What Just Happened? Rome’s Canonization of the Popes

Protestant Ignorance

Sproul JrI remain, even in these feel good days, Rome still teaches a false gospel, still calls for the damnation of people like me who preach the true gospel. Now I am happy to confess that explaining the nuances that separate infusion from imputation, distinctions between justification and sanctification can require a bit of theological training and historical understanding. I’m sorry to confess that Christians generally have precious little of either. If we can’t see what the big deal is with a little contemporary modalism, if we want to open the tent wide to welcome in those nice Mormons, what chance do I have for making the case that Rome is outside the pale?

Our ignorance is likewise apparent in how we look at the recent canonization of Popes John and John Paul (13th and 2nd respectively). I fear we think that what Rome did was merely to give them a super-duper merit badge. We cheer politely, even if we are a little fidgety about Roman theology, in the same way we would cheer politely if our crazy uncle won the big horseshoe tournament at the state fair. The craziness we’re not sure about, but he’s kin and did well.

What Does Roman Catholic Canonization Mean?

These two forms of ignorance, however, come together. That we don’t understand the nuances on justification is why we don’t understand what just happened in the canonization. The church at Rome just determined that these two popes exceeded God’s expectations for obedience. These men not only were able to escape the punishment of purgatory, having no need to purge their sins, having already achieved the holiness necessary to enter heaven. Not only that, but all the merit they achieved which was beyond what was required was deposited, along with the merit of Christ, into the Treasury of Merit. This merit can become yours, via the purchase of indulgences.

How can Rome know this? They have a system for testing. All saints and only saints, escape purgatory. We know who the saints are, however, through a process of testing. In order to demonstrate that these men were saints, three miracles that resulted in prayers people prayed to these men, must be verified. Three miracle merit badges apiece, and then we know these two men went directly to heaven, without passing go or stopping for a quick burn in purgatory.

Sin, Grace & Mercy
I’ve had friends swim the Tiber, who have been trained in sound theology who went Roman Catholic. I’ve participated in careful, precise arguments over justification. I understand how someone could take a bad turn there. I am grateful for Rome’s fidelity on issues related to the incarnation and the Trinity, on the ancient creeds. I understand the hunger to be able to see the one true church, for it to have an address. But I can’t fathom how anyone could believe the silliness we’re all supposed to be celebrating. Rome actually insists that we believe that when these popes died, they wrote a check for more than they owed and calmly told God He could keep the change. Jesus, however, tells us the only way in is by beating our breast and crying out, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.” My prayer to our Lord is that He would tear down this high place, this lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, that our every thought would be held captive to the obedience of Christ.

This post first appeared on rcsprouljr.com

Simul Justus Et Pecator

if you will, merit at the bar of justice. Without His life of sinless obedience, Jesus’ atonement would have had no value at all. We need to see the crucial significance of this truth; we need to see that not only did Jesus die for us, He lived for us.

NOT ONLY DID JESUS DIE FOR US, HE LIVED FOR US
Roman Catholics call this concept a legal fiction, and they recoil from it because they believe it casts a shadow on the integrity of God by positing that God declares to be just people who are not just. In response, the Reformers conceded that this concept would be a legal fiction if imputation were fictional. In that case, the Protestant view of justification would be a lie. But the point of the Gospel is that “imputation is real—God really laid our sins on Christ and really transferred the righteousness of Christ to us. We really possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ by imputation. He is our Savior, not merely because He died, but because He lived a sinless life before He died, as only the Son of God could do.

Theologians like to employ Latin phrases, and one of my favorites is one that Martin Luther used to capture this concept. The essence of our salvation is found in this phrase: Simul Justus et pecator. The word simul is the word from which we get the English word simultaneous; it means simply “at the same time.” Justus is the word for “just.” We all know what et means; we hear it in the famous words of Julius Caesar in the Shakespeare tragedy: “Et tu, Brute?” (“You, too, Brutus?”) Et means “also” or “and.” From the word pecator we get such English words as peccadillo (“a little sin”) and impeccable (“without sin”); it is simply the Latin word for “sinner.” So Luther’s phrase, Simul Justus et pecator, means “At the same time just and sinner.”

THE PERSON WHO IS IN CHRIST IS AT THE VERY SAME INSTANT A SINNER AND JUST
This is the glory of the Protestant doctrine of justification. The person who is in Christ is at the very same instant a sinner and just. If I could be justified only by actually becoming just and having no sin in me, I would never see the kingdom of God. The point of the gospel is that the minute a person embraces Jesus Christ, all that Christ has done is applied to that person. All that He is becomes ours, including His righteousness. Luther was saying that at the very instant I believe, I am just by virtue of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. It’s Christ’s righteousness that makes me just. His death has taken care of my punishment and His life has taken care of my reward. So my justice is completely tied up in Christ.

In Protestantism, we speak of this as the doctrine of justification by faith alone, for according to the New Testament, the only means by which the righteousness and the merit of Christ can come into our accounts and be applied to us is by faith. We can’t earn it. We can’t deserve it. We can’t merit it. We can only trust in it and cling to it.

The Faith You Gave me (A Prayer)

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Phil 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…

2 Pet 1: 1 To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…

Phil 1: 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

John 6: 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 10: 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.

Heb 12: 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…

THE FAITH YOU GAVE ME (A Prayer) by John Samson

faith“Lord, I thank you for this confidence I have in You, Your Person, Your word, Your promises. I thank You for this because it was not anything of my own doing, but from first to last, Your gift to Me.

I once thought that the grace was your part, the faith my own, but now, through Your word, I see that You gave me faith as a gift – yes, You gave me the gift of trust, the gift of confidence, the gift of an assurance that You are true, that You are all You say you are, and that You will do all You say. Oh, how I thank You for this! Left to myself I would never have come to You, would never have trusted You, and I would never know the assuring, priceless comfort of Your promises. But You did not leave me to myself, but you granted me faith to believe You and when I did so, You justified me forever.

I know that faith is simply a belief in You, a faith that does indeed lead to action on my part. Romantic feelings between couples ebb and flow and my fear was that what I feel about You today may not last forever. How this fear robbed me of sacred and blessed assurance – the assurance of my salvation. Could I keep this thing up? Would I feel the same thing next Friday as I do today? Would I really? Really would I?

Now I know that You complete every project You start. This faith is much more than a feeling, but a sure and steadfast confidence that Your promises are true. You are the ground and depth of my faith. It is You (not me) who began the good work in me and therefore You will bring it all the way to completion. By Your grace I will be found trusting You ten thousand Fridays from now. The faith that You require is the faith You Yourself gave me, and this faith is not a casual temporal interest in You, but a faith that endures all the way to the end. That is its very nature.

Oh, how this knowledge thrills my soul. My faith is not the product of my prone to wandering heart, but the gift of a Sovereign and sure Savior. I once thought that the one thing I brought to the table of redemption was my puny but hoping faith… now I see that this faith I have was something You gave me. It is as strong and eternal as You are, unshakable in the midst of trial… a constant sure thing when all around me fails!

And even when my faith seems to fail… even when I might lose sight of You and even deny You by my words or my actions, and start walking in another direction, like Peter before me, you pray for me that my faith would not fail and I am turned around so that I see You once again. You do this Lord, over and over again, and that is why You never lose any of Your true sheep.

Oh how this truth sets me free… Salvation is truly of the Lord.

Lord, when I feel weak and when faith seems to be failing, I now know that all I need do is look away from Me and look instead to You. You will help me to look up and see You, Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. Yes, yes, yes, You are the source of my faith. You are faith’s initiator and perfecter. Though frail and tiny, my faith looks to You now and will always look to You to find a God big enough and trustworthy enough to rest in. I do believe You Lord and I know I always will. This is not because of some feeling I have, but because Your word teaches me that my confidence in You is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that for even this, I cannot boast.

Oh how I love You Lord. Oh, how I love You.”

Expiation and Propitiation

The following excerpt is from R.C. Sproul’s book “The Truth of the Cross.”

When we talk about the vicarious aspect of the atonement, and some versions of the Bible will use one of these words and some will use the other one. I’m often asked to explain the difference between propitiation and expiation. The difficulty is that even though these words are in the Bible, we don’t use them as part of our day-to-day vocabulary, so we aren’t sure exactly what they are communicating in Scripture. We lack reference points in relation to these words.

Expiation and Propitiation

RCtestLet’s think about what these words mean, then, beginning with the word expiation. The prefix ex means “out of” or “from,” so expiation has to do with removing something or taking something away. In biblical terms, it has to do with taking away guilt through the payment of a penalty or the offering of an atonement. By contrast, propitiation has to do with the object of the expiation. The prefix pro means “for,” so propitiation brings about a change in God’s attitude, so that He moves from being at enmity with us to being for us. Through the process of propitiation, we are restored into fellowship and favor with Him.

In a certain sense, propitiation has to do with God’s being appeased. We know how the word appeasement functions in military and political conflicts. We think of the so-called politics of appeasement, the philosophy that if you have a rambunctious world conqueror on the loose and rattling the sword, rather than risk the wrath of his blitzkrieg you give him the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia or some such chunk of territory. You try to assuage his wrath by giving him something that will satisfy him so that he won’t come into your country and mow you down. That’s an ungodly manifestation of appeasement. But if you are angry or you are violated, and I satisfy your anger, or appease you, then I am restored to your favor and the problem is removed.

The same Greek word is translated by both the words expiation and propitiationfrom time to time. But there is a slight difference in the terms. Expiation is the act that results in the change of God’s disposition toward us. It is what Christ did on the cross, and the result of Christ’s work of expiation is propitiation—God’s anger is turned away. The distinction is the same as that between the ransom that is paid and the attitude of the one who receives the ransom.

Christ’s Work Was an Act of Placation

Together, expiation and propitiation constitute an act of placation. Christ did His work on the cross to placate the wrath of God. This idea of placating the wrath of God has done little to placate the wrath of modern theologians. In fact, they become very wrathful about the whole idea of placating God’s wrath. They think it is beneath the dignity of God to have to be placated, that we should have to do something to soothe Him or appease Him. We need to be very careful in how we understand the wrath of God, but let me remind you that the concept of placating the wrath of God has to do here not with a peripheral, tangential point of theology, but with the essence of salvation.

What Is Salvation?

Let me ask a very basic question: what does the term salvation mean? Trying to explain it quickly can give you a headache, because the word salvation is used in about seventy different ways in the Bible. If somebody is rescued from certain defeat in battle, he experiences salvation. If somebody survives a life-threatening illness, that person experiences salvation. If somebody’s plants are brought back from withering to robust health, they are saved. That’s biblical language, and it’s really no different than our own language. We save money. A boxer is saved by the bell, meaning he’s saved from losing the fight by knockout, not that he is transported into the eternal kingdom of God. In short, any experience of deliverance from a clear and present danger can be spoken of as a form of salvation.

ULTIMATELY, JESUS DIED TO SAVE US FROM THE WRATH OF GOD
When we talk about salvation biblically, we have to be careful to state that from which we ultimately are saved. The apostle Paul does just that for us in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, where he says Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come.” Ultimately, Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God. We simply cannot understand the teaching and the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth apart from this, for He constantly warned people that the whole world someday would come under divine judgment. Here are a few of His warnings concerning the judgment: “‘I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment’” (Matt. 5:22); “‘I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment’” (Matt. 12:36); and “‘The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here’” (Matt. 12:41). Jesus’ theology was a crisis theology. The Greek word crisismeans “judgment.” And the crisis of which Jesus preached was the crisis of an impending judgment of the world, at which point God is going to pour out His wrath against the unredeemed, the ungodly, and the impenitent. The only hope of escape from that outpouring of wrath is to be covered by the atonement of Christ.

IT IS A DREADFUL THING TO FALL INTO THE HANDS OF A HOLY GOD WHO’S WRATHFUL
Therefore, Christ’s supreme achievement on the cross is that He placated the wrath of God, which would burn against us were we not covered by the sacrifice of Christ. So if somebody argues against placation or the idea of Christ satisfying the wrath of God, be alert, because the gospel is at stake. This is about the essence of salvation—that as people who are covered by the atonement, we are redeemed from the supreme danger to which any person is exposed. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a holy God Who’s wrathful. But there is no wrath for those whose sins have been paid. That is what salvation is all about.

Assurance of Salvation: Five Key Principles

Sproul JrDr. R. C. Sproul Jr of course cover the gamut of the issues in a brief piece, but can give some basic principles that I pray will help.

1. No one is allowed, save the Lamb, to look into the Book of Life, but there is no need to. Too often, especially in Reformed circles, the concern is expressed this way, “How can I know if I’m elect?” As a Reformed theologian let me clearly affirm that all the elect will be saved, and only the elect will be saved. But I will still ask, “Why would you want to know that?” We don’t believe in justification by election. If you stand before the judgment throne and God asks, “Why should I welcome you into My kingdom?” and you reply, “Because my name is in Your book” your name quite likely isn’t in His book. The issue isn’t the secret things of God, but what He has revealed.

2. Your obedience is not the bedrock of your assurance. Given the remains of sin within us it can be profoundly difficult to give a clear measure of our own spiritual growth. In fact I have been known to argue that the better we get the worse we seem to ourselves. That is, as we grow in grace we grow in our capacity to see our own sin more deeply. Which the devil delights to use to discourage us. It is Christ’s obedience that secures for us our eternity.

3. Your obedience is a part of your assurance. Be careful, especially when trying to help others, not to simply assume that all those struggling with assurance need to be assured. If you are living a lifestyle of unrepentant gross and heinous sin, you would do well to doubt your assurance. The center of the obedience I would call you to look for, however, would be here—believers are those who repent and believe.

4. Repenting is neither more nor less than crying out to God in Christ, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.” Believing is rejoicing in the faithfulness of His promise, that as we so repent, we go home justified. It is not the depth and power of your repentance that earns God’s favor. None of us repent as deeply as we ought, and so must ever repent for the weakness of our repentance. But Jesus came to save sinners.

5. If you fear you have committed the unpardonable sin, you almost certainly haven’t. Those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit do not have the Spirit in them to convict them for blaspheming the Spirit. If you find yourself obsessing over this question, it is almost certain that you obsess over other things and may be suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If so, then you struggle with this fear, remind yourself a. that the fear is a good sign and b. Jesus died for sinners, including those struggling with OCD.

Bonus Point
Remember also that you are not called to answer this question alone. The elders of your church are called to judge the credibility of the professions of those under their care. They, of course, can and do err. But if they are concerned for your soul, you ought to be as well. If they are delighted to receive you as a brother, be a brother and receive them back with joy.

Bonus Bonus Point
One great theologian ministers to those suffering a lack of assurance by asking these questions—Do you love the Lord with all your heart, mind soul and strength? And when they answer, “no” he asks, “Do you love the Lord as you ought?” And when they answer, “no” he asks, “Do you love Him at all?” He’s a wise man.

This post was first published on rcsprouljr.com

Lloyd Jones on Inerrancy

From an article at inerrantword.com:

“Dr. Lloyd-Jones (20 December 1899 – 1 March 1981) was a minister in the 20th century who spoke concerning the issues within evangelicalism with an almost prophetic character. Lloyd-Jones recognized that evangelicalism, in a desire to influence wider society and academia, was making compromises that would lead to the inevitable decline in gospel preaching and godly living. At the 1971 IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) conference the doctor spoke on the topic “What is an Evangelical?” While addressing the particulars that an evangelical believes, Lloyd-Jones stated “the first is the doctrine of Scripture.” In the extract below the preacher expands what a true evangelical should believe regarding this central doctrine.”

The basis of faith says: ‘We believe in the divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness of holy Scripture as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.’ I contend that it is not enough just to say that; we have got to go further. There are people who claim to subscribe to that doctrine, who, I would suggest, in some of their statements raise very serious doubts as to whether they really do accept it…

It seems to me that we have got to spell out much more clearly the whole notion of revelation. It is difficult to do that in a short statement. The basis speaks of ‘the divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness’, but we must go beyond that. We have got to assert today this category of revelation. We have got to exclude the notion that men have arrived at the truth as a result of searching and thinking, or by means of philosophy. We must affirm that it is entirely given, that ‘holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’ (2 Pet. 1:21), or, as Paul is constantly reminding his readers, that his gospel is not his own, ‘For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (Gal. 1:12). We have to underline in a new and very definite way the whole notion of revelation and also, in the same way, of inspiration, showing that by inspiration we do not mean that these men were inspired in the way that certain poets have been ‘inspired’ and given glimpses into truth, but that they were actually controlled by the Holy Spirit. ‘Borne along’, as Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:21, or as Paul puts it in 2 Timothy 3:16: ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God’; it is ‘God-breathed’. These things we must assert with particularity.

martynlloydjonesIn the same way we have got to assert today that we believe that Scripture contains propositional truth. This has often been the dividing line between evangelicals and pseudo-evangelicals. I have noticed over the years it is one of the first points that indicate a departure from an evangelical position when men begin to object to, and to reject, propositional truth, as Karl Barth did and as most of his followers still do. But we claim that in the Bible there are propositions, truths stated in propositional form, with regard to God and His being and His character, and many other matters. We have got to assert this element of propositional truth.

Likewise we have to assert particularly the supernatural element in the Scripture. What do I mean? Well, we have got to emphasize that we believe in prophecy in the sense of foretelling. The emphasis today is on ‘forthtelling’. We admit that we agree that prophecy is forthtelling but, over and above that, it is foretelling. To me one of the profoundest arguments for the unique inspiration of the Scriptures is the truth of prophecy, the fulfillment of prophecy. We have got to emphasize this extraordinary manifestation of the supernatural.

We have also to insist upon a belief in the literal truth and historicity of the miracles of the Old and the New Testament, because there are people who say that they can still subscribe to our general statement about the inspiration and the authority of the Scriptures, who increasingly are denying the historicity of many of the Old Testament miracles, and indeed are trying to explain away some of the New Testament miracles in terms of science or psychology. We must assert the historicity of these manifestations of the supernatural.

Then the next thing to be said under this heading of Scripture is that we must believe the whole Bible. We must believe the history of the Bible as well as its didactic teaching. Failure here is always an indication of a departure from the true evangelical position. Today there are men who say, Oh yes, we believe in the Bible and its supreme authority in matters of religion, but, of course, we don’t go to the Bible for science; we go to it for help for our souls, for salvation and help and instruction in the way to live the Christian life. They are saying that there are, as it were, two great authorities and two means of revelation: one of them is Scripture and the other is nature. These they say , are complementary, they are collateral, and so you go to the Scriptures for matters concerning your soul, but you do not go to them to seek God’s other revelation of Himself in nature. For that, you go to science.

You are familiar with this view which, it seems to me, is not only extremely dangerous, but tends to undermine our whole position. We have got to contest it, and contest it very strongly. There is one thing about this present tendency which is quite amazing to me, and it is that those who advocate it seem to think that they are saying something quite new; but it is not new. It is precisely what Ritschl and his followers were teaching a hundred years ago. ‘Judgments of fact’ and ‘judgments of value’, as they called them. It is just a return to that. That is how evangelicals in the last century went astray in the 1840s and subsequently. That is precisely how it came about. Their argument was that they were merely out to defend the truth of the gospel against this increasing attack from the realm of natural science. And that was the method they adopted. They hold that the Bible is only concerned with ‘religious’ truth and so, whatever science may discover, it cannot affect this truth.

Our friends today with the same motive- and let us grant that their motive is good and true- are doing exactly the same thing. It seems to me that in so doing they are on the same path as the followers of Ritschl and others, and it always ends in the same result, namely that the gospel itself is compromised. We must assert that we believe in the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis and all other biblical history.

This extract is from “Knowing the Times: Addresses Delivered On Various Occasions 1942-1977. Edinburgh U.K.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013.” (pages 299-355), available for purchase online here.

Interview: Law and Gospel

Last evening I was interviewed by Scott Oakland on the reformedcast.com website on the subject of the distinction between Law and Gospel. You can hear the full interview here.

Hidden miracles of the natural world

“We live in a world of unseeable beauty, so subtle and delicate that it is imperceptible to the human eye. To bring this invisible world to light, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg bends the boundaries of time and space with high-speed cameras, time lapses and microscopes. At TED2014, he shares highlights from his latest project, a 3D film titled “Mysteries of the Unseen World,” which slows down, speeds up, and magnifies the astonishing wonders of nature.”

Response to Dr. Adam Harwood

Dr. Adam Harwood preached a sermon against Reformed theology at Emir Caner’s Truett-McConnell College. In response, Dr. James White shares some of his concerns with its simplistic approach.

Election, Reprobation, Christ and the Cross

I was interviewed this morning (April 15, 2014) on the “Knowing the Truth” radio broadcast with Kevin Boling as we talked about the doctrine of election, reprobation, Christ and the Cross, responding to a new book by Austin Fischer “Young, Restless and No Longer Reformed.” The 55 minute program is available to hear/download here.