Of the Church (1) – M. Luther’s “Tabletalk”




The true church is an assembly or congregation depending on that which does not appear, nor may be comprehended in the mind, namely, God’s Word; what that says, they believe without addition, giving God the honor.


We tell our Lord God plainly, that if he will have his church, he must maintain and defend it; for we can neither uphold nor protect it; if we could, indeed, we should become the proudest asses under heaven. But God says: I say it, I do it; it is God only that speaks and does what he pleases; he does nothing according to the fancies of the ungodly, or which they hold for upright and good.


The great and worldly-wise people take offence at the poor and mean form of our church, which is subject to many infirmities, transgressions, and sects, wherewith she is plagued; for they say the church should be altogether pure, holy, blameless, God’s dove, etc. And the church, in the eyes and sight of God, has such an esteem; but in the eyes and sight of the world, she is like unto her bridegroom, Christ Jesus, torn, spit on, derided, and crucified.

The similitude of the upright and true church and of Christ, is a poor silly sheep; but the similitude of the false and hypocritical church, is a serpent, an adder.


Where God’s word is purely taught, there is also the upright and true church; for the true church is supported by the Holy Ghost, not by succession of inheritance. It does not follow, though St Peter had been bishop at Rome, and at the same time Christian communion had been at Rome, that, therefore, the pope and the Romish church are true; for if that should be of value or conclusive, then they must needs confess that Caiaphas, Annas, and the Sadducees were also the true church; for they boasted that they were descended from Aaron.


It is impossible for the Christian and true church to subsist without the shedding of blood, for her adversary, the devil, is a liar and a murderer. The church grows and increases through blood; she is sprinkled with blood; she is spoiled and bereaved of her blood; when human creatures will reform the church, then it costs blood.


The form and aspect of the world is like a paradise; but the true Christian church, in the eye of the world, is foul, deformed, and offensive; yet, nevertheless, in the sight of God, she is precious, beloved, and highly esteemed. Aaron, the high priest, appeared gloriously in the temple, with his ornaments and rich attire, with odoriferous and sweet-smelling perfumes; but Christ appeared most mean and lowly.

Wherefore I am not troubled that the world esteems the church so meanly; what care I that the usurers, the nobility, gentry, citizens, country-people, covetous men, and drunkards, condemn and esteem me as dirt? In due time, I will esteem them as little. We must not suffer ourselves to be deceived or troubled as to what the world thinks of us. To please the good is our virtue.

Taken from The Tabletalk of Martin Luther (ed. Thomas S. Kepler; Baker reprint, 1979). You may also find this online at CCEL.

William Tyndale: Neglected Reformer

One of the Reformation’s often forgotten and neglected leaders is William Tyndale (1494-1536), the English theologian, linguist, and martyr through whom God gave us the first major English Bible. This forgetfulness and neglect of Tyndale is being remedied by several new works on the man and his work.

tyndale-teemsRecently, Steven Lawson has written a fine book on him under the title The Daring Mission of William Tyndale (Reformation Trust, 2014). Another title I recently purchased for the Seminary library (and in Kindle format for $.99) is David Teems’ Tyndale:the Man Who Gave God an English Voice (Thomas Nelson, 2012). I am currently reading this title and it is a very good read.

Allow me to give you a taste of Teems’ portrayal of Tyndale and his translating work on the Bible:

He is always moving. He has little choice. The threat level suspends between orange and red. The heat is never off. He is nomadic. And as we might expect, his work reflects this condition. …Tyndale must think and write while on the run. His text, therefore, has a modern economy and a pace that moves it along evenly. And though he is neither truculent nor combative by nature, he is not afraid to strike when that is all that is left to him, when the bullies rant.

Even his Englishing of the Scriptures has something to tell us. To William Tyndale, the Word of God is a living thing. It has both warmth and intellect. It has discretion, generosity, subtlety, movement, authority. It has a heart and a pulse. It keeps a beat and has a musical voice that allows it to sing. It enchants and it soothes. It argues and it forgives. It defends and it reasons. It intoxicates and it restores. It weeps and it exults. It thunders but never roars. It calls but never begs. And it always loves. Indeed, for Tyndale, love is the code that unlocks and empowers the Scripture. His inquiry into Scripture is always relational, never analytic.

img_0346Also recently, this post on Tyndale was made by Timothy Paul Jones. Here is part of the introduction. You will also find an interesting video presentation on the man and his significance at the link below.

On October 6, 1536, William Tyndale was burned at the stake. He was only forty-two years old or so at the time, but the work he had already accomplished in those four decades of life would change the world. You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker: “If you can read, thank a teacher.” Another bumper sticker—or Bible sticker, perhaps—would be every bit as appropriate: “If you can read the Bible in English, thank William Tyndale.”

After graduating from Oxford University and studying at Cambridge University, William Tyndale became a chaplain and tutor for a wealthy family. One evening, a visiting priest challenged Tyndale’s interpretation of a difficult text. During the debate, the priest declared his perspective on the value of Scripture.

“We had better be without God’s law than the pope’s,” the priest said—in other words, “It would be better to be without God’s law than to be without the pope’s law.”

“If God spares my life,” William Tyndale retorted, “I will cause a boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scripture than you do.”

Source: Church History: How William Tyndale Changed the World – Timothy Paul Jones

A Century of Change: A Survey of the 16th Century – Nicholas Needham

tt-oct-2016Yesterday before worship services I read some more articles in the October issue of Tabletalk.  One of the featured ones on the 16th century age of the church is Dr. Nick Needham’s “A Century of Change” (author of 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power), a profitable survey of the entire period of Renaissance and Reformation.

While I appreciated many things about this article, his section on the timeliness and influence of Gutenberg’s printing press I found especially satisfying. I give you a portion of that section, encouraging you to read the rest at the Ligonier link below.

And while you are there, read Dr. Jon D. Payne’s article “Why Study Church History?” Well worth your time too, just in case you wondered whether you should bother with the first article.🙂

The Printing Press Just as important as the Renaissance for the Reformation was the revolutionary new way of disseminating information—printing by movable type. Perhaps one of the basic reasons why previous movements of evangelical reform did not capture the public mind (one thinks of the Waldensians, the Lollards, and the Hussites) was that they came on the scene before the printing press had been invented.

In a Europe dominated by the Roman Catholic establishment, the intellectual spread of new “unofficial” ideas was far more difficult before the introduction of movable type.

The invention of printing by movable type was the information revolution of the late Middle Ages. Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany, was the great pioneer in the 1450s. By 1500, more than two hundred printing presses were churning out books throughout Europe. Gone were the days when scribes (usually monks) had to copy literary works by hand. For the first time, a publisher could make thousands of copies of a book easily and quickly and put them into mass circulation. This meant that ideas could spread much more rapidly than they could before. It also meant that the ability to read became more highly valued.

As a result, the reforming ideas of the Renaissance were able to flow across Europe relatively easily, and in their wake, the even more radically reforming ideas of Luther, Zwingli, and others. We might say that printing enabled the Reformation to “go viral” in a way that simply would not have been possible in a previous age. The new information technology turned out to be God’s gift to His people.

We can discern the alignment between the printing revolution and the spread of the Reformation in a single fact: it was cities and universities that first embraced the Reformation. In England, for example, London fast became the nation’s hotbed of Protestantism. Here were the great printing presses. Here, too, was a thriving port where merchant ships could bring in Protestant literature from Continental Europe.

Source: A Century of Change by Nicholas Needham

Prayers of the Reformers (18)

For this second Sunday in October we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

Luther&LearningThese are both prayers of Martin Luther and are taken from the section “Prayers of Obedience” (I have slightly edited them). Both are fitting for our worship today as well as for our work and walk in the week to come.

For Christian living – Martin Luther

Dear God and Father,

We thank Thee for Thine infinite goodness and love to us. Thou dost continually keep us in the Word, in faith, and in prayer that we may know how to walk before Thee in humility and in fear, and that we may not pride ourselves on our own wisdom and righteousness, skill and strength, but glory alone in Thy power, who art strong when we are weak and dost through us weaklings daily prevail and gain the victory.

We pray Thee so to nurture us that we may please Thee willingly, …that many people may enjoy our fruits and be attracted by us to all godliness. Write into our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit what is so abundantly found in Scripture and let us constantly keep it in mind and permit it to become far more precious to us than our own life and whatever else we cherish on earth. Help us to live and act accordingly.

To Thee be praise and thanks in eternity.  Amen.

Obedience to the command to pray – Martin Luther


Thou knowest that I do not presume to come before Thee of myself nor on account of my worthiness. Were I to rely on my merits, I could not lift up mine eyes unto Thee, and would not know how to begin to pray.

But I come because Thou Thyself hast commanded and dost earnestly request that we should call upon Thee, and hast promised to hear us. Thou hast also sent Thine only Son who has taught us what we shall pray and has even spoken the words we shall say. Hence, I know that this prayer is pleasing to Thee.

However great my boldness to consider myself a  child of God in Thy presence may seem to be, I must yield to Thee for Thou wilt have it thus. I would not accuse Thee of falsehood and thus, adding to my sins, offend Thee still more by despising Thy command and doubting Thy promise. Amen.

Late Sports News Flash: Cubs Win NLDS Game 1 over Giants!

ChicagoCubsPicWhat a beginning night for the National League Division Series (NLDS) playoffs between the beloved Chicago Cubs and the pesky San Fransisco Giants!

In a classic pitching duel between Cubs’ starter Jon Lester (19-5) and Giants’ starter Johnny Cueto (18-5), the Cubs prevailed in the bottom of the 8th inning, when Javier Baez hit a home run into left field seats. And when Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs’ flame-throwing closer, came on in the top of the 9th and shut down the Giants to preserve the shutout, Wrigley Field erupted into a chorus of triumph. Yes, Cubs win! Hey, Chicago, what do you say?!

I hope you have appreciated my restraint in bragging about this year’s Cubs team. With a potent lineup of young players (except for “grandpa” David Ross!) and a loaded pitching staff, the Cubs and their devoted fans had high hopes for this season. And, indeed, they started strong, faded a bit in mid-summer, but then surged to the finish line, winning a MLB-best 103 games (against only 58 losses) and their Central division by a mere 17.5 games over their heated rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.

With a cautious conscience but a hopeful conviction, Cubs’ fans have been asking, Is this the year?

Perhaps it is. But we have a ways to go, and the competition will be stiff. One game at a time.

But there’s no better  way to start the playoffs than with a shutout victory on a late-game home run. Go Cubs, go!

October is baseball at its best. Enjoy.🙂

Here’s part of last night’s game summary as provided on the MLB website.

CHICAGO — How well are things going for the Cubs? Javier Baez, inserted to the lineup for his defense, provided the offensive spark in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Giants. Baez launched a full-count fastball from Johnny Cueto into the basket rimming the left-field bleachers with one out in the eighth inning to lead the Cubs to a 1-0 victory Friday night at Wrigley Field.

Cueto had followed Madison Bumgarner’s example and thrown 7 1/3 scoreless innings before Baez connected. On Wednesday, Bumgarner shut down the Mets in the NL Wild Card Game, and the Giants arrived riding momentum from that win. However, Jon Lester was ready. The lefty, making his fourth straight trip to the playoffs, served up a leadoff single in the first three innings but kept the Giants at bay. He departed after giving up five hits over eight innings, striking out five. Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.

Source: Cubs win NLDS G1 over Giants on Javier Baez HR | MLB.com

Published in: on October 8, 2016 at 6:44 AM  Comments (1)  

Reformation Books for Children

after-darkness-calvin-tbToday we highlight a few Reformation books for children, hoping that this will encourage parents and children alike to read about this important period of church history and the great Reformers God raised up.

We start with the TrailBlazer series, which includes books on John Calvin and John Knox (ages 8-12).

A brand new one not yet listed on Grace & Truth Books but available on Amazon is Ulrich Zwingli: Shepherd Warrior by pastor William Boekestein.



About this title we find this description:

By the end of his brief life Ulrich Zwingli would change the religious landscape of his home and the world. It wasn’t until the last few years of his life that he became a reformer. He fought for truth and righteousness with his mind and pen, he fought for lost souls to hear the good news of Jesus Christ, and at the age of forty-seven, as an army chaplain, he was killed on the battle-field. The Shepherd Warrior, Ulrich Zwingli, fought the good fight.With his last strength he voiced his victory: “They can kill the body but not the soul!”

luther_scarrNext we may mention the excellent books by Simonetta Carr, published by Reformation Heritage Books here in Grand Rapids, MI. She has well-written and beautifully illustrated books on Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Lady Jane Grey.

Concerning her title on Luther we find this description and contents:

Five hundred years ago, a monk named Martin Luther wrote ninety-five questions, hoping to start a discussion about sin and repentance at the University of Wittenberg in Germany. In a few months those questions had stirred the nation; a few years later, the continent. Today we know that those questions changed the course of both the Western church and world history. In this volume for children, Simonetta Carr tells the compelling story of this father of the Protestant Reformation, tracing his quest for peace with God, his lifelong heroic stand for God’s truth, and his family life and numerous accomplishments. The Reformer’s greatest accomplishment, she writes, “has been his uncompromising emphasis on the free promise of the gospel.”

Table of Contents:


1. From Law Student to Monk

2. Looking for Peace with God

3. A Powerful List

4. A Reluctant Rebel

5. Starting a Reformation

6. Raising a Family

7. Ready to Die in the Lord

Time Line

Did You Know?

jknox-bondFinally, we may also mention the historical novels on various Reformers by Douglas Bond. This Christian church history teacher has written titles on Calvin, Knox, Wycliffe, and the Huguenots.

About the work on Knox the publisher has this to say:

John Knox, the Thundering Scott, lives a life of adventure and danger in turbulent, corrupt sixteenth-century Scotland. Finding himself a wanted man, Knox is besieged in a castle by French soldiers, seized, and made a galley slave. Yet he is unflinching in his stand for the gospel, even in the face of assassins and death, and even when his fiery preaching makes him an enemy of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Told from the perspective of a young student resolved to protect Knox no matter the cost, Douglas Bond’s thrilling biographical novel provides a look at the harrowing life story of a giant of the faith. Discover the fascinating story of a timid man transformed by the grace and power of the gospel into one of the most influential figures in Scottish history.

Blessed, happy Reformation reading!

Published in: on October 6, 2016 at 6:48 AM  Leave a Comment  

“Ignorance is not a Christian virtue.” – J.P. Moreland

love-god-mind-morelandThe following quote comes from the section “A Biblical Sketch of the Value of Reason,” where J.P. Moreland treats the nature of God as the God of reason and revelation.

What a contrast the God of the Bible is with the god of Islam, who is so transcendent that his ways are inscrutable (beyond understanding)! How different He is from the irrational, fickle, finite deities of the Greek pantheon or other polytheistic religions! These mythological ‘gods’ exhibit the folly of human emotion and the danger of ignoring revelation. The God of the Bible requires teachers who diligently study His Word and handle it accurately (compare 2 Timothy2:15 and 1 Timothy 4:15-16). He demands of His evangelists that they give rational justification to questioners who ask them why they believe as they do (1 Peter 3:15). On one occasion His chief apostle, Paul, emphasized that his gospel preaching was by way of ‘words of truth and rationality’ (Acts 26:25, NASB) when Festus charged that his great learning was driving him mad (Acts 26:24, NASB). No anti-intellectualism here! By contrast, the monistic religions of the East promote gurus who offer koans, paradoxes like the sound of one hand clapping, upon which to meditate in order to free the devotee from dependence on reason and enable him to escape the laws of logic. The Buddhist is to leave this mind behind, but the Christian God requires transformation by way of its renewal (Romans 12:1-2).

Is it any wonder that we Christians started the first universities and have planted schools and colleges everywhere our missionaries have gone? Is it any wonder that science began in Christian Europe because of the belief that the same rational God who made the human mind also created the world so the mind would be suited to discern the world’s rational structure placed there by God? God is certainly not a cultural elitist, and He does not love intellectuals more than anyone else. But it needs to be said in the same breath that ignorance is not a Christian virtue if those virtues mirror the perfection of God’s own character.

Taken from J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (NavPress, 1997), pp.44-45.

Published in: on October 5, 2016 at 6:41 AM  Leave a Comment  

New Titles on the Reformation – 2016 (1)

Since we are marking the 499th anniversary of the great Reformation of the sixteenth century this month – and we plan to have lots of posts on it, we should also pay attention to new books being published with Reformation themes. (I will give you an early alert about our special Reformation Standard Bearer issue coming out the 15th of this month. It is on Martin Luther and contains an article on books on this magisterial Reformer. Watch for it soon!)

why-reformation-matters-reeves-2016Today we note two of them, one of which I just received in the mail for review from Crossway yesterday. Its title is Why the Reformation Still Matters and is co-authored by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester (2016; 219 pp.). In the introduction the authors begin to answer the question implied by their title:

But five hundred years on, does the Reformation still matter? It matters because this is our story. If you are Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Congregational, Independent, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, or Reformed, then these are your roots. Your history can be traced back to these events five hundred years ago.

But are the Reformers like embarrassing grandparents? Are they part of our story we would rather leave behind or can safely ignore? Or are they perhaps heroes we are content to lionize at a safe distance?

After pointing out how the Reformation and its Reformers take much criticism for the divisions it caused in the church, the authors answer those questions this way:

…Consider what was at stake. At its heart the Reformation was a dispute about how we know God and how we can be right with him. At stake was our eternal future, a choice between  heaven and hell.

And it still is. That our modern world finds the Reformation alien says as much about us as it does about the Reformers. It exposes our preoccupation with this material world and this momentary life. …For the Reformers there was no need more pressing than assurance in the face of divine judgment, and there was no act more loving than to proclaim a message of grace that granted eternal life to those who responded with faith.

The Reformation still matters because eternal life still matters (pp.17-18).

If you are interested in reviewing this book, contact me here or by email.

legacy-luther-sproul-2016The second title to point out today is newly published by Reformation Trust (part of Ligonier Ministries). Co-edited by Dr. R. C. Sproul, Sr. and Dr. Stephen Nichols, The Legacy of Luther is a collection of essays on Martin Luther – his life, work, and theology (hc, 308 pp.).

John Macarthur gives this summary in his foreword:

Luther’s indelible legacy will always be the example of his faith. His heroic courage, deep passion, steadfast integrity, infectious zeal, and all his other virtues are the fruit of his faith. This one man made an impact on the church and on the world that still influences all Bible-believing Christians today.

Luther would not have sought any honor for himself. By his own testimony, he owed everything to Christ. The story of his life confirms that testimony. Conversion utterly transformed Luther from an anxious, fainthearted monk into a paragon of confident, contagious faith. The more he faced opposition from Rome, the more his biblical convictions deepened. Everything positive in Luther’s life points back to his life-changing encounter with the righteousness of God and the glory of Christ in the gospel.

Look for more on this title later, but for now be sure to browse the special website linked to it above.

Note bene: Reformation Heritage Books is offering this hardcover book for $12.00 at present. This would be a good book to add to your family or personal library for reading in the next year.


Published in: on October 4, 2016 at 6:47 AM  Leave a Comment  

October “Tabletalk”: The Doctrine of Scripture – Stephen Nichols

tt-oct-2016Yesterday I began diving into the October issue of Tabletalk – and I mean diving! This issue has ten rich and rewarding (deep!) articles on the church in the sixteenth century, as the monthly devotional magazine continues its series on each century of church history.

That means, of course, that this issue is on the Reformation, and it is covered well, with articles ranging from “The Necessity of the Reformation” (Dr. R. Godfrey) to “The Reformation of Education” ( Dr. P. Lillback). And, yes, worship, justification by faith alone, the sacraments, and marriage are also covered.

But the theology of the Reformation begins with the doctrine of Scripture, which is treated ably by Dr. Stephen Nichols and is the article I chose to feature today.

Below are a few of his paragraphs; find the rest at the link at the end. In addition, by all means read editor Burk Parsons introduction – “Truth and True Peace.”

The Reformation was built upon the Bible, so we should not be surprised to find in the Reformers a robust doctrine of Scripture. One helpful construct to unpack the doctrine of Scripture involves four key terms: authority, necessity, clarity, and sufficiency. Italian Reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli stated the authority of Scripture rather clearly by drawing attention to the two-word Latin phrase Dominus dixit, meaning “Thus says the Lord.” The Bible is God’s Word, therefore it is true; therefore, it is authoritative; therefore, it is inerrant; therefore, it is infallible; and therefore, it is our only sure guide.

John Calvin famously likened Scripture to spectacles. Apart from Scripture, we misread the natural world, human nature, and the Creator. Scripture alone gives us the clear picture of who God is, who we are, and what God’s plan for the world truly is. Without Scripture, we stumble around in the dark. Scripture is necessary to see the world rightly.

Source: The Doctrine of Scripture by Stephen Nichols

“The Holy Spirit is not a Sceptic.” – Martin Luther

bondagewilllutherIn Martin Luther’s introduction to his classic work On The Bondage of the Will (Cole ed., Baker reprint, 1976) he gives some fundamental principles for refuting Erasmus’ Diatribe (in which the latter defends free will). His starting point is the authority of the Bible as God’s Word.

Another of those principles is the clarity of holy Scripture. Erasmus (following the medieval sophists of his day) claimed that the Bible was so unclear that Christians could not make definite assertions about doctrine (such as free will and man’s total depravity). Luther demolishes this argument on the basis of the perspicuity (clearness) of Scripture.

One of his classic statements is found in this “Introduction”:

The Holy Spirit is not a Sceptic, nor are what He has written on our hearts doubts or opinions, but assertions more certain, and more firm, than life itself and all human experience. (p.24)

But later he also has this to say:

But, that there are in the Scriptures some things abstruse, and that all things are not quite plain, is a report spread abroad by the impious Sophists; by whose mouth you speak, Erasmus. But they never have produced, nor ever can produce, one article whereby to prove this their madness. And it is with such scare-crows that Satan has frightened away men from reading the Sacred Writings, and has rendered the Holy Scripture contemptible, that he might cause his poisons of philosophy to prevail in the church.

This indeed I confess, that there are many places in the Scriptures obscure and abstruse; not from the majesty of the things, but from our ignorance of certain terms and grammatical particulars; but which do not prevent a knowledge of all the things in the Scriptures. For what thing of more importance can remain hidden in the Scriptures, now that the seals are broken, the stone rolled from the door of the sepulchre, and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light, Christ made man: that God is Trinity and Unity: that Christ suffered for us, and will reign to all eternity?

Are not these things known and proclaimed even in our streets? Take Christ out of the Scriptures, and what will you find remaining in them? (pp.25-26)

As children of the Reformation. are we certain about this clarity of the Bible? And if we are, do we embrace wholeheartedly the truth (assertions) contained in them? Do we hear, see, and believe (receive) the Christ revealed in them?

As we worship our God today and hear His Word read and sung and preached, let us be true Protestants and bow before the pure, clear revelation of our God in His Savior-Son.