This week in Lit: January 04, 2013

On Luther

Three days into the new year and we already have the Lutheran pastor calling the Pope a devil. Not that this is anything new but the intro to the Book of Concord starts off with a bang and immediately we know what the purposes of Luther and, more broader, the reformers were about. Not that calling the Pope a devil was the main focus of the reformers but I believe this statement from Luther can sum up, at least in part, the striving in those days.

Our office is now become a different thing from what it was under the Pope; it is now become serious and salutary. Accordingly, it now involves much more trouble and labor, danger and trials, and, in addition thereto, little reward and gratitude in the world. But Christ Himself will be our reward if we labor faithfully. To this end may the Father of all grace help us, to whom be praise and thanks forever through Christ, our Lord! Amen. (from Luther’s preface to the Small Catechism)

We must be cautious to read texts like this and bring the same meanings into our day. We must remember the time at which Luther wrote and the surroundings which he wrote with. History must be a guiding factor for us when we read Luther or any other reformer and remember that the Papacy now is very different from the Papacy which stood at Luther’s door. The words of the Book of Concord seem more for the instruction of godly men and less about battling the Pope, which can be argued are the same thing since the teachings of the Protestants back then was in sharp contrast to the popular teachings of Papacy.

On Calvin

John Calvin begins the Institutes in a much different way but we can still feel his determination in making sure that King Francis knows where he stands in regards to the spiritual flavor of the day. Both the intro from Luther and Calvin include a prefatory remark about the context in which they wrote from, which is helpful at least to know in part, where these pastors were at in terms of their starting positions.

I undertook chiefly for my countrymen, the French, of whom I apprehended multitudes to be hungering and thirsting after Christ, but saw very few possessing any real knowledge of him. That this was my design, the book itself proves by its simple method and unadorned composition.

He goes on to say that this book was a written version of the doctrine they hold against which the pastors of his time say was punishable by prison. I hardly think that a biblical defense of the gospel deserves anything less than public proclamation but it so happens that they did not see fit, in the days of the reformers, to proclaim the excellencies of Christ who called  them out of darkness. Next week we will get into the thick of it when we hit book one of Calvin’s famed Institutes.

The Heidelberg

1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven, in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

2. Q. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

A. Three Things:

first, how great my sin and misery are

second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery

third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance

The Bible

In the beginning God. Creation happened and then Adam went and screwed it up. Eve certainly ate the apple but Adam was responsible and there the whole time Eve was conversing with the serpent. Be a man Adam! Noah he built it he built it the arky arky. There has been some confusion, in children’s teaching at least, that Noah and his family were on the ark for 40 days. Not so, it simply rained for the period of time. Noah and his family were roughly on the ark for almost a year. That’s a long time to be in such a confined space, I would have gone mad. In these first 9 chapters of the Bible sin dominates much of the landscaped, hemmed in with such phrases as, “then he died”. This hadn’t happened before Adam let Eve eat the apple but certainly this curse has come upon man when the first Adam stood there condemned.

On Spurgeon

Perhaps the most encouraging thing I read this week, beside the Word, was Friday’s version of the morning reading by Spurgeon.

Believe the promises more firmly than you have
done. Let faith increase in fullness, constancy, simplicity. Grow also
in love. Ask that your love may become extended, more intense, more
practical, influencing every thought, word, and deed. Grow likewise in
humility. Seek to lie very low, and know more of your own nothingness.
As you grow downward in humility, seek also to grow upward–having
nearer approaches to God in prayer and more intimate fellowship with
Jesus. May God the Holy Spirit enable you to “grow in the knowledge of
our Lord and Saviour.” He who grows not in the knowledge of Jesus,
refuses to be blessed. To know Him is “life eternal,” and to advance in
the knowledge of Him is to increase in happiness. He who does not long
to know more of Christ, knows nothing of Him yet. Whoever hath sipped
this wine will thirst for more, for although Christ doth satisfy, yet
it is such a satisfaction, that the appetite is not cloyed, but
whetted. If you know the love of Jesus–as the heart panteth for the
water brooks, so will you pant after deeper draughts of His love.

Only Spurgeon can urge someone to know more of our nothingness and have people grow after hearing that. This week was a tough read, since most of the depth was not found in the prefaces but was hinted at upon further reading of these texts. We will see you next week as we again consider the reformers and the Word, spend a morning and evening with Spurgeon, and seek to grow in our wisdom of God and his grace for us.

John Piper on Future Grace

There is a divine power for future obedience. But gratitude is not designed for carrying this high voltage current of future grace. Faith is. When gratitude is thrust into this role, what tends to happen is that a debtor’s ethic emerges that tries to produce future obedience with the power of past grace. It won’t work. It is past. So poor gratitude does the best it can, although out of its element; it appeals to the will to make returns to God for the past grace that it knows so well. Thus, inspired by past grace (but not empowered by future grace), the will tries to do good things for God in the power of gratitude – that is, in the power of remembered past grace. If faith in future grace does not come in to rescue gratitude at this point, the debtor’s ethic takes over and subtle forms of religious self-reliance develop. We call this legalism

This Week in Lit is a weekly series of reading plans which The Rebuilding Staff is going to be reading in 2013. Every week we will try, as best we can, to summarize the weeks teaching. Please join us by clicking the link at the top of the page which reads; 2013 Reading Plan. We pray that you would be encouraged by this series but also challenged in your faith as you travel this road with us. 

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