January 2019 Tabletalk: Commemorating the Synod of Dordt

We are overdue in noting the January 2019 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries monthly devotional magazine. This month’s issue is a special one for all Reformed Christians and true Calvinists, for it is a tribute to the 400th anniversary of the great Synod of Dordt (1618-19).

Editor Burk Parsons gives a fine introduction to the theme with his “Five New Points of Old Heresy.” Here are a few of his thoughts:

If indeed we are Christians, we will care what we believe and, therefore, what we confess in our creed, for what we believe is the very basis of whether we are biblically orthodox or whether we’re heretics. The historic Reformed creeds and confessions summarize and systematically articulate what the Word of God teaches us, to the end that we might glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If we care about what we believe, we will care about the historic creeds and confessions of the church, and we will care about what happened in the Netherlands four hundred years ago and how the Reformed church responded.

Tonight we also wish to call attention to the first featured article, which is penned by noted Reformed historian Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. He writes the article linked below, “The Reason for Dort.” He provides a historical overview of the synod and its work, demonstrating why this “great synod” was necessary. That reason was chiefly the false teachings of James Arminius and his followers, known as Arminians, which made a defense of the absolute sovereignty of God and His saving grace so crucial.

We pull a few paragraphs from his article, encouraging you to read the rest at the link below.

The Dutch Calvinists decided that the synod should be more than simply a national synod. They invited representatives from most of the Reformed churches of Europe to attend and to be full voting members of the synod. The result was the greatest and most ecumenical gathering of Reformed churches ever held. (Lest my Presbyterian friends feel that I am slighting the Westminster Assembly, let me remind them that that assembly was not properly a church gathering but a gathering of theologians to advise the English Parliament.)

The Synod of Dort did its work carefully and thoroughly. It met from mid-November 1618 until late May 1619, first hearing the Arminians and then, when they were uncooperative, reading their writings. The greatest accomplishment of the synod was the preparation of what are known as the Canons of Dort. These canons or rulings of Dort respond to the five points of Arminianism. Strictly speaking, Calvinism does not have only five points; rather, it has the many points that one finds in the Belgic Confession or the Westminster Confession of Faith. Calvinism has five answers to the five errors of Arminianism. The canons respond point by point to the Arminian summary presented in 1610. The synod’s first head (or chapter) is on unconditional election. The second head is on limited atonement. The synod combines the third and fourth heads to show that total depravity is maintained only when the necessity of irresistible grace is taught. The fifth head teaches the perseverance of the saints because of the preserving grace of God.

And then, after pointing out some of the synod’s other work, Godfrey ends with this:

The Synod of Dort did outstanding work that is well worth celebrating four hundred years later. It preserved the true teaching of the Bible on salvation and provided in other ways as well for the well-being of the life of the church. The synod fought the good fight to which Jude calls Christians. The fight did lead to a fracture in the church. A small minority left to form the Remonstrant Brotherhood. But as Jude makes clear, such a division is not the fault of the orthodox but the fault of those who oppose the truth (Jude 19). The great accomplishment of the synod was that it kept, taught, and defended our faith, “our common salvation” (v. 3).

Source: The Reason for Dort

Additionally, and related to this, Ligonier will soon be releasing a new work on Dordt by Godfrey. The title is Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dort (Reformation Trust, Jan. 2019). This is the publisher’s description:

There has been renewed interest in the five points of Calvinism among many Christians today. But these doctrines are not a product of the twenty-first century. So where did they come from, and why are they so important? Dr. W. Robert Godfrey takes us back to 1618-19 when the Canons of Dort were written in response to a mounting theological assault on Reformed Christianity. Now, for its four-hundredth anniversary, he offers a new translation and pastoral commentary on the canons, equipping the next generation with these God-glorifying truths.

Seeking the City That Continues in 2019

sb-logo-rfpaThe first issue of the Standard Bearer in the new year is now out (Jan.1, 2019) and the opening meditation by emeritus PRC pastor Rev. James Slopsema contains many good thoughts for us as we stand at the beginning of this new year of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The meditation is based on Heb.13:13-14, which reads, “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”

Among Rev. Slopsema’s profitable words of exposition are these:

Here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come.

To seek something speaks of an earnest desire for something. It also implies that one does all in his power to attain the thing that he desires.

So also we seek the continuing city that is to come.

The “we” includes all the true seed of Abraham that have the same faith as Abraham.

The fact that the true believer seeks the heavenly city of God arises out of his faith.

Faith does not seek the things here below but the things that are above. That is, faith is not interested especially in things earthly and physical – earthly riches, pleasures, position, power, and so on. Faith is interested in the things that are eternal – the continuing city that God has reserved for His people in Jesus Christ with all its spiritual riches and pleasures. Faith is interested in the earthly only in so far as it is necessary to serve the Lord God and enjoy a foretaste of the eternal riches that are to come.

And so the believer is one that seeks the continuing city that is to come.

And this truth leads him to make this final application in terms of our calling in 2019:

This seeking of the eternal city of God must control our lives for the New Year and for every year the Lord gives us during our earthly pilgrimage.

Interestingly, what is stated as a fact in this passage for the true believer is also given as an admonition in other passages, although using different language.

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col 3:1-2)

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:31-33)

The necessity of these admonitions is the sad fact that the believer in weakness of faith does not always seek the things that are heavenly and eternal but the things here below. His desires are too much earthly and not enough heavenly. He becomes distracted by the things that perish, losing sight of the things that continue. This also hinders him from going outside the camp to be sanctified in the blood of the Lamb.

Let us this year and every year that remains live in the faith of our spiritual father Abraham who looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – WORLD

As we near the end of the year of our Lord 2018, it is good to reflect on all that has transpired according to the sovereign plan and providence of our almighty God in this year. That, after all, is what we believe all the events of history are – the unfolding of our God’s perfect plan through His mighty providential hand. And, we also add this, that all these events of history – of 2018 too – are for the salvation of Christ’s church and the good of His redeemed and renewed people.

Many news sources produce year-end summaries of the year’s major stories, which are useful in helping us to reflect on the more significant events of the year. World Magazine (a Christian news source) has also produced its summary of the major stories it reported online throughout 2018. It included this list of 25 items today as part of its “Saturday Series” (which often feature books, writing, reading), and I thought it worth your while to point you to it here.

What follows here is the little blurb that introduced the list; after that I post here the last five news items (which were published at the “top” of the list on their website).

In 2018, WORLD’s online readers were drawn to major cover stories and timely features from the magazine, daily news reports from The Sift, and insightful Saturday Series essays. But issues related to marriage, family, and sexuality were often foremost in the minds of our readers this past year, as the website’s weekly Relations roundup makes multiple appearances in our countdown of the 25 articles that grabbed your attention the most.

25. A long way from home

Before getting lost in a cave, Adul Sam-on found direction for his future at a Thai church and school

by Angela Lu Fulton
July 13 | WORLD Magazine | Features

24. Moody Bible Institute leaders resign amid turmoil

Moody Bible Institute announced Wednesday the resignation of President J. Paul Nyquist and Chief Operating Officer Steve Mogck amid ongoing turmoil following staffing cuts

by Leigh Jones
Jan. 11 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

23. Willow Creek elders respond to new Hybels accusations

The elders of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago said in a letter Saturday they could have done a better job holding former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels accountable for inappropriate behavior toward women

by Lynde Langdon
April 23 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

22. Facing cultural storms

Six trends that are rapidly reshaping the lives of American Christians

by John S. Dickerson
Nov. 24 | WORLD Digital | Saturday Series

21. Turkey seeks life sentence for U.S. pastor

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for a U.S. pastor accused of participating in the 2016 coup that attempted to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

by Leigh Jones
March 13 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

Find the other 20 top stories at the link below.

Source: WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – Media – WORLD

Christmas in His Fear – John A. Heys

…When we celebrate Christmas In His Fear then we go to Him and praise Him for the gift of all gifts that He has given us. We go to Him in prayer. We go to Him in His house of worship. We acknowledge this great and glorious gift and do not hide it from ourselves and from our children by a host of worldly, material gifts that we give and receive from men. When we celebrate Christmas In His Fear, Christ and the loves of God in sending Him to be our Savior occupies the central part of our celebration; and the greater part of our activity on that day revolves about Him. When we celebrate Christmas in His fear we gather in all humility and joy before His feet to be taught by Him anew and more richly the glorious truths of the birth of His Son.

And he who truly celebrates Christmas in His fear will not be able to hold back his songs of praise to God. With the holy angels he shall sing: Glory to God in the highest. He will sing of the true peace that God has wrought in this Son for those who are the men of His good pleasure and will glorify Him for it. And as the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God and telling all whom they met what they had seen and heard, the covenant parent will also want to have the day filled with such praise and glory to God by his children and will take them along to God’s house of worship that they too may hear of all this wonder of God’s grace.

Christmas celebration In His Fear is celebration before His face. It is celebration in the consciousness that He accomplished all these things that the Church of Christ might live before His face in everlasting glory. And it is celebration that responds to that glorious truth.

…On Christmas we celebrate the birth of one infinitely greater and more worthy of our praise and adoration. And He lives and sees and knows what we do to celebrate the day of His coming into our flesh. Celebration In His Fear, therefore, is celebration as before His face and in love to Him.

You need not purchase a “Christmas” tree to honor and praise Him. He does not ask you to spend a tidy sum of money for tinsel and a string of light bulbs of various colors. He demanded of Israel that to celebrate the glorious deliverance from the house of the bondage of sin and death they eat the roast flesh of a lamb. But He does not demand you and me to procure a turkey or chicken to observe the day of His birth. In fact you cannot celebrate His birth by these things ! They have absolutely nothing to do with His birth. In fact that abject poverty into which He came in the stable, in the lowly manger, outside the inn militates against all this gaudy and vulgar display of an event so sublime and heavenly.

He does call us to unfurl the banner of the truth; to meet with His people in His house of worship to hear what He has to say; to sing praises to Him.

He calls us to listen to Him and to make all our celebration subservient to it and not to gifts, toys and meals.

He calls us to believe what He says of Himself; to rejoice in it because of faith and with the angels to sing of the glory of God.

He calls us to bow in childlike reverence before Him in the adoration of love.

In His Fear keep Christ in Christmas.

Keep Him there all day.

This gem from the past may be found in the December 15, 1955 issue of the Standard Bearer, and was written by John A. Heys, then minister of the Word in Hope PRC (Walker, MI). It was penned for the rubric “In His Fear,” hence its title and theme. It is even more applicable 63 years later.

Source: Christmas in His Fear

December “Tabletalk”: Jesus is the Promised Messiah (and Paying Attention in Worship)

We are midway through this last month of 2018 and I have not yet referenced the December issue of Tabletalk, so tonight I will. I was able to get a lot of reading in it done today, and this new issue is once again packed with beneficial articles.

As you will see from the cover, the appropriate theme is “The Promised Messiah,” and there twelve articles based on OT passages showing how Jesus is the true Christ of God (Messiah). Editor Burk Parsons introduces the theme with his editorial “The True Israel of God,” part of which includes these important comments:

Jesus repeated, advanced, and fulfilled the history of Israel in the climax of His work. He suffered the exile of His death on the cross (Matt. 27:32–50), where He also fulfilled His role as the greater High Priest and the sacrificed Passover Lamb (26:1–13; 27:51). There, the temple of His body was destroyed (26:61; 27:40), but on the third day He was restored from the exile of death in His resurrection, raising up the temple of His body (28:1–10) and becoming the cornerstone of the new temple, His church, which is the fulfillment of God’s plan for His true people Israel (1 Peter 2:4–8). God’s sovereign plan and promise could not be thwarted, for now Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and earth, and is with us to the end of the age, and He will return as our King and take us to the heavenly Promised Land.

The article I focus on tonight, however, is one written by John R. Muether for one of the regular rubrics – “For the Church.” His title forms part of the title of this blog – “Paying Attention in Worship” – and follows nicely on my blog post of last night. The author has some helpful thoughts about avoiding distractions in worship and being focused on our main purpose for being present – fellowship with and adoration of our God. Here are some of his closing words – good for the end of this sabbath day (read the rest at the link below):

Single-minded attention is strange to us, even in worship, because we take pride in our ability to navigate our busyness with speed and nimbleness. In a multitasking world, Marva Dawn rightly concedes that worship is a “royal waste of time” because we are focused on something that our frenetic culture dismisses as inefficient. And yet, neuroscientists have come to the consensus that multitasking is a myth. We accomplish far less when we juggle several tasks than when we focus on one thing at a time. What is worse, our digitally enhanced distractions are becoming addictive: our brains crave constant stimulation and instant gratification. How ironic, then, that we program our phones with “alerts” and “notifications” for so-called breaking news when they have the effect of diminishing our alertness, prompting thoughtlessness and negligence to the task at hand. In sum, the spirit of our age is inimical to the careful and sustained attention that public worship demands.

Is it possible anymore to resist the persistent distractions of our digital age that obscure the message of the gospel? We need not abandon such a hope. Traditional church practices refocus our attention on the gospel and enable our worship of the transcendent God. Public worship and Sabbath keeping are the most culturally disruptive witnesses for Christians to practice. On a day designed for the soul to feast, we must resist habits that distract us and others. I am trying to go completely offline during the day. It is proving to be a great struggle, but I trust that it will awaken me from the stupor that can come from living in a culture that prizes distraction.

The stakes may be higher than we think. As distraction dulls our senses, it can lead even believers to indifference about heavenly matters. The book of Hebrews (which many commentators believe was originally a sermon) speaks powerfully to our digital age when it warns, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1).

Source: Paying Attention in Worship

Christ’s Poverty, Our Riches – Rev. M. De Vries

2-corinthians-8-9-kjv

The idea is, therefore, that Christ was manifesting toward His people a favor completely undeserved when He came into the world and became poor though He had been rich. That appalling poverty characteristic of Christ’s life was something that He willingly took upon Himself because Christ was gracious towards His people. The emphasis falls upon Christ’s perfect obedience and willingness to suffer. It speaks to us of that glorious truth that although it was painful beyond description for Christ to become so poor, nevertheless, He eagerly and anxiously seized upon this poverty because the deepest motives of His heart were for the people whom He loved. No price was too great to pay for them; no humiliation too bitter; no suffering too great; no poverty too lowly.

But what makes this grace appear so wonderful is the fact that He became poor for us because we are so very, very poor! O, not in the material sense. It is true, we may not be materially wealthy; we may have financial struggle. But, for the most part, we have an abundance of material things. Undoubtedly, you will receive many nice material gifts this season. But, remember, material riches mean nothing! Spiritually, we are very poor, by nature. We are poverty-stricken, spiritually bankrupt in ourselves. This poverty is the terrible poverty of sin, of death, of the curse, of hell! It is a poverty far more awful than the worst of material poverty. Do you recognize that poverty as yours? The whole church for which Christ died is poor, spiritually destitute. Think of the corrupt host for which Christ died, of the wretched sinners we all are, even now. If you think of your own terrible poverty, the poverty of a nature completely depraved, then you can see something of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He, being rich, was made poor, on our behalf.

There is no other explanation for it but GRACE – undeserved favor. Christ was under no obligation to come into our poverty. He did not have to come to Bethlehem! He certainly did not have to save you and me! It was grace!

sb-logo-rfpaFound in the Meditation on 2 Cor.8:9 by Rev. Michael DeVries (Kalamazoo PRC) in the December 1, 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer. A fitting reflection for us in this Advent season.

Local Gospel Proclamation: “Worshiping Witnesses”

Back in October, our Faith PRC did a congregational “workshop” on personal evangelism. It was well attended and very profitable. And it generated some good discussion that night and afterwards.

I was thinking of it again today when I came across again today a helpful perspective on the role of the local congregation in evangelism I read recently in the November issue of Tabletalk.

The author, Lowell Levy, is a Presbyterian church-planter, and in his article (linked below) he approaches the subject from the viewpoint that evangelism has as its purpose not only to see sinners saved but also to see a body of worshipers formed. That leads him to point to the local church’s calling to be “worshiping witnesses” as disciples of Christ.

I will let Levy speak for himself on this idea, as he develops it at the end of the article. Good food for thought on this Sunday after we have been in God’s house of worship.

So, how do we proclaim Christ and the gospel as His worshiping witnesses?

We recognize that gospel proclamation begins in the local church. It begins with our faithful, enthusiastic participation in the body of Christ. We make public worship our highest priority in life. Remember, we are proclaiming Christ. But unless we proclaim Him as worthy of the highest place in our lives—the place of worship—our words will not penetrate jaded postmodern ears.

We commit ourselves to earnest and fervent prayer. As John Bunyan said so memorably, “We can do many things after we pray, but we can do nothing until we have prayed.” We pray for the preaching of the Word on the Lord’s Day. We pray that the Word would bear fruit in the hearts and lives of all who hear it. We pray that the Word would bear fruit in our own hearts and lives, making us more effective witnesses of Christ. We pray for opportunities to proclaim the gospel in the regular routines of daily life.

We love our neighbors as ourselves. We consider what God has done for us in Christ. We consider God’s love in causing us to hear the gospel when we were dead in our sin. And we respond to that love. We overcome the fear of man by faith. We love those in our little mission fields with the love of Jesus Christ. We invest time in them. We invite them into our homes. We invite them to church. We love them enough to speak to them of Christ.

How is any of this possible? Because Christ Himself is with us locally by His Word and Spirit: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Source: Local Gospel Proclamation

The Question of True Thanksgiving

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of

salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 116:12, 13

It is the question concerning true thanksgiving!

What shall I render unto the Lord?

But what does the psalmist mean? Does he have in mind to somehow reimburse the Lord for His goodness? Is the psalmist reasoning thus: that whereas the Lord has been so gracious to him that now he would do something for the Lord in return? God forbid! Nay, rather, the question implies a negative answer. He realizes that he is wholly impotent to bring anything to the Lord. How could finite man ever reward the Infinite? Is He not the All-Sufficient One in Himself? What is there that could make Him richer or more glorious than He is? And what can the creatures bestow on the Creator which He does not already possess? Is there anything in the world that is not His? Reward the Lord? You? I? Are not all the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the gold and silver His? Nowhere is there anything that I could bring to Him that He does not already claim as His own. What then?

The answer to the question is: NOTHING!

God-glorifying answer!

The sinner who thinks he can repay the Lord, does not know Him! The sinner who is crushed, overwhelmed by Jehovah’s goodness, knows he can bring nothing. He knows that his God has given him all these benefits in such a way that he could never give anything in return, in order that God alone would receive all the glory.

Is there no way then in which the child of God can give expression to the thanksgiving which overwhelms his heart?

O, indeed, there is! Let the psalmist show you!

I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord!

The cup of salvation!

The cup is a figure of what is allotted to one, what one receives—whether good or bad. Scripture speaks of the cup in several different ways: cup of blessing, cup of iniquity, cup of wrath, etc. Here it is the cup of salvation, that is, the salvation allotted to me in God’s favor. Symbol of Jehovah’s great deeds in effecting our salvation.

That cup the psalmist resolves not only to take, but to lift up! He will hold it high, as before the face of His God, and in the sight of all men. He would have it to be known what has made him to rejoice and for which he is so thankful; namely, that all of Jehovah’s benefits which flowed to him in such abundance came to him from the God of his salvation. All of these benefits were with the divine intention to save him. He was lost in sin and misery, he was undone, and utterly unable to save himself. Jehovah delivered him from the sorrows of death. Jehovah dried up all his tears, and kept his feet from falling. In Christ Jesus he now is righteous before God, and counted worthy of eternal life and glory.

And lifting up the cup of salvation, he will call upon the name of the Lord!

You see, the name of Jehovah is upon each benefit which is in the cup of salvation. As the psalmist lifts up the cup and beholds all the benefits of salvation it contains, he sees also written upon each one the name of Jehovah his God. And seeing the name of Jehovah emblazoned on each benefit, he calls out that name.

He cannot keep this wonderful observation to himself. He must call out loudly, so that all may hear him.

This is true thanksgiving!

The only thanksgiving pleasing to God!

For you see, in that cup of salvation which the psalmist lifts up, and which each child of God should lift up, is revealed the God of his salvation in all the work of His saving grace, saving us unto the uttermost. In that cup of salvation he sees the God of his salvation coming down to him in the Person of His Son and uniting Himself to our nature, in order that in that nature He could assume our guilt and pollution, so as to remove it. In that cup he sees the Son of God in our nature and in our stead, hanging on the accursed tree, under the vials of divine wrath, satisfying God’s justice for our sins. In that cup he sees his Savior suffering, dying, and rising again from the dead as a testimony of our justification. In that cup he sees the Captain of his salvation lifted up into the highest heavens to God’s right hand, where He receives power over all things to overcome the devil and his hosts, and to apply His salvation to our hearts. In that cup he sees the God of his salvation through the Spirit of Christ sanctifying and delivering His own from sin’s corruption, renewing their hearts, and making them in principle new creatures, transforming them into the image of His Son. In that cup of salvation he sees also all the graces of Christ as they have been made to dwell in his own heart: love, joy, peace, and thanksgiving, etc. O, yes, also thanksgiving. That, too, has the name of Jehovah his God attached to it. So that when he thanks God for His great salvation and for all things, he is doing nothing more than reflecting the name of the God of his salvation. It is never so that God saves us, and we thank Him. But it is always so, that we must thank Him that we may thank Him; for also thanksgiving, true thanksgiving, is the fruit of His saving grace.

So, in the entire matter of our salvation, God, and God alone is the Author and the Finisher from beginning to end, in order that His also may be all the praise and thanksgiving.

What then shall the children of God render unto God for all His benefits toward them? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

All they can do, yea, must do, and forever will do by His sovereign grace, is lift up the cup of salvation which contains all the benefits of salvation meted out to them, and on which is emblazoned the name of Jehovah their God—and then call out so that all may hear it—the Name of Jehovah, their God.

This is the thanksgiving that is pleasing to Him!

Source: The Question of True Thanksgiving

Where Is the Word of God? November 2018 “Tabletalk”

The November 2018 issue of Tabletalk centers on the theme of “Living by the Word of God,” an extremely important subject in our day of moral relativism and Scripture-denying doctrine, and that within the nominal church and among many professing Christians. As Christians we claim to be “people of the Book,” the Word of God. But as this issue shows, that begins with a right understanding of what this Book is, and then with a practice that matches what we confess it to be. If this Book is indeed the Word of God, then we must truly live by it. If you are in need of those reminders (and aren’t we all?!), then read on!

In addition to the daily devotions (on the gospel of John), I have been working my way through the various articles, including editor Burk Parsons article titled “Our Only Infallible Rule.” He makes a powerful point in his introductory comments on the theme:

Anyone who says the Bible is boring isn’t reading the Bible with a heart of faith, and anyone who says the Bible is easy to read isn’t really examining the Bible. The Bible never actually calls us simply to read it. It calls us to study it, examine it, search it, meditate on it, hide it in our hearts, and let it dwell in us richly. Yet many Christians seem to read the Bible as quickly as they can so that they can tell everyone they have read it. We do indeed need to read the Bible—sometimes multiple chapters and entire books in one sitting—yet we are also called to study it so that we do not simply allow the sacred Word of God to pass before our eyes without properly considering its manifold splendor. Not only that, but many professing Christians don’t read the Bible much at all. Many are looking for a special word from God while their Bibles sit on their shelves gathering dust. If we want a special word from God, we need only open the Bible and read it, and if we want to hear a special word from God, we only need read the Bible aloud. For the Bible is the special revelation of God, and it is our only infallible rule for faith and life.

The first main article I read on Sunday is the one in the title to this blog post, “Where is the Word of God?” by Dr. Michael J. Kruger. After explaining that God’s Word is “the ultimate standard for all of life,” he goes into the importance of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura. But then he also issues some cautions about misunderstanding and misapplying this truth, one of which is this one:

Of course, like many core Christian convictions, the doctrine of sola Scriptura has often been misunderstood and misapplied. Unfortunately, some have used sola Scriptura as a justification for a “me, God, and the Bible” type of individualism, where the church bears no real authority and the history of the church is not considered when interpreting and applying Scripture. Thus, many churches today are almost ahistorical—cut off entirely from the rich traditions, creeds, and confessions of the church. They misunderstand sola Scriptura to mean that the Bible is the only authority rather than understanding it to mean that the Bible is the only infallible authority. Ironically, such an individualistic approach actually undercuts the very doctrine of sola Scriptura it is intended to protect. By emphasizing the autonomy of the individual believer, one is left with only private, subjective conclusions about what Scripture means. It is not so much the authority of Scripture that is prized as the authority of the individual.

The Reformers would not have recognized such a distortion as their doctrine of sola Scriptura. On the contrary, they were quite keen to rely on the church fathers, church councils, and the creeds and confessions of the church. Such historical rootedness was viewed not only as a means for maintaining orthodoxy but also as a means for maintaining humility. Contrary to popular perceptions, the Reformers did not view themselves as coming up with something new. Rather, they understood themselves to be recovering something very old—something that the church had originally believed but later twisted and distorted. The Reformers were not innovators but excavators.

Kruger has other good points that are worth your reading. Follow the link below to read his full article.

Source: Where Is the Word of God?

Luther’s Doctrine of Justification (4) – R. Hanko

MLutherThe Wedding Ring of Faith: Passive Justification

The exchange of our sins for Christ’s perfect righteousness, according to Luther, takes place through faith:

By the wedding ring of faith he shares in the sins, death, and pains of hell which are his bride’s. As a matter of fact, he makes them his own and acts as if they were his own and as if he himself had sinned; he suffered, died, and descended into hell that he might overcome them all. Now since it was such a one who did all this, and death and hell could not swallow him up, these were necessarily swallowed up by him in a mighty duel; for his righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, his life stronger than the death, his salvation more invincible than hell. Thus the believing soul by means of the pledge of its faith is free in Christ, its bridegroom, free from all sins, secure against death and hell, and is endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of Christ its bridegroom. So he takes to himself a glorious bride, “without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word” cf. Eph. 5:26-27

of life, that is, by faith in the Word of life, righteousness, and salvation. In this way he marries her in faith, steadfast love, and in mercies, righteousness, and justice, as Hos. 2:19-20 says.6

According to Luther, that faith by which we are justified is entirely a work of God, and in no sense a work of man. By way of emphasizing this he often described justifying faith as passive:

For between these two kinds of righteousness, the active righteousness of the law and the passive righteousness of Christ, there is no middle ground. Therefore he who has strayed away from this Christian righteousness will necessarily relapse into the active righteousness, that is, when he has lost Christ, he must fall into a trust in his own works.7

By the use of the word “passive,” however, Luther did not mean that justifying faith is without any activity at all. He did not deny that faith is believing and trusting, resting and relying upon Christ. Nevertheless, he believed that faith was first and foremost union with Christ, the marriage of Christ and the believer by which they become one flesh, the union through which the sins of the believer are actually transferred to Christ and the righteousness of Christ given to the believer.8

His emphasis continues to serve as a necessary antidote to the current teaching that makes faith another work. He was much nearer the truth than those who deny gracious justification by speaking of faith as a decision of man’s own will or by suggesting that faith is man’s response to a well-meant “offer” of salvation in the gospel. Of this Luther would have nothing:

For faith is a divine work which God demands of us; but at the same time He Himself must implant it in us, for we cannot believe by ourselves.9

6. Luther’s Works, vol. 31, pp. 351, 352, “The Freedom of a Christian.”

7. Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 9, “The Argument of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.”

8. By the use of the word “passive” Luther also meant that the faith which unites us to Christ unites us to His suffering (the words “passive” and “passion” are related). Thus, too, justifying faith is far from inactive in that it shares, through union with Christ, in Christ’s suffering. That suffering, according to Luther, included not only sharing in Christ’s reproach and persecution, but in the agony of dying to sin and being killed by the law.

9. Luther’s Works, vol. 23, p. 23, “Sermon on John 6:28, 29.”

The fourth section of an article by Rev. Ronald Hanko found in the October 15, 2001 issue of the Standard Bearer (cf. link below), a special Reformation issue focusing on the life and teachings of the great Reformer, Martin Luther. We are quoting from this article leading up to Reformation Day 2018 (Oct.31).

Source: Luther’s Doctrine of Justification (1) | Standard Bearer