“Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God.” ~ Luther on Galatians 1:3

VERSE 3. Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from our   Lord Jesus Christ.  

The terms of grace and peace are common terms with Paul and are now pretty well understood. But since we are explaining this epistle, you will not mind if we repeat what we have so often explained elsewhere. The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.

The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God.

The world brands this a pernicious doctrine. The world advances free will, the rational and natural approach of good works, as the means of obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain peace of conscience by the methods and means of the world. Experience proves this. Various holy orders have been launched for the purpose of securing peace of conscience through religious exercises, but they proved failures because such devices only increase doubt and despair. We find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace.

The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace from the emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father. He wishes them heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when He said, “Peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you.” Worldly peace provides quiet enjoyment of life and possessions. But in affliction, particularly in the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will not deliver us. However, the grace and peace of God will. They make a person strong and courageous to bear and to overcome all difficulties, even death itself, because we have the victory of Christ’s death and the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins.

The above quote is drawn from a classic of Reformation literature – Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians. This is his simple but clear exposition of v.3 of the first chapter. And you will see in these brief paragraphs the basic gospel recovered by the Reformers – justification by grace alone in Christ alone by faith alone.

By all means read on in this classic, especially if you never have. You will be treated to a timeless treasure of gospel truth – still worth treasuring, defending, and spreading.

The digital edition of this edition is available here and on Kindle (free!). And, of course, in print.

Published in: on October 25, 2020 at 9:20 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Luther, Libraries, and Learning (3) – John W. Montgomery

Luther&LearningAs we take another look at Luther’s love for and support of libraries and learning at the outset of the Reformation – through the great essay by John W. Montgomery, “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”, as found in his book In Defense of Luther (Northwestern, 1970) – Montgomery directs us to Luther’s most significant piece of writing encouraging the establishment of libraries for the sake of good learning.

That work is Luther’s treatise of 1524 “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany, That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools,” which Montgomery quotes in full. As soon as I read it, I recalled that I had done a post on this before, and sure enough, you will find it here (from 2011). And you may find the complete treatise on this website (scroll down until you get to the pdf by this title).

I am not going to re-quote from that treatise today, but I am going to give you Montgomery’s evaluation of it – at least part of it today. Because he asks and answers the question, Why did Luther have such a passion for learning and libraries (the same holds true for the entire Reformation movement)? He finds it in several truths Luther rediscovered. We give two of these in this post:

Thus the reading of the Bible, the study of the original languages of the Scriptures, and the collection of libraries became mandatory in Luther’s program. The chain of reasoning was inescapable: To be saved a man has to believe in Christ the Word; to comprehend who Christ is, one must meet him in the preaching of the Gospel and in Holy Writ; and to understand what the Scriptures say, pastor and even layman cannot avoid the tools of scholarship.

Certain corollaries of Luther’s basic theological principle provided added motivation toward library establishment. The universal spiritual priesthood of believers was one such corollary. In his Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520) Luther declared: ‘Let everyone.. who knows himself to be a Christian be assured of this, and apply it to himself, that we are all priests, and there is no difference between us, that is to say, we all have the same power with respect to the Word and all the sacraments.’ In practice this view freed the layman from the legal demands of a priestly caste, but at the same time it placed a great personal responsibility on him. The matter of salvation could no longer be handled for one by a hierarchy; now, each man would have to confront the Word. Luther’s monumental translation of the Bible into the German vernacular testifies to his conviction that the Bible must not be allowed to remain the property of a special class of believers. Compulsory education, and municipal schools with libraries in conjunction with them, were thus essential for making the universal priesthood a practical reality” (pp.136-37).

I also appreciated the way Montgomery concluded his essay on this subject:

…Luther’s concern for library promotion may also suggest revision of the old aphorism that ‘it matters little what you believe as long as you are sincere’; in the realm of books and libraries, as in all other realms, what one believes makes all the difference in the world as to what one does (p.139).

Luther on Catechism and Singing in Relation to Missions

Church-comes-from-all-nations-LutherSpeaking (and writing) of Martin Luther today, this afternoon I cataloged a book published by Concordia Academic Press with the title The Church Comes From All Nations: Luther Texts on Missions (2003, edited by Volker Stolle).

Online I found this brief summary of this work:

This book originally published as Kirche aus allen Volkern: Luther-Texte zur Mission, is a collection of key excerpts from the writings of Martin Luther on Christian missions. Drawing from the reformer’s lectures, sermons, treatises, hymns, and devotional writings, the author presents the excerpts according to themes and provides commentary on the reformer’s understanding of mission in the world.

On the back of the book the publisher has this description:

In Luther’s understanding of the Gospel, every believer is anointed and sent ‘to confess, to teach, and to spread God’s Word’ (1523). Thus participation in God’s mission becomes the task of every Christian. This collection of texts on mission have been selected from Luther’s writings by Volker Stolle, a mission director in Germany, to demonstrate the breadth of Luther’s thinking on the subject. For the reformer,  mission is not something that ‘plays itself out on the outer edges of Christianity, but instead as a lifestyle for every Christian congregation within its particular surrounding.” In this way, Luther contributes toward the reformation of our church today, a Christianity that has often become introverted.

As I quickly thumbed the book to get an idea of the type of quotes the editor had selected, I found these two striking passages side by side on opposing pages. I include the headings the editor has added, so that you will know something of the content.

I believe you will find these quotes as significant as I did, for we also place a strong emphasis on catechism training and on singing/music.

Catechetical instruction as preparation for missionary witness

And finally, I strongly urge that the children be taught the catechism. Should they be taken captive in the invasion [The quote is taken from Luther’s “Admonition to Prayer against the Turks.”], they will at least take something of the Christian faith with them. Who knows what God might be able to accomplish through them. Joseph as a seventeen-year-old youth was sold into slavery into Egypt, but he had God’s word and knew what he believed. And he converted all Egypt. The same is true of Daniel and his companions. (p.46).

The singing of Christian songs as Gospel witness

God has made our heart and spirit happy through his dear Son, whom he gave for our salvation from sin, death and the devil. Whoever honestly believes this, cannot leave it alone, but he must sing cheerfully and with joy and speak about it in order that others might listen and draw near. If, however, one does not want to sing and speak about it, it is a sign that he does not believe and is not in the new, cheerful testament but belongs under the old, rotten, unhappy testament. Therefore, the printers do very well when they diligently print good songs and make them pleasant for the people, with all kinds of ornamentation so that they are stimulated to this joy of the faith and gladly sing [Preface to Babst’s Hymnal, 1545] (p.47).

Have you thought of catechism and singing in this light before? Worth our while to ponder what Luther says, even if we may not agree on everything he says here.

M.Luther on the Genesis Account of Creation – W.VanDoodewaard

One of the new books purchased for and now processed for use by patrons of the PRC Seminary library is the title The Quest for the Historical Adam: Genesis, Hermeneutics, and Human Origins (Reformation Heritage, 2015). This significant study by Dr. William VanDoodewaard, professor of church history at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, is a survey of historical theology and ecclesiastical interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation, particularly the creation of man (Adam).

This is the description the publisher provides:

Was Adam really a historical person, and can we trust the biblical story of human origins? Or is the story of Eden simply a metaphor, leaving scientists the job to correctly reconstruct the truth of how humanity began? Although the church currently faces these pressing questions—exacerbated as they are by scientific and philosophical developments of our age—we must not think that they are completely new. In The Quest for the Historical Adam, William VanDoodewaard recovers and assesses the teaching of those who have gone before us, providing a historical survey of Genesis commentary on human origins from the patristic era to the present. Reacquainting the reader with a long line of theologians, exegetes, and thinkers, VanDoodewaard traces the roots, development, and, at times, disappearance of hermeneutical approaches and exegetical insights relevant to discussions on human origins. This survey not only informs us of how we came to this point in the conversation but also equips us to recognize the significance of the various alternatives on human origins.

And here is the Table of Contents, which gives you some idea of what the author covers and how he handles the vast material:

Introduction

  1. Finding Adam and His Origin in Scripture
  2. The Patristic and Medieval Quest for Adam
  3. Adam in the Reformation and Post-Reformation Eras
  4. Adam in the Enlightenment Era
  5. Adam in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
  6. The Quest for Adam: From the 1950s to the Present
  7. What Difference Does It Make?

Epilogue: Literal Genesis and Science?

For my purposes today, I give you a couple of quote from that third chapter, which treats the view of the church during the period of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods. VanDoodewaard points to an important shift that was taking place in the way the church interpreted Scripture, moving from an allegorical approach (which characterized the Medieval period) to a literal approach. And VanDoodewaard takes us to none other than the father of the Reformation, Martin Luther, as the first to make this important shift (while also acknowledging W.Tyndale’s contribution).

So our quotes today are ones VanDoodewaard has from Luther, showing plainly where this church father stood on the issue of the historicity of Genesis and the accuracy of its record. In this first one Luther is describing God’s works as set forth in Genesis 1 and 2:

These, then, are all historical facts. This is something to which I carefully call attention, lest the wary reader be led astray by the authority of the fathers, who give up the idea that this is history and look for allegories. For this reason I like Lyra and rank him among the best, because throughout he carefully adheres to, and concerns himself with, the historical account. Nevertheless, he allows himself to be swayed by the authority of the fathers and occasionally, because of their example, turns away from the real meaning to silly allegories (p.52 – taken from Luther’s Lectures on Genesis).

The second quote relates specifically to God’s creation of Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 1. Here again is Luther:

Here our opinion is supported: that the six days were truly six natural days, because here Moses says that Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day. One may not use sophistries with reference to this text. But concerning the order of creation he will state in the following chapter that Eve was created sometime after Adam, not like Adam, from a clod of earth, but from his rib, which God took out of the side of Adam while he slept. These are all works of time, that is works that require time. They were not performed in one moment; neither were these acts: that God brings to Adam every animal and there was none found like him, etc. These are acts requiring time, and they were performed on the sixth day. Here Moses touches on them briefly by anticipation. Later on he will explain them at greater length (p.53).

Luther on the Christian Life: Prayer and the Word – C.Trueman

Luther on Chr Life -TruemanTaken from the new Crossway book written by Carl R.Trueman, Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom, part of the series “Theologians on the Christian Life”, published by Crossway (Wheaton, IL), 2015.

In this section from which we quote, Trueman is treating Luther’s treatise on prayer (the one prompted by a letter from his barber, Peter Beskendorf), and here he ties together prayer and Scripture:

Throughout the treatise, Scripture is the bedrock on which Luther sees the life of prayer as being built. He speaks of the Decalogue as ‘a school text, song book, penitential book, and prayer book,’ and recommends that the Christian alternate meditation on the commandments with reflection upon a psalm or another chapter of Scripture day by day. For Luther, it is not the desire for reading Scripture that fuels prayer; it is reading Scripture that fuels the desire for prayer. That the Christian may not feel like praying is one of the Devil’s tricks played on weak and sinful flesh; the answer is the discipline of reading and meditation, both corporate and individual.

At this point Trueman draws on a familiar analogy:

One might draw an analogy with marital love: the husband is commanded by God’s Word to love his wife. That command is independent of how the husband feels at any given moment. He is to act in a loving way toward her, and as he does so, his love for her will itself deepen and grow. So it is to be with prayer: reading Scripture shapes people in such a way that their prayer life will deepen and grow as a result.

From there, Trueman makes a summary of Luther’s view of the Christian life based on these simple principles of practicing prayer and Scripture reading:

What is perhaps most noteworthy in all this, of course, is the routine nature of the practice of the Christian life. Nothing Luther proposes is in itself particularly exciting or novel. We live in an age mesmerized both by technique and by the extraordinary. Modern evangelicalism, particularly in America, has been shaped by the kind of revivalism pioneered by Charles Finney in the nineteenth century. Find the right techniques and one will achieve the desired spiritual results; and typically those techniques involve something unusual or impressive. For Luther, this would all have been alien and obnoxious; the Word is powerful in and of itself; and the ways in which the Word works are ordinary and routine. Liturgies with a catechetical structure, a focus on the Word read and the Word preached, and a constant ,meditation upon that Word – those were the major elements of personal spiritual growth and discipleship (122).

Have we also made the Christian life complicated by trying too many new means and methods? Then let Luther’s view of the Christian walk bring us back to God’s simple way.

The Bible’s Inerrancy: How We Got Here – Stephen Nichols

How We Got Here by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015As we mentioned last Tuesday (see my March 3 post), the March Tabletalk centers on the theme of “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.” Yesterday I read two more featured articles on this theme, including the one linked above by Dr.Stephen Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, FL.

Nichols provides a brief history of the doctrine of Scripture’s inerrancy, starting with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy in 1978 and its “counterpunch”, the Rogers/McKim proposal of 1979. But from there, he works his way back through church history, from Augustine to Calvin to Luther to Warfield. Though a brief survey, Nichols’ treatment shows that the church has always maintained the inerrancy (and the infallibility) of the Bible.

I leave you with a brief section of his article today, encouraging you to read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

And if you want a brief but handy glossary of terms on the doctrine of Scripture, Kevin Gardner provides that in this opening article, “Defining Our Terms”.

Augustine understood that we owe submission to God’s Word because we owe submission to God. John Calvin makes this exact point in his commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16. There, he writes, “We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from him alone.” In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin adds, “The full authority which [the Scriptures] obtain with the faithful proceeds from no other consideration than that they are persuaded that they proceed from heaven, as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.”

Martin Luther called the Bible our foundation. He warned, “We must not deviate from the words…Else, what would become of the Bible?” Luther once said that when it comes to the Bible, everything it teaches is believed or nothing it teaches is believed.

Luther’s statement here bears consideration. What option do we have next to the doctrine of the entire inerrancy and utter truthfulness of the Bible? Limited inerrancy? Why not simply call that limited errancy? Augustine, Calvin, and Luther, as well as a host of others, all sound the alarm regarding the danger of a view of biblical truthfulness that is less than full inerrancy. This has been the orthodox Christian position throughout the ages.

Book Alert! “Luther on the Christian Life” – C.Trueman

Luther on Chr Life -TruemanCrossway Publishers has just released its seventh volume in its “Theologians on the Christian Life” series (edited by Stephen Nichols and Justin Taylor), and this one focuses on the great Reformer Martin Luther’s view of the Christian life. The title of this book is Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom, and is penned by Carl R. Trueman, professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

At the title link above you will find the best price (WTS – $11) and a video of Trueman explaining his purpose in writing this volume for the series.

I have ordered a copy for the library already (it’s in and processed!) and I requested a review copy from Crossway this week. Today I quote from Trueman’s instructive “Introduction”, which he sub-titles “What Has Geneva to Do with Wittenberg?” (slightly edited) Here he explains why Luther on the Christian life is important to the church, including those who are Reformed:

Given all the caveats necessary when the modern readers approaches Luther, what is unique about this man that makes him particularly useful as a dialgue partner on the Christian life? Obviously, as noted above, he defined many of the terms of Protestant debates about Christianity in general. Yet there is much more to him than this. As a theologian who was also a pastor, he was continually wrestling with how his theological insights connected to the lives and experiences of the people under his care. This gave much of his writing a distinctly pastoral dimension.

Further, he was (for a theologian) unusually forthcoming about his own life and experiences. There was a personal passion to Luther that finds no obvious counterpart in the writings of other significant Reformers. Calvin’s letters contain insights into his private life, but his lectures, commentaries, and treatises offer little or no light on the inner life of the man himself. John Owen outlived all eleven of his children, yet he never once mentioned the personal devastation that this must have brought to his world.

Luther was different: he lived his inner life as a public drama. Unlike many today on chat shows and Twitter and personal blogs, he did not do so in a way that boosted his own prestige; he did it with irony, humor, and occasional pathos. But he did it nonetheless, and this makes him a fascinating study in self-reflection on the Christian life (25-26).

New & Noteworthy Books in 2015 – Reformation21

New & Noteworthy Books in 2015 – Reformation21.

Even though this was posted by Mark McDowell in December at “Reformation21”, it is certainly worth our notice because it pertains to books to be published in this year 2015.

I always appreciate lists of books to come such as this, as it helps me plan on what to order for the Seminary library  as well as perhaps add to my own personal library.

And though most of these books are geared toward the theologians among us (but then, as R.C.Sproul is fond of saying, “Everyone’s a theologian.”), there is a variety of titles here to benefit us all – including a new children’s title!

Here are two that McDowell has selected and that I highlight in this post:

Trueman_Luther.jpg

Carl Trueman, Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom (Crossway, February)
Crossway’s series, Theologians on the Christian Life, has not disappointed. Matching some of the Church’s most beloved saints with some of today’s best evangelical writers, the series puts forth books that both edify and inform. 2015 promises John Bolt on Bavinck, Bray on Augustine, Haykin and Matthew Barrett on Owen, and Trueman on Luther. It’s difficult to pick just one of them, and while I’m giving Trueman on Luther the nod, all four books have to be added to the library. Here’s what Trueman says about his own volume and it’s hard not to get a little bit excited about what’s in store:
‘This is the book I have always wanted to write: a study of Martin Luther’s theology which is connected directly to his life as a Christian and his calling as a pastor. Personally, I owe as much to Luther as to any historical Christian figure. Further, I have become increasingly irritated in recent years with the way his name is bandied about by people who clearly do not know who or what they are talking about. So much of the pop-evangelical Luther is based on the selective reading of a few texts which actually presents a picture of the Reformed which I do not think Dr Martin himself would recognise. Thus, I wanted to correct some of the caricatures of him in evangelical circles and offer him as a model of pastoral ministry and of Christian discipleship to the current generation. Was he perfect and should we follow him in every detail? Absolutely not. His errors, when he made them, were often egregious. But his focus on Word and sacrament is a real antidote to the mega-conference, Top Men and brand-dominated culture which has unfortunately swept across conservative evangelicalism in the last decade’.

deyoung_story.jpg

Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark, The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings us Back to the Garden (Crossway, August)
Christian children’s books are legion but good children’s books that captivate as well as educate are rare. Getting a pastor-theologian to take up the challenge is encouraging and I’m eager to see what DeYoung and Clark have in store for us. This is a book that promises a biblical-theological approach, connecting the dots throughout Scripture and showing our young ones the wonderful tapestry of the Bible.
DeYoung tells Ref21: ‘I know authors are always excited for their books to come out, but I’m especially eager for this one to release. The Biggest Story tells the big gospel story of salvation from the Garden of Eden to the final garden in revelation. I tried to tell the familiar story in a way that was theologically rich, but still fun and interesting for kids. It’s longer than board book for small children, but much shorter than a kids Bible. I couldn’t be more pleased with the illustrations. Don Clark has done an amazing job with the pictures–colorful, unique, interesting, and thoughtful. I can’t wait for this book to come out so I can show and tell it to my kids’.

– See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/new-noteworthy-in-2015.php#sthash.qT9WQjoH.dpuf

Monday Note Quotes

Monday notesThroughout this semester (and previous ones while he served as rector) Prof.Ronald Cammenga at the PRC Seminary has written and sent (via email) to faculty, students, and staff a Monday note each week, summarizing the week’s activities, highlighting birthdays and anniversaries, etc. And for our edification and encouragement he concludes each one with a good quote.

For one of my posts today I put together a string of these quotes – for your benefit as well. We always appreciate these, and I trust you will too.

In his treatment of prayer as “the chief exercise of faith,” John Calvin has this to say: “[T]o know God as the Master and Bestower of all good things, who invites us to request them of him, and still not to go to him and not ask of him—this would be of as little profit as for a man to neglect a treasure, buried and hidden in the earth, after it had been pointed out to him.”  “Accordingly,” Calvin goes on to say, “…true faith cannot be indifferent about calling upon God.”  (Institutes 3.20.1; 2:850, the very first page of the second volume of the McNeill/Battles edition.)

“To gather with God’s people in united adoration of God the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.”  Martin Luther.

Describing his exegetical method, Martin Luther once said: “First, I shake the whole (fruit) tree.  Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch, and then each twig.  And, finally, I look under each leaf.”

“Whomever the Lord as adopted and deemed worthy of his fellowship ought to prepare themselves for a hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evil.  It is the Heavenly Father’s will thus to exercise them so as to put his own children to a definite test.  Beginning with Christ, his first-born, he follows this plan with all his children.”  (John Calvin, Institutes.)

“Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”  Martin Luther.

“Let us consider this settled, that no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection.”  John Calvin.

“For neither the light and heat of the sun, nor food and drink, are so necessary to nourish and sustain the present life as the pastoral office is necessary to preserve the church on earth.”  (John Calvin, Institutes, 4.3.2.)

“The strongest inducement to a Christian life comes from our redemption in Christ.”  John Calvin.

“Man with all his shrewdness is as stupid about understanding by himself the mysteries of God, as an ass is incapable of understanding musical harmony.”  John Calvin.

“I have written nothing out of hatred to any one; but I have always faithfully propounded what I esteemed to be for the glory of God.”  John Calvin (towards the end of his life).

Reformation Day 2014 – M.Luther Hymns

Luther95Theses-1In commemoration of Roman Catholic monk Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses (disputations) on the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 – the event which triggered the Protestant Reformation – we post Luther’s simple message of the gospel as expressed in his first published hymn. And then, following that, we post a video of his great Reformation hymn, Ein’ Feste Berg (“A Mighty Fortress”), based on Psalm 46.

In the devil’s dungeon chained I lay,
The pangs of death swept o’er me.
My sin devoured me night and day
In which my mother bore me.
My anguish ever grew more rife,
I took no pleasure in my life.
And sin had made me crazy.

Then was the Father troubled sore
To see me ever languish.
The Everlasting Pity swore
To save me from my anguish.
He turned to me his father heart
And chose himself a bitter part,
His Dearest did it cost him.

Thus spoke the Son, “Hold thou to me,
From now on thou wilt make it.
I gave my very life for thee
And for thee I will stake it.
For I am thine and thou art mine
And where I am our lives entwine
The Old Fiend cannot shake it.
(Luther, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice,” 1523–1524)

The “Battle Hymn of the Reformation”: