Luther’s love for Erasmus…


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Happy Reformation Day! Here’s the conclusion of Luther’s On the Bondage of the Will (1525). Such Christian love as Luther had for Erasmus is hard to find in our day when diffidence and collegial discourse are virtues and exhortation and assertions, no matter how faithful to God’s Word, are rejected as arrogance. There is nothing new under the sun…

My dear Erasmus, I beg you now for Christ’s sake to do at last as you promised; for you promised you would willingly yield to anyone who taught you better. Have done with respecting of persons! I recognize that you are a great man, richly endowed with the noblest gifts of God—with talent and learning, with eloquence bordering on the miraculous, to mention no others—while I have and am nothing, unless I may venture to boast that I am a Christian. Moreover, I praise and commend you highly for this also, that unlike all the rest you alone have attacked the real issue, the essence of the matter in dispute, and have not wearied me with irrelevances about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like trifles (for trifles they are rather than basic issues), with which almost everyone hitherto has gone hunting for me without success. You and you alone have seen the question on which everything hinges, and have aimed at the vital spot; for which I sincerely thank you, since I am only too glad to give as much attention to this subject as time and leisure permit. If those who have attacked me hitherto had done the same, and if those who now boast of new spirits and new revelations would still do it, we should have less of sedition and sects and more of peace and concord. But God has in this way through Satan punished our ingratitude.

Unless, however, you can conduct this case differently from the way you have in this Diatribe, I could very much wish that you would be content with your own special gift, and would study, adorn, and promote languages and literature as you have hitherto done with great profit and distinction. I must confess that in this direction you have done no small service to me too, so that I am considerably indebted to you, and in this regard I certainly respect and admire you most sincerely. But God has not willed or granted that you should be equal to the matter at the present at issue between us. I say this, as I beg you to believe, in no spirit of arrogance, but I pray that the Lord may soon make you as much superior to me in this matter as you are in all others. There is no novelty in it, if God instructs Moses through Jethro and teaches Paul through Ananias. For as to your saying that you have wandered very far from the mark if you are ignorant of Christ, I think you yourself see what it implies. For it does not follow that everybody will go astray if you or I do. God is preached as being marvelous in his saints, so that we may regard as saints those who are very far from sanctity. And it is not difficult to suppose that you, since you are human, may not have rightly understood or observed with due care the Scriptures or the sayings of the Fathers under whose guidance you think you are attaining your goal; and of this there is more than a hint in your statement that you are asserting nothing, but have only ‘discoursed.’ No one writes like that who has a thorough insight into the subject and rightly understands it. I, for my part in this book have not discoursed, but have asserted and do assert, and I am unwilling to submit the matter to anyone’s judgment, but advise everyone to yield assent. But may the Lord, whose cause this is, enlighten you and make you a vessel for honor and glory. Amen.

Obama’s attack on the Gospel…

At the core of God’s Word is this truth: man is sinful. From Adam—the first man—sin spread to all mankind: “…through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). We are born sinners who sin. Therefore, when the Son of God took on flesh and lived among men there came an announcement appropriate to the context of the sinfulness of mankind: “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). When Jesus began preaching he contextualized perfectly: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

That the One who came to save His people from their sins was a preacher of repentance should not be lost on us. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4). That Jesus came preaching repentance was God’s tolerance toward you and me. He said what you are is not good, therefore, repent. To the sexual immoral, Jesus says repent. To the thief, Jesus says repent. To the covetous, Jesus says repent. To the drunkard, Jesus says repent. To the fornicator, Jesus says repent. To the idolater, Jesus says repent. To the blasphemer, Jesus says repent. To the self-righteous, Jesus says repent. To me, Jesus says repent. To you, Jesus says repent.

At every point where the unchanging Law of God reveals a knowledge of sin, you and I are called to repent.

Why? Because “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). There is a judgment to come where the repentant will meet their Savior and the unrepentant will meet their uncovenanted Judge.

This is the Christian faith. God’s Word teaches these truths for the good of our own sinful souls, and we announce them for the good of every sinful soul in the world. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Praise God there is that one way…open only to those who repent and believe.

To not announce such glories would be the worst kind of cruelty. To allow someone to persist in his sin until he dies is unkind and merciless. To not call for all men everywhere to repent is to denounce the tolerance of God.

Someone once told me I was a blasphemer and a foul-mouthed jerk…using the words of James 3. I repented by the grace of God. And Scripture has continued the same annihilation of my sinful nature, inherited from Adam. Everywhere proud, everywhere lusting, everywhere envious, everywhere unkind. And I, by the grace of God, hope to continue in repentance until the day I die…and then inherit my reward.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

In hellish contrast, watch this video released by the Obama administration:

Contrast the worldview of this video with what I laid out above from the Scriptures. Repentance—the kindness of God, remember—is the enemy. The gospel of “such were some of you” is intolerable. In its place—all dressed up in the language of affirmation and love—is bondage to sin and the damnable weight of an ever-changing law.

So devastatingly sad. But Christians will continue to preach the gospel of such were some of you until our governing officials make us shut-up. This video makes clear such silence is the desire of our President. In the meantime, we will preach repentance because we love our Savior, the friend of sinners, and because we love sinners.

It is those who reject repentance that hate souls.

Jonathan Edwards in Northampton…

cover_issue_27_en_USThere is some fascinating reading in the Jonathan Edwards Studies journal from Yale. University of Richmond professor Douglas Winiarski has worked through a mass of documents and detailed the events surrounding Edwards’ dismissal from the church in Northampton. A number of things stand out in the articles, not the least of which is to see congregational polity working in a very presbyterian manner. And, did you know that Edwards was open to and very close to affiliating with the Scots-Irish Presbyterians to set-up a new church in Northampton? The first four of five articles have been published…

New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy I: David Hall’s Diary & Letter to Edward Billing

New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy II: Relations, Professions, & Experiences, 1748-1760

New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy III: Count Vivasor’s Tirade & The Second Council, 1751

New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy IV: Experience Mayhew’s Dissertation on Edwards’s Humble Inquiry 

 

Martin Luther's response to his excommunication by Pope Leo X…

LutherThis time of year we remember the anniversary of Martin Luther’s publishing of the 95 Theses, almost 500 years ago on Oct. 31, 1517. Just a few years after that in 1520, the Roman Catholic Church cast Luther out via Papal Bull (“Exsurge Domine“). Luther, given a gift by God for the use of clear and precise words, issued his own excommunication in his “Against the Execrable Bull of the Antichrist.” Here’s an excerpt…

I have heard that a bull against me has gone through the whole earth before it came to me, because being a daughter of darkness it feared the light of my face. For this reason and also because it condemns manifestly the Christian articles I had my doubts whether it really came from Rome and was not rather the progeny of that man of lies, dissimulation, errors, and heresy, that monster John Eck. The suspicion was further increased when it was said that Eck was the apostle of the bull. Indeed the style and the spittle all point to Eck. True, it is not impossible that where Eck is the apostle there one should find the kingdom of Antichrist. Nevertheless in the meantime I will act as if I thought Leo not responsible, not that I may honor the Roman name, but because I do not consider myself worthy to suffer such high things for the truth of God. For who before God would be happier than Luther if he were condemned from so great and high a source for such manifest truth? But the cause seeks a worthier martyr. I with my sins merit other things. But whoever wrote this bull, he is Antichrist. I protest before God, our Lord Jesus, his sacred angels, and the whole world that with my whole heart I dissent from the damnation of this bull, that I curse and execrate it as sacrilege and blasphemy of Christ, God’s Son and our Lord. This be my recantation, Oh bull, thou daughter of bulls.

Having given my testimony I proceed to take up the bull. Peter said that you should give a reason for the faith that is in you, but this bull condemns me from its own word without any proof from Scripture, whereas I back up all my assertions from the Bible. I ask thee, ignorant Antichrist, dost thou think that with thy naked words thou canst prevail against the armor of Scripture? Hast thou learned this from Cologne and Louvain? If this is all it takes, just to say, “I dissent, I deny,” what fool, what ass, what mole, what log could not condemn? Does not thy meretricious brow blush that with thine inane smoke thou withstandest the lightning of the divine Word? Why do we not believe the Turks? Why do we not admit the Jews? Why do we not honor the heretic if damning is all that it takes? But Luther, who is used to bellum, is not afraid of bullam . I can distinguish between inane paper and the omnipotent Word of God.

They show their ignorance and bad conscience by inventing the adverb “respectively.”   My articles are called “respectively some heretical, some erroneous, some scandalous,” which is as much as to say, “We don’t know which are which.” 0h meticulous ignorance! I wish to be instructed, not respectively, but absolutely and certainly. I demand that they show absolutely, not respectively, distinctly and not confusedly, certainly and not probably, clearly and not obscurely, point by point and not in a lump, just what is heretical. Let them show where I am a heretic, or dry up their spittle. They say that some articles are heretical, some erroneous, some scandalous, some offensive. The implication is that those which are heretical are not erroneous, those which are erroneous are not scandalous, and those which are scandalous are not offensive. What then is this, to say that something is not heretical, not scandalous, not false, but yet is offensive? So then, you impious and insensate papists, write soberly if you want to write. Whether this bull is by Eck or by the pope, it is the sum of all impiety, blasphemy, ignorance, impudence, hypocrisy, lying – in a word, it is Satan and his Antichrist.

Where are you now, most excellent Charles the Emperor, kings, and Christian princes? You were baptized into the name of Christ, and can you suffer these Tartar voices of Antichrist? Where are you, bishops? Where, doctors? Where are you who confess Christ? Woe to all who live in these times.  The wrath of God is coming upon the papists, the enemies Of the cross of Christ, that all men should resist them. You then, Leo X, you cardinals and the rest of you at Rome, I tell you to your faces: “If this bull has come out in your name, then I will use the power which has been given me in baptism whereby I became a son of God and co-heir with Christ, established upon the rock against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. I call upon you to renounce your diabolical blasphemy and audacious impiety, and, if you will not, we shall all hold your seat as possessed and oppressed by Satan, the damned seat of Antichrist; in the name of Jesus Christ, whom you persecute. But my zeal carries me away. I am not yet persuaded that the bull is by the pope but rather by that apostle of impiety, John Eck….

If anyone despises my fraternal warning, I am free from his blood in the last judgment. It is better that I should die a thousand times than that I should retract one syllable of the condemned articles. And as they excommunicated me for the sacrilege of heresy, so I excommunicate them in the name of the sacred truth of God. Christ will judge whose excommunication will stand. Amen.

Pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones on sin, man, and tolerance…

Here’s an example of boldness and faith in Jesus Christ. Pay particular attention to what Lloyd-Jones says about tolerance. Lloyd-Jones’ comments are particularly poignant as the Roman Catholic Church discusses whether or not to come out of the closet (though I don’t trust CNN and many other news sources to be reporting what’s happening in the Vatican with any understanding). (HT: Gary Knapp)

Judged according to our works?

2Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Rev. 22:12   “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.

A question came up in our Sunday school class a few weeks back about whether or not we are judged according to our works. The question arose as we were talking about the Athanasian Creed. Near the end of the creed, we read these statements:

40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

42. and shall give account of their own works.

43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

So, is that final statement (#43) Biblical? Perhaps taken alone it is a bit too stark.

2 Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 22:12 make it clear that our final judgment is according to our works. Ephesian 2:8-9 makes it clear that our salvation (justification) is by grace apart from works. During the class, I said that every man faces a judgment according to his works and he who receives condemnation receives what he has earned by his evil works. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

But what of those on the other side of the divide ? How do the good works of the righteous relate to their final judgment?

Here’s some help from Calvin in his commentary on 2 Corinthians:

As the passage relates to the recompensing of deeds, we must notice briefly, that, as evil deeds are punished by God, so also good deeds are rewarded, but for a different reason; for evil deeds are requited with the punishment that they deserve, but God in rewarding good deeds does not look to merit or worthiness. For no work is so full and complete in all its parts as to be deservedly well-pleasing to him, and farther, there is no one whose works are in themselves well-pleasing to God, unless he render satisfaction to the whole law. Now no one is found to be thus perfect. Hence the only resource is in his accepting us through unmerited goodness, and justifying us, by not imputing to us our sins. After he has received us into favor, he receives our works also by a gracious acceptance. It is on this that the reward hinges. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in saying, that he rewards good works, provided we understand that mankind, nevertheless, obtains eternal life gratuitously.

Notice that he says the good works of the justified sinner does not earn him merit or salvation–that is the work of Christ alone. Those good works, though, do factor into the judgment in that God rewards those who do good. Those rewards are by God’s gracious acceptance of our works done by faith in His Son (Eph. 2:10).

But can we say more than that? Are those good works necessary for salvation? In what sense are they necessary? Continue reading

Good Friday meditations from John Murray…

The lost in perdition will everlastingly bear the unrelieved and unmitigated judgment due to their sins; they will eternally suffer in the exaction of the demands of justice. But there was only one, and there will not need to be another, who bore the full weight of divine judgment upon sin and bore it so as to end it. The lost will eternally suffer in the satisfaction of justice. But they will never satisfy it. Christ satisfied justice. “The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). He was made sin and He was made a curse. He bore our iniquities. He bore the unrelieved and unmitigated damnation of sin, and He finished it. That is the spectacle that confronts us in Gethsemane and on Calvary. This is the explanation of Gethsemane with its bloody sweat and agonizing cry, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39). And this is the explanation of the most mysterious utterance that ever ascended from earth to heaven, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Perish the thought that “there is a Gethsemane hid in all love!” And perish the presumption that dares to speak of our Gethsemanes and Calvaries! It is trifling with the most solemn spectacle in all history, a spectacle unparalleled, unique, unrepeated, and unrepeatable. To approximate this spectacle to the analogy of our human experience is to disclose a state of mind and feeling insensitive to the alphabet of Christianity. Here we are the spectators of a wonder the praise and glory of which eternity will not exhaust. It is the Lord of glory, the Son of God incarnate, the God-man, drinking the cup given Him by the eternal Father, the cup of woe and of indescribable agony. We almost hesitate to say so. But it must be said. It is God in our nature forsaken of God. The cry from the accursed tree evinces nothing less than the abandonment that is the wages of sin. And it was abandonment endured vicariously because He bore our sins in His own body on the tree. There is no analogy. He Himself bore our sins and of the people there was none with Him. There is no reproduction or parallel in the experience of archangels or of the greatest saints. The faintest parallel would crush the holiest of men and the mightiest of the angelic host.

Who will say that the vicarious endurance of the unrelieved and unmitigated judgment of God upon sin impairs the initiative and character of eternal love? It is the spectacle of Gethsemane and Calvary, thus interpreted, that opens to us the folds of unspeakable love. The Father did not spare His own Son. He spared nothing that the dictates of unrelenting rectitude demanded. And it is the undercurrent of the Son’s acquiescence that we hear when He says, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). But why? It was in order that eternal and invincible love might find the full realization of its urge and purpose in redemption by price and by power. Of Calvary the spirit is eternal love and the basis eternal justice. It is the same love manifested in the mystery of Gethsemane’s agony and of Calvary’s accursed tree that wraps eternal security around the people of God. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom. 8:35). “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39). That is the security which a perfect atonement secures and it is the perfection of the atonement that secures it.

-John Murray, Redemption–Accomplished and Applied, 77-78.

Free print booklets of sermons by old dead guys…

bookletcoverFor many years now I’ve been on the mailing list of The Inheritance Publishers. About three times a year they send out a free booklet containing an old Reformed sermon. As they say on their website, they hope to publish “out-of-print sermons from old books that are difficult to locate.” You can be added to their mailing list by emailing your postal address here. There are also a number of PDFs of the booklets posted on their website.

Currently I’m reading one of those booklets—a sermon by J. C. Ryle entitled “The World.” Here’s the beginning…

Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord (2 Corinthians 6:17).

The text which heads these pages touches a subject of vast importance in religion. That subject is the great duty of separation from the world. This is the point which Paul had in view when he wrote to the Corinthians, “Come out…be separate.”

The subject is one which demands the best attention of all who profess and call themselves Christians. In every age of the church, separation from the world has always been one of the grand evidences of a work of grace in the heart. He that has been really born of the Spirit, and made a new creature in Christ Jesus, has always endeavored to “come out from the world” and live a separate life. They who have only had the name of Christian, without the reality, have always refused to “come out” and “be separate” from the world.

 

The changed nature of the cross of Christ…

For although in the cross there is nothing but curse, it was, nevertheless, swallowed up by the power of God in such a way, that it has put on, as it were, a new nature. For there is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, the prince of death; nay more, has utterly trodden them under his feet.

-from John Calvin’s commentary on Colossians 2:15