Prayers of the Reformers (19)

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this fourth Sunday of the new year we post another prayer from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

This is a prayer or hymn of Martin Luther and is taken from the section “A Calendar of Prayer.” The German title is “Es Wollt uns Gott genaedig sein,” taken from the first line.

You will find these words to be fitting for our worship today as well as for our life and labors in the week ahead.

May God unto us gracious be,
And grant to us His blessing;
Lord, show Thy face to us, through Thee
Eternal life possessing:
That all Thy work and will, O God,
To us may be revealed,
And Christ’s salvation spread abroad
To heathen lands unsealed,
And unto God convert them.

Thine over all shall be the praise
And thanks of every nation,
And all the world with joy shall raise
The voice of exultation.
For Thou the sceptre, Lord, dost wield
Sin to Thyself subjecting;
Thy Word, Thy people’s pasture-field,
And fence their feet protecting,Them in the way preserveth.

Thy fold, O God, shall bring to Thee
The praise of holy living;
Thy Word shall richly fruitful be,
And earth shall yield thanksgiving.
Bless us, O Father! bless, O Son!
Grant, Holy Ghost, Thy blessing!
Thee earth shall honor – Thee alone,
Thy fear all souls possessing.
Now let our hearts say, Amen.

Luther, 1524

This hymn has also been set to music by J.S. Bach, which you may find here along with a different English translation. For one version available on YouTube, see below.

Listen Up! How to Listen to Sermons (2)

listen-up-ashThe last few weeks we have begun to examine a short booklet that instructs God’s people in how to listen to sermons. The booklet is titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009) and is penned by Christopher Ash.

Once more let’s get before us the seven main points Ash makes in the book – the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening,” as he calls them:

  1. Expect God to speak
  2. Admit God knows better than you
  3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
  4. Hear the sermon in church
  5. Be there week by week
  6. Do what the Bible says
  7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

Tonight, to help us prepare for hearing the Word of God tomorrow, let’s “listen up” as Ash instructs us in that second ingredient“Admit God knows better than you.” As you will see, also this “ingredient” has to do with the authority of the message the faithful preacher of God’s Word brings; but more than that, it also has to do with the content of that message.

…What we really want [Ash means, by nature] is for the Bible to tell us we’re ok, what we’ve done is ok, and what we believe is ok.

But it isn’t ok. It’s not at all ok. Far from coming to the Bible as a clean sheet, I come to the Bible as a thoroughly messed-up person, unable to think straight, speak right or act as I ought. That means I must expect the Bible to call me to repentance and not reassure me that I’m ok. It will never make me comfortable or complacent in my sin.

…Faithful Bible teaching will always cause offence.

…The voice of God spoken by a faithful Bible teacher will get under my skin. It will cut to the core of my being (Hebrews 4 v 12, 13). It will challenge me to ‘get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted’ in me (James 1 v 21). And I mustn’t expect to like it. Sometimes I may even feel insulted.

Concerning which the author concludes:

To listen humbly is to be realistic about this. What is more, it is to recognise that there is more than one way to evade the challenge of the Bible. The simple way is just to say: ‘The Bible is wrong. I don’t agree with it, and that’s all there is to say.’ But the more common way in Christian circles …is to find a clever way to reinterpret the Bible so that I can persuade myself that, although I must admit it looks as if it challenges me, in fact it doesn’t. This preserves my impression of piety while safeguarding my rebellion against God….

Which brings this closing point: “…To listen humbly is to admit that the Bible is right and I am wrong, that God is God and I need to change” (pp.7-8).

Will we listen humbly to the Word preached tomorrow and let it convict us that God is right about us and we are wrong?

Dr. Klaas Schilder and the PRC

The PRC Seminary’s 2017 Interim course ends today. Prof. R. Dykstra, by rotation, taught his course on the Schism of 1953, that tragic but necessary rupture that occurred in the PRC over the doctrine of the covenant of grace and the nature of salvation (conditional or unconditional; general or particular).

Much of that history involved Dr. Klaas Schilder (1890-1952) of the Netherlands, himself ousted from the State Church in the Netherlands in the 1944, following which he helped found the Liberated Churches that same year (Canadian Reformed and American Reformed in N. America).

Schilder was an opponent of common grace, which in part caused him to be befriended by Rev. Herman Hoeksema and prompted visits to the U.S. and conversations with PRC leaders in 1939 and 1947. However, on the doctrine of the covenant he and Hoeksema parted. Because of Schilder’s influence on many PRC ministers, his conditional theology was instrumental in the schism in 1953.

Prof. Dykstra gives out many handouts for his class on this history, both original and secondary sources. He (and his classes!) also enjoy visuals, including pictures. So I gathered what we had in the PRC archives, scanned them, and sent them to him for use in his PowerPoint presentations.

Today I share them with you as well, including a brand new one that came in this week from the T. Newhof family – thank you!

We will start with that one, since it is one of the largest and clearest pictures of Dr. K. Schilder that we have, and because it relates to the first visit he made to the U.S. and the PRC in 1939. It shows him sandwiched between Rev. George Lubbers (minister in Pella PRC at the time) and Rev. William Verhil (minister in First PRC, Edgerton, MN at the time) next to the old Doon PRC in Doon, IA.

lubbers-schilder-verhil-1939

kschilder-pics-hh-wife-picnic
This is also a new one, compliments of Mark Hoeksema, showing his grandfather and grandmother (Rev. Herman Hoeksema) at a private picnic with Dr. K. Schilder.

kschilder-pics-gvos-ca
Dr. K. Schilder with Rev. Gerrit Vos in the mountains of S. California

kschilder-pics-apetter-la-zoo
Dr. K. Schilder with Rev. A. Petter (minister in Bellflower, CA PRC at the time) at an outing at the Los Angeles, CA zoo.

kschilder-pics-theol-conf-1947
Dr. K. Schilder (just to the right of Rev. H. Hoeksema and Rev. G. Ophoff in the front) and PRC ministers and elders at the Theological Conference held at First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI on November 6, 1947.

In March of 1952 Dr. K. Schilder died suddenly, prompting this brief but warm memoriam in the Standard Bearer from the pen of the editor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema:

Early this morning, March 24, I received a telegram from my friend, Arnold Schildre at The Hague, informing me that his brother Klaas, the well-known Dr. K. Schilder had on the previous day, Sunday, March 23, passed into his eternal rest.

I was deeply shocked.

For although I certainly did not agree with him in regard to the question of the covenant and the promise, I nevertheless esteemed him for his work’s sake, esteemed him, too, as a highly gifted scholar, and, above all, as a brother in Christ.

And now Dr. Schilder is no more.

It would seem to us that his work was not finished.

Certainly, he himself cannot have been aware of the fact that his end was so near. At least, if we consider the very elaborate set-up of his work on the Heidelberg Catechism (he was writing) on the tenth Lord’s Day), he must have felt that he still had many years of labor before him.

But the Lord took him out of his busy sphere of labor and pronounced it finished, nevertheless.

May the Lord comfort the bereaved family, with whom we express our heartfelt sympathy.

And may He teach us so to number our days that we apply our hearts unto wisdom.

H.H.

The Latest PRC Seminary Journal

Though a few months late, the November 2016 issue of the PRC Seminary’s Theological Journal is now out.

nov-2016-50-1-cover

The digital version has been available for a few weeks now, while the print version became available the first week of January (the other digital versions will be forthcoming). Both domestic and foreign copies have now been mailed out. If you are on our mailing list, you should be receiving your copy soon. If you would like a copy mailed to you, let us know. And if you would like to pick up a copy at the Seminary, feel free to do that too.

The PRTJ’s editor, Prof. R. Cammenga, introduces the issue with these comments:

Editor’s Notes
This issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal is the first issue of volume fifty. That, certainly, is a milestone! For fifty years, without interruption, the Lord has made it possible for the Protestant Reformed Seminary to publish two issues per year of its theological journal. Founded in 1966, at a time when the seminary was housed in the basement of the First Protestant Reformed Church, located on the corner of Fuller Avenue and Franklin Street, the first issues were a “testing of the waters” to determine whether there was sufficient interest to warrant continued publication. From the enthusiastic reception of those first issues to the present day, the PRTJ continues to occupy a place on the shelves and in the hearts of those who love the heritage of the Reformed faith. After fifty years, PRTJ continues to publish scholarly theological articles that set forth and defend the Reformed faith, as that faith has been delivered to the Protestant Reformed Churches and preserved and developed in her seminary. And after fifty years, we continue to be one of the only theological journals that does not charge its subscribers an annual subscription fee. The costs of publication and mailing are covered by the generous donations of the PRCA and our readership. To you who regularly contribute, we express our thanks.

You will find this issue to be similar in content to previous issues. We include a slate of articles, two by members of the faculty of the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary, one by a fourth-year seminary student, and one by a recent guest speaker. That guest speaker was the Reverend Thomas Reid, librarian and occasional lecturer at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. This past Spring, Mr. Reid gave two outstanding lectures to the faculty and student body of the Protestant Reformed Seminary on the history and struggles of the French Reformed church. We judged the lectures to be worthy of wider distribution and he has kindly consented to prepare them for publication. For a number of reasons, brother Reid has a special interest in the French Reformed church, including the fact that his wife Geneviève traces her roots to the French Reformed. The first of those two lectures, “The Battles of the French Reformed Tradition,” is included in this issue of PRTJ. His second lecture focused on one of the important recent theologians of the French Reformed church, Auguste Lecerf. Look for that lecture to be included in the April 2017 issue of PRTJ.

Included in this issue is also the translation of the sermon preached by the Reverend Simon Van Velzen on the Lord’s Day following the death of Reverend Hendrik De Cock, the father of the Dutch Reformed reformation movement known as the Afscheiding. The sermon text was Revelation 14:13, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” The sermon is a sound, moving, exegetical work, full of practical application—exemplary in so many respects. The sermon was translated by the late Marvin Kamps. He was so captivated by the sermon that he translated it and submitted it for publication in our journal, convinced of its value for as wide an audience as possible. We agree. To our knowledge, it has never before been translated from the Dutch in which it was originally preached and transcribed.

And, of course, included in this issue of PRTJ are a number of book reviews. These are books that will be of value to seminary students, ministers, and professors of theology, not only, but to the informed Reformed believer who desires to stay abreast of the latest publications promoting—at least, hopefully—the Reformed faith and worldview. This is always a worthwhile section of our journal, and I am sure you will find it so in this issue as well.

Read and enjoy!
Soli Deo Gloria!
—RLC

It’s not too late to get started with your reading! As you will see, all of the articles are worthy of your attention.

The books reviewed in this issue are as follows:

  • Bolt, John. Bavinck on the Christian Life
  • Engelsma, David. Christianizing the World:
    Reformed Calling or Ecclesiastical Suicide?
  • Gordon, T. David. Why Johnny Can’t Preach:
    The Media Shaped the Messenger
  • Owen, John. Communion with the Triune God
  • Roberts, Dewey. Historic Christianity and the
    Federal Vision: A Theological Analysis
    and Practical Education
  • Sheers, Janet Sjaarda. Ministers of the
    Christian Reformed Church and
    Classical Assembly 1857-1870;
    General Assembly 1867-1879; and
    Synodical Assembly 1880:
  • Wielenga, B. The Reformed Baptism Form:
    A Commentary

Listen Up! How to Listen to Sermons (Intro)

One of the short books (really a booklet) I am reading this year is that by Christopher Ash, titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009).

listen-up-ashYes, this is indeed a book on how to listen to sermons, because in the words of the author “there are books and courses to help people preach sermons… [lots of them, I might add!] but I’ve not read anything written in the last 200 years on how to listen to sermons” (p.2).

We expect good preaching of our pastors. That is as it should be. They are so trained during all the years of their Seminary education. Preaching is the heart and core of their work, as required by the Lord Himself. The King demands the best of His heralds – clear, accurate, powerful proclamation of His message. We know the standards are high – in the minds of elders and congregations too.

But we are often soft on ourselves as hearers of the Word. What we demand strictly of our preachers, we relax for ourselves. But that is not right. If what we believe preaching to be is true, then our standard for hearing ought to be just as high as it for making good sermons.The King demands the best of those who receive His message too.

If I may put it that way, listening to sermons is simply the other half of preaching. Without good listening – that is, without diligent, faith-ful, obedient hearing of the Word of God through the preacher – the best preaching does not profit us. In fact, it does the opposite: it hardens us and renders us inexcusable before the Lord, more ripe for judgment (condemnation). Yes,that’s hard, but it’s true. The Word of God says so.

So, some help in learning how to listen to sermons (better) is in order, no matter how long we have heard them and how experienced we may be in discerning good ones from not so good ones (Yes, I am being charitable. I was once on the other end.). Ash’s little book is a place to start, so we will work our way through it this year.

His first section is headed by the words “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening.” Here they are listed in order:

  1. Expect God to speak
  2. Admit God knows better than you
  3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
  4. Hear the sermon in church
  5. Be there week by week
  6. Do what the Bible says
  7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

Ash then has a short section on how to listen to bad sermons (Bet you can’t wait to get to that part!). He ends with a page giving seven (7) “suggestions for encouraging good preaching.”

Now you have the “big picture.” In this short introduction, let’s ask ourselves two questions:

  1. Did you pray for your pastor’s sermon preparation this week and will you pray for him tomorrow as he enters the pulpit?
  2. Will you pray for yourself (and for your wife, if you are married, and for your children, if you have them) and for your (and their) listening tomorrow?

We may start tonight. Let us do so.

How Should We Remember God? – David Mathis

tt-dec-2016You may recall that the December issue of Tabletalk carries the theme of “Remembering God.” That theme is worked out in several featured articles, one of which is “How Should We Remember?” by David Mathis.

Mathis concerns himself with the means of remembering God, the practical ways in which we learn repeatedly not to forget our God but faithfully to recall His wonderful works and ways toward us. In the author’s words by way of summary, “His primary avenues for sacred remembrance are these: hearing His voice, having His ear, and belonging to His body.”

It is that last one we wish to focus on with you today. It is so easy to forget God by forgetting the important place He has given us in the body of His Son, the church of Jesus Christ. Mathis reminds us of this indispensable means for remembering God in his last two sections.

Read them; remember and use this means. And by living faithfully in the church may we chiefly remember our God and His amazing grace to us.

Fellowship: Belong to His Body

Third, and perhaps most overlooked in our day as a vital avenue of remembering God, is the community of fellow Christians in the local church. Let it be said loud and clear that other believers are an essential, irreplaceable means of edification in our lives. Most of our lives are not spent bent over our Bibles and on our knees in private prayer, but most of us do rightly spend a massive portion of our daily lives with other people. And, it is hoped, some of those people, whether family or coworkers or in whatever avenue of life, are fellow believers who can be not only acquaintances but God’s willing instruments in the ongoing delivery of His grace into our lives.

Whether it’s a word of spiritual encouragement, a memorized or paraphrased verse, a probing question, a kind corrective word, or the simple invitation to pray together, we need real-life relationships with fellow believers who know us well enough to direct both encouragement and challenge into the specifics of our lives. The Christian life is a community project.

The Most Important Habit

Chief among the many good habits we can cultivate under the banner of fellowship is corporate worship. The reading and preaching of God’s Word come together with corporate prayer and receiving His grace in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper within the context of worshiping Jesus together.

You might say that the coming together of Word, prayer, and fellowship in corporate worship makes it the single most important habit of the Christian life. It is the vital spark plug of faithfulness. Your Christian life will soon become famished and anemic without corporate worship and its unique banquet of spiritual blessings to be received in active faith.

Source: How Should We Remember? by David Mathis

The State of Theology – Ligonier

tt-dec-2016This month’s Tabletalk includes  an interview with Ligonier Ministries’ Chris Larson and Stephen Nichols about the 2016 survey Ligonier did on the “state of theology” in America.

It is a revealing study, as you might imagine. It is designed to be useful for churches and ministries, and I believe it ought to be looked at by the PRC as well. If we are going to do outreach and missions in this country, we have to know where people are at theologically in this time.

If you have not heard of this report before, you will want to read this interview and then visit the special website on the survey that was conducted.

Below is a portion of the interview; find the rest at the Ligonier link beneath the quote.

Tabletalk: Why did Ligonier do the State of Theology survey?

Stephen Nichols: One of the cardinal rules of giving a speech is “Know your audience.” Back in 2014, we partnered with LifeWay Research to conduct a survey of the theological beliefs of three thousand Americans. We decided to undertake the survey again in 2016 and expand the visualization of the data into a new website, TheStateOfTheology.com. Our ultimate purpose for this survey is to help churches, Christian ministries, and Christians live as the body of Christ in our place and in our time.

Chris Larson: Dr. Sproul has said often, “Everyone’s a theologian.” And the point he is making is that everyone has an opinion on theological matters, but not all opinions are created equal. Some are right, some are not. This study demonstrates the stunning gap in theological precision and awareness throughout our nation. We are a ministry that seeks to serve the church by providing helpful resources that God’s people can use as they grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. This ongoing survey can be used to focus our aim as Christians as we proclaim the light of God’s truth to a darkened world. We believe it is essential to know the core beliefs of Americans and share those findings freely with pastors and church leaders.

One of the most significant questions in the survey concerned beliefs about Jesus Christ. This is what the men say on that:

A third question involves the identity of Christ. Actually, we can look at two questions and see some significant theological confusion. When asked if Jesus is truly God and has a divine nature and if Jesus is truly man and has a human nature, a strong majority of 62 percent agree. Six out of 10 Americans think Jesus is the God-man. Yet, consider this. When asked if Jesus is the first being created by God, 53 percent agree. This is a contradiction. To say Jesus is created by God is to deny His divine nature and to deny that He is truly God. To say that Jesus is the first created being is actually to repeat a heresy that echoes through the early centuries of the church, the heresy of Arianism. The answers to this question reveal that this old heresy is still prevalent. When put over and against the question that asks if Jesus is truly God, this question also reveals how confused Americans are on essential issue of the identity of Christ. “Who do you say that I am?” was a question Jesus Himself asked. We must point people to the right answer.

Source: The State of Theology by Various Teachers

How Do the Sacraments Function in Worship? – Rev. C. Griess

StandardBearerIn the November 1, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer (just out), Rev. C. Griess (pastor of Calvary PRC in Hull, IA) returns to contributing to his series on worship for the rubric “O Come Let Us Worship.”

For this volume year (93) he will be writing on the place of the sacraments in Reformed and biblical worship. His first installment introduces this important subject under the title “The Sacraments in Worship.”

What follows are a few paragraphs from this article. In them pastor Griess reminds us of the proper place and function of the sacraments in the true worship of the church of Christ.

Since the sacraments are elements of worship, they are part of the holy dialogue between God and His people. This is the divine motivation for regulating worship in such a way that the sacraments take place in church worship. In these sacraments God speaks to us, all His people, and we, hearing and understanding and appropriating His speech, respond to Him in prayer and praise. The sacraments have their own dialogue, so that there is a “dialogue within the dialogue” when the sacraments are used. In fact, this is the primary purpose of the sacraments, and we are to use them this way, aware that a holy and special conversation with Jehovah is taking place through them. This makes the sacraments, too, part of the covenantal assembly, the assembly of fellowship with God.

If you recently had a baptism in your church God spoke to the congregation beautifully. He did not just speak to the parents or to the one being baptized. He had a declaration to give to the whole of His true people gathered before Him. The main point of that baptism was not that God was there acting in that sign itself. God is not as Roman Catholics and many Lutheran and Anglicans teach, actually regenerating the one baptized by the water. The sacrament itself, that is, the water on the person, though a visible thing, is not accomplishing a divine invisible action. It is accomplishing a divine invisible speech. Even the sealing aspect of the sacrament is accomplished by what is being declared. The sacraments are speech that give witness to divine acts, but they are not the acts themselves; they are declarations.

That is why the Catechism asks and answers, “Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself? Not at all…” (Q&A 72). Well, then, what is it? Lord’s Day 25, A. 66 states, “The sacraments are holy, visible signs and seals appointed by God for this end, that He may more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel” (emphasis added). Declare! Speak! And then, to answer this question, How do the sacraments speak to us? Lord’s Day 26, A.69 “Christ appointed this external washing with water adding thereto this promise… (emphasis added).Christ attached a promise to this sacrament, so that it is God speaking to us. In baptism God is speaking to His church.

For information on subscribing to this Reformed periodical, visit the RFPA link above.

Learning from John Wycliffe: an Interview with Douglas Bond – Redeemed Reader

In connection with some suggested Reformation reading books for children earlier this month, I referenced church history teacher/writer Douglas Bond’s novel on John Knox titled The Thunder.

the-revolt-dbond-2016But his newest one is actually on a pre-Reformer – John Wycliffe. It’s title is The Revolt: a Novel in Wycliffe’s England (P&R, 2016; for teens 12-15), a book reviewed here on the Redeemed Reader website. The publisher gives this brief summary of the book:

As a secretary at the battle of Crécy, Hugh West’all has come close to death many times in his short career. But when he leaves the war behind to enter the stone halls of Oxford, he meets John of Wycliffe and soon embarks on a mission even more exciting—and perhaps just as dangerous. Using his scribe’s quill to translate the Bible into English, the language of the common people, Hugh begins to understand the beauty of the gospel as never before. But he and his friends are not safe. The corrupt and decadent church is planning to choke Wycliffe’s translation and silence him forever.

Since the Reformation began with the “revolt” of returning to the Word of God because the Bible had been returned to the people of God through its being translated anew into their languages, – including already by Wycliffe in the 14th century – it is worthwhile looking at this important pre-Reformation figure.

Redeemed Reader recently did an interview with the author on his new book on Wycliffe, including some thoughts on his translation work. From that section we post a few lines today as well.  Find the full text of the interview at the link below.

RR: You mention Bohemian scholars getting involved in Wycliffe’s translation work.  Were other scholars in Christendom becoming interested in Bible translation at this time, or was Wycliffe a true pioneer?

DB: Very good question. Wycliffe certainly was a pioneer in Bible translation, one of the greatest, but others had gone before him, even as far back as Patrick in Ireland who was translating parts of the Bible into Old Irish so he could communicate the gospel of Jesus to the tribes in Ireland, and the Venerable Bede in eight-century England was translating parts of Scripture into Anglo-Saxon even on his deathbed (see Hand of Vengeance). So there is a long history of God raising up scholars, evangelists, pastors, missionaries who were passionate about getting the Word of God in the language of the people.

But there is a great irony here. The established (Roman Catholic) church had created Latin into a sacred language and used it as a barrier to keep the people from hearing the Word of God in their own language.  The constructed doctrine of papal supremacy–that the pope interprets what the Bible says and tells you what it means—made it heretical and unnecessary for you to read the Bible in your own language. But here’s the Spirit’s ironic touché: Latin actually served to unite scholars and students from all over Europe. A student could go from Bohemia or any other language group in Europe to study in Oxford and you didn’t have to sit in a cubicle for months with headphones on doing language training. No need to learn Middle English for the Bohemian student or any other. You showed up day one for lectures and tutorials delivered all in Latin. Wycliffe exploited this and created a conduit for vernacular Bible translation all over Europe, really, all over the world. That’s my kind of hero.

Source: Learning from John Wycliffe: an Interview with Douglas Bond – Redeemed Reader

Luther and the Church – Rev. M. McGeown

sb-oct-2016-lutherWe return today to the annual special Reformation issue of the Standard Bearer (October 15, 2016).  This year’s special issue is entirely devoted to “Martin Luther, Reformer Convicted by Scripture.”

 

One of the articles focuses on Luther’s doctrine of the church. In “Luther and the Church” Rev. Martyn McGeown (missionary-pastor laboring in Limerick, Ireland) summarizes Luther’s ecclesiology, while recognizing that he was not a systematizer like Calvin.

For example, McGeown says this about Luther’s view of the unity of the church:

Luther did not deny, or even attack (as his opponents alleged) the unity of the church. Luther never intended to create a second church to rival the Roman church. Luther denied that the Roman church was the church. It was, and had become, a wicked, degenerate counterfeit of the true church. What Luther did (and what Calvin and the other Reformers did after him) in establishing congregations on the basis of the Word of God was to continue the one church of Jesus Christ. Luther’s close friend and ally, Philip Melanchthon, wrote in the Augsburg Confession, “It is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places” (Article VII).

And when he ends his article, McGeown brings up Luther’s love for the church:

Finally, Luther loved the church. His great grief was to see what he called the Babylonian Captivity of the church, and his great desire was to see the church restored to her biblical foundations. Above all, Luther saw himself not as a mighty Reformer, or even as a great spiritual leader, but as a humble, yett thankful, member of the church:

I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the faint-hearted, the feeble, and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who believe in the forgiveness of sins, and who suffer persecution for the sake of the Word which they confess and teach purely and without adulteration.”1

That, too, is our thankful confession. We love the church, for in the church we find Christ.

1 Cited by Eugene F. Klug in “Luther on the Church” (Concordia Theological Quarterly [St Louis, Missouri, volume 47, Number 3, July 1983]).