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Archive for the ‘Martin Luther’ Category


Non-sermon related reading has fallen off the grid the last few months.  I feel like I’ve been reading this book for the better part of 6 months.  Not quite, but I have finally finished Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation.  I already reviewed the first 2 sections which dealt with the basics of interpretation and his argument for a gospel-centered hermeneutic, and how various methods of Bible interpretation have eclipsed the gospel throughout church history.

The final section, Reconstructing Evangelical Hermeneutics, was the most difficult for me to read.  At times he covered areas of philosophy with which I was unfamilar.  So, I was occasionally thinking ‘huh?” (particularly speech-act theory).  But it was still profitable at times, just not as profitable as the previous 2 sections.

Among the areas that were helpful were his discussion of typology, and Dr. John Currid’s criteria for true typology.  This criteria is affirmed by Keller & Clowney in the DMin course available through RTS on I-Tunes.  He was also helpful in discussion contexting (his simpler term for contextualization).  The missionary mandate, as he argues, mandates this.  He also includes a chapter on the interaction and relationship between biblical and systematic theology.  He talks a great deal about how both Calvin and Luther viewed Bible interpretation, and the role of the Spirit (particularly Calvin on this front)

His Epilogue contains a few good quotes to sum all this up:

Hermeneutics is about reading God’s word with understanding so taht we might be conformed more and more to the image of Christ.

The purpose of God’s word is to bring us to God through the salvation that is in Christ.  It does this by revealing his plan and purpose, by conforming us more and more to the image of Christ, and by providing the shape of the presence of God with his people through the Spirit of Christ.

So, pastors and those who regularly teach God’s people should find Goldsworthy’s book helpful as we seek to fulfill our calling.  As the ancient children’s song says, “take up and read.”

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Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Way back in 1517, Luther attacked the use of indulgences by the Church of Rome.  They were used to provide a false hope, and a steady flow of cash for Papal building projects.  The Reformation was born.

Many, Cavman included, think we need a new (or renewed) Reformation since the doctrine of justification by faith alone as fallen on hard times in evangelical circles.  People have once again put sanctification prior to justification, just in a different form than Rome did.

But the Church of Rome has made a change that was not expected by many people.  Indulgences are back.  Yes, like the Terminator they have returned, and that is not a good thing either.

“Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. “Because there is sin in the world.”

Like the Latin Mass and meatless Fridays, the indulgence was one of the traditions decoupled from mainstream Catholic practice in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, the gathering of bishops that set a new tone of simplicity and informality for the church.

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I’ve got to stuff all of Galatians 2 into one sermon.  Oh the madness and folly of it all!  One of my favorite works on Galatians is Luther’s commentary.  I don’t agree with all he says, but there are some great things in there.  He had … a way with words.   Let’s see some of it.

“The truth of the gospel is that our righteousness comes by faith alone, without the works of the law. The corruption or falsehood of the gospel is that we are justified by faith but not without the works of the law.

I like how he reminds us that most false gospels do not deny the need for faith, or Jesus.  What they deny is the sufficiency of Jesus’ work for us.  This is why they are so dangerous, there is an element of truth to be found in them.  Satan uses a little truth to float big lies.

“…we will suffer our goods to be taken away, our name, our life, and all that we have; but the gospel, our faith, Jesus Christ, we will never allow to be wrested from us.”

Martin points to how precious this gospel is- it is more valuable than our possessions, reputations, and even earthly life.  This is why Paul fought so vigorously for the “truth of the gospel”.

“We therefore make this definition of a Christian: a Christian is not one who has no sin, but one to whom God imputes not his sin, through faith in Christ. That is why we so often repeat and beat into your minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness for Christ’s sake.”

Imputation is a necessary element of the gospel.  Our sins are no longer imputed (or accounted) to us AND Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.  We must remember both.  We cannot bring both our own righteousness and Christ’s to God.  It is one or the other.  We need constant reminders of this truth because our default mode is to try and earn SOMETHING.  We want to contribute something (besides our sin) to salvation.  Jesus, save us from our pride.

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In my prep for the beginning of Galatians, I read this in Luther’s commentary:

“Let us therefore arm ourselves with these and like verses of the Holy Scripture, that we may be able to answer the devil (accusing us, and saying: You are a sinner, and therefore you are damned) in this sort:  “Christ has given Himself for my sins; therefore, Satan, you shall not prevail against me when you go about to terrify me in setting forth the greatness of my sins, and so to bring me into heaviness, distrust, despair, hatred, contempt and blaspheming of God.  As often as you object that I am a sinner, you call me to remembrance of the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, upon whose shoulders, and not upon mine, lie all my sins; for ‘the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,’ and ‘for the transgression of the people he was striken’ (Isaiah 53:6,8).  Wherefore, when you say I am a sinner, you do not terrify me, but comfort me above measure.””

We tend to get cowed down by our guilt.  We need to start saying “So what, Satan?” because we look to the crucified and risen One, and “there is no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Jesus.”

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I’m excited to be studying Galatians for the next 3 months.  It is a controversial book these days- particularly in the dispute over the meaning of justification.  I take the historical, Reformed Protestant view as espoused in the Westminter Confession of Faith where we are declared righteous because God imputes Jesus’ righteousness to us.  Anyway, here are some of the resources I’ll be using and some I wish I was using.

What I’m using:

  • Commentary on Galatians: Modern-English Version by Martin Luther (The link is for the Crossway version, sorry).  Classic!  There is some great stuff in here from the man who recaptured the doctrine of justification triggering the Reformation.
  • Commentary on Galatians by John Calvin from his Commentary set.  Have to use it!
  • The Message of Galatians (The Bible Speaks Today series) by John Stott.  Tried and true, this will be my 3rd go round with Stott.  Great stuff, and not overly technical.
  • Galatians and Ephesians (New Testament Commentary) by William Hendriksen

What I Wish I Had Handy:

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This morning we were talking about Psalm 16 in preparation for Sunday’s sermon.  One guy thought it reminded him of guys he knows grabbing themselves by the collar and preaching the gospel to themselves when facing temptation.  In Psalm 16, David is reminding himself of God and His benefits because he’s in danger of forgetting them in the midst of his troubles.  Psalm 16 becomes a great example of what it means to preach the gospel to yourself.

Preaching the gospel to the people

Preaching the gospel to the people

Ivan brought up the movie Luther.  Early on, Satan is accusing Martin and he is overcome with despair.  His Confessor Staupitz overhears this and enters his cell and preaches the gospel to him, summarized by “I am yours, save me!”.  Later, while at the Diet of Worms, Luther is again assailed.  This time he preaches it to himself- “I am yours, save me!”  He was internalizing the significance of the Christ’s saving work so he’s remember and believe it in the midst of spiritual attack.  If you haven’t seen this movie- what are you waiting for????

In the process of talking about preaching the gospel to yourself, I remembered a (short) interview with Jerry Bridges by C.J. Mahaney on the subject.  I think Jack Miller coined the phrase, but he is at least the first person I remember using it.  Maybe he got it from someone else.  But it is a helpful way to spend 20 minutes.

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Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith is a much needed book.  I needed to read it, and I can see how many in the churches I’m familiar with need to read it as well.  It is short, well-written, well-illustrated and keeps pointing the reader to Christ.  What more could you want?

Tim uses the Parable of the Lost Sons to examine the heart of the the Christian message.  He examines the Parable in the context of his audience in Luke 15.  He also compares and contrasts it with the parables that precede it (the lost sheep and the lost coin), to get the message ‘right’.  And that message is that both sons were lost- one thru license and the other thru legalism.  While we see the licentious brother return home (much like the sinners how heard Jesus and placed their trust in Him), while the elder brother resents the father’s grace (much like the Pharisees who were listening).  We just aren’t sure how he responds, so the question bounces back on all those elder brothers- will you enter the joy of the Father or maintain your ‘rights’ and sit alone and angry?

In this process Keller redefines both sin and lostness (as I’ve addressed in a previous post).  He doesn’t redefine so much as deepen our understanding of these concepts, expanding them so we can recognize how easily we can sin and appreciate our tendency to wander back into self-reliance.

Keller points us to the True Elder Brother, Jesus, who left the Father’s side to seek and save the lost.  We can only return home because He left, and lost His life.  This helps us to redefine, or deepen our understanding of, hope.  This hope culminates in the Feast of the Father- a picture of heavenly celebration.

In the process, Keller draws upon the thinking of Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther among others.  The last is particularly important since Luther understood too well that legalism is the default mode for most of us.  We quickly lapse back into the sins of the elder brother (pride, self-righteousness, lack of compassion).  He illustrates with movies (both popular and obscure) as well as novels that have captured people’s attention through the years.

So I found the book to be both convicting and comforting, humbling and encouraging.  Yes, big sinner.  Yes, bigger Savior who continues to change my heart so it resembles His.  This quote is one from the final chapter gives us something to chew on:

I have explained in this book why churches- and all religious institutions- are often so unpleasant.  They are filled with elder brothers.  Yet staying away from them simply because they have elder brothers is just another form of self-righteousness.  Besides that, there is no way you will be able to grow spiritually apart from a deep involvement in a community of other believers.  You can’t live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends, without a family of believers in which you find a place.

This is Keller’s hope- to transform the church and society as we recognize our frequent relapses into self-righteousness and rely more fully and completely on the only Savior- Jesus.  I think this is must reading for pastors, church leaders and ordinary Christians.  It is accessible to all- so don’t shilly-shally (as Steve Brown would say) and drink deep and drink often.

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