“Justification: Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must listen to the gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law,) but what Jesus Christ the Son of God has done for me : that is, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel wills me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consists.
Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”
–Martin Luther, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (Philadelphia: Smith, English & Co., 1860), 206.
Christians are waging war, but not according to the flesh. We wage spiritual war, not like the crusades in the Middle Ages. Satan wounds our minds and souls with lies, not cuts. Although evil takes human forms, we are waging war against the demonic realms of Satan and his angels beyond the human and unseen to the human eye (though present and real).
Satan is a the father of lies and he deceives, tempts, and slanders us frequently. What we fight against are his strategies or devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), which are twofold; temptation and accusation.
Satan’s Two Main Devices: Temptation and Accusation
1. When we overestimate our identity and believe God is all grace and less holy, we are vulnerable to Satan’s temptations.
2. When we underestimate our identity and believe God is all holy and less loving, we are prime candidates for Satan’s accusations.
People’s Two Main Errors: Overestimate and Underestimate
1. When we overestimate Satan we ascribe too much power to him, and we become fearfully superstitious.
2. When we underestimate Satan we ascribe too little power to him, and we become secular.
In C. S. Lewis’ introduction to Screwtape Letters he wrote how the demons “themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight.” (Lewis, C. S.. The Screwtape Letters . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition).
We are not dependent on specialized “super” ministers to work their magic for us, nor do we believe the secularist spin that every explanation is due to natural and scientific causes.
In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 we are taught how to fight with truth/Gospel and prayer/faith to wrestle down Satan’s lies in our minds, taking them captive. We renounce the “thoughts, arguments, and lofty opinions” raised up against what we know of God and our true identity with authority and confidence in Christ.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (Emphasis mine).
I love coming to meet with a “father in Christ” regularly. Do you have one or two? I don’t know a better way to gain godly wisdom than from Christian sages, who love me.
They emphasize what I already know, and inform me about what I don’t.
Sometimes I wash my hands, and I look at this humorous list from an OT scholar’s wife. Now, my mentor has written many, many scholarly books on the Old Testament, and has taught worldwide from the bible. So this list of “home rules,” I assume is from his dear wife. She often provides the treats for our hours together.
I love Willem. He is Dutch born, and is a gift from God. He teaches me from wisdom literature in the Old Testament. Although he travels to teach, he & Evona are often at Christ Church where I have to preach to them! (Pray for me, no, them.)
Do you have a “father” or a “Paul?” Do you seek wisdom? Do you want the good life? Do you want a harvest of righteousness? (Psalm 112 & 2 Corinthians 9:8-9). Ask God for a spiritual father or two.
An Ancient Letter explaining why Christianity spread so quickly
“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.
Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.”
From a letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)
“To encounter Christ is to touch reality and experience transcendence. He gives us a sense of self-worth or personal significance, because He assures us of God’s love for us. He sets us free from guilt because He died for us and from paralyzing fear because He reigns. He gives meaning to marriage and home, work and leisure, personhood and citizenship.”
Some people in Scotland think too highly of John Knox; others think ill of him. A Scottish cab driver was driving an American up the hill to Edinburgh Castle: “That is the house of John Knox.” The visitor replied: “And who was John Knox?” The driver said in disgust: “Go home, man, and read your bible!” The cab driver thought too much of Knox.
John Knox was converted by the Holy Spirit as he read John 17. He was discipled by “Master” George Wishart, whom Knox wielded a two-handed claymore sword for so that Wishart could preach the Gospel without being attacked in Scotland. When Wishart was summed to die as a martyr Knox asked to accompany Wishart, but Wishart said: “Nay, return to your bairns, and God bless you. One is sufficient for a sacrifice.”
Knox was called to preach in front of a congregation of Protestant refugees in St Andrew’s castle by another preacher (Mr. Rough), and Knox burst forth into an abundance of tears. The French brigaded the castle, seized Knox as a galley slave for 19 months, and burned Rough at the stake.
The English rescued Knox from the French, and for ten year Knox was a pastor-preacher in exile from Scotland because he was a Protestant (1549-1559). He served in Berwick & Newcastle (England), Frankfurt (Germany), and Geneva (Switzerland). Looking back over the years in England Knox imagined Christ saying to him something like Christ would have said to Peter: “Yet art thou too proude to be a pastour, thou canste notstoupe, nor bowe thy backe down to take up the weake shepe;thou does not yet knowe thine own infirmitie and weakness,and therefore canst thou do nothing but despise the weak ones.” (Dawson, p. 69)
When Knox returned to Edinburgh, Scotland on May 2, 1559. The bishops assembled in the Monastery of the Black Friars to discuss improvements to the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. For example, any priest caught in adultery loses 1/3 of pay; and priests could not put their sons in their wills (not supposed to have any sons in the first place). For example, Cardinal Beaton had 8 illegitimate sons. While meeting, a messenger unannounced entered the meeting and shouted: “Knox is returned to Edinburgh!” We read: “at once they closed their meeting & arose hastily.”
The Summer of 1559 was an extraordinary time of revival. Knox preached in the major cities, and promoted reformation of the church. Knox said he was: “Churching it like a Scythian.” (There was no watering down of the wine among the Scythians of Ancient Greece.)
In the summer of 1559 when he first returned to St Andrews, warning was sent to him by the bishop that if he dared to preach the next Sunday there would be a dozen hand guns discharged in his face. His friends advised delay, but he went ahead and took for his text Christ driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple. The famous painting above is of the scene of Knox leaning out over the pulpit before the Dutchess of Arguile holding her baby by Sir David Wilkie captured something of that day, June 11, 1559, and the effect of it at the time can be seen in the 14 priests of the Roman Church, who confessed the faith.
Five Swift Reforms that Year 1559
By the 1560 the French forces were defeated.
Parliament adopted laws
RCC was replaced with Presbyterianism
A Nat’l Confession of Faith established by 6 men named “John” in five days. The closing words of the Scots Confession—a prayer: “Arise, O Lord, and let Thine enemies be confounded; let them flee from thy presence that hate thy godly name. Give thy servants strength to speak thy word with boldness, and let all nations cleave to the true knowledge of thee.”
Book of Discipline
How was Scotland Reformed into Presbyterianism so Fast?
“In Scotland the whole nation was converted by lump; and within ten years after popery was discharged in Scotland, there were not ten persons of quality to be found in it who did not profess the true reformed religion, and so it was among the commons in proportion. Lo! Here a nation born in one day.’” ( Kirkton’s History)
Calvin wrote to Knox: “We wonder at success so incredible and in so short a time.”
Knox explained the success of the Reformation in Scotland in his History: (Citing Isaiah 40 in Geneva Bible) . . . “This promise has been performed for us Christians here in the realm of Scotland. For what was our force or strength? What was our number? Yea, what was our wisdom or worldly policy was to us to have brought to a good end so great an enterprise?”
Knox replied to Calvin: “God gave His Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance.”
Three Broad Lessons from the Ministry of John Knox
The Logos, Ethos, and Pathos of Reformation Preaching
Logos: “Unto me…is this grace given that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8
“God is friendly minded to sinners”
“We opened more fully the fountain of God’s grace to sinners”
“Christ so tender towards those who put Him to death that He first sent unto them the ministry of reconciliation.”
Ethos: The primacy of preaching over writing (“I consider myself rather called by my God to instruct the ignorant, comfort the sorrowful, confirm the weak, and rebuke the proud, by tongue and living voice, in these corrupt days, than to compose books for the age to come.”)
“It hath pleased God of his superabundant grace to make me, most wretched of many thousands, a witness, minister and preacher.”
Used Plain speech – Puritans loved this word plain. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:8
Pathos: (“A dinging the pulpit”) – To Ding is to hit the pulpit hard and almost seem to be flying out of it.
A student there at the time was fifteen-year-old James Melville, and he would see Knox walking to church from the old priory, a staff in one hand and held under his other armpit by a friend, with furs wrapped round his neck. It was the year before his death and his strength was gone. Melville wrote in his Autobiography:
“Of all the benefits I had that year  was the coming of that most notable prophet and apostle of our nation, Mr John Knox, to St Andrews . . . I heard him teach there the prophecy of Daniel that summer and winter following. I had my pen and my little book, and took away such things as I could comprehend. In the opening up of his text he was moderate the space of an half hour; but when he entered to application, he made me so grew [shudder] and tremble, that I could not hold a pen to write.”
Melville says further that Knox had to be lifted up into the pulpit “where it behoved him to lean at his first entry; but before he had done with his sermon he was so active and vigorous, that he was like to ding that pulpit in blads and fly out of it!”
English Ambassador—Knox “put life into them more than 500 trumpets.”
A Love for the Church and the Courage to Reform Her
Two days before his death—“I have been in meditation these last two nights [concerning] the troubled church of God, the spouse of Jesus Christ, despised of the world but precious in his sight. I have called to God for it, and have committed it to her head, Jesus Christ.”
Earl of Morton at Knox’s funeral—“Here lies one who neither feared nor flattered any flesh.”
Faith in the Promises of God through Prayer
“Let us now humble ourselves in the presence of our God, and, from the bottom of our hearts, let us desire him to assist us with the power of his Holy Spirit . . . that albeit we see his Church so diminished, that it shall appear to be brought, as it were, to utter extermination, that yet we may be assured that in our God there is power and will to increase the number of his chosen, even while they be enlarged to the uttermost coasts of the earth.”
Prayer From John Knox for the Holy Spirit: “Because we have need continually to crave many things at your hands, we humbly beg you, O heavenly Father, to grant us your Holy Spirit to direct our petitions, that they may proceed from such a fervent mind as may be agreeable to your holy will. Amen.”
Martin Luther was incognito as a knight, named Sir George, on his way back to Wittenberg University from the Wartburg Castle. He stopped in the Black Bear Inn for dinner.
Two Swiss students had dinner with Luther, not knowing it was him. At one of the tables sat a man alone dressed as a knight. He wore a red cap, “man capris” pants, and a short, snug-fitted jacket; his right hand rested on the pommel (top) of his sword, his left grasped the handle. His eyes were fixed reading the book opened on the table, but at the entrance of these two young men, he raised his head, waved to them warmly, and invited them to come and sit at his table; then, presenting them with a glass of beer and noticing their accent, they began a conversation. The two students mentioned that they were determined to study under the great Martin Luther.
How did Luther end up dressed as a knight in 1522?
Five years Earlier (1517) the Indulgence Controversy Erupted
It was not over food & beer, but over Pope Leo X’s financial problem, having exhausted the Church’s money in wars and in the massive building project of St. Peter’s and the Vatican.
Indulgences were certificates sold by the church that guaranteed the purchaser, or the designated beneficiary, relief from a stipulated period of time in purgatory.
The sale of indulgences was entrusted to a Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel, a profane man and a brilliant salesman, who used jingles (according to Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses) such as the gem: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs,” and made the assertion that even if one had raped the Virgin Mary, one of his indulgences would be sufficient to cover the sin.
Luther preached against indulgences, but the standard academic protocol for announcing a debate was to nail to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg theses. Luther nailed his 95 theses against the practice of selling indulgences. (The printing press published it & hit the Church’s revenue dept even harder!)
The Diet of Worms 1521
The church had now exhausted its options for handling Luther. Excommunication was the final sanction – April 1521 – excom-munication meant that Luther was a nonperson. Thus, in April 1521, Luther arrived in Worms to face his greatest challenge so far. Here, at age 38, Luther stood before Charles V and said:
“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.”
As he left Worms to return to Wittenberg, he was surrounded by a group of armed men and kidnapped. (After nearly four years as the center of attention for both church and empire, Luther would vanish from the public eye for the better part of a year.)
1521 Sir George, the resident knight of the Wartburg Castle
Luther spent the rest of 1521 incognito on a mountain over the town of Eisenach, translating the New Testament into German. He would sneak into town occasionally to meet Philip Melanchthon for dinner. He said:
“All I have done is to put forth, preach and write the Word of God, and apart from this I have done nothing. While I have been sleeping, or drinking Wittenberg beer with Philip…the Word has done great things. I have done nothing; the Word has done and achieved everything.”
In Genius & Grace, Dr. Gaius Davis records how 9 heroic Christian leaders manifested God’s grace in spite of painful handicaps. Leaders such as Luther, Bunyan, Cowper, CS Lewis, and Amy Carmichael, Davis argues, suffered with obsessive-compulsive disorders like anxiety, depression, guilt, darkness, & doubt.
Davis’ thesis can be summarized in two convictions; namely, that:
One, grace doesn’t change our personality or temperament. (If you were an extrovert before conversion, then you will be an extrovert after. You’ll be easier to live with. If an introvert before, then an introvert after. It will be easier to live with yourself.) And . . .
Two, grace doesn’t render us immune to physical or mental illness. (Conversion does not remove because they show that God’s grace is sufficient for us in them.)
This month Christians remember the Protestant Reformation 500 years later. I have been assigned to teach on Luther, Calvin, and Knox both at my local church and at a nearby seminary. As i do i remember 2 Corinthians 4:7: We have this treasure (the Gospel) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
“Why did God make you and all things?” we asked our little, adorable grandson. He replied, “For His own gwory.” By the word gwory he actually meant glory. When we behold God’s beautiful handiwork with joy and awe, God is glorified in us.
John Calvin noticed utilitarianism’s bad effects 500 years ago; namely, treating creation only as something useful for us without regard for how beautiful it is – without reference to how beautiful God must be. God created all things that we may not only see beauty, but also to savor it with reference to God’s glory and attributes (Romans 1:20-ish). We were meant to participate in the life of God everywhere and all the time, especially when we gaze at the beauty of creation or Christ in the scriptures (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6).
Creation is beautiful to behold and to enjoy, and God is glorified when we are happy beholding and enjoying the beauty He reveals to us in what He has made.
The Fundamental Question
Below Calvin waxes eloquently about how dreadful a utilitarian view of creation truly is. Calvin asks the fundamental question about God’s purpose behind creating beautiful life forms for our pleasure in God: “Did [God] not, in short, render many things attractive to us, apart from their necessary use?”
“In grasses, trees, and fruits, apart from their utility, there is beauty of appearance and pleasantness of odor. For if this were not true, the prophet would not have reckoned them among the benefits of God, “that wine gladdens the heart of man, that oil makes his face shine.” . . . Has the Lord clothed the flowers with great beauty that greets our eyes, the sweetness of smell that is wafted upon our nostrils, and yet will it be unlawful for our eyes to be affected by that beauty, or our sense of smell by the sweetness of that odor?
What? Did he not so distinguish colors as to make some more lovely than others? What? Did he not endow gold and silver, ivory and marble, with a loveliness that renders them more precious than other metals or stones? Did he not, in short, render many things attractive to us, apart from their necessary use? Away, then, with that inhuman philosophy which, while conceding only a necessary use of creatures, not only malignantly deprives us of the lawful fruit of God’s beneficence but cannot be practiced unless it robs man of all his senses and degrades him to a block” (Calvin, Institutes; 3:10:2-3).
God Exceeds Our Expectations & Thoughts
“However many blessings we expect from God, his infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts.” Indeed, “it is no small honor that God for our sake has so magnificently adorned the world, in order that we may not only be spectators of this beauteous theatre, but also enjoy the multiplied abundance and variety of good things which are presented to us in it.”
We are more than spectators.
Calvin, quoted in Howard L. Rice, Reformed Spirituality: An Introduction for Believers (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991), 59, emphasis added.
Embrace the Truth; Renounce the Lie and Foolish Strategies