Two Planks of Sola Scriptura

hortonThis excerpt is taken from Michael Horton’s contribution in The Legacy of Luther.

There was no controversy between Martin Luther and Rome concerning the inspiration of Scripture. In fact, much of today’s mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic biblical and theological scholarship would have been regarded by the medieval church as apostate with regard to its view of Scripture. The Scriptures, both sides held, are inerrant. The Council of Trent (condemning the Reformation positions) went so far as to say that the Spirit “dictated” the very words to the Apostles.

The real question had to do with the relation of inspired Scripture to tradition. In other words, is Scripture alone God’s inspired and inerrant Word, the source and norm for faith and practice? Could the pope say truly that his words are equal to those of Peter and Paul as we find them in Scripture? Are councils infallible in the same way as Scripture? The Council of Trent argued that Scripture and tradition are two streams that form the one river of God’s Word. This Word consists not only of “the written books” but also of “the unwritten traditions” that, of course, the Roman pontiff has the privilege of determining. Thus, both Scripture and these traditions the church “receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety and reverence,” as both have been “preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession.”

Therefore, whatever the pope teaches or commands ex cathedra (from the chair)—even if it is not based on Scripture—is to be believed by all Christians everywhere as necessary for salvation. Ironically, Luther’s defense of sola Scriptura was condemned as schismatic, but the ancient fathers, both in the East and the West, would have regarded the pretensions of the Roman bishop as an act of separation (schism) from the Apostolic faith. Long before the Reformation, highly esteemed theologians argued that Scripture alone is normative and that councils simply interpret Scripture, and these interpretations (which may be wrong and amended by further reflection) are to be submitted to by the pope himself. Until the Council of Trent’s condemnations of the Reformation teaching, this was an open question. Luther was not the first to argue for Scripture’s unique authority even over the pope. After Trent, though, the door was slammed shut on sola Scriptura within the Roman Catholic faith.

Luther’s problem with the papal church was its corruptions of scriptural faith by the addition of myriad doctrines, practices, rituals, sacraments, and ceremonies. Medieval popes increasingly held that they alone were endowed with the Holy Spirit in such a way as to be preserved from error in their judgments. Of course, this idea was not found in Scripture or in the teaching of the ancient fathers. It was an innovation that opened the floodgate to a torrent of novelties, Luther argued:

“When the teaching of the pope is distinguished from that of the Holy Scriptures, or is compared with them, it becomes apparent that, at its best, the teaching of the pope has been taken from the imperial, pagan laws and is a teaching concerning secular transactions and judgments, as the papal decretals show. In keeping with such teaching, instructions are given concerning the ceremonies of the churches, vestments, food, personnel, and countless other puerilities, fantasies, and follies without so much as a mention of Christ, faith, and God’s commandments.”

How do you adjudicate between truth and error? What if a pope errs, as some medieval councils had in fact declared? Indeed, the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries saw the schism between two and eventually three rival popes, each claiming St. Peter’s throne and excommunicating the others along with their followers. The Council of Constance ended this tragicomedy by electing a fourth pope to replace the other three. Philip Melanchthon’s Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope built on Luther’s views by drawing together a battery of refutations from Scripture and also from church history to demonstrate the foundation of sand on which the papacy is built.

For Luther, the first plank of sola Scriptura is Scripture’s nature. As the Holy Spirit’s direct revelation through prophets and Apostles, Scripture is in a class by itself. The character of God is at stake in the character of Scripture. Why is Scripture inerrant? “Because we know that God does not lie. My neighbor and I—in short, all men—may err and deceive, but God’s Word cannot err.” We respect the church fathers and ancient councils as guides, but only God can establish articles of faith: “It will not do to make articles of faith out of the holy Fathers’ words or works. Otherwise what they ate, how they dressed, and what kind of houses they lived in would have to become articles of faith—as has happened in the case of relics. This means that the Word of God shall establish articles of faith and no one else, not even an angel.” Continue reading

You Can’t Walk Like That!

Ephesians 4:17-19

The Apostle Paul, assuming that the Christian converts in Ephesus were properly schooled in Christ, insists that they abandon their former worldly lifestyle.

Pictures of our Union with Christ

mike-reeves (original source here)

So why is it so important for Christians to understand and embrace the precious truth about union with Christ? What is lost if we don’t understand it?

Dr. Michael Reeves:What is important about union with Christ for the Christian life? Well, union with Christ, is the Christian life. So it is not some small particular blessing that might go along side the key blessings of the gospel. Union with Christ IS the Christian life.

Now I think there are a couple of pictures. Let’s try to understand what this is we are talking about. There are two main pictures that Scripture gives us.

The first comes up in Romans five and in 1 Corinthians 15. Let’s look at the 1 Corinthians 15 example. Paul writes this. He says that as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be mind alive, each in his own order. Christ the first fruits and then at his coming those who belong to him. So what he has got in mind is that everyone is in either Adam or Christ. No one is a self-determining individual. There is no such thing. You find your identity in either Adam or Christ. And the picture he uses in 1 Corinthians 15 to explain that, this in Adam, in Christ language is that of the first fruits. He sees Adam and Christ as the first fruits of two different sorts of humanity, the old humanity and the new. And I think what has been picked up there is Genesis language where the first fruits of creation on day three of Genesis, Genesis one, you see the fruits there have seed within them. And so just as a seed is found within the fruit, so the way you take the fruit and what you do with it happens to the seed. The seed goes wherever the fruit goes. So it is with Adam and Christ. If you are in Christ you find your identity and status in him. You are like seed in the fruit. You need to be taken out of Adam and re-grafted, born again in Christ. And that means that if that is the case, if we find our identity as Christians in Christ, I found this to be a revolution in my own Christian life that when I came to understand union with Christ I saw so then I do not stand naked before a holy God based on my own pathetic performance. I stand clothed in Christ, clothed in him. That is language that gets picked up a few times in Scripture.

There is another very, very important one, which is marriage. And this is really Ephesians five territory. So where Paul writes: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one. And then Paul says: This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christians and the Church. He is saying that the relationship that the Church has with Christ is a marital union. And actually Martin Luther used this image as the first way in which he articulated his reformation discovery in 1520. He used marriage to explain the gospel to the world for the very first time properly. It is in a little work called The Freedom of the Christian. And he said what happens is this. It is rather like the story of a great king marrying a harlot. And what happens is this harlot can’t make herself the great king’s wife by anything she does or her performance, but by his wedding vow she becomes his. And he says to her: All that I am I give to you. All that I have I share with you. And so gives to her the status of royalty and all that is his. And she turns to him and says: All that I am I give to you. All that I have I share with you. And so the poor sinner shares with King Jesus all her sin, all her death, all her damnation. And when Luther had articulated this he said: Therefore, the sinner can consider her sins in the face of death and hell and say: If I have sinned, yet my Christ who is mine has not sinned. And all his is mine and all mine, my sins, my death, my damnation, is his.

So union with Christ gives that beautiful, life-changing assurance that I can know the Father as my Abba, call with the son’s own cry to him. But it also changes the very nature of the Christian life. I have not just been given this package of blessing called heaven. I have been brought to know Christ. And that makes real sense of the Christian life and of holiness. I have not been given some package of heaven to wait for later. It is I have been brought to know Christ, meaning when a brother or sister sins I can say: Why are you walking away from the salvation to which you have been called? Knowing Jesus is the only life and liberty for which we have been freely saved.

A Peculiar Glory

British scholar Michael Reeves interviewed John Piper to ask about the book ‘A Peculiar Glory.’ Watch the full 58-minute interview here:

Scripture, Apologetics and Islam

Stanmore Baptist Church 2016 Apologetics Conference with Pastor Jeff Durbin (Apologia Church) and Dr. James White (Alpha and Omega Ministries).

Session #1 of 6 teaching sessions presented on 1 November 2016.

Pastor Jeff Durbin: Why Apologetics?

Session #2 of 6 teaching sessions presented on 1 November 2016.

Session #2 of 6 teaching sessions presented on 1 November 2016.

The English Reformation

In this session, Dr. Michael Reeves highlights his teaching series The English Reformation and the Puritans as he discusses why he, and why all Christians, should care about the English Reformers.

Eschatology Re-visited

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger

What’s a Thousand Years Among Friends? – The Millennial Debate

Interpreting Biblical Prophecy: A Christ-Centered Reading of the Bible

To Him Who Loves Us – Daniel 7:1-18; Revelation 1:1-8

1. Revelation – The Big Picture of Redemptive History
2. Why Satan Hates the Church & How he Works
3. The Church’s Witness to the World
4. Comfort for a Suffering, Persecuted People

Eschatological Israel — Political or Spiritual?

1. Does Romans 11 teach a future millennial age?
2. Is there a future for national Israel?
3. How do we understand ‘All Israel’?

This Age vs. the Age to Come

Matthew 24 Part 1

Matthew 24 Part 2

Questions and Answers

Calvinism v. Hyper Calvinism

Article: Calvinism Is Not Hyper-Calvinism by Josh Buice (original source here)

Last week, I was interviewed by Chris Arnzen on his radio show, Iron Sharpens Iron, on the subject of hyper-Calvinism. It caused me to think about this subject and the importance of using vocabulary properly. As the father of a type 1 diabetic, I spend much of my time explaining to people in random conversations that type 1 diabetes (T1D) is not the same thing as type 2 diabetes (T2D). Therefore, let me begin by clearly stating this point—Calvinism is not hyper-Calvinism. When I engage in conversation with people who want to discuss Calvinism, I’m happy to do so, but I want to be sure that we’re using the same dictionary.

What is Calvinism?

Calvinism is a system of theology that seeks to systemize the teachings of Scripture on the subject of salvation. What is the relationship between the absolute sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man? This is the central issue of Calvinism. It takes the name of the Reformer John Calvin, who was a passionate preacher of Scripture in the Sixteenth Century in Geneva, Switzerland. During the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers were seeking to unleash the true gospel from the intense strangle hold of the Roman Catholic Church. It was through this period of time that the Bible was being printed in the common language of the people and was simultaneously being proclaimed expositionally.

A group of followers of Jacobus Arminius who studied under Theodore Beza (a disciple of John Calvin) drafted a document known as the Remonstrance. It was a detailed refutation of the sovereignty of God in salvation. It elevated the free will of man above the sovereign initiative and power of God. These people were known as Arminians. Their doctrine would eventually become known as Arminianism.

An official meeting was held known as the Synod of Dordt in 1619 in order to respond to the submission of the Arminians in their Remonstrance. The overall conclusion was that the Remonstrance was incorrect and that the biblical view of salvation teaches that God is the author and finisher of saving grace. The “five points” of Calvinism came as an answer to the unscriptural five points authored by the Arminians in 1610 me eventually were organized with an acronym T.U.L.I.P. To explain the key teachings.

Historical Timeline Surrounding the Doctrines Known as “Calvinism”

440 Bishop Leo of Rome becomes “Bishop of Bishops.” Asserts Primacy of Rome over the Church; Dark Ages Begin.
1382 John Wycliffe translates Bible.
1384 John Wycliffe martyred by Rome.
1439 (Approximate) Printing press invented.
1517 Luther Nails 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Church Door; The Reformation begins (Post Tenebras Lux).
1522 Luther’s New Testament.
1526 Tyndale’s New Testament.
1536 William Tyndale Martyred by Rome; Institutes of the Christian Religion (John Calvin).
1553 Bloody Mary becomes queen of England and restores power to the RCC. During
Mary’s reign, more than 300 Protestants are burned. John Rogers (publisher of the Matthew’s Bible) is the first to be burned at the stake. Many Protestants flee from England to Geneva.
1559 Calvin opens his college in Geneva. Within five years the college would have over 1500 students.
1560 The Geneva Bible is printed. It was the first Bible with verse references and sold over one million copies between 1560 and 1640. John Foxe publishes Foxe’s book of Martyrs.
1561 Belgic Confession (Guido de Bres).
1563 Heidelberg Catechism (Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus).
1564 John Calvin Dies.
1571 The Synod of Emden (birth of the Dutch Reformed Church).
1609 Jacobus Arminius dies.
1610 Remonstrance (Arminians or Remonstrants led by Johannes Uytenbogaert).
1611 Counter-Remonstrance (led by Pieter Platevoet).
1618 Opening of the Synod of Dort & Opinions of the Remonstrants.
1619 Synod Dismisses the Arminians & Adopts the Canons (AKA – 5-Points of Calvinism).

The system known as Calvinism is really five counter points to Arminianism. Years later, Wesley adopted the Arminian position and thus the Methodist movement was born. Although there are certain exceptions, historically, Baptists and Presbyterians have been more Calvinistic and opposed to the doctrines of Arminianism while the Methodists and groups such as the Assemblies of God have embraced the doctrines known as Arminianism. Today, Calvinism is sometimes known by titles such as Reformed theology and the doctrines of grace.

What is Hyper-Calvinism?

Hyper-Calvinism is not a term used for those who are overly passionate about Calvinism. That’s actually what we refer to as “cage stage Calvinism.” When understood properly, hyper-Calvinism is a technical term for an extreme and unbiblical view that rejects any need for Christians to engage in missions and evangelism. Simply put, hyper-Calvinists forbid the preaching of the gospel and the offer of salvation to the non-elect. Such people believe that God has chosen people in Christ in eternity past and will bring about His results without the help of His people. Hyper-Calvinism is heresy and must be rejected.

To illustrate the views of hyper-Calvinism, consider what happened during a pastors’ meeting years ago. A man named William Carey wanted to organize an effort to get the gospel to what he called heathen nations. Carey stood up and addressed the crowd by requesting that they discuss “the duty of Christians to attempt to spread the gospel among the heathen nations.” Mr. Ryland, and older minister, exclaimed loudly, “Sit down, young man! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.” Carey did not stop. His allegiance was to Christ – not Mr. Ryland. Carey went to India and proclaimed the good news of Christ.

Carey would write a book titled – An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of Heathens. He would argue his case that we should use means to reach heathens – contrary to what Mr. Ryland – the elder minister said in his meeting as he scolded the young Carey for bringing up the subject.

William Carey, in his Enquiry, wrote: “It seems as if many thought the commission was sufficiently put in execution by what the apostles and others have done; that we have enough to do to attend to the salvation of our own countrymen; and that, if God intends the salvation of the heathen, he will some way or other bring them to the gospel, or the gospel to them. It is thus that multitudes sit at ease, and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry.”

It must be pointed out that William Carey was a Calvinist. Although William Carey had only a grammar school education – he would shake the world with the gospel. Carey once preached a sermon where he stated – “Expect Great Things – Attempt Great Things.” It was later added – “Expect Great Things From God – Attempt Great Things For God.” That’s exactly what he did as he proclaimed the true gospel of King Jesus. India would never be the same. The world would never be the same. The way the church viewed missions would never be the same – because of this Christ-exalting Calvinist that has become known to us as the “father of modern missions.”

What’s the Difference?

The difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism is the distance between heaven and hell. Calvinism is full of life and passion for God and desires to make God’s glory shine among the nations. Hyper-Calvinism is lifeless heresy that damns people to hell, kills evangelism, and ruins churches. Take a good look at the missionary movement of church history and you will see Calvinists leading the charge. Men like William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and Charles Spurgeon were all Calvinists. Many people overlook the missionary heart of John Calvin himself. He trained and sent out many missionaries who passionately preached the truth. Many of these men were martyred for their faith.

The next time you’re talking to someone with type 1 diabetes, just remember—it’s not the same thing as type 2 diabetes. Also, the next time you’re talking to a Calvinist, remember, Calvinism is not hyper-Calvinism. To call faithful Calvinistic Christians hyper-Calvinists is to consign a massive number of people from church history to the flames of hell (including people like Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, Martin Luther, Andrew Fuller, Adoniram Judson, and George Whitefield). What’s the difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Calvinism proclaims the true gospel while hyper-Calvinism proclaims no gospel at all.

The Church and the World

shipRomans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Parable:

The ship in the sea is all right. The sea in the ship is all wrong.

The Church in the world is all right. The world in the Church is all wrong.

Ten Things You Should Know About The Kingdom of God

stormsArticle by Dr. Sam Storms (original source here)

The Kingdom of God is a massively important topic and spoken of throughout the Word of God. So reducing its essence down to only ten things feels silly, if not impossible. But here goes anyway.

(1) Jesus claimed that the fulfillment of the Old Testament hope with its attendant blessings was present in his person and ministry. The unexpected element was that fulfillment was taking place without the final consummation. The prophetic hope of the coming Messianic kingdom of God as promised to Israel is being fulfilled in the person and ministry of Jesus, but not consummated. Our Lord came with the message that before the kingdom would come in its eschatological consummation it has come in his own person and work in spirit and power. The kingdom, therefore, is both the present spiritual reign of God and the future realm over which he will rule in power and glory.

(2) The kingdom of God is not a geographical realm with clearly defined boundaries, such as those that separate the U.S.A. from Canada and Mexico. The kingdom, therefore, is not to be identified with any one nation or political body.

(3) The kingdom of God is not that place we call heaven, at least not yet! That doesn’t mean the kingdom of God is absent from heaven. Far from it. Jesus rules as King and Lord as he sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father. But the kingdom must never be thought of as restricted to some sort of celestial or entirely spiritual and invisible locale. When God’s kingdom comes in its consummate fullness it will be manifest in a new heavens and on a new earth. We must guard ourselves from over-spiritualizing the kingdom, as if it were little more than the spiritual dominion of Christ and not also a cosmic reign that encompasses the material creation as well. Continue reading