f The Wittenberg Door: September 2008

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Loss of Symbolism

One of the things I love about the Reformed church is the symbolism, especially the symbolism involving the pulpit. The pulpit comprises a lectern standing upon a raised platform. Being the most important piece of “furniture” in the church, it is positioned in front of the congregation, with all pews facing it. Its symbolic importance can be summarized as follows:

  • It’s central—The pulpit’s central placement is important because it is from there that God addresses His people via the preached word. Therefore, it commands the most prominent place in the church.

  • It’s raised—The pulpit is elevated because it is upon the lectern that the minister’s bible rests, symbolizing the word of God being over the people.

  • It’s solid—The lectern is made of solid wood, symbolizing the sure foundation upon which God’s word stands. Moreover, it’s large enough to obscure most of the minister’s body, thus keeping the focus on the word. For this reason, Reformed ministers stay behind the lectern, so as to stay behind the word of God.

So Goes the Pulpit, So Goes the Glory of God

Overall, the pulpit represents what the church service is to be primarily about—God’s people coming together to worship Him, and, as mentioned, God addressing His people through the preached word.

Things have changed, though. Pulpits are considered outdated, and even stifling. Like nature, the church abhors a vacuum. In the pulpit’s place sprung the Plexiglas stand, allowing the “minister” to be seen in all of his glory. But this too is seen by some as cumbersome. Why let anything stand in front of the minister, hindering his ability to work the crowd like a Vegas lounge lizard?

Too harsh? Perhaps. But the transition from the pulpit to more modern elements is symptomatic of a greater problem: a shift from the glory of God to the glory of man; a shift from the minister as an empty vessel placarding Christ, to the minister as a personality and centerpiece; a shift from the preached word as a Means of Grace to the advent of a new sacrament—the minister himself.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 11 – Arminianism: Resistible Grace

In our last discussion on this topic, Part 10, we took a look at the work of the Trinity in salvation and considered the gospel call. In this post we’ll see what the Scriptures have to say about the efficacy and application of God’s grace.

Scriptural Considerations

The Spirit, working through the Word, causes the sinner to be born again.

3) Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

4) Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"

5) Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6) “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7) "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

8) "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

John 3:3-8

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit

Titus 3:5

for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 1:23

Also consider: John 1:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:3; 1 John 5:4

Like Lazerus being brought back to life through the command of the Lord, so the Spirit brings the spiritually-dead to life.

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

John 5:21

even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)

Ephesians 2:5

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions

Colossians 2:13

Although the external call is often rejected, the internal call is effectual and therefore cannot be rejected.

and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Romans 8:30

who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity

2 Timothy 1:9

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

1 Peter 5:10

Also consider: Rom. 1:6-7, 9:23-24; Gal. 1:15-16; Eph. 4:4; Heb. 9:15; Jude 1; 1 Pet. 1:15, 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:3; Rev. 17:14

Salvation is through God’s sovereign will and therefore cannot be resisted nor thwarted.

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Romans 9:16

In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

James 1:18

Also consider: John 3:27, 17:2; 1 Cor. 3:6-7, 4:7; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 John 5:20


As we’ve seen, Scripture does not support the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace. The Spirit, working through the Word, causes the sinner to be born again, bringing him from death to life. Just as babies cannot chose not to be born, and Lazarus could not resist the resurrecting work of Christ, so men cannot—and will not—resist the sovereign work of God in salvation.

Stay tuned for part 12!


Monday, September 08, 2008

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 10 – Arminianism: Resistible Grace

In Part 9 of this series we considered the plight of man—how he is separated from God because of the fall. We also reflected upon the grace of God, His unmerited (unearned) favor—salvation is a free gift of God bestowed upon unworthy sinners.

In this post we’ll take a look at the work of the Trinity in saving men, and we’ll consider the gospel call.

The Trinity and Salvation

When thinking of the salvation of men, it is appropriate to step back and understand that salvation is the work of the Trinity. In eternity past, the Father marked out those who would be saved. This is referred to as “election” (see Part 6). At the appointed time, the Son came into the world and secured the redemption of His people (see Part 8). Finally, the Spirit, working through the Word, applies that redemption to the elect.

The Gospel Call

The general (or external) call. We find in Scripture that the gospel call is distributed indiscriminately. This call to repentance and faith goes out to all hearers. The great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon was once asked why he didn’t preach to the elect only. His response was, as I recall, “Paint a yellow stripe down their back and I will.” The elect is known only to God. Thus those responding to the Great Commission proclaim Christ to all.

This external call includes (1.) A declaration of the plan of salvation. (2.) The promise of God to save all who accede to the terms of that plan. (3.) Command, exhortation, and invitation to all to accept of the offer mercy. (4.) An exhibition of the reasons which should constrain men to repent and believe, and thus escape from the wrath to come. All this is included in the gospel. For the gospel is a revelation of God's plan of saving sinners . . . This call is universal in the sense that it is addressed to all men indiscriminately to whom the gospel is sent. It is confined to no age, nation, or class of men. It is made to the Jew and Gentile, to Barbarians and Scythians, bond and free; to the learned and to the ignorant; to the righteous and to the wicked; to the elect and to the non-elect.

Charles Hodge (1797-1878)

For many are called, but few are chosen

Matthew 22:14

5) "The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up.

6) "Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.

7) "Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.

8) "Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great." As He said these things, He would call out, "(G)He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

11) "Now the parable is this: (the seed is the word of God.

Luke 8:5-8, 11

The Effectual (or inward) call. For the elect, a special inward call from the Holy Spirit accompanies the general call. This call brings the sinner, who is dead in his sins (Gen. 2:16–17, 3:1–7; Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1–3; Col. 2:13), to life. By this work of the Spirit, through the Word, faith is granted to the sinner—he is enabled to believe all that is promised in the gospel.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins

Ephesians 2:1

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God

Ephesians 2:8

In my next post on this topic we’ll see what the Scriptures have to say regarding the efficacy and application of God’s grace.