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October 30, 2020 12:01 am
It is the responsibility of every Christian, not only ministers, to pursue the truth of God's Word and to ensure the church is walking in His ways. Today, W. Robert Godfrey draws principles from John Calvin to show how this work of reforming the church can continue today.
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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind. This is a great way forward. I think to reforming the church in order to invite people to study the word on the matters that were concerned about the people won't study the word then maybe that's a sign that's not a good church to be an necessity of reform the church may mean changing churches in 1544 John Atreides titled the necessity of reforming the truth. The reformers were facing opposition from church leaders, accusing them of moving too quickly, pushing too hard this week from that previous Dr. W. Robert Godfrey has been showing us why the case Calvin made in the 16th century is relevant today we been looking together at Calvin's remarkable treatise on the necessity of reforming the church and we've looked at what really is the first 55% of the treatise on the areas in which reform is required, and in this last lecture we want to look somewhat speedily at the last 45% of how that reform is to be carried out part of the reason that were going to look at this quickly is because Calvin lived in such a radically different world from the world in which we live. So when we look at discussions of how to reform the church in his day will see their not immediately applicable, often to our day, but it will still raise the question how we go about improving the church in our day. Well, what is he talk about in this last section he says we have been accused of changing things in the church without waiting for a consensus to emerge about and he says all we can say in response to that is, things were so bad we couldn't wait. Things were so bad we couldn't wait God's glory was being compromised. Christ's salvation was being obfuscated. The sacraments had been completely distorted and corrupt ministers were not doing their work. We had to act and so we are unapologetic for that and then we been told we acted too violently and he said that's just untrue.
Luther began gently. Here's another reference to Luther, always positive references to Luther Luther began with a gentle hand to appeal for change for reform in the life of the church and his enemies. Calvin wrote responded with cruelty and violence.
And that's true.
There was a effort to destroy the Reformation movement right from the beginning, says we shouldn't be surprised about that whole history of the church wherever truth is come is because commotion because those who oppose the truth don't want it to prevail, and so stand against it. I came across a fascinating verse that until fairly recently hadn't really struck me in the book of Jude may be I just had read the book of Jude often enough, are usually worse so I delighted with the way Jude begins that we don't move or if much further through it, you know, Jude makes that wonderful statement. Verse three beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints and and that's really a seminal verses in it. The Bible contains the whole of the face delivered to the saints, the faith doesn't evolve over centuries of faith doesn't get supplemented by new traditions.
The Pope just a week or two ago said what tradition is dynamic. I thought tradition was fixed. I thought that was the whole point of tradition. But anyway, what's intriguing to me as it verse 17 but you must remember beloved the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
They said to you in the last time there will be scoffers following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions worldly people devoid of the Spirit who causes divisions in the church. Somehow it's always the Orthodox to get blamed for causing division.
Somehow it's always the conservatives would get blamed for causing divisions by who always causes divisions. According to Jude. It's worldly people who want to change the church to suit their own passions and I think Calvin has that somewhat in mind here when he is saying we had to change things. They were so bad and we did not just change small matters. This can sometimes be a problem with Christians. We get nitpicky about small matters.
We fight over everything that can be a besetting problem amongst conservatives and you know the difference. Big problem in a small problem big problems when I'm concerned about a small problems when you're concerned. Well, obviously we have to do better than that in prioritizing issues, but we have to recognize that some things we can agree to disagree about how we don't have to have perfect uniformity on everything but certainly what we see Calvin talking about our huge issues huge issues in the life of the church in the areas of worship and salvation and sacraments and church government. Then he addresses the question, how we made things worse. This is sometimes suggested to people who try to introduce change what you wanted to improve things which you've actually made things worse, and Calvin rejects that utterly and he says we are not perfect. We have not always done things in the best possible way. But we have made things better in the life of the church and we see God's truth being exulted. We see many people living more holy lives and we have not made things worse at all, but they said to Calvin to Luther, you have divided the church you have committed the sin of schism schism is the sin of unnecessary and inappropriate division in the life of the church and you have torn the seamless robe of Christ.
That was the way it was often put remember when Jesus was crucified, they took his robe and they didn't want to cut it up because it was seamless and so they preserved you have torn the seamless robe of Christ course if you study the history of the church. That's really not true. It's never been a seamless robe, there's always been commotion in the life of the church and Calvin's response again was we have not left the church. Those who have deserted Christ. Those who have deserted his word. They have left the church and the question is how do we deal with that. How we try to solve that problem. How do we how do we move forward and Calvin acknowledged that in his own day. The solutions suggested were first of all, will submit to the judgment of the Pope. You will not be surprised that Calvin did not find this a useful solution. He said the Pope is a tyrant and not only is the Pope a tyrant in the life of the church, but he's a relatively recent tyrant.
He's really only had tyranny in the church for about 400 years now. We might debate with Calvin on his history on that point and we might give the Pope tyranny for a little longer than just 400 years, but Calvin is absolutely right that the Pope's claim to authority over the whole church was never recognized by the whole church.
The whole Eastern Orthodox Church never granted the Pope's claims to authority over the whole church so Calvin says the Pope is in a sense, the biggest problem we have so we can expect him to solve the problem. Although Calvin says remember that early in the Reformation.
Luther appealed to the Pope to leader reform. If the Pope would listen to the word of God. Luther was willing to submit to the Pope to lead the reform in the Pope refused.
So again, this is no Avenue forward. He also addresses the question should we hold a universal ecumenical Council of the church to solve this problem.
Well Protestants had been suggesting that particular Lutheran Protestants had been suggesting that for years in the life of the church and the Pope didn't want to counsel because he was afraid he couldn't control counsel a century earlier, counsel for gotten completely out of control and the popes were exceedingly nervous about a counsel less to do things. The Pope couldn't control so the Pope didn't want to counsel but Calvin says we can't be assured that a counsel will do the right thing. If it won't submit to the word of God and so Calvin said maybe we should start locally and regionally in Germany got leaders of the church together around the Bible study the Bible and figure out how maybe we can move forward and in a certain sense.
That was what the diet catch fire was actually doing.
It was functioning as a regional Council to think about religious things and the Pope was furious. He didn't want any religious issues being discussed regionally without his authorization, and without his supervision so that the church was so big in Calvin's day so relatively united by the Pope and the bishops so wealthy, so influential, so powerful that we live in a quite different world. We don't have a church that United Beltway.
We don't have a church that's powerful and influential that way we don't have a church that's closely related to the political government.
The way Calvin faced it.
None of us I think would think we ought to go to Congress to get the church fixed this almost invites comments about Congress that I will restrain from making but we we just don't think that way doing. We don't think that church and state should be so closely related that we would look to Congress to solve our problems so if we can't follow too much in the steps of Calvin because of the difference of our experience, then what should we be looking for what what should we use as our ideal of reforming the church and I think in a sense, my answer is very simple and maybe slightly disappointing, but I think the only answer we have the only way to reform the church is to keep studying the word of God to keep coming back to the word of God to keep looking at the word of God and then trying to live out the word of God.
The Scriptures themselves so repeatedly talk about the importance of the word of God. I think sometimes we can lose track of that as Protestants we do study the word of God, but many were not always quite so conscious of how the word of God itself tells us to study the word of God and yet it's almost everywhere in the Bible. It's repeated over and over in the Bible is in the Old Testament's in the New Testament when Paul is taking his farewell to the Ephesian elders. What is he say I commend you to God and to his word of grace.
If you're going to be my disciple shall abide in my word, Johnny. It's the word that is returned to over and over and over again because it's the only objective, reliable statement of the word of God we have and that's why we have to keep coming back to it and studying it, you know, our Lord is is such an example to us in facing temptation to what is he doing is facing the devil he turns to the word you're hungry Jesus turn the stones into bread and what is Jesus doing quotes Deuteronomy, and he says man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
And then when the devil quotes the Bible in the second temptation, Jesus responds by quoting the Bible. It is also written. There's nowhere else to go for us as human beings, except the Bible to know the will of God. To know the word of God to know the truth of God. To know the way of God. And so we have to keep coming back to it to study it and we see that commended in that familiar verse.
In acts 1711, when Paul goes to the meridians and the brands are called noble because when they listen to Paul. They compared everything they heard the word of God is he telling the truth is he explaining the word in a way that corresponds with the reality of what the word is saying.
That's why they believe Paul or or we go to Psalm 81. Remember that the sonnet stands right at the heart of the Psalter and what's the central verse of the central Psalm in the central book of the Psalter.
It Psalm 81 verse eight here all my people while I admonish you, O Israel, if you would, but listen to me. See, the problem is not with the word.
The problem is with Felicity and that's what God reminds his people of in the Old Testament and in the new verses 11 through 13 are so striking. But my people did not listen to my voice. Israel would not submit to me so I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own councils. O that my people would listen to me that Israel would walk in my ways is a lot for the Lord to ask that his people would listen and walk in his ways doesn't seem unreasonable request from the creator and redeemer of his people.
And yet, that seems to have been controversial for a lot of the history of the church. We don't really need the work. We have traditionally of the spirit we have authoritative bishops.
Whatever it is, how can we not agree to come to the word and study the word and look into the word and asked the word to answer our questions. We should be pursuing church unity. We shouldn't be content just to be all divided. It's a sad thing that the church is divided and we as Protestants maybe are two kind of indifferent to the divided notice of the church, but the only way to unity. The only way to overcome differences is to look into the Scripture and study the Scripture and not just do that as individuals, but do that in community of the church. We need to study the Bible individually, but we can get led astray as individuals we need the social interaction of starting the word together to see if that's what it really says and that's a great blessing when that that happens. The other thing that struck me somewhat recently, more powerfully than other times. Although I don't really have any new ideas is how the New Testament letters always assume the responsibility of the whole Christian community to pursue the truth. One of the really bad things in the Roman church is this tendency to say I don't have to know the truth I don't have to study the Bible. It's enough that the prestudy and the Bishop study and the Pope studies. I just I just believe what they tell me that that sounds pious. I don't think there's a hint of that in the New Testament the attitude of the New Testament is, you can't blame anybody else for your errors. If you haven't studied them and examined them and and tried to follow the word of God on listen to what Peter writes I think we should all urge Roman Catholics to read first and second Peter and see what Peter really has to say. How does Peter begin his second letter he says Simeon Peter, a servant, and apostle of Jesus Christ to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with hours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ is right in the whole church and he say I'm writing to you because you have the same standing before God that I do. We have the same faith we have the same God we have the same Savior and his expectation is that they're going to read this letter and listen to this letter and each of them individually as Christians and as a community. Follow what God is. Had to say. But is that striking it's Peter who says we all have an equal standing before God in faith.
And so we all have an equal responsibility to try to think these things through and not laid that responsibility on somebody else. We have to take responsibility for ourselves on the last day they will not be enough to say, will my pastor never told me that because on the last day the Savior's going to say.
Did you read my word. Did you read my words as you listen to what is to be found there. In that word so this is this is a great way forward. I think to reforming the church in our day to invite people to study the word on the matters that were concerned about.
And if people won't study the word then maybe that's a sign that's not a good church to be an necessity of reform the church may mean changing churches back in the hard thing but sometimes it's a necessary thing if you're not being fed by the word of God in a beach somewhere will be fed by the word of God encouraged to study the word of God and grow in the word of God, that we might well be tempted to say oh we have a more powerful and successful word than that and I just have say no that's all you get the ball, I got that's what the word of God says and I think the word of God does encourage us not to be discouraged by the.
The apostle Paul in the latter part of his second letter to the Corinthians.
Does a lot of sort of reflecting on his own experience his own suffering.
The struggles of his life and his current conclusion is your power is made perfect in my weakness.
Now nobody likes weakness.
Weakness is for the birds, roads, physical weakness or spiritual weakness or emotional weakness. We don't want to be week will be strong, but what Paul is saying here I think is God's power is often better displayed God's grace is often made more clearly. No in the situations of our weakness rather than in the situations of our strength and we as conservative Protestants in America have known a long season of a lot of strength along season of big churches and filled churches and strong preachers and strong leaders in strong teachers. We we've had many privileges and maybe were not going to sink those privileges all the time and more.
But we should lose heart, because God promises that his power will be made perfect in weakness, where we seeing one of the most amazing growths of the church in the last 150 6070 years in China. In the midst of the most extraordinary kind of weakness strong opposition, but the grace of God has been manifested there in the grace of God is being displayed. There so we shouldn't be too fearful of our weakness, we shouldn't be too fearful of the fact that there aren't as many of us who love the word. One study the word want to follow the word as we like to see in particular, we have to hold onto the confidence that the only way forward is to stick with the word are Kellan says in the treatise. We can only preach the word God has to give the fruit and that's true that we have to try to preach as faithfully as clearly as effectively as we can, but ultimately you're going to be times when there's grapefruit and times when there's not so much fruit times are great apparent success in times of not so much success, but our call is to be faithful. Our call is to love the word, our call is to say speak toward your services and then to seek to follow in faithfully and to help other people develop that passion for the word that we have that confidence in the Lord and together then will be growing in grace and will be involved in necessary reforming the church ultimately is a call to return to God's word. A fitting conclusion to an important week of programs here on Renewing Your Mind like you for being with us. Dr. W. Robert Gottfried is a link in your teaching fellow and the chairman of the board at Ligon your ministries as a church historian he's observed the trends in the church for decades and in the series.
He issues a call for pastors, elders, church leaders and us as laypeople to remain vigilant to ensure that the body of Christ remains on course.
We hope you'll contact us today and request all six messages from this series there available to you for your gift of any amount when you call us at 800-435-4343. You can also make your request in the give your gift online and Renewing Your Mind.work. The title of this series, the necessity of reforming the church is taken from Atreides John Calvin wrote in the 16th century as he faced opposition in bringing reforms to the church looking through the lens of Calvin's work.
Dr. Godfrey reminds us that the church is always reforming if you have a discovered rift that let me encourage you listen 24 hours a day ref net.FM brings you faithful teaching and preaching plus Christian music and audiobooks. You can listen online for free or you can download the free ref net app to your phone or tablet will we help you make plans to be with us Monday as we feature what a doctor I see schools most requested series dusted glory explores all the major themes events and people in the Bible and next week will air a portion of that suit. We hope you'll join us.
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