Friedrich Schleiermacher, Father of Modern Theology. (HT: Wikipedia)
On Sunday, December 6, 2015, Elder Wayne Wylie led a discussion on Pietism, the Enlightenment, and Liberal Theology.
Pietism was a movement reacting against dead orthodoxy. It emphasized one’s experience in his relationship with Christ at the expense of the primacy of the doctrinal and propositional confession of the church in general. (Read more about Pietism at Britannica.com)
The Enlightenment was a secular movement among eighteenth century philosophy which emphasized the priority of human reason in the search for truth about the world, rejecting the value of biblical revelation. (Read more about the Enlightenment at Wikipedia.org)
Modern, or Liberal, theology developed under the influence of Pietists who attempted to reconcile and reinterpret Christianity in light of the philosophical and scientific views which developed during the Enlightenment. (Read more about Liberal Theology at Britannica.com)
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The January 25, 2016 issue of the Weekly Standard profiles “The Religion of Trump: Will evangelicals balk at pulling the lever for him?” In this article, Weekly Standard executive editor Terry Eastman reports that Trump calls himself a Presbyterian, appealing to his family’s long-time association with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Eastman reveals, however, that Trump personally attends Marble Collegiate Church every Christmas, Easter and “whenever he can.” Marble Collegiate is a congregation of the Dutch Reformed communion known as the Reformed Church in America (RCA).For 52 years, it was pastored by a man who had become a household name during my childhood in the 70’s, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.
Peale’s claim to fame was his best-selling The Power of Positive Thinking (Prentice Hall Press, 1952; Touchstone, 2003). In 1945, Peale co-founded Guideposts Magazine with his wife Ruth Stafford Peale, a well-known magazine that is still in circulation and online. Fellow RCA minister, the late Dr. Robert H. Schuller, whose services at the Crystal Cathedral (now Christ Cathedral Catholic Church) were televised for decades on The Hour of Power, took the baton from Norman Vincent Peale to build his own ministry-empire on the power of positive thinking. In 1992, Dr. Schuller was interviewed on The White Horse Inn radio show, in which he had what proved to be a revealing and therefore necessarily contentious exchange with Dr. Michael S. Horton, a minister is the conservative Dutch Reformed denomination called the United Reformed Church of North America, on why he preaches positivity like Jesus did, rather than a negative message against sin the way Paul did (read excerpts here).
This positive-thinking distortion to the Reformed Faith is appreciated and affirmed by the infamous “prosperity gospel” televangelists in the Word of Faith movement like Paula White, who, along with a group of fellow televangelists laid hands on Trump, “believing for” success for his campaign. While the prosperity gospel of the Word of Faith movement descends from charismatic faith healer Kenneth Hagin (see A Different Gospel) through Kenneth Copeland to more popular and less obnoxiously money-fixated speakers like Joel Osteen, John Hagee, T.D. Jakes and Joyce Meyer, the Word of Faith movement bears an unmistakable family resemblance to the mainline positive thinking doctrines of Peale and Schuller. I used to watch the love fest between Robert Schuller and Trinity Broadcasting Network founders Paul and Jan Crouch on a regular basis in the late 1980’s.
In those days, Bible believing Christians used to affirm their orthodoxy, or at least their fundamentalism, and disassociate themselves from the American-made heresy of positive thinking with a play on words coined by Adlai Stevenson in 1952 in response to Peale’s criticism of his bid for President (HT: David Stokes): “I find Paul appealing, and Peale appalling!” This slogan calls for a modern re-popularization among Christians, in light of the candidacy of Donald Trump. The problem is that today, so many who consider themselves “Bible believers” are too biblically illiterate and thus uninformed on the false doctrine of positive thinking to know what’s so appalling about Peale and company, much less what’s so appealing about Paul.
What’s so “Appalling About Peale”?
The positive thinking teachings of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller, along with the Word of Faith theology of Hagin, Copeland, Jakes, Osteen and Meyer, focus on techniques for attracting success or prosperity to oneself, believing material prosperity to be as much the believer’s right as his spiritual “prosperity” in terms of peace with God by faith in Christ and spiritual growth in grace according to the Word of God with a view to bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Hank Hanegraaff, writing in Christianity in Crisis, characterizes this as “desiring what’s on the Master’s table, rather than the Master Himself.”
In the introduction to The Power of Positive Thinking, Peale points to the successful experimentation in his positive thinking techniques which he demonstrated during his ministry at the church which Trump now occasionally visits:
How can I be so certain that the practice of these principles will produce such results? The answer is simply that for many years in the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City we have taught a system of creative living based on spiritual techniques, carefully noting its operation in the lives of hundreds of people. It is no speculative series of extravagant assertions that I make, for these principles have worked so efficiently for so long a period of time that they are now firmly established as documented and demonstrable truth. The system outlined is a perfected and amazing method of successful living. (Peale, Power of Positive Thinking; Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1952, 1956; N.V.Peale, 1980; Fireside, 2003. Introduction, page xii.)
The closest I come to a thumb-nail sketch of Norman Vincent Peale’s power of positive thinking is drawn by Steven Hein on his website, EQI.org:
1. Picture yourself as succeeding.
2. Whenever a negative thought comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought to cancel it out.
3. Do not build up obstacles in your imagination. Instead tear them down by tearing them apart
4. Do not compare yourself to others.
5. Get a competent counselor to help you understand why you do what you do. Learn the origin of your inferiority and self-doubt feelings which often begin in childhood. Self-knowledge leads to a cure.
6. Practice self-affirmations, for example, Yes, I can. or I can do all things through belief in myself [sic]
7. List all the things you have going for you.
It’s not hard to see why billionaire casino tycoon and television personality, Donald Trump, would be attracted to the man-centered techniques of Norman Vincent Peale which view emotional, physical and fiscal success as a sign of spiritual vitality that are the results of pseudo-spiritual practices that amount to self-hypnosis according to some, and New Age occultism according to others.
What’s so “Appealing About Paul”?
Contrary to this, the Apostle Paul taught and exemplified a life that majored on contentment regardless of one’s bottom line:
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11).
The final sentence of this passage of Scripture draws a stark contrast with Peale’s man-centered paraphrase of it in step #6 of his techniques, as described above.
Paul decried those who taught that gain is godly, as do the positive thinking disciples of Peale, and instructed his son in the faith to separate from them:
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:3-11)
The appealing doctrine of Paul follows the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, as God the Son had every right to hold onto his eternal power and glory he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven, yet condescended to give it all up, taking on a human nature to suffer the deprivations of human poverty and suffering, calling his followers to take up their crosses of suffering as well. Paul writes in his great passage on the grace of giving, ““For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Paul meant this to be taken in the exclusively spiritual sense of forgiveness of sin and inheriting the Kingdom of God (which is not of this world).
It is not my goal to promote a presidential candidate. It is my goal to teach Christians to be discerning about what is and is not biblical. The modern doctrine of prosperity and positive thinking is not biblical. That’s why the gospel preached by Trump’s church is appalling. The teaching of Paul, our great Christian example, who eschewed prosperity for its own sake in this temporary life to gain an eternal life of reigning with Christ on the right hand of the Father, is much more appealing.
I watched Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens on Saturday of its record-breaking opening weekend. Since late last November, when the first teaser trailer was released, I had been following as many of the details of the production of the film as I could–from the early shots of the animatronic alien creatures to the construction of the Millennium Falcon and Harrison Ford’s injury on the set to the first script read-through by the cast, where the new ensemble of unknown actors took the baton from original trilogy stars Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. This process aroused the Star Wars fanboy in me to the degree of my spending $300 on twelve original Kenner action figures including the very valuable “Blue Snaggletooth” and “Big Head” Han Solo.As we learned in the first full Episode VII trailer, the Force likewise undergoes an awakening in that mythological galaxy far, far away setting the stage for a revival of the conflict between the light and dark sides of George Lucas’s literary device representing the universal instinct of human religiosity, which John Calvin called the sensus divinitatis. While Lucas’s Force features the earmarks of Eastern mysticism, Lucas was less interested in promoting Eastern mysticism to his Western audiences than he was in merely representing the spiritual and supernatural side of human existence in the form of his modern “Science Fantasy” genre. The bottom line for the Sparknotes on Star Wars Episodes IV-VI is that “the Force is a rather vague entity, serving primarily as a vocabulary for good and evil and as a way to explain the ‘magical’ powers of the Jedi.” This revival, or “Awakening” of the Force in Star Wars, Episode VII occasions our return to the theater for the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. It has been that long, I say, because this movie comes on the heels of Lucas’s decision to sell Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars franchise to Disney. In the intervening years between Empire and Force Awakens was a dark time of Lucas introducing less than endearing characters like the Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks in films featuring Lucas’s less than stellar writing and directing. Don’t get me wrong—George Lucas is a revolutionary filmmaker, but it is due to his hitting upon a great idea for a modern space age fairy tale and some groundbreaking developments in the art and science of special effects. But in my humble opinion, this is where Lucas’s strengths end. For this reason, I think it is good that Lucas has once and for all handed off his legendary franchise to the media giant that has mastered the art of producing high quality fairy tales for the big screen. As you may know, The Empire Strikes Back excelled for a similar reason. Lucas wanted his series to take off, so he knew the sequel to A New Hope had to be really, really good. Tapping Lawrence Kasdan to write the screenplay and film school instructor, Irvin Kershner to direct, George Lucas hit upon the formula for a well-made Star Wars film post his 1977 magnum opus: get someone else to write and direct. So, for this year’s The Force Awakens, Kasdan returns to co-write the screenplay with the next Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, who also agreed to direct. The quality of the resulting film reflects the wisdom of Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy’s choice of writers and director. J.J. Abrams was the right pick to revive the Star Wars franchise. In this film, he seems to have done what made his Star Trek (2009) reboot work. In that film, Abrams gathered the perfect cast to mirror the first generation crew of the starship Enterprise, and planted lots of nostalgic references to classic Star Trek tropes, breathing new life into the rival sci-fi classic. This must be the reason Spielberg recommended Abrams to Kennedy, who then pursued him for the job. Not only is The Force Awakens the seventh episode in the series, but in many ways, it is arguably a reboot of A New Hope. Without spoiling the film for you latecomers giving place to the teeming masses you think camped outside the world’s theaters for days before the December 18th opening (not so much), The Force Awakens parallels the first Star Wars in many ways. Himself a fan since age 11, Abrams knew that what the die hard audience wanted was a return to the “used universe” look and feel of A New Hope, building props and sets the old fashioned way, keeping his use of computer generated images to a minimum, along with Abrams’s infamous lens flare habit. I counted two, maybe three such incidents of lens flare.
One thing which surprised me about the show was that, despite the many links to the original trilogy scattered throughout the film, I did not find myself overwhelmed with emotion. I’m a sentimental guy, so I was disappointed by this. I don’t fault the film, though, for this may be due more to the fact that I’ve been watching the production very closely all year, so there were fewer surprises for me, other than some of those spoilerific elements of the film which I cannot yet discuss openly. I was happy with the fact that the awkward dialogue and acting so prominent in the prequels was absent in this first installment of the sequel trilogy. Lucasfilm at last has awakened to the fact that George Lucas’s great ideas must be complemented by equally good writing and directing.
“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.””
John 11:17-27 ESV
Faith in Jesus Christ takes away our fear of death because he’s the one who raises the dead back to life.
1. Four Days Dead—For the glory of God, it must be undeniable that Lazarus was raised by the power of Christ.
2. Misunderestimation—Despite Martha’s grief, she expresses her faith that Jesus would have healed Lazarus if Jesus had been with them. Martha mistakenly thinks there are limits to Jesus’s ability to raise Lazarus from death.
3. Greater Than Expectation—Not only will God raise all on the Last Day, not only can Jesus raise a man from death who is dead four days, but he can raise one to eternal spiritual life today as well.
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I’ve done a little reading on writing in the past couple of years. The most humorous and memorable advice I received regarded the overuse of adverbs in one’s writing. Stephen King attributes the use of adverbs to the fear that the writer has failed to communicate well enough in the context of his adverb-riddled composition. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” writes King. Elmore Leonard writes that a character in one of his books speaks of writing historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.” These writers don’t place an absolute prohibition on all adverbs, but encourage avoidance of their use as frequently as possible 😉
Some of my friends who have done extensive reading in didactic Christian literature have no doubt encountered the word “Christianly.” For example, Harry Blamires writes in The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?: “…there is no…field of discourse in which writers are reflecting christianly on the modern world and modern man.”
This usage has always annoyed me, but now that I’m more informed on the liability of adverbs, the “little knowledge” I’ve gained threatens to make me dangerous. Would it not be better to say “as a Christian,” or “like a Christian,” “in a Christian way,” or “from a Christian perspective”?
For the record, I found myself rewriting three sentences in order to practice what I preach. Friends don’t let friends use adverbs. My hope is that this advice will help Christian writers practice their vocation–or in my case, avocation–in a more Christian way.
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
(Galatians 2:15-21 ESV)
Pastor Joe Troutman preaching at San Antonio Reformed on June 21, 2015. HT: Billie Moody
You are justified in God’s sight not because of what you have done, but only by what Christ has done for you, and imputed to you by God’s free grace.
1. By God’s Free Grace—It doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, all are justified by grace through faith in Christ. Justification is, in God’s Court, your being declared righteous. If our righteousness is filthy rags, then justification by God is a gift.
2. He Pardons All Our Sins—In the case of your standing before the Lord, it is impossible to plead innocence. If you only ever committed the least sin, you stand condemned by the Law, because it is holy, good…
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The term Massilianism is derived from the city of Marseilles, France, where in the early to mid-fifth century, John Cassian first wrote attempting a mediating view between the extremes of the Pelagian denial of original sin and assertion of the primacy of the human will in salvation and the Augustinian priorty of grace in irresistibly regenerating and redeeming the elect. Numerous other writers followed in his efforts for a similar synthesis until the errors were condemned by the second Council of Orange. Centuries later, scholastic theologians would term the system Semi-Pelagianism.
Pelagianism—A teaching, originating in the late fourth century, which stresses man’s ability to take the initial steps toward salvation by his own efforts, apart from special grace. Belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil with Divine aid (from class handout).
The class discussed Pelagius’ first principle that man is able to obey God’s commands, and that Adam sinned only for himself, not humankind. This was followed by a discussion of the orthodox doctrine of original sin (See Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 6).
Next, Semi-Pelagianism was defined, and it was explained that this heresy persists in various forms to the present.
Semi-Pelagianism or Massilianism—Semi-Pelagianism involved…
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Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
(John 11:1-16 ESV)
Lazarus’s deliverance from death was, and your salvation from eternal damnation is, accomplished by Jesus Christ for the glory of the Triune God.
1. Expression of Love—Because of his love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Jesus stayed two days longer upon reports that Lazarus was ill. They benefited more by his delay than if he had healed Lazarus immediately.
2. Walking in the Day—Jesus knows there’s no safer plae for him to be than right where the Father planned for him to be. The divine nature of Jesus knows his Father’s secret will. There was still time for Jesus to work.
3. For Your Sake, For God’s Glory—Jesus wants his disciples to have true faith in him. His delay in going to Lazarus was for their…
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“The decision of Nicaea related primarily only to the esssential deity of Christ. But in the wider range of the Arian controversies the deity of the Holy Ghost, which stands and falls with the deity of the Son, was indirectly involved. The church always, indeed, connected faith in the Holy Spirit with faith in the Father and the Son, but considered the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit as only an appendix to the doctrine concerning the Father and the Son, until the logical progress brought it to lay equal emphasis on the deity and personality of the Holy Ghost, and to place him with the Father and Son as an element of equal claim in the Trinity.
“The Arians made the Holy Ghost the first creature of the Son, and as subordinate to the Son as the Son to the Father. The Arian trinity was therefore not a trinity immanent and eternal, but arising in time and in descending grades, consisting of the uncreated God and two created demi-gods. The Semi-Arians here, as elsewhere, approached the orthodox doctrine, but rejected the consubstantiality, and asserted the creation, of the Spirit. Thus especially Macedonius, a moderate Semi-Arian, whom the Arian court-party had driven from the episcopal chair of Constantinople. From him the adherents of the false doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit, were, after 362, called Macedonians; also Pneumatomachi, and Tropici.” (Schaff, Philip; History of the Christian Church, volume 3; 1996, Hendrickson Publishers; pages 663-664.)
On Sunday, November 8, 2015, the Adult Sunday School lesson introduced Pneumatomachianism and the Definition of Chalcedon.
The class discussed the eternality of the Holy Spirit in light of the fact that he “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Then, Pneumatomachianism was introduced, and how this ancient heresy led to the insertion by the Western catholic church of the so-called “filioque clause” into the Nicene Creed, which reads, “…And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.”
Pneumatomachians–While accepting the divinity of Jesus Christ as affirmed at Nicea in AD 325, they denied that of the Holy Spirit which they saw as a creation of the Son, and…
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“C. S. Lewis once commented that reading old books was to be preferred to reading new books because old books brought the fresh breeze of the centuries into our minds. They show us truths that might not be prevalent in our own day. The fresh breeze of the centuries comes off the pages of this wonderful reprint of a classic work on covenant theology by nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian minister John Colquhoun (1748-1827, ka-hoon).”
Read the rest of John Fesko’s review of this book in Ordained Servant magazine online at http://opc.org/os.html?article_id=196
In this book, Colquhoun helps us understand the precise relationship between law and gospel. He also impresses us with the importance of knowing this relationship. Colquhoun especially excels in showing how important the law is as a believer’s rule of life without doing injury to the freeness and fullness of the gospel. By implication, he enables us to draw four practical conclusions: 1) the law shows us how to live, 2) the law as a rule of life combats both antinomianism and legalism, 3) the law shows us how to love, and 4) the law promotes true freedom.
Table of Contents:
1. The Law of God or the Moral Law in General
2. The Law of God as Promulgated to the Israelites from Mount Sinai
3. The Properties of the Moral Law
4. The Rules for Understanding Aright the Ten Commandments
5. The Gospel…
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“Arianism–Arianism was a 4th-century Christian heresy named for Arius (c. 250-c. 336), a priest in Alexandria [Egypt]. Arius denied the full deity of the preexistent Son of God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. He held that the Son, while divine and like God (“of like substance”), was created by God as the agent through whom he created the universe. Arius said of the Son, “there was a time when he was not.” Arianism became so widespread in the Christian church and resulted in such disunity that the emperor Constantine convoked a church council at Nicaea in [A.D.] 325.” (from Class Handout)
On Sunday, November 1, 2015, Elder Wayne Wylie taught about the Arian Heresy and Nicene Orthodoxy.
Christianity faces more controversies and heresies than other religions because it is based on propositional doctrine rather than morality, as other religions are. “Contending for the faith” is a biblical duty intended to preserve the peace and purity of the church (Jude 3). In the ancient era of church history, the Faith needed to be stated more clearly in a formal way, hence the development of Nicene Orthodoxy.
The heresiarch Arius taught that Jesus was the first created being, and denied the “ontological Trinity,” which means he denied that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are of one divine essence. The councils which developed the Nicene Creed demonstrate the fact of the eternal generation of the Son, and the…
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Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
(1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV)
Peter details duties to various classes of believers earlier in his book, to church members in general in the present passage. He forbids contention and trifling with the peace of the church. As OPC church members, we have vowed to keep the peace and purity of the church. We are to love as siblings, being children of the same Father. We are to be tender-hearted and humble, counting others as more significant than ourselves. We are not to repay evil for evil, from within as well as from without the church.
The church has always been a mix of believers and unbelievers. Persecution can come from inside as well as outside the church. Fraternal strife between true brothers is also possible in the church.
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The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.
(John 10:31-42 ESV)
Jesus’ works were perfectly consistent with his words which authenticate that he is the Son of God in whom you may place your trust.
1. The God Who Made Himself Man—If Jesus were not God, then he would have deserved the condemnation of the Jewish authorities. They thought he was only a man who made himself God, when he truly was God who had humbly condescended to make himself a man.
2. Works Authentication—The miraculous signs Jesus performs are evidence of his deity and Sonship to God the Father. While evidences cannot work faith in people, they do render them without excuse for disbelief.
3. Words of Truth—John’s words are God’s means to bring people to faith in Christ. The signs are in service to the word. Be…
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At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, hin the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are ithe Christ, jtell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do lin my Father’s name bear witness about me, but myou do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and pthey will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of tthe Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)
Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father but who became a man; he is the Good Shepherd out of whose hands no one may snatch those who believe in him.
1. Insufficiency of Evidence–The miraculous signs of Jesus reveal him as the Son of God and the Messiah; however, though we point to evidence of his divinity, his miracles and the historical fact of his resurrection, and many will refuse to believe in the face of overwhelming evidence because evidences alone are unable to generate the faith sinners need to be born again.
2. Faith Comes from Hearing–Jesus’ sheep hear his voice because they’ve been enabled to hear by the Holy Spirit. Those who never hear it, neither want to, nor are they able to hear his voice.
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I’m looking forward to having Reformation Day music to enjoy from now on! Bach the Lutheran is an incredible contribution to “reeeal music.”
Luther “wrote [the 95] theses on indulgences and posted them on the church of All Saints on 31 October 1517,” wrote Phillip Melanchthon. Protestants have celebrated this event since the late 16th century, and October 31th became Reformation Day in the Protestant areas of Germany in the early 18th century.
The famous composer J. S. Bach wrote cantatas for Reformation Day. For the one in 1727, he wrote the following cantata, based on Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God (“Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott”).
And for the Reformation Day of 1725, he wrote this one.
Let us, with Bach, rejoice and be glad.
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