William Tyndale and the English Bible Smuggled into England

In the year of 1526, Henry [VIII, king of England] was greatly startled and perturbed one day to hear that there were copies of the complete New Testament in English being circulated in London. How could that be? Where did they come from? Who had printed them? Who translated them? Henry wanted to know; he wanted to bury the guy who did it. There was absolutely no information on the title page where the author and printer were usually named. It would take some investigating to find out who was behind it.

It was obvious these New Testaments had not been printed in England. The printing houses were well know, and it would have been impossible to print such a large order on a long book without detection. It must be that they were being smuggled in from somewhere in Europe. …Isn’t it ironic that New Testaments in English had to be be smuggled into Christian England simply because they were in English? Dangerous contraband, indeed.

So, who was behind this Bible, its translation and its printing? The answer lies in the brilliant, determined servant of the Lord William Tyndale. Here’s more of the story of the presence and power of God’s Word to bring reformation to England:

A man named William Tyndale was also one who had a special gift for languages. Tyndale grew up in England, attended Oxford University, and was ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church, which, of course, was still the only church in England. During that time he had gained a reputation among his professors and peers for being especially sharp at languages. He was fluent in eight languages including Greek, which had been introduced into the curriculum at Oxford during the Renaissance. But more important than any of this, William Tyndale had become ignited with the same fire as Wycliffe: the burning desire to get the Bible to the English people in their own language. During his years at Oxford, Tyndale had become wholeheartedly converted to the ideas of the Reformation and to the liberating truths of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. Now, he wanted to share these truths with his fellow countrymen. He wanted to see the English people freed from the burdens of legalism (thinking you had to earn salvation) and released from the lies of a corrupt church. Tyndale knew that the truth would spread on its own if he could just get them a Bible they could read, so he began working on an English translation of the New Testament. When a fellow cleric in the church criticized him for his endeavor, Tyndale responded, ‘If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou doest.” A common ploughboy reading and understanding the Word of God? No doubt the cleric merely laughed.

And what about the printing of them? Here’s that part of the story:

There was no printer in England at this time who could take the considerable risk to print illegal English Bibles. Actually, it wasn’t just risky, it was pure suicide. So, Tyndale sailed for Europe and began lining up someone to put his translation into print. Between Catholic authorities after him for heresy, and the henchmen of Henry VIII who would arrest anyone trying to produce an English Bible, he had to take great efforts to keep his whereabouts a secret. But he managed to finish a printing of the New Testament in 1526 (at the age of 32), and it was immediately smuggled into England. It was the very first pocket-sized Bible, and those favoring Protestant ideas circulated it with great enthusiasm.

Taken from King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do by Laurie White (The Shorter Word Press, 2009), pp.101-02.

Are we grateful yet today for the gifts and grit of this Englishman whom God used to grant us the Bible in our own tongue? And are we grateful for all those who have worked to translate the Bible into the tongue of the world’s peoples? Is this gift of the Reformation still precious to us?

Perhaps more important questions are, What are you and am I doing with our Bibles? Would we risk our lives for them?

Published in: on October 17, 2020 at 10:45 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Katherine Parr: Another Notable Reformation Woman

Henry VIII and Katherine Parr: Was it True Love? - HistoryExtra

Last August (2019) noted children’s author and Reformed historian Simonetta Carr published an article on “Place for Truth” about an English woman few of us have probably heard about: Katherine Parr. The full title of the online article is “Katherine Parr and Her Role in the English Reformation,” and in this second Reformation post this week, we think it worth your time to learn a little also about this notable woman whom God used at the time of the great Protestant movement.

Carr begins with this brief introduction:

Katherine Parr (1512-1548) is often remembered as the only wife of King Henry VIII who survived the marriage (the previous five were either beheaded or divorced). But she was much more than that. She was an important writer and a major player in the English Reformation.

After recounting Parr’s early life and marriage to Henry VIII, Carr describes her “dangerous faith”:

She apparently converted to Protestantism soon after her wedding, through the instructions of Thomas Cranmer. She became then largely responsible for the Protestant education of her step-children, Elizabeth and Edward, who continued to trust and respect her throughout their life.

            Today, she is mostly famous for her narrow escape of arrest and execution for her possession of heretical books in 1546. While her prosecutors could not find evidence (which was probably removed), she knew they would persist in their efforts unless she ensured the king’s protection. She did so by explaining to the king that her interest in theological matters was motivated by her desire to discuss those subjects with him – reaffirming her submission to him in all things.

            In spite of this grave danger, the same year, she began writing a personal chronicle of her departure from the Roman Catholic religion and her understanding of justification by faith alone. The book, The Lamentation of a Sinner, was published only nine months after Henry’s death in 1547. It was not the first of her works – she had already published a collection of poems and meditations on the Psalms – but it was the most outspoken about her beliefs.

And then, finally, after writing about Parr’s “tragic end,” Carr gives this woman’s enduring legacy:

Katherine was highly esteemed in her day as a wise queen, writer, educator, and religious reformer. Her influence on major figures like Henry VIII, Edward VI, Elizabeth I, and Jane Grey – the young lady that ruled for nine days after Edward – had lasting consequences, and her patronage of famous early Protestants such as Hugh Latimer, Miles Coverdale, Roger Ascham, and John Parkhurst did much to promote the English Reformation.

            She also fostered education in England and played a role in the foundation of Trinity College, Cambridge. As a writer, she is remembered as the first English woman to publish a book under her name. Her writings – pregnant with wisdom, humility, and devotion – have been among the first Reformed works in the English language and have inspired men and women alike.

Katherine Parr

The book Carr references on Katherine Parr is this one: Katherine Parr, Complete Works and Correspondence, ed. Janel Mueller, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2011. I see our seminary library does not have it. Looks like I need to find a copy. 🙂

There is another title available on Parr – Katherine Parr: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Reformation Queen – by Brandon G. Withrow (P&R, 2009). This appears to be a popular biography on her and includes her writings as well. This is the publisher’s description:

This book examines the life of an important, but often forgotten, Protestant Reformer. Katherine Parr, one of only a handful of women to publish in a hundred-year period in England, dared to push Henry VIII toward the Reformation, nearly losing her head as a result. This volume is a guided tour of her life, her contributions to the Reformation, and her writings. Including the full text of her two books as well as select letters, Katherine Parr presents both an intimate portrait of a woman struggling to make a difference, and a reintroduction of a classic text to the contemporary church.

Published in: on October 15, 2020 at 10:11 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Women of the Reformation: Katharina Schutz Zell

When we consider God’s work in the Great Reformation of the sixteenth century, it is easy to focus on the men who were the main Reformers – Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, and more. That is certainly proper, but we ought not forget the women of the Reformation.

Katharina Schutz Zell – Part II | My Lord Katie

In a recent post at Tabletalk’s website, Rebeccca VanDoodewaard helps us remember how God used many women during these formative years of Protestantism – in ordinary as well as extraordinary ways. She writes about one particular woman – Katharina Schutz Zell and her remarkable ministry in home and church.

Below is a small section from VanDoodewaard’s article, which speaks of Zell’s beautiful Christian hospitality. The rest of her story is amazing too, so follow the link to read more about this Reformation woman.

She was also busy caring for Protestant refugees: “I have already in the beginning of my marriage received many excellent and learned people in their flight, and comforted them as God has said: ‘Support and strengthen the weak knees.’” When Protestants had to flee from Baden, the Zells took in an old doctor. Later, he was in a Roman Catholic prison and said that memories of Katharina’s kindness comforted him. In 1524, 150 men were driven out of Kentzingen and fled to Strasbourg. Zell welcomed eighty of them into his house. Katharina cared for them and wrote to their wives, encouraging them to stand firm in their faith.7

During the German Peasants’ War, three thousand more refugees poured into Strasbourg.8 Katharina was continually busy. Zell delighted in her service, which was a joint endeavor. At their wedding, Matthew had commissioned her to be a “mother to the poor and refugees”—she was doing what they believed God wanted her to do.9

Theologians came, too. Bucer fled Weissenburg, finding refuge in Mrs. Zell’s house. When John Calvin fled France, Katharina welcomed him. In 1529, a debate between Martin Luther and Zwingli brought many Reformers to Strasbourg, and Katharina hosted again: “I have been for fourteen days maid and cook while the dear men Oecolampadius and Zwingli were here.”

Katharina, Katharina: The Story of Katharina Schütz Zell: Farenhorst,  Christine: 9781894400848: Amazon.com: Books

If you wish to read a book on Katharina Zell, check out this title by Christine Farenhorst.

Published in: on October 13, 2020 at 10:32 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reformation Resources: Luther in Real Time and Luther Life and Legacy Documentary

Ligonier Ministries has a wonderful new resource this year for Reformation month. It is a podcast titled “Luther in Real Time” and it is a dramatic replaying of the most important events in Luther’s life leading up to and during the Protestant movement in Germany. Here is Ligonier’s own description of this great history instruction tool:

It’s October 10, 1520. A monk named Martin Luther hears someone hammering at his door. It’s the pope’s envoy, and the message is dire. If Luther does not retract all of his teachings, he will be cut off from the church.

Today, listen to the opening episode of our new podcast, Luther: In Real Time, and experience the dramatic journey that God used to change the world. Each episode is released 500 years to the day after major twists and turns in Luther’s transformation from a terrified monk to the bold German Reformer. Subscribe today on your favorite podcast app so you can listen in real time.

Simply listening to today’s episode on Apple Podcasts is an easy way to help this podcast reach even more people. You can also listen to Luther: In Real Time on Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, RefNet, or RSS. Coming soon to Pandora.

Ligonier is also generously offering some other free Reformation resources this month. Here are two more items:

Ligonier Ministries is offering two free Reformation resources that can help you get to know Luther’s life, teaching, and enduring influence: R.C. Sproul’s video teaching series Luther and the Reformation plus the ebook The Legacy of Luther, edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols. You can download these resources for free.

And finally, are you aware that you can livestream free a great documentary on Luther’s life and legacy during October? Check out this offer below, also compliments of Ligonier.

More than five hundred years ago, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. Little did he know how the Lord would use him to ignite a movement that would change the world.

Throughout the month of October, you can stream Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer for free on Ligonier’s YouTube channel. Watch to remember the events God used in Luther’s life that led him to rediscover the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Don’t forget to tell your friends about this film.

To dig even deeper into Luther’s story and significance, you can also download Ligonier’s free accompanying study guide.

These would be profitable resources to listen to and watch as a couple or family, as well as personally. A great way to grow in your knowledge of the Reformation and in your convictions as a Protestant Christian!

Published in: on October 10, 2020 at 9:24 PM  Leave a Comment  

Why Reform the Church in the 16th Century? Why Today in the 21st Century?

As we focus on the Great Reformation of the 16th century this month, we want to consider in this post one of Calvin’s greatest treatises: “The Necessity of Reforming the Church.”

Ligonier Ministries (Dr. Robert Godfrey) has a good introduction to and summary of this work, which begins in this way:

More than 450 years ago, a request came to John Calvin to write on the character of and need for reform in the Church. The circumstances were quite different from those that inspired other writings of Calvin, and enable us to see other dimensions of his defense of the Reformation. The Emperor Charles V was calling the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire to meet in the city of Speyer in 1544. Martin Bucer, the great reformer of Strassburg, appealed to Calvin to draft a statement of the doctrines of and necessity for the Reformation. The result was remarkable. Theodore Beza, Calvin’s friend and successor in Geneva, called “The Necessity for Reforming the Church” the most powerful work of his time.

Calvin organizes the work into three large sections. The first section is devoted to the evils in the church that required reformation. The second details the particular remedies to those evils adopted by the reformers. The third shows why reform could not be delayed, but rather how the situation demanded “instant amendment.”

In each of these three sections Calvin focuses on four topics, which he calls the soul and body of the church. The soul of the church is worship and salvation. The body is sacraments and church government. The great cause of reform for Calvin centers in these topics. The evils, remedies and necessity for prompt action all relate to worship, salvation, sacraments and church government.

The great cause of reform for Calvin centers in these topics. The importance of these topics for Calvin is highlighted when we remember that he was not responding to attacks in these four areas, but chose them himself as the most important aspects of the Reformation.

Find the rest here.

With this in mind, let’s quote a portion from Calvin’s treatise itself, focusing on the first part, about the need to reform the church’s worship. Hear Calvin:

We maintain, then, that at the commencement, when God raised up Luther and others, who held forth a torch to light us into the way of salvation, and who, by their ministry, founded and reared our churches, those heads of doctrine in which the truth of our religion, those in which the pure and legitimate sonship of God, and those in which the salvation of men are comprehended, were in a great measure obsolete. We maintain that the use of the sacraments was in many ways vitiated and polluted. And we maintain that the government of the Church was converted into a species of foul and insufferable tyranny. But, perhaps these averments have not force enough to move certain individuals until they are better explained. This, therefore, I will do, not as the subject demands, but as far as my ability will permit. Here, however, I have no intention to review and discuss all our controversies; that would require a long discourse, and this is not the place for it. I wish only to show how just and necessary the causes were which forced us to the changes for which we are blamed. To accomplish this, I must take up together the three following points.

First, I must briefly enumerate the evils which compelled us to seek for remedies.

Secondly, I must show that the particular remedies which our Reformers employed were apt and salutary.

Thirdly, I must make it plain that we were not at liberty any longer to delay putting forth our hand, in as much as the matter demanded instant amendment.

The first point, as I merely advert to it for the purpose of clearing my way to the other two, I will endeavor to dispose of in a few words, but in wiping off the heavy charge of sacrilegious audacity and sedition, founded on the allegation, that we have improperly, and with intemperate haste usurped an office which did not belong to us, I will dwell at greater length. If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity, viz., a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly of the source from which salvation is to be obtained. When these are kept out of view, though we may glory in the name of Christians, our profession is empty and vain. After these come the Sacraments and the Government of the Church, which, as they were instituted for the preservation of these branches of doctrine, ought not to be employed for any other purpose; and indeed, the only means of ascertaining whether they are administered purely and in due form, or otherwise, is to bring them to this test. If any one is desirous of a clearer and more familiar illustration, I would say, that rule in the Church, the pastoral office, and all other matters of order, resemble the body, whereas the doctrine which regulates the due worship of God, and points out the ground on which the consciences of men must rest their hope of salvation, is the soul which animates the body, renders it lively and active, and, in short, makes it not to be a dead and useless carcass.

As to what I have yet said, there is no controversy among the pious, or among men of right and sane mind.

Let us now see what is meant by the due worship of God. Its chief foundation is to acknowledge Him to be, as He is, the only source of all virtue, justice, holiness, wisdom, truth, power, goodness, mercy, life, and salvation; in accordance with this, to ascribe and render to Him the glory of all that is good, to seek all things in Him alone, and in every want have recourse to Him alone. Hence arises prayer, hence praise and thanksgiving — these being attestations to the glory which we attribute to Him. This is that genuine sanctification of His name which He requires of us above all things. To this is united adoration, by which we manifest for Him the reverence due to his greatness and excellency, and to this ceremonies are subservient, as helps or instruments, in order that, in the performance of divine worship, the body may be exercised at the same time with the soul. Next after these comes self-abasement, when, renouncing the world and the flesh, we are transformed in the renewing of our mind, and living no longer to ourselves, submit to be ruled and actuated by Him. By this self-abasement we are trained to obedience and devotedness to his will, so that his fear reigns in our hearts, and regulates all the actions of our lives. That in these things consists the true and sincere worship which alone God approves, and in which alone He delights, is both taught by the Holy Spirit throughout the Scriptures and is also, antecedent to discussion, the obvious dictate of piety. Nor from the beginning was there any other method of worshipping God, the only difference being, that this spiritual truth, which with us is naked and simple, was under the former dispensation wrapt up in figures. And this is the meaning of our Savior’s words,

“The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:23.)

For by these words he meant not to declare that God was not worshipped by the fathers in this spiritual manner, but only to point out a distinction in the external form, viz., That while they had the Spirit shadowed forth by many figures, we have it in simplicity. But it has always been an acknowledged point, that God, who is a Spirit, must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

Moreover, the rule which distinguishes between pure and vitiated worship is of universal application, in order that we may not adopt any device which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunction of Him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have Him to approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed. For there is a twofold reason why the Lord, in condemning and prohibiting all fictitious worship, requires us to give obedience only to his own voice. First, it tends greatly to establish His authority that we do not follow our own pleasures but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and, secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray. And then when once we have turned aside from the right path, there is no end to our wanderings, until we get buried under a multitude of superstitions. Justly, therefore, does the Lord, in order to assert his full right of dominion, strictly enjoin what he wishes us to do, and at once reject all human devices which are at variance with his command. Justly, too, does he, in express terms, define our limits that we may not, by fabricating perverse modes of worship, provoke His anger against us.

I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their very bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honor of God. But since God not only regards as fruitless, but also plainly abominates, whatever we undertake from zeal to His worship, if at variance with His command, what do we gain by a contrary course? The words of God are clear and distinct,

“Obedience is better than sacrifice.” “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” (1 Samuel 15:22; Matthew 15:9.)

Every addition to His word, especially in this matter, is a lie. Mere “will worship”… is vanity. This is the decision, and when once the judge has decided, it is no longer time to debate.

Will your Imperial Majesty now be pleased to recognize, and will you, Most Illustrious Princes, lend me your attention, while I show how utterly at variance with this view are all the observances, in which, throughout the Christian world in the present day, divine worship is made to consist? In word, indeed, they concede to God the glory of all that is good, but, in reality, they rob him of the half, or more than the half, by partitioning his perfections among the saints. Let our adversaries use what evasions they may, and defame us for exaggerating what they pretend to be trivial errors, I will simply state the fact as every man perceives it. Divine offices are distributed among the saints as if they had been appointed colleagues to the Supreme God, and, in a multitude of instances, they are made to do his work, while He is kept out of view. The thing I complain of is just what everybody confesses by a vulgar proverb. For what is meant by saying, “the Lord cannot be known for apostles,” unless it be that, by the height to which apostles are raised, the dignity of Christ is sunk, or at least obscured? The consequence of this perversity is, that mankind, forsaking the fountain of living waters, have learned, as Jeremiah tells us, to hew them out

“cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,” (Jeremiah 2:13.)

For where is it that they seek for salvation and every other good? Is it in God alone? The whole tenor of their lives openly proclaims the contrary. They say, indeed, that they seek salvation and every other good in Him; but it is mere pretense, seeing they seek them elsewhere.

You may find the full treatise here.
Published in: on October 7, 2020 at 9:13 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reformation Remembrance Month – Resources Available

This month we are marking the 503rd anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2020). We plan to do some special posts during this month of October as we have done in years past, and highlight some classic Reformation works (books) as well as some new ones.

For our first Reformation 2020 post, however, I point you to some great online resources on the PRCA website. In the first place, there is a section devoted to special Reformation articles, mostly taken from the Standard Bearer. Browse this section and find a few articles to read for your edification. Such as this one, titled “The Ninety-Five Theses“:

Yet when we read the Ninety-five Theses with the benefit of knowing the doctrinal development that followed, we can see the diamond clearly enough. We see here “the mighty working of an earnest mind and conscience intensely occupied with the problem of sin, repentance, and forgiveness, and struggling for emancipation from the fetters of tradition.” Luther cuts through the system of his day, and lays his finger on the heart of the matter, when he writes in thesis 62, “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” The true treasure is not an invisible treasury of extra merits that the pope can grant to those who pay. But the true treasure is the holy glad tidings of the grace of God in granting full remission of sins to all who repent and turn to Christ. For, as he writes in thesis 36, “Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters”; and in thesis 37, “any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.”

Second, the PRC website has a number of pamphlets on various Reformation subjects. Many of these were originally Reformation Day lectures, such as this one (“The Church Today and the Reformation Church: A Comparison”):

The Reformation was the restoration of the pure preaching of the gospel. That tremendous church-reforming and world-shaking event was doctrinal. It was the purpose of the Reformers, as it was the purpose of the Holy Spirit, to do away with another gospel (that is no gospel) and to restore the gospel of God revealed in the Scriptures. Although there were abominable practices in the pre-Reformation church, they were not the cause of the Reformation. The cause of the Reformation was not the papacy, unbiblical and tyrannical as that institution is. Luther said more than once that he would have lived with the pope, if only the pope preached the gospel.

Finally, the PRC website also contains a special section of Reformation Day lectures, in audio form (mp3 files). Here’s a classic one for you to listen to this month – Homer C. Hoeksema’s “Reformation: Option of Mandate?”

Make your Reformation celebration this month more than a formality; make it a time for being instructed in and inspired by Reformation truth so as to carry on the cause of true reformation in Christ’s church today!

Published in: on October 3, 2020 at 9:01 PM  Comments (1)  

Converted by Grace: Conversion’s Relation to Justification – H.Hoeksema

… turn thou me, and I shall be turned.- Jeremiah 31:18

When we speak of the conversion of the sinner by grace, it may be well to consider for a moment the question as to the relation which this particular blessing of salvation sustains to the rest of God’s wonderwork of grace whereby He redeems and delivers us from sin and death and makes us partakers of His eternal glory.

In the chapter on justification we remarked that this is the most fundamental blessing of grace: for God loves the righteous only; and therefore, unless we are justified, declared righteous by Him, we cannot expect any token of His favor. In this sense, that is, as the ground of all other blessings of salvation, justification is first. But this must not be misunderstood. It does not mean that in order of time the sinner first receives the gift of righteousness by faith, and that thereupon he is regenerated, united with Christ, called and converted.

From God’s viewpoint this is certainly true. Before God His people are justified from eternity; and He beholds them forever as perfectly righteous in Christ, and as such He blesses them. Moreover, this sentence of justification, our righteousness in Christ before God, was realized in the cross and resurrection of our Lord. And it is also true before the consciousness of the believer that by faith he first of all takes hold of this righteousness of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, before he dare hope for any other gift of God’s grace.

Yet the fact is, of course, that when the sinner performs that act of faith whereby he lays hold upon the righteousness of Christ, he is already reborn unto new life, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, united with Christ in the Spirit; and he has already received the gifts of faith and conversion. For it is only as a reborn, called, and believing sinner that he can embrace Christ as his righteousness. Even though justification is the ground of conversion, the justified sinner is a converted sinner.

wonderofgrace-hh

Taken from chapter 9, “Converted by Grace,” in The Wonder of Grace by Herman Hoeksema (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1944), pp.74-75. This work has now been republished by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.

Published in: on September 30, 2020 at 9:34 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Keeping the Sabbath: Rest as Exalting in God’s Royal Majesty

But the moral content of the Sabbath law remains in force today. So celebrating that day also involves interrupting our earthly work. We do so not out of obligation or compulsion but out of respect for God’s ways. Then we break with the rhythm of daily work. We quietly take distance from it. And we focus internally on ourselves.

The point is not about doing nothing, then, but about not doing what would impede that change in rhythm.

But we can’t leave it at that. Interrupting the flow of our daily work is not sufficient. Another sort of labor begins at that point. We’re talking about the work of God’s kingdom insofar as that is imaginable only on a day of universal rest. This is work that also continues alongside our daily work on other days but that is only pursued to a greater degree on that day.

And there is still more. The rest we are talking about does not mean that we stop living. It’s not about collapsing in laziness or idleness. Completely to the contrary; it must be resting in God, entering into his tent, finding shelter under his wings, raising him above the flow of whatever is passing and enslaving – rest as exalting in his royal majesty.

This is the kind of resting in his majesty that renders the Devil powerless at his feet because the wings of Christ’s total power completely overshadow a person! In the deepest sense, therefore, this is to rest from one’s evil work and therefore to receive already in this life something of God’s ‘eternal rest.’ It is a rest that will be unsurpassed above and of which we have a foretaste already here below, at least to the extent that we deny ourselves and emphasize Christ’s work for us and in us.

Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), p.415.

This particular meditation (#21 of Volume 2) is titled “Remember the Sabbath Day” and is based on the fourth commandment as given in Exodus 20:8-10, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.”

Published in: on September 26, 2020 at 10:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

Gospel-Led Leadership

Books on Christian leadership abound. Many of them mimic the philosophies of ‘successful’ business men or winning managers in the dugout. But, of course, true Christian leadership is principled according to the Word of God and governed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

That’s what makes the new book by Paul David Tripp, Lead, so refreshing. It is grounded in Scripture and governed by the gospel. The book is subtitled “Twelve Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church.” In his Preface the author makes it plain why the gospel of God must govern all we think and do as Christians:

I only have one thing to offer: the right-here, right-now truths of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. All I ever do with each book is put on my gospel glasses and look at another topic in the life of a believer or in the culture of the church. I have jokingly said that I have written only one book; I just retitle it every year. Because the gospel is so infinitely deep, I know I could keep digging into it for the next century and never reach the bottom. I also know that applications of the gospel to everyday life are so wide and varied that I would also never run out of new things to examine from a gospel perspective.

You see, the gospel is not just a set of historical facts. It is that, for sure. It is rooted in divine acts of intervention and substitution that if not real and historical would rob the gospel of its reliability, promise, and power. But the gospel is not just a set of historical facts; it is also a collection of present redemptive realities. Certain things are true now, and are true of every believer, because of what God historically did and is presently doing on their behalf. There is more. The gospel is a living identity for all who believe. We have become something in Christ, something that is glorious and new and filled with new potential. Good gospel theology doesn’t just define for you who God is and what he has done; it also redefines who you are as his child.

That the gospel governs how the author approaches the subject of leadership in the church shows itself plainly in the table of contents:

Introduction: Crisis

  1. Achievement
    Principle 1: A ministry community, whose time is controlled by doing the business of the church tends to be spiritually unhealthy.
  2. Gospel
    Principle 2: If your leaders are going to be tools of God’s grace, they need to be committed to nurture that grace in one another’s lives.
  3. Limits
    Principle 3: Recognizing God-ordained limits of gift, time, energy and maturity is essential to leading a ministry community well.
  4. Balance
    Principle 4: Teaching your leaders to recognize and balance the various callings in their life is a vital contribution to their success.
  5. Character
    Principle 5: A spiritually healthy leadership community acknowledges that character is more important than structure or strategies.
  6. War
    Principle 6: It is essential to understand that leadership in any gospel ministry is spiritual warfare.
  7. Servants
    Principle 7: Being called to leadership in the church is a call to a life of willing sacrifice and service.
  8. Candor
    Principle 8: A spiritually healthy leadership community is characterized by the humility of approachability and the courage of loving honesty.
  9. Identity
    Principle 9: Where your leaders look for identity will always determine how they lead.
  10. Restoration
    Principle 10: If a leadership community is formed by the gospel it will always be committed to a lifestyle of fresh starts and new beginnings.
  11. Longevity
    Principle 11: For church leaders, ministry longevity is always the result of gospel community.
  12. Presence
    Principle 12: You will only handle the inevitable weakness, failure, and sin of your leaders when you view them through the lens of the presence, power, promises, and grace of Jesus.

And that same theme of the gospel runs through his Introduction, which Tripp titles “Crisis.” Listen to this section from that chapter:

Jesus, knowing that there was both doubt and belief in the room, was about to commission this group of fearful believers to carry the gospel of resurrection life to the world. Yes, he would commission these men at this cataclysmic moment. I likely would’ve thought, They’re not ready, it’s just too soon. They need to know so much more. They need to come to a deeper understanding of what just happened. They need time to mature. But in the middle of the most amazing, confusing, and gloriously mind-bending moment in history, Jesus did not hesitate; he simply said, “Go.”

I love the words that follow because they tell us why Jesus was confident to draft these men, at that moment, for his worldwide gospel mission. He was confident not because of what was in them and what he knew they would do, but because he knew what was in himself and what he would do. So he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He was saying to these men that there was no situation, no location, or no community outside of his authority and sovereign rule. He wanted them to understand that everything in heaven and on earth was under his command. Con-sider why this was so vital for these men who desperately needed his grace in order to bring his message of grace to the nations.

I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this, but the reliability of God’s promises of grace to us is only as great as the extent of his sovereignty. God can only guarantee the sure delivery of his prom-ises in the places over which he has control. I can guarantee what I promise to you in my house, because I have some authority there, but I cannot make the same promises for my neighbor’s house, over which I have no control. Jesus is saying, “As you go, you can bank on everything I have promised you because I rule every place where you will need those promises to be fulfilled.” God’s promises of grace are sure because his sovereignty is complete.

But Jesus had more to say. He then looked at this room of men, with the mixture of doubt and faith in their hearts, and said, “Be-hold, I am with you always.” These words are much deeper than Jesus saying, “I’ll be there for you.” Jesus is taking one of the names of God: “I Am.” He says, “Know that wherever you go, the I Am will be with you, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the one on whom all the covenant promises rest, the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the one who is Alpha and Omega. I am the I Am, and I would never think of sending you without going with you in power, glory, wisdom, and grace.” The disciples would find all they needed for what they were being commissioned to do in the power, presence, and grace of the one sending them.

It is with the same assurance Jesus gave to the disciples that I write this book. Because of the completeness of Christ’s authority, the inescapability of his presence and the surety of his promises, we don’t have to be afraid of examining our weaknesses and failure. The gospel of his presence, power, and grace frees us from the burden of minimizing or denying reality. The gospel of his presence, power, and grace welcomes us to be the most honest community on earth. We are not cemented to our track record. We are not left to our small bag of personal resources. Because he is his best gift to us, our potential is great and change is possible. And so it is the gospel of his presence, power, and grace that gives me the courage and hope to write about a very important place where change needs to take place. May the same grace give you an open heart as you read.

I have read a few chapters into the book now and it is powerful, precisely because it is based on the gospel and is an application of the gospel. This is a review copy that I requested. If you are interested in reviewing it for the Standard Bearer, let me know and the book is yours.

Published in: on September 23, 2020 at 9:30 PM  Leave a Comment  

“Christ has accomplished everything” – Herman Bavinck

1-Cor-1-30

This wonderfully helpful section of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics was posted a little over a month ago on the blog “Tolle Lege.” In it, the noted Reformed theologian carefully distinguishes and relates the twin truths of justification and sanctification. Especially does he emphasize that all of our righteousness and holiness are found in the Savior Jesus Christ alone. Salvation is all – and in every part – of grace alone in Him! Be sure to follow the link to read the entire post.

Tolle Lege

“To understand the benefit of sanctification correctly, we must proceed from the idea that Christ is our holiness in the same sense in which He is our righteousness. He is a complete and all-sufficient Savior.

He does not accomplish His work halfway but saves us really and completely. He does not rest until, after pronouncing His acquittal in our conscience, He has also imparted full holiness and glory to us.

By His righteousness, accordingly, He does not just restore us to the state of the just who will go scot-free in the judgment of God, in order then to leave us to ourselves to reform ourselves after God’s image and to merit eternal life.

But Christ has accomplished everything. He bore for us the guilt and punishment of sin, placed Himself under the law to secure eternal life for us, and then arose from the grave to communicate Himself to…

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Published in: on September 20, 2020 at 8:06 AM  Leave a Comment