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1002. Law, Grace, and Gospel: Why the Reformation was Needed

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
The Truth Network Radio
June 1, 2021 7:00 pm

1002. Law, Grace, and Gospel: Why the Reformation was Needed

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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June 1, 2021 7:00 pm

Dr. Dan Olinger continues a series entitled “Truth Triumphs,” with a message titled “Law, Grace, and Gospel: Why the Reformation was Needed.”

The post 1002. Law, Grace, and Gospel: Why the Reformation was Needed appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Just over 500 years ago, in October 1517, Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses, which is considered to be the beginning of the Reformation. For the next several days on The Daily Platform, we'll be studying some of these doctrines in a series called Truth Triumphs. Let's now listen to a sermon preached by Dr. Dan Olinger of the Bob Jones University Seminary.

The title of his message is, Law, Grace and Gospel, Why the Reformation Was Needed. I'm going to tell you a story this morning. So, did you bring your carpet squares? Get your carpet squares on the floor and gather round and I'm going to tell you a story. The year is 1492.

That's the year that Columbus sailed the ocean blue. You live in Central Europe, near the center of the Holy Roman Empire, in a place that's eventually going to be called Germany. This is your life. Your city is named Frankfurt. It's large, prosperous, and growing. It's becoming a trade center, and the rich are developing fortunes. There are lots of people, but there are only two kinds of people. There are rich people and there are poor people. The rich own the land and the poor live on it and they do the best they can.

There are lots more poor people than rich people, so I've decided that you are poor. Your father is a cobbler. He makes shoes. Someday, you'll be a cobbler too, because that's how life works. You work with your hands.

You learn a trade from someone willing to teach you. Your father's the closest teacher at hand, so you're going to be a cobbler like that. School?

That's funny. Hardly anybody goes to school. Oh, the children of rich people do, or at least some of them do, those that have some kind of an aptitude for learning. Many wealthy families want one of their sons to be a priest or a monk, and so they send him, they choose one to live in an abbey or a convent or a monastery.

Maybe there's a rich person who's associated with the new banking industry that's moving into Northern Europe, and his sons might learn to read and cipher so they can go into that. But you, no, school's not in the cards. You'll help your father in his shop, and you'll learn his trade, and eventually you'll make enough money at that to support a wife and maybe a few children with very basic necessities. Your schedule is pretty much ruled by the sun. When it rises and the roosters crow, you wake up, you roll out of the sack, and it is a sack.

You break your fast, perhaps with a piece of bread and a little water, and you get to work. And when the sun goes down, you fall into bed and sleep the deep sleep of the weary. Day after day, week after week, it's always the same. Sometimes, at night, when you can't sleep, you look up at the sky. It's quite a sight.

There's no light to speak of around you, maybe the glimmer of a few torches here and there. And the night sky is a wonder. There are thousands of stars, thousands of them. And they blanket the sky, and many of them are clustered in kind of a band across the sky. There are so many of those, and they are so close together, that they look like a path of milk that stretches from the northeast to the south. A milky way.

What a sight. And some of the stars are brighter than the others. And oddly, they change positions as the nights progress. People have given them names.

Venus, Mars, Jupiter. You don't know why they move against the background of the other stars. The wise ones call them wandering stars.

But you love to watch them parade against and along the milky way at night. And you wonder who made them. God? Who's he? What's he like? Does he know about you? Does he care?

Does he want to be friends? How can you find out? There are churches in your town. The biggest one is called St. Bartholomew's. And it's right in the center of the city. It's a very important church. All the kings are crowned in that church and have been for more than a hundred years. Everyone in the city is very proud of the church. Its tower reaches 300 feet in the air.

What someday will be the length of a football field. But you don't know what that is. You can see the tower, the spire from everywhere in the city. And everybody's very proud of it. Your family goes to mass there on Sundays.

Your father says that you need to because God likes you better when you do. You think mass is boring. It's mostly in some language you can't understand. It's a long ways from where you sit in the back to the front where the priest stands. But you can tell that he talks for a while. Your father calls that a homily. And sometimes he talks in your language.

But it's so far away and the church echoes so much that it's hard to make out much of what he says. Sometimes you hear him talk about giving alms to the poor. But you don't have any alms. You guess that means you're poor. But nobody ever gives you any alms either. Sometimes he talks about going on a pilgrimage to a holy place.

But your father says there isn't any money for that. So the homilies don't seem to say much to you. There's a choir that sings in a kind of a chant in that language you can't understand.

You like that part. And then the priest says something in that language. It sounds like hocus pocus. And then he holds something up in both his hands and then somebody rings a bell. And then everybody goes up to the front row by row for what your father calls the Eucharist. But again, it's all in the language you don't understand. And when you ask your father to explain, he doesn't really understand it either. And you ask him to ask the priest. But he says he did and the priest can't read.

So he can't explain very much. But it's all very important. So your family goes every Sunday. The church is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. There's huge brownish columns holding up the arched ceiling and the ceiling seems to reach all the way to the Milky Way itself. There are stained glass windows. Some of them with pictures in them.

Statues of people in places all around the building. But you don't know much about the stories behind them because you can't read. And even if you could, your family couldn't afford to buy a book. Until about 50 years ago, all the books were copied by hand. And only churches or monasteries or very, very rich people had even one book. Now books are being printed on machines.

But they're still very expensive and you've never even seen one. So you'd like to know about God, but you can't read. And the church, they speak a language you don't understand. And you ask your father and mother and they don't understand the church language and they can't read either.

So that's that. It occurs to you that if church is the only way you can get to God, they ought to make it easier to find out how. They have the paintings, but they hardly ever talk about them and the homilies are all about saying prayers and doing things, most of which you can't afford to do. Is that what God's like?

Does he only like rich people? Is there no way you can get to him? You wouldn't know this, but the problems go a lot deeper than you've observed and the situation is seemingly beyond reformation. For centuries now, church scholars have been focused on highly impractical speculations, most famously on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Philosophy has overwhelmed theology and the sheep have been fumbled in the process. Little of what comes from the scholars is of any practical use. There is nothing even resembling the gospel. The church has tried to make salvation simple for the poor, illiterate peasants.

So it's reduced the way to God down to some simple, objective, countable things. You tell them what you've done wrong and then they tell you how to be forgiven. You say some memorized prayers. You do a list of mechanical things the priest tells you to do. You give money to various church-related causes.

You burn candles. And when you do enough of the things, you'll be forgiven. The church is more interested in the quantity of your works than their quality. But here's the problem. You keep doing wrong things. In fact, you do the wrong things faster than you can do enough good things to make up for them and you just get further and further behind. Even worse, the leadership realizes this because they see it in their lives too.

Even though the good things are fairly simple to do, anybody can say, the male Marys are our fathers. They don't change your heart. And you keep going back to the dark side.

And you keep falling behind and eventually it's all just pointless. For centuries, the church has held pretty much all the power and as somebody is going to say someday, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Rich people see the church's power as more important than its forgiveness or even its access to God and they become unremittingly cynical. They buy positions in the church. For a healthy fee, you can become a bishop or an archbishop or even a cardinal. In fact, you can buy several positions at once and be bishop in multiple cities at the same time. Of course, that means that the bishop isn't going to be in most of his cities most of the time and that's a recipe for bad administration and further corruption.

And with their riches, they buy all the things they want, lands and castles and servants and clothing and jewels and amusements. Cardinal Wolsey is said to have marched in procession with a train of 500 servants. Servant of the servants of God. As they rise higher in the circles of power and influence, they can get the pope to appoint their sons, legitimate or illegitimate, to other church positions, if the price is right. King James V of Scotland, the grandfather of the more well-known King James of Bible fame. God, his illegitimate sons appointed abbots.

There's a good living in that, after all. In about 20 years from now, in 1513, Leo X is going to become pope. He will say on being crowned, let us enjoy the papacy. One observer said that Leo would have been a good pope if only he had been religious. A Catholic historian described Leo's court as filled with extravagant expenditure in card-playing theaters and all manner of worldly amusements. And with organizational cynicism comes moral cynicism. If you're powerful enough, you'll be rich.

And if you're rich enough, you can do anything you want and simply buy forgiveness. More than 200 years before Leo X, the poet Dante had put popes in the lowest circle of hell. And now, 20 years before Leo X, here in 1492, the very month Columbus sets sail for the Indies, Rodrigo Borgia becomes pope and takes the name Alexander VI. Alexander's corruption and his immorality seem unending. He appoints his relatives cardinals, including an illegitimate son. And he appoints another son who is 16 years old to be Archbishop of Valencia.

He readily acknowledges other sons and daughters. His daughter Lucretia Borgia is the embodiment of immorality and corruption. He has several mistresses, including the sister of a cardinal. He appoints wealthy men as cardinals in return for huge sums of money. He sponsors orgies in the Vatican itself. To him, nothing is sacred. And he's the pope, the vicar of Christ.

After Alexander, Julius II will turn the papacy into a military power, enriching the church through acquisition of lands and political intrigue. So, the leaders have given up being seriously religious. With their riches, they buy forgiveness. They call that indulgences.

And many of them just quit trying to be the right kind of person. The sale of indulgences spreads across the land. In his classic history of the Christian church, Philip Schaff writes of one event. The story ran that a Saxon knight went to Tetzel, who is a seller of indulgences, and offered him $10 for a sin he had in mind to commit. He wanted the indulgence in advance. Tetzel replied that he had full authority from the pope to grant such an indulgence, but it was worth 80 taller. The knight paid the amount and sometime later ambushed Tetzel and stole all his indulgence money. And when Tetzel objected, the knight said, perhaps you should be more careful about giving indulgences ahead of time. Once the indulgence money starts pouring in, the church is not inclined to discourage it.

Under Leo X and his successors, the indulgence money helps build St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Perhaps the worst of it is that power brings arrogance and arrogance brings tyranny. The church will tolerate no rivals.

Its people must conform. Heretics are dealt with harshly and example to others who might get unapproved ideas. John Huss, the preacher of Prague around 1400, argues, among other things, that a church leader who is in mortal sin has no authority from God. He's promised safe conduct to the Council of Constance in Germany, and then he's nearly starved in prison before being called to the cathedral one morning at 6 a.m., expecting to give his defense. No defense is allowed. He waits outside for several hours, then is brought into the cathedral to hear his condemnation.

No one present objects. Huss says, I commit myself to the most gracious Lord Jesus. Before he is escorted to the public square, chained to a stake, and burned alive. Savannah Roller, the popular preacher of righteousness in Florence, Italy, calls out the corruption of the Roman church, and Pope Alexander in particular. The pope orders him tortured, hanged, and his body burned, and the ashes thrown in the river. Just a few years ago, in 1478, began the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition will condemn alleged heretics at will, with or without evidence, with or without trial, and take their property to enrich the inquisitors and their friends.

But here's the thing. Corruption brings weakness. And political leaders, kings and dukes and electors, see an opportunity to gain more independence from Rome. Whereas in earlier days, Henry IV, the Holy Roman Empire, had knelt in the snow for three days, begging forgiveness from Pope Gregory VII at Canossa. Now a mere elector, Friedrich the Wise, will grant the heretic Luther sanctuary in his Wartburg castle.

Whereas Huss and Savannah Roller died early and painful deaths, Luther will die a natural death at the ripe old age of 62. The Renaissance will bring a love of learning that begins to spread beyond the wealthy, and literacy rates will begin to rise. Scholars will begin to write in languages the masses can read. Soon more and more people are realizing that the church and its own Bible are not saying the same things. Can the church be reformed? There have been reforms before. A notable one under Gregory VII, and it points along the way in the ecumenical church councils.

Most recently at Constance, in Germany after the embarrassment and disaster of the Babylonian captivity of the papacy in Avignon, France. But reforms have made mostly surface changes and temporary ones at that. Now the corruption runs too deep, the money is too great, and the power structures are too deeply entrenched. If change will come, it will shake the world itself and bring a new beginning, and it does come. It will upend the ecclesiastical world by bringing to the forefront three significant ideas. First, the authority of scripture rather than the church. Second, the central importance of faith rather than mechanical works.

And third, direct access to God for the person in the pew. And when the Reformation comes, it will come because in the providence of God it was spurred on by two divinely orchestrated developments. The renaissance of interest in classical ideas and languages which leads, among other things, to the rediscovery of the Greek New Testament, the Bible.

And second, the printing press which will explode the spread of these ideas. And out of all this ferment will spring a renewed understanding of the gospel. That we are indeed sinful and that no church can forgive our sin. That God himself in the person of Christ has completely paid the penalty for our sin through his death on the cross and has removed his own wrath against us. That faith not works appropriates Christ's work to us as individuals and makes us the very sons and daughters of God. And that wonder of wonders, the righteousness of Christ himself is given to us. So that now God sees his believing children through Christ-colored glasses.

The church tried law and it only led to lawlessness. The Reformation reintroduces the masses to grace. God's grace which is truly greater than all our sin. Interestingly, the discovery of the new world by Columbus this year, 1492, will providentially provide a place for a few Protestants to seek greater freedom of worship.

And everyone in this room today has benefited from that. All of this is just one part, a significant part, but just one part of the story that God is telling. He won't let his image languish in ignorance and sin. He will rescue them. As we continue to tell this story in Wednesday chapels throughout the semester, remember that he will not let you languish either. He will pursue you. He will break down barriers between you and himself. He will draw you to himself. And then he will make you part of the story that he's telling till all is ready and done.

That's who he is. Let's pray. Father, what a story you have told. What a plan you have envisioned. How great is your direction of the affairs of peoples and nations so that even their sin makes the brilliance of your grace shine by contrast. We thank you that you are not defeated by evil people or even apathetic ones. People who don't care and people who directly oppose your will become instruments in your hands for the spread of your grace throughout the whole earth. Father, may you motivate us to be part of that movement, to tell the story, to spread the word, to take the gospel of grace to the ends of the earth. And Lord Jesus, may you come soon. Go with us, we pray, through this day. May we serve you with this one day as well as the rest of our lives. We ask in Jesus' name, amen. We hope you'll join us again tomorrow at this same time as we study God's word together on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-11 09:43:13 / 2023-11-11 09:51:30 / 8

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