The Reformation Rescued the Gospel

R.C. Sproul: In the old city of Geneva, Switzerland, there’s a lovely park adjacent to the University of Geneva, close to the church where John Calvin preached and taught daily. The park contains a lasting memorial to the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. The central feature is a magnificent wall adorned with statues of Calvin, John Knox, Huldrych Zwingli, Theodore Beza, and others. Chiseled into the stone are the Latin words Post tenebras lux (“After darkness, light”). These words capture the driving force of the Reformation. The darkness referred to is the gospel’s eclipse in the late Middle Ages. A gradual darkening reached its nadir, and the light of the doctrine of justification by faith alone was all but extinguished. Fuel for Fire The Reformation firestorm was fueled by the most volatile issue ever debated in church history. The church had faced severe crises in the past, especially in the fourth and fifth centuries when the nature of Christ was at stake. The

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Calvin on Why God Raised Up Luther to Reform the Church

  Tomorrow is Reformation Day. Here is John Calvin, writing in 1543 (26 years after Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenberg Door), explaining why the Reformation needed to happen: At the time when divine truth lay buried under this vast and dense cloud of darkness; when religion was sullied by so many impious superstitions; when by horrid blasphemies the worship of God was corrupted, and his glory laid prostrate; when by a multitude of perverse opinions, the benefit of redemption was frustrated, and men, intoxicated with a fatal confidence in works, sought salvation anywhere rather than in Christ; when the administration of the sacraments was partly maimed and torn asunder, partly adulterated by the admixture of numerous fictions, and partly profaned by traffickings for gain; when the government of the church had degenerated into mere confusion and devastation; when those who sat in the seat of pastors first did most vital injury to the church by the dissoluteness

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Five Key Concepts in the Reformation Understanding of Justification

Kevin DeYoung: On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses concerning clerical abuses and indulgences on the church door at Wittenberg. This famous event is often considered that launching point for the Protestant Reformation. The chief concern for Luther and the other reformers was the doctrine of justification. It was, to use Calvin’s language, the “main hinge on which religion turns.” And the doctrine of justification is no less important today than it was 500 years ago. There are five key concepts every Protestant should grasp if they are to understanding the reformer’s (and the Bible’s) doctrine of justification. First, the Christian is simul iustus et peccator. This is Martin Luther’s famous Latin phrase which means “At the same time, justified and a sinner.” The Catechism powerfully reminds us that even though we are right with God, we still violate his commands, feel the sting of conscience, and battle against indwelling sin. On this side of the consummation, we will always be

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Why the Reformation Is Not Over

Scott Manetsch (associate professor of church history and chair of the church history department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and the associate general editor of IVP’s  Reformation Commentary Series) explains why it is “impossible to reconcile the classic Protestant solas with the teaching of the Catholic Catechism.” For Roman Catholics, Scripture and Tradition are two distinct but equal modes of revealed authority which the magisterium of the Roman Church has sole responsibility to transmit and interpret. For the early Protestant reformers, the holy Scripture provides final normative authority for Christian doctrine and practice, standing as judge above all institutions and ecclesial traditions. For Roman Catholics, sinners are justified because of inherent righteousness. For the mainstream Protestant reformers, sinners are accepted on the basis of the righteousness of another—namely, the alien righteousness of Christ imputed to them. For Roman Catholics, sinners are both justified by unmerited grace at baptism and (subsequently) justified by those infused graces merited by cooperating with divine grace. For the

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The Reformation Isn’t Over

Thabiti Anyabwile reflects upon Cal Trueman’s breakout session at Together for the Gospel 2012 entitled “Why the Reformation Is Not Over.” Trueman reminded us that the Reformation was at its heart a pastoral protest.  Luther reacted against the buying and selling of God’s grace in a way that minimized the gospel.  Zwingli sought to reglate church life by the word of God.  Calvin likewise sought to regulate the life of the church by the word but also to free the church’s liturgy and discipline from state control.  This was a good reminder for our day, when men innovate with the church like children manipulate play dough, when a light grasp of polity and ecclesiology has harmful effects on theology and the gospel. Focusing primarily on Luther, Trueman unpacked ways the Reformation makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the church and ministry.  The Reformation established: 1.  The centrality of the cross: The cross means reality is not what it seems

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Moo on Justification in Galatians

Crossway has made available Doug Moo’s essay, “Justification in Galatians” (PDF) from Understanding the Times: New Testament Studies in the 21st Century: Essays in Honor of D. A. Carson on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, ed. Köstenberger and Yarbrough. An excerpt: Paul’s teaching on justification in Galatians strongly endorses the traditional Reformation emphasis on justification by faith alone. In contrast to some recent reconfigurations of this doctrine, the Reformers did not mean by this teaching that a person gains only initial entrance into the state of salvation by faith alone—the ultimate verdict being based on faith plus works. They intended to assert that the eschatological gift of justification, at whatever “time” or in however many stages it might be manifested, came by faith alone. Paul seems to be saying just this in Galatians. Faith is the means not only of entering into relationship with God but also of maintaining that relationship and of confirming that relationship on the day

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The Revolutionary Reformers

“What was revolutionary about the Protestant Reformers was their insistence that God is not savingly known through created nature as paganism had proposed, or through human nature as the medieval mystics had thought (and some evangelicals now think), or through the Church and its sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church taught, but directly, by the work of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the biblical Word, the internal and supernatural work of the Spirit creating the spiritual climate in which Scripture might be received. The Reformers rejected all assertions that there are channels of saving grace in nature, human nature, or the Church. They held that there are no intermediaries between God and the sinner save for Christ himself, and they insisted that this unique role could not be usurped without destroying the faith that claimed his name. Christ’s role is a sine qua non, they argued, because the judgment of God on the one side and human corruption

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Taking a stand for Monergism

“It is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith.” – Michael Haykin

Why the Reformation Was Necessary

From John Piper: In March, 2008, Graeme Goldsworthy delivered a lecture at Southern Baptist Theological seminary titled “Biblical Theology and its Pastoral Application.” In it he gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel. Both Catholicism and allegorical interpretation of Scripture involved the dehistoricizing of the Gospel. The Reformation rehistoricized both the Gospel and the Old Testament. The prime focus recovered in the Reformation was the justification of the sinner on the basis of the objective, historic work of Christ for us. Catholicism had reversed the vision so that the prime focus was on the work of Christ or his Spirit within us. This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel. I would add that this

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The Lasting Legacy of the Reformation

Stephen Nichols on what was accomplished in the Reformation: Luther spawned more than a singular alternative to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, while there are alternatives, to be sure, at the heart of these various Protestant groups who remain faithful to the gospel there is a common core: a theological center that consists of the authority of Scripture alone through God’s grace alone—and that this salvation comes through the work of Christ alone. This is the lasting legacy of the Reformation—not the discovery of truths, but their recovery and their return to the heart and center of the church. (Pages from Church History, 35) (HT: David Mathis)

Goldsworthy: “The Reformation recovered the historical Christ-event as the basis of our salvation”

“Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) was a rallying-cry of the Reformation. The right of interpretation was restored to every believer, but this did not mean that the principles of interpretation found within the bible could be overlooked and every Christian follow his own whim. The allegorical method became far less popular, because the historical meaning of the Old Testament was found to be significant on its own, within the unity of the Bible. . “…The reformers maintained that salvation is a matter of grace alone, by Christ alone, through faith alone. ‘Grace alone’ meant that salvation is God’s work alone unconditioned by anything that man is or does. ‘Christ alone’ meant that the sinner is accepted by God on the basis of what Christ alone has done. ‘Faith alone’ meant that the only way for the sinner to receive salvation is by faith whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed (credited) to the believer. . “What had this got to do

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Loving God Requires Loving Truth

“Not to care about truth is not to care about God. To love God passionately is to love truth passionately. Being God-centered in life means being truth-driven in ministry. What is not true is not of God. What is false is anti-God. Indifference to the truth is indifference to the mind of God. Pretense is rebellion against reality, and what makes reality reality is God. Our concern with truth is simply an echo of our concern with God. And all this is rooted in God’s concern with God, or God’s passion for the glory of God.” [John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, p. 97] (HT: CRN)

What’s the true motive for Christian obedience?

R. Scott Clark in Reformation Resources comments: What’s the true motive for Christian obedience? Is there any logical relation between justification and sanctification (Christlikeness or Christian living)? The White Horse Inn guys tackle this most important question on this week’s edition of the WHI. This question is especially pertinent in a time when there are lots of different recipes available for getting folks to be good. Rome says that if you do penance you can propitiate God and so take a little time off your debt to purgatory. At least some of the evangelicals think that Christian obedience is a “second blessing” that belongs to the higher life attained by only a few spiritual elites (the medieval Albigenses said the same thing). Others think that the only way to produce Christian living is to threaten the Christian, by making his standing before God conditional upon his sanctity (holiness). Some attempt to sugar coat this message by saying that you begin

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Private Interpretation Not Blind Interpretation!

Quoting RC Sproul . . . The right of private interpretation is a special privilege we have today that we may easily take for granted, forgetting that the privilege was won through the blood of our ancestors, many of whom paid for it through their lives, even as those who dared to translate the Bible into the common language of the people. And we ought to be encouraged by this privilege, to be diligent in our own personal study of Scripture. But although the interpretation of the Scriptures may be something you do independently, and do so in private, I hope you don’t do it privately in the sense that you never bother to see how others who perhaps are more experienced and who are more learned in the things of God than you are, have dealt with the text. That’s why, for example, I am constantly reading the best teachers that God has given to the church to help

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Scratching Itches!

R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler share their thoughts on the seeker-sensitive movement. “…It’s a strategy of unbelief. The ‘minister’ wants to grow his church, the ‘minister’ wants to see success, and so he’s looking for all these programs and all these techniques to get people to come in… But he never goes over the bridge and gets to the Word. If you want a power in your Church, be an expository preacher; preach the Word because that’s where the Spirit is. Isn’t that God’s strategy? If we believe God’s strategy, we’re going to preach the Word.” – R.C. Sproul (HT: Symphony of Scripture)

The Future of Justification by John Piper

This book by John Piper promises to be a definitive response to the ‘New Perspective on Paul’ as popularised by N.T. Wright. I’m grateful for this review by Tony Reinke. Book review – By Tony Reinke The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright by John Piper N.T. Wright is a British New Testament scholar and the Anglican Bishop of Durham, England. He’s become known for his controversial teaching on justification and for his statements like: “The discussions of justification in much of the history of the church, certainly since Augustine, got off on the wrong foot – at least in terms of understanding Paul – and they have stayed there ever since.” Enter pastor and scholar John Piper. Piper’s highly anticipated new book The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright (Crossway: 2007) is framed around eight fundamental questions raised in the theology of Wright: The gospel is not about how to get saved? (ch. 5) Justification

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Christ for us: Reading the Bible through the Gospel

This is an excellent piece from Brannan at ‘Creed or Chaos’. I appreciate the gospel-driven hermeneutic. “Christ for us”: this phrase is just another way of saying “the gospel.” When Paul says to be ready to give an account to anyone who asks the reason for the hope we have, “Christ for us” proclaims our hope in a nutshell: God is holy and righteous and we are rebellious sinners; only in looking away from ourselves to Christ for us, to Christ on our behalf, do we have hope before God. Christ died the death we deserve and lived the life we should have lived, so that rather than the condemnation we earned in Adam, we receive the righteousness Christ earned for justification; and now by his grace we who believe are enabled by the Holy Spirit to die to sin and live to God. This is the gospel. This is the power of God for the salvation of all who

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