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October 27, 2020 12:01 am
John Calvin believed that the Reformation was necessary because the Roman Catholic Church was distorting the Bible's message about sin and salvation. Today, W. Robert Godfrey helps us think clearly about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind what our church is spending a lot of their time teaching about. Are they stressing what Christ has done to save sinners.
Are they stressing Christ's sacrifice for our churches getting distracted and all sorts of things that may be relatively good in themselves, but aren't all that Christ centered, relatively good things could be saving building stronger marriages managing personal finances were meeting the needs of the community.
Many people choose a church based on what they might deem as practical priorities like those but this week Dr. W. Robert Godfrey is urging us to look back on the work of one of the Protestant reformers John Calvin to recognize the firm foundation which the church is built continuing our look together at Calvin's dose on the necessity of the church and the ways in which that treatise can help us think about the church in our time on the needs of the church in our time, and I said that Calvin argued that there were two elements of the soul of the church that we needed to really appreciate and get right in terms of the life of the church. The first is the worship of God which we talked a little bit about last time and the second he said is our salvation.
The soul of the church's worship and salvation and Calvin argued that the church was doing a terrible job in understanding what the word of God really teaches about salvation. The first point he makes in that section of the treatise is that the church is not taking sin seriously enough that we are not seeing ourselves as sinners in the way that the Bible presents us as sinners and not seeing the greatness of our sin. Calvin said too often were very content with a superficial analysis of sinfulness stealing murder and adultery. Those are our sins, but those are things that can be sort of more controlled than Calvin says the really profound since pride, hatred, enmity against others and against God. These are the elements of sin, that he says the church isn't examining isn't calling on people to examine and so sin becomes too light awaits in the lives of Christians and he says that the doctrine of original sin is being perverted and not taken seriously enough and that's a place to pause. I guess and ask how often does the church today talk about Original Sin. How often do we hear that every person is born in sin is born alienated from God is born guilty and corrupt know we have a cult of sentimentality about babies.
Don't wait no I'm too smart to attack babies but babies are as cute as can be. But as Augustine said, their apparent innocence is linked to the weakness of the body, not the purity of the soul are we willing to say people are really corrupt said to you before I can't stand it when politicians say I believe in the essential goodness of the American people. I do not believe in the essential goodness of the American people as a civic responsibility that can be called goodness and that's okay but the reality of human evil, the reality of alienation from God and from one another, we're never really going to make progress if we don't face the problem and the problem is that were alienated from God that were turned in on ourselves that were selfish and self-satisfied, and that reality of sin is something that has to be faced and Calvin said the church in his day was not facing and I fear that that's true in our day as well.
People don't want to be told that their miserable sinners, a people to want to be told that there helpless and lost in sin.
People don't want to be told there's nothing they can do to save themselves. And yet, if we don't really see the reality of the problem of sin were never going to see the necessity of the salvation provided for us in Jesus Christ. Kellan says we have to see clearly that Christ has done everything for us and our salvation he has accomplished all the work that needs to be done for us to be saved and he said the church in our day doesn't see that clearly either the Christ has done everything and I think that is a problem in our day where at least in some churches the subtle or not-so-subtle communication is Christ is done everything he can do for you and you got to do now what remains to be done. While I know that's an evangelistic strategy but it's a fundamental misrepresentation of what the gospel is, and it's a fundamental shifting of attention from Christ to ourselves. It's up to you. It's up to you. You've heard that crass way of putting it. The devils voted against you and crisis voted for you know you have to cast the deciding ballot well that's just wrong is just. It's just hopeless and it deprives Christ of his glory and one of the things that's intriguing in this section of the treatise is that Calvin stresses that Christ is our only priest. Christ is our only priest now if John unknown pretty well so I can just call in trying. If John Calvin were here with us today we might sit them down and say well we all produce and and Calvin would certainly agree that Peter clearly teaches overall price and first Peter but what Calvin is really focusing attention on here is that there is no separate cast or collection of priests who stand between God and man in the new covenant.
There were priests who fulfill that function in the old company worker there was a temple, and a lot of that temple could only be entered by priests and so you had to allow the priest to stand between you and God only the priest could enter the holy place to put the shewbread before God took to light the candles before God and to burn incense at the altar of incense in the holy place, only the priest could do that and what Calvin is suddenly saying here is, if Christ is our only priest, which just makes sense doesn't it because the work that has to be done. The priestly work but has to be done of offering a sacrifice.
Only Christ can do. If Christ is our only priest. What we need all these other priests for the church and Calvin state was full of priests and priests clearly stood between man and God. Priests in the worship were the ones who could enter through the rail to approach the altar. The lady by large and do that in the priest ministry at the altar was essential to salvation than Calvin here is attacking that whole system of priests standing between God and man and is saying the only priest between God and man is Christ our Savior, he's the only sacrifice anything only sacrifice or that's another. The issues that Calvin is implicitly attacking here the notion that the priest offered Christ as a sacrifice on the altar. That's with the Roman church taught then and teaches now and and what Calvin is saying is that's a distraction from the priesthood of Christ that the diminishing of the work of Christ.
That's a robbing of Christ of the glory that is due him and that's why we get distracted from Christ and from his work, because Christ is being replaced innocence by the work of the priest, and by the necessity of what the priest is doing. We need to see ourselves as entirely saved by the grace of Christ. Calvin say we need to come back to Christ and it's really intriguing isn't that that could be controversial that it could cause a lot of distress for someone to say we need to be more Christ centered and yet when we look at the church in our day. We could ask so how goes that what what our church is spending a lot of their time teaching about.
Are they focused on Christ are they drawing people to Christ. Are they stressing what Christ has done to save sinners. Are they stressing Christ's sacrifice, Christ shedding of blood for his people is that at the heart of things or our churches getting distracted, did all sorts of things that may be relatively good in themselves, but all that Christ centered and we have to sort of think about that and we live in a day where families are under attack and a lot of families of fallen apart and it's not surprising then that the church wants to try to be helpful about that, but when I see the number of preaching series on marriage and how to save a marriage and how to build a good marriage. I think this out with the church is really cold to do if you're having trouble with your marriage love one another more now move on making that the message of the church is somewhat limited.
Here the expertise of the church is somewhat limited. Here, the focus of the church has to be on how Christ saves sinners. That's the great struggle that we have and the great necessity that we have to look to and in one of the things Calvin says if we really see our soon and we really see the fullness of what Christ has done to save sinners, the fruit of that in our lives will be humility and humility as a fruit in our lives will go a long way in solving a lot of other problems. And this is what Calvin is stressing nice he he's not getting into endless technical discussions about crisis profit priest and king were the amputation of Christ's righteousness. He's not get into a lot of theological specifics here. He's talking about language that he hopes will connect with laypeople who maybe haven't been thinking a lot about these issues. He's hoping that someone will say that's an interesting point that we ought to talk more about Jesus, that we ought to talk more about Jesus not as an example, but talk about Jesus as a savior as a priest as a sacrifice as the one who does for us what we could never do for ourselves and I think that message is a message we need to hear today. Then he talks about faith.
It always intrigues me to read Calvin think with Calvin about faith because faith is so important. Calvin.
For Calvin, she always stresses that faith should be firm and confident in here he's sharply reacting to a lot of what went on in medieval religion a lot of medieval religion was predicated on the notion that it is good for the people of God to be fearful and doubting. It is good for the people of God to be fearful and doubting if you're fearful and uncertain about your relationship to God. You'll try harder. That was the common conviction of the medieval church you'll try harder.
If you're not sure what God really thinks about you. You'll work harder to get them to think well of you and Calvin is adamant in his writing that this is turning the Christian religion on its head. It's turning a Christian religion on its head. God wants you to be confident that if you are in Christ. You are his child. He loves you and out all of that relationship will flow the life that you want to live before him.
It's not fear and doubt. The drives the Christian life. It's confidence and assurance that drives the Christian life. Calvin's was always amazed me. The Calvin has ended up in so many circles was such a bad reputation of being such. No a terrible person a grumpy Gus the image of Calvin is someone who is just mean bad. His bad days but but his fundamental teaching is is that the love of God should trust overwhelm us and fill us with confidence in what he's done for us in Jesus Christ. We don't have to be doubtful if we belong to God, but knowing that we belong to God in Christ should lead us then to an eager pursuit of God in worship and living for God in all of our life. And I think Calvin is right theologically but also psychologically about being a miserable Christian isn't good for you or for anybody else but being a Christian filled with confidence is what is good and so valuable. Now, therefore, using Calvin as a mirror for today.
We might ask, so in a lot of conservative Protestant circles. Is there a lot of problem with doubt and fear and I suspect the answer probably is no. In fact, we may have just the opposite problem is that people mistake presuming on God for faith and confidence. No I don't want to become the gloomy Gus and make you all love doubt your salvation, but I think Calvin would say is were not saved by believing were saved were not saved and confident by just assuming the God must love us because we love ourselves so much faith is recognizing our need and looking away from ourselves to Christ and really believing what he says to us, and so it is appropriate to task people have you really faced your sin. Do you really believe your center. Have you really turned to Christ and believe that he alone is hope and salvation. And if you heard his promise and you believe his promise then that promise should fill you with confidence in him, and that's what Calvin is trying to stress here that we have to have a firm confidence in Christ not either a doubt of Christ. On the one hand, or a presumption that Christ will of course love us.
There's no course in Christian it's personal. It's the relationship that is established between the soul and Christ. It's not the presumption that he stuck with us and that's what is crucial for us and having laid down, then these three sort of key elements of sin, of Christ of faith. Calvin Hartley talks about justification or all he does say were justified by mere gratuitous favor that is were justified just by the gracious favor of God, not by anything we bring to God. He then goes on, though, to talk about some of the evils under the matter of salvation that exist in the church in his time. He mentions three evils in particular. The first is the evil of believing in free will and that's kind of interesting.
As many of us are well enough trade by RC Sproul to know that we don't believe in free will. But how many of us are bold enough to say the doctrine of free will is just an evil is something that needs immediately to be reformed in the life of the church that free will is a danger to the gospel until the life of God's people switch on Calvin settings what Martin Luther would've said did say here's where we have to ask about boldness and about action and about confronting error. One of the developments I think of American Christianity in the 19th and 20th century is conservative Protestants became so concerned about evangelism. Very good concern that they really make all sorts of compromises so Protestants could cooperate so free will adherence and free will.
Critics will put that division aside so we can do evangelism to go and I think John Calvin would say ultimately you can't do that, the issue of free will is so serious, so fundamental because it if you claim you have a free will, then you haven't been affected by sin in your will have you haven't really embraced the serious doctrine of sin. If you're left with a free will. The Scripture says your will is in bondage to sin. You are dead in your trespasses into dead people don't ever free will. Calvin would say. I think scratching his head.
It's not that complicated, might even say what's wrong with you people. The dead don't have free will. They can't help themselves and then he goes on to say that the other great error is to think that were justified by our own works or by our own merit and Calvin pauses then and says now I'm not saying that among those who are Christians. There are not good works and he quotes Luther he puts in for about five or six times in this treatise, and he does it very deliberately because both are still alive. Most of those at the diet thought of themselves as Lutherans and he wants to be making the point that we Protestants are standing together here for. Luther says, of course, there will be works in the life of a Christian, but Luther was on the site. Those works will always need to be forgiven because are always going to be somewhat contaminated by sin and those works will never be pure enough to merit anything from God. There, the gift of God, they're not the earning power of the Christian, but there will be works in the life of the Christian but they're not meritorious.
They don't earn something and theirs were Calvin and Luther agreed again. I think maybe if we try to learn from this treatise, we should learn, as most of us already have to appreciate Luther Luther was a great man and a great teacher and his works are well worth reading all the time is always challenging is always insightful. But what Calvin is stressing is that on the essence of the gospel. Luther got it right. Luther saw the nature of justification in Christ alone through grace alone, by faith alone. These great themes hit by Luther are things that need to resonate again today. It's not us who are the crucial factor in salvation is God who is the crucial factor in salvation. That's why the reformed more than the Lutherans elaborated the doctrine of predestination.
Luther actually taught predestination very clearly, but didn't spend as much time on it as a later reformed will do. But the reason the reformed spend more time on predestination is because it was all the more attacked and the great purpose of defending predestination again is not an end in itself but to preserve the reality that we don't have free will and the Christ has done it all and that his Holy Spirit must enliven us according to his eternal purpose. So it's not that were just fascinated by these weird subjects.
It's that predestination really is foundational to protect the work of Christ to protect our lostness and sin is a doctrine and to protect the reality of the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith and so Calvin is raising this great issue of salvation as one of the topics on which he is contrary part of the very soul of the church so that will see our need and will see the fullness of Christ. Provision for that and then next time will come back and look at the body of the church begin with the subject of the sacrament. The message of sin and salvation. Critical elements of the church. Dr. W. Robert Godfrey is called us to examine our own churches.
What do we emphasize that is it biblical. It's healthy for us to do that and will continue Dr. Godfrey series through the rest of the week here on Renewing Your Mind in six lessons. He reminds us of John Calvin's thoughts on why the church needs to be reformed the entire series addresses penetrating questions for all Christians today.
This week is your first opportunity to request the series and will be glad to send you the DVD when you give a donation of any amount you can find us online at Renewing Your Mind.word Corp. you can call us with your gift. 800-435-4343.
This series also underscores why we believe it's so important to study church history, and with that in mind, let me also recommend Dr. Steven Nichols podcast five minutes in church history. Dr. Nichols leads us back in time to take a look at the people. The events and places that have shaped Christianity.
You can browse the archives at five minutes in church history.com today. We talked about sin and salvation tomorrow. Dr. Godfrey will address another important aspect of life and ministry of the church. The sacraments, how important are sacraments to us as Bible believing Protestants today because we would all agree. I think that there are two sacraments, the Christ did establish baptism and did establish the Lord's supper so they mean. How important are the we hope you'll join us Wednesday for Renewing Your Mind