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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Question on Perseverance & Revelation 22:19 | Main | The Reformation - Has the Holy Spirit Moved On? by Pastor John Samson »

    "Reformed Righteousness"- by Rev. C. R. Biggs


    489th Reformation Day Celebration

    "Get over it!" "The Reformation is an historical event that took place years ago; it is irrelevant to me and to modern people." "Just give me Jesus and I will be happy. What good could come from visiting the teaching of the Reformation in today's church?"

    These are some of the initial comments one is likely to get from other well-meaning Christians unfamiliar, uninformed, or disinterested in the Reformation of the 16th century. Yet, what God did in His goodness during the Reformation was nothing less than the reestablishment of the gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, that had been eclipsed by the supposed good works of men.

    The Reformation was a time when God allowed light to shine in the darkness of the failed attempts of feeble and sinful men trying to earn righteousness from good works, and only ending in despair before a holy God. In the Reformation, God allowed his grace to come again into glorious sight, so that one could truly know how to be made right or at peace with the living God.

    How IS a sinful person to be made right before a holy God?


    The Holy Spirit through the light of the Scriptures illumined minds and hearts and reminded needy sinners about salvation, hope, and true life found only in Jesus Christ and his righteousness. What can the Reformation teach us today? Everything! If we are interested in knowing how we can stop "trying harder" and beating ourselves up when we fail, and learn to rest in the righteousness of Christ alone! What we can learn from the Reformation today is to stop saying "I'll try harder" and begin saying "for me, for me, for me"! More on what this means later...but can you truly say with the Apostle Paul today:

    "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." -Galatians 2:20

    Luther's Reformation
    This week is the 489th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517, a young pastor and Bible teacher in Wittenberg, Germany posted 95 Theses (or "things he wanted to discuss with other pastors and teachers in the church" -- what we might call a group distribution email to the clergy or a blog today!) on the door of the Castle Church in his home town. Not intending anything other than a discussion with other pastors and teachers, Martin Luther was used by God to begin a reformation of the church by returning to the foundation of Scripture alone.

    Scripture alone taught that salvation was not sold by indulgences and grace was God's alone to give. The Pope was offering salvation, hope, and the chance for Uncle Buck to get out of purgatory if the people of the town would pay the right price. Luther's '95 Theses' questioned the authority of the Pope to be able to offer salvation, hope, or redemption for money. These 95 things Luther wanted to discuss caused Luther to seek ultimate authority for the church in the Scriptures and not in the whims of popes and councils, because both had erred; Scripture alone was the Church's authority and sole rule of faith.

    What came from this study of Scripture alone, and asking what Scripture taught concerning man's salvation, hope and life in Christ, was the realization and experiencing of true salvation, real hope, and the abundant life found only in Christ. The doctrines, or teachings of the Reformation established upon, and found in Scripture alone were: faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

    Luther literally (and accidentally, albeit providentially) opened up a theological can of worms that would eventually cause the entire Roman Church and the Pope to stand against him and to excommunicate him at the Diet of Worms in April of 1521. So you could say that Luther found salvation in Christ alone somewhere between the event of his opening of the theological can of worms in the 95 Theses and his standing for the authority of Scripture alone at the Diet (Council) of Worms! :-)>

    Righteousness Revealed from God
    What Luther discovered when going to the Scriptures alone was that a righteousness had been revealed from God, not from within himself or from external works (Romans 1:17).

    ESV Romans 1:16-17: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

    Salvation was found by going to Christ, not by going through the motions of external obedience. This righteousness of Christ was received by faith alone.

    The grace of God was not something man could cooperate with as in the Medieval Roman Catholic theology (as well as in many Evangelical churches today); it was all of grace (Eph. 2:5-10). Grace alone meant that man's will was in bondage to the flesh, the world and the Devil and the only way that the will could freely choose Christ was for the heart to be regenerated, awakened from the dead, pass from death to life, and this all by grace so that no one could boast, as Paul teaches in Ephesians 2.

    ESV Ephesians 2:4-10: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    Christ alone was the only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), our only Savior and Substitute for sin (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The truth of Christ alone was summarized in 1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21:

    1 Corinthians 1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

    2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    In the Scriptures above from Paul's Letters to the Romans, Ephesians, and Corinthians, notice the fullness of Christ’s saving work: God made us alive while still dead in sin (Eph. 2:4). Because we are dead and lack any kind of righteousness before God, Christ is our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ's righteousness, not ours is our merit before a Holy and Just God. Christ alone is our holiness or sanctification and He is the One who has paid the ransom price to purchase us back and make us children of God.

    Also notice the substitutionary quality of Christ alone: Jesus became sin (He who knew no sin). In other words, our sins were laid on his back and he was cursed for us (for us, for us, for us!!! Shout it loudly wherever you are!). His righteousness would cause us to become the righteousness of God! This is what Christ alone meant! (2 Cor. 5:21)
    And all of this salvation in Christ was for the glory of God alone!

    As Romans 11:36 says: "From Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to God be the glory forever and ever!" Our salvation is all for the praise of HIS glorious grace, as Paul teaches in Ephesians 1!

    Today's Reformation
    We have a need for a Reformation today in Christ’s Church as well! We may not have neighbors selling indulgences and literally trying to buy their way out of hell (although you will find some who are sadly doing this). What we do have today are well-meaning people who are focusing more on what they do for Christ, than what Christ has done for them. Even though the intention is good, the bracelets some wear with the phrase "What Would Jesus Do" (WWJD) seem to focus too much on our doing and not what Christ has already done!

    I believe that the focus should be on "What Has Jesus Already Done in His Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension for Me?", but then it would be too long of a phrase for a bracelet or a nice bumper sticker; it would be

    "WHJADIHLDRAAFM?" rather than “WWJD?”

    Probably not an easy sell or an easy fit on a nice porcelain figurine in a Christian book store. Remember: "It is well with my soul" because "It is finished!" not because "It is about me and my attempts at righteousness". We need Reformation today!

    Furthermore, there are some in our day- - these are Christians!- - who think that the reason they are saved ultimately is not because of grace alone, but because they have cooperated with grace held out to them. This was what the fight in the Reformation was all about! Medieval Roman Catholic theology is quite complex, but it is foundationally a system of earning salvation by cooperating with grace held out to men, who then respond with their faith, and then salvation is merited to them.

    If Evangelical Christians in our day would stop and think about it, I think they would find their theology to be more Roman Catholic than they would like to admit! The term 'Protestant' used to mean that one was opposed to this Medieval theology of salvation by cooperation, but today's Evangelical Protestant is not so much protesting this way of false salvation as much as they are protesting the Reformed way of thinking. At one time to be a Protestant meant you were protesting a false hope held out to you. Now it seems to mean in many circles that I am protesting against believing what the Reformation taught about grace alone.

    Additionally, this "cooperation salvation" gives people in this world every reason to boast, which is what Paul is trying to prevent in Ephesians 2 where he is explaining grace alone. If (and I do say "IF") every person in the world had the same access to grace and the same ability to cooperate with that grace using their so-called 'free-will', it would give one person who chose Christ over someone who rejected him every reason to boast. This is the most popular understanding today in Evangelical circles of how someone is saved! Because there is a reason to boast, it therefore undermines the grace of God and promotes the good works, will, and decisions of men (cf. John 1:12-13; Romans 9:10-21). We need Reformation today!

    Also, when Christians are brought up and "nurtured" on a diet of "Christ and you" rather than "Christ in you" (which is the hope of glory, Col. 1:28ff), then we are reminded that we have need of a Reformation. When many sermons every Lord's Day are on examples from Scripture rather than being centered on the Christ of Scripture, men will "dare to be like Daniel's" while failing to truly know what it means to trust Christ alone, the very Savior of Daniel! The Scriptures speak of Christ (John 3:30; 5:24ff; Luke 24:25ff), and so must we- - speak of Christ alone! We need Reformation today!

    When our worship becomes just another opportunity for mindless entertainment rather than focused on God alone and his glory, we can forget that worship is about HIM and not about us. When we are thinking more about "what we are getting out of the sermon" and whether it is meeting our "felt needs", we are not worshipping in spirit and truth!

    Furthermore, when we reach out to the goats and design our worship to make them feel comfortable, we are failing to reach the sheep and failing to hear the true voice of our Shepherd (John 10). Jesus says as Shepherd that His sheep hear his voice in faithful preaching and they will follow him! We must be reminded about all things being done for the glory of God alone- - and not for us (including our salvation- - of course we benefit, but according to Ephesians 1 and Romans 9, salvation is ultimately for God's glory!) We need Reformation today!

    Revival and Reformation
    So, in our day, we need to be reminded of the Reformation! If we want revival, we ought to first seek the Reformation of our congregations so that we might return to the foundational authority of Scripture alone and not add a lot of our own modern and "culturally relevant" teachings of men (which we tend to as idolaters, to place on the same level as Scripture just as the Pharisees, or the Medieval Church of Rome which Luther stood against). We need to return to Scripture alone and rediscover daily the glorious teaching of faith alone- - our righteousness is not our own, but revealed by God to us so that we can have an 'alien righteousness' or the righteousness of Christ given to us.

    In other words, the good news of Faith alone is that all that we have done in our sins against God, both committing sins positively against him as well as negatively omitting certain things we should have done, Christ has done all of these for us (for us, for us, for us! Shout it again!). Salvation is by works- - but not ours (our works are never good enough) -- our salvation is by the work of Christ for us and His earned and merited righteousness, because of the salvation he achieved by loving God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and his neighbor as himself. This is given to us by faith alone (and this makes us have really "good news" and hope for the world!).

    The Reformation in Our Own Hearts
    From this realization of Faith alone, we are reminded daily that it is all of grace alone because of Christ's work alone, and this all for God's glory! May we be delivered daily of the Medieval mindset of trying to earn our salvation, even in the sense of cooperating with God. May we be delivered from looking to our failures as well as our successes rather than looking away from both to Christ.

    May we find that making lists and checking them twice is a Medieval way, as well as an Old Covenant way to failure, and the a fast and broad way that leads to destruction. Remember, those who make lists come to Christ and say: I prophesied, preached, witnessed, cast out demons and did might works in your name. Christ says to those trusting in their lists "Depart from me - -I never knew you!" (Matt. 7:23ff; 25:41ff).

    Jesus says: On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

    “Workers of lawlessness” are those who approach a holy God with their own works, rather than crying empty-handedly: “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner- - for Christ sake alone!” The one who understands grace that is truly gracious is the one that stands before Christ and says: "Nothing in my hands to I bring, simply to your cross do I cling!"

    In Philippians 3, Paul gives his list for his confidence in the flesh, then proceeds to discard it. May you discard whatever list you have, whatever thing other than Christ you are trusting in and receive daily by faith the righteousness revealed in Jesus.

    Philippians 3:4-12: though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

    May we not make lists of our own, whether it be our successes leading to self-righteousness, or lists of failures leading to our condemnation and depression. But may we be as Paul who, putting his lists behind him, who pressed forward to know Christ. Read Philippians 3 carefully again, and remember that this truth will set you free of list making and law keeping that has more in common with Medieval Catholic theology (that Luther fought) and Pharisaical theology (that Paul considered "dung").

    Look to Christ and discover anew the Reformation of the 16th Century in your own heart of hearts. Remember the vital importance of Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone!

    Soli Deo Gloria!
    ________________________________________
    Ephesians 3:20-21: "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

    Copyright 2006-2007 A Place for Truth
    www.aplacefortruth.org
    Rev. Charles R. Biggs

    Posted by Charles Biggs on October 27, 2006 10:17 AM

    Comments

    C. R. Biggs, you wrote: "Get over it!" "The Reformation is an historical event that took place years ago; it is irrelevant to me and to modern people." "Just give me Jesus and I will be happy. What good could come from visiting the teaching of the Reformation in today's church?"

    That's about the same thing that I said when I was told by the Elders in my church that I was going to teach the Westminster Catechism to the high schoolers. I groaned as loud as the kids did. Not only was I to teach it but I needed to create my own course work and I needed to stretch it out over a 3 year period. This was so as a church we were on the same time table as our elementary and jr. high kids. If it weren't for my devotion to the high school kids I would have quit from teaching.

    But I have to confess, as I started putting together the classes and finding references on the web, I found myself reading more and more the writings of the Divines. It wasn't just reading their commentaries, it was reading WHY they had travailed all those years in creating the catechism. Truly inspirational.

    Having to teach the catechism was and has been one of my most profitable undertakings.

    In the same manner understanding the Reformation, from every angle, historical, spiritual, personal (the men involved) is greatly encouraging and uplifting.

    Reformata Semper Reformanda!

    Don't forget to enter this in Mr. Challies' Reformation Contest!

    Rev. Biggs

    When once it gets to you and you realize these:::>

    Mat 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
    Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
    Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
    Mat 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

    and

    2Co 3:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
    2Co 3:2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
    2Co 3:3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
    2Co 3:4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
    2Co 3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
    2Co 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

    It occurs to me that one would have to conclude "if they too" have the SAME SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD IN THEM AND HE ALLOWED THESE OUR FOREFATHERS TO BIND ON EARTH THESE TRUTHS IN THE 15TH AND 16TH CENTURIES FOR OUR GOOD AND SECURITY, THESE SAME POWERS OF GOD TO BIND ARE OURS TODAY.

    I am wondering WHO CAN SAY THEY ARE a living epistle today, known and read by others?

    I am wondering WHO is binding on earth today God's TRUTHS AS OUR FOREFATHERS OF THE FIRST CENTURY AND THOSE OF THE 15TH AND 16TH CENTURIES bound on earth GOD'S TRUTHS in their day, I.E. THE BIBLES WE READ AND FIND FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE ACTIVE AND LIVING, and bind in such a way as to CHANGE THE COURSE OF OUR HISTORY TODAY as they did binding and loosing the course of History in THEIR DAY of the 1ST, 15th and 16th Centuries?

    It is indeed now our turn and this is our time to bind on earth, is it not?

    Just wondering?

    It does bring me Peace to believe and KNOW: JESUS SAID, I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH AND GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL OR OVERPOWER IT.

    I am not so sure it brings any peace to the devils? But I must ask, where do they play in all this?


    Joh 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
    Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

    AND

    Joh 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
    Joh 17:18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
    Joh 17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
    Joh 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
    Joh 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
    Joh 17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
    Joh 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

    Might I ask us to pray and bind these words of God into our hearts and lives today that the world might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the One sent, so that they too will know that God has loved them?

    michael

    Michael,
    Thank you these scriptures, and for evoking some serious thought about what part we can play in a troubled world today. We can reach out best by reaching in to the Christ in us. He will show us and give us instruction. We first need to tend to the Lord of the work, before we can attend to the work of the Lord.

    Dr. Biggs,

    hoping you permit, I would only respond to George quoting something I just read in a booklet I just received and many of my Church are currently reading?

    Here's the quote from the preface portion of the booklet OUR CALLING by EINAR BILLING, a Swedish Lurtheran Theologian of last century:

    the quote is from Franklin Sherman, Mansfield College, Oxford, England, June, 1964

    [[ " only when we seriously permit the Son to find a place within the Kingdom of the Father,...only then can the Spirit remain with us" {pp.43-44} /vi "]]

    michael

    Try this bracelet on for size:

    Since Christ is primarily our Substitute,WWJD? should remind us to ask ourselves, "Why Would Jesus Die?" To which the answer is "For Me! For Me! For Me!" as you appropriately suggest;

    Then also, Christ is secondarily our Example, so "WWJD?" should then lead us to ask ourselves, "What Would Jesus Do?"

    To seek to pattern ourselves after Christ's example is only profitable when his example is sought in the light of the substitutionary work of Christ for us.

    When all we focus on his example, we preach the Law which will only serve to expose our sin and condemn us and weigh us down; but if we first go to the Gospel indicatives and consider the Law of his example in the light of his substitutionary work for us, then we will find the joy and strength to gratefully and successfully follow his example by the power of his Spirit!

    You said:

    "In the Reformation, God allowed his grace to come again into glorious sight, so that one could truly know how to be made right or at peace with the living God."

    God has never hidden His Grace. Never.

    George

    Not sure what your authority is for making such a comment. Is this just more unaided speculation on your part, or can you show us Scripture to back up your assertion.

    Here are some plain texts which show that you are wrong:

    Matt 13:9-16

    He who has ears, let him hear.

    And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"

    Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted."

    "For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

    "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

    "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
    YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
    YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;
    FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
    WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
    AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES,
    OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
    HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
    AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
    AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.'

    "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear." (Matt 13:9-16)


    Matt 11:27
    27"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

    The words of Jesus Christ in all their glory and solemnity.

    God has "mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills." Rom 9:18

    9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.


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