Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Here We Stand--Sola Fide: Faith Alone


“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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

Sola Fide: Faith Alone

The Necessity of Faith Alone

The Battle for the Gospel
-Martin Luther, the German monk who lit the fires of Reformation in 16th-century Europe, was tormented in spirit for many years. Although a monk who admitted that if anyone could be granted entrance into heaven by his “monkery”, he knew that he could not in any way meet the holiness of God. Luther knew that God did not grant guilty men entrance to heaven, and so Luther for many years struggled in spirit about how he, a wretched sinner, could stand before a holy God. In 1517, he nailed the 95 Thesis to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This sparked the fires of Reformation. Yet it would not be until the year 1519 that Luther finally understood the nature of saving faith. In the year 1545, Luther wrote in his preface to his Latin works the following story of how the Lord opened his eyes to the importance of sola fide.

“Meanwhile, I had already during that year
[1519] returned to interpret the Psalter anew. I had confidence in the fact that I was more skilful, after I had lectured in the university on St. Paul's epistles to the Romans, to the Galatians, and the one to the Hebrews. I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was not the cold blood about the heart, but a single word in Chapter 1 [:17], "In it the righteousness of God is revealed," that had stood in my way. For I hated that word "righteousness of God," which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers. I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, "As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!" Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written. ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.'" There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.
And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word "righteousness of God." Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise.
-When studying Reformation theology, the student of the Reformation must needs remember that the “formal principle” of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and the “material principle” of the Reformation was Sola Fide (Faith Alone). The formal principle refers to the authoritative source of theological truth, and the material principle refers to the central doctrine of that theological truth. Therefore, while Scripture alone served as the authoritative source of theology, the Reformation recovered the heart of that theology, which is the message of justification by faith alone.
-The Council of Trent articulated very clearly that anyone who believed in the doctrine of Sola Fide was under the official condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church. Session VI of the Coucil as overseen by Pope Paul III occurred on January 13, 1547. In Canon 9 of this session, the Council declared that If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.” Canons 11-14 state even more clearly the fact that Roman Catholics and Christians do not agree on the nature of the Gospel:

Canon 11.
If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.
Canon 12.
If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.
Canon 13.
If anyone says that in order to obtain the remission of sins it is necessary for every man to believe with certainty and without any hesitation arising from his own weakness and indisposition that his sins are forgiven him, let him be anathema.

Canon 14.
If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.”
-In contrast, the apostle Paul wrote this in his letter to the Galatians 1,500 years before the Council of Trent convened. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9) If we believe in the Gospel of the Scriptures, we are under the anathema of the Roman Catholic Church. If we believe in the Gospel of the Roman Catholic Church, we are under the anathema of God.
-The battle for the Gospel has continued ever since the days of Christ. Christ faced opposition from the religious leaders of His day while He preached the Gospel. The apostle Paul faced fierce persecution for defending the Gospel, and he stated that he could not in any way defect from the Gospel of justification by faith alone (Galatians 5:11).  
-While progressive movements and ecumenical efforts have in many ways changed the landscape of modern-day Roman Catholicism, Roman Catholicism still categorically rejects Sola Fide (the material principle of the Reformation) and thereby rejects the Gospel. The Roman Catholic Catechism teaches the following about justification by faith: it is a lifelong process that begins at baptism and is a cooperation between God’s grace and human free will. Faith is not necessary for justification because the sacrament of baptism starts the “process” of justification. Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Catechism teaches that while we cannot merit initial grace at regeneration, we can and must with God’s grace merit righteousness so that we can be saved in the last day.
-Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers parted ways over the way in which we are considered righteous in justification. For Roman Catholics, faith was not necessary for justification (and in fact to believe such is anathema). For the Reformers, justification could only come by faith alone. Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that justification imparts righteous to us, whereas Reformed theology teaches that justification imputes righteousness to us.

The Recovery of the Gospel

-As the Reformation spread throughout Europe, the doctrine of Sola Fide (built upon the doctrine of Sola Scriptura) changed the nature of ecclesiastical life in Europe. The sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church came crashing down. Doctrines such as Purgatory disappeared. Instead, men and women could declare that in Christ Jesus they stood perfectly and eternally righteous before Almighty God.
-In Article 23 of the Belgic Confession of Faith (written in 1561) declared this about the doctrine of justification by faith. “We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare those people blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works. And the same apostle says that we are "justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him. That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God's approach, without doing what our first parents, Adam and Eve, did, who trembled as they tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. In fact, if we had to appear before God relying—no matter how little—on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up. Therefore everyone must say with David: "Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you."
-The Westminster Confession of Faith (written in 1646) in Chapter 11 stated in the opening paragraph on justification that
Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.” In stating this, the Westminster divines sought to very clearly articulate that justification causes us to be righteous through the imputed (not imparted) righteousness of Christ alone.
-John Calvin stated, “Why, then, are we justified by faith? Because by faith, we grasp Christ’s righteousness, by which alone we are reconciled to God.”

-Later in history, Jonathan Edwards in reflecting the material principle of the Reformation stated, “Now God takes delight in the saints for both these: both for Christ’s righteousness imputed and for Christ’s holiness communicated, though ‘tis the former only that avails anything to justification.”

The Nature of Faith Alone
The Dilemma of God’s Righteousness

-The nature of Sola Fide, just as with the nature of Sola Scriptura, is rooted in the nature and character of God. In Isaiah 6:3, the Lord is described as thrice-holy (קָדוֹשׁ, qadosh). In Revelation 4:8, the thrice-holy nature of God is again declared (Ἅγιος, hagios).
-God is revealed both in creation (Psalm 50:6; Psalm 97:6) and in the Scriptures (Psalm 22:3; Psalm 99:3; Psalm 111:9) that His holiness (absolute perfection and sinless righteousness) stands alone. No one is holy like the Lord our God (Exodus 15:11).
-By contrast, the nature of men is set against the holiness of God (Isaiah 53:6a; Romans 3:10-18).
-No man can claim to have never sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8, 1 John 1:10).
-God commands us to be holy (Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:26) as stipulated by His righteous Law (1 John 2:4).
-However, what Joshua warned the Israelites is also true for us today: we cannot satisfy the requirements of God’s Law (Joshua 24:19).
-Because we cannot keep God’s Law, we are by nature under God’s righteous judgment (Deuteronomy 28:58-63).
-We cannot in ourselves do anything to cleanse ourselves from our sins (Proverbs 20:9) or change our ways (Jeremiah 13:23).
-We can only cry out to a holy God not to destroy in righteous judgment all those who are unholy (Psalm 143:2).
-The question of Job (Job 9:1-2) stands as the question that the Gospel answers and the answer that the Reformation recovered in the 16th-century church.

The Demonstration of God’s Righteousness
-In Romans 3:21-28, the apostle Paul describes how the righteousness of God is demonstrated in the salvation of sinners.
-In verse 21, Paul declares that the righteousness of God has now been manifested in the Gospel rather than in the Law, which pointed to the promise of the Gospel. In verse 22, he declares that we receive the righteousness of God through faith in Christ Jesus. “Faith” (πίστεως) and “believing” are the same Greek word. Faith is the noun and believing is the verbal form of pistis. We receive the righteousness of God by believing in Jesus Christ (Romans 1:17).
-The righteousness of God cannot be received from law-keeping because we cannot keep the Law. As Christ stated, we receive salvation not through works but rather through faith in Him (John 6:27-29).
-In verse 23, Paul states that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and thereby is under God’s judgment (Romans 3:9). However, in verse 24, Paul declares that we are justified (δικαιούμενοι) through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. To “justify” means “to make righteous” by declaring that the individual is legally cleared of all charges and wrongdoings.
-The redemption that Christ has accomplished is described in verse 25. God put forth His Son as the sacrifice that would cover over (atone for) our sins by His shed blood (Romans 5:9). As Paul says clearly, this is something we must “receive by faith rather than something we can earn or merit by good works. God’s righteousness is displayed in justification by faith alone for all repentant sinners both before Christ and after Christ.
-In verse 26, Paul declares that in that moment in redemptive history, God demonstrated His righteousness in order that He alone might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” His righteousness was satisfied in the cross of Christ, for God must be just. At the same time, because Christ satisfied the Law’s every demand, God can “justify” (pronounce us legally free and cleared of all sin) all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
-In verse 27, Paul logically argues that any and all boasting in our own “righteousness” or works are excluded. All works are excluded from justification, as it is not something we earn. Rather, Paul says we receive it by faith. Therefore, in verse 28, he again declares very clearly that believers are justified by faith alone (Sola Fide).

The Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness
-When we are justified, Scripture tells us that a divine exchange takes place. Our sin was placed upon Christ at the Cross, and His righteousness is placed upon us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
-In Romans 4, Paul declares how God’s righteousness is “imputed” (credited, charged, or counted) to our account by looking at the story of Abraham. In verse 1, Paul asks if the nature of salvation was different before Christ came. In verse 2, he answers in the negative, for verse 3 declares that righteousness was “counted” (ἐλογίσθη) to Abraham rather than earned by Abraham. Λογίζομαι (logizomai) is the Greek verb used by Paul to describe imputation: God credits Christ’s righteousness to our account and credits our sin to Christ’s account.
-Paul repeatedly used this Greek verb in his letters to describe how we are justified: God credits the righteousness of Christ to our account (Romans 4:22-23; Galatians 3:6).
-Scripture does not teach that God “imparts righteousness” so that we become intrinsically righteous in ourselves by our good works—Scripture teaches that God imputes righteousness to us so that we are legally considered righteous in the righteousness of Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9.
-The doctrine of imputation is nothing new: it is how God has always saved sinners. In Zechariah 3:1-5, Yahweh gave the prophet Zechariah a vision of what imputation is: God takes away our sin and clothes us in His righteousness alone.
-Jesus Christ declared that we can only be justified by faith in God’s power to save us in His Son (Luke 18:9-14).

“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.” (Galatians 2:16)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Here We Stand--Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone

The Necessity of Scripture Alone

A Crisis of Authority

-Standing trial before the Diet of Worms in 1521, Martin Luther was asked to recant doctrines condemned as heretical by the Pope. His response struck right at the heart of the matter: who or what possessed ultimate authority to solve disputes over what is true and what is false? “Unless I am convicted 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. I do no other. God help me, Amen!"
-The Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1545-1563) rejected the doctrine of Sola Scriptura when it stated that God’s “Word” consists both of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as the question of ultimate authority raged during the time of the Reformation.
-Roman Catholicism today beliefs in a “three-legged stool” of authority: Scripture, tradition, and the magisterium (the pope, bishops, and church councils), for the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) states that “Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, which is committed to the Church.” Furthermore, Vatican II stated that “The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the church.”
-Many Roman Catholics today who are progressive would state that Scripture is uniquely authoritative, but not solely authoritative. However, Pope Benedict XVI stated in his work Revelation and Tradition that all Roman Catholics “must hold fast to Catholic dogmas as such, but none of them is to be had sola scriptura.” He stated, “What sense is there in talking about the sufficiency of Scripture?” He went on to say, “Scripture is not revelation but at most only a part of the latter’s greater reality.”  Contrary to some progressive Roman Catholic proponents, the rejection of Sola Scriptura still stands as the Roman Catholic Church’s official declaration of their views of authority.
-Throughout all of time, all men have faced this question. Will they submit to the Lord (and thereby His written Word) or will they follow a false authority (Joshua 24:14-15)?

A Sole Authority
-Martin Luther’s response while standing on trial articulated the belief that became increasingly recovered in the Christian church: that Scripture alone stands as the supreme and final authority for the Christian and the Christian Church. As time progressed, Luther would go on to say that “While I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer…the Word so greatly weakened the Papacy that never a Prince or Emperor inflicted such damage upon it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.” 
-Ulrich Zwingli, reflecting the thought of the Swiss Reformation, stated in agreement with all the Reformers that “The foundation of our religion is the written word, the Scriptures of God.”
-The authority of Scripture alone was recognized as supremely the way in which God exercises His authority in His church. John Knox stated, “You shall believe God who speaks plainly in His Word.”
-John Calvin stated, “We ought surely to seek from Scripture a rule for thinking and speaking. To this yardstick all thoughts of the mind and all words of the mouth must be conformed.”
-The impact of recovering Sola Scriptura in the life of the church is almost incalculable. Expository preaching was recovered during the Reformation. Catechetical teaching of young children based on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura began to shape generations. Reformed confessions were articulated and based upon the doctrine of Scripture alone (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, Belgic Confession of Faith, the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith) rather than on Scripture and tradition (such as the official catechism of the Roman Catholic Church). J. Gresham Machen stated, “The Reformation of the sixteenth century was founded upon the authority of the Bible, yet it set the world aflame.”
-Indeed, the truth of Isaiah 55:10-11 was true in the Reformation as the supremacy of Scriptural authority was recovered in the life of the church.

The Nature of Scripture Alone

Biblical Inspiration
-The term inspiration does not mean “inspiring” as in uplifting or energizing. Rather, it means “source of origin” due to an archaic use of this English word preserved in theological definitions. 
-In the very beginning of time, Scripture states that the first action of God was to speak (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9). Furthermore, God is the God who speaks using words in languages to mankind (Genesis 1:26-30).
-As redemptive history unfolded, God continued to speak words to His people, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, being the speaking God distinguishes Him from any other so-called god (Deuteronomy 4:11-12, 32-33).
-Throughout redemptive history, God repeatedly instructed men such as Moses (Exodus 34:27), Isaiah (Isaiah 30:8), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:1-2), and the apostle John (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18) to write His spoken words down.
-Because God is the God who speaks, the God who speaks to mankind, and the God who has commanded that His Words be inscripturated, the apostles Paul and Peter both clearly affirmed biblical inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:21).
-In studying the doctrine of inspiration, we must define on Scripture’s own terms what we mean when we say that Scripture is inspired. After all, not everyone who states a sure belief in biblical inspiration actually holds to a faithful view of biblical inspiration that honors the Lord. Many different ideas of inspiration have been propounded, such as the illumination theory, intuition theory, dynamic theory, encounter theory, and dictation theory. Yet each of these views falls flat, for each of these five views denies the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and biblical inspiration in some form. The illumination theory states the Holy Spirit gave certain individuals a holy impulse to write sacred thoughts, but the Holy Spirit did not actually “breath out” those words. The intuition theory denies the Holy Spirit entirely, declaring that the biblical writers wrote religious thoughts just as other pagan writers did. The encounter theory states that the Bible is like other religious writings, but the Holy Spirit uniquely uses it when He so chooses. The dictation theory, by contrast, states that God turned men into robots who robotically wrote down what God was speaking.
-The only faithful view of biblical inspiration is verbal plenary inspiration— “In this view the human authors wrote exactly what they intended in their own distinct style, yet at the same time what they wrote was superintended by the Holy Spirit so that what the human author said, God said, down to the exact words and phrases.”—Dr. Matthew Barrett, God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture, pp. 225

Biblical Inerrancy
-The term inerrancy means “without error”. The term “infallible” was once used to describe this idea, but the term inerrancy later became more common as many stated that the Bible was trustworthy (infallible), but not without error (errant).
-The doctrine of biblical inerrancy is grounded in the character of God Himself. God is described repeatedly in Scripture as thrice-holy (Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 4:8).
-The holiness of the Lord distinguishes Himself from every other being (1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 77:13).
-The Lord’s holiness is also articulated in terms of His absolute perfection (Psalm 18:30).
-Therefore, in light of the absolute holiness and absolute perfection of God Himself, the words He therefore speaks are also holy and absolutely perfect (Psalm 19:7).
-Scripture’s inerrancy is also demonstrated in that everything it states is confirmed as true (Psalm 93:5; Psalm 111:7).
-The doctrine of biblical inerrancy recognizes God’s own testimony about what He has said: that every word of Scripture is without error (Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 12:6)
-Unlike the doctrine of inspiration, the doctrine of inerrancy is denied in fewer ways. Some believe in a “limited inerrancy”. A limited view of inerrancy teaches that only the words of Scripture that speak to matters of faith are perfect, whereas words that speak to life, science, or the material world are (or can be) in error. Such a view does not honor what God Himself has said about His entirely perfect and error-free word.

Biblical Clarity

-The doctrine of biblical clarity is known in academic circles by the term biblical perspicuity. The terms mean one and the same thing. Roman Catholicism in the days of the Reformation and the present time denies this doctrine, for Roman Catholicism states that the Scriptures must be interpreted and taught by the Church rather than understood by the common man.
-By contrast, God’s commands are always presupposed to be clear (Exodus 20:1-21).
-No man can truly deny that they do not understand what God has said—in fact, unbelief is not a lack of understanding but rather a lack of believing (Romans 1:20-21). 
-It is not Scripture that is unclear, but rather the unbelief in human hearts that clouds the ability to rightly understand what Scripture has been clearly saying all along (1 Corinthians 2:14).
-Indeed, Scripture testifies to its own clarity (Psalm 19:7, Psalm 119:98, 104, 130). 
-While some things in Scripture are less clear than others (2 Peter 3:15-16), the apostle Peter states that it is unbelief that causes men to twist less-clear parts of Scripture, and furthermore there is nothing in Scripture that is stated as impossible to understand. Hence why we study diligently (2 Timothy 2:15) praying that the Holy Spirit would illuminate our minds.

Biblical Sufficiency
-God considered His written words to be the ultimate authoritative standard for mankind (Joshua 23:6)
-In His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ also used Scripture as the supreme standard (Matthew 22:23-33).
-Jesus Christ repeatedly called men back to the all-sufficient authority of the written Scriptures (Matthew 12:3, 19:4, Mark 2:25, 12:10, 12:26, Luke 10:26).
-The apostle Peter stated that God has given us everything we need for faith and practice (2 Peter 1:3).
-The Word of God is sufficient to save us (Ephesians 1:13), to sanctify us (John 17:17; Thessalonians).

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:22-25)


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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Here We Stand: An Introduction to Reformation History and Theology

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:10-14)

Why Study the Reformation?
-On October 31st, 1517, a German monk named Martin Luther had for some time been disturbed about the abuse of indulgences that were sold on the German streets. Luther served as the Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Wittenberg, a university founded 12 years earlier in 1502. Nailing 95 thesis to the door of “All Saints Church” (also known as the Castle Church”), Luther wrote 95 disputations in Latin dealing with the sale of indulgences by the pope to fund St. Peter’s Basilica. This seemingly insignificant moment kindled “an unquenchable flame” that swept throughout Europe and the Western world in what would be known as the Protestant Reformation.
-Five years later in 1521, Luther stood trial in the city of Worms on charges of heresy. Standing before the Diet of Worms on April 17, 1521, Luther was presented a display of his books and asked if they were his writings. After admitting that they were, he was then asked to repudiate what he wrote in those writings. Luther asked for another day before he gave an answer. The next day, he stood before all those gathered and uttered,
"Unless I am convicted 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. I do no other. God help me, Amen!" With these words, Luther forever sealed his destiny as a “Protestant” who no longer allied himself with the Church of Rome.
-In 1994, a significant movement that stirred up much conversation sought to unite Protestants and Roman Catholics in the “Christian Mission in the Third Millennium”. Known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together, the joint declaration stated its primary purpose in its critical document produced in 1994: The century now drawing to a close has been the greatest century of missionary expansion in Christian history. We pray and we believe that this expansion has prepared the way for yet greater missionary endeavor in the first century of the Third Millennium. The two communities in world Christianity that are most evangelistically assertive and most rapidly growing are Evangelicals and Catholics. In many parts of the world, the relationship between these communities is marked more by conflict than by cooperation, more by animosity than by love, more by suspicion than by trust, more by propaganda and ignorance than by respect for the truth. This is alarmingly the case in Latin America, increasingly the case in Eastern Europe, and too often the case in our own country. Without ignoring conflicts between and within other Christian communities, we address ourselves to the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics, who constitute the growing edge of missionary expansion at present and, most likely, in the century ahead. In doing so, we hope that what we have discovered and resolved may be of help in other situations of conflict, such as that among Orthodox, Evangelicals, and Catholics in Eastern Europe. While we are gratefully aware of ongoing efforts to address tensions among these communities, the shameful reality is that, in many places around the world, the scandal of conflict between Christians obscures the scandal of the cross, thus crippling the one mission of the one Christ. As in times past, so also today and in the future, the Christian mission, which is directed to the entire human community, must be advanced against formidable opposition. In some cultures, that mission encounters resurgent spiritualities and religions that are explicitly hostile to the claims of the Christ. Islam, which in many instances denies the freedom to witness to the Gospel, must be of increasing concern to those who care about religious freedom and the Christian mission. Mutually respectful conversation between Muslims and Christians should be encouraged in the hope that more of the world will, in the oft-repeated words of John Paul II, "open the door to Christ." At the same time, in our so-called developed societies, a widespread secularization increasingly descends into a moral, intellectual, and spiritual nihilism that denies not only the One who is the Truth but the very idea of truth itself. We enter the twenty-first century without illusions. With Paul and the Christians of the first century, we know that "we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6) As Evangelicals and Catholics, we dare not by needless and loveless conflict between ourselves give aid and comfort to the enemies of the cause of Christ. The love of Christ compels us and we are therefore resolved to avoid such conflict between our communities and, where such conflict exists, to do what we can to reduce and eliminate it. Beyond that, we are called and we are therefore resolved to explore patterns of working and witnessing together in order to advance the one mission of Christ. Our common resolve is not based merely on a desire for harmony. We reject any appearance of harmony that is purchased at the price of truth. Our common resolve is made imperative by obedience to the truth of God revealed in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, and by trust in the promise of the Holy Spirit's guidance until Our Lord returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. The mission that we embrace together is the necessary consequence of the faith that we affirm together.
-Many evangelical leaders became troubled at the ecumenical language in the ECT document, however, and three prominent Christian leaders (John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and D. James Kennedy) became known for standing in opposition to the ecumenical work of ECT. Recording a series of TV broadcasts with TV host John Ankerberg, these men countered by declaring that the “faith” once for all delivered to the saints was not a faith shared between Protestants and Roman Catholics. In 1996, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals released The Cambridge Declaration--a statement t
o countermand the ECT document. The opening statements declared, “Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.
In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word "evangelical." In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the "solas" of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.
Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word "evangelical" has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.
Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.
In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word "evangelical." In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the "solas" of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.

Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word "evangelical" has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.
-This particular question continued to be much discussed in the early 1990s: are Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants (whether Reformed or not Reformed) united in the faith? Are they our brothers and sisters in Christ? Did Rome preserve enough truth so as to properly be called “Christian”? But this itself presupposed other questions: what prompted the Reformation? What particular theological convictions caused some known as “Protestants” to break away from Rome? Ultimately, the question arises, does the Reformation matter anymore today?
-On October 31st, 2016 (the 499th anniversary of the Reformation), Pope Francis arrived in Malmo in Sweden in order to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation that would arrive a year later. He met with the Lutheran World Federation and endeavored to bring harmony and unity between the Roman Catholic community so that the different faith communities could together reach out to persecuted and under-privileged Christians around the world. Even praising Martin Luther as a great hero (who was previously understood to be a great heretic), Pope Francis stated that,
Now we have a new opportunity to accept a common path. We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have prevented us from understanding one another.”
-Now that the year of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Thesis is upon us, it behooves us to carefully ask and answer the question, “What was the Reformation, and does it still matter today?” Throughout this series, both Reformation theology and history will
remind us today of why we continue to declare, like Luther, “Here we stand in the truth of the Reformation. We can do no other. God help us. Amen.” Therefore, in this series, the Five Solas and the “doctrines of grace” (otherwise known as the five points of “Calvinism”) will mainly present the theology of the Reformation, as well as an extensive survey of Reformation history and heroes.

Reformation Theology

The Five Solas

1. Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone
Throughout the Reformation, the issue of ultimate authority became increasingly clear. Did the Roman Catholic Church stand as the sole infallible interpreter and preserver of divine truth through Scripture and Sacred Tradition? Or was God’s authoritative, divine truth solely revealed in the written Scriptures alone? Did the Christian faith rest upon the Roman Catholic Church as the “pillar and ground of truth” or did it rest solely upon the bedrock of Scripture alone? Therefore, the foundational issue of authority will be studied before anything else.
-In studying the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, four primary qualities of Scripture will be studied: the inspiration of the Scriptures, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, the perspicuity (or clarity) of the Scriptures, and the sufficiency of the Scriptures.
-The inspiration of the Scriptures is the belief that God the Holy Spirit has breathed out every single word of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This doctrine declares that God superintended every human author so that while each author wrote with his unique time, place, and personality in history, every word of every Old and New Testament author is none other than every word from the mouth of God Himself.
-The inerrancy of the Scriptures declares that both in whole and in part, Scripture is without any error—indeed, Scripture cannot err. As God is perfect and no lie resides within Him (Deuteronomy 32:4), so is His Word perfect and free from any error (Psalm 12:6; Psalm 18:30).
-The perspicuity (or clarity) of the Scriptures declares that Scripture is clear in its revelation and meaning so that it might be read and understood. The Holy Spirit uses the written Scriptures in order to illuminate our minds to the truth of God (Psalm 119:98; Psalm 119:130).
-The sufficiency of the Scriptures declares that Scripture is sufficient for all of faith and practice not only for the lives of individual believers, but for the church also (2 Peter 1:3). As a result, no other source of divine truth can serve as the authoritative guide for the church or the Christian life.

2. Sola Fide: Faith Alone
At the heart of the Reformation, the question persisted: how are men considered righteous before God? The Reformation resolutely declared that men are justified (declared righteous) before God by faith alone. No works or merit whatsoever could gain or earn any declaration of righteousness that would satisfy a holy God. Did men need to add works to the work of Christ on the cross, or was Christ’s work on the cross sufficient to make men righteous? In this doctrine, the primary qualities of God’s righteousness, justification by faith, and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness will be studied.
-God’s righteousness alone serves as the standard of holiness (1 Samuel 2:2). There is no one holy like the Lord our God, and no sin or darkness is in Him (Exodus 15:11).
-In order to make men righteous, justification by faith must happen in order to be counted righteous in the eyes of our perfectly holy God (Romans 5:1-2).
-The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the only means whereby we are declared righteous in the act of justification. Christ’s righteousness has been credited (imputed) to our account, and our sinfulness was credited to His account on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9).

3. Solus Christus: Christ Alone
There can only be one Savior of men, for the name of Jesus alone can bring sinners to salvation (Acts 4:12). While the Roman Catholic church did not (and does not) deny Christ as the only savior of sinners in principle, it denies it in practice, particularly regarding the once-for-all redemptive work of Christ on the cross. Therefore, this doctrine will be studied in terms of Christ’s exclusivity as Savior, Christ’s uniqueness as Prophet, Priest, and King, and Christ’s sufficiency as Redeemer.
-Christ’s exclusivity as Savior declares that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior and Son of God whereby men receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life (John 20:30-31). No other name under Heaven can save mankind from sin, for Christ exclusively stands as our High Priest and Mediator.
-Christ’s uniqueness as Prophet, Priest, and King declares that while many figures in biblical history were prophets, priests, and kings, Christ alone stands as our perfect Prophet, Priest, and King. Furthermore, the necessity of these offices of Christ for the salvation of sinners and the church will be studied.
-Christ’s sufficiency as Redeemer declares that the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ alone saves us from our sins (Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 10:10-14). Furthermore, it declares that through penal substitutionary atonement, Christ provided a perfect sacrifice on our behalf (1 Peter 1:18-19).

4. Sola Gratia: Grace
-The Roman Catholic Church answered by declaring that through primarily sacraments, grace could be conveyed through nature to the believer. The hope was that at death, a believer could die in a “state of grace”. The Roman Catholic Church answered by declaring that through primarily sacraments, grace could be conveyed through nature to the believer. The hope was that at death, a believer could die in a “state of grace”. By sharp contrast, the Reformation declared that salvation is a gift from God by His saving, sovereign, and all-sufficient grace. Therefore, the nature of grace, the outworking of grace, and the purpose of grace will be studied.
-The nature of grace is grounded in the triune God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). The three Persons of the Trinity are full of eternal life (1 Timothy 1:17) and divine love (1 John 4:8). “In being gracious, God is being fully himself toward undeserving others”—Biblical Authority After Babel, pp. 53 by Dr. Kevin J. Vanhoozer
-The outworking of grace is revealed to us in the Scriptures as God’s grace was manifested throughout history. From God’s grace to saving Israel from the Egyptians at the Exodus to God’s ultimate display of grace in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, the grace of God is on every page of Scripture.
-The purpose of grace is ultimately to unite us to Christ in salvation. The apostle Paul in particular spoke repeatedly of God’s grace to us in Christ (Philippians 1:2). Our unification with Christ by grace is a very important aspect of salvation (Galatians 2:20).

5. Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God Alone

The glory of God resides at the heart of Reformation theology. God is supreme in salvation and in the church, and He has manifested his glory in the salvation of sinners and the institution of the church. In this final Sola, “the majestic heart of Christian faith and life” shines forth. This doctrine will consist of what is the glory of God, the supremacy of God’s glory, and the importance of God’s glory in our theology.
-The glory of God is often defined as the sum total of all of His attributes. Both his communicable and incommunicable attributes combine to declare His great glory.
-The supremacy of God’s glory is greater than any other man, and demands that salvation and doctrine by defined purely on His terms rather than ours. Both in creation and revelation, God’s glory is revealed as supreme above all others (Psalm 19:1).
-The importance of God’s glory for our salvation means that the Gospel is the message of God’s glory in salvation. Nothing in the Gospel brings glory to us. Only God is glorified in the Gospel, but by His grace we are made partakers of His glory (1 Peter 4:13).

The Doctrines of Grace

1. Total Depravity

The doctrines of grace, more commonly referred to as “Calvinism”, are predicated upon the Reformation Solas and deal particularly with the nature of salvation. Total depravity denied the Semi-Pelagian teachings of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Remonstrants (Arminians).
-Total depravity teaches that man, as a result of the Fall, cannot belief by his or her own ability in the Gospel and receive salvation. Sinners are not sick in sin—they are entirely dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13). The sinner cannot understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14), and his will is in bondage to his sinful nature (Romans 8:7). As a result, a sinner will always choose evil over the good, as his actions result from his will which results from the spiritual condition of his heart.
-What is needed in a heart that is dead in sin is that it be made alive through regeneration, or being born-again by the supernatural power of the Spirit of God (Ephesians 2:5). God must give us a new heart of flesh and replace our hearts of stone in order to be saved.

2. Unconditional Election
Scripture teaches that we did not first choose God (although we did choose God), but rather that God chose us. God chose us in election and predestination unconditionally. He did not do so because of any “foreseen faith” on our part. He did not elect us based upon His foreseeing that we would respond to Him in repentance and faith.
-God elected us unconditionally because of His unmerited love, grace, and favor that He bestowed upon us (Ephesians 1:3-5). God gloriously set His love upon us before the foundation of the world—that is why we are unconditionally elected. We were not chosen for salvation because of anything we did or anything we are. We were chosen for salvation for the glory of God.
3. Limited Atonement
-Limited atonement is often the most controversial point of Calvin’s tulip, in part because of the poor title. Both Arminians and Calvinists “limit” the atonement—Arminians limit its power, and Calvinists limit its extent. However, a far better term is “particular redemption”—Christ died not to make possible the vague promise of salvation, but instead died to redeem a particular people.
-When Christ died on the cross, He effectually accomplished our redemption.
-When Christ atoned for our sins, He did so not for an ambiguous group of people. Rather, He laid down His life for His sheep that He calls personally by name (John 10:15-18).
-When Christ died on the cross, He secured (rather than making possible) everything necessary for our salvation.

4. Irresistible Grace
While the outward call is extended to all men, the Holy Spirit inwardly calls the elect to salvation. While men can resist and reject the outward, external call to salvation, the Holy Spirit assuredly and irresistibly draws men to Christ.
-The Holy Spirit of God does not rely upon prevenient grace to save sinners. In other words, He does not make it possible for men to choose Him when before they could only reject Him. Rather, the Holy Spirit alone causes men to cooperate, to believe, to repent, and to come to Christ. It is a process that is not hindered or stopped by man’s fallen will or desires.

5. Perseverance of the Saints
All who are saved in Christ Jesus are secured by the Holy Spirit for the day of salvation. As a result, our eternal security in Christ moves us to persevere and stand strong in the faith throughout our lives. We must persevere until the end, but we do so because we are secured until the end (Jude 1:24-25). We do not keep ourselves in the faith, but rather God alone keeps us in the faith.

Reformation History

The Dawning of Light
-The Reformation did not spring from a vacuum. For at least two hundred years before Martin Luther, various trends were moving towards an inevitable outbreak of reform in the long-established Roman Catholic Church. The Renaissance greatly impacted society and scholarship, bringing Europe out of the “Dark Ages” and creating an environment favorable for Reformation scholarship.
-Martin Luther was not the first to call for Reform. Others before him had called for Reformation, but they never lit the Reformation fire. Nevertheless, the glowing embers of their efforts remained.
-Throughout the Medieval Era, a growing discontent arose both within and without the “Old Church”. Various political struggles, for instance, intertwined themselves with the papacy at many points. Gradually, many began to call for various types of reform.

The “Reformations” of the Reformation
-The Reformation “officially” started in Germany, but various “micro-Reformations” soon sprang up all over Europe. After a few decades, two main Protestant groups (often at odds with each other) emerged: the Reformed and the Lutherans. On the continent, the Reformation gradually took shape primarily in the Dutch Reformed and the Lutherans, whereas in Great Britain, it primarily emerged into Presbyterianism.
-The Reformation took different shapes depending primarily on the country. For some regions, they eagerly embraced the Reformation, whereas for others, they strongly resisted it.

The Heroes of the Reformation

-John Wycliffe is often described as the “Morning Star” of the Reformation. His work in English translation of the Bible was the catalyst for the Bible to eventually be printed in the common tongue. Living in the 14th century, Wycliffe served as the dawning star of the Reformation.
-John Hus in the 15th century was deeply impacted by John Wycliffe of the previous century. His martyrdom of being burned at the stake left a deep impact on those who followed him in history. He served as an important predecessor to the Reformers of the next century.
-Martin Luther of the early 16th century has served as one of the most notable, influential, and remarkable men in all of history. A man larger than life, it was Luther who set the fire of Reformation that quickly spread throughout Europe. Luther indeed is a titan in history.
-John Calvin, a second-generation Reformer, is second only to Augustine in terms of his impact on Christian doctrine and theology. The writer of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin faced many adverse circumstances and personal battles in order to ensure the Word of God was brought to bear on the life of the church and the life of the believer. His preaching and commentaries have lasted hundreds of years to this day.
-John Knox trumpeted the Reformation in the British Isle, particularly in his home country of Scotland. Without Knox, there would be no Scottish Reformation, and without a Scottish Reformation, there would be no United States of America. 
-William Tyndale did what many others had attempted to do: translate the Bible into English. While he was martyred for doing so, his work in translation would impact the world following his death.
-Many other figures in history, both proponents and enemies of the Reformation, will also be studied.

Reformation Impact

On Nations

-During the period of the Reformation (lasting approximately 100 years between 1517-1619), the face of Europe changed dramatically. During the first three decades of the Reformation, kings, dukes, princes, and nations had to answer the question: would they be Protestant? Some, due to political reasons, eagerly adopted an alternative to having the Roman Catholic Church be their overlords. Others became swept up in the Reformation because they sincerely believed in its principles. Others, however, whether for political or religious reasons, strongly resisted the advance of the Reformation and attempted to quench the flames of Reformation fire that was sweeping through Europe. Important European cities such as Strassburg, Munster, and Geneva became battlegrounds of the Reformation.
-During the next several decades, the geopolitical face of the Reformation would take shape. Northern Europe became the heartland for the Reformation, while southern Europe (particularly Italy and Spain) became strong bastions of Roman Catholicism. In central Europe, political and theological battles raged for the soul of that region. In France for example, a Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation began in response to the Protestant Reformation.
-Numerous political battles turned into outright wars, both on the Continent and in the British Isles. Numerous dynasties rose and fell as a result of the Reformation’s impact.

On Society

-The impact of the Reformation has had tremendous and long-lasting effects on society, both secular and Christian. For example, the Protestant Reformation brought back expository preaching back into the local churches. Gone were the altars—in their places stood pulpits behind which a minister stood to declare God’s Word to God’s people.  Worship was no longer focused on the Mass but rather now on the Word.
-On society, the Reformation brought varied effects. Many engaged in what now seems to be wild-eyed speculation that the last days were upon them. Witch-hunts swept through Europe. Some eagerly declared that they were agents of God’s voice in the final days. Others declared that various religious or political leaders were the Antichrist set loose upon the world. 
-On the Christian life, the Reformation brought back the primacy of marriage to society. People began marrying at younger ages rather than delaying marriage or entering into celibate service of the Roman Catholic Church.

On Eternity

-Ultimately, the great accomplishment of the Reformation is that it reclaimed the authority of Scripture in the life of the church and the message of justification by faith alone. In the study of the Reformation, the overarching purpose is that Christians might be people absolutely committed to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. The Reformation brought out the glorious gospel once more to the forefront when the darkness of Roman Catholicism had all but obliterated it. That same Gospel and the same truths of the Reformation need to be recovered once more in our day.
-This series’ purpose is to ensure that we know why we stand upon the truth of the Reformation. Here we stand upon the authority of the written Word of God. Here we stand as convictional sons and daughters of the Reformation. Here we stand in the long line of godly men and women who lived and died for Christ’s name and for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Here we stand in the grace of our triune God. Here we stand condemned no more. Here we stand set free. Here we stand secured in the salvation of Jesus Christ. Here we stand as Christians indebted to the Reformation.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)


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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Living as Exiles in the Midst of the World

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

1 Peter 2:9-12


-Throughout every point in time, the perennial question arises: who are we? Furthermore, why are we here? Religions, cults, philosophies, thinkers, scholars, and the human heart constantly seek to answer these two fundamental questions. All too often, we are informed that the answers are within us and that we live so as to self-actualize our innate identity. We are told to believe in ourselves and strive after our hidden potential. In reality, these ideas and philosophies are built upon idolatry that has pervaded the human heart in every era of history.
-In the first century church, popular culture of the day promoted many forms of idolatry. The Greco-Roman gods and goddesses, together with the imperial cult, served as the predominant religious idols of the day. While other religions (such as Judaism) were tolerated as state-approved religions, the religion of Christianity was an “illicit religion”, or a religion that was not officially sanctioned or approved by Roman law. Therefore, as Christianity spread, persecution of the saints intensified. At any point, particularly during times of suffering and persecution, precisely knowing your identity and your resultant purpose are necessary so as not to falter in the fires of suffering.
-Christians, when they become saved, find themselves now severed from the world’s values. They find themselves severed from the worldly identity they once had. Therefore, who then are they, and how shall they then live?
-Peter’s first epistle, written by the apostle Peter, was authored approximately A.D. 64-65, either slightly before or after the burning of Rome and subsequent persecution of Christians by the emperor Nero. Both the apostles and the Christian church were facing increasingly fierce persecution.  

A Holy People
(v. 9-10)
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Verse 9

-Peter in chapter 2 has been identifying the true people of God in contrast to those who reject Jesus Christ. In verse 8, he identifies those who stumble in unbelief because they were destined to do so.
-By contrast, he writes to Christians, “But you are a chosen race” (Ὑμεῖς δὲ γένος ἐκλεκτόν).
-To be “chosen” means to be elected. The elect are those whom the heavenly Father has predestined for salvation simply because of His love for His people (Deuteronomy 10:15; Ephesians 1:3-14).
-The apostles, such as Paul (2 Timothy 2:10) and Peter (Titus 1:1), ministered for the sake of God’s chosen people.
-Christians are in fact “a royal priesthood” (
βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα). “The adjective as well as the noun reveal in a double way the exaltation of our position and our function, the constant direct, immediate contact with God.[1]
-In the Old Testament, God chose Aaron’s line to serve as priests before Him (Leviticus 8:1-13). They had the responsibilities of offering sacrifices on behalf of themselves and God’s people (Leviticus 1-7). They were consecrated as holy to the Lord (Exodus 30:30), as they were the intermediaries between God and Israel.
-The apostle Peter directly quotes Exodus 19:6, whereby the Lord chose Israel to be a “kingdom of priests” before Him. However, unlike the Aaronic priests of Israel, every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a priest before Him (Revelation 1:6).
-Furthermore, we are called “a holy nation” (
ἔθνος ἅγιον). Peter’s use of “nation” does not mean a geopolitical nation consisting of a melting pot of different people groups. Rather, his use of “nation” means “people”. Again, Peter quotes Exodus 19:16.
-In God’s covenant with Abraham, he promised to bring salvation to all people through Jesus Christ (Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:29). As a result, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation are now one holy nation in Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:9-10).
-We are now “a people for his own possession” (
λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν). Just as Israel was chosen from all the nations of the earth to be His chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6), in the New Covenant Jew and Gentile alike are one people for the glory of God (Ephesians 2:14-18).
-Why did God set His divine love upon us? “That you may proclaim the excellencies” (ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε) of God.
-The Lord’s people, in both Old and New Covenants, have one defining purpose: to demonstrate and declare the glory of God to the world (Isaiah 43:21).
-The “excellencies” (ἀρετή) of God are His wonderful acts of redemption (Psalm 96:3; Psalm 98:1; Psalm 145:12).
-What marvelous work has God done for His people? He is the “one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν αὐτοῦ φῶς)
-“Darkness” (σκότος) is evil unbelief (John 3:19) and the result is eternal condemnation (Matthew 8:12).
-To the praise of God’s sovereign grace, He has now opened our eyes to believe the Gospel (Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 5:8) in the light of Christ’s glory as the Son of God (John 1:1-5).
-“We must also notice what he says, that we have been called out of darkness into God’s marvellous or wonderful light; for by these words he amplifies the greatness of divine grace. If the Lord had given us light while we were seeking it, it would have been a favour; but it was a much greater favour, to draw us out of the labyrinth of ignorance and the abyss of darkness[2]
Verse 10
-Peter tells us, “Once you were not a people” (
οἵ ποτε οὐ λαὸς).
-In the Old Testament, God told the unbelieving Israelites that if they did not repent, they were not truly His covenant people (Hosea 1:9). How much more so the unbelieving Gentiles! They were given no covenants from God and did not have any direct access to God as did Israel. They truly were not a covenant people in any sense at all.
-However, the key word is ποτέ (a temporal particle), meaning “formerly”. By God’s sovereign grace, “but now you are God’s people” (νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ).
-Not only are we now a people, we are God’s New Covenant people. While we may retain our earthly citizenships, our deeper and defining identity is that we are the people of God (Philippians 3:20-21).
-Just as God promised the future redemption of Israel (Hosea 2:23), in His plan of redemption this also extended to the Gentiles also (Romans 9:22-26).
-“The Petrine churches were composed mainly of Gentiles, living in darkness (2:9), but now wondrously they are God’s people. They did not deserve inclusion into God’s people, but they have now received his mercy and rejoice at their inclusion.[3]
-“Once you had not received mercy” (
οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι), as all men are condemned in sin.
-“Mercy” (ἐλεέω) is the unmerited favor and compassion of the Lord.
-Without mercy, we are eternally lost and without all hope (Isaiah 3:11). 
-Throughout the Scriptures, men and women cast themselves fully on the mercies of God (Matthew 9:27; Matthew 15:22).
-Our only hope rests upon the mercies of the Lord alone (Psalm 86:3; Psalm 123:3)—and Peter tells us that we have in fact already received it. “But now you have received mercy” (οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι).
-We did not earn, purchase, or find mercy on our own accord. In God’s great lovingkindness towards us, we simply received it. The apostle Paul is a tremendous example of the divine, undeserved mercy of the Lord in his life (1 Timothy 1:12-17).
-The mercy we received is that Christ took our sin upon Himself and instead of receiving condemnation, we received the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
-The lives we live now are only possible by the mercies of God (2 Corinthians 4:1).

A Holy Exile
(v. 11-12)
11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Verse 11

-Peter now addresses his audience as the “Beloved” (Ἀγαπητοί). This term appears 61 times in the New Testament.
-At first, this term applies to the love of the Father for Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18). The love of the Father for the Son is now extended to us also (1 John 3:1).
-Repeatedly throughout the New Testament epistles, the apostles address believers as beloved, such as Paul (Romans 12:19; Romans 16:5, 8, 9, 12; 1 Corinthians 4:14, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:58, 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 12:19), Peter (1 Peter 4:12; 2 Peter 1:17; 2 Peter 3:1, 8, 14, 15, 17), and John (1 John 2:7; 1 John 3:2, 21; 1 John 4:7, 11; 3 John 1:1, 2, 5, 11).
-In this context, Peter now exhorts Christians firstly to a proper understanding of our relationship to the world. Earlier in verses 9-10, he describes our relationship with God and now here describes our relationship to the world. “I urge you as sojourners and exiles” (παρακαλῶ ὡς παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους).
-“Sojourners” (παροίκους) are those who have no permanent homes. In other words, this term refers to strangers, wandering nomads, and foreigners.
-“Exiles” (παρεπίδημος) are those who are sojourners and strangers and is synonymous with “sojourners”. Taken together, this statement by Peter hearkens back to Abraham’s statement in Genesis 23:4.
-The Old Testament saints recognized that they were sojourners and exiles in a world that was not their true home (Hebrews 11:13).
-As New Testament saints, we long for the same eternal home that the Old Testament saints longed for, for we are spiritual foreigners and strangers to the world around us just as they were (Hebrews 11:13-16).
-We are commanded “to abstain from the passions of the flesh” (ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν σαρκικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν).
-“To abstain” (ἀπέχεσθαι) means “to stay away from”. Specifically, we are to abstain from sinful passions. “These are the natural desires that human beings have apart from the work of the Spirit.[4]
-“Passions” (ἐπιθυμία) are deep desires, and while they may not be inherently sinful (Philippians 1:23), here Peter specifically refers to the deep desires of our fallen nature.

The apostle Paul comprehensively lists many passions of the flesh in Galatians 3:19-21, which include sins of behavior and sins of unbelief.
-We called not only to “stay away from” sinful passions, but to walk with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14) because we have already died to sin (Galatians 5:24).
-The destructive force of these fallen desires is evident, for they “wage war against your soul” (αἵτινες στρατεύονται κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς).
-“He proves our carelessness in this respect, that while we anxiously shun enemies from whom we apprehend danger to the body, we willingly allow enemies hurtful to the soul to destroy us; nay, we as it were stretch forth our neck to them. He proves our carelessness in this respect, that while we anxiously shun enemies from whom we apprehend danger to the body, we willingly allow enemies hurtful to the soul to destroy us; nay, we as it were stretch forth our neck to them.”
-The fact that Peter says that sin wages war against our very “soul” (ψυχή) shows us the seriousness of sin and continues to show how tremendous God’s grace is in rescuing us from our sin. The “soul” is the inner being or self of a person that will continue forever, but Peter also means the entire person as well. “The whole person is in view, showing that sinful desires, if they are allowed to triumph, ultimately destroy human beings.[5]
-We are called to guard our souls (Proverbs 4:23), but we do so realizing that it is the Lord who keeps watch over our souls for our protection (Psalm 121:7).
Verse 12
-Peter then commands, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” (τὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἔχοντες καλήν).
-Our “conduct” (ἀναστροφὴν) is our way of life.
-The apostle Peter frequently speaks of modeling a godly lifestyle, whether the Christian body (1 Peter 1:15) or to individual Christians (1 Peter 3:1-2).
-Peter instructs us specifically to keep our conduct “honorable” (καλήν). This means to exhibit a godly lifestyle, particularly in our public lives (Romans 12:17; 2 Corinthians 8:21).
-“Honorable” in the Old Testament has many synonyms: beautiful (Song of Songs 1:8), good (Genesis 1:4), pleasant  (Proverbs 24:4), and lovely (Numbers 24:5).
-We inevitably live our lives in view of the “Gentiles” (ἔθνος). Here, Peter does not refer to ethnicity so much as he refers to spiritual unbelief.
-Peter describes the conduct of the “Gentiles” in 1 Peter 4:3.
-He states that this is vital to do in the time “that when they speak against you as evildoers” (
ἵνα, ἐν καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν).
-Peter does not say “if”, but rather “when” (ὅς) we will be slandered by unbelievers. Particularly, this is false accusation in verbal form, for καταλαλέω refers to defamation and slander.
-Unbelievers will accuse us of being “evildoers” (κακοποιός). This term refers to criminals. In Peter’s day, Christians were considered political enemies of the Roman Empire. During the persecutions under Nero, Christians were accused as arsonists that caused the great fire in the city.
-Scripture speaks of the painful experience of believers when they are falsely accused (Psalm 41:5-9).
-We continue to conduct ourselves honorably when slandered that “they may see your good deeds” (ἐκ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων ἐποπτεύοντες).
-However, not only will unbelievers falsely accuse us, they will also see our good deeds—godly  character is always proven true particularly in the crucible of false accusation (Titus 2:8; 1 Peter 3:16).
-“Unbelievers viewed Christians with suspicion and hostility because the latter did not conform to their way of life (4:3–4). Since believers did not honor the typical gods of the community, they were naturally viewed as subversive and evil in that social context. Peter did not summon believers to a verbal campaign of self-defense or to the writing of tracts in which they defend their morality. He enjoined believers to pursue virtue and goodness, so that their goodness would be apparent to all in society. The evident transformation of their behavior will contradict false allegations circulating in society.[6]
-We reflect Christ to the world so that all men might “glorify God on the day of visitation” (δοξάσωσι τὸν θεὸν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐπισκοπῆς).
-To “glorify God” (δοξάσωσι τὸν θεὸν) means to praise and exalt God as holy.
-“He intimates that we ought thus to strive, not for our own sake, that men may think and speak well of us; but that we may glorify God, as Christ also teaches us. And Peter shews how this would be effected, even that the unbelieving, led by our good works, would become obedient to God, and thus by their own conversion give glory to him; for this he intimates by the words, in the day of visitation.[7]
-Our purpose in living a godly lifestyle as exiles in the world is to bring glory to God the Father (Matthew 5:16).
-Particularly, this glorification of God will occur “on the day of visitation” (
ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐπισκοπῆς).
-This day of visitation will be the day either when unbelievers are condemned at the day of judgment (Isaiah 10:3; Jeremiah 6:15) or the day in which the Spirit of God opens their hearts to believe in the Gospel and receive eternal life (Acts 13:48).
-“This brief but comprehensive summary heads the following admonitions, all of which deal with our relations to men while the relation to God (1:13–2:10) is ever kept in mind. In these relations our own soul’s interest is vital, and it is this for the sake of the glory of God and the salvation of other men.[8]

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)


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[1] Lenski, R. C. H. (1966). The interpretation of the epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (p. 100). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.
[2] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (p. 76). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[3] Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 116). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[4] Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 120). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[5] Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 121). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[6] Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 122). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[7] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (p. 79). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[8] Lenski, R. C. H. (1966). The interpretation of the epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (p. 109). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.