August 22, 2017
Revised October 23 & 24, 2017
The five planks of the reformation are:
By Grace Alone (Sola Gratia)
Through Faith Alone (Sola Fide)
In Christ Alone (Sola Christus)
According to Scripture Alone (Sola Sciptura)
For God’s Glory Alone (Sola Deo Gloria)
Imagine for a few minutes what things where like in the 1500’s. Feudalism was the politics of the day. You were one of 3 things:
You were Nobility and part of the ruling aristocracy of the day. You kept your people and the land safe, but usually by going to war with your neighbour. This made up maybe 3-4 % of the population.
Another choice was Clergy. You interpreted the Word of God. You were well educated. No one else had the skills necessary to read the Holy Writ. You may have been involved in selling indulgences. A way to buy yourself (and others) out of suffering that was necessary to try to make it in Heaven. You remember the rhyme, right? When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs. Your allegiance was to the Papacy. God never entered into the equation. The clergy constituted 5-6 % of the population.
Finally was Serfdom. The 90% who did the labour for the other 10%. Life was grim, gritty, weary, tiring. Day after day you did the same thing. Except on Sunday when you went to mass. It was a grand building. The biggest in the town. It was replete with statues and pictures of the saints, stained glass, and holy relics and iconography everywhere. A beauty to behold. You waited patiently to confess your sins, receive absolution, do penance, and finally receive the Eucharist.
Let’s travel further back for a moment. To the 3rd century. Augustine of Hippo. From the wikipedia article we learn: After his baptism and conversion to Christianity in 386, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and perspectives. Believing that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, he helped formulate the doctrine of original sin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo#Christian_conversion_and_priesthood
The seeds of the Reformation were born here as he read from Romans 13:13-14
Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (op cit)
Augustine fully understood the transformative power of the Gospel.
Let’s set our way back machine to 1384. John Wycliffe. You may have heard of him. He wrote the first English Language translation of the Bible into common English. Heretic! The word of God is the exclusive domain of the Roman church. We shall interpret the Bible, certainly not you. Wycliffe died of a stroke on December 31, 1384. His works were burned. His grave dug up from consecrated ground, at the order of Pope Martin, and his body burned, and the ashes scattered in the River Swift.
Wycliffe’s writing would have a profound effect on Jan Hus. He devoured Wycliffe’s writings and became the first of the Reformers. He spoke out against indulgences. Paying for sins. That hurt the pocket book. He said this about the Roman church:
[They are] worldly, proud, mercenary, pleasure-loving, and hypocritical…. They do not regard their sins as such, do not allow themselves to be reproved, and persecute the saintly preachers. There is no doubt that if Jesus lived among such people, they would be the first to put him to death. http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/german-literature-biographies/jan-hus
We cant have this! Off with his head! And Jan Hus was executed on July 5, 1415. His ashes were scattered in the Rhine River.
Hus was a few decades before our next stop. 1440. Johannes Gutenberg invents a printing press with movable type. Suddenly the cost of books, which were hand copied, became cheap and affordable to the masses. This was perhaps the most important invention known to mankind. Education became available to not only the clergy and the ruling class, but to common, ordinary serfs. This single invention revolutionized education and learning to this day. The Bible we hold in our hands today, is a direct result of this man’s incredible invention.
What sparked the Reformation? What made a difference in the life of an insignificant monk, nearly 500 years ago? It wasn’t sudden wealth. It wasn’t a man. It was an encounter with the truth. The power of Scripture comes not merely from what is written, but it comes from the experiential encounter with the truth.
This isolated monk, though well educated, was cutoff from the world. He was pious. He was penitent, but he was still mired in the guilt and shame of sin. Nothing he could do, would ever please God. And he was absolutely right.
He was reminded of that passage from Isaiah: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isa 65:6 KJV)
Nothing he did of himself, would appease the wrath and anger of a just God. He was doomed. Condemned to walk the earth as a vagabond. Heaven wasn’t a goal. The justice of God demanded a sacrifice, an atonement, which he could never make. (Atonement means a payment in full, that is acceptable to the offended party). How could man ever do this? The answer: he cannot.
But Christ. The Monk read the words, that transformed his life:
This was the answer Martin Luther had been looking for. The Gateway to Heaven had at last been opened. The answer did not lie with anything he could do. The answer lay with what Christ had already did. God is both the just, and the justifier. (Rom 3:26) A truth encounter.
Righteousness. righteousness: (dikaiosone) — Righteousness involves much more than imputation and is NOT an exchange.
We receive righteousness as a gift without any trade in or exchange. We not only receive right standing, but a new heart that gives us the ability to not only do the right things, but to do them to God’s glory rather than our own credit. With an attitude of love and service that does not look for reward either now or in eternity. This righteousness is selflessness. Both law and grace define righteousness; and grace cannot be revealed or understood apart from the law. Paul carefully and systematically lays out these distinctions through the book. Defining righteousness is what this study is all about. Tim Poelstra
II. Sola Scriptura today
Let’s talk about Sola Scriptura. Only Scripture.
How does the Bible begin to shape our understanding about the nature of God? Why do we believe the Bible is a true and accurate? After all it contains 66 books written over approximately 1400 years, by 40 different authors. It can’t be true. It is inconsistent. It contains contradictions. It’s hard to understand.
The Bible does have 66 books, written over 1400 years, by 40 authors. It is ONE story written by the Holy Spirit. It is the story of a trustworthy God, revealing himself, in a Trustworthy manner.
Author Michael C. Horton said it best: “The character of God is at stake in the character of Scripture. Why is Scripture in-errant? Because we know that God does not lie.”
The in-errancy of Scripture then, rests with the nature and Character of God. Who is the author of Truth?
1 Timothy 3:16-17 tell us: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (NASB)
The word inspired in Greek is: theopneustos. Theo meaning God, and pneustos meaning breathed. Literally, God Breathed. As Dr. James White said: “The Bible is the only God breathed possession of the Church.”
III. Accountability to the Truth
Now that we have a basic understanding of the truth of Scripture, we are all fully accountable, not only to God, but to each other, as to how we handle the ultimate source of Truth. No one escapes accountability. Romans 14 and Isaiah tells us, no one escapes judgment before God.
I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. (Isa 45:23 NASB)
An important aspect of avoiding temptation, is accountability. Small groups provide a safe environment, so that we can obtain the support, help and prayer that we need.
Right now you are asking, what is accountability? Why, then, criticize your brother’s actions, why try to make him look small? We shall all be judged one day, not by each other’s standards or even our own, but by the standard of Christ. It is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God’. (Romans 14:10-12 JB Phillips)
It is to God alone that we have to answer for our actions.
I like this from Chuck Swindoll on accountability:
What do we mean by accountability? In the simplest terms, it is answering the hard questions. Accountability includes opening one’s life to a few carefully selected, trusted, loyal confidants who speak the truth—who have the right to examine, to question, to appraise, and to give counsel.
People who are accountable usually have four qualities:
Vulnerability—capable of being wounded, shown to be wrong, even admitting it before being confronted.
Teachability-–a willingness to learn, being quick to hear and respond to reproof, being open to counsel.
Availability—accessible, touchable, able to be interrupted.
Honesty—committed to the truth regardless of how much it hurts, a willingness to admit the truth no matter how difficult or humiliating the admission may be. Hating all that is phony or false.
That’s a tough list! As I look back over those four qualities, I am more than ever aware of why accountability is resisted by the majority. Those with fragile egos can’t handle it. And prima dona types won’t tolerate it. They have a greater desire to look good and make a stunning impression than anything else. I mean, “the very idea of someone probing into my life!”
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting for a moment that accountability gives the general public carte blanche access to any and all areas of one’s private life. If you will glance back a few lines you will notice I referred to “a few carefully selected, trusted, loyal confidants.” They are the ones who have earned the right to come alongside and, when it seems appropriate and necessary, ask the hard questions, to serve in an advisory capacity, bringing perspective and wisdom where such may be lacking.
In our society, where privacy is a reward of promotion and a life of virtual secrecy is the prerogative of most leaders, a lack of accountability is considered the norm. This is true despite the fact that unaccountability is both unwise and unbiblical, not to mention downright perilous!
Today we need others to hold us accountable. Sometimes an objective opinion will reveal a blind spot. Sometimes we may simply need a sounding board to help keep us on target. Just remember—not one of us is an island. We need one another.
III. The Role of Sola Scriptura today
How do we apply the truth in our life today?
You may ask, is Sola Scriptura meaningful in a culture and in a society that is fastracking away from the sound principles and teachings of the Bible? The book of 2 Timothy gives us a sure footing.
2 Timothy is Paul’s Swan Song. He knew he was about to die. He penned these final words to his young protégé Timothy, from the cell of the Mamertine Prison, in Rome. It was dark. Dank. Foul smelling. A rat infested dungeon. He wrote by candlelight. Words take on a different meaning, when me understand the context in which they were written. We do not see Paul complaining. We see him focused on the task of reminding Timothy, what his duties and responsibilities were, and that of every person that names the name of Christ:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Tim 4:1-5 NASB
We apply truth to our lives, everytime we open the Bible. 2 Cor 4:16 reminds us:
Truth renewal is a daily encounter. Got it? It’s not something we learn once for all eternity. It is DAILY coming before the throne of Grace. The Truth, the Bible is applied daily. Not weekly. Not month, not yearly. Not at weddings or funerals. Everyday that God graciously allows us to suck breath.
Finally, Paul pen warns a shy and timid Timothy (see 1 Tim 4:1) about false teachers.
Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 2 These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. 1 Tim 4:1-2 NASB
We find many false teachers today: Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, Pat Robertson, Mormons, Catholics, Joyce Meyer. The list goes on. When was the last time you heard Joel Osteen preach about sin? Or maybe the Resurrection? Or Christ? But Osteen, Moore, Meyer’s and others, were not the first to challenge the truth. Who was the first to challenge the Truth? Satan. We see the story unfold in Genesis Chapter 3. The doctrine of demons, must fully be met, with the doctrine of truth.
Why did the Roman Church push so hard against Luther? Was the truth at stake? Absolutely! Luther, in writing the 95 theses, challenged the authority of the Papacy (is that even scriptural?) and indulgences. I especially like # 47: “Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, not a commandment.” That hit them where the pocketbook was.
Paul warns us in Romans 1:25 what happens when you exchange the truth, for a lie:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
How many of you saw the Solar Eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017? Do you need further proof of God’s invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature?
The Gospel reminds us: and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32 NASB)
How do you get the truth, how do you know the truth, if you can’t read it? One of the greatest influences on the reformation, was Luther’s tedious translation of the Bible into the language of the people, and subsequent distribution by Gutenberg’s printing press. The Truth was no longer sequestered and held hostage by the Catholic Church, even as they continue to do, today. There is no replacement for having the Truth, the Word of God, in your own language.
You want to argue doctrine? Theology? Traditions? Sola Scriptura. Now we can separate truth from lies. We have a reliable source. The Bible.
Dr White writes: “Scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith, the sole instrument of Justification, to the Glory of God alone by Christ alone.”
Justification by faith was the gateway for Luther. As a church, we must proclaim it loudly for all to hear.
for He says, AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION – 2 Cor 6:2
Maybe the words I have spoken have reached your heart. It is not something I did. It is the Holy Spirit, taking the message from your ears, to your heart.
If God has spoken to you today and you would like to discuss this, Pastor Dan, Michael, Tim or I stand ready to help you.