history to suit present needs is not unity. It is mythology.

Roman apologists sometimes seek to vindicate the Roman popes, as distinct from the Avignon popes and the Pisan popes, by describing the Avignon popes as if they were less fit for office than the former. That is, to put it mildly, a strange argument. If popes are as popes do, then we may shorten the list of popes quite radically. On that principle, Rome had no pope from 1471 to 1503, and arguably beyond. In that period, Sixtus IV (reigned 1471-84), in an attempt to raise funds, extended plenary indulgences to the dead. Innocent VIII (reigned 1484-92) fathered sixteen illegitimate sons, of whom he acknowledged eight. Alexander VI (reigned 1492-1503) fathered twelve children, openly kept mistresses in the Vatican, made his son Cesare a cardinal, and tried to ensure Cesare’s ascension to the papacy. Alexander’s daughter Lucretia has been alleged to be a notorious poisoner. We have not even considered Julius II (reigned 1503-13), who took up the sword and was so busy conducting military campaigns to improve papal control over the peninsula that he conducted Mass while wearing armor.

The existence of simultaneous popes in Rome, Avignon, and Pisa, each elected by papal electors and some later arbitrarily designated as antipopes, illustrates the problem of the notion of an unbroken Petrine succession. The post-Avignon papacy is an orphan who has no idea who his father was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

The Ordinary Means of Growth

The Ordinary Means of Growth.

means of graceThis article appeared in the featured list from “The Aquila Report” this week (dated July 15, 2014). It is actually a reprint of an article Dr.Ligon Duncan wrote for Tabletalk magazine back in 2007. But it is worth republishing and repeating because what Duncan wrote seven years ago remains relevant. In fact, even more so now!

As we end our week and anticipate the Lord’s Day tomorrow, may we continue to be committed to the “ordinary” means of grace. Which, are in reality, extraordinary, because they are the means by which God saves us through Christ and keeps us in Christ.

Below is a quotation from the heart of Duncan’s article. To read all of it – and it is all good reading! – visit the link found above.

Ordinary means of grace-based ministry is ministry that focuses on doing the things God, in the Bible, says are central to the spiritual health and growth of His people, and which aims to see the qualities and priorities of the church reflect biblical norms. Ordinary means ministry is thus radically committed to biblical direction of the priorities of ministry. Ordinary means ministry believes that God has told us the most important things, not only about the truth we are to tell, but about the way we are to live and minister — in any and every context. Hence, God has given us both the message of salvation and the means of gathering and building the church, in His Word. However, important understanding our context is, however important understanding the times may be (and these things are, in fact, very important), however important appreciating the cultural differences in the places and times we serve, the ordinary means approach to ministry is first and foremost concerned with biblical fidelity. Because faithfulness is relevance. The Gospel is the message and the local church is the plan. God has given to his church spiritual weapons for the bringing down of strongholds. These ordinary means of grace are the Word, sacraments, and prayer.

They may seem weak in the eyes of the worldly strong. They may seem foolish in the eyes of the worldly wise. But the Gospel message is the power of God unto salvation, and the Gospel means are effectual to salvation. These are the Spiritual instruments given by God with which Christian congregational Spiritual life is nurtured, the Spirit’s tools of grace and growth in grace appointed by God in the Bible.

 

Penitentiary – A Place for True Penitents

Penitentiary | Define Penitentiary at Dictionary.com.

In connection with my previous post on the interest in and study of the Heidelberg Catechism by a group of prisoners in Texas, we turn to our Wednesday word feature – a day late, I realize, but I had a busy day yesterday and couldn’t get to any blog posts.

When I recently saw the name of a prison include the old word “penitentiary” (as in United States Penitentiary), it struck me that this word is related to the word penitent (“to be repentant, sorry or ashamed for having done wrong”) and penitence (“the state of being penitent; repentance” – Webster’s New World Dictionary: College Edition). These words are all derived from the Latin, as you will see below from the Dictionary.com listing.

repentance-1And while the Roman Catholic Church has robbed the word of much of its meaning with its doctrine of penance and its tribunal for dealing with sinners (see one of the definitions below), we Reformed Christians know that repentance (or conversion) is a vital part of the true Christian’s (convert’s) life. We cannot be saved without it.

And when God’s sovereign, irresistible grace is given to miserable sinners such as ourselves and takes hold of us in the depths of our being (hearts!), we are made repentant! By His power we are turned from sin and unto the living God, so that we are made sorry for our sins and we confess them openly and with shame to the Lord. And in this way, we find the blessedness of full and free forgiveness in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

As I read prisoner letters, I am humbled and thankful to know that such repentant sinners who are in state penitentiaries are in aptly named places. For by God’s grace they too are penitents; they know the gift of repentance. With changed hearts and minds, they are changing their lives too. For the glory of God. Let us praise God for His amazing grace – in them – and in us!

pen·i·ten·tia·ry

[pen-i-ten-shuh-ree]

noun, plural pen·i·ten·tia·ries.

1. a place for imprisonment, reformatory discipline, or punishment, especially a prison maintained in the U.S. by a state or the federal government for serious offenders.
2. Roman Catholic Church . a tribunal in the Curia Romana, presided over by a cardinal (grand penitentiary)  having jurisdiction over certain matters, as penance, confession, dispensation, absolution, and impediments, and dealing with questions of conscience reserved for the Holy See.
adjective

3. (of an offense) punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary.
4. of, pertaining to, or intended for imprisonment, reformatory discipline, or punishment.

Origin: 
1375–1425; late Middle English penitenciarie  

priest who administers penance, prison 

Medieval Latin pēnitēntiārius  of penance. See penitence-ary

Published in: on July 17, 2014 at 9:19 AM  Comments (1)  
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Heidelberg Catechism Teaching In Prison

A few months ago I did a post informing you of a sort of “prison ministry” in which the Seminary has become involved. Today I would like to follow up on this since we have been getting a steady stream of letters from the men in a prison in Texas (Darrington Unit).

HeidCat-1And what is striking again about these letters is that the men involved in a special study are fired up about the Reformed faith as it is expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism! We had sent them twenty copies of it (as contained in our “Three Forms of Unity” booklet), and now they are requesting further study materials.

Since I have a box of old copies of Rev.H.Hoeksema’s work on the “HC” (the original series of Triple Knowledge published by Eerdmans in the 1940s), I plan to send these to them, along with some other “extra” free books I have collected from various sources, including RFPA titles. If you should have any old editions of classic Reformed and PR-authored books you would like to donate to this cause, let me know.

Below are a couple of quotes from recent letters from prisoners in that Texas facility.

At present we have a group of guys who have come together to teach the Heidelberg Catechism in the day-rooms on the cell blocks. This study began on one cell block and has now spread to four. As we realize the way in which the Lord is blessing these efforts we are also realizing the necessity to be able to teach the Catechism effectively on each cell block. We have little resources outside of the catechism itself to guide us in this area. Those of us who do the teaching are all students of the seminary (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which recently started holding classes in this unit. According to several contacts there, Calvin Seminary has also been there to investigate the possibility of offering courses. -cjt) and we have the opportunity to meet each week in preparation for how the following Lord’s Day from the Catechism will be taught. We are hoping to gather a couple of resources to be shared among us in order to aid our efforts (Then follows a list of three titles the men seek. -cjt).

…From your emphasis on the importance of teaching and preaching the Catechism (The men have been reading our PRT Journal! -cjt) we are hoping that it owuld be possible to somehow provide these things in support of our efforts here. Any other direction would be a great help as well (I am thinking that some of our catechism materials on the “HC” might be useful – workbook, etc. -cjt).

And a brief note of thanks from one of the “leaders” in this group:

God has blessed the last sending of the Three Forms of Unity you sent to us at Darrington Unit…. Thank you for your help. Please know that your reformed brothers are doing their work in spite of the Arminian, Baptist agenda here. We have named our Reformed study with the Three Forms as ‘Reforming the Mind.’ The men are growing in the Lord. It is a blessing to watch the men grow. Thank you and God bless.

J.Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation – Stephen Nichols

The Morning Star of the Reformation by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014The July issue of Tabletalk focuses on the history of the church during the 14th century, as we noted a week ago. When we introduced this issue, we also pointed you to the opening article on this theme, in which Dr.N.Needham gives a wide view of this period.

In the second main feature article, Dr. Stephen J.Nichols provides a more focused presentation of a significant figure from this period of church history, namely, John Wycliffe, under the above-linked title.

His article is a great survey of Wycliffe’s person and work, and shows why he is called the “morning star of the Reformation”. If you have forgotten who this man was and why his work is so important to the church of Jesus Christ, this is a great way to refresh yourself in getting better acquainted with Wycliffe.

I give you the beginning of Nichols’ piece here. Find all of it at this link (or the one above).

He had been dead and buried for a few decades, but the church wanted to make a point. His remains were exhumed and burned, a fitting end for the “heretic” John Wycliffe. Wycliffe once explained what the letters in the title CARDINAL really mean: “Captain of the Apostates of the Realm of the Devil, Impudent and Nefarious Ally of Lucifer.” And with that, Wycliffe was only getting started.

Wycliffe rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, which states that the elements of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper become the actual body and blood of Christ. He was against priestly absolution, he spoke out against indulgences, and he denied the doctrine of purgatory. He rejected papal authority. Instead, he asserted that Christ is the head of the church. And he had a profound belief in the inerrancy and absolute authority of Scripture. He fully believed that the church of his day had lost its way. Scripture alone provided the only way back. Now we see why the medieval Roman Church wanted to make a statement against Wycliffe.

John Wycliffe has often been called “the Morning Star of the Reformation.” Jan Hus, another pre-Reformation reformer, felt obliged to express his supreme debt to Wycliffe. And though he lived long after Wycliffe’s death, Martin Luther, too, felt an obligation to recognize the pioneering reforms of John Wycliffe. Luther stood on the shoulders of Hus, who stood on the shoulders of Wycliffe. Hus, Luther, and the other Reformers were indebted to him. So are we. Wycliffe was indeed “the Morning Star of the Reformation.”

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College, chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier teaching fellow. He is author of several books and teaches on the podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.

J.Calvin on Psalm 142: David “made known his griefs with unsuspecting confidence to the Lord.”

JCalvinPic1For our continued reflection on Psalm 142 today, we also post these thoughts on John Calvin, taken from his commentary on the Psalms. Here Calvin comments on the opening words and setting of this psalm, pointing us to David’s godly example of prayer. May his thoughts also encourage us to bring all our burdens and cares to the Lord in prayer.

1. I cried to Jehovahetc.

It showed singular presence of mind in David that he was not paralyzed with fear, or that he did not in a paroxysm of fury take vengeance upon his enemy, as he easily might have done; and that he was not actuated by despair to take away his life, but composedly addressed himself to the exercise of prayer. There was good reason why the title should have been affixed to the Psalm to note this circumstance, and David had good grounds for mentioning how he commended himself to God.

Surrounded by the army of Saul, and hemmed in by destruction on every side, how was it possible for him to have spared so implacable an enemy, had he not been fortified against the strongest temptations by prayer? The repetition he makes use of indicates his having prayed with earnestness, so as to be impervious to every assault of temptation.

He tells us still more clearly in the next verse that he disburdened his ears unto God. To pour out one’s thoughts and tell over his afflictions implies the reverse of those perplexing anxieties which men brood over inwardly to their own distress, and by which they torture themselves, and are chafed by their afflictions rather than led to God; or it implies the reverse of those frantic exclamations to which others give utterance who find no comfort in the superintending providence and care of God.

In short, we are left to infer that while he did not give way before men to loud and senseless lamentations, neither did he suffer himself to be tormented with inward and suppressed cares, but made known his grief’s with unsuspecting confidence to the Lord.

Word Wednesday: “Hopefully” (you will read this)

Woe-Is-I-3rdedFor this week’s “Word Wednesday” feature we return to one of our newer sources for helping us expand and improve on our vocabulary! Its title is Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, and its author is Patricia O’Conner (Riverhead Books, New York, c.1996). As we pointed out in our earlier post on this book,  it also includes a section on words – chapter five – with the catchy title “Verbal Abuse: Words on the Endangered List”.

Today we take another word from the first part of this chapter, under the heading “What’s the Meaning of This?”, where O’Conner treats some frequently misused words. This includes the much abused word “hopefully”. Below is her entry for this word (slightly edited) – complete with wit and humor. But all with a serious purpose: to correct our misuse of this common adverb.

hopefully. By now it’s probably hopeless to resist the misuse of hopefully. Strictly speaking, theres only one way to use it correctly – as an adverb meaning ‘in a hopeful manner.’ (“I’m thinking of going to Spain,” said Eddie. “Soon?” Mrs. Cleaver asked hopefully.)

In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be used to replace a phrase like ‘It is hoped’ or ‘I hope,’ as inHopefully the cuisine in Spain will be as delectable as your own,’ Eddie said. But of course it is used that way. In the time it takes you to read this sentence, hopefully will be misused at least once by every man, woman, and child in the United States. (Well, that may be a bit of hyperbole; see page 114.)

Whether we like it or not – and I don’t – hopefully seems to be joining that class of introductory words (happily, sadly, honestly, frankly, seriously, and others) that we use not to describe a verb, which is what adverbs usually do, but to describe our own attitude toward the statement that follows.

When I say, ‘Sadly, somebody else won the jackpot,’ I don’t mean the other guy was sad about winning. I mean, ‘I’m sad to say that somebody else won the jackpot.’ And ‘Frankly, he disgusts me’ doesn’t mean the poor guy is disgusting in a frank way. It means, ‘I’m frank when I say that he disgusts me.’

So there you have it. Join the crowd and abuse hopefully if you want; I can’t stop you. But maybe if enough of us preserve the original meaning it can be saved. One can only hope. (pgs.81-82)

“In Christ Alone”: Resurrection “in undiluted monergism” – S.Ferguson

As mentioned here last week, I have been reading through Sinclair Ferguson’s In Christ Alone for part of my Sunday reading. Last night I read the next chapter, which treats Jesus as “The Resurrection and the Life”. Ferguson’s focus is on Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. In connection with that, he brings out three main points, one of which is the clear display of Jesus’ divine and saving power.

In Christ Alone - SFergusonAs he writes on this, Ferguson points out that Jesus, the “giver of new life”, accomplishes this resurrection from the dead by “His spoken word”. And this raises the question as to whose work this really is. He makes it plain, as you will see.

This has often puzzled theologians. The gift of new life is a sovereign act of God. It is monergistic, not synergistic, in character.  God alone is the agent; we do not cooperate in receiving new life. Yet, according to Scripture, it is through the Word of God that we receive this new life (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23).

Question: Surely the instrumentality of the Word (to which we actively respond) implies an activity on our part? Do we not, in this sense, contribute something to being born anew?

Answer: No more than Jesus’ command implies that Lazarus contributes life energy to his own resurrection. Lazarus comes out of the tomb because Jesus raises him from the dead, not in order that he might be raised from the dead. In him, our Lord’s words are fulfilled: ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live’ (John 5:25). When prayer to the Father and the word of command to the dead come from the lips of Jesus, His voice opens deaf ears and raises the dead.

What was true then remains so now (which is why we join prayer and preaching), and will continue to be at the last, when by His powerful command Christ once again will raise the dead (1 Thess.4:16). In undiluted monergism, He called the galaxies into being , and He gives life to the dead in the same way (Rom.4:17).

July “Tabletalk”: Wycliffe and the Dawn of the Reformation

Forerunner of the Reformation by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014With the start of a new month it is time to introduce the July 2014 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine. This month’s issue returns to and continues the church history theme, with the focus on the 14th century and the “Dawn of the Reformation” (Note: “TT” has been gradually covering the major centuries of church history for several years now.).

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with the above-linked article. We pull a few lines from it and encourage you to read the rest. And while you are at it, you should read the excellent overview of major events/trends in the church of the 14th century by Dr.Nicholas R. Needham. His article is titled “The Fourteenth Century” and is found at the link provided here.

Here then, are a few of Parsons’ introductory notes to the July “TT”:

John Wycliffe was the morning star of the Reformation. He was a protestant and a reformer more than a century before Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Through Wycliffe, God planted the seeds of the Reformation, He watered the seeds through John Hus, and He brought the flower of the Reformation to bloom through Martin Luther. The seed of the flower of the German Augustinian monk Luther’s 95 theses was planted by the English scholar and churchman John Wycliffe.

…Wycliffe was committed to the authority and inspiration of Holy Scripture, declaring, “Holy Scripture is the highest authority for every believer, the standard of faith and the foundation for reform in religious, political and social life … in itself it is perfectly sufficient for salvation, without the addition of customs or traditions.” As such, Wycliffe oversaw the translation of the Bible from Latin into the English vernacular. This was a radical undertaking, and it was against the express mandate of the papacy. His understanding of Scripture naturally led to his understanding of justification by faith alone, as he declared, “Trust wholly in Christ. Rely altogether on his sufferings. Beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation.”

In the fourteenth century, at the dawn of the Reformation, Wycliffe shone as a burning and shining light of gospel truth, and his doctrine mirrored his life as one who lived by God’s grace and before God’s face, coram Deo, and for God’s glory. Soli Deo gloria.

Also, as noted before, the daily devotions in this month’s issue continue in the book of Romans, with the starting point in that significant chapter of Romans 9.

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