Reformation Day 2006


Today marks the 489th anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. In honor of this today’s post is dedicated to Martin Luther and his work in the reformation.

The Darkness

In today’s culture there is a darkness that pervades the day. It is a darkness that stems from a lack of moral clarity, a lack of biblical knowledge, and an overall distain for the Creator. The darkness, which is indisputably heavy, seems to be overwhelming at times. One wonders how the Church can possibly deal with this darkness. Can scripture alone really change people? The answer to this question can be found in a long lineage of faithful churchmen.

Despite the current darkness a careful review of church history will reveal a darker age. The medieval age, which may have been the darkest of all, saw the church sink to new lows. The overall illiteracy of the culture caused an overall biblical illiteracy within the church, and the lack of biblical wisdom left both the church and the culture with no moral guidelines. Many of the “church priests” took concubines and engaged in adulterous affairs, while others enjoyed gluttonous lives at the expense of their parishioners. As one looks back at this period it is hard to find even a flicker of light. However, the return to the Scriptures was inevitable. Christ’s bride could not stay estranged from her bridegroom.

There were early attempts to stem the tide of darkness with God’s word. Men like Wycliffe, Hus, and Savonarola all fought for (and with) God’s Word. These men, while never seeing all of the influence they had, laid the foundation for the revival of the reformation. In all of this God sovereignly controlled the events of history so as to keep the promise of Christ:

“…I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
Matthew 16:18

The Light in the Darkness: Martin Luther

As we look back in history at this age of darkness it seems almost as if “the gates of Hades” had surrounded the church, and were closing in quickly. However, God was sovereignly in control. In order to keep his promise, God provided a light to shine in this dark age. That light shined through an obscure Augustinian monk who found a love for Scripture. This now famous monk, none other than Martin Luther, sent shockwaves throughout the world by declaring Scripture to be his sole authority.

Much could be said about Martin Luther’s life; all of which demonstrates the work of God in his life. One of the clearest examples of God’s work in Luther’s life is seen in a trip that Luther made to Rome. As a Catholic Monk of the Augustinian order Luther greatly anticipated his trip to Rome. Rome was the hub of church activity, and the location of many relics that were dear to the church. What Luther found upon his arrival in Rome was not at all what he expected, but it was exactly what God had planned for him. One of Luther’s first impressions about Rome was that it was “but a dead carcass compared with its ancient splendor.” Despite being shocked by many of the unbiblical practices that he saw in Rome Luther’s faith in the teaching of the Roman Church was not yet shaken.

After returning from Rome Luther continued in his personal studies at Erfurt as part of the black cloister. He was then transferred to Wittenberg where he received his doctorate, and became a teacher at the University of Wittenberg. During his time at the University of Wittenberg Luther focused the brunt of his attention on the study of the Apostle Paul’s teaching. In the course of his studies Luther could not stop coming back to one particular teaching of Paul; “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11) Again and Again Luther kept coming to this text, each time more and more troubled by its content. Through this study Luther finally came to realize that by acceptance of the work of Christ God would impute Christ’s righteousness upon the sinful man alleviating the punishment for his sin. In God’s word Luther found the Gospel, and accepted it. Luther looked back on this time as his birthday in the faith. During this time Luther came into possession of Erasmus’ edition of the Greek New Testament. From that point on this was what Luther taught from. Luther continued to teach through the book of Romans, and began to see the discrepancies between the teachings of Rome, and the teachings of the book of Romans. Luther was now motivated by a love for God’s Word, and the newfound discovery of God’s grace. Armed with these tools, and a calling from God, Luther shined the light of the gospel in a dark age. His ministry was accomplished at a great cost due to unimaginable opposition. But at every step of the way Luther’s steps were guided by the hand of God.

As Luther grew in his faith so also did his discontent with the teachings of Rome. Between the years of 1515 and 1516 a note of protest can be found in Luther’s preaching. He was disturbed by Rome’s view of works. He was also concerned with the collection of relics, and the belief that they held some type of spiritual power. This was a particular concern for Luther because his own civil lord, the elector of Saxony, had collected hundreds of relics in the Wittenberg cathedral.

It was in 1517 that Luther’s protest, and call for reform reached its boiling point. In September of that year Luther wrote his 97 theses. This document is largely overlooked because it was on October 31st, 1517 that Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. This, for many, marks the beginning of the Reformation. From here on out Luther would be viewed by the Roman church as a heretic, and by many of the people as a hero.

The Message of Light: The Gospel

It would be a mistake to view the Reformation as the product of one man. In fact, it would be a mistake to view the Reformation as a product of many men. The Reformation was a product of the Gospel of Christ, and the spread of that Gospel through the preaching of the Word of God. Its theo-centric nature was what made the Reformation so powerful. Martin Luther, as well as the other Reformers, saw the necessity of the Gospel and made it the foundation of the Reformation. John Piper, writing on justification by faith, had this to say: “And there was darkness. The Reformation was needed. And the discovery and preaching of justification by faith alone was the center of the lightning bolt of truth that lit the world.” For the first time in many years the common man was taught the Gospel that is found in the Bible. For many it was the first time they had ever heard a churchman teach that “the just shall live by faith.” This amazing truth was the lifeblood of the Reformation.

In Romans 4:5 we read, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” The teaching of this text is what the reformers would eventually call “sola fide.” This doctrine of “faith alone” means that works are not required for salvation, and additionally faith is not a work. Rather, faith is what unites us with Christ. Through our faith God sees us as united with Christ. He literally sees Christ in us. He sees the righteous life that was required of us lived out by Christ. He sees the infinite punishment demanded by our rebellion received on the cross. This is why faith is “credited as righteousness.” Luther had this to say about our justification by faith, “This doctrine is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot see for one hour.”

The Light of the Reformation Continues to Burn

Luther stood on the shoulders of the “pre-reformers,” like Hus and Wycliffe, and recaptured a love for God’s word. Our responsibility is to continue what Luther started. It was in the spring of 1521 that Luther appeared at the diet of Worms to answer for his teaching. With his life hanging in the balance Luther knew the damage that a retraction on his part would cause. Would he be willing to sacrifice his own life for a re-capturing of the bible? The answer is yes. History is somewhat vague on Luther’s exact reply when asked to recant, but it went something like this:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, God help me. Amen.”

Luther stood on God’s Word and persevered in the faith. Today we must stand on the shoulders of Luther, and the great reformers. Thanks to Luther we are not enslaved by “the authority of the popes and councils.” Thanks to the faithful preaching of John Calvin we have his commentaries on almost the entire bible to learn from. Thanks to William Tyndale, who gave his life for Christ, we have God’s Word in English. There are so many men who sacrificed, fought, labored, and even died so that we might stand on their shoulders. It is my intention, God willing, to honor these men by honoring God, by holding firm the doctrines of Grace, and by loving the bible. Let us never forget the cries of the reformation:

sola fide: faith alone
sola scriptura: Scripture alone
solus Christus: Christ alone
sola gratia: Grace alone
soli deo gloria: To the Glory of God alone

Let me try my own rendition of Luther’s proclamation at Worms:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason I will continue to fight for the biblical doctrines re-discovered in the Reformation – I will not forget what these giants in the faith did for the Church, and the opportunity they gave me to study God’s Word – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not forget the Reformation for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand on the shoulders of the Reformers, God help me. Amen.”


James 4:5b – Which Spirit?

James 4:4-6

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Yesterday we took a hard look at v.5 and came to the conclusion that it is God who is jealous for the devotion of men. To some this may seem odd, but this is truly this is an act of love. In fact, this desire that men be devoted to Him and glorify Him with their affections is the reason that He sent Christ to redeem the Church. This still leaves us with the question, what spirit is James talking about in v. 5b?

cocreadinglist.JPGThere are two possible answers to this question. First, the Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The second possibility is that the spirit is God’s creative spirit by which he has invigorated humankind (Gen 2:7). Although most English translations capitalize spirit as if it were the Holy Spirit it seems bests to view this spirit as the spirit that God has created man with. There are several reasons to take this view. First of all it does not seem to make much sense that God would desire the Holy Spirit since God is the Holy Spirit. Second, we must remember that the people James directed his comments towards were the enemies of God (v. 4), and thus they were not Christians. This means that the Holy Spirit did not dwell in these people. It is primarily for this reason that I think it best to view the spirit in this verse as the spirit that God has created within all human beings. In other words, God the Creator is jealous for His creation to desire Him whole heartedly. In fact, God has designed His creation to find ultimate joy and satisfaction only in Him. Unfortunately, sin has made us loose sight of this. In Romans 1:25 the apostle Paul acknowledged man’s tendency to seek something other than God for fulfillment.

“For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:25, NASB95)

The question is how do we change our perspective from a sinful desire for the pleasures of creation to a biblical desire for the Creator? James gives the answer to that in v.6 (which we will discuss in more detail). For now understand that it is only through the Grace of God in the Gospel that we can desire God, and seek Him for our joy.

James 4:5-6: A difficult passage

James 4:4-6

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Beginning in v. 5 we see how the adulterous people were thinking incorrectly. What we see is that their wrong thinking was a result of a wrong view of Scripture. By writing “do you think that Scripture speaks with no purpose…” James called attention to their disregard for the teaching of Scripture. In order to follow this line of thought we must go back to v. 4. These people had no idea that “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” The question that one might ask when reading v. 4 is why did they not know this? This idea of complete devotion to God is clear from Scripture. In 1 Kings 18:21 (NASB95) “Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’” Here we see that devotion to God alone is required. In the NT Christ himself made this teaching clear in Matthew 6:24 when He said:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

The question is how did these people, who were Jews exposed to the law and claimed to be Christians exposed to the teaching of Christ, not know that full devotion to God is required? The answer is found in James’ words. By there actions these people demonstrated that they thought the Scriptures spoke with no purpose. They spent their lives pursuing the pleasures of this world, and disregarded what Scripture had to say about their lives.

But what does Scripture say about our devotion to God? We have already looked at a few passages, but what about this quote we have from James. “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us…” This can prove to be a very confusing statement for several reasons. First of all, it seems as if James is quoting from an OT passage. In fact, most English translations put quotation marks around the verse giving the appearance of a direct quote. The problem is that this phrase cannot be found anywhere else in Scripture. One has to wonder why James would quote this as Scripture when it is not found in the cannon. I think the answer to that is that this phrase represents the overall teaching of Scripture, rather than a specific passage found elsewhere. This overall teaching is represented well by the two passages that we have already looked at.

Another confusing element to this verse is the meaning of the phrase itself. The ways that most English bibles translate this verse make it very confusing. The significant questions that arise are: Who is He? Who is doing the desiring? And, how is James using the term spirit? Let me answer the first two question and then the third we will discuss tomorrow.
Who is the He? The “He” refers to God. This makes the most sense because it is God who causes the spirit (which we will talk about tomorrow) to dwell in us. This also answers our second question (who is doing the desiring?). God is the one who jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in man. This interpretation of God’s divine jealousy fits particularly well in light on v. 4. Remember, in v. 4 James described these people as adulterous people so it makes perfect sense that James would describe God as jealously desiring their affections. This verse serves as a reminder that God desires his people to be completely devoted to Him. This reminder is also an appropriate warning to these people against any desires for the world. This interpretation may trouble you because it refers to God jealously desiring the devotion of men. But you should not be troubled by this idea. In fact, in Exodus 20:4-6 God uses these words to convey this same idea:
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving-kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

So it is God who describes Himself as jealous for the devotion of men. To some this may seem odd, but this is truly this is an act of love. In fact, this desire that men be devoted to Him and glorify Him with their affections is the reason that He sent Christ to redeem the Church. This is exactly what the apostle Paul was talking about in Ephesians 2:10 when he said:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

The World through Cards colored lenses

200px-mlb-ws_7361.gifToday, instead of the planned post on James, we will be having the first guest post in the history of Cup of Coffee Talk (and he doesn’t even know it yet). This is not the normal content here, but it is post-season baseball! I can’t help but get into the action.

The following is an excerpt of an e-mail from the, now famous, Jason Bruns. Jason is the biggest Cardinals fan that I know of (sorry Tim Ellsworth).


1. Preston Wilson/Juan Encarnacion walking toward the plate with a bat in their hands, two outs, and runners on base

(I would like to add here that Jason did not need to write “with a bat in their hands” since the results would be the same if they went to the plate with no bat)

2. Preston Wilson/Juan Encarnacion flailing at three pitches with their eyes closed and walking away from the plate with the bat in their hands, leaving runners on base

3. Juan Encarnacion doing anything

4. Brandon Inge playing third base like he has a skillet strapped to his glove hand (how is that guy always on “web gems?” I have been literally overwhelmed by how much he stinks at playing third base)

5. the tigers fans that have their faces painted like they are a part of the cast of “Cats” (dude, you know the baseball gods hate that)

6. Magglio Ordonez’ perm

7. as a cards fan—seeing carlos guillen coming to the plate in any situation (that guy’s a ballplayer—totally underrated)

8. the “jeff weaver squint”

9. yadi catching that foul tip in [a bad spot] in game two

10. baseball in football weather

Today’s Special: Mud Pies…

James 4:4-6

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

pew.gifIn James 4:4 we saw something very interesting. We saw that there were spiritual adulteresses among James’ readers, and they did not even know they were committing adultery. They were so preoccupied with a love for the pleasures of this world (v. 1) that they did not even realize their hostility towards God. To say that these people did not know what they were doing is not an excuse, rather it is an indictment of there complete indifference towards God. Let me give you an example of what it would be like. Imagine if your parents were leaving town for the weekend and were letting you stay home alone (every teenagers dream). Before they left on Friday afternoon they gave you instructions, left you food, and told you were some money to eat out was. The weekend goes buy and when they return they find that you have not eaten the food that they left for you, but instead you sold family valuables for a package of bologna and some bread. If you were to tell them that you did not know they left food that would be no excuse. In fact, you would be in deeper trouble because you did not pay attention to your parents when they left you instructions. This is what James is talking about. These people had every opportunity to know the grace, love, mercy, and glory of God. They should have known the inexpressible joy, the hope of eternity, and the ultimate pleasure that comes through devotion to Christ; but they didn’t. To use the words of C.S. Lewis they were “far too easily pleased,” and desired “mud pies” to fill their appetite rather than God.
My concern for you is that you will fall into this same trap. I do not want you to get caught up in the pleasures of this world and think that there is nothing better than these pleasures. Cars, money, i-pods, shoes, clothes, computers, they are all mud pies! There is so much more pleasure and joy that is available by becoming a disciple of Christ. This joy and pleasure is not even dependent on your circumstance. This means that you can have joy and pleasure even if you are put into prison for following Christ. You can have this life, or you can be like these people who didn’t even bother to take a look around and see God’s glory.
Over the next few days we will look at vv. 5-6. In vv. 5-6 we will continue to see that these people were not thinking correctly in this matter. They were ignorant of the teaching of Scripture. Specifically, they were ignorant of the teaching that God desires our complete devotion. Thankfully we will see in v. 6 that God gives grace to those who will humble themselves to admit their need for divine enablement so that they can be completely devoted to Him.