Second “Standard Bearer” Reformation Issue – Nov.1, 2017

Even though Reformation Day 2017 is past, this year remains the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017) – reason for celebrating all year – and beyond!

We have called attention to the first special Reformation issue of the Standard Bearer this year – the Oct.15, 2017 issue. Tonight we draw attention to the second special Reformation issue – the Nov.1, 2017 issue (cf. cover image below).

SB-Reformation-2-2017-cover

This one too is a wonderful commemoration of the great Reformation, packed with articles on seven (7) more aspects of God’s work through the Reformers in the service of the church. The articles in this issue range from those on the nature of the church to missions to the family, concluded by an article on “Reformed and always being reformed” – by the Word of God, of course.

For our purposes tonight, we post an excerpt from the first article, “The Earthen Vessels of the Reformation,” penned by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon (IA) PRC. In this piece, Rev. Engelsma points out six (6) characteristics of the Reformers as God’s “earthen vessels.” The fifth one is this:

The reformers were Christ-lovers.

The reformers were characterized by that one essential qualification of an officebearer: they loved Christ. As they went about their work, this motivated them: love for Christ. When they were slandered and abused, this sustained them: love for Christ. When they were praised by others, this grounded them: love for Christ.

Their love for Christ also meant a love for the church of Christ. They exhausted themselves for the church because they treasured her as precious in Christ.

They were not motivated by love of self or a desire for the praise of their own name. They did not compete with their colleagues to win for themselves a higher standing in the church.

Take Calvin, for example. When as a young man he stopped in Geneva for a night, he was cornered by the fiery Reformer, William Farel, who pressed him to stay to reform their church there. Calvin refused. He wanted to hide away in some forsaken corner with his books. But he ultimately relented. Certainly not for his own glory. Not even because Farel was such a convincing salesman. He did so because he loved Christ and loved Christ’s church.

And later, when Calvin’s enemies sought to smear him, they labeled him “that God-intoxicated man.” But what they intended as criticism is his highest commendation. He lived for the glory of his God.

Would to God that all officebearers and church members today be known by their enemies as God-intoxicated men and women!

10 Things You Should Know about Martin Luther | Crossway with H. Selderhuis

On this Reformation Day 2017 – the 500th anniversary of the great reforming movement planned, prepared, and produced by our sovereign Lord (albeit through His reforming agents, the magisterial Reformers) – we consider this fine summary post of Crossway publishers, written by Herman Selderhuis, and based on his new book Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography.

Selderhuis gives us ten things to remember about this German monk, things that we probably know, but which are well stated and good to recall today.

I’ve selected a few of the ones that stood out in my mind tonight. You may find all ten at the link below. I am determined to read Selderhuis’ book this year too, though I must admit, I may be over-booked.

What are YOU reading for Reformation 500?

5. Luther published prolifically.

Luther wrote a lot more than ninety-five theses and a few sermons. The official edition of his works—the so-called Weimarer Ausgabe—consists of more than one-hundred and twenty thick volumes.

Central to this impressive set is his work on the explanation and the translation of the Bible. Luther was appointed as professor of biblical exegesis and that remained his profession all of his life. This resulted in many rich commentaries.

Although he was not the official pastor of Wittenberg, we also have a great number of his sermons in which the fruits of his exegesis can be enjoyed. And then there are polemical and theological works, tabletalks, letters, and so much more.

7. Luther was a family man.

Luther was a little late when it came to starting a family. He was forty-one when he got married and forty-two when he became a father for the first time.

He wrote letters to his children during the many times he was away from home; sometimes he even took them with him on his journeys. At home, he would play and make music with them. He was also a father with worries and sadness. For example, he was besought with grief over the death of one of his daughters and was concerned when a son struggled at school.

Foundational to the Luthers’ home life was his wife, Katharina von Bora. She not only took care of the children but also told their father straight if his talk was too full of animosity of if he wasn’t taking good care of himself.

10. Luther remained a monk all of his life.

When Luther entered the monastery, he said he was searching for God—and, in a way, he kept searching for God the rest of his life.

Having found God as the gracious God, he kept searching for him, knowing that he needed him every day and also aware that sometimes God hides himself.

In becoming a monk, Luther promised God eternal obedience, poverty, and chastity—the three famous vows every monk had to make. Luther remained faithful to these vows all of his life. He remained obedient to God all of his life and even tried to obey the Roman Catholic Church as long as possible. Although the printers of his books became wealthy, Luther remained poor as he didn’t care much for money. Finally, while he did break his vow of celibacy by getting married, he embodied chastity as a husband.

Even on his deathbed, Luther’s last written words hinted at the fact that he thought of himself as a monk all of his life: “We are beggars. This is the truth. Amen.”

 

Source: 10 Things You Should Know about Martin Luther | Crossway Articles

There are a host of good Reformation Day sales going on (many beyond today). I encourage you to check out these links:

 

The Reformation and Education: Emphases, Influence, and Lasting Impact – The Hausvater Project

As we come to the close of this Reformation month, an important subject we have not yet touched on is Christian education. Just as the Reformers, by returning to the fundamental truths of the Word of God, impact all areas of the Christian life, so too did they influence the realm of education.

The special Lutheran website, The Hausvater Project (German for house-father, calling fathers to lead their homes in God’s ways, according to Luther’s own comments in his Small Catechism), recently highlighted this aspect of the Luther’s reforming work.

Below is a portion of the article by Ryan MacPherson, as he asks and answers five basic questions in this article:

  1. What Should Be Taught?
  2. How Should It Be Taught?
  3. To Whom Should It Be Taught?
  4. By Whom Should It Be Taught?
  5. How Shall We Honor Luther’s Legacy Today?

Though written for a Lutheran audience, this article may also be read for profit by us Reformed folk, and by all Protestant Christians. Read this part, and then read the rest at the link below.

Martin Luther may be best known for his theological reformation of the medieval church, which had strayed from the pure teaching of God’s Word. Luther did not, however, pursue his theological aims in isolation from other concerns; his writings touch upon politics, social life, and the arts. He also recognized the importance of education, both for the church and for the civil realm.

In 1520—after nailing the 95 Theses but before saying “Here I stand” at Worms—Luther published “An Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate.” Developing the sola scriptura principle of the Reformation, Luther wrote that “the Scripture alone is our vineyard in which we must all labor and toil.” Although he encouraged the universities to teach classical languages, to assign readings in the church fathers, and (cautiously) to glean insights from Aristotle and other pagan authors, Luther above all emphasized the value of the biblical languages and he sternly warned: “I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme.”

Source: The Reformation and Education: Emphases, Influence, and Lasting Impact – The Hausvater Project

Reformation Sufferings: The Reformed in the Netherlands – J. Foxe

Huguenot-persecutionAs we mark the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation, we can easily forget that the cause of the Protestant and Reformed gospel was not without its grievous hardships, mostly in the form of intense persecutions, and mostly from the apostate Romish church.

In his speech this past Saturday at the PRC Seminary Reformation conference, Rev. S. Key, in talking about the progress of the Reformation in the Netherlands (Lowlands), reminded his audience that the Reformed believers in that region endured great tribulations for their faith.

That made me think that maybe John Foxe covered this in this famous Book of Martyrs. Indeed, he did, and that is the content of my post this Sunday night.

Having worshiped freely and openly in a faithful Reformed church today, we can thank God for what He worked through the courageous men and women of the 16th century in our motherland. The blood of these martyrs was also the seed of the church – and that blood is still producing fruit in our time. God be praised!

Below is part of Foxe’s account of these Protestant martyrs in the Netherlands, taken from chapter 11, “An Account of the Persecutions in the Netherlands.” You may read the rest of the chapter at the link below.

It would also be worth your while in the next few days to read the other chapters covering the stories of the Reformation martyrs. You will be humbled by the grace of God working in these pious saints. And also inspired to make that martyr’s faith your own. Are WE as committed to the glorious gospel restored to the church in that day?

A.D. 1568, three persons were apprehended in Antwerp, named Scoblant, Hues, and Coomans. During their confinement they behaved with great fortitude and cheerfulness, confessing that the hand of God appeared in what had befallen them, and bowing down before the throne of his providence. In an epistle to some worthy Protestants, they expressed themselves in the following words: “Since it is the will of the Almighty that we should suffer for His name, and be persecuted for the sake of His Gospel, we patiently submit, and are joyful upon the occasion; though the flesh may febel against the spirit, and hearken to the council of the old serpent, yet the truths of the Gospel shall prevent such advice from being taken, and Christ shall bruise the serpent’s head. We are not comfortless in confinement, for we have faith; we fear not affliction, for we have hope; and we forgive our enemies, for we have charity. Be not under apprehensions for us, we are happy in confinement through the promises of God, glory in our bonds, and exult in being thought worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ. We desire not to be released, but to be blessed with fortitude; we ask not liberty, but the power of perseverance; and wish for no change in our condition, but that which places a crown of martyrdom upon our heads.”

Scoblant was first brought to his trial; when, persisting in the profession of his faith, he received sentence of death. On his return to prison, he earnestly requested the jailer not to permit any friar to come near him; saying, “They can do me no good, but may greatly disturb me. I hope my salvation is already sealed in heaven, and that the blood of Christ, in which I firmly put my trust, hath washed me from my iniquities. I am not going to throw off this mantle of clay, to be clad in robes of eternal glory, by whose celestial brightness I shall be freed from all errors. I hope I may be the last martyr to papal tyranny, and the blood already spilt found sufficient to quench the thirst of popish cruelty; that the Church of Christ may have rest here, as his servants will hereafter.” On the day of execution, he took a pathetic leave of his fellow prisoners. At the stake he fervently said the Lord’s Prayer, and sung the Fortieth Psalm; then commending his soul to God, he was burnt alive.

Hues, soon after died in prison; upon which occasion Coomans wrote thus to his friends: “I am now deprived of my friends and companions; Scoblant is martyred, and Hues dead, by the visitation of the Lord; yet I am not alone, I have with me the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; He is my comfort, and shall be my reward. Pray unto God to strengthen me to the end, as I expect every hour to be freed from this tenement of clay.”

On his trial he freely confessed himself of the reformed religion, answered with a manly fortitude to every charge against him, and proved the Scriptural part of his answers from the Gospel. The judge told him the only alternatives were recantation or death; and concluded by saying, “Will you die for the faith you profess?” To which Coomans replied, “I am not only willing to die, but to suffer the most excruciating torments for it; after which my soul shall receive its confirmation from God Himself, in the midst of eternal glory.” Being condemned, he went cheerfully to the place of execution, and died with the most manly fortitude, and Christian resignation.

Foxes-martyrsSource: FOX’s Book of Martyrs

M. Luther: Bold Reformers Rest in the Sovereign God

Luther's95ThesesIt is easy to idealize men like Luther and set aside their sins and struggles. Luther was a sinner like anyone else and wrestled fervently with indwelling sin. He battled pride. He waged war with a temper that posed problems on the battlefield. He uttered words that were not befitting of a Christian man. Yet, this sinful man rested in the sovereignty of God.

It is no secret that Luther battled fear and anxiety, an ailment sometimes referred to as spiritual depression. Luther referred to these bouts of spiritual depression as anfechtungen. The German term is difficult to translate but has the connotation of being ‘under assault.’ The word is closely associated with ‘temptation’ or ‘despair.’ It has connotations with what is typically referred to as ‘the dark night of the soul.’

Then after describing Luther’s personal experiences with these soul struggles at Wittenberg, Worms (Diet), and the Wartburg (castle), Steele asks, “How did he [Luther] battle his fear, anxiety, and despondency? How did he face the dread of anfechtungen?” And he points out that Luther’s great hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” provides us to the answer: “Bold reformers rest in the sovereignty of God.” He quotes these lines:

For still our ancient foe
does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

Which leads the author to say this by way of summary:

Martin Luther was a man who rested in the sovereignty of almighty God. This bold reformer not only taught about the sovereignty of God, he breathed it and lived it. Luther’s faith in God’s sovereign control over all things in clearly revealed in Wittenberg, Worms, the Wartburg Castle and beyond. May bold reformers in this generation draw strength and courage form the life and legacy of Luther, a man who rested in the sovereignty of God.

bold-reformer-steeleTaken from chapter 5, “Bold Reformers Rest in the Sovereignty of God” in Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther by David S. Steele (Kindle version).

PRC Seminary Reformation 500 Conference This Weekend! Come and Join Us! *(Updated!)

ref-500-1The PRC Seminary, with help from Faith PRC’s Evangelism Committee, is holding a special two-day 500th anniversary Reformation conference for this weekend, October 27-28 at Faith PRC in Jenison, MI.

The details of the event may be found on the poster below. A special website has also been created for the conference, which you may find at www.500thReformation.com .

Here’s the latest bulletin announcement that was sent out:

HERE WE STAND, the seminary sponsored weekend conference celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is now at hand. The first speech is at 4:00 on Friday, October 27 with additional speeches at 7:00 and 8:15. The conference will continue on Saturday morning. The speeches will be delivered by our three professors [Profs. R. Cammenga, R. Dykstra, and B. Gritters] and Rev. M. McGeown [missionary-pastor of Limerick Reformed Fellowship, Ireland], Rev. David Torlach [pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Australia], and Rev. S. Key [PRC pastor in Loveland, CO].

Talk to your neighbors and friends and join us at Faith PRC for this important event. The conference will be live-streamed on the Internet for those who are not able to attend in person.

Here-We-Stand-Oct-2017-flyer_Page_1

At the conference there will also be books for sale by the Reformed Free Publishing Association and Gary Vander Schaaf (lots of great deals on books!) and special displays of Seminary library books – new and rare – on the Reformation (There may also be a special PRC archive item on display!). In addition, the Reformed Witness Hour will have a special table featuring its ministry.

IMG_1794

IMG_1789

We hope you make plans to attend this significant event! Set aside time this weekend to join us as we celebrate God’s great work in the sixteenth century of reforming His church according to His Word.

IMG_1781

It’s been a great conference so far! Come out this Saturday morning for more edifying and inspiring messages, good books, and blessed fellowship!

Another Look at the Special Reformation Issue of the “Standard Bearer” – October 15, 2017

The October 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now in print and has been mailed out, and it is the first installment of our annual special Reformation issue, marking the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017).

SB-Oct-Ref1-2017

The articles in this special Reformation issue reflect “the heritage of the Reformation,” that is, the special truths of the gospel that were restored to the church of Jesus Christ through the various brave and bold Reformers God raised up in the sixteenth century.

Last week we looked at one of the articles; today let’s do that with another today. Part of the wonderful heritage of the Reformation is the body of confessions, creeds, and catechisms that were composed during this period of church history. In his article “In Praise of a Well-Built Confessional House,” Rev. Brian Huizinga treats the beauty and benefits of this confessional heritage.

Here are a few paragraphs from his contribution:

A Well-Built House

The Reformation gave us an incredibly well-built house. The Reformation did not merely give us an attractive front façade (justification by faith alone or creation), a load-bearing interior wall (original sin or the necessity of divine satisfaction), roof trusses and a roof over us (Scripture or double predestination), a cozy fire place (providence or prayer), a spacious utilitarian kitchen (the means of grace or good works), or a private bedroom (assurance of our election or hope for the second coming). The Reformation era gave us a complete house of all the essential doctrines of Scripture.

Evidence of the indispensable work of the Spirit of truth is the fact that our house sits perfectly on the basement foundation that had been laid a millennium prior. The house of the Three Forms of Unity not only sits squarely on the foundation of the Ecumenical creeds, but, to employ another figure, it is the massive oak arising out of the acorn “Jesus Christ is Lord” and the little sapling of the Ecumenical creeds. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God. Therefore, if we take the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord” and open up each one of those words and the whole statement in the light of Scripture, we not only arrive at the narrower theology of the Ecumenical creeds, but the broader and more comprehensive theology of our Reformed creeds.

For example, “Jesus” means “Jehovah salvation” or “He shall save His people from their sins,” (Matt. 1:21). To understand that one word “Jesus” we must ask the Bible: What is sin? What is the origin of sin? Who is a sinner? What is salvation? Who is Jesus? How does Jesus save? Whom does Jesus save? Why does Jesus save? Unto what does Jesus save? Work it all out according to Scripture and you end up with something like the Canons of Dordt with its five heads of doctrine. The same can be said of “Christ,” that is, “God’s anointed Prophet, Priest and King” and “Lord.” Some professing Christians denounce creeds in opposition to the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord,” but creeds only take that simple confession and reveal the comprehensive theology contained in it. What a massive, structurally sound, tidy, spacious, comfortable and even luxurious house is our confessional house, covering all the doctrines from theology to eschatology

The November 1, 2017 issue will be “The Heritage of the Reformation” part 2. That too will have a variety of articles on the important truths and practices restored to the church according to the Word of God. Look for that issue in a few weeks!

The Reformation Printer: Robert Estienne (1503–1559) | Desiring God

Today’s Desiring God Reformation 500 post (Day 24 of the “Here We Stand” series on Reformation heroes) is about a unique contributor to the Reformation cause – the Protestant printer Robert Estienne.

We know how significant printing was for the spread of the Reformation gospel – the printing of the Bible as well as the minor and major works of the Reformers.

But we should also remember that it took those who were sympathetic to and supporters of the Protestant cause to be willing to risk their lives to publish Reformation literature, especially the Word of God. Estienne was one of those whom God raised up. And what a work he did as God’s servant!

Below are a few snippets of this focus on Estienne the Protestant printer, penned by Matt Crutchmer (I added the image of Calvin’s Institutes). Read or listen to the rest of this important story at the link below.

Estienne was not only a significant printer on the Continent during the early- to mid-sixteenth century, but he was a scholar of the Bible and classical literature as well. While working in Paris during the rule of King Francis I, such was his skill that Estienne was named “Royal Typographer”: the king’s printer in Hebrew and Latin in 1539, and then the king’s printer in Greek in 1542.

…In Geneva, now openly supporting the Protestant movement, Estienne set up his press and became the printer par excellence of the Reformation cause. His 1553 French Bible continued the Reformation emphasis on lay reading of Scripture in vernacular languages, and his editions of Calvin’s Institutes and Commentaries, with other Protestant writings, all served the growing movement in its desire to hear clearly and be governed by the Scriptures.

The 1559 edition of the Institutes was “the most comprehensive summary of Protestant doctrine during the Reformation” (John Calvin’s “Institutes”, 219), and arguably the most important volume to arise in the Reformation, as evidenced by its translation into six (perhaps seven) other languages by 1624. Estienne’s edition, effortless to read and beautiful even by today’s standards, played a large role in the growth of Reformation churches during the sixteenth century.

Source: The Ink: Robert Estienne (1503–1559)The Ink | Desiring God

Indulgences explained – Books – WORLD

MLuther-HendrixIn the latest installment (Oct.21, 2017) in its “Saturday Series” (which features book excerpts, articles, essays, speeches and sermons that focus on the issues facing Christians today”) World magazine (digital) featured Luther’s exposure of the evil of indulgences as explained by Scott Hendrix in his recent book Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer (Yale University Press, 2015).

World quotes at length from Hendrix’s chapter dealing with Luther’s reaction to the indulgences scandal, and you may read that full excerpt at the link below.

Remembering that this is what prompted Luther’s 95 theses, you will want to read this account. And because, as World editor points out, “a new Pew Research Center survey shows many Protestants haven’t even the foggiest idea of crucial differences between Catholicism and Protestantism,” you will want to know what drove Luther initially to attack not just the practices of Rome but her doctrines.

For our purposes we quote just one paragraph from Hendrix’s book:

Tetzel’s campaign and its claims may have reached Luther’s ears by May of 1516. As provincial vicar Luther was conducting a visitation of Augustinian houses near Meissen and Leipzig. According to a local chronicle, he met Staupitz at Grimma and heard from his superior about Tetzel’s preaching in a nearby town. The chronicle concludes that Luther began to write against Tetzel in Grimma or, as Brother Martin himself phrased it: “I’ll put a hole in that drum.” Preaching at the Wittenberg Town Church in late 1516, Luther urged listeners to cultivate genuine sorrow for their sins and not to avoid the penance they owed by acquiring indulgences. By accepting the penance they would take up their own crosses and become truly contrite. In late February of 1517, he warned worshipers that indulgences taught them how to escape the penalty of sin but not how to avoid sin itself. He ended with a dramatic outburst: “Alas, the dangers of our time! Oh, you snoring priests! Oh, darkness worse than the Egyptian! How secure we are in the midst of the worst of all our evils!”

 

Source: Indulgences explained – Books – WORLD

Why Luther? ~ G. Veith

Last Wednesday, Oct.18, 2017, this article by Dr. Gene E. Veith (director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN) was posted on Ligonier’s Tabletalk website.

At the beginning of the post Veith raises this matter of “Why Luther?”:

Rarely has a single individual had the historical impact that Luther did. But why Luther? What was it about this particular monk, university professor, and struggling Christian that made him such a spiritual and cultural catalyst?

And he seeks to answer it by considering various angles on Luther’s life and times – how things were educationally, politically, and ecclesiastically, and how these were factors in why Luther became the Reformer he was. But in the end, Veith traces it to a fundamental truth Luther also discovered in the Bible – that of vocationthe divine calling to do this or that at a specific moment of history.

Pay attention to this in the following paragraphs. And praise God it was so.

And then be encouraged to fulfill your own vocation, with the gifts God has given you and in the time and place that He appoints.

But again, why Luther?

When Luther himself was asked about this, he would say that he did nothing. God did everything. Specifically, God’s Word did everything:

I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip [Melanchthon] and [Nicolaus von] Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.3

Here we might see an allusion to one of Luther’s most significant teachings—the doctrine of vocation. Luther taught that God works through human beings to govern His world and to bestow His gifts. God gives daily bread by means of farmers and bakers, creates new immortal souls by means of fathers and mothers, protects the innocent by means of earthly authorities, and proclaims His Word by means of pastors.

God’s callings are mostly quite ordinary—everyday relationships in the family, workplace, church, and community—in which Christians live out their faith in love and service to their neighbors. But God sometimes works in extraordinary ways as well, and when He does, He works by means of vocation; that is, through human instruments.

The best answer to the question “Why Luther?” is that God called him.

Source: Why Luther?