Reformation Sunday Sermon

29 11 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – November 2010 – Vol. 16 Issue 10 – Reformation Sunday Sermon – Rev. Mark Braden, Pastor, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

Discernment Ministries International

Reformation Sunday Sermon

By Rev. Mark Braden, Pastor, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence. The violent take it by force. So speaks the Lord of the Church, the Lord of the Kingdom. It is not the Kingdom of Glory of which He speaks. No, thanks be to God, the saints are safe, at rest, in bliss and felicity, their souls in the very presence of God. No one takes them. They are eternally secure. It is not the Kingdom of Glory that suffers violence.

Nor is it the Kingdom of Power, that Kingdom by which God creates and sustains all things. Indeed, there is violence amidst that Kingdom, for God causes His rain to fall upon both the just and the evil. Like an ant taking throwing a punch at the sun, God’s good provision and prvidence are in no danger of man’s puny violence. It is not the Kingdom of Power that suffers violence.

But the Church, oh, the Holy Church on earth! She is the Church Militant, the Church at war, the Church beset by struggles, the Church that tastes of the sufferings of Her Lord, the Church that is the Kingdom of God on earth, for this Kingdom comes when God gives us His Holy Spirit. The Kingdom suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Of this Abel’s blood testifies. So too does the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, murdered between the temple and the altar. And which true Prophet did not endure the darts of violent tongues, the stones of angry hands, the sword or lance of proud and violent men. But sword and lance pierce them no more. They are the Church Triumphant. They dwell in the Kingdom of Glory.

Physical violence can only harm the body. But there is a violence that can harm the soul, a violence that opens the dark trap door to imprison men’s spirits, a snare to capture the wayward, a siren’s cry to beckon the ship too close to crushing rocks, a strange voice to lure the sheep away from safe pasture. That violence is false doctrine—wrong teaching about God and so wrong teaching about salvation. False doctrine is violence perpetrated against the Kingdom of heaven.

Among the chief lies of the devil is that doctrine doesn’t matter. He would have you think that what one believes about God is a personal thing, not subject to review by anyone. The devil teaches that anyone that would insist that there is a right belief and a wrong belief about God is simply not nice, uncompromising, inflexible, unloving, just plain mean.

But God’s Word teaches something very different. God’s Word teaches that there is a right and a wrong, there is Truth and there are lies. You see, teaching that fallen men can earn God’s favor by their works is a lie. It is a violence. It is contrary to the clear Word of God. And yet, by such false teaching, sinners would take the kingdom by force. They desire to wrest forgiveness and salvation away from God by the puny strength of their own works. So too the doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, monasticism, multiplying the Sacraments, Mariolatry, and prayer to saints. Matthew 11:12-15 The Festival of the Reformation, 2010 A. D.

So too the teaching that “real” Christians don’t suffer, but rather are rich and happy in the world inasmuch as they rightly believe. That’s where Robert Schuler meets the Pope. So too the teaching that a man born of human father can rule Christ’s Church on earth by Divine right. These false teachings, these sins, do violence to the Word of god. They lead men to seek salvation where it has not been promised. They are but lies born of the father of lies, and the harvest of their deceitful violence is fodder for hell.

Bad doctrine is always popular among sinners, however, for there is a little pope in each of us. Our old man is proud to don the triple tiara, to take rulership of the Kingdom by force. For each of us has been bold to invent our own justification for our false beliefs, to craft our own plan of salvation, in which we work together with God as equal partners. We have unseated, if it were possible, God from His heavenly throne, and sinfully appointed Him to be our “co-pilot”. We have granted ourselves indulgences by minimizing our sins, and have assigned ourselves penance to “work off” our sins and earn God’s favor. To the fallen flesh, it all makes sense. Each of us has desired to take the Kingdom of heaven by force.

The irony is, of course, that what men desire to take by force God freely gives–but never to men who believe they can take it by force. God freely gave His Son over to violent men. The King of Heaven suffered violence. They desired to make Him King. When He would not be an earthly king, a king of their own design beckoning to their whim and call, they took Him by force. For when the Son came, the vinedressers said “This is the heir, come, let us kill Him and the inheritance will be ours…” And the Kingdom of Heaven suffered violence as the King willingly allowed Himself to be put to death.

But what men could not take, God freely gives. It is in Christ’s death that sins are forgiven, and by which God, by grace alone gives the Kingdom of Heaven to men. For Christ indeed from death has risen, our new life obtaining, that men be justified, declared righteous in His sight because of Christ. And this God works by faith alone, in Christ alone. What men could never take God freely gives you — as the faith He works in you trusts in Christ.

By that faith you know that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. By this faith, Baptismal faith, God declares you forgiven, holy and blameless in His sight, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. He freely gives you the Kingdom.

This faith, this living, life-giving faith, is born of the Word of God by His Spirit. This faith seeks Truth in Scripture alone, for there God reveals His love for all men in Christ Jesus. This faith is fed and nurtured by God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, not by what is earned or sold, but by what is freely given: His Body given for you, His Blood shed for the remission of your sins. This faith is fed and nurtured by right teaching about Matthew 11:12-15   The Festival of the Reformation, 2010 A. D.

Christ and salvation, by the Word preached in its purity and the Sacraments rightly administered, for true faith hungers to hear only what it already knows best — that man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Amen.

Copyright ©2010

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THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

28 12 2009
Truth Matters Newsletters – October  2007   Vol. 12 Issue 10 – THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE – Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

As we studied last month all of the aberrant practices and false doctrine stem from an incorrect interpretation of the Scriptures. In fact, all errors in “Bible” based cults can be traced back to using a faulty hermeneutical system. Every Christian should understand and apply some basic hermeneutical principles when they study their Bible. Unfortunately most pastors do not equip their people with the skills necessary to become good Bereans. Sadly, many pastors across America have little or no theological training and thus they lack any real understanding of how to correctly teach the Bible of to their congregations (Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar are just two examples) and we end up with a case of the blind leading the blind.

Apart from incorrect biblical interpretations with all its attending problems there is another difficulty plaguing God’s people and that is the widespread practice of accepting personal spiritual experiences as authoritative. Millions of professing Christians readily accept the subjective “revelations” of various leaders, or their own private experiences as being as valid as the written Word of God.

The Word of God is seen as not being the only guide for many Christians. It is not viewed as complete and totally sufficient when it comes to faith and practice. Many people are augmenting the Bible with extra-biblical data that is proclaimed as “new” revelations from the Holy Spirit through a host of roving self-proclaimed Apostles, Prophets and revivalists. Admittedly this is not a new problem; in fact the Apostle Paul spoke of people who were misplacing their faith in alleged mystical experience:

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not see, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Col. 2:18,19

It seems that people have a propensity to be drawn away from the objective truth of God’s Word into their own fallen subjective experiences.

 Today we see this enthusiasm for experience over God’s Word vividly in the Charismatic movement. For example the recently departed Kenneth E. Hagin built a great portion of his SINistry on his alleged face-to-face encounters with our risen Lord. Many of these he wrote about in great detail in his book I believe In Visions.

 

Another widely followed heretic, Jesse Duplantis expanded his influence tremendously after publishing his farcical tale about going to heaven in his book Heaven Close Encounters of the God Kind. Jesse regales his readers with not only a very detailed account of “heaven” but also shares about his visible experiences with angels, he and his car being teleported across the state of Louisiana and other bizarre experiences.

Mary K. Baxter wrote a book which plunged her into charismatic fame & fortune about her being taken to hell on forty (40!) consecutive evenings allegedly by Jesus Christ. The Divine Revelation of Hell has been reprinted several times and in over ten languages. The book is filled with graphic details of what awaits the damned soul and Baxter claims thousands of people have come to faith in Christ due to her book! If that was not enough she went on to write another spurious tome entitled The Divine Revelation of Heaven and then another book called The Divine Revelation of Glory.

Discernment Ministries International was among the first Apologetic ministry to expose the nonsense in Cho Thomas’ book Heaven Is So Real about her rapturous transport to heaven. Thomas reveals to us that there is death in heaven when Jesus takes her fishing and kills the fish and cooks it for her.

Every one of these books (and there are many more I could mention) has sold well over 100,000 copies each, and all of them are printed in foreign languages for wider consumption by the sign-seeking crowd (don’t forget there are videos, DVD’s, and cassettes of these accounts by authors for sale too). The authors go all over the world sharing their experiences with untold numbers of people.

These examples demonstrate my concern that people are leaving the sufficiency of the Scriptures to listen to someone’s latest experience. I can tell you that DMI receives a great deal of vitriolic email from devotees of these deluded heretics. Some of the gentler complainers say things like “don’t you believe God can take someone to heaven? Look at the Apostle Paul for example!”  Yes, let’s consider Paul for a moment:

I knew a man in Christ about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 2 Cor. 12:3-4

Virtually all commentators agree that Paul is writing about an experience he had being caught up to heaven. What is interesting about his account is that he does not share any of what he saw or heard.  Why not?  Today when someone says they were taken to heaven they create an entire “ministry” out of their experience. Paul did not relate any of his experience precisely because it was just that…his own “experience” and as such would not benefit others.

Here is what the NIV Commentary says about this part of Paul’s life:

What Paul head (and saw?), human words were inadequate to relate (v.4b). Furthermore, he was not permitted to try to share the content of the revelation, perhaps because it had been designed for him alone, to fortify him for future service and sufferings (Ac 9:16; Ro 8:18). Glimpses the NT does give of the coming glory are intended to strengthen faith and promote holiness (cf. 2 Pe 3:10-14;p 1Jn 3:2-3) not satisfy curiosity.

Nothing that Hagin, Duplantis, Cho or Baxter wrote about strengthens faith nor does it promote true holiness. What all those books do is to point to the human authors and imply that they are special vessels chosen for these last days to prepare the Church for the return of Christ. Nothing in their mythological writings do anything to encourage their readers to get into the Holy Bible and let God speak to them via its inerrant pages.

As I stated earlier this phenomenon of people promoting doctrines and practices that are based on their personal experiences is nothing new. During the Evangelical Reformation led by Martin Luther he constantly had arguments with various sects of what he termed “enthusiasts.”

Enthusiasm clings to Adam and his children from the beginning to the end of the world –fed and spread among them as poison by the old dragon. It is the source, power, and might of all the heresies, even that of the papacy and of Mohammed. Therefore, we should and must insist that God does not want to deal with us human beings, except by means of his external word and sacrament. Everything that boasts of being from the Spirit apart from such a word and sacrament is of the devil. (1)

The enthusiasts then as today looked within to feel something or to attempt to hear God speak to them directly and personally apart form the Holy Bible. This is exactly what is taking place on a massive scale within the charismatic movement. I’ve been involved in many meetings where the “Spirit” began to move in a mighty way so much so that the Word of God was never preached. These meetings were declared to be of the highest order! Various people “prophesied” the so-called word of the Lord, others were slain in the spirit, some danced in the aisles, others just sat and watched the show. 

One well accepted restored-prophet, Bill Hamon carries with him a 5 inch 3 ring binder filled with 100’s of “personal” prophecies that have been uttered over his life for the last 40 years. Obviously he takes these extemporaneous words to be true or why collect & carry them?

What does the Bible say?

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3

Yes God did speak through the prophets in the past. Yes God spoke in various ways, by dreams, visions and at times angels or through Theophanous. However, in these last days God has spoken to us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter knew of his impending death (2 Peter 1:13-15) so what he said was vitally important to him as a pastor. He reminds his readers that he was with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration and he actually heard the voice of God speak. Yet what does he then tell the Church?

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:19-21

Even though Peter was there in person to hear God’s voice he goes on to tell the Church that they have a more sure word of prophecy (the written Word) and they would do well to take heed to It a a light that shines in a dark place. Peter does not preach his experience but points to the Word of God and warns them to take heed of the Word.

Why this emphasis Peter, what is the big deal?

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 2 Peter 2:1-3

The problem today is that the “more sure word” is now deemed passé and there is a desire to seek what is termed “present day truth” (see 2 Peter 1:12) by the charismatic extremists. This is alleged truth that is arrived at through mystical or metaphysical means, i.e. subjective belief as opposed to the objective inerrant truth set out in the Bible.

One very popular charismatic heretic, Tommy Tenney, wrote a hugely popular book entitled The God Chasers. Tenney denigrates the written Word of God and expounds that people need to seek a direct encounter with God. Here are some of his comments regarding the Bible:

We just keep going through the motions, lighting the lamps and shuffling from dusty room to dusty room as God was still speaking to us. (2)

There’s no need for me to preach [the Word] if God shows up in His glory. (3)

They [the early disciples] walked and talked with Him in such a rich level of intimacy that it wasn’t necessary for them to pour over dusty love letters that were written long ago. (4)

Folks Tenney’s comments are the voice of millions enmeshed in charismatic extremism. Note the very low view of holy scripture—the books of the Bible are “dusty rooms” that we shuffle through with the mistaken belief that God is still speaking to us through these biblical letters! Tenney echo’s the statements of many of today’s revivalists by saying there is not even a need to preach the Word of God if “God” shows up, i.e. some paranormal manifestations or unchecked emotionalism breaks forth. Lastly, Tenney says that the early church members communed with God on an intimate one-on-one basis APART from pouring over the “dusty old love letters” that were written long ago. What does my book of dusty old love letters say in response to Mr. Tenney and the other heretics?

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore, many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. Acts 17:11-12

The people in Berea heard Paul preach and then they went immediately to those dusty old love letters to validate by objective truth what Paul was proclaiming. What was the end result? MANY of them believed the gospel that Paul preached!  ♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

Endnotes:

1. Oswald Bayer, Theology The Lutheran Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007, p. 53

2. Tommy Tenney, The God Chasers, (Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 1998) p. 31.

3. Bid. p. 44 Underlining and bolding added for emphasis

4. Bid. p. 74 Underlining and bolding added for emphasis.





Soli Deo Gloria

18 06 2009

Truth Matters Newsletter -January 2005 – Vol. 10 Issue 1 – Soli Deo Gloria – by Rev. Robert Liichow

scansoliDeoGloria0001

The Reformation reclaimed the Scriptural teaching of the sovereignty of God over every aspect of the Believer’s life. All of life is to be lived to the glory of God. As the Westminister Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” This great and all consuming purpose was emphasized by those in the 16th and 17th Centuries who sought to reform the church according to the Word of God. In contrast to the monastic division of life into sacred versus secular perpetuated by Roman Church, the reformers saw all of life to be lived under the Lordship of Christ. Every activity of the Christian is to be sanctified unto the glory of God.   (1)

This last of the five Reformation solas is really the capstone of them all because it points us back to the source from which the other four we’ve studied come from, that being Almighty God. The Cambridge Declaration gives us a very succinct statement on this glorious truth when it states:

We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.

We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel. (2)

I especially enjoy the inclusion of the negative proclamation that God cannot be properly worshipped “if our worship is confused with entertainment.” Entertainment is exactly what the majority of charismatic extremist and today’s so-called evangelical churches worship portion of the service consists of.

As a recovered charismatic extremist pastor I can speak from experience when I say that our church services were divided up into basically four segments. First, we began with “praise” which consisted of fast paced songs and refrains written to get the people’s emotional juices going. The praise portion of the service was when the band would really begin to “rock out.” Some of us would get out into the aisles and dance (yes I used to cut-the-rug quite a bit in those days). People would clap in time to the songs, most of which were man-centered,  i.e. we sang about how good we felt about Jesus or how good He made us feel.

There was little theological content in anything we sang. The praise portion was where you’d hear the loud shouts of “halleluiahs” and the like. This specific type of singing would continue for a minimum of fifteen minutes to half an hour or more, depending on the congregation. (3)

After getting the people emotionally stimulated the worship team (we did not have a choir, most charismatic churches and many seeker-sensitive churches  do not believe in them, they smack of the dreaded traditionalism) would slow the tempo and we’d then enter into the second phase of the service called “worship.” Worship differed greatly in emotional content and rhythm. In our congregation the lights would be lowered to almost total darkness apart from the words on the screen. Allegedly, this was to help the people focus on “God” and not the person standing next to them.

These songs also lacked a strong theological basis yet in most cases they were directed towards God. Many of the songs were little more than refrains which were sung over and over again. This technique is really a form of hypnotism and helps those engaged in worship (and we were strongly encouraged to give over selves over totally to “God” during this portion of the service) empty their minds.

If you have ever attended a Benny Hinn non-miracle crusade you will see Mr. Hinn and his musicians utilize the same technique to get the people to swallow-and-follow whatever he is teaching. In our church, the dimmed lights, the repetitive chanting of simple refrains would go on sometimes as long as an hour.

Then the lights would begin to brighten and lo-and-behold the Pastor was standing behind the pulpit and the third portion of the service began with the delivery of the message. The Cambridge Declaration also mentions that God cannot be truly worshipped when the proclamation of the Law and Gospel is neglected and is replaced with messages on self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment. In fifteen years of active charismatic ministry in various leadership roles I never once heard the term “Law and Gospel.” Although in no way could we be considered liturgical in the confessional understanding, we did have our own form of preaching through our lectionary. Our charismatic “lectionary” consisted of sermons on: the nine sign-gifts of the Holy Spirit; financial prosperity; divine healing, submission to authority; the anointing; revival; the office of the restored prophet and apostle, etc. (4)

The fourth section of the church service was the alter call. This is here the pastor or visiting guest speaker do all they can to cajole the attendee to make a decision to receive Christ. During this phase of the service in our church we had four specific aspects which were usually mentioned: 1) salvation 2) rededication, i.e. backsliders to repent and renew their commitment to the Lord; 3) divine healing, where hands were laid on folks who usually got slain in the spirit at this point of the service; 4) baptism in/with the Holy Spirit, a second work of grace by which the individual was instructed on his or her need to be “filled” with the Holy Spirit and the proof they had in fact received the Spirit was that they would speak with other tongues. (5)

The reason I take time to go through these four aspects common to most charismatic congregations is that “worship” is seen as only one part of what is done, it is a specific moment in the service itself. We did not have the understanding that fro start to finish the entire service was to be an act of worship. Nor did everything we did point to Jesus Christ and His work alone on our behalf. A great deal of what was done and is currently being done in congregations such as these can genuinely be considered as man-centered entertainment and not done for the glory of God alone.

The preacher may be exalted after the service (as he is led away by his armor bearers) “oh, wasn’t pastor Jakes so anointed this evening!” The singer or musicians are often praised with uproarious hand clapping and hooting and hollering for more. People are lifted up and “glorified” but often God is alone in some back corner, only given lip service.

What Does It Mean to Give Glory To God?

Thomas Watson, a Reformed Confessional theologian made the following comments about the first question of the Westminister Short Catechism :

Q 1: What is the chief end of man?

A : Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Here are two ends of life specified.

1. The glorifying of God.      2. The enjoying of God.

1. The glorifying of God. ‘That God in all things may be glorified’ (1 Peter 4:2) The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. ‘Whether therefore ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Cor 10:31). Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial; now, man being a rational creature, must propose some end to himself, and that should be, that he may lift up God in the world. He had better lose his life than the end of his living. The great truth is asserted, that the end of every man’s living should be to glorify God. Glorifying God has respect to all the persons in the Trinity; it respects God the Father who gave us life; God the Son, who lost his life for us; and God the Holy Ghost, who produces a new life in us; we must bring glory to the whole Trinity.

When we speak of God’s glory, the question will be moved, What are we to understand by God’s glory?

There is a twofold glory: [1] The glory that God has in himself, his intrinsic glory. Glory is essential to the Godhead, as light is to the sun: he is called the ‘God of Glory’ (Acts 7:2). Glory is the sparkling of the Deity; it is so co-natural to the Godhead, that God cannot be God without it. The creature’s honour is not essential to his being. A king is a man without his regal ornaments, when his crown and royal robes are taken away; but God’s glory is such an essential part of his being, that he cannot be God without it. God’s very life is in his glory. This glory can receive no addition, because it is infinite; it is that which God is most tender of, and which he will not part with; ‘My glory I will not give to another’ (Isa. 48:11). God will give temporal blessings to his children, such as wisdom, riches, honour; he will give them spiritual blessings, he will give them grace, he will give them his love, he will give them heaven; but his essential glory he will not give to another. King Pharaoh parted with a ring off his finger to Joseph, and a gold chain, but he would not part with his throne. ‘Only in the throne will I be greater than thou’ (Gen 41:40). So God will do much for his people; he will give them the inheritance; he will put some of Christ’s glory, as mediator, upon them; but his essential glory he will not part with; ‘in the throne he will be greater.’ [2]  The glory which is ascribed to God, or which his creatures labour to bring to him. ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name’ (1 Chron. 16:29) And, ‘Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit;’ (1 Cor. 6:20) The glory we give God is nothing else but our lifting up his name in the world, and magnifying him in the eyes of others. ‘Christ shall be magnified in my body’ (Phil. 1:20).

What is it to glorify God?

Glorifying God consists in four things: 1. Appreciation, 2. Adoration, 3. Affection,  4.Subjection. This is the yearly rent we pay to the crown of heaven.

[1]. Appreciation To glorify God is to set God highest in our thoughts, and to have a venerable esteem of him. ‘Thou, Lord, art most high forevermore.’ (Psa.92:8). ‘Thou art exalted far above all gods’ (Psa. 97:9) There is in God all that may draw forth both wonder and delight; there is a constellation of all beauties; he is prma causa, the original and springhead of being, who sheds a glory upon the creature. We glorify God, where we are God-admirers; admire his attributes, which are the glistering beams by which the divine nature shines forth; his promises which are the charter of free grace, and the spiritual cabinet where the pearl of price is hid; the noble effects of his power and wisdom in making the world, which is called ‘the work of his fingers’ (Psa. 8:3). To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts; to esteem him most excellent, and search for diamonds in this rock only.

[2]. Glorifying God consists in adoration, or worship.  ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’ (Psa. 29:2). There is a twofold worship: (1) A civil reverence which we give to persons of honour. ‘Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the children of Heth’ (Gen. 23:7). Piety is no enemy to courtesy. (2) A divine worship which we give to God as his royal prerogative. ‘They bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces towards the ground’ (Neh. 8: 6). This divine worship God is very jealous of; it is the apple of his eye, the pearl of his crown; which he guards, as he did the tree of life, with cherubims and a flaming sword, that no man may come near it to violate it. Divine worship must be such as God himself has appointed, else it is offering strange fire (Lev. 10:1). The Lord would have Moses make the tabernacle, ‘according to the pattern in the mount’ (Ex. 25:40). He must not leave out anything in the pattern, nor add to it. If God was so exact and curious about the place of worship, how exact will he be about the matter of his worship! Surely here everything must be according to the pattern prescribed in his word.

[3]. Affection This is part of the glory we give to God, who counts himself glorified when he is loved (Deut. 6:5). ’Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.’ There is a twofold love: (1) Amor concupiscent, a love of concupiscence, which is self-love; as when we love another, because he does us a good turn. A wicked man may be said to love God, because he has given him a good harvest, or filled his cup with wine. This is rather to love God’s blessing than to love God. (2) Amor amicitiae, a love of delight, as a man takes delight in a friend. This is to love God indeed; the heart is set upon God, as a man’s heart is set upon his tresure. This love is exuberant, not a few drops, but a stream. It is superlative; we give God the best of our love, the cream of it. ’I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate’ (Song of Solomon 8:2). If the spouse had a cup more juicy and spiced, Christ must drink of it. It is intense and ardent. True saints are seraphims, burning in holy love to God. The spouse was amore perculsa, in fainting fits, ‘sick of love’ (Song of Solomon 2:5). Thus to love God is to glorify him. He who is the chief of our happiness has the chief of our affections.

[4].  Subjection  This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for his service. Thus the angels in heaven glorify him; they wait on his throne, and are ready to take a commission from him; therefore, they are represented by the cherubims with wings displayed, to show how swift they are in their obedience. We glorify God when we are devoted to his service; our head studies for him, our tongue pleads for him, and our hands relieve his members. The wise men that came to Christ did not only bow the knee to him, but presented him with gold and myrrh (Matt. 2:11). So we must not only bow the knee, give God worship, but bring presents of golden obedience. We glorify God when we stick at no service, when we fight under the banner of his gospel against an enemy, and say to him as David to King Saul, ’Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine’ (1 Sam. 17:32) A good Christian is like the sun, which not only sends forth heat, but goes its circuit round the world. Thus, he who glorifies God, has not only his affections heated with love to God, but he goes his circuit too; he moves vigorously in the sphere of obedience. (7)

When Christians live lives of Soli Deo Gloria, they live consciously for their King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every aspect of their Sunday service is worship from the first words spoken to the benediction given. Everything points to Jesus Christ, His perfection, our imperfection, and the grace the Father has provided freely in giving us His only begotten Son.

What is more is that the early Evangelical Christians saw the entirety of their lives as mere extensions of what they participated in on Sunday. All of their life was, and rightly so, viewed as a form of worship and a way to glorify their Lord in even the most mundane aspects. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul when he exhorted:

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the mane of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Col. 3:17

 

This is the practical goal of this sola as Herbert Samworth says the following:

The Reformers also taught that it was possible to live victoriously and serve God in the world. This is the meaning of soli deo gloria. God receives all the praise for one’s salvation and, out of thankfulness, one dedicates their entire life to the service of God. That service of God might consist in different types of work but was united in the Person Who was served. In contrast, the Roman Church taught that the clerical life was the only life that truly could please God. Thus one had to withdraw from the world in order to live for God. The Reformers, while stressing that salvation was entirely of God, were equally determined to show that one honored God by living for Him. (8)

God is to be given the glory in all we do and say, for it is in Him that we live and move and have our being (see Acts 17:28). Sadly, this is not the case in the vast majority of the most well know charismatic “ministers.” The question which needs to be asked at the end of any spiritual endeavor is, who was glorified? Man or God (it will always be one or the other)? Here is an account given by Oral Roberts:

“Brother Roberts told his two visitors, “I want you men to know that my vow to God is to touch neither the gold nor the glory. I am sure God will meet the needs of my forthcoming ministry in an honorable way. And all the funds will be handled in the highest manner. (9)

That sounds humble, and possibly Mr. Oral Roberts even meant it when he said it. However, history has proven that he has broken his vows to God regarding touching the “gold and the glory.” To begin with Mr. Roberts is a multimillionaire. He and his remaining son, Richard (his other son committed suicide and his daughter died in a plane crash) own multiple homes and Oral sits on the boards of may prominent businesses in Tulsa, not to mention all the property his “ministry” owns.   Secondly, regarding the glory it seems that whenever a minister does anything to take the focus off of God and places people’s minds and hearts on himself, he has attempted to take God’s glory to some degree. EVERYTHING Roberts has created bears his name! Allow me to cite a few examples; “The Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association.” then later we had “Oral Roberts University,” and even “Oral Roberts Publishing.” His pictures and more than a few statues adorn the campus bearing his name. Isn’t this touching the glory a bit?

Frankly, any ministry which is named after its founder garners more than a little scrutiny from me. Such as Benny Hinn Ministries and Benny Hinn Media Ministries; Kenneth Copland Ministries; John Hagee Ministries; Marilyn Hickey Ministries; Joyce Meyer Ministries; T.D. Jakes Ministries Inc.; Jesse Duplantis Ministries; Jerry Servalle Ministries International; Creflo Dollar Ministries; Jimmy Swaggat Ministries; Peter Popoff Ministries; Leroy Jenkins Evangelistic Association. This list could go on for pages. Note that each of the ministries (or sinistries as a brother as called them) point directly to themselves. None of them have biblical names or even names which simply designate who or what they are about! What is more if you get their magazines (which I highly recommend) you will see their pictures on every other page. It is possible to get some literature that may mention the name of Jesus once or twice, but the founder’s name forty or fifty times.

Mr. Hinn is a classic case study in being a psychopath and fraud. It is no mistake that Mr. Hinn has instructed his mass choirs (my wife and I have been a part of several of them) to sing “How Great Thou Art” as Hinn ascends to the platform to begin his dog-and-pony show This is not done coincidentally, sure the song is about how great God is, but while the desperately ill and devotees are caught up in the song…there appears God’s man of faith and power the divine healer of the hour in his bright white suit & Nehru collar. Who is really receiving the glory, who is really the great one? God or Benny Hinn? Benny when pressed will confess that God is the Healer, since this is true, then why do people need to come to his miracle crusades? Well because God has chosen Benny as His conduit for miracles of healing. I urge our readers to go visit http://www.pfo.org and purchase he most recent copy of “The Confusing World of Benny Hinn.”   It is the seminal work exposing this man for exactly what he is. Also the Trinity Foundation has some outstanding videos/DVD’s exposing this fraud, visit them at http://www.thedoormagazine.com

None of the above mentioned organizations live for the glory of God and His glory alone. They exist to enlarge their sphere of spiritual influence by any means necessary. The messages they preach are devoid of any mention of Law or Gospel What is a shame is that millions of people are being led astray by these biblically illiterate preachers, who in some cases are outright charlatans, teaching their followers to live lives of selfish shallow pseudo spirituality. Well did the prophet Isaiah prophesy of such people when he said:

Wherefore the Lord said, Foreasmuch as this people draw near [me] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, [even] a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise [men] shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent [men] shall perish, shall be hid. Isa. 29:13-14

There is a great deal of excitement in the praise and worship aspect of charismatic services and revivals. Everything from smoke machines, dancing of all forms (including a form of conga-line/Jericho march two-step), banner waving pageantry, dramatic skits, dance ministries 9with women and men in varying degrees of immodest dress at times), not to mention the use of emotional testimonies thrown into the mix. All of these elements equal “worship” and are supposedly done unto the glory of God. Yet God is far from such nonsense, as well intentioned as it might be in some cases.

The Lord through the prophet says that these people do draw near to Him with their mouths, they even say the right words, i.e. got the “God-talk” down to a science. Yet for all their religiosity they fail and miserably so. Why?  Their hearts are far from God.  The Hebrew word for “far” (rachag) to become far or to become distant.   This heart distance fro the Lord was not an overnight experience, but a process begun in their lives by following the doctrines (precepts) of men versus adhering faithfully to the Word of God.

What is the Lord’s response to those who act religiously, but are in reality far from Him? He says that He will proceed to do a marvelous work a true “wonder” (those in the sign &wonders movement have received one from the Lord’s hand and do not even know it) among these apostates. The wisdom of their wise men (teachers) shall perish (ahad) has a very strong Hebraic meaning including: to be destroyed, to vanish, to be exterminated. The understanding (hiynah) which is defined as understanding or discernment of their leaders shall be hidden from them!

Some may wish to argue that the context of the text is referring to Israel, which is correct; however, it can be legitimately applied to those in the Church because our Lord applied to the religious leaders of His day and He is the Head of the Church today (see Col. 1:18)  so it can be applied to erring leaders in our time. If you want to see a great example of what I have been writing about then all you have to do is get on-line and watch and listen to a Bonnie & Mehesh Chavda service about “ushering in the glory” at http://www.maheshchavda.com/video/ushering_in_the_glory-april_2004.asp

See Video here on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKHaRYeJdBU     (It could disappear at anytime, like the TBN clip recently did, so see it while you can! )

Make no mistake as was stated earlier in the article by Watson that God will never share His glory with us. Yet so many conferences, books and tapes are produced about how we can tap into the glory of God versus teaching the flock how to live lives that bring glory to our Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria  must become the heart motivation of God’s people once again. There needs to be a genuine revival within the Church where God’s people again become humbled by the fact that all we are and all we have are because—of grace alone, by faith alone, in the work of Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone and thus to God alone belongs all the glory…which we dare not even attempt to touch or usurp. Selah.   ♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. Strawbridge, Gregg, Ph.D This statement came from a document was originally written for the 1993 Reformation Celebration at Audubon Drive Bible church in Laurel, Ms, as part of a worship service and can be found at http://www.fivesolas.com/5solas.htm. Underlining added for emphasis

2. You may read the entire Cambridge Declaration on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals located at http://www.christianity.com/ace.

3. Our former congregation, Jubilee Christian Church, was known as a warfare church because of our praise and worship which was consciously used as a tool of spiritual warfare against the principalities and powers over our city. We based this practice on Ps. 149:6-9 [let] the high [praise] of God [be] in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; Ps. 149:7. To execute vengeance upon the heathen, [and] punishments upon the people; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute upon them the judgment written; this honor have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD

4. These messages would comprise a year’s worth of teaching. The list may vary a bit depending on what flavor of charismatic church you attend. Our church was a syncretism of Word of Faith doctrines and newer prophetic/apostolic restored teaching. Some church’s would have regular series of spiritual warfare, demons and deliverance, sign and wonders, etc.

5. DMI offers a book entitled: “Does the Bible Support A Doctrine of Being Slain in the Spirit?

6. My wife, Tracy, and I operated the prayer room for people seeking the baptism. We laid hands on approximately 1,000 people the vast majority of whom left muttering some form of gibberish which made them and us feel very good. When someone would fail to begin to speak ecstatically we then went into encouragement mode and told them they might begin to speak when they were alone in prayer or we’d be glad to minister to them again next Sunday.

7. Watson, Thomas, Westminister Shorter Catechism. Obtained from http://www.bpc.org/resouces/watson/wsc_wa_001.html Bold type and underlining added for emphasis.

8. Samworth, Herbert. What Was the Reformation? Obtained from http://www.solagroup.org/articles/faqs/faq_0034.html.

9. Roberts, Oral My Story. Tulsa, OK Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, 1961 p. 73

10. I recommend people get their free materials, get on their mailing list because you will begin to build an original source collection of teachings, failed prophecies and a huge collection of “Spirit” empowered fetish objects, aka “point-of-contact” items. Plus you will become well versed in their lingo and fundraising techniques.

11. BibleWorks ver 4.0.03 p. For Windows, 1998 BibleWorks, LLC Software Hebrew cited from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

12. For those who love the word of god and want to understand its proper place in our lives DMI is offering a CD entitled “Sola Scriptura” delivered by Rev. Liichow on 01-02-2005 (its different from the article).

13. Ibid

14. ibid 





Sola Scriptura

17 06 2009

Truth Matters Newsletter – December 2004 – Sola Scriptura – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

The Cambridge Declaration

THESIS ONE: SOLA SCRIPTURAscantri20040001

We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.

Christian behavior must be measured. We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.

The above statement is a good reaffirmation of what was originally voiced by Dr. Martin Luther when he, as a Roman Catholic monk, stood before the governing authorities of the Church. The following is a brief summation of that encounter:

Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church and father of the Protestant reformation, was publicly rebuking the Catholic Church for its unbiblical teachings. The Catholic Church threatened Martin Luther with excommunication (and death) if he did not recant. Martin Luther’s reply was “Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning – unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, – and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!” (1)

What Luther and the reformers who followed his lead were saying was that Holy Scripture alone was the only true and infallible guide for all Christian’s faith and practice. Furthermore, that any traditions within the Church had to have their basis within the context of the Scriptures. Traditions are valid only when they are based on Scripture and are in full agreement with Scripture. Tradition that are in contradiction with the Bible are not of God and are not a valid aspect of the Christian faith. (2)

The Reformation was at its core a fight to get back to the Bible and discard a plethora of manmade doctrines and traditions which had been increasing over the years in the Church. At this point it is helpful to begin by defining our terms so that we understand how the following term “doctrine” is being used.

The word “doctrine” in the Greek is: {did-akh-ay’} Meaning 1) teaching 1a) that which is taught 1b) doctrine, teaching, concerning something 2) the act of teaching instruction 2a) in religious assemblies of the Christians, to speak in the way of teaching, in distinction from other modes of speaking in public. (3)

Doctrine simply means “teaching.”  The question before us is what is the source of the teaching we are adhering to? It is important for us to always remember that according to the Bible there are only three sources of doctrine impacting our lives at any time. Hopefully we are building our lives on the doctrine of God.

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. Mark 1:22

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection: not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,   Hebrew 6:1

Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. Titus 2:10

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 2 John 1:9

The Bible speaks much of the doctrine of God and of Christ (who is God) and this doctrine is found only within the pages of the Bible, it is not found outside of the Scriptures themselves. As Christians we have no other authoritative source that we can point to and say “this is the Word of the Lord.” The Bible also speaks of the doctrine of men. In the following citation we read of our Lord rebuking the religious leaders of His day:

For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to [his] father or [his] mother, [it is] a gift, by whatsoever ever thou mightiest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, [he shall be free]. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. [Ye] hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:4-9

Manmade religious tradition will always supersede the authority of God’s commandments, it is simply part of our fallen nature to attempt to exalt ourselves above God. Manmade teachings and practices may seem religious and appear to promote the worship of God but this is simply not the case. Jesus reminds the religious leaders and the crowd surrounding him of what the prophet Isaiah said regarding people who attempt to draw near to God with their mouths and endeavor to honor God with their lips, yet their hearts are far from Him! The Apostle Paul addressed the same issue of the danger of false manmade doctrine in his letter to the Church at Colosse:

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ… Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Colossians 2:8, 20-22

From the inception of the Church, various false teachers, false prophets and false apostles have tried to supplant the authority of Scripture by adding their own teachings and practices in an attempt to gain power over the spiritual lives of God’s people and to destroy the foundational doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

There is yet one more source of doctrine, which must also be considered and that is the doctrines of devils. This one in particular is often the source of the false doctrines of men:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, [and commanding] to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their consciences seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, [and commanding] to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God [is] good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 1 Timothy 4:1-6

Expressly is used only once in the entire New Testament and here we read of the Holy Spirit stating unequivocally that in the latter times some people shall depart or fall away from the true faith in Christ and His work alone. What causes this apostasy? These individuals give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, that word can also be translated as demons.

How do demons teach? Obviously they speak through people who are open to them.  The examples that Paul cites specifically are doctrines of devils. The first one is the doctrine which forbids marriage. To this day the Roman Catholic Church forbids both its priests and nuns to enter into marriage. The Shaker cult forbade their members to marry and demanded people get divorced who joined their ranks. Other sundry cults and sects have also forbidden marriage among its members. The Bible clearly denotes this as a doctrine of devils. The other area Paul cites concerns dietary regulations. For many years the Roman Catholic Church forbid people to eat meat on Friday (I am not sure if this practice is still being enforced). Many other groups demand strict vegetarianism and some “Hebrew” roots cults demand strict dietary adherence. Obviously, Hasidic and Orthodox Jews still keep the Old Covenant dietary laws too. Any group that demands that their members abstain from eating anything that God has created to be enjoyed is promulgating a doctrine of devils.

The sign of a “good minister” is one who puts his portion of Christ’s flock in remembrance of what the Bible has taught, nourishing or feeding the flock in the words of faith and good doctrine. In verse 13 Paul exhorts Timothy to give himself over to reading, to exhortation and doctrine. Verse 16 he warns this young Pastor to “take heed” of his spiritual well being, the doctrine entrusted to him and to continue in them! I like Robertson’s commentary on this verse:  1 Tim 4:16(6)

Thus we see that according to the Scriptures there are three sources of teaching; God; man; and devils. The realization that Luther came to was that much of what was being presented as the doctrine of God was in fact nothing more than the commandments of men and doctrines of devils. He came to decry the fact that the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) had elevated its own traditions to a position of either equaling the authority of the Bible or even superseding it. The next quote is from a Roman Catholic web site giving their view of Martin Luther:

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) is to be given the credit for inventing the false doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Bible Only or Bible Sufficiency). He had separated himself from the authority of the Papacy and the Magisterium, and thereby so doing lost all authority regarding Church matters. He then turned to the Bible, a book as the sole source of authority. Can a book ever be a sole source of authority?

The above Roman Catholic apologist considers Sola Scriptura a false doctrine and that Luther had the audacity to turn from the traditional authority of the Pope and Roman Catholic traditions and look to the confines of the bible, “a book” the author says, “as the sole source of authority.”  (7)

This article is not about Martin Luther nor is it a polemic against Roman Catholicism (RC) as a religion. What is important to notice is that even to this day RC upholds its traditions as equal in authority with the bible and when the Bible and tradition do not agree it seems that manmade doctrines and those of demons prevail. Let me cite just a few extra-biblical traditions concerning the Virgin Mary within the R.C.C. These are taken directly from their own catechism in use today.

The most blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue and merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin (CCC491) (8)

 The Bible never teaches any such thing! Mary was chosen by God to be His vessel through whom our Lord was born, but she too was born in sin and shaped in iniquity (see Psl. 51:5).  She needed to have her sins washed away by the blood of Christ just as all who would be saved. By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. (CCC493) (9)

No, Mary was a sinner as we all are. If she did not, then the Apostle John is a liar when he says in 1 john 1:10  “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” They teach at the time of her death Mary was taken spiritually and physically into heaven:

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven… (CCC974) (10)

There is nothing scripturally to base this claim upon. The Bible speaks of Enoch being taken up and Elijah riding off to heaven in a chariot of fire but no mention is made concerning much at all about the life or death of Mary after the resurrection of Jesus.

…the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix (CCC969) (11)

Mary is prayed to which contradicts the plain teaching of the bible when we are told by the Apostle Paul to Timothy in his first letter to him:

For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 1 Timothy 2:5,6

In fact, within the R.C.C. there is a strong movement afoot to see to it that Mary is elevated to an even higher status, to that of being the Co-redemptrix:

The Blessed Virgin Mary is to be called Queen not only on account of her divine motherhood but also because by the will of God she had a great part in the work of our salvation…..In this work of redemption the blessed Virgin Mary was closely associated with her Christ…Just as Christ, because he redeemed us, is by a special title our King and Lord, so too is Blessed Mary, our Queen and our Mistress, because of the unique way in which she co-operated in our redemption. She provided her very substance for his body, she offered him willingly for us, and she took a unique part in our salvation by desiring it, praying for it, and so obtaining it…–Ad Coeli Reginam. (12)

The entire cult of Mary within the R.C.C. is an abomination and a blasphemy. These are not minor issues that we can agree to disagree about. Teaching that Mary played a vital role in our redemption is teaching a doctrine of devils; one which reduces the centrality of Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of God who alone bore the sin of the world.

These are only some examples of non-biblical traditions that the R.C.C. practices, such as the infallibility of the Pope when he makes declarations from “Peters” seat in the Vatican. Or the belief in purgatory where the partially saved sinner goes to have the rest of their sins purged away by fire. Not the mention the practice of indulgences which are still being given.

It is easy to understand why the R.C.C. took such a violent stance against Luther and all those reformers who followed him. The R.C.C. knew that if the Bible ever got into the hands of the “common man” in a language they could read and understand that the R.C.C. would lose the stranglehold it had on the souls of millions of people.

The printing of the Bible by Guttenberg in German and Luther pointing people to the Bible as the only rule for faith and practice shook the very foundations of the R.C.C.

The medieval church assumed that Scripture, the church’s tradition, and scholastic theology were identical in content. Any tensions between Scripture and tradition were resolved by the use of the Quadriga, the medieval system of biblical interpretation which recognized four levels to the truth of Scripture: literal, topological, allegorical and anagogical. Great respect for the authority and content of the Scripture could thus coexist with a theology and practice quite different from the Scriptures…When the authorities refused to acknowledge the authority of the apostolic tradition in Scripture over the ecclesiastical tradition, the Reformers loyally continued to assert the apostolic tradition against those who claimed apostolic succession. (13)

In other words when the R.C.C. was faced with their own human traditions which did not agree with a plenary reading of the Scripture they created a system by which they could make the Bible agree (more or less) with their manmade doctrines. The Reformers refused to accept this and stood with Luther asserting that the Scriptures Alone, Sola Scriptura was the only authority to be submitted to when it came to faith and practice within God’s Church. One of the most succinct statements of the sufficiency of Scripture is found in the introduction of the Formula of Concord:

Thus understanding of the significance of the confession is also stated explicitly in the introduction of the Epitome of the Formula of Concord. ‘In this way the distinction between the Holy Scriptures of Old and New Testaments and all other writings is maintained, and Holy Scripture remains the only judge, rule, and norm, according to which as the only touchstone all doctrines should and must be understood and judged as good or evil, right or wrong.” (14)

Today as Evangelicals and Protestants in reading the above statement we might respond, “So what’s the big deal? Of course, the Bible is our only guide.” After all, don’t all Evangelicals and Protestants agree with Paul’s statement to Timothy in:

All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  2 Timothy 3:16

God has revealed Himself to us through His Word and He has given us the Bible as the only concrete source by which we are to measure every spiritual experience, doctrine and practice. The Word of god is an unwavering arbiter on all matters concerning the life of faith.

…the knowledge of god is not therefore at the mercy of human forgetfulness or mystical notions of spirituality. God has given Scripture and the church to connect the once-for-all act in Jesus Christ with the present act of the Holy Spirit, who is the presence and power of the risen Lord. God calls His church into being by the word of the gospel and by His presence as the Holy Spirit equips and empowers His people for His service. To His church He entrusts the Scriptures, the prophetic and apostolic witness to Jesus Christ, the bearer of His word. (15)

In 1860, Charles A. Hodge wrote an article on the value of Sola Scriptura in his book Outlines of Theology, the following comments come from the chapter heading “The Rule of Faith & Practice.” this chapter is written in somewhat of a catechism format with a question stated and then answered. The following citation is from question six and fifteen:

6. What argument do the Scriptures themselves afford in favor of the doctrine that they are the only infallible rule of faith?

1st. The Scriptures always speak in the name of God, and command faith and obedience.

2nd Christ and his apostles always refer to the written Scriptures, then existing, as authority, and to no other rule of faith whatsoever. (Luke 16:29; 10:26; John 5:39; Rom. 4:3; 2Tim 3:15).

3rd The Bereans are commended for bringing all questions, even apostolic teaching, to this test. (Acts 17:11; see also Isa. 8:16).

4th. Christ rebukes the Pharisees for adding to and perverting the Scriptures  (Matt. 15:7-9; Mark 7:5-8; see also Rev. 22:18, 19, and Deut. 4:2; 12:32 Josh 1:7.

15. What is meant by saying that the Scriptures are the Judge as well as the rule in questions of faith?

‘A rule is a standard of Judgment; a judge is the expounder and applier of that rule to the decision of particular cases,’ The Protestant doctrine is –

1st That the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

2nd  (1) Negatively. That there is no body of men who are either qualified, or authorized, to interpret the Scriptures, or apply their principles to the decision of particular questions, in a sense binding upon the faith of their fellow Christians.

(2) Positively. That Scripture is the only infallible voice in the church, and is to be interpreted, in its own light, and with the gracious help of the Holy Ghost, who is promised to every Christian (1 John 2:20-27), by each individual himself; with the assistance, though not by the authority, of his fellow Christians. Creeds and confessions, as a form, bind only those who voluntarily profess them, and as to matter, they bid only so far as they affirm truly what the Bible teaches, and because the Bible does so teach. (16)

The battle regarding trusting in the sole authority of the scriptures has been going on ever since God’s Word was written down as an eternal record of His truth. This explains the stern warning given in the Bible concerning tampering with its contents:

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD.”  Deut. 4:2

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. Deut. 12:32

Every word of God [is] pure: he [is] a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. Prov. 30:5-6

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book. Rev. 22:18,19

Not only is the R.C.C. (and some mainline Protestant denomination) guilty of violating the above texts so is every “Bible-based” cult. Many within the charismatic movement directly violate the above Scriptures also. I have already mentioned several examples in the R.C.C. so I will briefly mention some examples in a few of the cult groups.

The Unification Church of the Holy Spirit, aka the “Moonies” have supplanted the bible with Mr. Moon’s revelation called “The Divine Principle.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka The Mormons, although using the Bible, their main focus of faith and practice is found in “The Book of Mormon,” “The Pearl of Great Price” and “Doctrines and Covenants.” The Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own perversion of the Bible called “The New World Translation” which has been highly redacted to support their ungodly beliefs. The Children of God (now called the Family of Love) uses the “Mo Letters” as their guide. The Church of Christ Science, aka Christian Science, uses Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures.” The Christadelphians use “Key to Understanding the Bible.” All of these cults use the Bible but in reality have placed it below the interpretation and/or further revelations of the founders of the cult. The Bible is in no way the sole authority in any of these cult members lives.

I mentioned some mainline Protestant denominations. As many of our readers know there has been an ongoing battle over the use of “inclusive” language in newer translations of the Bible. This inclusive language is nothing less than deleting certain words and phrases from the original manuscript evidence the church has in its possession. Not only are these apostates subtracting words from the original Greek and Hebrew text, they are adding their own words to these newer paraphrases of what cannot really be considered the Word of God. The United

Methodist Church is one such mainline historic Protestant denominations who seek to be more politically correct and culturally relevant will also join the chorus of those whose fidelity is not to God but to the approval of fallen humanity. This “new” translation of the Bible is called “Today’s New International Version (TNIV) and is being published by the International Bible Society and is a revision of the NIV.

The 26 scholars’ statement was released Feb. 1. Meanwhile, a list of more than 100 “inaccuracies” in the TNIV was compiled by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in a daylong review of the TNIV Jan. 31. A 25-page document listing the translation objections is posted at the organization’s Internet site, www.cbmw.org   (17)

The scholars (18) who examined this latest perversion of God’s Word were no spiritual lightweights nor were they supporters of the “King James Only” debate. Sola Scriptura implies having an accurate translation of the Scripture to begin with! This changing of God’s Word is very dangerous because it will mislead some people into thinking they are standing by the principle of Sola Scriptura, when it is not God’s Word, but man’s they are standing upon. The result will be disastrous for these peoples spiritual lives because they will discover that they have built their spiritual house upon sand and not the true rock of Jesus Christ, the Living Word (see Matthew 7:24-27).

Earlier I mentioned just a few examples of R.C. traditions and doctrines which have taken away from the rightful authority of God’s Word, but within the Protestant Church there are many traditions and practices that also do not bow their knee to God’s Word as final arbiter either.

I will cite just a few that I am personally knowledgeable with the fast growing and pervasive sign-gift movement.

Although Pentecostal and Charismatic congregations pay lip service to adhering to Sola Scriptura in reality they do not. For example, virtually every Pentecostal and Charismatic Church teaches as dogma the experience of being slain in the spirit. (20) There is neither contextual biblical support for this teaching nor any valid biblical example for the experience. This teaching and practice is completely manmade. The same can be said of their definitions for the gift of the word of Knowledge and the gift of the word of wisdom (see 1 Cor. 12:8). The Bible never explains what these gifts were or how they manifested themselves in the life of the early church. The definition for these two gifts were restored to the Church by a man named Howard Carter, a Pentecostal evangelist who claimed God revealed them to him while he was in prison! (21) Mr. Carter also claimed to possess all nine of the sign-gifts. His definitions have become the accepted Pentecostal definitions from the sign-gifts. Over a million professing Christians flew into Toronto to receive the “new wine” of the Holy Spirit in the form of holy laughter, spiritual drunkenness, prophetic animal sounds and movements. (22) These so-called manifestations of the Holy Spirit spread rapidly around the world and are generally accepted as being valid demonstrations of God’s power in the midst of His people, Even though there is not one shred of biblical support for any of these spiritual enthusiasms.

When I have confronted those who endorse these practices and ask them to show me in the Bible where they can be found their only response is—”Well, brother you know what the Bible teaches don’t you? And they proceed to cite the following text as support:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. John 21:25   scanbook0001

There answer is that what is occurring now in their revivals (I also failed to mention the alleged manifestations of gold teeth, gold dust, angel feathers and jewels  being manifested in revival services) are simply part of what Jesus did in His earthly ministry but are not recorded in the biblical text. That response is extremely troubling because if one takes that approach to the Bible then you can allow anything to take place and point to John 21:25 as ones biblical support.

This type of response impugns the sufficiency of Scripture. To hold to such a position is to say that God left out things (such as these manifestations) which are needful for Christian growth and a closer more dynamic fellowship with God.

The secondary response given is “look at the good fruit being brought forth in the individuals lives.” Having been totally enmeshed in charismatic extremism for many years I can honestly say that I have yet to see any benefits from these practices in individuals’ lives or that of congregations that have embraced such practices. In fact, I’ve noted quite the opposite in those participating in practices not endorsed by God’s Word. Our ministry produced a book entitled “Fruit Proof,” which is over 100 pages long and consists of eyewitness accounts given by Pentecostal and sign-gift believers who went to revival services to get the “new wine” of the Holy Spirit and instead left oppressed and disheartened. Many congregations have literally been split and the sheep scattered when the local church leaders brought in these new gifts, which turned out to be curses. Good fruit is at best subjective. The Moonie, Mormon or Mohammedan can point to members in their groups whose lives have been transformed by their embracing of the cult or false religions demands.

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned [them]: And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. I charge [thee] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lust shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 3:13,14.

Paul reminds this young pastor to stick to the scriptures which can make one wise unto salvation which is by faith alone in Jesus Christ. He declares that all scripture is given by God and is profitable for (1) doctrine, (2) reproof, (3) correction and (4) instruction in righteousness. That by the faithful proclamation of the Bible those who hear and obey will grow spiritually and be equipped for good works. Then he solemnly charges Timothy before God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ to “preach the word.”  I believe Paul is warning this pastor not to get caught up in the latest fad or gables. (he warned Timothy earlier of this in 1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; and then again in 2 Tim. 4:4). Why? Because Paul knew by the Spirit that the time would come when people would not endure sound doctrine. Robertson says the following about this text:

2 Ti 4:3 – A time when . One of the (out of season) times. Will not endure ( ). Future middle direct) of ( ). “Will not hold themselves back from” (Col. 3:13). Having itching ears ( ). Present middle (causative) participle of ( ), late and rare form of the Attic ( ) to scratch, to tickle, here only in N.T. “Getting the ears (the hearing, ticked.” The Vulgate: has . Cf. the Athenians (Ac 17:21). Clement of Alexandria tells of speakers tickling the ears of those who want to be tickled. This is the temptation of the merely “popular” preacher, to furnish the latest tickle. (23)

These words of the bible fit so many of today’s Christians. They run from conference to conference, from fad to fad. As a former charismatic extremist I saw this firsthand and was guilty of it too. People went from Toronto to Pensacola seeking the new wind of the Spirit. After that they became “God Chasers” (24) from there they tried implementing the “Prayer of Jabez.” Once Jebez’s prayer grew stale the herd moved onto trying out “Cat and Dog Theology” (I kid you not) and after that failed to satisfy their itch they are now becoming “Purpose Driven”. (25)

The largest church in America is the Lakewood Church in Dallas led by Joel Osteen (you might remember him from a couple of issues ago). Joel stated in the article in Charisma magazine that people are not interested in theology…the knowledge of God. Thirty thousand people with itching ears and a “pastor” who can’t wait to scratch them.

Not only does the Apostle Paul warn the Church about the danger of being carried away from the sure anchor of our souls, the Word of God, the Apostle Peter also warns us:

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves sift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingered not, and their damnation slumbered not. 2 Peter 2:1-3

Teachers abound on both radio and television proclaiming damnable heresies and due to the biblical illiteracy of believers in the Church “many” follow their heretical teachings. Due to the heretics and those who follow them true orthodox Christianity will be (and is) spoken evil of by those outside the faith. All one must do is look back to the scandals of the 1980’s when the PTL scandal was revealed and Jim Bakker was shown to be immoral, then came revelations about Mr. Robert Tilton, Peter Popoff, Larry Lea, Jimmy Swaggart and W.V. Grant. Now recently we learned that Paul Cain is a homosexual and alcoholic and that Paul Crouch, President of TBN, may also have been engaged in homosexual activity. The various healing frauds, often lead to the death of their followers. They have perpetrated false promises on God’s gullible sheep. Over the years, people like Oral Roberts, Kathryn Kuhlman, A.A. Allen, Hobart Freeman, Jack Coe, William Branham and of course, Mr. Benny Hinn have peddled false hopes and produced no documented miracles.  All of these people have literally made merchandise out of the people of God and over the years bilking them out of over a billion dollars!

Some may say that I have set up a straw-man argument by citing the more notorious peddlers of God’s Word, but this is not the case. All of the above mentioned individual are (or were) leaders within Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Renewal. These people are the “giants’ of this brand of belief and trust me when I say the fruit does not fall from the tree regarding these leaders.

How and why is this occurring today?   The answer is very simple; people have departed from looking to and relying upon the Scriptures alone. The Bible is no longer enough to satisfy their souls. Multitudes want to experience something mystical; they want to receive an impartation of power; they want a personal word from “God” through one of the multitudes of restored prophets and prophetesses. The simple exposition of Scriptures is not enough for this generation which Jesus referred to in His own day (and applies to ours):

“But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: Matthew 12:39

In the latest issue of the Issues Etc. Journal, Pastor Todd Wilkins authored an article entitled “The Fad Driven Church” in which he gave the following example of a pastor being purposed driven versus biblically led:

Mark Jones has been a pastor at Metropolitan Family Fellowship in Ventura since 2004. ’I feel a little betrayed. I mean, I’ve pretty much based my entire ministry on Warren and Hybel’s stuff, I don’t know what I’m going to do now. And I can’t imagine what I’m going to tell my congregation. It’s not like my congregation is going to put up with just interpreting Scripture every Sunday. That’ll hold their interest for about two seconds. (26)

Many pastors have departed from teaching biblical messages and are relying instead on whatever the latest church growth guru is peddling. Whenever anyone teaches or believes things which are not scripturally sound, i.e. doctrines based upon the context of the scripture they are headed for deceptions. Several very popular preachers have based their ministries outside of the godly confines of the Bible. These people are claiming to have been taken to heaven and/or hell. The Bible warns us of such people:

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshy mind, {beguile…: Col. 2:18

Mary K. Baxter initially wrote The Divine Revelation of Hell in which she says that Jesus took her on a personal tour of hell for 40 days. That book sold hundreds of thousands of copies and is now in several languages. People bought into her folly to such a degree Mrs. Baxter went on to pen The Divine Revelation of Heaven and most recently The Divine Revelation of Glory. These books are filled not only with outright lies but they contradict the Bible numerous times. Yet because of her alleged vision and experience she has gained an international following and is seen by many as an expert of the heavenly and hellish realms.

Jessie Duplantis wrote Heaven, Close Encounters of the god Kind, another international best selling book, available in 99% of the Christian bookstores. In his book Jessie denies he complete atoning work of the cross (we have to do some additional works when we get to heaven in order to perfect ourselves). He denies the sufficiency of Scripture and denies its infallibility not to mention teaching pre-incarnation human souls, heaven as a literal planet and a whole host of error and even blasphemy. Yet Mr. Duplantis is a regular teacher on TBN and travels world ide sharing his vision and other Word of Faith heresies.

These are just two examples of people who’ve based much of their ministry on their alleged encounters in the unseen realm; I could cite a dozen more people. My point is simply to demonstrate what occurs when people place their faith in anything or anyone, no matter how persuasive they may be, outside of the Bible.

God’s Word and His Word alone is our only guide for faith and practice. Any dream, vision, doctrine, manifestation or practice must be validated ithin the context of the Bible. If it fails this test than such matters must be avoided, those teaching/practicing them warned and if they persist in them, then it must be taken to the Church and God’s people made aware of the leaven in their midst. ♦

“IT IS WRITTEN”

Sola Scriptura,  Scripture Alone

scansolascroll0001

Copyright © 2004   Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. You can read the entire Cambridge Declaration written on April 20, 1996 by visiting the following web site http://www.reformed.org/documents/cambridge.html

2. Obtained from http://www.gotquestions.org/sola-scriptura.html December 3, 2004 Bold type and underlining added for emphasis

3. White, James R. Scripture Alone Bethany House Publishers 2004

4. Reference obtained from BibleWorks for Windows, release version 4.0.035p 1999 software

5. Liichow, Robert Blessing or Judgment goes into great detail examining the charismatic Shaker cult and is an excellent resource for any Christian to have who is interested in knowing the origin of today’s revival manifestations.

6. Robertson’s word picture reference obtained from BibleWorks for Windows, release version 4.0.035p. 1999 software

7. Stanley, Bob, May 1, 1999. Obtained from http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/sorigin.htm on December 1, 2004

8. Obtained from http://www.reachouttrust.org/article/world/catholic.htm Underlining added for emphasis

9. Ibid. 10. Ibid 11. Ibid

12. Pope Pius XII, Ad Coeli Reginam Underlining added for emphasis.

13. Uanbeck, Warren A. Marburg Revised, A Reexamination of Lutheran and Reformed Tradition. Augsburg Publishing Home, 1966, pg. 16 Underlining added for emphasis

14. Ibid p. 17 Underlining added for emphasis.

15. Ibid p. 19

16. A.A. Hodge Outlines of Theology. Electronic edition obtained from http://www.homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/aahsolascrp.htm

Underlining added for emphasis

17. Obtained from http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=12653 on 12/13/04

18. The 26 scholars who have stated their refusal to endorse the TNIV include two Southern Baptist Convention seminary presidents. R. Albert Mohler. Jr. of Southern Baptist Theological Semiary and Paige Patterson of South-eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, along with Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Ariz, and a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society; Harold O.J. Brown of Reformed Theological Seminary; R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries; John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and Raymond C. Orlund Jr. of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Ga.

19. I prefer to use the term “sign-gift movement” versus the more common phrase “charismatic movement,” when referring to the larger group because all of God’s people are charismatic in that we have all been gifted by the Holy Spirit with differing gifts.

20. DMI offers the only book in print (to our knowledge) that deals exclusively with this and the other practices cited in this article. These books can be purchased from our web site.

21. Truth Matters has dealt with Mr. Carter in past issues. To learn more about this man you can purchase his book entitled “Questions and Answers on Spiritual Gifts

22. These are all historically detailed and biblically refuted in our two books: The two Roots of Today’s Revival” and “Blessing or Judgment.”

23. Robertson’s Word Pictures reference obtained from Bibleworks for windows, release ver. 1999 software.

24. Tommy Tenney wrote the “God Chasers” which became a small industry with follow-up books, tapes, tee-shirts, devotional guides, etc. Few Christians seemed to mind that Tenney is a Oneness Pentecostal who denies the Trinity, believes in salvation through water Baptism in Jesus name only. He can be seen on a regular basis on TBN.

25. Rick Warren has written several books around the theme of being “purpose driven” and these books have also spawned an industry around them. Many struggling churches think using his curriculum will be their salvation and result in a population explosion.

26. Wilkins, Todd Issues, Etc. Journal Vol. 3, No. 3, 2004, p. 4 underlining added for emphasis.

 

 

 

 

 





Sola Christus

15 06 2009

Truth Matters Newsletter – November 2004 – Vol. 9 Issue 10 – Sola Christus –by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

John 1:29  KJV

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 

We are saved by Christ alone! One would imagine that this doctrine need not even be discussed by Christians because it is an “obvious” truth. Sadly, many people who declare themselves to be Christians are blind to this truth and untold numbers do not even believe such a statement to be biblically true.

Not only are people confused by what it means to be redeemed by Christ and Him alone there are currently several perversions of who the biblical Jesus is and what He came to do and what He does now for His people. Ron Rosenbladt cites several examples of these “false Christs” on page two in the following article:

“Solus Christus means there is only one genuine and saving Christ. He is not only sufficient in his bleeding and dying to save us, He is the only Christ. Today’s American culture offers many “Christs” who are not really Christ at all.  Asserting solus Christus means that a Reformation Christian rejects positions in opposition to it as false (“and therefore we condemn…”) will mention just a few of these positions.

1. Christ the psychotherapist   The is an extremely popular position in today’s evangelicalism. This “Christ” is preached as the one who can heal our inner psychological wounds. He can heal broken marriages, aid us in communication with our children, and deal with other dysfunctional situations.

2 Christ our example. Often Christ is preached as a moral example whom we are to emulate. The idea lying behind this view is that our sin is little more than confusion and that we have within us the inner moral wherewithal to do whatever should be done, once we are taught it. The “gospel” of this particular “Christ” is pure law, though few pastors who preach “Christ is you model” seem to recognize this fact.

3. Christ who gives health and wealth  Surprisingly common is the preaching of a “Christ” who always grants health or wealth to those whose faith in him reaches the level it should. Those who have watched the Pentecostal televangelists recognize this “Christ”.

4. Christ the lover   This is popular in certain seminaries where faculties recommend (or even require) students to read the supposed profundities of the mystics. The idea here is not (as it should be) that the student is enabled to critique these writings as examples of man’s perennial attempts to use inner experience as the basis for his justification before God. Rather, the student is encouraged to see the possible application of such writings to the laity in his parish. But as Luther says, mystical experience is just one more counterfeit “ladder to heaven.” Such examples could easily be multiplied.

All of the above views comprise the regular spiritual diet on Christian television and much of religious radio today. Jesus is usually presented as the One who can make your life better, He is touted as “the missing ingredient” to achieving the American dream.  I do not dispute that belonging to Jesus Christ makes the believers life better or that He is truly the missing ingredient (but not to achieving the American dream).

John the Baptist speaking by the Spirit announced to all exactly who Jesus was: “The Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.”  That is precisely what the Gospel message is all about–Jesus Christ the Bearer of the sin of the world. That means I am a sinner, and no matter how hard I try or how long I work at attempting to keep God’s holy Law I fail miserably and I must admit that I am in need of a Redeemer.

Such a message is extremely unpopular in many of today’s pulpitsThe very notion of telling the people that they are sinners in need of redemption is antithetical to church growth!  To remind people that they are sinners and that God is holy might cause psychological damage and somehow impede their escaping the myriad dysfunctions plaguing their lives. In such congregations people are simply not told this basic truth about themselves and about the glorious work of Jesus as our sin-bearer.  In other congregations people are taught that they must add their works to the redeeming work of Christ.

On the one hand (call them “group one) many people are simply not taught that they need redemption and that it has been completely and graciously provided by the Father through the death of His Son on the cross. The simple yet profound message found in the following text is foreign to them:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (KJV) John 3:16-19

The Father loved us enough to give His only begotten Son. He did not send Jesus to condemn us, we already stood condemned by our own wickedness, no He sent Jesus to redeem us from the curse of sin and the bondage of the law.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (KJV) Romans 5:8-10

While we were sinners and enemies of God, Christ died for us! Who were the sinners and enemies? You, me, the whole world. Who died for us? Christ Jesus. It seems plain to me, but it is obscured from the sight of many people.

On the other hand (call them “group two”) we find that people know something of Christ’s death for sinners but His death, in and of itself is insufficient to secure redemption on the basis of faith alone. For these misguided folks it boils down to this: Christ + works = salvation and its maintenance. This version of Christ is as damning as knowing nothing of Him at all. In fact this is another “Jesus” who is presented to people in another “Gospel” that Paul warned the Church against:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any (man) preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (KJV) Galatians 1:6-9

The believers in Galatia were being brought back under the yoke of the law by legalistic Jews. When works are added to the gospel (the Good News of salvation in Christ alone) Paul called it a perversion and those who proclaimed such heresy he declares anathema or damned. The Judizers taught that faith alone in Christ alone was not enough that the keeping of the ceremonial law was necessary to be redeemed. The Bible is clear on this matter:

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses: Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [And} having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (KJV) Colossians 2:13-15

We were dead in our sins but the Father made us alive with Jesus. He forgave all (past, present and future sins) our trespasses and blotted out every ordinance of the law that was against us and took it away. When? When Christ Jesus died on the cross! How much can a dead person contribute? Absolutely nothing. Jesus triumphed over Satan on the cross (not in hell as the Word of Faith cult teaches):

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  (KJV) 1 John 3:8

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and He did so by taking our place and being our substitute on the cross.

For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (KJV) 2 Corinthians 5:21

He took our sins and God imputed to our account His righteousness. Our Lord bore the brunt of the curse of the law that rightly belonged to us (see Gal. 3:13) that we might receive God’s blessings through faith.

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated [us] into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, [even] the forgiveness of sins: (KJV) Colossians 1:13,14

We’ve been translated into the eternal kingdom of His dead Son from the former dominion of darkness. How did the Father do this? It was accomplished through the power of the perfect sacrifice of Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away our sins. We have been redeemed by His blood and by that same blood our sins have been washed away.

And it is by God’s ill that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (NRSV) Hebrews 10:10

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (KJV) 1 Peter 1:18,19

We are sanctified by what, our works? No, we are made (declared) holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ on the cross, once, for all. There is no more sacrifice to be made, there is no more work to be completed Jesus has don it all for us.  Brothers and sisters receive the Gospel—

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (KJV) 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Christ died for our sins. He died and was buried and He rose again on the third day. It is Jesus from start to finish; He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (see Heb. 12:2); He is the Alpha and the Omega (see Rev. 1:11). Salvation is of the Lord:

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (KJV) 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

Jesus has done it all, rest in Him and in His work and put no trust in your own feeble attempts to merit the favor of God. I know too many believers who are like the Galatians, they begin by confessing they are saved by the grace of God, but from that point on fall from grace back into a form of “works righteousness”

By wrongly believing they are kept saved by their works. No my dear friends, from start to finish it is Christ and Him alone. Any good works we do are because of Jesus and His working in us by His Spirit. Remember the words of our Master when He said:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (KJV) John 15:4-5

In the end, even our best spiritual works have their origin in Christ and thus He is to receive the ultimate praise for them. This no doubt this is why the elders cast their “earned” crowns down at their Savior’s feet in Rev 4:10. Yes our good works in Christ are rewarded, but this reward too has its basis in the grace of God through Christ Jesus our Lord. To whom alone be the glory and honor forever and forever. Amen!!   ♦

 copyright © 2004  Robert Liichow

 





Sola Fide

12 06 2009

Truth Matters – Oct 2004 – Vol. 8 Issue 10 – Sola Fide – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Romans 5:1-2

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

It is fitting that this article appear in the October issue of Truth Matters, because October 31st is celebrated as “Reformation Sunday” by Lutheran bodies and other Reformed congregations. Luther’s message is as startling today as it was when he first taught it around 1515. I was surprised when I taught this message at my own church that one of the oldest members came up to me afterwards and after giving me a hearty handshake told me he had never heard such a message before! I was shocked because I assumed that the Presbyterian Church was still proclaiming the great “Solas” of the Reformation, apparently this is not the case. Then I looked back over my own somewhat checkered spiritual journey I have to admit I too had never heard any such messages within the charismatic movement or amongst the seeker-sensitive crowd.

Let us consider some of the historical background before we examine what the Bible has to teach regarding being justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ.

The Church of Rome taught, and teaches to this day that we can and must do something to merit favor in the eyes of God and moreover do certain works to remove the guilt and future punishment of our sins. How so? One can remove the guilt of their sin and escape the just punishment of them through the use of indulgences given by the Church of Rome to the sinner. Let me quote an Irish Reformed Presbyterian Pastor, Ian Paisley:

Indulgences were originally introduced in the eleventh century and arose in connection with the so-called sacrament of penance, which was claimed to asure the penitent sinner of the forgiveness of sins while making a distinction between (1)  the guilt  and  (2the punishment of the sin. According to the church of Rome, the former (the guilt of sin), was forgiven by God through the priest. The latter (the punishment of sin) however, had to be met through the performance of certain good works such as fasting, the recitation of certain prayers, pilgrimages, or alms. In the fourteenth century we find the partial substitution of money gifts for the Reformation. The practice of selling indulgences, with its falsification of Biblical truth as well as scandalous financial exploitation of the populace, thereafter increased significantly until in Luther’s time it led Europe to the brink of revolution and caused the mighty revolt against Rome in the form of the glorious protestant ReformationThe event that brought the latent crisis into the open was the public sale of indulgences by a notorious Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel, in 1517. He was the Vatican’s “Apostolic Commissary for all Germany and Inquisitor of Heretical Pravity” during the popedom of Leo X (1513 -1521). His indulgence-brokering activities which soon aroused Luther’s righteous indignation, were part of a corrupt and ambitious ecclesiastical scheme by Leo to provide funds for the reconstruction of St. Peter’s in Rome, the most lavishly expensive mass house of Romanism. Some people may try to argue that indulgences were a thing of the past and that today’s modern Roman Catholic Church surely does not still offer indulgences. Nothing could be further from the truth. The following quote is referring to a dogmatic proclamation from the current pope starting with the year 2000:

The pope’s recent encyclical is not the only current document that proves the Roman Catholic Church still embraces and propagates doctrine that is incompatible with the Word of God. To mention the fact that Pope John Paul II is allowing Roman Catholics to obtain indulgences during the year 2000 often invokes a response characterized by astonishment – “I didn’t even know the church issued indulgences anymore!” Yet those who think indulgences bestowed by the Roman Catholic Church are only to be found in the annals of church history are sadly mistaken. Pope John Paul II’s latest papal bull highlights the Catholic Church’s plans for the celebration of the third millennium to begin in the year 2000, or the “Year of jubilee” as it has been called. According to the pope’s decree, the turn of the millennium not only promises unprecedented ecumenical activity on the part of all major world religions, but it also allows faithful Catholics the opportunity to gain indulgences either for themselves or for their deceased loved ones… Pope John Paul II’s papal bull expressly defines the history and doctrinal significance of the indulgence. In summary, the indulgence gives the repentant, forgiven sinner a remission of temporal punishment due for his sins. It is dispensed by the Church since the Church has “received from Christ the power to forgive in his name” and since the church “diffuses his mercy in the world, by means of that precious gift which from very ancient times has been called “indulgence.” The pope states in no uncertain terms that “no one can be separated from the love of God (cf. Romans 8:21-39) except through their own fault” and that since one can lose his salvation, the “Sacrament of Penance offers the sinner ‘a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification’ won by the sacrifice of Christ.” However, even though one can gain his salvation again, “every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory.” So, while the Church can dispense the mercy and forgiveness on behalf of Christ, the one who sinned must still suffer punishment in Purgatory or on earth in order to be able to enter the presence of God in heaven. The indulgence is intended to shorten the individual’s time in Purgatory.  Today there are multitudes within the Roman Catholic Church doing certain works prescribed by the pope to somehow make themselves more acceptable to God and to shave some time off their pending sentence in purgatory. It appears that through the working of indulgences one can even decrease the time in purgatory for their departed loved ones.   (1)

Most of you know Martin Luther was originally a Roman Catholic monk and he labored mightily following the dogma’s Rome to the utmost. He did this in an attempt to make himself acceptable before a Holy God. After all, this is what the Church taught. If an individual did the works of penance prescribed then they would be absolved of the guilt and punishment of their sins. How did the person know of a certainty that they were forgiven? They could look to their works and place their trust in them!

Luther fasted and prayed; he carried out the various forms of penance given to him by his confessor only to realize that afterwards he still fell into some form of sin. You see Luther was originally trained as a lawyer and his mind was very sharp and it appears that his conscience was equally aware of the slightest sin in word, thought or deed which drove him back to the confessional on a daily basis. Luther’s mind was alive with the reality of the holiness of God and the utter sinfulness within himself. He was smart enough to know after arduously working the system that Rome presented that he still fell short of God’s law, which demanded (and still does demand) utter and complete perfection.

Galatians 3:10

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (KJV).

While Luther was a professor of theology at Wittenberg in 1515 he gave a series of lectures on the book of Romans. This time is characterized by Luther’s grappling with religious understanding. His decisive religious enlightenment is said to have come during his intensive study of the Letter to the Romans during which time he realized that people receive justice through the grace of God, not through good works:  “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)  { obtained from http://www.luther.de/en/moench.html } (2)

As Luther worked through what it meant to be declared righteous in God’s eyes by faith and not works. He began to criticize the theology of indulgences in some of his sermons. His displeasure increased noticeably during 1517, when the Dominican John Tetzel was preaching throughout much of Germany on behalf of a papal fund-raising campaign to complete the construction of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. In exchange for a contribution, Tetzel boasted, he would provide donors with an indulgence that would even apply beyond the grave and free souls from purgatory. Tetzel is said to have had a little “jingle” to go along with his fundraising: “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” That sounds fairly innocuous, but Tetzel also preached a message aimed at tugging at the heartstrings of his hearers:

Listen to the voices of your dear dead relatives and friends, beseeching you and saying, “Pity us, pity us. We are in dire torment from which you can redeem us fro a pittance.” Do you not wish to? Open your ears. Hear the father saying to his son, the mother to her daughter, “We bore you, nourished you, brought you up, left you our fortunes, and you are so cruel and hard that now you are not willing for so little to set us free. Will you let us lie here in flames? Will you delay our promised glory?” Remember that you are able to release them, for as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs. Will you not for a quarter of a florin receive these letters of indulgences though which you are able to lead a divine and immortal soul into the fatherland of paradise? (3)

Upon hearing such blasphemy and the diminution of the work of Christ on the cross Luther promptly drew up 95 propositions for theological debate and on 31 October 1517, following university custom; he posted them on the Castle Church door at Wittenberg.

October 31st has become know as “Reformation Day” on that day our Lord Jesus began a process of a genuine restoration to the Church. What Luther and the other Reformers taught was not some “new” doctrine, but simply a re-affirming of what the Bible actually taught. With Luther, the Reformers saw ALL Scripture as being, in the last analysis, either LAW or GOSPEL—meaning by “law” all that exposes our ruin through sin and by “gospel” everything that displays our restoration by grace through faith—and the heart of the biblical gospel was to them (and to us) is God’s FREE GIFT of righteousness and justification. These 5 “SOLAS” which true evangelicals proclaim are not anything new. They are the Gospel itself. The battle has raged over them since the time of Paul when he dealt with the Judaizers. The battle continued on with Augustine’s dealings with the Pelagians, not to mention the Church of Rome both before and after the Reformation. Even within the Reformed camp the Reformers had to battle the Arminians. It seems that the eternal question of humanity regarding redemption can be crystallized in the question posed to Jesus by the Rich Young Ruler in:

Matthew 19: 16,17

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

This man wanted to know what he can do, what works he can perform to merit eternal life. Jesus simply points him to the law and says: keep the commandments.” The disciples are amazed at Jesus comments and respond with great concern:

Matthew 19:25,26

When his disciples heard [it] they were exceedingly amazed, saying Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld [them], and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

What is impossible with man is possible with God. Mankind cannot save itself, only God can save.

Since the fall of Adam humanity has sought ways to justify themselves before a holy God (just like the Rich Young Ruler). Every religion in the world apart from Orthodox Biblical Christianity is based on some form of works to merit salvation or favor with God. Yet the Bible is very clear on the value of even our best efforts to meet the demands of God’s law

Isaiah 64:6,7

But we are all as an unclean [thing] and all our righteousness [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And [there is ] none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

In the light of the perfection of God Isaiah rightly noted that our best works are as filthy rags and they have no merit before God regarding salvation. Religious man always points to his “good works” and boastfully declares before God and man “what a good boy am I.”

Romans 3:19-26

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, who God put forward as an expiration by his blood, to be received by faith.

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. Notice a few key points in this text:

1. No human being will be justified in the sight of God by doing the works of the law. In chapters 1 and 2 of Romans Paul shows the total depravity of man and the wrath of God towards those who have suppressed the knowledge of God.  So we are left with the eternal question: how are we to become acceptable in the eyes of a holy God?

2. God’s righteousness is available to all who believe through faith in Jesus Christ.

3. We are made just by His grace which the Father gives freely because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. Paul goes on in his letter in the next chapter to say in

Romans 4:1-5

What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

The Scripture teaches justification by Faith Alone, Sola Fide in at least 6 ways in the passage:

1. The justified one does “not work.”

2. The justified one “trusts” not in the merit of his works, but in God.

3. The justified one confesses himself to be “wicked.”

4. The justified one does not have faith in his faith.

5. The justified one see his faith only as “credited” to him.

6. The justified one sees his faith credited as “righteousness” to his account.

Some may ask, and it is a legitimate question: “where do our works come into the picture?” The Roman Catholic’s and many Arminians charge that the Evangelical and Reformed Churches are teaching lawlessness. They wrongly declare that we teach that works do not matter at all in the life of a professing believer.   (some people even try to make a dichotomy between what Paul taught and what James taught when there is actually no difference between their comments, since both were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit and God is NOT confused).

Luther and the Reformers agree that faith is not a work in and of itself, but the faith is never without work.   As we saw in last month’s issue on Sola Gratia,  that even the faith to believe in Jesus Christ is given to us as a gift and not of works lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:9).

Justification  is by faith alone; make no mistake about this, but not by a faith that is alone. Justification is by a working faith.  People who get confused about this do not seem to understand us when we say that : we are justified apart from the presence of works. Paul and James agree that faith without the presence of works is dead.  Saving faith is a productive working faith in the life of a Christian.

The works in a Christian’s life are necessary to  prove  the genuineness of their professed faith but they are not necessary for “earning” heaven. Anyone who goes to heaven does so by the merit of Christ’s work alone, apart from any merit in any and all of his own works of obedience.

However, EVERY  post-justification good work we do will merit, deserve, and receive its reward in heaven.

Let me close this section with another inspired comment by the Apostle Paul to the Galatians:

Galatians 2:15,16

We [who are] Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Works will never save us. Only faith in the work of Jesus Christ, who perfectly kept the law, can save. Pease understand that it is not “faith” itself that saves us —The saving power of faith resides not in itself, but in the Almighty Savior on whom it rests.

So what is the answer to the eternal quest of lost humanity? It is not found in their works. To receive forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God what must we do?

Jesus was asked this question in John 6:28 “what must we do to do the works of God?” Our Master replied “this is the work of God that you believe (have faith) in the One He has sent.”

It really is quite simple. To do what God requires we must believe in His Son and as we have seen the Father is so gracious He even grants to us the ability to believe to have faith in Christ and in His works alone!! The Westminister Confession of Faith (1646) sums the doctrine of Justification by faith alone very nicely:

XI of Justification

I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith insself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love. (4)

(Scriptural texts: # I Rom, viii. 30; Rom iii, 24; Rom, iv. 5,6,7,8; 2 Cor. V.19, 21; Rom. Iii. 22,24,25,27,28; Tit. Iii 5,7; Eph. I. 7; Jer. Xxiii 6; 1 Cor. I. 30,

Rom v. 17,18,19; Acts x. 43; Gal. ii 16; Phil iii 9; Acts xiii 38, 39; Eph. Ii 7,

8. #II John I. 12 Rom iii. 28; Rom. V.1; James ii. 17,22,26; Gal. v.6.)  ♦

copyright 2004  Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Foot Notes

1. Obtained from http://www.ianpaisley.org/article.asp?Artkey=indulgences.

2. www.fundamentalbiblechurch.org/Tracks/fbchsro2.htm  (bold type added for emphasis)

3. Roland H. Bainton,  Here I stand, Nashville;  Abingdon Press.  1950 pp. – 59-60. )

4. obtained from http://www.the-highway.com/Justification_Packer.html.





Sola Gratia – Part One of Five

3 06 2009
Truth Matters Newsletter – Sept. 2004 – Vol. 8 No. 9 -Sola Gratia—Part One of Five

I had recently received a counseling phone call from a sister who had come out of an abusive charismatic congregation and was now ensconced in a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. Her issues concerned spiritual stability and in talking with her it occurred to me that if she was established doctrinally in five simple “Reformed” truths then most of her questions and issues would be solved (if she remains in her MSLC hopefully her pastor will instill these same truths into her life).

The bedrock of any spiritual life that is truly built on Jesus Christ can be summed up in these profoundly simple doctrines. In fact, I am so convinced that unless one has the truths we shall be considering in the next several issues, imbedded in their hearts they will be ineffective and unfruitful in God’s Kingdom. People who lack these essential truths will be stunted spiritually and remain infants who are prone to be tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of false doctrine that cunning and crafty men (and women) promote. The Apostle Paul warns of this danger in  Ephesians 4:14.

That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

It is my prayer that we will be no more children, but will grow up and achieve the full stature of Christ. Yet for us to do so we MUST make sure our house is built on the rock of the following five truths:

Sola Gratia,   Sola Fide,   Solo Christo,   Solo ScripturaSoli Deo Gloria

These 5 Evangelical truths  heralded after years of spiritual darkness in the Church initially by Martin Luther simply, yet profoundly mean that the Christian is SAVED by GRACE ALONE through FAITH ALONE, by CHRIST ALONE, according to the SCRIPTURES ALONE, and to GOD ALONE be ALL the GLORY.

Prior to the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church emphasized grace, but not grace alone. Roman Catholicism and other religious sects teach that grace requires human cooperation and effort if one is to be saved.

Luther, Melancthon and later Calvin, Knox and other reformers taught and rightly so that biblically, salvation is modernistic, which simply means that a thing has only one cause. In this case Jesus Christ alone is both the Author and Finisher of our Faith as Hebrews 12:2 teaches us.

We’ve already covered the reality of total depravity in a prior issue, so I will not deal with it now. As a reminder let me state that this does not mean that mankind is as bad as he can be, but it does mean that humanity is as bad off as it can be.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one; There is none that understand, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Romans 3:10-12   (KJV)

The Scriptures are clear that men and women are sinful by nature and cannot do anything to save themselves. Not only are we unable but we are unwilling to come to the light— as our Master says in John 3:19; “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19 (KJV)

The Word of God is equally clear that it is God who saves us by grace alone (Sola Gratia) through faith alone (Sola Fide) on account of the atoning death of Christ alone (Soli Christi).  Let’s consider 2 clear examples of Sola Gratia. Turn and read in your Bibles beginning at John 11

“Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15) And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 40) Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? … 41) Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42) And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43) And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44) And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. John 11:14 (KJV)

The example of Lazarus clearly demonstrates the doctrine of sola gratia. There are a great many lessons in this miracle. What I want us to focus on is this simple fact: Lazarus was dead. He could do NOTHING to help in his resurrection—that was the work of God the Son, the Living Word—Spoke to the dead man and He commanded Lazarus to come forth and he who was dead became alive.

This is exactly what occurs in the life of an individual when the Gospel is proclaimed. Like Lazarus we too must be called to life by God through the GOSPEL. This is what is meant by being saved by grace alone. Turn in your Bible to the next example in Ephesians Chapter 2:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins (just like Jesus did with Lazarus); Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast.   For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them   Eph. 2:4-11 Note carefully Paul’s assessment:

1. We were dead, not wounded, not sick, dead (nekro,j, necros)

2. We willingly walked according to this fallen world’s dictates and it’s Dictator the devil.

3. We were all by nature children of wrath and thus rightfully subject to the judgment of a Holy and Righteous God.

If left to ourselves we were all headed for eternal damnation, and deservedly so.

Yet after painting so plainly a picture of depraved humanity when left to its own devices, Paul switches gears and by the INSPIRATION of the Holy Spirit pens 2 of the most BEAUTIFUL WORDS in the entire Bible — “But God”. Paul goes on to give the clearest picture of sola gratia in the New Testament.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by GRACE you have been saved. It is vitally important for you to note that it is when we are dead in sins and transgressions that God made us alive with Christ. (1)

Paul’s explanation of sola gratia— “it is by grace you have been saved.”

Those 8 words should bring every Christian to their knees in thankful humility to God because of His undeserved mercy towards us in Christ.

These 8 words should forever slay any remaining vestiges of human pride because Paul makes it repeat himself more emphatically in verses 8 and 9 when he says again “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Salvation is the work of God from start to finish. If you are saved at all it is because God saved you through faith in the work of His Son — even the faith to believe the Gospel does not come from yourselves—it is the gift of God.

Salvation is not of works, lest ANY man should boast. It cannot be made any clearer, yet multitudes of professing Christians wrongly believe that they made “a decision for Christ.”  Many Protestant’s teach that unless we “decide,” or unless we “choose,” or unless we “accept Jesus as our Personal Savior” then God’s grace is useless.

To teach such a thing is a damnable lie. To argue that grace is of no avail to us unless “we do” something first, is to deny SOLA GRATIA ALTOGETHER. To believe in such a manner is to rob God of His Glory.

In closing Paul had to rebuke Peter publicly when Peter played the hypocrite when some Jews came in and Peter separated himself from his gentile brothers—Paul reminded Peter and us all that WORKS have no place in God’s plan of salvation in Gal. 2:16:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified  Gal 2:16 (KJV)

2004 © Rev. Robert Liichow

Next Month Sola Fide