Friday, October 22, 2010

Remembering the beginning event of the Reformation

A good reminder to us all, as we celebrate the Reformation (October 31, 1517):

Here is an excellent article by Dan Phillips on Repentance and mortifying sin, and an excellent discussion in the comment boxes, especially comments by Terry Rayburn (though I cannot tell completely where he is coming from), Dan Phillips, and Mary Elizabeth Tyler (the truth is somewhere in the middle of all that discussion; both sides make some excellent points) :

As John Owen wrote years ago:

Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it while you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you (p. 47, Overcoming Sin and Temptation; Crossway Books: 2006, John Owen, edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor [emphases added]) (Cited and emphasized by Dan Phillips at his article at Pyromaniacs.)

In his article, Dan links to Luther’s 95 Theses, especially the first one.

The first 3 points that Luther makes are especially good. Also, important was no. 6, 8, 27, 32, 81-82, as James Swan reminded us all earlier of the historical context and meaning of the 95 theses and that Luther was still in process at the time of posting them; but that “they got the ball rolling” toward justification by faith alone and the whole Reformation of the church.

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences Commonly Known as The 95 Theses
by Dr. Martin Luther

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

We cry out to God, as Augustine said in his Confessions several times, which is what made Pelagius angry:

“O God! “Give me the grace to obey Your commands, and command me to do what You will.!” Confessions, Book 10:29 (twice); 10:31; 10:37

Calvin and others would come a little later and write: "We are justified by faith alone, but that faith does not remain alone." (John Calvin, The Acts of the Council of Trent, 3:152, cited in R. C. Sproul, Faith Alone, Baker Books, 1995, page 128.) See also, The Westminster Confession of Faith, On Justification, chapter 11, verse 2.

True faith in Christ alone does not stay alone, it results in change, fruit, hatred of sin, deeper levels of repentance, good works, zeal for evangelism and missions, deeper love for God and His word; constant growing and moving and active service, humility, putting to death the deeds of the flesh.


steelikat said...

What a great reminder, thank you!

Lvka said...

My little tribute to the great man.. I was planning on doing a little piece on him for (ahem) "Halloween" myself, but it seems like you beat me to it -- are you on the Old Calendar, or somethin'? :-)

Ken said...

Just the fact that Reformation Day is approaching, we are practicing a skit at our church, and Dan Phillips article inspired me to write; that is all. Oct 22-23 is close enough, and gets our thoughts on the history of Oct. 31, 1517 and beyond, and writing it out, and thinking about Luther's first 3 theses, helped me think of and include some of Augustine and Calvin, along with John Owen.

It nicely shows the relationship of justification with sanctification. Sanctification is based on justification, and comes after it.

But if sanctification does not demonstrate in good works and fruits, evidences, etc. after it; (as James 2 means) there is reason to doubt that the justification is there in reality.

steelikat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Swan said...

Some people have agonized over their own justification instead of trusting in Christ, precisely because they could not see their own sanctification. Some people have indulged in speculation about the justification of others, based on the lack of visible evidence of sanctification.

Of the former point, I'm quite fond of Sproul's quote (paraphrase), that Christians are closer in sanctification to Hitler than to Christ. If I stop and ponder the perfection of Christ, I can't help but find truth in Sproul's comment. I don't dwell on any sort of progress in sanctification in my own life- other than I find I that I'm more aware of my sin the older in faith I get, and the more comforted I am by the promises of the Gospel.

On the later point, the Bible does contains verses like these:

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test. (2 Cor. 13:5-6).

I think a proper balance between these two is possible for a mature Christian.

In terms of other people, I can't know the ontological state of their soul. I tend to err on the side of caution. If I meet someone who claims to be a Christian, yet isn't part of a local church (when they very well could be), I'm going to be cautious with my interaction with them.

Ken said...

Thanks James,
You summed up a good answer I was thinking about to what Steelikat was saying. You beat me to it; and said it in shorter words that I could.

James Swan said...

You summed up a good answer I was thinking about to what Steelikat was saying. You beat me to it; and said it in shorter words that I could,

Well, for whatever reason, S.kat deleted the comment in question.

steelikat said...

Yikes! I deleted it as you were responding to it.

I decided that it seemed to negative. I did not want Ken to think I was attacking him.

Anyway, I like the way you put it.