Calvin on the Necessity for Reforming the Church

Article by Dr. Robert Godfrey (original source here)

More than 450 years ago, a request came to John Calvin to write on the character of and need for reform in the Church. The circumstances were quite different from those that inspired other writings of Calvin, and enable us to see other dimensions of his defense of the Reformation. The Emperor Charles V was calling the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire to meet in the city of Speyer in 1544. Martin Bucer, the great reformer of Strassburg, appealed to Calvin to draft a statement of the doctrines of and necessity for the Reformation. The result was remarkable. Theodore Beza, Calvin’s friend and successor in Geneva, called “The Necessity for Reforming the Church” the most powerful work of his time.

Calvin organizes the work into three large sections. The first section is devoted to the evils in the church that required reformation. The second details the particular remedies to those evils adopted by the reformers. The third shows why reform could not be delayed, but rather how the situation demanded “instant amendment.”

In each of these three sections Calvin focuses on four topics, which he calls the soul and body of the church. The soul of the church is worship and salvation. The body is sacraments and church government. The great cause of reform for Calvin centers in these topics. The evils, remedies and necessity for prompt action all relate to worship, salvation, sacraments and church government.

The great cause of reform for Calvin centers in these topics. The importance of these topics for Calvin is highlighted when we remember that he was not responding to attacks in these four areas, but chose them himself as the most important aspects of the Reformation. Proper worship is Calvin’s first concern.

Worship

Calvin stresses the importance of worship because human beings so easily worship according to their own wisdom rather than God’s. He insists that worship must be regulated by the Word of God alone: “I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their very bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honour of God. But since God not only regards as fruitless, but also plainly abominates, whatever we undertake from zeal to His worship, if at variance with His command what do we gain by a contrary course? The words of God are clear and distinct, ‘Obedience is better than sacrifice.’” This conviction is one of the reasons that reform was required: “. . . since . . . God in many passages forbids any new worship unsanctioned by his Word; since he declares that he is grievously offended with the presumption which invents such worship, and threatens it with severe punishment, it is clear that the reformation which we have introduced was demanded by a strong necessity.” By the standard of God’s Word Calvin concludes of the Roman Catholic Church that “the whole form of divine worship in general use in the present day is nothing but mere corruption.”

For Calvin the worship of the medieval church had become “gross idolatry.” The issue of idolatry was for him as serious as the issue of works righteousness in justification. Both represented human wisdom replacing divine revelation. Both represented a pandering to human proclivities, rather than desiring to please and obey God. Calvin insists that no unity can exist in worship with idolaters: “But it will be said, that, though the prophets and apostles dissented from wicked priests in doctrine, they still cultivated communion with them in sacrifices and prayers. I admit they did, provided they were not forced into idolatry. But which of the prophets do we read of as having ever sacrificed in Bethel?” Continue reading

An Old Sermon On Death

Dr. John MacArthur: A message preached on March 29, 1970, entitled, “Abolishing Death: The Ultimate Triumph” (original source here):

TRANSCRIPT:

Turn in the your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 15, as we look at our lesson for this morning from the Word of God. When you have arrived at that point, just hold your thumb in that area or something to mark verse 54, where we shall consider our text in a few moments. There is a preacher of the old school, but he speaks about as boldly as ever today. He’s not very popular, even though the world is his parish, and he travels to every part of the globe, and he speaks in every language. He visits the poor. He visits the rich. He preaches to people of every religion, and he preaches to many of no religion. And the subject of his sermon is always the same. It never changes. He is an eloquent preacher, and he is able to stir emotions in hearts that are not emotional. He is able to bring tears to eyes that seldom weep. His arguments are beyond refutation. There is no heart that remains untouched and unmoved by the force of his appeals. This preacher shatters life. This preacher disturbs the status quo. Most people hate him. Everybody listens to him. His name is death. Every tombstone is his pulpit. Every newspaper prints his text. And one day you will be the subject of his sermon, and he will stand at your graveside and preach to others…

With this in mind, Thomas Gray said, “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, and all that beauty, all that wealth ere gave, await alike the inevitable hour, the paths of glory lead but to the grave.” With every living soul that comes into this world, there is a built-in little time fuse, and we all have one. And when we’re born, it’s lit, and it begins to burn. And some burn fast and some burn slow, but all burn. And every birth signals the beginning of a countdown, and every countdown zeroes on an exit. And some countdowns are long and some are short…

And so life is just the process of dying. And yet men shrug off their indifference, and they yawn in God’s face while their fuse burns and their countdown continues. And to many men, life may seem like a dead end street. And at the end of that dead end street is the inevitable pine box, and that’s about all they have to look forward to…The day when the fuse burns out, the day when the hearse arrives and somebody has reached zero hour. And then what? What after that? I mean is there a hope? Is there an escape from doom? Is there something that has power over death, or does death grab us and hold us?

One night, many years ago, and you all remember it very well, in the Atlantic, there was a very serious, grim countdown. The countdown began for some people who were on a ship called the Titanic, and a huge question mark still hangs over the spot where the Titanic sank. Many people met their countdown then. Life zeroes in on an exit…And I’ve often looked at the story of the Titanic and asked myself, “Was that the sinking of the world in metaphor?”…Because many people reached their zero hour that night, reached their dead end voluntarily, refusing with scorn the lifeboats that left the ship half filled, thinking that ship couldn’t sink. Soon their scorn turned to terror… Continue reading

Hermeneutics & Preaching Resources

In expository preaching, the meaning of the passage is the message of the sermon. To understanding the meaning of a passage or text it is necessary to be engaged in exegesis (drawing out of the text what is actually in the text). To do this with accuracy involves hermeneutics (the science of biblical interpretation). Here are 4 teachings I did on Dr. James White’s Dividing Line show which give a basic introduction to the subject:

BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION SERIES (4 SHOWS)

KEYS TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (1)

KEYS TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (2)

KEYS TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (3)
We started with Rich Pierce providing commentary about PC&D’s new song ‘Jesus, Only Jesus,’ and how this song exposes the Oneness views of this group. Then the rest of the show was the continuation of my teaching series on ‘rules of interpretation’ discussing the end times, the book of Revelation and why we need to avoid hyper allegorical methods of interpretation.

KEYS TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (4) – APPLICATION
Rich Pierce started off today’s Dividing Line show with a brief (approx. 10 minutes) follow up regarding his comments from Tuesday regarding PC&D and the song “Jesus, Only Jesus.” Then I concluded the series on biblical interpretation by taking the rules we have discussed and applying them to John chapter 3.

RECOMMENDED LECTURES:

From the Master’s Seminary:

Dr. John MacArthur and Dr. Steve Lawson: The Fundamentals of Expository Preaching (10 lectures) – at this link.

Dr. Steve Lawson: The Mechanics of Preaching (13 Lectures) – at this link.

Dr. Steve Lawson: Expository Preaching of the Psalms (12 Lectures)
at this link.

The Heresy of Perfectionism

Article: The Heresy of Perfectionism by R C Sproul (original source here)

An ancient heresy of the distinction between two types of Christians, carnal and Spirit-filled, is the heresy of perfectionism. Perfectionism teaches that there is a class of Christians who achieve moral perfection in this life. To be sure, credit is given to the Holy Spirit as the agent who brings total victory over sin to the Christian. But there is a kind of elitism in perfectionism, a feeling that those who have achieved perfection are somehow greater than other Christians. The “perfect” ones do not officially—take credit for their state, but smugness and pride have a way of creeping in.

The peril of perfectionism is that it seriously distorts the human mind. Imagine the contortions through which we must put ourselves to delude us into thinking that we have in fact achieved a state of sinlessness.

Inevitably the error of perfectionism breeds one, or usually two, deadly delusions. To convince ourselves that we have achieved sinlessness, we must either suffer from a radical overestimation of our moral performance or we must seriously underestimate the requirements of God’s law. The irony of perfectionism is this: Though it seeks to distance itself from antinomianism, it relentlessly and inevitably comes full circle to the same error.

To believe that we are sinless we must annul the standards of God’s Law. We must reduce the level of divine righteousness to the level of our own performance. We must lie to ourselves both about the Law of God and about our own obedience. To do that requires that we quench the Spirit when He seeks to convict us of sin. Persons who do that are not so much Spirit-filled as they are Spirit-quenchers.

One of the true marks of our ongoing sanctification is the growing awareness of how far short we fall of reaching perfection. Perfectionism is really antiperfectionism in disguise. If we think we are becoming perfect, then we are far from becoming perfect.

I once encountered a young man who had been a Christian for about a year. He boldly declared to me that he had received the “second blessing” and was now enjoying a life of victory, a life of sinless perfection. I immediately turned his attention to Paul’s teaching on Romans 7. Romans 7 is the biblical death blow to every doctrine of perfectionism. My young friend quickly replied with the classic agreement of the perfectionist heresy, namely, that in Romans 7 Paul is describing his former unconverted state. Continue reading

Now Available For Pre-Order

THE FIVE SOLAS – Standing Together, Alone

MY BRAND NEW BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER AT THIS LINK. You will not be charged until the books are in print and being shipped.

ENDORSEMENTS:

“The Puritans often made you read three chapters before getting to the first point in their outline. If you wish to understand the foundation of the solas of the Reformation but would like to do so in under an hour, John Samson provides you with the basics right here.” – Dr. James White, Alpha & Omega Ministries, Phoenix, Arizona

“Recent years have seen a number of key anniversaries connected with events and people who were vital catalysts in the Protestant Reformation. Thankfully this has resulted in a renewed focus on the ‘five solas’ – a convenient shorthand list of the Reformers’ key convictions. Throughout church history, wherever these principles have been stressed and adhered to, the church has always flourished. So it is a highly encouraging trend. I’m thankful for this excellent booklet by John Samson; a cogent, focused, and accessible study of the solas that not only reminds us what these principles mean, but also shows us why they are important – and why they must stand together.” – Phil Johnson, Executive Director, Grace to You

“This is such a crucial topic; and having read many pieces written on the five solas, this one stands out for not only being theologically sound, but also clear and concise. It is written in a way that just about anyone could pick up and understand. I am thankful that God has raised up his servant John Samson for this deeply needed work; a work we ought to get into the hands of as many people as possible.” – John Hendryx, monergism.com

“Part celebration and part exposition, Pastor John Samson has provided a brief and readable introduction to the grand framing truths of the Reformation. In this timely little work, Samson particularly emphasizes how the five “Onlies” magnify God’s complete and gracious work of salvation in Jesus Christ — of which we learn in Scripture alone, which we find in Christ alone and enjoy by grace alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone! As a bonus, Samson not only concisely shows the radiance of each, but also the interrelationship of the whole. Pastors will find this a very useful introductory work for use in ministry.” – Dan Phillips, Pastor, Copperfield Bible Church, Houston, Texas

“As a lover of the theology of the Reformation, I appreciate this introduction into its key themes. As a pastor who thinks practically, I appreciate the accessibility and brevity of this tool for getting this theology into the hands of the average person in the pew. I hope this resource is used to introduce many to the rich theological heritage of the Reformers and that it leads to them digging deeper into that heritage.” – Steve Weaver, Pastor, Farmdale Baptist Church, Frankfort, Kentucky

“Get this book! Then get several more to share with your friends and family. John Samson has the remarkable ability to communicate essential truths with an undeniable passion and faithfulness that is winsome, clear, and devastating to the opposition. The people of God in this generation are in need of these old truths: the same truths that transformed the early church and led our heroes (throughout history) into living lives that changed the world. Go sell 100 of your vapid, modern Evangellyfish books and turn that money into getting this book into the hearts and minds of Christians everywhere.” – Jeff Durbin, Pastor, Apologia Church, Tempe, Arizona

Now available for Pre-order AT THIS LINK. You will not be charged until the books are in print and being shipped.