How the Reformers Rediscovered the Holy Spirit and True Conversion

Dan has offered Sinclair Ferguson’s insights about how two Reformers, Luther and Calvin, were drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation, by the work of the Spirit of God through His Word.

The Battle Cry

by Sinclair Ferguson

Luther’s story is well known; Calvin’s less so. Luther was wrestling with the concept of the righteousness of God, and had come to hate it; Calvin had an immense thirst for a secure knowledge of God, but had not found it. While not the whole truth, there is something in the notion that Luther was looking for a gracious God while Calvin was seeking for a true and assured knowledge of him.

In Luther’s case, the ordinances of late medieval Catholicism could not “give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain.” In Calvin’s case, neither the Church nor the immense intellectual discipline he had displayed in his teens and early twenties, and certainly not all his acquisition of the skills of a post-medieval humanist scholar, could bring him to an assured knowledge of God.

ROMANS 1:16

For all the differences in their backgrounds, educations, dispositions…

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Historic documents – Commemorating the 500th Anniversary – Luther’s “28 theses”


HEIDELBERG

. . . man’s will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness. . . – Augsburg Confession, Art.  18: Of Free Will


The Reformation must be important – if it isn’t, then a lot of paper and ink, and human lives, have been wasted. For Rome, it must be doubly important because they expend so much energy on ecumenical efforts, encouraging us “separated brethren” to return to the ancient fold.

Here is a document written and disputed not quite a year from the day – October 31, 1517 – on which Luther posted his famous invitation to debate the 95 Theses. People are getting ready for – and already engaged in – a huge celebration of the 500th anniversary of this watershed event, and Pope Francis has commandeered a decided role in it. Perhaps he has climbed into the driver’s seat! Not only that, but Luther appears to have been rehabilitated by Rome; no longer a heretic, he is called a son of the Church. To me this is unjust, because though Luther left reluctantly at first, he left permanently, even ensuring that there were witnesses to record his dying words so that Rome wouldn’t be able to say he had recanted and returned to her on his deathbed. I know that the Lord will deal with all of this someday – Praise Him forevermore!

The Heidelberg Disputation was another step Luther took in his departure from Rome.


Acts 17

30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Psalm 96:13

13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.


Editor’s Introduction

Following Luther’s proposal for a disputation on the subject of indulgences, the Augustinian Order, to which Luther belonged, was generally supportive of his views. The head of the order in Germany, Johannes Staupitz, called for a formal disputation to be attended by the leadership of the order, in which Luther would be provided a chance to expand upon his concern. The disputation took place at the meeting of the Augustinian Order, in Heidelberg, in April 1518. Luther’s opponents had been hopeful that Luther would be silenced, but Staupitz wanted to give Luther a fair hearing, since he was generally sympathetic with Luther’s views. At the meeting, Luther put forward a “theology of the cross” as opposed to a “theology of glory.” The disputation is, in many ways, more significant than the 95 theses, for they advanced Luther’s growing realization that the theology of late Medieval Roman Catholicism was fundamentally and essentially at odds with Biblical theology. As a result of the disputation, John Eck proposed a debate between himself and representatives of Luther’s views, which was held in Leipzig from June to July, 1519.

The Heidelberg Disputation

“Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside, and Brother Leonhard Beyer, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place, on April 26th 1518.

THEOLOGICAL THESES

Distrusting completely our own wisdom, according to that counsel of the Holy Spirit, »Do not rely on your own insight« (Prov. 3:5), we humbly present to the judgment of all those who wish to be here these theological paradoxes, so that it may become clear whether they have been deduced well or poorly from St. Paul, the especially chosen vessel and instrument of Christ, and also from St. Augustine, his most trustworthy interpreter.

  1. The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.
  2. Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.
  3. Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.
  4. Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.
  5. The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.
  6. The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.
  7. The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.
  8. By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.
  9. To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.
  10. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.
  11. Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.
  12. In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.
  13. Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.
  14. Free will, after the fall, has power to do good only in a passive capacity, but it can always do evil in an active capacity.
  15. Nor could free will remain in a state of innocence, much less do good, in an active capacity, but only in its passive capacity.
  16. The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.
  17. Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.
  18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
  19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the »invisible« things of God as though they were clearly »perceptible in those things which have actually happened« (Rom. 1:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25),
  20. he deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
  21. A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
  22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.
  23. The »law brings the wrath« of God (Rom. 4:15), kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ.
  24. Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.
  25. He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.
  26. The law says, »do this«, and it is never done. Grace says, »believe in this«, and everything is already done.
  27. Actually one should call the work of Christ an acting work (operans) and our work an accomplished work (operatum), and thus an accomplished work pleasing to God by the grace of the acting work.
  28. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.”

 

PROOFS OF THE THESES are to be found here:

http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php

(Debated in the Chapter at Heidelberg, May 1518, A.D.)


 

Go read! W. Robert Godfrey


Why Did the Reformers Conclude that Reform Was Urgent and Necessary in the 16th Century?

W. Robert Godfrey

Oct 29, 2016

Ligonier.org

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/reformers-conclude-reform-urgent/

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“The church is always in need of reform. Even in the New Testament, we see Jesus rebuking Peter, and we see Paul correcting the Corinthians. Since Christians are always sinners, the church will always need reform. The question for us, however, is when does the need become an absolute necessity?

“The great Reformers of the sixteenth century concluded that reform was urgent and necessary in their day. In pursuing reform for the church, they rejected two extremes. On the one hand, they rejected those who insisted that the church was essentially sound and needed no fundamental changes. On the other hand, they rejected those who believed that they could create a perfect church in every detail. The church needed fundamental reform, but it would also always need to be reforming itself. The Reformers reached these conclusions from their study of the Bible. . .”

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2 Chronicles 34

NKJV

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images. They broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars which were above them he cut down; and the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images he broke in pieces, and made dust of them and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And so he did in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, as far as Naphtali and all around, with axes. When he had broken down the altars and the wooden images, had beaten the carved images into powder, and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.

Hilkiah Finds the Book of the Law

In the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God. When they came to Hilkiah the high priest, they delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites who kept the doors had gathered from the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, from all the remnant of Israel, from all Judah and Benjamin, and which they had brought back to Jerusalem. 10 Then they put it in the hand of the foremen who had the oversight of the house of the Lord; and they gave it to the workmen who worked in the house of the Lord, to repair and restore the house. 11 They gave it to the craftsmen and builders to buy hewn stone and timber for beams, and to floor the houses which the kings of Judah had destroyed. 12 And the men did the work faithfully. Their overseers were Jahath and Obadiah the Levites, of the sons of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to supervise. Others of the Levites, all of whom were skillful with instruments of music, 13 were  over the burden bearers and were overseers of all who did work in any kind of service. And some of the Levites were scribes, officers, and gatekeepers.

14 Now when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses. 15 Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16 So Shaphan carried the book to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “All that was committed to your servants they are doing. 17 And they have gathered the money that was found in the house of the Lord, and have delivered it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen.” 18 Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.

19 Thus it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, that he tore his clothes. 20 Then the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, 21 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for those who are left in Israel and Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”

22 So Hilkiah and those the king had appointed went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke to her to that effect.

23 Then she answered them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, 24 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah, 25 because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place, and not be quenched.’”’ 26 But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Concerning the words which you have heard— 27 because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord28 “Surely I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place and its inhabitants.”’” So they brought back word to the king.

Josiah Restores True Worship

29 Then the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 The king went up to the house of the Lord, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the Levites, and all the people, great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord. 31 Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. 32 And he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin take a stand. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 Thus Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers.

 


 

Battlefields


Please read this if you subscribe to my blog.

Recently, because I believe in God’s work in election, two bloggers confronted me about Calvin and Calvinism, and I also confronted someone else about this. Usually this isn’t my focus. Today I plan to reblog a post that deals with Calvin and post one that I’ve written about this. Thank you for taking the time to read!

For your information, I’ve changed my Gravatar to this:

Maria Tatham, a gentle iconoclast

Maria Tatham

 


 

Quote of the day – Huldrych Zwingli


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The murder of Zwingli by Karl Jauslin (1842–1904)

The murder of Zwingli by Karl Jauslin (1842–1904)

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“The Christian life, then, is a battle, so sharp and full of danger that effort can nowhere be relaxed without loss. . .”

Huldrych Zwingli, AZ Quotes
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A little about Zwingli

In 1519, before the Reformation came to Zurich, the plague broke out. About 1 in 4 persons died. Zwingli had remained in the city to fulfill his pastoral duties as a Catholic priest. He fell ill but survived. During his illness and recovery, he wrote his Plague Song (Pestlied) which included these words:
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“Thy purpose fulfil:
nothing can be too severe for me.
I am thy vessel,
for you to make whole or break to pieces.
Since, if you take hence
my spirit from this earth,
you do it so that it will not grow evil,
and will not mar
the pious lives of others.”
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Zwingli worked for reform in Zurich and elsewhere in Switzerland. He preached and wrote, married and had a family, bumped heads with Martin Luther over the doctrine of the Real Presence in Communion, helped to suppress the Anabaptist movement in Zurich, went to war for religious and national autonomy, and was killed in battle.
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“Zwingli had considered himself first and foremost a soldier of Christ; second a defender of his country, the Confederation; and third a leader of his city, Zurich, where he had lived for the previous twelve years. Ironically, he died at the age of 47, not for Christ nor for the Confederation, but for Zurich.” (Wikipedia)
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