The Power is not in Joseph’s Pants

Near to the end of his life, milk from the breasts of the virgin Mary as well as Joseph’s old pants… Wittenburg itself had an amazing assortment of these religious relics which were sanctioned by the Church to convey days, weeks, months, years, centuries and even millennia of time off in the place of purging, just by viewing them, the time being measured by the value and importance placed upon the relic.

By the way, these indulgences are still in force in the Roman Catholic Church. In Rome today there are what is known as the Scala Sancta (the sacred steps), which according to Church tradition are the steps that led up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, which Jesus Christ stood on during his Passion on his way to trial. The stairs were, reputedly, brought to Rome by St. Helena in the 4th Century.

Even today, plenary indulgence can be granted for climbing the stairs on the knees. Pius VII on 2 September 1817 granted those who ascend the stairs in the prescribed manner an indulgence of nine years for every step (there are 28 steps). Later on, Pius X, on 26 February 1908, granted a plenary indulgence to be gained as often as the stairs are devoutly ascended after confession and communion.

So much for Rome today then. Lets get back to Martin Luther. His last sermon made mention of these religious relics. Concerning this, Dr. R. C. Sproul writes:

[Luther] wondered, why is it that people are still spending their money on indulgences and on what Luther called the Pope’s second-hand junk? He said, the Pope is like a decoy duck, sitting on a pond with a great bag of tricks, seducing people with this nonsense. He wondered why it is that people ignore the Word of God and exchange it for Joseph’s pants…

What relevance does that have for us today? We don’t see the evangelical church of our day rushing to depositories of sacred relics. Nobody’s looking for Joseph’s pants. Rather we have invested our time, our energy, and our money in more contemporary ways to improve the gospel. We look to programs, to Madison Avenue methodologies, to entertainment, to pop psychology, even to the establishment of Starbucks in the church to improve the gospel. Why do we do this? I think people in the church today are looking for exactly what they were looking for in sixteenth-century Germany. They went to Trier, they went to Aachen, they went to these relics because they believed that the relics had power. Every pastor wants to have a powerful ministry. And so we look to the latest program, to the latest method to give us a powerful ministry, forgetting where the Lord God omnipotent has put the power in the first place.” Always Reformed, p. 190, a festschrift for Dr. W. Robert Godfrey

The power of God is not in Joseph’s pants. The power is in the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” – Romans 1:16

4 thoughts on “The Power is not in Joseph’s Pants

  1. “We look to programs, to Madison Avenue methodologies, to entertainment, to pop psychology, even to the establishment of Starbucks in the church to improve the gospel…”

    I agree that there have been abuses of that for sure, and it is also true that missiology guides us into these and often, appropriately so.

    When religion was such a part of daily society’s concerns, and at a time when people were not so busy and inundated with countless forms of idle entertainment, more hearts were open, if not to the gospel than to the discussion of religion, etc. Now, it is (somewhat sadly) necessary to connect with folks in some type of in between entertainment based medium first, in order to earn the right to speak into their lives. SO, even though I don’t drink coffee, if I was the pastor of a church that could afford it, I’d have a cafe. If we can afford light shows, let’s get one!

    What I mean is: THESE THINGS DON’T IMPROVE THE GOSPEL, BUT THEY DON’T NECESSARILY HURT IT EITHER.

    It’s just because we are born in such a time as this…and the hardness of hearts have waxed gross.

    Arabella Gordon

    • ” Now, it is (somewhat sadly) necessary to connect with folks in some type of in between entertainment based medium first, in order to earn the right to speak into their lives.”

      I think this is the very heart of the issue. When men think God needs our efforts to make His word palatable, when we think we must entertain those whom we evangelize, we only run the risk of compromising the Gospel in order to not offend the “seeker” (although there is none that seek after God…no not one”) becoming pragmatic. We now in order to keep them coming back to ostensibly hear more of the same watered down gospel (which is no gospel at all) have to up the entertainment value of our Sunday morning show. The Scriptures do not document one instance of salvation by coffee cafe or light show (discounting Paul’s conversion). Nor will they melt the “hardened heart that has waxed gross;” it is only the heat of the Gospel which does such.

  2. Now, it is (somewhat sadly) necessary to connect with folks in some type of in between entertainment based medium first, in order to earn the right to speak into their lives.

    That’s the problem, thinking that it’s necessary to reach the lost.

    This reminds me of when I use to witness in vain, using my own intellect instead of letting the Holy Spirit do His Job.

    The Holy Spirit is timeless and works according to His Word not the inventions of men, but by His Word alone.

  3. Pingback: John Samson is Reading Always Reformed « Heidelblog

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