f The Wittenberg Door: March 2010

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2 Chronicles 34 and the Reformation – Part Four (Conclusion)

Rev. Pollema continues from Part Three . . .

Faith Alone (Sola Fide)

For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Closely related to the principle of grace is the necessity of faith in the Christian life. There is no genuine experience of God’s power apart from faith. However, we are not acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of our faith. First of all, it is not our faith. It is the gift of God. But we can receive the benefits of Christ (perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness) and make those our own in no other way than by faith only (cf. Heidelberg Catechism 60 & 61).

Faith, then, calls for commitment of the whole being to the person and work of Christ. In the words of the Psalmist, to have faith is to “delight thyself also in the Lord; to commit they way unto the Lord” (Ps. 37:4–5). It is to deny oneself and to acknowledge Christ as both Savior and Lord. It is that “hearty trust that . . . forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God, only for the sake of Christ’s merits” (cf. Heidelberg Catechism 21). His is what the Apostle Paul means when he writers: “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). And this is what Martin Luther rediscovered when he went back to the Bible. It was the righteousness of Christ, not his own, and that could be received only by faith. It is true faith that holds for truth all that God has revealed in His Word.

Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura)

The Scriptures must be warp and woof of the individual’s life. It is through
Scripture alone that we come to know Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). In the pages of Scripture we find what we need to know about sin, salvation, and the way of Christian living. The Bible is the only book that authoritatively speaks of the past, present, and future. In its pages are to be found the answers to the problem of sin and man’s greatest need.

It is little wonder that Satan hates God’s Word! From the beginning he has sneeringly asked: “Did God say?” (Gen. 3:1). He fears the Bible because it is the sword of the Spirit against which he cannot stand. His greatest victory today is among those in whom he has planted a seed of doubt, by frank denial or insinuation, in the classrooms of our schools, in the books we read, through Hollywood and the mass media, and yes, from the pulpit itself. God speaks to us today through the prophet Jeremiah:

The wise men are ashamed , they are dismayed and taken; lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?” (Jer. 8:9).

To the believer the Word also speaks:

For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. The entrance of thy words giveth light: it givith understanding unto the simple.” (Ps. 119:89, 130).

Christ Alone (Solus Christus)

As one looks back at grace alone, faith alone, and Scripture alone, it becomes abundantly evident that each one centers upon Christ alone. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:30–31).

Today God’s Word needs to be rediscovered. We have to go back to the Bible. The dust-laden Bible upon the shelf, the oft talked about but undigested Word, the reinterpreted Word resulting from some new hermeneutic—the Word is just as much lost and forgotten today as it was in the days of Josiah. God’s Law, His will for the people, needs to be read and reread in the hearing of all if they are to be brought to a knowledge and sorrow for their sins. How refreshing it would be to have those who aspire to lead this country refer the people to the Law of the Lord and encourage them, as did Josiah, to abide by it. Since that seems extremely unlikely, may it begin with us. May our response to this Word be that of the Psalmist, even as it must have been for the people of Josiah’s day and for the Reformers of the sixteenth-century Reformation: “I rejoice at they word, as one that findeth great spoil” (Ps. 119:162).

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Monday, March 22, 2010

2 Chronicles 34 and the Reformation – Part Three

Rev. Pollema continues from Part Two . .

Reformation Today

Today the church again needs to preach the truths of the Reformation. The bulk of theology being taught today denies that the Bible is, in any supernatural sense, the Word of God. Most seminary graduates today have exchanged the truths of the Bible for myths and legends, and as a result, Sunday worship services have become nothing more than little social gatherings where the injustices and evils of present day society are discussed and debated, or where men and women are made to feel good about themselves, but where no cause and cure is ever forthcoming because God’s Word is not applied and the corruption of sin is not preached. Consequently, God’s Law is again lost to the bulk of today’s generation.

Today, as in the past, God’s Word must be brought back into the pulpits of the land and its truths faithfully proclaimed. The great principles rediscovered during the Reformation—grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ alone—must again be proclaimed. God’s Word offers much more than a way of escape from hell; it extends the opportunity for an inward reformation, a reformation in the human heart. It is inward reformations that blossom forth in outward reformations.

The principles that served as the watchword of the Reformation 490 years ago: grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ alone, can also be used to speak of the reformation that takes place in the individual’s life when Jesus Christ comes in.

Grace Alone (Sola Gratia)

For by grace are ye saved” (Eph. 2:8). The Christian life begins and continues on the basis of God’s grace. God is at work in the Christian to change him from a selfish, self-willed rebel into a son of God whose purpose in life is to do his Father’s will. Paul told the Philippian Christians that God the Holy Spirit was continually at work within them, first to make them desire His will and law, and then to help them do it. The apostle Paul said of himself and of every Christian, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in” (Phil. 4:13). The Christian who misses this principle of grace and seeks to live the Christian life by flexing his own spiritual muscles will fail miserably.

Stay tuned for Part Four!

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

2 Chronicles 34 and the Reformation – Part Two

Rev. Pollema continues from part one . . .

Reforming Christianity

This is also what happened again 490 years ago. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, and others went back to the Bible after it had been mutilated and all but lost by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The Reformers, too, were confronted by the Law of God. Martin Luther stood terrified before the Law of God, for by the Law comes the knowledge of sin (cf. Rom. 3:20). No matter how much penance Luther performed, his sins and sinfulness continued to plague him.

When sin is known for what it is, i.e., rebellion against the Almighty God, when there is the fear of falling into the hands of an angry God, then the gospel will get a hearing. Then the meaning of the words, “Unto whom shall we go? Thou alone hast the words of eternal life,” (Jn. 6:68) hits home. The Law of God needs to be rediscovered today; it needs to be preached. As the apostle Paul states: “If it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin” (Rom. 7:7). When Josiah heard the Law and trembled before it, he felt its curse as it is clearly taught in Deut. 27:26: “Cursed is he that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.”

The Heidelberg Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism is a product of the Reformation. It is quite significant that in setting forth the three parts of the Catechism, the first thing that was deemed necessary in order to have comfort in life and in death, was the knowledge of the greatness of one’s sin and misery. The first question to deal with the subject of sin and misery is #3: Whence knowst thou thy miser? The answer: Out of the Law of God.

Today, the church, the nation, and all people must go back to God’s Word, the Bible, as the absolute divine authority for faith and all of life. Today, the churches are few and far between that speak forth on the sinfulness of sin as rebellion against the Almighty God who demands absolute perfection and holiness. Man is no longer made aware of his sin and therefore sees no need for salvation nor does he have any fear of judgment. God, who is holy, righteous, and just, does not change.

Even though man fell into sin and his nature became totally depraved, incapable of any good, and prone to all evil, God continued to require of man absolute and perfect obedience to His Law, for God so made man that he could keep it, but man willfully disobeyed. When Adam disobeyed, he deprived all mankind of the ability to keep the law perfectly. Nonetheless, man remains responsible before God for such obedience and is at fault for his corrupt nature.

When the Israelites of Josiah’s day heard the newly-found Law read to them, they were terrified and prostrated themselves before God, begging for forgiveness. When God spoke through His Word to certain men during the sixteenth-century Reformation, they repented, believed, and lived.

Stay tuned for part three!

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

2 Chronicles 34 and the Reformation – Part One

This article, originally titled 2 Chronicles 34 and the Reformation: Back to the Basics, was published in the October 2007 edition of the Reformed Herald. The article was penned by Rev. Vern Pollema, pastor of Ebenezer Reformed Church (RCUS) in Shafter California, and is reproduced with the author’s permission.

Four hundred and ninety years ago, Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses, statements of biblical truths, to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, Germany.

Today, there are still those churches who observe the celebration of this event which became known as the Reformation; not Halloween, but the birthday of the denominations that are known as Protestant and Reformed.

Sadly, among those who would celebrate Reformation Day, the celebration for the most part is a tribute more to what it was and did, than to what it is and should be doing today. The great biblical truths that were set forth, or restated, or rediscovered by the Reformers 490 years ago have been abandoned once again y most Protestant denominations. Even worse, some Protestant leaders would like the church to move back to days before the Reformation. This is the aim of the liberal ecumenical movements today. Back to one world church, just as it was 490 years ago when Roman Catholicism was the world religion and the pope, a mere man, was the supreme authority before whom even kings were expected to bow!

Today we must be reminded of another similar period of history recorded in 2 Chronicles 34, when Josiah became king of Judah. When he took the throne at the tender age of eight, the nation of Judah, God’s chosen people, the church of the Old Testament, was steeped in iniquity, idolatry, murder, and intrigue. Conditions then were much like those that existed before the Reformation. Then too, the church had become corrupt and was beset by the sin of idolatry. The sale of indulgences was thriving business. People were duped into believing that goodness, righteousness, and forgiveness could be purchased!

When Josiah came to the throne, he began to purge out the places of idolatry and began to rebuild the temple that had fallen into great ruin and neglect. During the process of repairing the temple, the Law of God (most likely the book of Deuteronomy and possibly more) was found. Such was the sad state of affairs! But hidden in the unused temple was a copy of God’s law. When it was brought and read to King Josiah, he was convicted by it as any true believer must. He repented in fear and trembling for it showed to him the greatness of his sin and misery and the wrath of God against sin. Josiah turned to the Word, back to the Bible, for more understanding and for the good news of salvation:

And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.

2 Chronicles 34:31

Stay tuned for part two!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

America and a Dutch Hymn

A large part of the early immigrants to America were Dutch Calvinists escaping persecution. They brought with them a passion for the things of God and a desire to build a godly society. It was from this breading ground that magnificent hymns such as We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing (circa 1597) came to our shores.

We gather together
to ask the Lord's blessing;
he chastens and hastens
his will to make known.
The wicked oppressing
now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name,
he forgets not his own.

(Hymn 286 in the Trinity Hymnal, first stanza)

Although originally penned across the seas, We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing captures the essence of these early settlers’ faith and devotion. This hymn has since grown to become part of America’s heritage, especially our Day of Thanksgiving.

I commend to you an Opinion Journal article, A Hymn's Long Journey Home, that recalls for us this great heritage, while informing us of the history of this truly stirring hymn. As you read the article, rejoice in the magnificent grace God has shown us.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Notable Quote: Charles Spurgeon

Spurgeon on God's gracious election . . .

I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love.

C.H. Spurgeon (1834 - 1892)