By Rev. Paul Treick, Editor The Reformed Herald
[This article appeared in the October, 2003, issue. Used by Permission]
As Yogi Berra said, “It’s deja vu all over again.” That’s what comes to my mind with the recent resurgence of the doctrine that our works somehow contribute to our righteousness before God. As I understand its basic tenets, for faith to be true faith the fruit of works is required. Therefore these two are inseparable, and thus, we are justified by faith plus works. Can you imagine Luther’s and Calvin’s reaction to this? While our works are the fruits of true faith (James 2:14-22), they are not perfect or meritorious and cannot be mixed with faith as the basis for righteousness before God. Works truly are a part of our justification – however, they are not our works, but Christ’s alone!
More than an intriguing scholarly debate, this discussion takes aim at one of the most precious and guarded teachings of the Scriptures – grace through faith alone (Rom. 3:28). This is not some new discovery that cries out for serious consideration. Jesus and the Apostles condemned these teachings in the Pharisees and Judaizers, and Luther and others denounced it at the time of the Reformation. So, here we are in 2003, 486 years after the Reformation, still hearing a confusion of the doctrines of justification and sanctification.
As with most new innovations in theology, the first thing that must be done is to redefine all the terms: covenant, justification, sanctification, faith, works, righteousness, etc. Space here will not permit a thorough discussion of all the errors involved, but be sure that all our rebuttals have already been made before by others – the Reformers and many who have walked and still walk in their footsteps.
It is the contention of the proponents of this view that the Reformers really had it wrong. The Roman Church pretty much had it right – our works can contribute to our justification. As a result, lots of blood was shed in vain by folks following the teachings of the Reformation.
After observing in recent years the almost exclusive emphasis by the evangelical church on the passive obedience of Christ (ie. His perfect, substitutionary death), it is not surprising that questions and doubts would arise about what merit our works might have when we stand before God. Christ actively obeyed all the will of God (ie. by His perfect, substitutionary life), and this righteousness has been imputed to us. The failure to understand this truth leaves us with little comfort. This was also Luther’s dilemma.
That truth is that our imperfect, sinful works are always like “filthy rags” before a holy God. Our sins are not somehow less sinful once we have faith. What God has promised believers is this: “For the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, he will no more remember my sins, not the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long, but graciously imputes to me the perfect righteousness of Christ.” See Heid. Cat. Q. 56)
And, even though my conscience accuses me that all my works are sinful before God, “yet God, without any merit of mine grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ . . . if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.” (Heid. Cat. Q. 60)
No, it is not the worthiness of our faith or the worthiness of our works that proceed from faith, but the perfect death and perfect life of Christ imputed to us that is our cleansing and righteousness before God. This is what the Reformation was all about. This is what the Reformers discovered when they examined the Scriptures.
How can the average person wade through this recent heretical teaching? Do we have to do all the work of the Reformers over again? No, we have the Scriptures as our authority. The Bible’s teachings have already been set forth in the creeds of the church, so we can see them systematized and summarized. With Luther, we too must say, “This is the teaching of Holy Scripture; here is where we stand; we can do no other.”
by Frank Walker
The most important thing you should know about the RCUS is that we base our teaching and practice solely upon the Bible, which we believe to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God. In fact, the word Reformed in our name means exactly that; it refers to the sixteenth century Reformation, when God raised up many great men within the church to restore it to Biblical Christianity. Among the reformers were Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and many others. Without any intention of boasting, we say that we follow in their footsteps.
For us it is a simple matter of fact that the Bible is God’s Word, for this is what the Bible says about itself. Every ‘Thus saith the Lord’ shouts divine inspiration, but the following verses are unmistakable:
Isa. 40:8. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
John 17:17. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
2 Tim. 3:16, 17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
And 2 Pet. 1:20, 21. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private origin, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Because the The Heidelberg Catechism, The Belgic Confession of Faith and the The Canons of Dort accurately summarizes the teachings of Scripture, we have adopted them as our confessional standards.
THE GLORY OF GOD
In our day, many churches claim to preach the Bible. The sad fact is that few really do. Man-centered theology (Humanism) has too often replaced God’s glory. But instead of asking, How can God best serve me? our church asks, How can I best serve my God?
Prior to the 1930s and 40s, the RCUS was one of the largest denominations in the United States. Today we are one of the smallest. At that time, most RCUS congregations merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America and, by doing so, compromised our Reformed heritage. Though the world holds large, unbelieving churches in high regard, we do not believe that such churches honor God or his Word. This why a handful of churches, mostly from the Dakotas, refused to participate in the merger; these, plus others that have since joined, constitute the RCUS of today.
Although it has been more than half a century since the mergers began, our commitment to the truth of the Scriptures is just as firm as ever. But our commitment to inspired truth is not the only way that we glorify God. We also glorify him by living lives of thankful obedience, by worshiping him as he has taught us in Scripture, by fellowshipping with each other in Christ’s love, by properly celebrating Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and by exercising loving discipline toward any of our members who may stray.
Being the sinners that we are, our attempts to glorify the Lord are always imperfect; yet, this is our goal in life. The apostle Paul wrote, Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
THE LORD — AUTHOR OF SALVATION
Because twentieth century thinking stresses the value and dignity of man, it is often assumed that man is the author of his own salvation. God sent his Son to make salvation possible for anyone who wants it, but it is man’s prerogative to choose or not to choose.
Such theology appeals to the pride of man, but it is not Biblical. To the contrary, the Bible teaches that man is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3), that he has done and can do nothing that merits God’s favor (Isa. 64:6), and that man’s depravity is the result of Adam’s fall (Rom. 5:12-19). Thus, there can be no truth in the idea that man saves himself. To the contrary, the Lord said through Isaiah the prophet, I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior (Isa. 43:11). Likewise, Jesus said, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him (John 6:44); and later in the same chapter, Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father (v. 65). Even the ability to believe that God sent his Son, not to make salvation possible for all men, but to procure complete salvation for those whom God chose to eternal life (Mark 10:45) must come from God himself (Eph. 2:8). The Triune God works together for the salvation of the lost (1 Pet. 1:2).
May the great name of God be forever praised!
CHRIST IS HEAD OF HIS CHURCH
Since the church belongs to Christ and he is its Head, it must be governed according to his will, that is, by the precepts of the Bible. Christ never commissioned a Pope to rule as vicar in his place. In fact, Peter, whom many claim to have been the first Pope, wrote that this kind of church polity is bad (1 Pet. 5:1-4). Neither is the government of independent churches much better; lacking mutual accountability, pastors of these congregations tend to usurp the headship of the church just as much as the Pope.
The type of church government that pleases Christ, which Christ himself commands, is rule by elders who are mutually responsible to each other. In Acts 15, when the church was confronted with a serious question of practice, the elders of the local congregations met as a synod and passed resolutions based on Scriptural precepts which were binding on all congregations. Today we call this type of government Presbyterianism, or Reformed polity.
Not all Presbyterian denominations are pure; not all of them believe the Bible. The unbelief of many has excluded them from the true church. But, even among those Presbyterian denominations that teach and preach sound doctrine, once in a while poor decisions are made. But this cannot be used as a reason for discarding Reformed church polity. For one thing, we must keep in mind that Presbyterianism is the polity Christ commanded; we are not free to change it. Secondly, can we reasonably suppose that independent or episcopal churches are free from such errors?
If you are looking for a church that caters to man’s ego, you won’t be satisfied with the RCUS. If you want a church that doesn’t take the Bible seriously, you ought to look elsewhere. In everything from doctrine to practice, beliefs to worship, we submit to the Bible alone — not because the Bible appeals to our sinful nature, but because the Bible is the Word of God to man — our only hope of eternal life.
by C.W. Powell
[From an Email posted 4/10/2003]
Here is a proud first century yuppie who knew how to identify a problem, seek a solution, and implement the solution. He had heard good things of Christ. He knew how to solve earthly problems and thought that he could handle spiritual ones. Just show him the solution, and he would implement it. He was willing to sacrifice and tackle the tough job. He fancied himself humble, for he was willing to seek to someone who would know better than he did. He was clever enough to seek out all the resources available to him. He was good in public relations and knew how to ingratiate himself with public figures. “Good master…,” was the way he began.
In other words, this was a man who was not poor in spirit, who had no sense of sin, and certainly would not consider himself as deserving of the wrath of God. And he certainly did not recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God, for why did Christ rebuke him for calling him “good” when only God is good? The truth is that Jesus would not accept flattery. No mushing about the goodness of Christ if He were an imposter and not God. An honest man does not flatter nor receive flattery.
So the law must do its work. It must challenge the arrogance of the natural man. Only the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of God, and this man wasn’t that. He was a success, morally, socially, and financially. Show him the problem and he would solve it. Every problem has a solution if we put together the proper moral, reasonable, and effective resources. He knew what success was, and it meant you didn’t leave any loose ends. Thus, hearing about Christ, he came to Him. Wow, did he get a surprise!
He was not like the godly people of the Gospels: those commended for walking perfectly before the Lord, for they all embraced Christ and loved Him. This rich man had something screwy about his view of the law, for how could he have walked away from Christ if he truly loved the law, whose end was Christ?
When God asked Adam “Where Art Thou?” He was not searching for information. He knew exactly where Adam was. God never needs information, for the word of God is quick and powerful and searches to the inmost part of man.
When God speaks it is to give information, not to gain it. When the word of God discerns the secret parts of the heart, it is not for the purpose of conveying that information to God, any more than God needed to send angels to discover what was going on in Sodom.
God speaks, and Jesus spoke, to give information; and that information was often given in such a way that only those who had ears to hear could hear.
To claim that Jesus would have been acting dishonestly by telling the Rich Young Ruler to keep the commandments, when He knew that the Rich Young Ruler could not keep the law, is childish and dishonest. Jesus knows what is in the heart of every man, and He knew the pride and self-satisfaction of this young man. God was not pretending to seek for Adam, and Jesus was not pretending that the RYR could gain life by keeping the commandments.
God knew where Adam was, and Jesus knew where the Rich Young Ruler was. But neither of them knew how lost they were, and that is the crux of the matter.
“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: to understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings,” is the way Solomon put it.
So it was with Christ. Just as He was not disowning His Deity by asking the Rich Young Ruler why he called Him “good, for only God is good,” so neither is He offering to confirm the Rich Young Ruler in the righteousness of the law by telling him to keep the commandments. A man who was wrong about Jesus was not likely to be right about his obedience to the law, either.
It is not hard to see where this clever and specious interpretation of the story of the RYR comes from. How can any man who loves and knows Jesus Christ think the RYR was a good man who kept the law, but was a little mixed up about what he owed to Jesus Christ? Whatever its earthly origin is, it has the smell of brimstone about it and does not come from heaven, as if Christ could be separated from His law, and one could keep the one and reject the other. “Stuff and Nonsense” as my gramma used to say. I suppose a man would have to read a great many books to believe that stuff.
As a matter of fact, the Rich Young Ruler didn’t keep the law, even though he fancied that he did. Any man who would turn away from Christ and abandon the riches of heaven for the silver and gold of this world didn’t understand either the law or the Lord Jesus. The law is spiritual and the carnal man will never understand it. He hates it and only pretends to love it in order to bring people into the bondage and misery that holds him.
The Tenth Commandment internalizes all the others. Not only am I not to steal, but I am not to put my affection on things on the earth; I am not to seek gain; I am not to love money. Covetousness is idolatry, so this young man was not one who feared the Lord, in spite of his pretenses. His sin consumed him. Why else would he choose to abandon Jesus and walk away? How awful was his sin!
Moses, who gave the law, knew better the meaning of the law than the RYR. Moses “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, looked for a city which “hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” That’s why Abraham didn’t journey to Sodom. He knew that Sodom wasn’t the city he was looking for.
In fact, the Rich Young Ruler was a covetous, selfish hypocrite, who boasted in his self-righteousness, and only thought that he could cover all his bases by getting this famous religious leader to confirm him in his self-righteousness. There are a great many similar people, up-scale, yuppies and yippies, who flock to modern religious conventions, retreats, meetings, conferences, and so forth to have their own self-righteousness affirmed and confirmed. “Be true to yourself,” “Unleash your inner potential,” “Listen to the child within,” “Choose the better way,” “Make yourself the clay, so that God can be the Potter,” “Hold on and let go, so that the Spirit can move you to irrationality and self-gratification,” “The Virgin will hear,” “Show your love to each other,” “Buy this album and feel the power,” “Sow the seed of faith and enrich this ministry, and God will enrich you [see, it is good to love money, dearly beloved]” and so it goes and everyone feels very religious and pious.
They drive their fancy cars, sit on padded pews, relax in air-conditioned comfort with their cup of latte, and listen to false prophets tell them how bad everything is getting, but for them not to worry, for they are good people and God will not let them get too uncomfortable. God will even take them directly to Heaven if it gets too nasty on the earth. They do not bear the cross, for they shrink from unpleasantness and pain.
They are like a man who dreams that he dines, but awakens hungry. But he doesn’t even know he is hungry because he loathes the Gospel which would feed his hungry and alienated soul. But he is very self-satisfied and glories in his loving works. He beams on the world. But don’t talk to him about cutting off body parts.
Instead of dishonesty, Christ turned the light of truth and honesty into the dark heart of this “fine young man,” whose only fault was to love money and this world [!!!]. But there was no grace in the heart of the young man, and he went away very sorrowful.
Too bad that Christ proved to be such a disappointment, and no doubt the Rich Young Ruler is gnashing his teeth in hell today, still complaining about the unfairness of it all. After all, he would have done ANYTHING. “Why did Jesus prove to be such a disappointment and ask me to do such a foolish thing? Who had ever heard of such a thing? Even his own disciples had trouble with the idea that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. What WAS Jesus thinking of? Maybe the Pharisees are right. He must have a devil. The Pharisees are good men who love God and seek to obey God. I am afraid Jesus will give His disciples the wrong perspective on things. I hear that Jesus has sharply attacked these good people and called them hypocrites and whited sepulchers. What a disappointment. Maybe someone will come along some day to give a New Perspective on these things and save the world.”
The Rich Young Ruler was like Naaman the leper who was highly offended at being told to go wash in the dirty old Jordan River. He had much finer streams back home. The difference is that Naaman came to his senses; we have no information about the Rich Young Ruler. [BTW. Why DID the prophet make Naaman do such a stupid thing? Is this one of those “dark sayings” that Proverbs speaks about? I suppose that those who journey to Israel still think of the Jordan as a holy river. Some even think it is “special” to be baptized there. They still don’t get it.]
To all of God’s people. Jesus Christ is a complete and perfect Savior. He kept the covenant perfectly and redeems me from all my misery. His covenant-keeping atones for my covenant-breaking. I cannot and do not keep the law, to my shame and regret. But my faithful Savior’s work is so great that “God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, nor the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long; but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may nevermore come into condemnation.” (Heidelberg Catechism 56).
Amen and Amen. If that doesn’t warm your heart, your heart is very hard indeed. I am not ashamed of the tears that come into my eyes as I write this. May they never be dried until my Savior wipes them away in glory.
Those who preach this gospel are my brothers, no matter what their denomination; those who do not lie under the curse of God, no matter what their denomination. We must not sacrifice or diminish the grace of God or the Gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.
[A sermon by Rev. David Fagrey, preaching at our Reformation Conference, October 28, 2001, at Trinity Covenant Church. Edited slightly]
“It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21b
Introduction: The Reformation was not only a restoration of the true Gospel, but it was also a restoration of the primary means of communicating the true Gospel: preaching.
The Modern Attitude. We live in a time when many people (even in churches) are questioning the whole idea of preaching. Many people think preaching is old-fashioned and out of date. Preaching was necessary back in the days when most people could neither read nor write and did not have their own Bibles.
But today, we are a more cultured and educated people; we can read the Bible for our selves. Plus, there are plenty of study Bibles and Bible study books. We also have the Internet. ‘There is nothing that the preacher can tell me that I can’t get somewhere else. Why do I need the preacher to tell me something that I can read for myself?’
Furthermore, it seems kind of ridiculous for a man to stand up and shout at a congregation for 30 minutes. That doesn’t seem to be the best way to communicate with people. It doesn’t allow for any dialogue or feedback. It is not very personal.
It would be better to sit down together either one-on-one or as a group and guide each other along the pathway of truth. That is more dignified than standing up and talking down to people.
A president of a Reformed college said: “we have to face the fact that people don’t want to be preached to or lectured to.” And listen to this slogan from a modern church: “Come to our church, our pastor won’t preach at you.”
People don’t want to be preached at. Plus, the Gospel can be better communicated through puppet shows, dramatic skits, liturgical dancing, and multimedia presentations.
Ways to Boost Attendance. In May 1991 an article appeared in the Wall-Street Journal, documenting some of the new methods currently being used by local churches to boost attendance and attract the unsaved.
One example cited was that of a staged wrestling match featuring church employees. To train for the event, 10 church employees got lessons from a professional wrestler, in pulling hair, kicking shins and tossing bodies around without doing real harm. That is just one of many such examples.
Our generation is not the first to look down on preaching. Preaching was also de-emphasized before the Reformation. There was very little, if any, preaching. Many priests could not even read the Bible. All the emphasis was on ceremonies and dramatic pictures and statues.
This is the same thing that is happening today. The rituals and ceremonies and pictures may be different, but that is where all the emphasis lies.
Now, today, we’re going to see from the word of God that preaching, though it is foolish in the eyes of the world, is the most important function of the local church. Preaching is the primary method that God has chosen to communicate the gospel and to communicate His grace.
Theme: The primacy of preaching. Let’s begin with the words, ‘preacher’ and ‘preaching’. Paul did not invent these words. These words came from the culture in which Paul was raised.
Herald. The word ‘preacher’ [keruj] means ‘a herald’ (we have the Reformed Herald). In ancient times a herald was an official spokesman (ambassador) for a king or a military general. A herald would make public proclamations on behalf of the king.
For example, Pharaoh commanded heralds to go ahead of Joseph’s chariot and to cry, “Bow the knee” (Genesis 41:43; cf. Daniel 3:4; 2 Chron. 30:1-10; 36:22). The herald’s words were the official words of Pharaoh himself. A herald is one who publicly proclaims an authoritative message from the king.
A preacher is a herald or an ambassador who publicly proclaims an authoritative message from the King of kings Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word ‘preaching’ [kerusso] always refers to a verbal, public proclamation. And it is different from teaching or evangelizing.
Teaching is Different. When it comes to teaching, for example, there are many ways to teach and to instruct people. You can instruct someone privately (Acts 20:20) or by a letter. But preaching always refers to verbal, public proclamation. A pastor is called to preach and teach. Preaching is a distinct act than can be distinguished from teaching.
Evangelism is Different. Preaching can also be distinguished from evangelism. The word ‘evangelize’ [euaggelizo] means to communicate good news. It refers to all kinds of ways of communicating the gospel, not just publicly. The gospel can be communicated in private conversation or in a letter.
In Acts 8:35, Philip’s private conversation with the Ethiopian eunuch is described by the term ‘evangelize.’ But his public proclamation of Christ in Samaria is described by the term ‘heralding’ or ‘preaching’ (Acts 8:6).
The word ‘evangelize’ is used to refer to all kinds of ways of communicating the gospel. The word ‘preaching’ is used only for verbal, public proclamation. All Christians are called to evangelize – to share the good news (Acts 8:4: euaggelizo), but not all are called to preach.
All Christians are called witnesses (cf. Isaiah 43:10; 1 John 5:10), but not all are called preachers.
Only certain men are called preachers. In the NT, only apostles and pastors are called preachers.
Those who are to be preachers must be called and appointed to that office. No one can decide on his own to be a preacher and then just start preaching. No herald just decided on his own to start making public proclamations for the king. He needed to be commissioned and appointed to that task. Preachers also need to be commissioned and appointed.
In Romans 10:15, Paul asks, “How shall they preach unless they are sent?” One cannot preach unless one has been sent or appointed to preach.
Mark 6:13-14: “And [Jesus] went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, …that He might send them out to preach“! The 12 apostles did not send themselves. They were sent to preach (cf. Mark 6:7-13).
The Apostles. The apostles were official heralds of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were appointed to publicly proclaim the word that the Lord commanded them to proclaim.
And before the apostles died out they appointed other men in the church who would carry on the work of preaching God’s word. The Apostle Paul commissioned Timothy (who wasn’t an apostle, but a pastor) to “preach [herald] the word” (2 Timothy 4:2).
And Paul commanded Timothy to teach others what he had taught him: “commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). The Lord commanded the apostles to preach His word. The apostles commanded the church to preach the Lord’s word and train others to preach the Lord’s word.
No Invention. Preaching is not an invention of the Church; it’s a commission that she receives from the hand of the Lord through the hand of His apostles. It’s a commission that she is to pass on from one generation to another. And preaching is to continue until Christ returns.
Christ has determined that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). The gospel shall be preached to all nations, “and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). Preaching is to continue until the end of time. Therefore, preaching can never be out-dated or old fashioned.
The Primary Method. Preaching is to be the primary method of communicating the gospel. This was the primary method of Jesus Himself. After John was put in prison, the first thing Jesus did was He “came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14).
Mark 1:38: “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” I came to preach, Jesus said. He said His highest priority was to preach the gospel. It should also be the church’s highest priority.
The Chosen Method. It is through preaching that the Lord continues to speak today. He could have chosen to speak to us directly from heaven, but He has chosen to speak to us through the voice of man.
And I think if we were honest, we prefer it this way. Exodus 20:19: After God audibly spoke the ten commandments from the top of Mount Sinai, the people said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.” Therefore, God spoke to His people through Moses. Cf. Deut 5:25.
God speaks today through preaching. 2 Corinthians 5:20: “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
Not a Private Opinion. When the preacher says, be reconciled to God, he is not sharing his opinion or giving advice. He is publicly proclaiming an authoritative message from the King of kings Himself.
To reject the ambassador is to reject the one who sent him. Luke 10:16: “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me.” To reject the herald is to reject the King.
Preaching is authoritative public proclamation on behalf of the King. According to one commentator: “the preacher does not share, he declares. It is for this very reason that small group Bible studies can never replace the preaching of the Gospel. Preaching is not a little talk. It is not a fireside chat” (Arturo G. Azurdia, Preaching: The Decisive Function, an article appearing in the book The Compromised Church).
Azurdia: God is not asking for discussion. “As the Lord of the universe, He is declaring a word that demands compliance from His creatures.” Therefore, “the Gospel demands a method of communication that is authoritative.”
Azurdia: It might be okay for parents to teach the alphabet to their children by putting on a purple dinosaur costume and singing the ABC song. But this method would be radically inappropriate for the parents of Jon Benet Ramsey in making their television appeal to find their daughter’s murderer.
Authoritative Method. The Gospel demands a method of communication that is authoritative. Yes, God wants all Christians to share the gospel, but He also wants us preachers to declare the gospel publicly with all the authority and forcefulness and passion we can muster.
Now, the Lord not only confronts men through the preaching of the Word, but He also saves men through the preaching of the Word. “The message of liberty actually sets people free.” V.21: “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Cf. Acts 26:18.
I said in my first sermon that God saves us through faith – a faith that He supplies. Well, how does He give us faith? Does God give us faith while we are staring at a sunset or watching Monday night football? Faith comes through the preaching of God’s word. V.21: “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching [khrugma] to save them that believe.”
God causes people to be born again while listening to a sermon. 1 Peter 1:25: you have been born again by the word of God, which was preached to you!
Romans 10:17: ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). Cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-2.
Our confessions say the same thing. Heidelberg Catechism Q.65: The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts “by the preaching of the holy gospel.” Belgic Confession: faith is “wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God” (art.24). Canons of Dort: “it pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the proclamation of the gospel” (5.14).
It may seem foolish, but God has chosen to use this foolish method to save His people.
Not by Drama or the Dance. God has not promised to save people through drama or contemporary music or liturgical dancing or wrestling matches. He has promised to save people through the preaching of His Word. He might make an exception to His rule, but His rule is preaching.
God has not promised to save people in plane crashes. He may and He has, but He has not promised to. It is only safe to go where God has promised to save.
Other alternatives might draw bigger crowds. But just because a church grows does not necessarily mean people are getting saved. Cancer grows too.
God could have easily chosen a different method. He could have chosen drama if He wanted to, but He didn’t. Nowhere do you see the Apostles using Drama. They could have. The Greeks in those days invented the theater. But the Lord commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel (1:17). Preaching is even more important than baptism.
Let us not try to be smarter than God. The Bible says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (v.25). God has chosen the foolishness of preaching.
God has chosen to use preaching not only to save His people, but also to KEEP His people saved. In other words, when it comes to the perseverance of the saints, God primarily uses preaching to preserve His saints. V.18: “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are BEING SAVED [present tense] it is the power of God.”
The Power of God. The gospel is the power of God. It is spiritual food (spiritual steak) for our soul. Faith comes more than once by hearing and hearing the Word of God. Jesus is the author and finisher of faith, and one of the ways that He finishes faith is through the preaching of His Word.
Pierre Marcel: “private Bible reading is not sufficient to make the believer ‘a full man’ and to induce him to apply the teachings of the word. Private Bible reading leads one to the service of preaching, and preaching, in turn, leads one to personal Bible reading. But preaching occupies the central place” (The Relevance of Preaching, page 63).
It’s the Food. It is not that personal devotions and Bible study aren’t important. But preaching is to be central. That is why the pulpit is at the center of the church. Preaching is the most important thing, just like food is the most important thing about a restaurant.
Is it old-fashioned to think that the most important thing about a restaurant is to have good food?
Imagine a restaurant, which advertises everything about itself except the food. “Come to this restaurant: it has great service, great atmosphere, all the table settings are china, fancy napkins, beautiful background music, reasonable prices, all the waitresses are neatly dressed, great location, a lot of parking, accessible to the physically disabled, food is so beautifully arranged on the plate.’
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD? If the food is no good, I don’t care how fancy the restaurant is. If the food is no good, then the restaurant is no good.
If the spiritual food is no good, what good is the church? I don’t care how many whistles and bells a church has. The most important thing about a church is the preaching of pure doctrine of the gospel. Through it God grants and nourishes faith.
Now, if we really believe that, then the least we can do is invite as many people as we can to church in order to hear the preaching of the word. If God saves people through preaching, then the most important thing you can do is to tell someone to come to church and hear the preaching of the gospel.
And if God uses preaching to sanctify and preserve His people in the faith, then as Christians one of the most important things we can do is to come and listen regularly Sunday after Sunday to the preaching of the Word. Staying away from preaching is to stay away from the very place where God saves and preserves His people.
Therefore, may we never be ashamed of the foolishness of preaching or of the reformation. To the praise of the glory of His grace!
[A sermon by Rev. David Fagrey, preached at our Reformation Conference, October 28, 2001, at Trinity Covenant Church]
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2:8-10
Introduction: This Wednesday is the 484th anniversary of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, which began on October 31, 1517.
Sadly, if you ask the common person on the street today what the Reformation was all about, they will look at you as if you are from another planet.
When I Heard. The first time I heard of the Reformed church, the first thing I thought of was reform school. What in the world is a reformed church? I had no idea (this was as recent as 1987 – 14 years ago).
I didn’t find out about the reformation on CNN or from the newspaper. Someone told me.
Do we think the reformation is important enough to tell someone? Or are we being influenced by our culture that thinks one church is just as good (or bad) as another. “It doesn’t really matter what church you go to. They all want to go to the same place anyway.”
We live in a culture that thinks no one can be right when it comes to the Bible. “How dare you say that the reformed church is right! No one can be right. So quit talking about how important a reformed church is.” The next time that someone says, ‘no one can be right,’ just ask them if they believe their position to be right.
Reasons for the Reformation. The reformation was important for several reasons. I want to focus in on two of those reasons today. I will talk about the first reason this morning and the second reason in the second worship service. The first reason has to do with a proper understanding of the gospel (good news). The second reason has to do with how that gospel is to be communicated – through preaching.
We begin with a proper understanding of the gospel. What is the gospel? The dispute during the 16th century reformation was over that very issue. The very definition of the gospel was at stake. And no one can say that that is a minor issue.
Galatians 1:9: “As we said before, so I now say again, If any one preaches any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed (eternally damned).” There is only one gospel. If anyone preaches a different one, let him be eternally damned. No minor issue.
If a church does not preach the one and only gospel, then that church is not a true church. One of the marks of the truth church is the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel (Belgic, art. 29).
One the Eve of the Reformation, the church was not preaching the one and only gospel. The very church that Martin Luther and John Calvin were born and raised in (the Roman Catholic Church) was not preaching the one and only gospel.
That is why Calvin and the reformers argued that the Roman Catholic Church needed to be reformed. And if it would not reform itself, then it could no longer be considered the true church.
The true church is the church that preaches the true gospel.
Calvin rejected the idea that a new church had been started at the Reformation. He argued that the Reformed Church was a continuation of the true church.
The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, had rejected the one true gospel and therefore could no longer be considered true. ‘If anyone preaches any other gospel, let him be accursed.’
What then is the one and only gospel? The answer is found in Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
In a nutshell, here is the gospel: we are saved by grace. Salvation is a gift. It is not something we work for. Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Eternal life is a gift from God. You do not work for a gift. You receive a gift. If you have to work for a gift, then it is not a gift; it’s a paycheck.
So here’s the choice. This was the choice during the Reformation. And it is still the choice today: Eternal life is either something a person has to work for or it is a gift that a person does not have to work for. Either getting to heaven depends on how well we live or getting to heaven does not depend on how well we live.
The Bible does not contradict itself by teaching both views. One of the views is right and the other is accursed. It’s either by God’s grace alone or it depends on something we do.
And just because a church says they believe we are saved by grace doesn’t mean they really do.
Catholics and Lutherans Together. Listen to this statement that Roman Catholics and some mainline Lutherans recently agreed to: ‘By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work, and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.’
Doesn’t that sound pretty good? ‘By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work, and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God.’ Can you find fault with that?
Watch the Meaning. This language sounds good until you realize how the Roman Catholics understand grace. They believe that no one is born with the ability to live well enough get to heaven (we believe that too). But God gives each person who is baptized the grace to live well enough to get to heaven.
God gives each person what I will call ‘enabling grace,’ that is, grace that enables a person to live well enough to get to heaven. God gives that to each person.
No person has to work for this enabling grace. It’s a gift. But once a person receives this gift of enabling grace, he must co-operate with it and live well enough to get to heaven. Getting to heaven depends on how well a person uses his gift of enabling grace.
Not let us read that statement again. ‘By grace alone [enabling grace], …and not because of any merit on our part [we don’t merit or earn enabling grace; it’s a gift], we are accepted by God [for the time being].’ Our continued acceptance depends on how well we co-operate with God’s grace.
That is what the Roman Catholics believe. Read their creeds. They believe that getting to heaven does depend on how well a person lives for Christ. They do not believe that we are saved apart from works.
Not Putting People Down. Now, I say these things not to put people down. If a doctor tells a person he has cancer, the doctor is not putting the person down. The doctor is warning about cancer. I am here to warn about the cancer of an accursed gospel – wherever it may be found.
I am here to proclaim the true gospel: Getting to heaven does not depend on my works or upon anything else I do. I am saved by grace alone.
Salvation is a gift that we do not have to work for. Salvation is a gift that we receive. And how do we receive it? Through faith; ‘by grace you have been saved through faith.’
When a person has faith in Christ, he receives eternal life as a gift. Jesus Christ earned eternal life for me by His perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross. Faith is simply the spiritual hand that reaches out and receives the gift of eternal life.
There is nothing else I have to do in order to get to heaven. He who believes in Christ “has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
When the Philippian jailer asked the Apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul did not say, ‘co-operate with enabling grace’ or ‘be sure to attend church every Sunday.’ He said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
The Lord wants to make it clear that we do nothing to contribute to our salvation. Even our faith in Christ is a gift from God: “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that [that faith] not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
Faith itself is a gift. John 6:65. Jesus said, “no one can come to Me unless it has been given to him by My Father.” The act of coming to Christ is itself a gift from God. The act of believing in Christ is a gift from God. Phil. 1:29: “For to you it has been granted …to believe in Him.” Faith is not something that we contribute to our salvation. Faith is itself part of God’s gift of salvation.
Yes, it is man’s duty to believe. Yes, we must call all men to repent and believe in Jesus. But when they do, we don’t pat them on the back. We say: you have nothing to brag about. The only reason why you believed is because God gave you faith (Matt. 16:17).
Most churches today would disagree with that statement. They will say that faith is not a gift. Man already possesses the ability to believe. All he has to do is exercise that ability. The fall did not destroy man’s ability to believe. So fallen man doesn’t need God to give him faith.
Other churches will admit that faith is a gift. They will say that no one is born with the ability to believe in Jesus (we believe that too).
But they believe in what I will call an ‘enabling faith.’ God gives every lost sinner who hears the gospel the ability to believe (he enables them to believe), but the lost sinner must say yes to that enabling faith. It is within his power to say no. If he says no, he remains unsaved.
So here’s the difference; and let me illustrate it by way of an analogy. The reformers said that grace is God turning the light on in our lives. Just about everybody else says that grace is God giving you the light switch but it is up to you to turn the light on. Your salvation depends upon you turning on the light in your life.
This makes man’s salvation depend ultimately on man’s choice and not God’s choice. And when it is all said and done, we are not really saved by grace alone. We are saved by grace plus our wonderful decision to turn the light switch on.
And if it’s my decision that makes the difference between being saved and being lost, then I will have something to boast and brag about on Judgment Day. I will be able to say to all unbelievers: “I co-operated with God’s grace and you did not.” “It was my choice that made the difference. That is why I am standing here and you’re standing over there.”
The Bible says that God doesn’t want anyone to boast. V.9: Salvation is “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” God doesn’t want anyone to boast. He wants to do all the boasting. He wants all the glory.
But if man’s salvation ultimately depends on man’s will – upon man’s choice, upon man’s efforts, then man should get the glory. If my decision made all the difference in the world, then I should get the glory. ‘God gets part of the credit for giving me the light-switch, but I turned the light on.’ But the Bible says that God gets all the credit for turning the light on in my life.
Isaiah 42:8: “I am the Lord, that is My name; and my glory I will not give to another.” God wants all the glory. The reformed faith is the only faith that gives Him all the glory.
It was God’s choice, not my choice that made the difference. And even my choice was a gift from God. To God alone be the glory!
Now, this seems like a nice place to say Amen and end the sermon. But there’s one more very important matter we must consider.
And here it is: if getting to heaven does not depend on how well we live, does that mean we don’t have to worry about living well?
The reformers were accused of promoting careless living. If you tell people that getting to heaven does not depend on how well they live, that will cause them to live any way they want. That will cause them to live carelessly.
“No it won’t,” said the reformers. Grace doesn’t make us careless. Grace makes us careful to live lives that are pleasing to Christ. The same grace that saved us apart from our works is the same grace that causes us to do good works for Christ.V.10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Notice: we have been created in Christ Jesus for the purpose of doing good works. A good work is anything that God commands. So we can say that doing good works is obeying God’s commands. God saved us not so that we can live any way we want but so that we can live the way He wants – the way that He has commanded us to live.
Grace doesn’t make us careless. Grace makes us careful to live lives that are pleasing to Christ.
Paul told Titus to tell his congregation “that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8). Don’t be careless. Be careful to maintain good works. God’s grace makes us careful, not careless.
Titus 2:14: Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
God’s grace makes us zealous for good works. God will make His people obedient one way or the other. Jonah is going to Nineveh – either the easy way or the hard way. “The Holy Spirit makes me heartily willing and ready to live for Him.”
And even when we obey we have nothing to brag about. God planned that we would obey. V.10: We have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
God prepared beforehand all the good works that we will do (cf. Eph. 1:5,11). Every good thing that I will ever do as a Christian has already been planned by God. God told Jeremiah, before I formed you in the womb, I planned for you to be a prophet (Jer. 1:5).
Just as God prepared a fish to swallow Jonah, and a plant to provide Jonah shade, and worm to destroy the plant, so God has already prepared all the good works that we will do.
Yes, we are to strive to do good works, yes we are to work hard, yes we are to earnestly obey all the Lord’s commands. But when we do that, we are not to pat ourselves on the back. Rather, ‘I did what I did only by the grace of God.’
Paul said that he worked harder than all the other apostles did, “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor 15:10).
Conclusion: That is what the Reformation was all about. It is not about what we do. It is about what God has done. We are saved by grace from start to finish. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). We don’t start by grace and finish by ourselves. We are saved by grace from start to finish.
And is that not good news? Getting to heaven does not depend on what we do. It is not good news to tell people that getting to heaven depends on how well they live. It is not good news to tell people that their salvation hangs in the balance.
You cannot truly be happy or worship God if you think God might one day put you in hell if you don’t live a good enough life. But you can be happy and you can worship God if you realize that God has saved you by His grace, through a faith that He supplied, resulting in a life of good works that He prepared for you to walk in.
That is good news. And I need to hear this not just once but every day. When someone invites you over for steak, you don’t say, ‘no thanks I’ve had steak before.’ We eat steak again and again because it’s good and it nourishes us. The gospel is spiritual steak for our soul. Forget chicken Soup for the soul. We’re talking spiritual steak.
This is spiritual steak worth fighting for and dying for, and passing on to the next generation and the next and the next.
May God grant another, and even more glorious, reformation ‘to the praise of the glory of His grace’! Amen.
by C.W. Powell
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things….” Acts 15:28
The great victory at Jerusalem was to universalize faith. Or to put it another way, Christianity was de-tribalized. The council rejected the idea that a person had to be a Jew to be included in Messiah’s kingdom.
Everything Was Family. In Israel, everything was family. But it was not to be so in the church. Israel’s king was of the tribe of Judah, the Son of David who reigned in Jerusalem. Not so the Church. The King of the Church is the last Adam, whom David called Lord, who reigns from heaven, the New Jerusalem (Eph. 1). Although descended by the flesh from David, He over and over rejected David’s literal throne, in favor of a kingdom which was not of this world, but would include the whole world, not just the tribal sons of Abraham.
In Israel, the high priest was also family: descended from Aaron, serving a temple in Jerusalem. The lesser priests who served the temple were his cousins, descended from the tribe of Levi. Not so the Church. Her High Priest is in Heaven, and all believers are priests, and all are called to holiness and spiritual sacrifices.
In Israel, the elders were tribal chiefs, the heads of families. Not so the Church. Her true elders are the gift of Christ, the heavenly king, and endowed for their offices with spiritual gifts from heaven by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4). A church begins to die when elders are appointed because of family ties rather than spiritual gifts, for God has no pleasure in the flesh. After the Council of Jerusalem the Sons of the Church were not those who were descended in the flesh from Abraham, but those who believed in the faith of Abraham. True descent from Abraham was not according to the flesh, but according to the faith of Abraham.
The Glory of Israel. The glory of Israel was that to them were committed the words of God (Romans 3). But what good was that if they did not believe? Paul’s emphatic message is that those who believed were on the same footing, whether they were born in the church, or whether they were not. All believers were one in Christ.
One Kind of Christianity. The Council of Jerusalem made certain that Christianity would not be made of two classes: a lower class of those who were born of the Spirit, and an elite class who were born of the Spirit and gloried in their flesh. The results of the Council’s decision is set forth in Galatians 5:6, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
Also, Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
The Spirit Endures, ‘Tho the Flesh Fails. This is a great joy to the humble Christian who loves the church. The church will not fail, even though the family fails. The Lord can of the stones raise up children to Abraham. Because His gifts are from heaven and do not ultimately depend upon the fleshly seed of Christians, God will always have His faithful ministers and His faithful servants, The future of the church is secure because it does not depend upon the predestination of the flesh.
Paul’s Rebuke to Peter Lest we think this is a minor issue, Paul’s rebuke to Peter over this very matter is represented as being for the very truth of the Gospel (Gal 2). Peter’s elitist favoring of the circumcised in Antioch struck at the heart of the Gospel.
The Reformers rightly rejected the Anabaptist attempt to build a church based upon a self-appointed spiritual elite’s rejection of infant baptism, for all disciples are to be baptized and to be taught. (Matt. 28:19,20). (See Old, Hughes Oliphant, Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Seventeenth Century. Eerdman’s). They were equally correct to reject any dependence upon the flesh, and glorying in the flesh.
Elitism of all kinds, whether of the flesh or of the spirit, is rejected by the holy catholic church, of which all believers are blessed members in Christ. Anabaptist elitism subordinates the families and their babes; Clanish elitism subordinates those who are not members of the clan. Christ freely welcomes both. Or to put it another way, Jews could become Christians; Christians did not have to become Jews.
The Flesh Dung. Paul put it this way: “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I might win Christ.” (Philippians 3:7,8)
The promise does not come by the flesh, but by the Spirit, according to the sovereign working of God. Therefore the future of the church is secure. Paul said it distinctly: “If ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29)
by C.W. Powell
“And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry…” Ephesians 4:11,12
“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man.” I Timothy 2:12
The church belongs to Jesus Christ. He is the head of the church and the director of all its parts. When he ascended into heaven, he provided for the welfare of his church by appointing the gifts of ministry. The purpose for these gifts is to bring God’s people into obedience to God. The visible church ceases to exist where these gifts are debased and corrupted. The corruption of these offices begins with the appointing of unbelieving or unqualified men, it proceeds with the appointing of women, and ends, I suppose, with the appointing of sodomites.
The intrusion of women into these offices is a direct affront to the authority of Christ. There are two reasons for this: First: Because of the creation order: Man was created first, and the woman for the man, according to the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 11:9). Second: The Holy Spirit has forbidden the woman to teach or to usurp places of authority in the church. (I Timothy 2:12) Jesus appointed twelve apostles, all of them men. Of course, he did not have the benefit of instruction from the National Association of Women. Otherwise, he might have known better. If God had had the benefit of such instruction, Messiah would have been a woman.
These are days for strong men. There are far too many public relations experts in the pulpit, who hold their finger up to the prevailing wind of public opinion, rather than seeking counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Far too many men are truant before God in terms of exercising the authority and dominion given to them. It is a sad day for the church when people do not know whether they are men or women, either in sex or in office in the church.
The arguments in favor of women in church office are all based in humanism, not Biblical principle:
- Equality: The humanist confuses equality of being with equality of office. The Holy Spirit always distinguishes between the two. In Christ there is neither male nor female, bond nor free. But that doesn’t mean we are to have unisex restrooms, or same sex marriages. Neither does it mean that women are to hold office in the church against the clear prohibition of scripture. It is a frightful sin for man or woman to usurp an office that God has not given. (Numbers16,17) All the congregation was holy, but that didn’t mean that Korah could be priest. This in no way minimizes the very solid contribution women made to the ministry of our Lord, and the labor of love they have performed to establish the church in all lands. That is another subject, and must not be confused with the matter of church office. These contributions are immense and available to any who wish to know.
- Pragmatism: “A woman can do the job just as well as a man can.” There is no doubt that there are women who are more talented, wiser, and morally superior to many men. There are also many talented men in the pews; but this does not mean all are to pastor churches. One of the most important duties of the church is to “try those who say they are apostles,” that is, to examine whether or not a person has a call for a particular office. No church bureaucracy can tender a true call, if God has not. Recognizing that only God could give the church worthy officers, the early church fasted and prayed before appointing them. In actual fact, the work of the Church can be done only by the power of God, for the church is spiritual. A faithful minister does not do the work in his own strength, but by the authority and power of Christ. A woman cannot do the job, because the task is to call people to obedience. A woman in church office is fatally compromised in this spiritual task because of her disobedience in usurping the office. She, of course, can lead the church to apostasy and ruin, just as a rebellious, unbelieving man can.
- Many men are unworthy. Rebellion always focuses on failure: children use the failings of parents as a reason for disobedience; citizens use the failings of government as an excuse for civil unrest; church members excuse their own sins by the failings of officers. The Heidelberg Catechism says that we are to obey those in authority “with all due obedience to all their good instruction and correction, and also bear patiently with their infirmities, since it is God’s will to govern us by their hand.” (Q. 104) The failure of those in office is no excuse for the rebellion of anyone against God’s order. Human failure is the reason that human government must be limited, with checks and balances, but a rebellious spirit is devilish, and overthrows all order. (I Samuel 15:23)
- Sentiment. Translation: I want it, therefore I should have it. The humanist makes much of feelings. “It makes me feel bad to be deprived of equal opportunity,” somebody whines, and the humanist caves in. “I just don’t feel the same about my marriage,” is excuse enough to break the marriage vows or to leave children for somebody else to rear. God’s rule is different: He doesn’t excuse us from our marriage vows, our church vows, or our legal responsibilities because someone gets emotional. But humanism cannot be extricated from the bog of emotionalism by logical arguments, because they equate sentiment with love, and pretend to have the high moral ground. “Aren’t we supposed to love?” they intone piously. “Why do you hate women?”
- Denial of apostolic authority: Paul was a chauvinist, a man of his times, and this flavored his instructions to the churches. Modern man is more enlightened in his efforts to “free” the woman. But Paul did not speak his own words: the words were given to him by God (I Cor. 2). Liberal theology spares no effort to substitute the words of man for the words of God. “Don’t listen to Paul,” they say. “Listen to us. We are scholars. We know better.” The premise is not true and is a subtle denial of the inspiration of Scripture. Besides, if Jesus is not God, but only an inspired man, then what makes him right? And if he is God, the appointing of men only to the apostleship makes a statement for all the ages, and is in line with the theology of Paul, Peter, and the other apostles. The Son of God knew what he was doing. He underscored apostolic authority by saying, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” He did not speak his own words, and they did not speak theirs.
But what does humanism care about the Bible? What really counts is man’s word, man’s feeling, and man’s glory that counts. Or should we say womyn’s word, womyn’s feeling, and womyn’s glory?
Objection: Didn’t God use Deborah as a prophetess? What about Joel’s prediction that women would prophesy? Of course, if the Bible does not speak with authority then we can disregard these places, can’t we? But if it does speak with authority, these places must be reconciled to the prohibition of women “usurping” authority and teaching in the church. The reconciliation is simple: God is free to use whatever means he wants to convey his message at special times. One time he used a small child to predict the end of the house of Eli, the high priest. Another time he used an ass to speak to the prophet. Shall we install children and asses in church office?
Those who reduce all debate to emotional paroxysm will now accuse me of equating women with children and asses. Rebellion is never rational, but only emotional, and cannot be subdued with debate. This ad hominem argument is refuted by stating that I love both women and children. I have been married to the same delightful woman for over thirty years. Her friends know her as a strong woman who kept her home, taught in Christian school, and reared six sons, and labored as a helpmeet to her dinosaur husband. I fought those who tried to restrict a woman’s “place” to the home. I never knew many donkeys and so cannot claim affection for them.
We cannot cut the knot by saying that Paul was speaking to the culture of his day, and forbade women to usurp authority because it might offend that culture. If true, then feminists of the last generation should have given that generation the respect Paul gave his. But it isn’t true. Paul says that women are not to usurp office because of the order of women in creation: “Adam was first formed and then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression..” (verses 13,14) In the created order, before sin had even entered the world, the woman was cast as a helper, not as one to exercise dominion and authority over the man. The Holy Spirit speaks in a similar manner through the Apostle Peter, commanding wives to be in subjection to their own husbands, and husbands to give honor to their wives as to the “weaker vessel.” (I Peter 3) Peter also teaches that the true adornment of the woman is a “meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Such ideas are not fashionable in today’s “enlightened” society, but that does not make God’s word void, or change the nature of men and women. Some think they are wiser than the apostle, and can tell us what he meant to say. Every age has those who try to re-interpret the Bible to fit the public.
We are all to live under authority. Ephesians 5:21 commands us to be “filled with the Spirit,” and then tells us what that means: joy in the heart; thanksgiving to God; and submission to each other. Then, he tells us what this submission is (5:22-6:9): Husbands and wives are to submit to the order God has provided for the home; children and parents are to live in God’s order; so are masters and servants (management and labor). Slavery is not living under authority, but being forced to live under unlawful authority. Those who impose the rule of women in the church are subjecting the church to unlawful authority, to slavery. (Isaiah 3:11,12 David put it clearly: “I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:45) There are fearful warnings to those who would presume to speak for the Lord, when He did not appoint them: “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings…. I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbor.” (Jeremiah 23:21,22,30)
Note: “Humanist” in these papers means one who makes man the reference point in his thinking, rather than God and the scripture. Though he speaks of “God,” the humanist denies that God has revealed Himself in the Bible. He relies upon his own thoughts, feelings, and intuition about God, and uses the Bible only to confirm these thoughts, feelings, and intuition. Those who have other definitions should defend their own turf.
by C.W. Powell
“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3,4
Humanist nanny theology prepares the way for the humanist nanny state. Because the humanist theologian thinks that Jesus is telling us things that we must do in order to become worthy of heaven, his whole understanding becomes corrupt and he is powerless to resist tyranny.
In Matthew 18, Jesus is not describing character which makes a person worthy of being called his disciples, for salvation is by grace. Instead He is describing the Christ-likeness of the true believer. This Christ-likeness is the result of conversion, something that is done to us. The humility that is the result of this “converting” is a grace given by God, the work of the Spirit, and not a work of the flesh. We are not “converted” because we are Christ-like, for then we would not need to be converted. We are converted from being very un-Christlike to Christ, as a new nature in His likeness is imparted to us by grace alone.
Because they do not understand grace and the power of God, the humanist model is false humility and childish weakness. Humanist religion teaches men to be weak and childish, and the model becomes a means of attack against those who are godly. “Don’t stand up for what you believe; we are supposed to be childlike,” the line goes.
Faith does not make a man weak and childish. “In understanding, be men” (I Cor. 14:20). “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (I Cor. 16:13). Heb. 11:34 speaks of faithful men who “out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens….”
We do not receive the kingdom of God because of our proud adult abilities and strengths, for the kingdom can only be received as the little children received the blessing of Jesus Christ. And those who receive the kingdom of God trust Christ and reject their own work as any means of blessing. But this does not make them childish and wimpy. Instead they are strong in their confession of faith.
“When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God’s and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat….” Hebrews 5:12
Faith gives strength and fortitude. Faith brings liberty and confidence. Faith brings assurance and hope. Faith delivers from the tyranny of either church or state. Faith teaches complete dependency on Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Because of the blood of Christ, the conscience is cleansed from dead works, so that the believer can serve the Lord. He is alive in faith, and confident toward God, for all his hope and confidence is in Christ. Nothing else but faith can clear the conscience toward God.
But the humanist state and the humanist church nurture dependency. How nice it is for governmental and ecclesiastical nannies, when people think of themselves in terms of childish dependency! “We are your children. What presents have you brought us? We cannot take care of ourselves and we love you for taking good care of us. What will you do for us? How will you meet our needs, and feed and clothe us?”
Childish people in the nanny church have the same attitude: “We are dumb sheep. Please tell us what to do. Make rules for us. Teach us what is right and wrong. Be our theological nannies and our moral gurus. Do our studying for us, and do our praying for us. How comforting it is to know that we have wise and good men looking after us. We never want to grow up.”
“I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old….” Heb. 8:10b-13a