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Friday, February 15, 2013

Christ Predicted the Papacy as the Antichrist

Christ predicts the dynasty of the Antichrist and the False Prophet. Note carefully His language. He warns in Matthew chapter twenty-four against the deception of antichrist but never uses the singular in His references. - Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley

imagesWe have already shown that Antichrist cannot be one potentate but a dynasty of potentates. David’s prophecy which holds within it the key to its right interpretation, shows us that. Now this is dearly confirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Daniel tells the story in parables, in the pictures of the beasts and the horns. The little horn of Daniel chapter seven is the Antichrist, the Man of Sin and Son of Perdition. Throughout the prophecies of Daniel, a horn as indeed the beast from which it grows denotes not a single man, an individual king but a kingdom, a sovereignty, a dynasty. That is the plain teaching of scripture and to it all must submit.

Christ confirms this not only about Daniel's little horn but about the two beasts of Revelation chapter thirteen, the Beast and the False Prophet. These beasts are not two individual men but a dynasty - the Beast the dynasty of the Popes and the False Prophet the dynasty of the priests of Rome pursuing the objective of obtaining the worship and submission of the whole world for the Pope.

There is not one word in all Christ's prophecy concerning the end of time and of His Second Coming about a one man antichrist or a one man false prophet. Read and see for yourself.

Christ predicts the dynasty of the Antichrist and the False Prophet. Note carefully His language. He warns in Matthew chapter twenty-four against the deception of antichrist but never uses the singular in His references.

He speaks of the dynasty, of 'many' not 'one.' ‘For many shall come in My Name,’ Matt. 24:5. This does away with the Atheistical antichrist, the Communist antichrist, the Jewish antichrist, the purely political antichrist. The dynasty of antichrists will come in the name of our Lord, the true Christ of God. How this points its finger at the Pope and the Papacy. The Pope is the only person who fits the prediction

'Saying I am Christ,' Matt. 24:5. Notice how Christ changes from the plural 'many' to the singular 'I.' This is the personal claim of each individual Pope. Listen to their own words.

'I alone despite my unworthiness, am the successor of the Apostles, the Vicar of Jesus Christ: I alone have the mission to guide and direct the barque of Peter; I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.' - Pope Pius IX.

‘Shall deceive many.’ What a statement! How many have been and are being deceived by the Pope and the Papacy. Why even the Lambeth Conference of the whole of the Anglican Church (the Church of Ireland included) meeting in July 1989 has agreed that the Pope must be the Head of the Church when the other ecumenical episcopal Churches unite with Rome.

'Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect.

Behold I have told you before.

Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.' Matt. 24:33-36.

Here our Lord predicts the dynasty not only of Antichrist but of the False Prophet. See Revelation chapter thirteen. After the Lord mentions in the plural the 'false prophets,' he predicts the great 'signs and wonders' which these will do. Compare this carefully with Revelation 13:13,14. Note how our Lord's prediction about the deceptions of the false prophet dovetails perfectly into the prophecy of John. Christ states, 'Insomuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect.' John states, 'And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he had power to do.'

The narratives of Mark and Luke confirm these statements of our Lord in Matthew's Gospel.

‘And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.’ Mark 13:5-7.

‘And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:

For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.’ Mark 13:21-23.

‘And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.

But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.’ Luke 21:8-9.

‘And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.’ Luke 17:23.

Christ has told us that many false Christs will appear after His ascension to glory and before His return. When we open the Pages of history we see how our Lord's words have been so literally fulfilled. Many Christs who professed to come in His Holy Name have appeared exactly as He predicted - at least 265 of them - all phoney christs, self styled christs, false christs and all harboured by the Church of Rome. Of them all Christ said, ‘BELIEVE THEM NOT.’

How clearly Christ predicted the Papacy. How plainly Christ interpreted for us the prophecies of Daniel and John. We bow to His authority and rejoice that the Antichrist has not deceived us and we have not gone after him as the world has.

The Popes of Rome for centuries have, under the title of Vicar of Christ, been masquerading as christs.

Ever since the Bishop of Rome got a taste for power, early in the Christian era, he yelled, ‘I AM CHRIST,’ and right down to Pope John Paul II they have been yelling it, shouting it, trumpeting it and parroting it. The halls of Christendom have not been without this din for sixteen centuries. Reverberations and amplifications from the original cries and their echoes and re-echoes plus added new yells multiplied a million tunes by the Roman acoustics of the halls, plague us daily. I am Christ! I AM Christ! I AM CHRIST! THIS IS THE CONFESSION OF THE ANTICHRIST. THANK GOD WE RECOGNISE HIM.

If any man shall say unto you, lo here is Christ, or lo He is there, believe Him not.'

Source: http://www.ianpaisley.org

The Doctrine of Salvation by Grace Alone is a 450 year old Western Paradigm?

Visitor: The Doctrine of Salvation Grace Alone is a 450 year old Western Paradigm.

Response: "450 years old?" C'mon ..... Both the words of the Bible itself (1000s of years old) and Christian history after the closing of the canon demonstrate that your statement is false.

sbgaNot only does the Bible declare it but early Christians did as well, including the quote at the top of the page of this blog from the Council of Orange (529 AD)

    "...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6).

Even before that Augustine drew the same conclusions from the Bible. Among the many things he said, here are just a few:

    "In some places God requires newness of heart [Ezek 18:31]. But elsewhere he testifies that it is given by him [Ezek. 11:19; 36:26]. But what God promises we ourselves do not do through choice or nature; but he himself does through grace."- Augustine

    "To will is of nature, but to will aright is of grace." - Augustine

    "The nature of the Divine goodness is not only to open to those who knock. but also to cause them to knock and ask."- Augustine

    "Without the Spirit man's will is not free, since it has been laid under by shackling and conquering desires." - Augustine

The question is not whether you like Augustine or his statements but rather to show you beyond further question that this doctrine is clearly over 450 years old.

Your idea of the meaning of "grace" seem to not go beyond more than an offer. It does not do anything for the person to change their heart. So I must ask why do you pray for unbelievers then? It would be absurd to pray for them if God can do nothing more than persuade from the outside. This is really nothing more than we do when we preach the gospel to them. No we pray because only God can help them. So while you may believe in the necessity of Christ but you refuse to acknowledge that He alone is enough to supply everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe, which is declared widely through all through Scripture.

If regenerating grace depends on our will or cooperation then it is no longer grace (John 1:13, 3:6 & 6:63) but instead it is no different than the humanistic philosophy of the present age which declares that "God helps those who help themselves." But even a cursory reading of Scripture will make clear that grace is not a reward for faith, but the cause of it.

Source: http://www.reformationtheology.com

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Love of God

by  Rev. D. H. Kuiper


"He that loveth not knoweth not God;  for God is love.  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."  I John 4:8-10
 
Go4wallpapers.comWithout doubt the love of God is the subject preached on, in the churches on the mission fields, more than any other subject. Strange to say, there are many who talk about the love of God  who are actually strangers to the meaning of divine love. God is love! But love is one aspect of the divine Being, so that once I have stated that God is love, I am compelled to go on and say that God also hates. God loves and He hates, He blesses and He curses, He chastens and He punishes, He saves and He damns. And it is when we see and confess that full picture that the love of God becomes very precious to us; for God does not love everyone, but He loves a people chosen in Jesus Christ.


 The love of God is amazing! Amazing when you consider Who loves, how He loves, how He reveals that love, and whom He loves! I want to know more about the love of God, don't you? Let's get the Biblical terms for love before our minds that we may arrive at a Scriptural definition of the love of God.


 There are two Hebrew terms for love: one has the root meaning of fastening, binding, sticking together; the other has the idea of breathing after, longing for, desiring strongly. The Greek term, used by John in the passage quoted above and by Paul as well, agrees closely with the Hebrew. As Paul writes to the Colossians (3:14), love or charity is "the bond of perfectness." Love can exist and flourish only in the sphere of moral perfection, where there is holiness, justice, and truth. For love is to be mutual, for love to flourish and grow, the one who loves and the one who is loved must be ethically perfect. This is the great reason why God hates even as He loves. God takes delight in Himself and in certain men because He is the highest perfection, and because He has provided perfection in certain men. But God takes no delight in darkness; He hates it. And God takes no delight in the workers of iniquity; He hates them. Because God is love, love is of God; that is, all true love finds its source in God. Hence, we can define love this way: in God, love is the bond of fellowship that eternally exists between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, according to which these perfect Persons seek, find, delight in One Another. In respect to love outside the Godhead, love is the spiritual; bond of fellowship between ethically perfect persons, who because of that perfection, delight in one another and seek one another.


 If one examines the occurrences of the word love in the Bible, he finds that God's love is characterized by ten outstanding virtues.  1.) The love of God is sovereign or free, for He did not have to love anyone nor was He influenced by anything when He set His love on certain ones.  2.) The love of God is eternal in that there never was a time when He did not love Himself or His people.  3.) The love of God is unconditional for in its beginning and in its continuance the good or evil in man does not influence it.  4.) The love of God is unchangeable for whom He loves always remain the objects of that love.  5.) His love is particular for it burns not for every man, but for a definite few.  6.) His love is strong, enduring the sternest tests, capable of following the wayward and returning them to the way of life.  7.)The love of God is primary or first, it is a casual, working, producing love; all other love is result of it.  8.) His love is always fruitful, for God never yet loved a man and than man failed to love God, his brother, and his neighbor.    9.) The love of God is always a Father's love, so that those whom He loves experience that they are His sons and His daughters.  And 10.) The love of God always gives; it belongs to the nature of the loving God always to give.  We'll return to this idea of giving in a moment.


 Someone may ask whether it is really necessary for the Church to proclaim that God loves and hates, that He reaches out in love for the men of His good pleasure but is angry with the wicked every day, that He saves and that He damns.  Our answer is, Yes, that's necessary for three reasons.  First, this belongs to the revelation of God in Holy Scripture so that it would be unfaithfulness on our part not to include this. Second, it is only when a person understands that God does not love every individual that he sees the love of God to be exceeding precious, a pearl of great price, the most astonishing thing in the world!  Believers must view the love of God for them as rare, exquisite, and precious!  In the third place, God would have both His love and hatred carefully proclaimed that the Church is gathered not only, but that the unrepentant are left without excuses as well.  No one may arrive at the great judgement scene saying, I didn't know, I never heard, that God also hates, punishes, and destroys.


 God has revealed His great love for us in Jesus Christ.  "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son."  God loves and sent, God loves and gave (John 3:16).  You see, the question is, How can the great love of God reach us, how can we be taken into the family of God in order to experience His love, and how can we return that love to God and live in that love with the brethren? Remember who and what we are!  We are sinners from two points of view; we share in the sin and guilt of Adam (Romans 5:12), and we add to our sin and guilt every day of our lives.  In ourselves we are depraved and corrupt, incapable of loving God or anyone.  And the love of God is not some wishy-washy sentiment, it is the bond of perfectness!  God can only love that which is ethically pure, and love between men can only be established when there is that same perfectness present.  How can the love of God reach me, become a bond that unites us, and be returned to Him?


 The answer is that when God sent His Son, God made Him a propitiation for our sins.  Now the word propitiation, a word related to the mercy seat of the ark in the temple, means that Christ is the covering for our sins.  The blood of Christ propitiates, appeases, or satisfies God.  When Christ died on the cross, His death paid the debt of our sin, satisfied the outraged justice of God, and reconciled us to God.That means that we are innocent (justified) and holy (sanctified) before God.  Or, that means that we have become ethically perfect for Christ's sake, and thus can enter into the life of love with God!  In Christ God's love reaches us, transforms us, renews us, and works in us that we live as sons!


 God loved and God gave!  Oh, how God gave!  Humanly speaking, it cost God a great deal when He manifested His love to us in Christ!  The gift of God's Son to the Church collectively and to believers individually can only be termed an unspeakable Gift.  No one can adequately describe the value, beauty, power, and the benefits of such a Gift!  God sent His only begotten Son from His own bosom into this world of sin, to become poor, to endure the contradiction of sinners, to be despised, betrayed, denied, and forsaken.  And even though God loved Him eternally, God withheld His love and His friendship at the crucial moment of the cross; God would have nothing to do with His Son in our flesh, in order that He might be the righteousness of God in us!  What a love that it would not spare such a Gift!


 Having given Christ to His people, it follows with irresistible logic that God also gives us all things!  Thus Paul argues in Romans 8: "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"  There is nothing that God does not give to us; nothing that God does not do for us!  All things are ours, we are Christ's and Christ is God's!  All things must work together for out temporal and eternal good!


 There are tremendous fruits in the life of the saints as they experience the love of God in Jesus Christ.  Because the apostle John writes "He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love", we can say that who so loveth God knoweth God!  Because God loved us, we love Him; because we love Him, we know Him and have life everlasting!  Loving and knowing God, we keep His commandments, for love is the keeping of the law.  That which God loves and delights in is to be found in the Ten Commandments.  Those that love God love His law, meditate upon it day and night, and use it daily as a guide for thankful, holy living.


 Secondly, the fruit of the love of God for us is that we love one another also.  "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." (v. 11) Because God loved us and placed us in family relationship to Himself, we owe the debt of love to all members of the same family.  We must love the whole Church of God everywhere in general and the saints that we know in particular.  (Please note that the believer's calling to love also the unbelieving neighbor is outside the scope of this chapter.)  It would be monstrous and unnatural if believers did not love one another, give themselves and their substance to one another, and share in the joys and sorrows of one another.  "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (v. 20)  The point is not, Is the brother a nice person and does he show himself worthy of my love? The only point is, Has God by His love made that individual a member of His covenant family?  That's all I need to know!  Then I love him!


 Finally, the fruit of God's love for us is that His perfect love casts out fear. (v.18)  Love reaches its perfect goal when the child of God does not have fear but has boldness in the day of judgment!  Fear hath torment; the one who has fear in his heart regarding the judgment is a tormented person.  He worries about that day.  He is afraid to die.  When he lies down at night he wonders whether he shall awake; and if not, where shall he be?  But when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, that love carries us powerfully along life's pathway unto the end.  And it casts out fear!  What a blessing that we may have boldness, confidence, even longing for the day of Jesus Christ!


 All this, because God loved us and sent Christ to be our propitiation.  In love He chose us, in love He gave us to Christ, in love He redeemed us unto Himself at the cross, in love He preserves us all our days, and in love He judges us worthy of everlasting live at the end of the ages!  Believing all this, I say, "I love Him!"  But I also say, "He must have loved me first!"


Source: http://www.reformedwitness.org

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Seventh Day Adventist -VS- Biblical Christianity



Dr. Walter Martin Debates a representative of the 7th Day Adventist Church on the John Ankerberg Show...

Roman Catholicism VS Biblical Christianity





Dr. Walter Martin Debates Fr. Mitchell Pacwa of EWTN of the Catholic channel on the Doctrine of Penance. Taken from John Ankerberg Show.

From this debate you will undderstand how erroneous is the position of Roman Catholcism based on what the Bible teach us plainly. No wonder why Roman Catholcism dont recognized the Bible as the Word of God and if we look back in the corridors of history we will find Roman Catholicism not only persecuted Bible believers but also burn them at stake including burning of the Holy Scriptures.

Reformation Essentials - Five Pillars of the Reformation

by Michael Horton

ReformedTheology_lowresIn May, 1989, a conference jointly sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School was held at the Trinity campus in Illinois. Dubbed a consultation on Evangelical Affirmations, the meeting revealed more than it settled. In the published addresses (Zondervan, 1990), Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of American evangelicalism, sets the tone for book with his opening line: "The term 'evangelical' has taken on conflicting nuances in the twentieth century. Wittingly or unwittingly, evangelical constituencies no less than their critics have contributed to this confusion and misunderstanding." He warned that "evangelical" was being understood, not according to Scriptural teaching and "the theological 'ought,'" but according to the sociological and empirical "is." In other words, Henry was disturbed that evangelicalism is increasingly being defined by its most recent trends rather than by its normative theological identity. Author after author (presumably, speaker after speaker) echoed the same fears that before long "evangelical" will be useless as any meaningful identification.


The term itself derives from the Greek word euangelion, translated "Gospel," and it became a noun when the Protestant reformers began their work of bringing the "one holy, catholic and apostolic church" back to that message by which and for which it was created. People still used other labels, too, like "Lutheran," "Reformed," and later, "Puritans," "Pietists," and "Wesleyans." Nevertheless, the belief was that the same Gospel that had united the "evangelicals" against Rome's errors could also unite them against the creeping naturalism and secularism of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. The so-called "Evangelical Awakening" in Britain coincided with America's own "Great Awakening," as Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Tennant, and so many others centered their preaching on the atonement. Later, of course, Wesley's zeal for Arminian emphases divided the work in Britain, but the Reformation emphases were clearly and unambiguously articulated in the Great Awakening.


Out of this heritage, those today who call themselves "evangelicals" (or who are in these churches, but might not know that they are in this tradition) are heirs also to the Second Great Awakening. Radically altering the "evangel" from a concern with the object of faith, the Second Great Awakening and the revivalism that emerged from it focused on the act and experience of faith, in dependence on the proper "excitements", as Finney and others expressed it, to trigger the right response. In our estimation, this Second Great Awakening was the most important seismic shift in American religious history. Although the Reformation emphases of sin and grace continued to exercise some influence, they were being constantly revised to make the "Gospel" more acceptable to those who thought they could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.


Only in the last decade of this century have many of the movement's mainstream leaders considered the loss of an evangelical substance. No longer is the evangel the focus of the movement's identity, but it is now known more by a sub-culture, a collection of political, moral and social causes, and an acute interest in rather exotic notions about the end-times. At a loss for words, one friend answered a man's question, "Who are the evangelicals?" with the reply, "They're people who like Billy Graham."


It is at this point that those of us who are heirs to the Reformation--which bequeathed to evangelicalism a distinct theological identity that has been since lost--call attention once more to the solas (only or alone) that framed the entire sixteenth-century debate: "Only Scripture," "Only Christ," "Only Grace," "Only Faith," and "To God Alone Be Glory."


Sola Scriptura: Our Only Foundation
Many critics of the Reformation have attempted to portray it as the invitation to individualism, as people discover for themselves from the Bible what they will and will not believe. "Never mind the church. Away with creeds and the church's teaching office! We have the Bible and that's enough." But this was not the reformers' doctrine of sola Scriptura--only Scripture. Luther said of individualistic approaches to the Bible, "That would mean that each man would go to hell in his own way."


On one side, the reformers faced the Roman Church, which believed its teaching authority to be final and absolute. The Roman Catholics said that tradition can be a form of infallible revelation even in the contemporary church; one needs an infallible Bible and an infallible interpreter of that sacred book. On the other side were the Anabaptist radicals, who believed that they not only did not need the teaching office of the church; they really didn't seem to need the Bible either, since the Holy Spirit spoke to them--or at least to their leaders--directly. Instead of one Pope, Anabaptism produced numerous "infallible" messengers who heard the voice of God. Against both positions, the Reformation insisted that the Bible was the sole final authority in determining doctrine and life. In interpreting it, the whole church must be included, including the laity, and they must be guided by the teachers in the church. Those teachers, though not infallible, should have considerable interpretive authority. The creeds were binding and the newly reformed Protestant communions quickly drafted confessions of faith that received the assent of the whole church, not merely the teachers.


Today, we are faced with similar challenges even within evangelicalism. On one hand, there is the tendency to say, as Luther characterized the problem, "I go to church, hear what my priest says, and him I believe." Calvin complained to Cardinal Sadoleto that the sermons before the Reformation were part trivial pursuit, part story-telling. Today, this same process of "dumbing down" has meant that we are, in George Gallup's words, "a nation of biblical illiterates." Perhaps we have a high view of the Bible's inspiration: 80% of adult Americans believe that the Bible is the literal or inspired Word of God. But 30% of the teenagers who attend church regularly do not even know why Easter is celebrated. "The decline in Bible reading," says Gallup, "is due in part to the widely held conviction that the Bible is inaccessible, and to less emphasis on religious training in the churches." Just as Rome's infallibility rested on the belief that the Bible itself was difficult, obscure, and confusing, so today people want the "net breakdown" from the professionals: what does it mean for me and how will it help me and make me happy? But those who read the Bible for more than devotional meditations know how clear it is--at least on the main points it addresses--and how it ends up making religion less confusing and obscure. Again today, the Bible--especially in mainline Protestant churches--is a mysterious book that can only be understood by a small cadre of biblical scholars who are "in the know."


But we have the other side, too. There is a popular trend in many "evangelical" churches to emphasize direct communication with the Holy Spirit apart from the Word. In these circles, tradition and the teaching ministry of the church through the ages are not only treated as fallible (as the reformers believed), but as objects of mockery. The sentiments of Thomas Muntzer, who complained that Luther was "one of our scribes who wants to send the Holy Ghost off to college," would find a prime-time spot on the nation's leading evangelical radio and television broadcasts. Calvin said of these folks, "When the fanatics boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency is always to bury the Word of God so they may make room for their own falsehoods."


Christianity is not a spirituality, but a religion. Wade Clark Roof and other sociologists have pointed out that evangelicals today are indistinguishable from the general cultural trends, especially when it comes to preferring to think of their relationship to God more in terms of an experience than in terms of a relationship that is mediated through words. Ours is a visual or image-based society, much like the Middle Ages, and yet Christianity can only flourish through words, ideas, beliefs, announcements, arguments. There can be no communication with God apart from the written and living Word. Everything in the Christian faith depends on the spoken and written Word delivered by God to us through the prophets and apostles.


Further, sola Scriptura meant that the Word of God was sufficient. Although Rome believed it was infallible, the official theology was shaped more by the insights of Plato and Aristotle than by Scripture. Similarly today, psychology threatens to reshape the understanding of the self, as even in the evangelical pulpit sin becomes "addiction"; the Fall as an event is replaced with one's "victim" status; salvation is increasingly communicated as mental health, peace of mind, and self-esteem, and my personal happiness and self-fulfillment are center-stage rather than God's holiness and mercy, justice and love, glory and compassion. Does the Bible define the human problem and its solution? Or when we really want facts, do we turn somewhere else, to a modern secular authority who will really carry weight in my sermon? Of course, the Bible will be cited to bolster the argument. Political ideology, sociology, marketing, and other secular "authorities" must never be allowed priority in answering questions the Bible addresses. That is, in part, what this affirmation means, and evangelicals today seem as confused on this point as was the medieval church.


Solus Christus: Our Only Mediator
In the Middle Ages, the minister was seen as having a special relationship with God, as he mediated God's grace and forgiveness through the sacraments. But there were other challenges. We often think of our own age as unique, with its pluralism and the advent of so many religions. But not too long before the Reformation, the Renaissance thinker Petrarch was calling for an Age of the Spirit in which all religions would be united. Many Renaissance minds were convinced that there was a saving revelation of God in nature and that, therefore, Christ was not the only way. The fascination with pagan philosophy encouraged the idea that natural religion offered a great deal--indeed, even salvation--to those who did not know Christ.


The Reformation was, more than anything else, an assault on faith in humanity, and a defense of the idea that God alone reveals Himself and saves us. We do not find Him; He finds us. That emphasis was the cause of the cry, "Christ alone!" Jesus was the only way of knowing what God is really like, the only way of entering into a relationship with Him as father instead of judge, and the only way of being saved from His wrath.


Today, once more, this affirmation is in trouble. According to University of Virginia sociologist James Hunter, 35% of evangelical seminarians deny that faith in Christ is absolutely necessary. According to George Barna, that is the same figure for conservative, evangelical Protestants in America: "God will save all good people when they die, regardless of whether they've trusted in Christ," they agreed.


Eighty-five percent of American adults believe that they will stand before God to be judged. They believe in hell, but only 11% think they might go there. R.C. Sproul observed that to the degree that people think they are good enough to pass divine inspection, and are oblivious to the holiness of God, to that extent they will not see Christ as necessary. That is why over one-fourth of the "born again" evangelicals surveyed agreed with a statement that one would think might raise red flags even for those who might agree with the same thing more subtly put: "If a person is good, or does enough good things for others during life, they will earn a place in Heaven." Furthermore, when asked whether they agreed with the following statement: "Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and others all pray to the same God, even though they use different names for that God," two-thirds of the evangelicals didn't find that objectionable. Barna observes "how little difference there is between the responses of those who regularly attend church services and those who are unchurched." One respondent, an Independent Fundamentalist, said, "What is important in their case is that they have conformed to the law of God as they know it in their hearts."


But this cultural influence toward relativism is not only apparent in the masses; it is self-consciously asserted by some of evangelicalism's own teachers. Clark Pinnock states, "The Bible does not teach that one must confess the name of Jesus Christ to be saved. The issue God cares about is the direction of the heart, not the content of their theology." For those of us who have some inkling of the direction of their heart (see Jer 17:9), that might not be as comforting as Pinnock assumes.


To say solus Christus does not mean that we do not believe in the Father or the Spirit, but it does insist that Christ is the only incarnate self-revelation of God and redeemer of humanity. The Holy Spirit does not draw attention to himself, but leads us to Christ, in whom we find our peace with God.


Sola Gratia: Our Only Method
The reason we must stay with the Scriptures is because it is the only place where we are told that we are saved by the unprovoked and undeserved acceptance of God. In "The Sound of Music," Maria (Julie Andrews), bewildered by the captain's sudden attraction to her, rhapsodizes, "Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could. So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good." Deep down, human nature is convinced that there is a way for us to save ourselves. We may indeed require divine assistance. Perhaps God will have to show us the way, or even send a messenger to lead us back, but we can actually follow the plan and pull it off.


The Law is in us by nature. We were born with a conscience that tells us that we are condemned by that Law, but our reason concludes immediately that the answer to that self-condemnation is to do better next time. But the Gospel is not in nature. It is not lodged somewhere in our heart, our mind, our will, or our emotions. It is an announcement that comes to us as foolishness and our first response, like that of Sarah, is to laugh. The story is told of a man who fell off a cliff, but on his way down managed to grab a branch. He broke his fall and saved his life, but before long he realized that he could not pull himself back up onto the ledge. Finally, he called out, "Is there anyone up there who can help me?" To his surprise, a voice boomed back, "I am here and I can help you, but first you're going to have to let go of that branch." Thinking for a moment about his options, the man looked back up and shot back, "Is there anyone else up there who can help me?" We are looking for someone to save us by helping us save ourselves. But the Law tells us that even our best works are like filthy rags; the Gospel tells us that it is something in God and his character (kindness, goodness, mercy, compassion) and not something in us (a good will, a decision, an act, an open heart, etc.) that saves us.


Many in the medieval church believed that God saved by grace, but they also believed that their own free will and cooperation with grace was "their part" in salvation. The popular medieval phrase was, "God will not deny his grace to those who do what they can." Today's version, of course, is, "God helps those who help themselves." Over half the evangelicals surveyed thought this was a direct biblical quotation and 84% thought that it was a biblical idea, that percentage rising with church attendance at evangelical churches.


On the eve of the Reformation a number of church leaders, including bishops and archbishops, had been complaining of creeping Pelagianism (a heresy that denies original sin and the absolute need for grace). Nevertheless, that heresy was never tolerated in its full expression. However, today it is tolerated and even promoted in liberal Protestantism generally, and even in many evangelical circles.


In Pelagianism, Adam's sin is not imputed to us, nor is Christ's righteousness. Adam is a bad example, not the representative in whom we stand guilty. Similarly, Christ is a good example, not the representative in whom we stand righteous. How much of our preaching centers on following Christ--as important as that is--rather than on his person and work? How often do we hear about his work in us compared to his work for us?


Charles Finney, the revivalist of the last century, is a patron saint for most evangelicals. And yet, he denied original sin, the substitutionary atonement, justification, and the need for regeneration by the Holy Spirit. In short, Finney was a Pelagian. This belief in human nature, so prominent in the Enlightenment, wrecked the evangelical doctrine of grace among the older evangelical Protestant denominations (now called "mainline"), and we see where that has taken them. And yet, conservative evangelicals are heading down the same path and have had this human-centered, works-centered emphasis for some time.


The statistics bear us out here, unfortunately, and again the leaders help substantiate the error. Norman Geisler writes, "God would save all men if he could. He will save the greatest number actually achievable without violating their free will."


Sola Fide: Our Only Means
The reformers said that it is not enough to say that we are saved by grace alone, for even many medieval scholars held that view, including Luther's own mentor. Rome viewed grace more as a substance than as an attitude of favor on God's part. In other words, grace was like water poured into the soul. It assisted the believer in his growth toward salvation. The purpose of grace was to transform a sinner into a saint, a bad person into a good person, a rebel into an obedient son or daughter.


The reformers searched the Scriptures and found a missing ingredient in the medieval notion of grace. To be sure, there were many passages that spoke of grace transforming us and conforming us to the image of Christ. But there were other passages, too, that used a Greek word that meant "to declare righteous," not "to make righteous." The problem was, the Latin Bible everyone was using mistranslated the former and combined the two Greek words into one. Erasmus and other Renaissance humanists "laid the egg that Luther hatched" by cleaning up the translation mistakes.


According to Scripture, God declares a person righteous before that person actually begins to become righteous. Therefore, the declaration is not in response to any spiritual or moral advances within the individual, but is an imputation of the perfect righteousness that God immediately requires of everyone who is united to Christ by faith alone. When a person trusts Christ, that very moment he or she is clothed in his perfect holiness, so that even though the believer is still sinful, he or she is judged by God as blameless.


This apostolic doctrine, proclaimed to Abraham and his offspring, has fallen on hard times again in church history. Not only do most Christians today not hear about the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, many cannot even define it. Although justification is the doctrine by which, according to the evangelical reformers "the church stands or falls," it has been challenged. Finney openly declared, "The doctrine of an imputed righteousness is another gospel. For sinners to be forensically pronounced just is impossible and absurd. The doctrine of an imputed righteousness is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption, representing the atonement, rather than the sinner's own obedience, as the ground of his justification, which has been a sad occasion of stumbling to many."


In our own time, Clark Pinnock wonders why we cannot even embrace the notion of purgatory:


I cannot deny that most believers end their earthly lives imperfectly sanctified and far from complete. [Most? How about all!] I cannot deny the wisdom in possibly giving them an opportunity to close the gap and grow to maturity after death. Obviously, evangelicals have not thought this question out. [We have: It was called The Reformation.] It seems to me that we already have the possibility of a doctrine of purgatory. Our Wesleyan and Arminian thinking may need to be extended in this direction. Is a doctrine of purgatory not required by our doctrine of holiness?


Russell Spittler, a Pentecostal theologian at Fuller Seminary, reflects on Luther's phrase concerning justification: simul iustus et peccator, (simultaneously just and sinner): "But can it really be true--saint and sinner simultaneously? I wish it were so. Is this correct: 'I don't need to work at becoming. I'm already declared to be holy.' No sweat needed? It looks wrong to me. I hear moral demands in Scripture. Simul iustus et peccator? I hope it's true! I simply fear it's not."


The Wesleyan emphasis has always been a challenge to the evangelical faith on this point, although in his best moments Wesley insisted on this heart of the Gospel. To the extent that the consensus-builders and institutional abbots of the evangelical monasteries have attempted to incorporate Arminianism under the label "evangelical," to that extent, it seems to me, it ceases to be evangelical indeed.


Soli Deo Gloria: Our Only Ambition
The world is full of ambitious people. But Paul said, "It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known." (Rom 15:20). Since God has spoken so clearly and saved so finally, the believer is free to worship, serve, and glorify God and to enjoy him forever, beginning now. What is the ambition of the evangelical movement? Is it to please God or to please men?


Is our happiness and joy found in God or in someone or something else? Is our worship entertainment or worship? Is God's glory or our self-fulfillment the goal of our lives? Do we see God's grace as the only basis for our salvation, or are we still seeking some of the credit for ourselves? These questions reveal a glaring human-centeredness in the evangelical churches and the general witness of our day.


Robert Schuller actually says that the Reformation "erred because it was God-centered rather than man-centered," and Yale's George Lindbeck observes how quickly evangelical theology accepted this new gospel: "In the fifties, it took liberals to accept Norman Vincent Peale, but as the case of Robert Schuller indicates, today professed conservatives eat it up."


Many historians look back to the Reformation and wonder at its far-reaching influences in transforming culture. The work ethic, public education, civic and economic betterment, a revival of music, the arts, and a sense of all life being related somehow to God and his glory: These effects cause historians to observe with a sense of irony how a theology of sin and grace, the sovereignty of God over the helplessness of human beings, and an emphasis on salvation by grace apart from works, could be the catalyst for such energetic moral transformation. The reformers did not set out to launch a political or moral campaign, but they proved that when we put the Gospel first and give voice to the Word, the effects inevitably follow.


How can we expect the world to take God and his glory seriously if the church does not? The Reformation slogan Soli Deo Gloria was carved into the organ at Bach's church in Leipzig and the composer signed his works with its initials. It's inscribed over taverns and music halls in old sections of Heidelberg and Amsterdam, a lasting tribute to a time when the fragrance of God's goodness seemed to fill the air. It was not a golden age, but it was an amazing recovery of God-centered faith and practice. Columbia University professor Eugene Rice offers a fitting conclusion:


All the more, the Reformation's views of God and humanity measure the gulf between the secular imagination of the twentieth century and the sixteenth century's intoxication with the majesty of God. We can exercise only historical sympathy to try to understand how it was that the most brilliant intelligences of an entire epoch found a total, a supreme liberty in abandoning human weakness to the omnipotence of God.


Soli Deo Gloria!


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Dr. Michael Horton is professor of apologetics and theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California).

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Listen to Five Pillars of the Reformation sermons:








Dr. Michael Ross, Senior Pastor of Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, NC
View all sermons and lectures by Dr. Michael Ross
 

Five Pillars of the Reformation -- Sola Scriptura: The Scripture Alone Part 1 (2 Peter 1:12-21; 3:14-18)
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Five Pillars of the Reformation -- Sola Scruptura: The Scripture Alone Part 2 (2 Peter 1:12-21; 3:14-18)
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Five Pillars of the Reformation -- Sola Fide: Faith Alone Part 1 (Romans 4:1-25)
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Five Pillars of the Reformation -- Sola Fide: Faith Alone Part 2 (Romans 4; James 2)
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Five Pillars of the Reformation -- Solus Christus: Christ Alone (Colossians 1:13-23)
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Five Pillars of the Reformation -- Soli Deo Gloria (Isaiah 42:1-25)
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Five Pillars of the Reformation -- Sola Gratia: Grace Alone (Ephesians 2:1-10)
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