Reformation Remembrances 2021: Luther at Eisenach, 1498-1501

Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World

The Schalbe family not only taught Luther that God must be at the center of life in a way that far surpassed anything he would have learned at home in Mansfeld but also exposed him to the idea that there could be a dark side to the church and that there might be some daylight between God’s idea of the church and the institution of the church itself. It was through the paterfamilias Heinrich Schalbe that Luther would first have heard of the elderly Franciscan monk Johannes Hilten, who was at that time imprisoned in the Eisenach monastery for his pronounced criticisms of the church.

Just as Saint Martin’s stand at Worms (Borbetomagus) in the fourth century may be viewed as an odd augury of Luther’s life a thousand years in the future, so Hilten’s apocalyptic statements can be similarly prophetic and unsettling. Hilten predicted in his apocalyptic writings that a man would arise in the year 1516 who would fight to reform the church—and who would succeed—and who would end the centuries-long reign of the monks. We do not know whether Luther was aware of Hilten’s writings at this time, but we do know that in the years ahead Luther would indeed identify himself as that figure Hilten had prophesied. This would certainly have strengthened him in his battle, bolstering the faith and courage that would become his greatest weapons in that battle. Hilten also prophesied that within a hundred years the Muslims would have overtaken Christendom, so for Luther in the decades ahead—given Hilten’s accuracy in predicting Luther’s own ascent and successes, if indeed he had done this—it must have been impossible not to feel that Hilten was right about the rest of it, that they were indeed all living in the Last Days of the world, and that the Antichrist was indeed abroad spreading destruction and in his final throes would wreak such unimaginable havoc that “even the elect” might be deceived.

Hilten died as a prisoner in the monastery in 1500, at the age of seventy-five, most likely of starvation, which might or might not have been self-imposed. But in his story we may again see that the idea of a holy man standing against the church was not at all a foreign one. We must not tolerate a simplistic view of church history, as though there had been no dissent until the Great Day of Martin Luther. Many others had done as much to bring the church back to its true and only roots and had failed. That the church was lacking in many ways and that many monks and priests and other ecclesiastics were greedy, hypocritical, and odious were hardly new ideas. And apart from what had been done about it or hadn’t been done about it, the laypeople saw it and expressed their thoughts on the subject, both privately and not so privately. But in all of these things, they had lacked a champion who would fight and win.

Taken from Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (New York: Viking, 2017), Kindle ed.

Published in: on October 20, 2021 at 9:17 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reformation Remembrance 2021: Luther and the Church

Third, Luther was clear on the marks of the true church. If the church is a holy assembly of believers, the marks of the true church must be pure preaching, because pure preaching creates believers and strengthens the faith of believers; and the faithful administration of the sacraments, because by baptism and the Lord’s Supper the faith of believers is nourished.

For Luther, the church was much more important than it seems to be for many modern evangelicals, many of whom despise the church by living in isolation from it. Carl Trueman explains: “For Luther, however, the idea that private Bible study might be a universal staple of the Christian life would have been bizarre: after all, few of his parishioners would have been able to read, even if they could afford a book.” “Luther’s piety was rooted in the gathering of the church, in the Word preached more than the Word read, and in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”

The preaching of the gospel was for Luther primary in the church, for in the preaching of the gospel the believer was confronted with Christ. Indeed, such a confrontation did not take place in the private reading of the Scriptures, at least not to the same degree and with the same effect. For Luther, this had important pastoral implications. Again, Carl Trueman beautifully sets forth the views of Luther: “The person whose life is falling apart and who is tempted to despair needs to know Christ, and knowing Christ requires knowing who he is and what he has done.”4 He will hear who Christ is and what Christ has done in the preaching in the true church. He will not hear it at home, and he certainly will not hear it in the false church.

This article was first published in the October 15, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer and was part of a special issue commemorating the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation.

Published in: on October 16, 2021 at 10:18 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reformation Month – Ligonier Resources

It’s Reformation month 2021 and that means time to make you aware of some great resources that relate the history of the great Reformation of the 16th century and that reaffirm the glorious gospel recovered during that great return to the Word of God.

In this post, I draw attention to three things that Ligonier Ministries is doing to promote the Reformation this October.

Luther: In Real Time

First is the return of Luther: In Real Time, a special podcast tracing significant events in the life of the great German Reformer, Martin Luther. This is Season 2 and it began this past weekend. Here’s the description and information of this wonderful retelling of Luther’s life (gather around to listen as a family!):

“The Luther: In Real Time podcast is returning for a second season. Walk again with Martin Luther to hear how God used the conviction of a lone German monk to spark the Protestant Reformation, returning the light of the true gospel to a church steeped in error and corruption. Season 2 begins October 8 and will continue every Friday through the end of the year.

“This second season is a 13-episode abridgment of season 1 with added discussion questions to help you, your family, or your study group get even more from the experience. Listen to the high points of Luther’s journey from his heresy charges to his famous stand for the authority of God’s Word, or experience the gripping story of the German Reformer for the first time.

“The trailer for season 2 is available now. Subscribe today to listen, and share the podcast with people of all ages so they can hear—in Luther’s own words—what Protestants are protesting and why it still matters today.

“Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon, Stitcher, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Pandora, or RSS, or by visiting LutherInRealTime.com.”

The second thing is that Ligonier is once again allowing you to stream their Luther documentary free of charge this month. Here’s their notice of that:

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.
 

And, finally, this month’s Tabletalk Magazine is devoted to the grand Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone. In his editorial “Justified Now and Forever” introducing this theme, Burk Parsons states the following:

“The doctrine of justification is indeed simple, though we must not have a simplistic understanding of it. We are of course not justified by believing the doctrine of justification—we are justified through faith alone—but if we do not understand the doctrine rightly, we remain hard pressed to fulfill the covenant that God has made with us for our salvation. Further, we know that we are justified by faith alone and that our faith does not remain alone but bears fruit—our good works demonstrate that our faith is indeed genuine, but they never serve as the basis for our acceptance by God. Indeed, our justification isn’t theoretical—our sanctification proves it.

“According to Paul in Romans 1–3, if someone tries to be justified by the law, it is not simply by being a hearer of the law that he will be justified but only if he keeps the entirety of the law will he be justified by God in the end (see Rom. 2:12–16). Yet, we know that none of us is righteous and that none of us mere men can keep the entirety of the Law. But thanks be to God that we have been saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. And make no mistake, we are indeed saved by works—Christ’s perfect works in keeping the entirety of the Law, not by our own works. That is why we can sing that the amazing grace that saved us will also lead us home, all by the regenerating, sustaining, and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.”

And Michael Reeves fine article on Justification and Assurance contains these powerful thoughts to inform and inspire every true Protestant:

“Justification by faith alone not only brings the joy that the Apostle Paul commands; it simultaneously humbles and emboldens those who cherish it.

“Through justification by faith alone, believers are awakened both to who God is and to who they are. Unlike how they once thought, they realize that He is great, glorious, merciful, and beautiful in His holiness—and they are not. As justification lifts up Christ the super-sufficient Savior, they are like Isaiah, whose vision of the Lord in glory, high and lifted up, caused him to cry: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). Alternative gospels, where sin is a small problem and so Christ a small savior (or assistant), never have the same effect.

“The humility we learn through justification, glorying in Christ and not ourselves, turns out to be the wellspring of all spiritual health. When our eyes are opened to the love of God for us sinners, we let slip our masks. Condemned as sinners yet justified, we can begin to be honest about ourselves. Loved despite our unloveliness, we begin to love. Given peace with God, we begin to know an inner peace and joy. Shown the magnificence of God above all things, we become more resilient, trembling in wonder at God and not man.

“…The humility Luther found before the majesty and mercy of God was not gloomy or timid, forlorn or feeble. It was full-throated, joyous, and valiant.

“That is the stamp of the humility that is found in justification by faith alone. Captivated by the magnificence of God, such believers will not be so drawn to man-centered therapeutic religion. Under the radiance of His glory, they will not want to establish their own little empires. Their tiny achievements will seem petty, their feuds and personal agendas odious. He will loom large, making them bold to please God and not men. They will not dither or stammer with the gospel. But aware of their own redemption, they will share His meekness and gentleness, not breaking a bruised reed. They will be quick to serve, quick to bless, quick to repent, and quick to laugh at themselves, for their glory is not in themselves but in Christ. This is the happy integrity found through the lifting up of Christ in the good news of justification by faith alone.”

Published in: on October 11, 2021 at 9:07 PM  Leave a Comment  

Remembering Rev. J. Kortering’s Seminary Years, 1957-60

“Have you been at the seminary on Ivanrest recently? If so, you were greeted by a full-time receptionist. Just to your right, you would have seen an office for the registrar, one of whose duties is the calculating of cumulative grade-point averages and of the regular reporting of them to the students. Going then to your left, you would find yourself in a huge library. Exploring even further, you would find no fewer than five offices for professors—current, retiring, and recently elected.

“Now scroll back, if you will, to Jay Kortering’s seminary years 1957-1960. Classroom—last room on the north side of the west end of the single hall of Adams St. School. Library—non-existent. Registrar—what’s that? Students—one, Jay Kortering. Professors—Rev. H. Hoeksema and, till his incapacitating stroke in 1958, Rev. G.M. Ophoff. After that stroke, it was Revs. G. Vos, H. Hanko, and B. Woudenberg, for Dutch, Church History, and O.T. History, respectively, for one year, till Prof. H.C. Hoeksema arrived on the scene in 1959.

“What did Jay think of Rev. Hoeksema and Rev. Ophoff? In retrospect, he said, “old and tired.” But, also in retrospect, he remembers having much appreciated them both. Concerning Ophoff, for example: “I was pretty happy. We worked hard on Hebrew grammar. He couldn’t keep much straight, but in his old age he could sleep Hebrew, I think. So we worked nicely together—even though he couldn’t ever keep the every-day activities straight. If we had finished a unit, and the next day or so I had to have a test, I had to call him in the morning to remind him that I had a test.”

An internship had no part in Rev. Kortering’s seminary training. But he did have opportunity to bring “words of edification” in the churches during those three years. In the January 19, 1958 bulletin of Hope Church (Grand Rapids), there was this announcement: “The pastor is filling a classical appointment today in Kalamazoo. We welcome to our pulpit Student J. Kortering and Rev. G. Ophoff.” Nothing seems particu-larly noteworthy about that—till one takes note of the date. In January of 1958 student J. Kortering had been in seminary for…one semester.

“Frankly,” said Rev. Kortering years later, “I look back and think that I did not learn really good skills in the seminary training. If I look at the men today, I think, Oh my, oh my. I had nothing. I got caught in the transition.”

“And, thankfully,” he adds, “I made it.”

This excerpt from the memoriam of Rev. Jason Kortering was written by Don Doezema and was published in the October 1, 2021 issue of the Standard Bearer. It was also featured on the blog of the publisher, the RFPA, where you can read the entire article.

I was privileged and blessed to have Rev. Kortering as my pastor twice: once in Hope PRC-Grand Rapids, MI when I was in grade school, and then again in Grandville PRC after my wife and I were married. In spite of (or perhaps because of, in the Lord’s mysterious providence and plan?), his limited seminary training, he was one of the finest preachers and pastors I had. Along with hard work and earnest prayer, pastor Kortering was gifted with a wide and deep heart for God and His people and had such a passionate and compassionate way of delivering the gospel. God used him as a powerful influence in my life, and I remain personally grateful for his ministry.

Published in: on October 2, 2021 at 9:32 PM  Leave a Comment  

September is National Literacy Month!

Belatedly, but still in this month of September, I want to note that this is National Literacy Month.

National Literacy Month

Baker Book House posted this report on the urgency of promoting the skill of reading in our times, beginning in early childhood. And they promote a cause that deserves attention, plus some of their own great books that encourage a lifetime love of reading, including one I read and blogged about last year.

How to Raise a Reader

Read the stats and then commit to helping children – and adults – read more and read better. It’s a precious gift and skill!

Here is the beginning of BBH’s post – follow the link at the end to read the rest.

“With billboards along highways, information taped to doors, and social media so prevalent in today’s society, we take reading for granted. We assume that everyone can decipher the symbols that make up our alphabet and the words we use, and that all it takes to be understood without speaking is a scribbled word on a notepad.

“But the truth of the matter is, illiteracy has not been eradicated just yet.
Here are the facts:

  • One in five U.S. adults (21%) have low literacy skills, translating to about 43 million adults.
    • This 21% of US adults reads below the 5th grade level.
  • 32 million adults cannot read in the United States, equal to 14% of the population.
  • 19% of high school graduates cannot read.
  • 85% of juveniles who interact with the juvenile court system are considered functionally illiterate.
  • 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above the fourth-grade level.

“Illiteracy is not just confined to the borders of the United States. Worldwide, 774 million individuals cannot read. 66% of this group of illiterates are female.

“Recent statistics show that 2/3 of students that are unable to read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or welfare. These individuals will also suffer a 78% chance of not catching up. 1 in 4 children grow up not knowing how to read.

Source: September is National Literacy Month!

Published in: on September 30, 2021 at 9:02 AM  Leave a Comment  

“I am a silly sheep, but I have a gracious, watchful Shepherd.” ~ J. Newton

“I would tell you how it is with me if I could; at the best, it would be an inconsistent account.

I am what I would not, and would what I cannot.

I rejoice and mourn; I stand fast, and am thrown down in the same moment.

I am both rich and poor; I can do nothing, yet I can do all things. I live by miracle.

I am opposed beyond my strength, yet I am not overpowered. I gain when I lose, and I often am a loser by my gains.

In a word, I am a sinner, a vile one; but a sinner believing in the name of Jesus.

I am a silly sheep, but I have a gracious, watchful Shepherd.

I am a dull scholar, but I have a Master who can make the dullest learn.

He still bears with me, He still employs me, He still enables me, He still owns me.

Oh, for a coal of heavenly fire to warm my heart, that I might praise Him as I ought!

As a people, we have much cause of complaint in ourselves, and much cause of thankfulness to Him.

In the main, I hope we are alive, though not as we could wish; our numbers rather increase from year to year, and some flourish. In the ordinances, we are favoured in a measure with his presence.

But, oh, for a day of His power; that His work may run broader and deeper, and the fire of grace spread from heart to heart, till the whole town be in a flame!

To this I hope you will give a hearty Amen, and often remember us in your prayers.”

Image of the works of John newton

Found in The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 104-105. This was posted recently at the blog of Nick Roark, Tolle Lege.

Published in: on September 25, 2021 at 10:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Little Gem on Prayer by Luther

A Simple Way to Pray

Last week a fine article posted re-advertising a wonderful little book (pamphlet) Martin Luther wrote for his barber after he asked for Luther’s help with the spiritual art of praying. Even though it is not Reformation month yet, it is good to alert you to this “little gem,” for it it timeless in its instruction and encouragement in prayer.

What follows are the opening paragraphs of the article. To read the rest, follow the link below.

“You are a pastor in a small city.  You’ve known your barber for almost twenty years.  One day while he trims he asks for help in prayer.  He, like many others, struggles in that area.  So, you decide to go home and write a brief thirty-four page guide for him.  You even incorporate your friend in the work.  Encouraging attentiveness in prayer you write, “So, a good and attentive barber keeps his thoughts, attention, and eyes on the razor and hair and does not forget how far he has gotten with his shaving or cutting.” Once finished you decide to publish the work and it’s ready for popular consumption by the early part of the year.  Now, your friend and others have help.

“What you just read is fact and not fiction. Peter Beskendorf, Martin Luther’s barber asked this very question.  In response, Luther wrote a brief book titled A Simple Way to Pray. It’s a little gem.  And it is exactly what you would expect from the pen of Luther, nothing more and nothing less. For example, in Luther’s pithy way he warns us not to become lax and lazy with regard to prayer because “the devil who besets us is not lazy or careless.”[1]

“Luther also gives the sort of advice that you don’t hear very often today.  For instance, he says, “Finally, mark this, that you must always speak the Amen firmly.” He goes on to explain exactly what he means. As firmly as his amen, Luther says, “Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, ‘Very well, God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth.’  This is what Amen means.”[2] I wonder how many of us need that simple but profound instruction.”

To continue reading, visit the post “Prayer Tips: A Good Book from Luther” by pastor/professor J. Stivason at Place for Truth.

Published in: on September 21, 2021 at 10:07 PM  Leave a Comment  

Victory Through God’s Preserving Grace – H. Hoeksema

… be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. – Revelation 2:10

“The promise of final salvation and glory in the kingdom of heaven is for those who gain the victory in the battle of faith.

“Repeatedly we read in the letter of Christ to the seven churches of Asia, preserved for us in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, that the Lord will realize His promise to him that overcometh. “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7) To him that overcometh Christ will give a crown of life. (2:10) He will give him to eat of the hidden manna, and give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (2: 17) He will give him power over the nations, even as Christ received of His Father, and the morning star. (2: 26-28) He shall be clothed with white raiment; and his name shall not be blotted out of the book of life, and Christ will confess his name before His Father and before the holy angels. (3: 5) He shall be made a pillar in the temple of God, so that he shall no more go out thence, and a new name, the name of God, and the name of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the new name of Christ, will be written upon him. (3: 12) And it shall be granted to him to sit with Christ in His throne, even as Christ also overcame, and is set down with His Father in His throne. (3 :21) Indeed, only he that overcometh shall inherit all things. (Revelation 21: 7) And he that endureth unto the end shall be saved. (Matthew 10:22)

“All this presupposes, of course, that the believer in this world has a battle to fight, and that only in the way of battle can he gain the victory and obtain the crown. And so, everywhere the Scriptures exhort God’s people to fight that battle. They must put on the whole armor of God, that they may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For they wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickednesses in high places; and they need the whole armor of God, that they may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6: 11-17) By Paul’s word to Timothy we are exhorted to fight the good fight of faith and to lay hold on eternal life. (I Timothy 6:12) Paul himself testifies: “I have fought the good fight, 1 have finished my course, 1 have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7) The believer is exhorted to run with patience the race that is set before him, laying aside every encumbrance, and the sin that so easily besets him, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1, 2) And the church must hold fast that which she has, that no one take her crown. (Revelation 3: 11)

“In this spiritual battle the Christian occupies a very precarious position – in fact, an apparently impossible and hopeless one. Everything that is of this world is against him. He is against himself. For although it is true that he is a new creature, God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, he is renewed only in principle, and his whole nature stands in diametric opposition to the new principle of life which he received in regeneration and from which he lives by faith. He has but a small beginning of the new obedience; and the motions of sin that are in his members make it quite impossible for him, as long as he is in this life, to live without sin.

“…Will he, then, be able to stand and to persevere even unto the end? And if so, how?

To this question all who profess to believe in salvation by divine grace reply with one accord: yes, he will be able, but only through preserving grace. The same marvelous grace that was revealed in the cross of God’s only begotten Son, and that was bestowed upon us by the Spirit of Christ, that raised us from the dead and called us out of darkness into the marvelous light of God, is the power which must keep us, strengthen us, constantly sanctify us, enlighten us, and cause us to discern spiritual things, if we are to stand and gain the victory in this humanly impossible battle of faith. Fighting in our own strength, we must surely be defeated. Standing in our own power, we will surely fall. Depending on our own wisdom, we will surely be entangled in the snare of temptation. Boasting of our own faithfulness, we will, as Peter of old, surely deny Him. We are saved by grace. That means also that we are preserved by grace. Without Christ we can do nothing. And if any man thinketh he standeth, let him beware lest he fall! Not one step on the way of sanctification can we take without His grace. About this there is no dispute. Every Christian knows that he is strong only when he is weak, and that God’s strength is made perfect in his weakness. We persevere and overcome only through the marvelous power of God’s preserving grace.

Yet, even so, we must say more than this if we would really confess that we are saved by grace only, and that this grace of God is absolutely sovereign. For it is indeed possible to confess all this, to ascribe our preservation entirely to God’s grace, and yet, in the end, to turn about and present the whole matter of our preservation as ultimately dependent upon man, upon the believer himself. A striking illustration of this is offered by the last of the five articles which were composed by the Arminians in 1610. In the strongest language they there confess that after the believer is saved, regenerated, and called, he still can do absolutely nothing of himself, and that he cannot even so much as think anything good or will anything that is pleasing in the sight of God. Utterly dependent he is upon the grace of God to preserve him. But the end of that article overthrows this whole declaration concerning the indispensableness of God’s grace to persevere, when they suggest that a man may make himself unworthy of this grace and that, therefore, it cannot be maintained as certain that the believer will never fall away finally and completely, so that he attains to the final salvation and glory in the heavenly kingdom.

You see, the important and fundamental question, the answer to which decides whether or not a man really believes and confesses wholeheartedly that salvation is by sovereign grace, is always this: who determines the salvation of man? Who is first: God or man? Must man first open his heart, or, at least, be willing to receive Christ, before God can save him? If your answer to this question is in the affirmative, you may extol the grace of God that saves us as loudly and highly as you wish, but you deny the truth of sovereign grace nevertheless. You make God dependent on man, you present the grace of God as contingent upon the will of the creature. And if this is the relation between grace and the will of man in the beginning, when a man first comes to Christ, it must needs remain such even to the end. Then you will say, to be sure, that the believer is preserved by grace and that he can do nothing of himself; but you will always add that he must will to receive this grace and that it is always possible for him to reject the grace He wants accepted, and thus to fall away into perdition. God’s almighty hand is strong to save and to preserve you unto the end; but if you must hold on to that hand, your preservation after all depends upon the puny strength of your hand, not upon the omnipotent power of His hand.

But thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! His grace is free and absolutely sovereign. It is rooted in eternal election. It is forever based on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord. It sovereignly and irresistibly takes hold of us, making us new creatures in Christ, and that, too, not because we will, but in spite of the fact that we do not will, and cannot possibly will to come to Him before His grace has touched us; not because we seek Him first, but because He seeks us; not because we love Him, but while we are yet enemies. Grace must needs be first if it is to save man who is dead through trespasses and sins. And first it is, always first, first from beginning to end. It is first in regenerating us, it is first in calling us, it is first in drawing us to Christ, it is first in bestowing upon us the gift of faith. And it is also first in preserving us unto the end. He preserves us; and because He preserves, we persevere. It is He that worketh within us to will and to do of His good pleasure – yes, indeed, also to will; and then we work out our own salvation. That is the meaning of salvation by grace. He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord!

And that is the reason why the believer can never perish. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11 :29) “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me: and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all that he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” (John 6;37-39) And again, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10;28) And so we are “persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38, 39)

Do not object that this gospel makes men “careless and profane,” so that they become utterly passive, seeing that God must do it all anyway, and that we will surely have the victory, whether we fight the good fight of faith or not. For the sovereign grace of God does not enervate man, but strengthens him and steels him to fight. It does not make man passive, but active. It does not make us profane, but it sanctifies us. It fills us with the love of God, so that we gladly receive and heed and obey His Word, and put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day. The assurance that the victory is ours does not make us sit down passively but causes us to be strong and courageous in the battle.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15: 58)

Quoted from chapter 13, “Victory Through Grace,” in The Wonder of Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1944), pp.106-113.

Published in: on September 19, 2021 at 7:50 AM  Leave a Comment  

“My Grandpa, the Keeper of this cemetery, the rule of all the world, he loved me.”

In this marvelous little part of the chapter titled “The Spittin’ Image,” Walter Wangerin, Jr. is reflecting on his mother’s words to him at a young age that he was the “spittin’ image” of her father, his grandpa. He is reflecting as a young lad on what this could possibly mean, including that maybe he was supposed to spit tobacco like his grandpa. Enjoy this powerful description of their special relationship – from the viewpoint of a six-year old.

“…Moreover, he loved me, did my Grandpa Storck, the solemn Lord of the green lawns and the gravestones. [He was superintendent of the cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.] He loved me. And this was his particular way of showing love for me, by spitting. No, I simply could not imagine duplicating the meaning of the marvelous act.

“Marvelous? It was a spectacle of skill, performed for me alone; and the more skillful he, the more love for me, since the finer was the gift that I was given.

“Grandpa seldom smiled. He had an eruption of moustache beneath his nostrils. His face was mostly expressive of one mood only: solemnity, rectitude, Lutheran doom. His arms were long and strong, his hands huge, his stride unhalting, his whole body an uncompromising dogma. Moses! Grandpa Storck, his hair like cloud on top of his head, was an immediate Sinai, grim and untender – but I was not intimidated.

“For this Mount Sinai could spit.

“This old man, he loved me in the spitting.

“For we would be sitting in his study, as dark and oaken as Lutheran truth. For he would be massive behind his desk, while I kept silent in the corner, according to his admonition. For he would flick me a sudden, significant glance, and I would recognize a break in the weather, and my heart would leap, but I would strive to keep my face as solemn as his. For he would clear his great throat and creak backward in his swivel chair, backward, backward until his face was aimed toward shadows at the ceiling, toward some spot so high above his brass spittoon, itself three miles away from him, that no one would bet a nickel he’d hit it. For I would fight the giggles in me, trying to be worthy of the grand occasion. For Grandpa – angled backward in his chair, twitching his mighty moustache – was Olympian.

And Grandpa spit.

“Ha! but there was a splendor in that rising, shining, dark brown spew – and a glory so important that everything moved slow-motion to my sight. Listen: the goober never touched his moustache! It rose from his lip like a darker comet with a long, delirious tail. It ascended the air of his study in reckless daring: he spat up, not down. He spat distance, not safety. This was no timid dribble. This was the audacity of outrageous skill. High in space that comet would curve into a perfect apogee, then suddenly tip and sail downward with a gathering, giddy speed – till, Poooom! it hit the target center-brass. Poooom! a ring of triumph. Done.

“And Grandpa would flick me another glance from his spit-position in the chair, and that undid me truly. I laughed out loud in spite of myself. I shouted. He had done it, and he loved me, and I acted like a kid for what I’d seen, laughing pure delight and gratitude.

“…So we would walk the kingdom together, he and I. And he would stride, but I would run to stay abreast of him; and the summer was hot, but the day was always lovely, and I was happy as the grass was green, oh, I was lordly in the rivers of the windfall light. My Grandpa, the Keeper of this cemetery, the rule of all the world, he loved me.”

Found in Miz Lil and the Chronicles of Grace (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1988), pp.13-14. I have read many of Wangerin’s books but found this one this summer and realized I had not read it. So far it is the best of his writings, to my mind. Just masterful writing about his ministry in the inner city (Evansville, IN) Lutheran church he served. The church’s name was Grace and the stories are about how God’s grace worked in him and his parishioners as he brought them God’s Word. Now you understand the double meaning behind “Chronicles of Grace.” The stories will leave you not only laughing, but crying.

Published in: on September 16, 2021 at 10:09 PM  Leave a Comment  

Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel – Interview with Prof. D. Engelsma, Friday, Sept.10, 2021

IRON SHARPENS IRON Radio‘s

guest for*FRIDAY*, SEPT. 10th, 4-6 p.m.*ET* will be: DAVID J. ENGELSMA,

author, professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament studies for 20 years at Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary in Grandville, MI & emeritus professor since the Synod of 2008, editor of the Standard Bearer magazine (1988-2002), lecturer & preacher touring in North America & throughout the British Isles on behalf of the British Reformed Fellowship, which is devoted to the spread and defense of the Reformed faith in the UK, 

will addressHYPER-CALVINISM & The CALL of the GOSPEL: An Examination of the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel

Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel: An Examination of the Well-meant offer of the gospel

Listen *LIVE* GLOBALLY @www.IronSharpensIronRadio.com

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*UPDATE: If you missed the live interview, you may still listen to the podcast at this link.

Published in: on September 9, 2021 at 9:51 PM  Leave a Comment