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Martin Luther Biography

I want to commend Dr. R.C. Sproul for his series on Martin Luther.  I have learned much from my Calvinist brother about Luther.  The issue of the Reformation is what allows us Arminians and Calvinists to debate as we are debating our theological positions from inside the safety of the Protestant Reformation.  We Arminians stand with our Calvinist brethren and support the cry of the Reformation and Martin Luther for justification by faith (Romans 5:1-11).

You can find out more about Dr. Sproul’s series here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/31/2011 at 12:36 PM

Luther’s Ninety-five Thesis

Here is a link where you can read Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Thesis.  On this day the Church of Jesus Christ celebrates the launch of the Protestant Reformation when a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his thesis on the church door at Wittenberg.  Oddly enough the thesis says nothing about what would later follow and that is mainly justification by faith alone.  Luther’s attack was actually meant to bring a theological debate among the professors at the university where he was teaching Bible.  He even wrote the thesis in Latin and not German as Latin was the language of the scholars in 16th century Europe.  Unknown to Luther, some of his students took his thesis and translated it to German and using the new printing press, they took Luther’s words all over Germany.  The Roman Catholic pope even received a copy of the thesis to which it was said that he said, “This is the work of nothing more than a drunk German monk.”  Little did the pope know that Luther was about to become the man who would turn the entire Catholic church upside down with his teachings.

I have had someone write me asking why I would support Martin Luther though later he would write a book against the Jews that you can still find at Amazon.com?  My reply is that I don’t deny that Martin Luther was a sinner and that he did sinful things but his acts helped launch the Protestant Reformation and none of us can deny this.  Even Mormons celebrate the fact that Luther did what he did on October 31, 1517.  Europe and eventually North and South America have never been the same since that day.  The precious doctrines that we now defend and debate in our Arminian vs. Calvinist debate would not have happened had this monk not done what he did.  I don’t deny that Luther nor Calvin nor any other person is worthy of worship.  I don’t seek to do that but to honor them for the good that they did do.  Bear in mind that God used Luther’s writings to convert an Anglican priest some 200 years later named John Wesley.  Luther also influenced great theologians on both sides of the Arminian/Calvinist debate.  For that, we should be thankful.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/31/2011 at 9:04 AM

Never Forget What Makes Us Protestants

We are nearing the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 31.  On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis to the church door at Wittenberg, Germany.  This act launched the reformation as Luther begin to protest (thus protestants) various aspects of the Roman Catholic Church including the buying and selling of indulgences, the prayers to the saints, the teaching of purgatory, and the denial of pivotal doctrines such as the doctrine of justification by faith alone and apart from works.  Without the reformation, much of history as we know it would not have occurred including, I believe, the founding of the United States of America.  Had the Catholic Church continued, much of what we see today both in the Protestant Church and in the world would largely not be.  We probably would still be locked in the dark ages with little technological advances nor medical advances.  Spiritually we would be in the dark as the Catholic Church remains largely pagan in many nations with their worship of idols and their worship of Mary.  I have never met a “saved” Catholic.  I have evangelized many Catholics and in every situation I have found myself, they are ignorant of God’s grace and His sacrifice for our sins on the cross apart from a religious understanding.

As Arminians and Calvinists united together, let us boldly declare that we are Protestants and thankful to be so.  We praise God for Martin Luther who, despite his failures in other areas, was committed to seeing the reign of Christ as Lord of the Church.  I pray that the Lutheran Church would repent of lukewarmness, sinfulness, acceptance of sins, and failing to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ with unction from God.  I pray that the fire that burned in Luther’s heart would burn in the hearts of Lutherans today.  The Protestant Church, like the Catholic Church of 1517, needs a touch from God.  We need revival.  We need the Holy Spirit to breathe life in us again.  We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to be faithful witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8).  We need the Spirit to help us to remain faithful to Jesus and His truth as found in the Word of God, the Bible (John 17:17).  We need God to lead us by His grace as He did in the book of Acts and as He did through His servant, Martin Luther.

So as we celebrate Reformation Day on October 31, let us praise God for giving us a bold man in Martin Luther and let us pray for the doctrine of justification by faith (Romans 4:5) to go forth.  So many souls are still in darkness as in Luther’s day and the Protestant Church alone is the answer in declaring the gospel of our Lord.  The Church is the pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/28/2011 at 9:26 PM

Reformed And Reforming

“Reformed and Reforming” is the cry of many Calvinists today.  Oddly, this was the cry of Arminius as well.  The reason that we Arminians often call ourselves “reformed Arminians” is not because we have adopted some parts of Calvinism or we wish to steal the title from reformed Calvinists but the title comes from the fact that Arminius was working safely within the reformed tradition.  To picture Arminius as a rebel against John Calvin would be a mistake.  Arminius was trained under Theodore Beza, Calvin’s son-in-law and successor after his death.  Many Calvinists note that it was Beza who took Calvinism to a new level by asserting that Calvin taught double predestination.  Many modern Calvinist theologians see Beza as responsible for the rise in hyper-Calvinism following the death of Calvin.  It was under Beza that Arminius was trained.  Arminius graduated from under Beza and went on to pastor a Calvinist church in Holland.  It was from here that he begin to question Beza and other “high Calvinists” over their views when he begin to preach through Romans verse by verse.

Arminius called for the Synod of Dort but died before the synod met.  His call was not to rebel against Calvinism but to put in motion the cry of the Calvinists of “reformed and reforming.”  The Calvinists differed with Martin Luther and though they appreciated all that Luther did in helping the reformation, they saw a need for more reforming.  So did Arminius.  He was not calling for a debunking of Calvinism.  He was calling for a meeting to debate whether the Calvinists should continue to abide by the catechisms if in fact they were shown to be in error.  The Calvinists of Arminius’ day were saying that the catechisms represented sound doctrine and should be adhered to but Arminius said that ultimately the Bible was the final authority for faith and practice and should the creeds of men differ with the Bible, we must embrace the Bible.  Arminius was fighting just what Martin Luther had fought with the Catholics in that the Catholics embraced Scripture but made tradition equal to Scripture if not holding to traditions above Scripture.  Luther call for a reformation where the Scriptures became the final authority.  Arminius saw the same in the Calvinists of his day.  While he loved John Calvin (and some Calvinists and perhaps Arminians will find that alarming though it is true), Arminius felt that the Scriptures were to be studied and if shown that Calvinists views were in error through proper usage of Scripture then we must embrace Scripture.  If someone will take the time to read the works of Arminius, you’ll notice how often he appeals to Scripture above all other sources and he seeks to build his case not by mere statements but through exegesis of the Scriptures.

So the reformed cry of “reformed and reforming” was the cry of Arminius as well.  It should be our cry as well.  John Calvin was just a man.  James Arminius was just a man.  They both were sinners in need of a Savior.  Both men were incredible theologians and deep thinkers and much can be admired from Calvin and Arminius but in the end, only Jesus is Lord (1 Timothy 6:15-16).  Jesus doesn’t share His glory with any flesh (Revelation 5:9-10).  In eternity we will not sit around and point fingers at Calvinists or Arminians and say that we were right and they were wrong.  Our attention will always be on Jesus Christ for He alone is worthy to be praised.  I praise God for the wisdom that He gives to men such as Calvin or Arminius or Wesley or Spurgeon but even more I praise God that He has set me free by His grace through His Son’s precious blood (Ephesians 1:7).  I deserve the wrath of God but I rejoice that I receive His perfect righteousness through faith in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).  I pray that I would never cease to exalt Jesus above all others.  I believe that would be the heart of Arminius as well.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/19/2011 at 1:44 AM

Luther’s Preface to Galatians

Note: The following is Martin Luther’s preface to his commentary on the book of Galatians.  If you have never read R.C. Sproul’s book, The Holiness of God, I recommend it.  Sproul points out Luther’s struggle with how can a person ever be righteous enough before God before coming to see that we are justified by God’s grace through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

First of all, we speak of the argument of this epistle: in it Paul is seeking to establish the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness in order that we may know the difference between Christian righteousness and all other kinds of righteousness. There are many other kinds of righteousness. There is a civil or political righteousness, which kings, princes of the world, magistrates and lawyers deal with. There is also ceremonial righteousness, which the traditions of men teach. Besides these, there is another righteousness, called the righteousness of the law, or the Ten Commandments.

Above all these, there is yet another righteousness: the righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness, which we must diligently discern from the others. The others are quite contrary to this righteousness, both because they flow out of the laws of kings and rulers, religious traditions, and the commandments of God; and because they consist in our works, and may be worked by us either in our natural strength, or else by the gift of God. These kind of righteousness are also the gift of God, like all other good things which we enjoy.

But the most excellent righteousness of faith, which God through Christ, without any works, imputes to us, is neither political, nor ceremonial, nor the righteousness of God’s Law, nor consists of works, but is contrary to these; that is to say, it is a mere passive righteousness, as the others are active. For in the righteousness of faith, we work nothing, we render nothing to God, but we only receive, and suffer another to work in us, that is to say, God. This is a righteousness hidden in a mystery, which the world does not know. Indeed, Christians themselves do not thoroughly understand it, and can hardly take hold of it in their temptations. Therefore it must be diligently taught, and continually practiced.

The troubled conscience, in view of God’s judgment, has no remedy against desperation and eternal death, unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins by free grace, freely offered in Christ Jesus, which if it can apprehend, it may then be at rest. Then I can boldly say: I seek not active or working righteousness, for if I had it, I could not trust it, neither dare I set it against the judgment of God. Then I abandon myself from all active righteousness, both of my own and of God’s law, and embrace only that passive righteousness, which is the righteousness of grace, mercy, and forgiveness of sins. I rest only upon that righteousness, which is the righteousness of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The highest wisdom of Christians is not to know the law and be ignorant of works, especially when the conscience is wrestling with God. But among those who are not God’s people, the greatest wisdom is to know the law and is assuredly persuaded in his heart there is now no law, nor wrath of God, but only grace and mercy for Christ’s sake, he cannot be saved; for by the law comes the knowledge of sin. Conversely, works and the keeping of the law is strictly required in the world, as if there were no promise, or grace.

A wise and faithful disposer of the Word of God must so moderate the law that it may be kept within its bounds. He that teaches that men are justified before God by the observation of the law, passes the bounds of the law, and confounds these two kind of righteousness, active and passive. Conversely, he sets forth the law and works to the old man, and the promise and forgiveness of sins and God’s mercy to the new man, divides the Word well. For the flesh or the old man must be coupled with the law and works; the spirit or the new man must be joined with the promise of God and His mercy.

When I see a man oppressed with the law, terrified with sin, and thirsting for comfort, it is time that I remove out of his sight the law and active righteousness, and set before him the gospel, the Christian or passive righteousness, which offers the promise made in Christ, who came for afflicted and sinners.

We teach the difference between these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive, to the end that manners and faith, works and grace, political and religious, should not be confounded, or taken the one for the other. Both are necessary; but each must be kept within its bounds: Christian righteousness pertains to the new man, and the righteousness of the law pertains to the old man, which is born of flesh and blood. Upon this old man, as upon a donkey, there must be laid a burden that may press him down, and he must not enjoy the freedom of the spirit of grace, except he first put upon him the new man, by faith in Christ. Then may he enjoy the kingdom and inestimable gift of grace. This I say, so that no man should think we reject or forbid good works.

We imagine two worlds, the one heavenly, the other earthly. In these we place these two kinds of righteousness, the one far separate from the other. The righteousness of the law is earthly and deals with earthly things. But Christian righteousness is heavenly, which we have not of ourselves, but receive from heaven; we work not for it, but by grace it is worked in us, and is realized by faith.

Do we then do nothing? Do we do nothing at all for the obtaining of this righteousness? I answer, Nothing at all! For this is perfect righteousness, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing of the law, or of works, but to know and believe this only, that Christ is gone to the Father, and is not now seen; that He sits in heaven at the right hand of His Father, not as judge, but made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption — briefly, that He is our high priest entreating for us, and reigning over us, and in us, by grace. In this heavenly righteousness sin can have no place, for there is no law; and where there is no law, there can be no transgression (Romans 4:15). Seeing then that sin has here no place, there can be no anguish of conscience, no fear, no heaviness. Therefore John says (1 John 5:18): “He that is born of God cannot sin.”

But if there is any fear, or grief of conscience, it is a token that this righteousness is withdrawn, that grace is hidden, and that Christ is darkened and out of sight. But where Christ is truly seen, there must be full and perfect joy in the Lord, with peace of conscience, which thinks this way: Although I am a sinner by the law and under condemnation of the law, yet I do not despair, yet I do not die, because Christ lives, who is both my righteousness and my everlasting life. In that righteousness and life I have no sin, no fear, no sting of conscience, no care of death. I am indeed a sinner as touching this present life, and the righteousness thereof, as a child of Adam. But I have another righteousness and life eternal; by whom this my body, being dead and brought to dust, shall be raised up again, and delivered from the bondage of the law and sin, and shall be sanctified together with my spirit.

So both these continue while we live here. The flesh is accused, exercised with temptations, oppressed with heaviness and sorrow, bruised by the active righteousness of the law; but the spirit reigns, rejoices, and is saved by this passive and Christian righteousness, because it knows that it has a Lord in Heaven, at the right hand of His Father, who has abolished the law, sin, death, and has trodden under His feet all evils, led them captive, and triumphed over them in Himself (Colossians 2:15).

St. Paul, in this epistle, goes about diligently to instruct us, to comfort us, to hold us in the perfect knowledge of this most Christian and excellent righteousness. For it the article of justification is lost, then all true Christian doctrine is lost. He who strays from Christian righteousness falls into the righteousness of the law; that is, when he loses Christ, he falls into the confidence of his own works. Therefore we also earnestly set forth, and so often repeat the doctrine of “faith”, or Christian righteousness, that by this means it may be kept continual exercise, and may be plainly discerned from the active righteousness of the law.

Let us diligently learn to judge between these two kinds of righteousness. We have said before that, in a Christian, the law ought not to pass its bounds, but ought to have dominion only over the flesh, which is in subjection to it, and remains under it. But if it creeps in to the conscience, play the cunning logician, and make the true division. Say: “Law, you would climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, and there reprove it of sin, and take from me the joy of my heart, which I have by faith in Christ, and drive me to desperation that I may be without hope, and utterly perish. Keep within your bounds, and exercise your power upon the flesh: for by the gospel I am called to the partaking of righteousness and everlasting life.”

When I have Christian righteousness reigning in my heart, I descend from heaven as the rain makes fruitful the earth; that is to say, I do good works, how and wherever the occasion arises. If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the broken-hearted, I administer the Sacraments. If I am head of a household, I govern the house and family well, and in the fear of God. If I am a servant, I do my master’s business faithfully.

To conclude, whoever is assuredly persuaded that Christ alone is his righteousness, does not only cheerfully and gladly work well in his vocation, but also submits himself through love to the rulers and to their laws, yes, though they might be severe, and, if necessity should require, to all manner of burdens, and to all dangers of the present life, because he knows that this is the will of God, and that this obedience pleases Him.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/16/2011 at 12:03 PM

Happy Reformation Day

Today, October 31st, is Reformation Day.  On this day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis on the church door at Wittenberg.  This act launched the Protestant reformation of the Church and by the grace of God enabled the truth of justification by faith to be preached once again as well as the final authority of the Bible (or sola scriptura as it became known).  I praise God for raising up Martin Luther to challenge the establishment and for taking a stand for the Word of God. May the Church continue to abide by the Word of God and not allow compromise due to traditions of men.

http://www.youtube.com/v/r5P7QkHCfaI?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/31/2010 at 4:46 AM

Posted in Martin Luther

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