Archive for the ‘Reformation’ Category

Luther on Christ as Bridegroom

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 in Books, Gospel, Marriage, Reformation

51jhmpyz8ql-_ac_us200_The following is quoted by Sinclair Ferguson in The Legacy of Luther, chapter 7:

“Faith unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom… it follows that everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil. Accordingly the believing soul can boast and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own. Let us compare these and we shall see inestimable benefits. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation. Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, he must take upon himself the things that are his bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are his. If he gives her his body and very self, how shall he not give her all that is his? And if he takes the body of the bride, how shall he not take all that is hers?… Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace?” (R. C. Sproul, Stephen J. Nichols. The Legacy of Luther (Kindle Locations 3570-3576). Ligonier Ministries, Inc. – USA.)

The bride got the better deal… Glory be to God!

One of my favorite Reformation era catechisms is the Heidelberg. This year marks the 450th anniversary of the catechism, written in 1563. It has been cherished through the centuries for its warmth and practical approach. It has been described as follows:

The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity in the Palatinate, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well. It is a remarkably warm-hearted and personalized confession of faith, eminently deserving of its popularity among Reformed churches to the present day. [Christian Reformed Church of North America]

While this catechism remains popular among Christian Reformed, Dutch Reformed, and some Presbyterians, it remains relatively unknown by Baptists. who generally remain unfamiliar with the beauty and wisdom of catechisms (simply questions and answers drawn from the Scriptures). The first question of the Heidelberg demonstrates its richness:

Heidelberg Catechism Q1: What is your only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, delivered me from all the power of the devil, and preserves me so much that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head.

What a comfort indeed! And what a blessing has been given to us Baptists in the recent reprinting of a Baptist version of the Heidelberg Catechism first published by Hercules Collins in 1680, An Orthodox Catechism. I encourage you to get a copy and work through it, in personal and family devotion. It will feed the soul!

If you are interested in learning more about the use of catechisms, particularly among Baptists, go here and here and here.

solas

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

There is great debate over what “that” or “this” is in v. 8, “And that is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” What does “that” refer too?  Grace?  Faith?  Salvation?  The answer is: YES!  All of salvation is a gift of God.  That salvation is all of God—His free gift, by His grace, through faith, for His glory—is important for us to remember in light of this context. Paul is writing “so that no one can boast” (v. 9).  There would be only one way that man could boast in his salvation and that would be if it was by his own work.  But Paul has shattered that in these verses.  Man can not boast of himself in his salvation for it is a gift of God.  He can boast only in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:31)!  Grace is not a work, faith is not a work.  Salvation is according to Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solo Christo) to the glory of God alone (soli deo gloria).  That was the rally cry of the Reformation.  But this cry was a passion that hearkened back to the teaching of the gospel for salvation and not the invention or interpretation of men. Salvation truly is by His grace, and for His glory.

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress,
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the Fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.

However, when we examine v. 10 more closely, we see a purpose attached , the reason that God saved us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Paul had already more than hinted this in Ephesians 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”

The Reformers had a saying that went along with the solas, “Man is saved by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone.”  This was their way of stating that justifying faith is never a work, but where it is true in a man, faith (sanctifying) is never without works.  This is what James meant in James 2:24, ” You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  Works are the fruit of our justification, evidence that had truly been saved in in Christ.  John Gerstner wrote:

If Protestantism thought that a sinner could be saved without becoming godly, it would be an absolute, damning lie. His name is “Jesus” for He saves His people from their sins, not in them. And He saves His people not only from the guilt of sin but from its dominating power as well. If a believer is not changed, he is not a believer. No one can have Christ as Savior for one moment when he is not Lord as well. We can never say too often: “Justification is by faith alone, but NOT by the faith that is alone.” Justification is by a WORKING faith.

Grace is of him, faith is of him, our union with Christ is of him, the works we do are of him, and the intention to do them is of him – all that He might be glorified.  We are created for His glory; we are saved for His glory; and we do good works for His glory.

Justification in Christ Alone

Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 in Justification, Reformation

solasFor by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The first word of v. 10 in the Greek is autou, “His.” The first word of a sentence in the Greek holds the place of emphasis.  Paul has already shown that salvation is not of our works.  He now emphatically states that it is God’s work, “For we (that is, all believers) are His workmanship, created…” Paul uses creation language, and creation language is nonsense without a Creator.  But Paul specifically states that we are “created in Christ Jesus.”

Here we have the centerpiece of the gospel.  We are not saved, in fact cannot be saved, by our works.  The moment we add anything to faith, salvation is no longer of grace.  That was the issue for the Reformers.  Catholic theology said, and still does, “Faith plus works equal justification.”  But the Reformers cried “Heresy” because that is not what Paul taught.

However, we must be careful that we do not insist that no work of obedience was required for our salvation.  Under the covenant of works that God made with Adam and Eve, the requirement for obedience to His law for continued fellowship with Him did not change after the Fall.  It certainly affected their relationship to God, and the relationship of all their posterity.  As a result of their failure to obey, their failure to keep the covenant of works, we were all born guilty, separated from God, sinners.  But the requirement for perfect obedience to the Law, the covenant of works, still remained.

So how is man saved today?  How is one made right with God?  How can he who is separated from a holy God because of sin with no hope of his own works ever be reconciled to Him?  Solo Christo – in Christ alone!  It is to believe that His work did indeed satisfy God’s justice and punishment for sin.  How can salvation come to us in Christ alone?  It does so because he removed the obstacles between God and us.  By his perfect life (active obedience) he provided the righteousness we need to stand before God, and by his death (passive obedience) he paid the penalty for our sins.  He actually bore in himself the wrath of God on our behalf.

Justification means Christ took on himself our sin, and by turning from our sins and trusting solely in him, we receive his righteousness.  Christ fully accomplished salvation at the Cross for all who God initiates salvation by His grace. He bore the judgment we deserve because of sin and it is through trusting in Him and Him alone that one is rescued from the eternal wrath of God.

Justification through Faith Alone

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 in Justification, Reformation

solasFor by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. Some might look at this and say, “Well, there is nothing I can do about it.  God by His grace will do what God will do.  All I have to do is sit back and wait to see what happens.”  If that be your thought, it is a fatalistic and foolish response.  Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, does not allow for such a response.  God, he proclaimed, has provided the vehicle, the means, the instrument, or the way for man to respond to His grace.  This is what the Bible calls “faith.”

What is faith? James Montgomery Boice shared three aspects of biblical saving faith[1]:

 1.  Knowledge

This must be first because it is impossible to believe in a thing unless we know what it is we are believing. In the biblical sense this knowledge is of the gospel.  It is knowledge of the very things Paul wrote about in Ephesians 2:  that in our natural state we are all dead in transgressions and sins, that we are objects of God’s just wrath, but that God nevertheless has reached out to save us through the work of Jesus Christ—and that this is of grace.

Ephesians 2:4-7 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

This knowledge, however, must also have an understanding of how God’s grace of salvation is accomplished through the work of Christ:

Ephesians 1:7 – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

So the beginning of faith is knowledge.  One must know that their sin separates them from a holy God; that their sin has them under the just wrath of God.  As Michael Horton suggests, “Where God’s wrath is no longer a problem, Christ’s cross is no longer the solution.”[2] Then one must know the remedy provided by God to satisfy His wrath, about Jesus person and His work.  This is followed by…

2.  Heart response

Faith is not a mere intellectual assent to certain truths.  It is also a response to such knowledge. Calvin said, “It now remains to pour into the heart what the mind has absorbed.  For the Word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain, but when it takes root in the depth of the heart that it may be an invincible defense to withstand and drive off all the stratagems of temptation.”  Here then we see the importance of believing that the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, is true.

Acts 16:30-31 – 30 “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

They did not tell the Philippian jailer to get his theology right, to go to seminary, to know all there is to know about sub-, infra, or supra-lapsarianinism, to have a proper belief concerning the millennium, etc.  He was simply told, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.”  Believe that His work, His penal substitutionary atonement, is sufficient to satisfy God’s wrath.

 3.  Commitment

The final element is commitment.  Or, as Spurgeon said, “trust.”   It means casting yourself upon Christ, resting on his promises and accepting his finished work on your behalf.  It is entrusting yourself to Jesus as your Savior and Lord. It is a confidence that our sins have been forgiven and that we have received Christ’s righteousness and that nothing can ever change that — if we are truly in Christ.


[1] James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians, 67.

[2] Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life, 52

Justification by Grace Alone

Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 in Justification, Reformation

solasFor by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The Apostle Paul makes what should be relatively simple statement concerning the most important subject of a man’s life, “For by grace you have been saved.” In his sermon on this text, Martyn Lloyd Jones remarked, “He (Paul) says that we are Christians entirely and solely as the result of God’s grace. Now surely no one can dispute that.[1] I agree with Lloyd-Jones—no one can dispute the truth of Scripture.  But just because no one can does not mean they won’t try to dispute it.  I am not suggesting that a person would out-and-out deny that a person, any person, is saved by anything but “grace.” As a matter of fact, I doubt that any confessing evangelical Christian would deny this truth in word.  However, while they might agree that one is saved by grace, sometimes their practice does not line up.  For instance, while they outwardly profess salvation by grace alone (sola gratia) they often want to talk about what they did for salvation.  What they do is move ever so subtly from salvation being a work of God’s grace alone to some work that they have done and consequently added to His grace.  And if they don’t hang their hat on their own good works, then they claim that God showed grace to them because of some good He found in them or based on some foreknown decision He knew they would make.

But this destroys the truth of God’s gift of grace.  There is no possibility, the apostle Paul says, that salvation had anything to do with our works, good or bad.  Nor has God looked at certain people and said, “Here are a very beautiful, attractive, intelligent, hardworking, moral group men and women.  I think I’ll save them.”  Is that what God did with Israel?  God didn’t size them up and say, “Well, at least those people are trying; they are sincere; they are a little bit different from others – I’ll have them.”  Is that what God does with anyone?  It was not at all because of our efforts, or because we were interesting or unusual, or that we had some character trait that God favored and because of those factors in us God saved us.  Geoff Thomas put it this way:

God didn’t foresee all that we might offer the kingdom of God in the rest of our lives, our energy and our preaching, and for those reasons he invested in us his salvation. The apostle is making it clear that it had nothing to do with such works. That was not the reason at all for God putting us in Christ. We were as dead as anyone else, as much under the sway of the devil as anyone breathing God’s air. We followed the crowd just like the rest. There was no difference at all between us and the rest. It was not that we weren’t quite as dead as others; it was not that in us there was actually a little spark of life. We were as dead as mutton, just like them. We were as ugly as sin could make us, and God wasn’t moved at all by any moral difference, any promise or potential in us. There was nothing in our character at all that motivated God to give his salvation to us. We cannot look to any of those things as the reason for God saving us. We look simply at his grace.[2]

We need to be reminded of this.  Saving grace is all of God!  It is His undeserved, unmerited favor.  It is not based upon any work, thought, action or deed, moral or otherwise, in us.  It is based upon His character and His nature alone.  Remember how Paul put it in Romans 9:10-16:

Romans 9:10-16 – 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

There is perhaps no greater testimony of God’s grace in Scripture than these verses.  Again, I can not overemphasize the point that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace.  So much so, Paul keeps hammering it home, that man has absolutely no claim on it, “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The entire purpose in Ephesians 2:8-10 is for man to take his eyes off of self and focus on God.  Paul warns against boasting in our salvation in other texts (most notably 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).  To boast in our salvation, as if we had anything to do with it, is to rob God of His grace.  Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved… not as a result of works.” Do you believe that today?


[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation, 130, italics mine.

[2] Geoff Thomas, http://www.alfredplacechurch.org.uk/?page_id=1963, accessed 10/22/2009.

Justification from Scripture Alone

Posted: Monday, October 28, 2013 in Reformation

solasFor by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The Apostle Paul’s concern in the opening chapters of Ephesians is our glorious salvation, a salvation that he summarizes in these verses.  “For” is the logical conclusion to the argument he began concerning salvation at the beginning of the letter. Ephesians 1:3-14 shows that salvation is the work of the entire Godhead – the Father planned it, the Son accomplished it and purchased it, the Holy Spirit applied it and sealed it.  Paul concludes the chapter in praying that the Ephesian believers would gain a deeper understanding of this wonderful working of God’s saving grace.

In chapter 2 he turns to man and the effect of sin in his life to demonstrate that there is nothing man can do or would do for his salvation.  He is dead in sin and the passions and the affections of his heart, his mind, and his will are continually against God.  “But God…” (Eph. 2:4ff). Those glorious words are a testimony that salvation is all of God. He intervened. He burst into the deadness and life exploded! Darkness at that very moment became light. The mind, the heart, the will; the passions and affections; all was changed.

Paul’s conclusion, “For by grace you have been saved” (v. 8). But how does this demonstrate or speak to sola Scriptura? Consider the words of the following confession:

Charleston Confession of Faith:

1.1 The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and His will, which is necessary unto salvation.

1.6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

This confession (along with the 1689 London Baptist Confession) sets forth the Scriptures as God’s redemptive history. Everything man needs for salvation is contained therein, sola Scriptura.

Immediately following the Fall we find the first promise of redemption in the protoeuangelion, Gen. 3:15 – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The Old Testament displays this redemptive history by way of covenant (Covenants – Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic – New Covenant), all pointing to and fulfilled in Christ.

That is what Paul suggests by “for,” his summary of salvation. It is according to God’s plan according to Scripture. The promise of salvation to all the nations as established in the Abrahamic covenant is shown by Paul as fulfilled in Eph. 2:11ff , where Jew and Gentile are at peace through Christ, one people, the people of God.

That is what the Scriptures teach concerning salvation.  All the nations will be blessed by the glorious gospel of God, sola Scriptura.