John Calvin: Apologist for the Reformation November 10, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Short Studies.
Tags: Apologetics, Bishop Sadolet, Blancherose, Calvin and Theological Education, Calvin as a Theologian of Worship, Calvin as Apologist for the Reformation, Calvin's Apologetics, Doctrine of Vocation, Early Church Fathers, Farel, International Calvin 500 Conference, International Calvin Conference, John Calvin, Lausanne Discourse, Reformation, Regulative Principle of Worship, Russian Calvinism, Scripture as the Rule of the Church, Viret
(This took me a while to transcribe, but what follows is the content of my lecture at the International Calvin 500 Conference, held in Moscow, Russia, this past September)
I would like to begin simply by thanking you for the opportunity to speak this day. As I stand here and listen to some of the things that have been said and talked about thus far, I realize my own inability to stand before you.
Sometimes as we receive opportunities to speak we are truly humbled by those who have given us that opportunity. At the same time, as a Calvinist, I believe in God’s sovereignty, and as someone who believes in God’s sovereignty I believe that God has brought me here by his divine hand. If this is true then despite my weaknesses then I believe that God has a message to bring through me. This was mentioned yesterday as well, but I wanted to give this as a way of reminder. That as we meet on this anniversary of Calvin’s birth, we meet not to glorify the man, but we do so to glorify the God who raised up this man to serve his church. And I believe that we can honor that God by learning from the things that this man has taught us.
The second thing I would like to do by way of introduction is to introduce my agenda. It is a dangerous thing when the speaker actually tells you why he is speaking because all of us have motives behind what we want to talk about. Oftentimes those motives go unspoken, but in this case I want to set them on the table in front of us.
We live in a world that is more and more raising up and praising the supposed virtues of atheism. We live in a world where the Christian church is seen to be irrelevant and not essential to everyday life. Though I am new to Moscow, I have spent time in Ukraine and know the difficulties that the protestants face in dealing with the Orthodox Church. So part of my agenda in choosing the topics that I did was to help equip you to show the world that the church is not irrelevant. As pastors, part of our job is to teach the church how to stand for the truth and to live that truth relevant, living it out every day. We also have a responsibility to protect our church members from being wooed back to Orthodoxy or being lulled into atheism. And I do believe that Calvin is a great person to help us do both things. Thus, my goal this day, recognizing that we cannot exhaustively explore Calvin’s apologetics, my goal is to explore elements of Calvin’s apologetics with the aim of applying them both in the west and in the east.
To accomplish this goal, I would like to look at three elements of Calvin’s apologetic approach:
- I would like to look at his writings, with a primary focus on his Lausanne Discourses and his letter to Bishop Sadolet.
- I would like at the theology of Calvin’s Doctrine of Vocation.
- I would also like to look at his emphasis on a theologically educated laity.
I have a secondary goal as well: that is to encourage you, as pastors, to write for your congregations. Now, I recognize that many of Calvin’s writings were taken down by secretaries, but the principle is there in Calvin’s theology that his words were to be heard and applied to the lives of his people. At this point we must recognize the context that Calvin was writing in—he did not have a computer to type upon, but the writing was done with a quill pen or a stylus dipped in ink. Despite that, Calvin wrote more than many people will read in their lifetimes. Also Calvin understood the principle that a shepherd does not feed his sheep only once or twice a week. But a shepherd feeds his sheep everyday. Calvin had the luxury of having daily worship services in Geneva, but that is oftentimes not an option in our contexts. Yet, if you write daily Bible studies and theological things for your congregations to read, they will read them. And you will have a means to feed your flock on a daily basis.
There is another aspect of me wanting to encourage you to write. I have a vision for a change in the names of authors in Reformed literature. As you heard yesterday and this morning, you have an honorable Reformed heritage, but most of the most well-known names in Reformed Theology are western names. We have names like Boston, Owen, Calvin, Hodge, Lloyd-Jones—these are names that are dominant in Reformed literature, and while the translation of these texts from English into Russian is a valuable resource to you, I desire to see Russian names filling the bookshelves of our theologically Reformed seminaries. You heard the challenge to learn English so that you can read more of these resources; I long to see a time when people will be saying to people in the west, “Learn Russian!” so that you can read these new Reformed theological resources.
But for that to happen it needs to begin with someone like you—so there is my challenge to set before you as we begin—Write! And write for your people, for they will read it. It is a way that you will strengthen the church and it is a means by which Calvin did just that in Geneva.
I also want to make one other comment by way of introduction, and that is a note with respect to Calvin and his role as a man of the Church. Henry Beveridge, one of Calvin’s translators, wrote: “the whole of Calvin’s life shows that zeal for the interests of the church was his ruling passion.” Calvin did not set out to go through Geneva to be their pastor—his goal was Strasburg to be a scholar, yet God had other plans for Calvin and Calvin was willing to submit to God’s will. Many in our culture, especially in the west, have seen the failures of the church and have chosen as a result to reject the church altogether. Calvin saw the failure of the Roman Catholic church of his day, but he also recognized that the failure was in man’s failure as a fallen individual.
As a result, you do not simply let the church die or give up on her. But as pastors, you need to live for her and die for her, to pour yourself out for her and to suffer for her. If you do this you will honor not only John Calvin’s memory, but you will also honor our Lord’s memory—the one who died to lay his claim upon the church.
So let us begin and speak of Calvin’s apologetics. And I want to begin by raising the question, what is an Apologia. The word, Apologia simply means, “a reasoned defense.” It is a legal term used to refer to how one would defend a view or a client in a court case. Peter uses this and applies it to our Christian life. Peter writes, “In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense—an Apologia—to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Yet Peter continues, “do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
Too often, people who would defend the Christian faith in the world around us, do so with an arrogant and a haughty spirit. Sometimes, when you are right and you know that you are right, you find yourself in a dangerous position. I think that this is one of reasons that Calvin’s model is so valuable for us today. Because as you read Calvin’s writings against those who would challenge the Reformed faith, you do not see an arrogant man ranting and raving, but you see a man of humility speaking with grace.
Note too the reason that Peter emphasizes our apologia given with humility. He says that we are to do so that those who revile you may be put to shame. The implication that he is making here is that there are some that may be brought to Christ through our reasoned defense. But even in rebuking those that would attack the Christian faith, we do not chase them away or scare them away from the truth.
In October of 1536, about a month after Calvin had arrived in Geneva, having agreed to stay and help the city in its reforms, Farel and Viret to Calvin with them to Lausanne. Lausanne is a city about 60 Kilometers from Geneva on the other side of Lake Geneva. The purpose of this debate was to debate whether or not the Reformed teachings should be brought to Lausanne. Farel had invited representatives from the Roman Catholic Church to debate over 10 questions that Farel had drawn up.
These questions included the debate over justification, the role of Christ as sole mediator, the role of scripture as sole authority for the believer, and who would constitute the church. Calvin is there not to speak nor to debate, but simply as a witness. Yet there are two points during this discourse where Calvin found that he could not keep his peace. And at these points—October 5th and 7th, Calvin stood to speak.
On the 5th of October, they were discussing the 3rd of the 10 questions. The question was over the real presence of Christ in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. The Romanists would not only argue from the real presence, but would also accuse the Reformers of departing from the consistent teaching of the church through history.
At this point, Calvin stood and addressed the panel. He said, “I held myself absolved from speaking up until now and would have willingly abstained until the end seeing that my word is not very necessary of adding anything to the adequate replies which my brothers Farel and Viret give. And he went on the address the group of speakers. We don’t have time to explore the entirely the fullness of Calvin’s response, but let me outline some of the elements of Calvin’s defense.
Calvin begins by saying that any who would condemn the early church fathers are both arrogant and filled with contempt for God as God had raised those church fathers up to build his church. In other words, part of what he is doing is saying is that if he as the reformer is guilty of what the Romanists are accusing him of, he should be condemned.
He continues and assumes for the sake of argument that our primary obligation is to submit to scripture as those church fathers submitted to scripture. He says that this accusation that they are making is nothing more than their failure to understand the Reformation. He went on to say, in addition, if one would take time to examine the Church fathers, they would find that the Fathers would support the Reformation position and not the Roman Catholic position. One could even, by extension, take the argument to the next step that the church fathers did not support the Eastern Orthodox view of the real presence of Christ in the elements.
Calvin continued on to cite from memory passages from the church fathers. He cites Tertullian’s refutation of Marcion; Chrysostom’s unfinished commentary on Matthew; then he goes on to exhaustively cite Augustine and his writings. He cites from Augustine’s Epistle 23, from Against Adamantius the Manichee, Homily on the Gospel of John, and continues on from several other letters of Augustine.
Then he poses the question toward the Romanists, speaking to Dr. Blancherose, a leader of the Romanist position, and now you explain your position in light of the Scriptural teaching and of the Church fathers. Before he closes, Calvin goes on to defend the Protestant position of the spiritual presence of Christ in the elements. He does so by comparing Matthew and Mark’s recording of the Last Supper to Luke and Paul’s recording of the same. Where he sees in Matthew in Mark Jesus saying, “this is my blood”, Luke and Paul record Jesus as saying, “this is the new testament in my blood.” And then making the argument that even though Matthew and Mark are not recording it in the same way, that there is a clear understanding that this is to be symbolic, not a real presence in the Lord’s Supper.
Let’s make several observations from the way in which John Calvin refutes the Roman Catholic representatives. First is the gracious and humble nature with which Calvin approached the Roman criticism. The Romanists had been calling the reformers both apostate and ignorant of the Church Fathers. They were essentially saying that the Reformers had no idea what they were talking about and rather than getting upset and responding in anger, Calvin responds in grace and humility.
Calvin goes on to demonstrate not only his knowledge of scripture but also his knowledge of the church fathers. What he is essentially doing is taking the things that the Romanists are appealing to and using their own words to dismantle their arguments. Calvin was demonstrating that the church fathers were the allies of the Reformation and not of the Roman Catholic church.
That is something that is very important to recognize in our own ministries. Often our tendency is to read and study only those who agree with the positions we hold. But if we are going to make an effective apologetic for what we know to be true in the world around us, we need to be educated in the ideas and thoughts of those who will attack what we know to be true. At the same time, we need to do so from a position of having been educated on a foundation of truth.
Calvin demonstrates in his response that he is well read and well versed in the breadth of all of the teachings that are out there. And that is something that we need to do as pastors and as apologists for the church in this community. It is also worth noting that not only did Calvin impress those to whom he was addressing with his knowledge of the church fathers, but some of the bishops who had been accusing Calvin of not knowing the church fathers actually confessed that they had never read the church fathers in the first place, but their knowledge of the church fathers was only a secondhand knowledge taught to them by somebody else.
We will come back to this idea, but Calvin also expresses an apologetic that is grounded in solid and clear theology. One of the problems that we find in the west is that those who are our “apologists” are not necessary theologians. What Calvin is demonstrating is that to be an effective apologist, you must have a clear understanding of theology.
The second point in which Calvin stood up to speak (2 days later) is a much shorter response. Question number 8 in the discussion dealt with the power of the civil magistrate. But in the discussion the question of Hildebrand had come up. Oftentimes Hildebrand is giving credit for formalizing the doctrine of transubstantiation that the Roman Catholics hold. But if you look back at church history, one of the things you will find is that Hildebrand is one of the most corrupt and abusive Popes of history. Another element of Calvin’s apologetic comes out here in his response. Calvin poses the question as to whether one should trust a doctrine created by one who is personally morally corrupt. In other words, he is asking the question, “Do you separate the life of the man from his theology?” Calvin’s argument is, “no.” That as one looks at a man’s theology one must also be looking at their theology and if the lifestyle of the man is corrupt, his theology should be questioned.
How too that as pastors we need to demonstrate how we live our lives in our communities.
The second discourse I want to deal with is his letter with the Cardinal James Sadolet. In 1539, shortly after Calvin and Farel’s banishment from Geneva, the Roman Catholic Church sought to draw the church of Geneva back to Rome. The church itself did not quite know how to respond to Sadolet’s letter of invitation. Their first response was to send a letter to the churches in Bern to ask them to respond on their behalf. When Bern did not respond, Calvin was asked to write a letter of response.
I want to just highlight this for a moment because this is a man who has just been kicked out of his church and they are asking him to write a letter in their defense; I wonder how many pastors today would be willing to do just that. It is a demonstration not only of Calvin’s humble personality but also of his understanding of the role of the pastor. The pastor was pastor over his people even if he had been removed and exiled from his people and thus he chose to continue to serve those who had kicked him out of the city and he responded to Sadolet’s letter.
As we seek to understand the dialogue that goes back and forth, you have to understand part of Sadolet’s approach. He begins by using language of affection for the people of Geneva and setting forth the claim that Rome is the only source where they will find peace. Calvin sees through the ruse very quickly and points out that Sadolet had never had any interests in Geneva prior to this time. But Sadolet went on and accused Calvin and Farel of sedition and said that they were “assailing the authority of the church.”
This language of authority is the key concept in Sadolet’s letter. Essentially what Sadolet is arguing for is the authority of the church to interpret scripture and the authority of tradition to set forth truth in the lives of people. He even goes as far as to use reformational language, largely designed to disarm the Genevese senate. Sadolet speaks of having offered salvation through faith alone, but at the same time he speaks out of one side of his mouth sounding like a reformer, he speaks out of the other side of his mouth as well. He says that faith in Christ alone is essential for salvation, but why stop there, but faith is only a beginning and to be genuinely worthy of salvation, one must also have works.
There are numerous theologies today which try to do the same basic thing that Sadolet is suggesting, existing both in the east and in the west. They pay lip service on one side to salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ but they try and sneak in human works by the back door. Yet the Apostle Paul wrote that God did not permit works so that no man may boast. And these theologies that deviate from salvation by faith alone is something that we need to guard ourselves and our churches against.
But Sadolet goes on and portrays the church as the anchor of Christian faith and thus for the Reformers to separate themselves of Rome is portrayed as a deep and dreadful sin of preposterous false religion. In the end, they are separated both from God and the Anchor of their faith which is considered to be the church, not Jesus Christ.
He goes on to appeal to the majority of the people in history (as he says), who have held to this Roman Catholic interpretation of scripture. And he says that if all of these people have understood it one way before, how do you know that you can trust this Calvin and the Reformers who understand it differently. Essentially what he is saying is that the Bible is too difficult for people to understand on their own, but to understand the Bible you need to be trained, equipped, and learned to understand it. This is the same basic principle that kept the Bible out of the hands of the layman for centuries on end.
One of the things that the Reformers understood was that when you read Scripture yourself, the lies of the Roman Catholic Church became clear. Sadolet even goes as far in his argument to suggest that the church cannot err in its interpretation of Scripture and if there might be errors, those errors must be in scripture and not in the church’s interpretation of scripture.
After he goes continues on this long discourse, making many slanderous comments about Calvin, though not by name, he closes by saying that he will agree to mediate between them and God if they will return to Rome. In other words, he is saying that the individuals themselves have no ability to come before God’s throne in light of their sins but we need Bishops and the church to do that on our behalf.
Yet, scripture is very clear that Christ and Christ alone is the only mediator between God and man.
So it is to this letter that Calvin begins to respond. Some have argued that this response of Calvin was the greatest apologetic of the Reformation. In spite of personal criticism, Calvin maintains a humble approach to Sadolet. And he writes that it is the duty of the pastor to defend his flock even while in exile. He almost goes as far as to apologize for the letter he is about to write. Sadolet was a respected scholar of his day and Calvin understood that his response to Sadolet would demonstrate Sadolet’s own ignorance of the Reformation and would show that Sadolet neither understood scripture nor the church fathers.
Calvin writes that it is with great reluctance that I bring forward your name before the learned world and address to you the following postulation. He continues that though he apologizes for essentially defaming Sadolet, he refuses to apologize for the Reformation.
I think that it is important to stop here and make an observation. Too many people in the west are more concerned with their standing than with the truth. In turn they end up sacrificing a great deal of truth to preserve their unity and their fellowship. Calvin understood that when one sacrifices the truth one sacrifices and compromises the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That would also compromise his call as a pastor.
Thus, though he is very gracious in the way he addresses his letter back to Sadolet, he refuses to compromise the truth that he is about to write. Calvin also refuses to attack the character of Sadolet, only Sadolet’s ideas as being insidious. When you get into debates with people, the temptation is to attack the person and the person’s character—it is much more difficult to attack the person’s ideas. One of the things that Calvin demonstrates is not slandering but dealing with the ideas as they are printed on paper.
Calvin’s apologetic here essentially elevates Scripture as the authority over top of church tradition. What he ultimately says is that the Genevese movement away from the Roman Catholic church is simply a reflection of them having been faithfully taught the scriptures. Here he is giving credit not to himself but to Farel and those who led the way or paved the road for him in Geneva. It is also a reminder to us of how important Calvin viewed the role of preaching faithfully God’s word. There is a temptation that pastors faith—to want to be popular—to want to have people come and listen to them as they preach. And Calvin is saying that we need to forget this philosophy in our preaching because the only way to become a popular preacher is to seek not to offend. We cannot sacrifice faithfully preaching God’s word. At the same time, when we do not sacrifice the preaching of God’s word, change will come and God will bring reformation and revival in His own time. And this is what Calvin is looking back at as he looks at the city of Geneva as they have moved away from the Roman Catholic Church.
Calvin then works systematically through Sadolet’s letter and then illustrates the logical errors and inconsistencies in each of his arguments. It is interesting for us to note where Calvin begins because he begins with what we, in Presbyterian circles, call the Regulative Principle of Worship. In other words, scripture regulates everything that we do in worship.
I think that emphasizes some of the things that Calvin holds to be important to the life of the Church. Oftentimes Calvin is thought of as the theologian of the Reformation, and he indeed was, but he is a theologian of worship. He saw the role of worship of God’s people as essential an that if our theology does not lead us into worship and equip us to worship better, our theology is wrong.
He begins this section by posing the question—which is the true Church, the Roman Catholic Church or the Reformed church? As he looks at this Regulative principle of worship and at the marks of the true church, he concludes that it is the Reformed church that is the true church. And Calvin demonstrates that the Roman Catholic church has moved away from Scripture and the tradition of the church fathers. In other words, it is the Roman Catholic Church that has moved away from fellowship and the Reformers and the ones who are preserving the true faith.
Calvin also mentions how he mentions how he longs for a day of ecclesiastical unity, that the church may indeed may be once again be one body, but only under God’s word, and not under man made traditions that are followed by the church.
So Calvin demonstrates a lot about apologetics in the way he approaches his writings, but Calvin also does not end his apologetic method or approach with his writings themselves. Calvin also applies his apologetics to actions in life. We have already demonstrated how Calvin is a student of the early church fathers. And in his apologetic writings he is following in the tradition of those like Quadratus who wrote to Hadrian to end the persecution of the church. And also in the line of those like Tertullian who wrote that Christians are an asset to the empire and not a threat.
As I was listening to pastor Ten speak earlier this morning, I heard this language coming out; he is looking at the benefits that the Reformed people brought to Russia. He was lamenting the fact that we as the church are not given credit for that—in a sense giving a call to all of us and particularly to you as pastors to speak to those over you and to say to them that we are a benefit to you and to your communities.
One of the questions that I am constantly asking the Ruling Elders of my church is this: If the church closed its doors and disappeared tomorrow, would the community notice? All too often the answer that churches give is that the community would not notice their disappearance. My challenge to you is the same challenge I give to my Ruling Elders every time we meet as a session. Be intentional about way you live and the way you exist. Be a benefit to your community in such a way that they see you as relevant to what you are doing and even if they don’t agree with you or hold to the Christian faith, they should see your presence as beneficial to the community.
One of the churches that I preached in many years ago when I was in seminary was built by an unbeliever. Yet he had the honest belief that if his community that he was establishing would continue, it needed a Presbyterian church. My prayer is that your communities (even non-believers in your communities) would think the same way. Like these early church fathers, Calvin, too, said that Christians were an important part of their society.
And he went on to teach about how the church is to live faithfully within that society. This is what we sometimes call the doctrine of vocational calling. The Roman Catholics taught that the only ones who were called by God to serve were the priests. Calvin taught that regardless of your occupation and the work you do, you are called by God to do it. That if you are a farmer, God had called you to be that farmer. That if you were an officer in the church or in the city government, God had called you to that as well. That work in itself is good and it is given by God no matter how dignified nor how menial that calling. And if God has given you work to do, it is a holy calling to work out in our lives.
In a sense, part of this is not only to encourage us to work harder and to work to the glory of God, but part of this is also an apologetic in lifestyle. In the passage we read from in 1 Peter earlier this afternoon, Peter is talking about how we live out our lives in every context despite the persecution we may face and we are to live in a dignified and honorable way so that when we are reviled, others will be drawn to Christ. That they will look at is, with the hope that we have, despite our condition and they will scratch their heads and ask how that person can be happy despite what that person may be doing. Calvin understood that when Christians live out their faith in their work, that the communities around them will recognize the value of having Christians in their midst. And not only will they cease persecution but will also open up doors to practice faith more freely.
If you want to bring change in Russia, one of the ways that you will do so is by teaching your people to live out their holy callings in life. And if you teach them to live out their work to the Glory of God they will draw others to Christ and will open gateways for the church to grow and flourish. As Christians, we need to live to a higher standard because God is who we serve, not man. And that we are thankful and joyful at whatever provision that God gives us both for our provision and for our lives.
Think about it in the most basic of terms. What kind of people do you prefer to have around you during the day? Do you want cheerful people or grumpy ones? Cheerful people make work more pleasant no matter how dirty that work may be, and again the gospel is spread.
In the time I have left, I want to make one more observation about Calvin’s view on apologetics. That is the importance that Calvin placed on education. The Roman Catholic church kept theological education to a few, Calvin instead opened it up to the masses. The Roman Catholic church taught ritual whereas Calvin taught scripture. Calvin did so through his personal teachings on the Bible and through his writings.
In addition, in 1559, Calvin opened the Genevan Academy to train believers to do whatever they were called to do. This was a school not open only to those training for the ministry but to everyone in the city. By Calvin’s death, 5 years after the opening of the school, there were 1200 students in the college alone and an additional 300 were in the seminary training to be pastors. Of course, many of those pastors would go back to France to face the persecution that was taking place there. An interesting side note is that Thomas Jefferson, an early American president, actually tried to buy the college Calvin began and move it to America. Jefferson believed that such a university would benefit the new country called America.
And obviously the college was not moved, but a similarly designed college was established.
I am convinced that this is the kind of mindset that you want to nourish in your church. You do not want a congregation of people who will just come to speak to you every week. But you want a congregation like the Bereans, faithfully seeking out God’s word, digging into it to find out what is going on. You want a congregation that is hungry and eager to understand God’s word and learn God’s truth. Some pastors consider that a threat because as a pastor that means you need to be well versed and study yourself. But if you hold that mindset, shame on your…we need to be the teachers of God’s people and to nourish in them a spirit that wants to know God’s truth. And we want them asking difficult questions—that helps to teach us that they are drawing upon spiritual truth as well.
And you especially need to train up the men in your church. One of the weak parts of the church in America is that it is dominated by women. This is not to knock the faith or the prayers of the ladies who are in our churches, but we need men who are hungry for God’s word and theology who will lead and teach their families. And that will only happen if you teach and emphasized the teaching in terms of the lives of the men of your church.
There is a lot more that we could talk about in terms of Calvin’s Apologetics. We could talk about Calvin’s style of worship and how worship itself is an apologetic tool. But I set that into your lives and for your responsibility for further study; I simply want to set before you three basic goals:
1. Be prepared to defend your church as pastors; there are bears and their lions out there in the world that are seeking to devour and destroy.
2. As a shepherd of God’s fold you have a responsibility to protect them, but you have a responsibility to feed or teach them as well. Part of that is through educating them and through teaching them a lifestyle that will draw others to Christ and ease the persecution on the church.
3. We also have a responsibility to educate your people. Teach them from the pulpit every opportunity that you get. Teach them through your lifestyle every time they are looking at you. And write for them so that you will teach them when you are apart.
Doxology February 23, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Short Studies, Studies in Jude.
Tags: Commentary on Jude, Doxology, Everything points to Jesus, Heaven Rejoices, Jude 24-25, Jude Commentary, Jude's Doxology
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“Now, to him who has the power to keep you free from stumbling, and to set you before his glory, blameless and with a shout of joy, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Lord—be glory, majesty, power and authority, before all the ages, now, and into all eternity! Amen.
Personally, I think that this is the best benediction found within all of scripture. It is a reminder that at the end of the day, everything points to Jesus. He is our keeper and he will present us before God’s throne glorified and without compromise. The picture given in verse 24 is worth its weight in gold. Jude tells us that when we will be presented before God the father it will be with shouts of joy. The term that he uses here is the Greek word aÓgalli÷asiß (agalliasis), which literally refers to a “piercing exclamation.” This term is used in the Greek version of the Old Testament 19 times (18 times in the Psalms plus Isaiah 51:11) and in each case, the word is used in connection with worship. When we approach the throne in heaven, it will be with great shouts of worship and praise, if this is so, I wonder why we tend to be so quiet in our worship here. This is also an act which brings God great joy. The Puritan, Thomas Watson once said, “When God calls a man to himself, it is an act that he never repents of.” God rejoices in the completion of his work—in bringing lost sinners to himself, and heaven rejoices with him (Luke 15:10). Friends, love the God that has offered salvation to you. Cling to him. Immerse yourself in his word. To God be the glory, forever and ever!
Exhortation: Evangelize February 22, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Short Studies, Studies in Jude.
Tags: Commentary on Jude, dealing with doubters, Evangelism, Jude 22-23, Jude's Evangelism technique, lifeguards
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“Now, show mercy to those who doubt; save others, snatching them from the fire; show mercy mixed with fear, hating even the garment stained by corrupted flesh.”
Jude’s guide for evangelism: Jude moves on to exhort us to make our faith active with an outward expression of faith. Now, there are some who suggest that these exhortations are directed to the faithful in addressing believers who are in various stages of drifting away. While this may be the case, I suggest that in the context of the mission of the Church, these exhortations are a guide for bringing converts into the fold. The church to which Jude is writing has fallen into error because of these false teachers. Error usually is a gradual process, so there are probably quite a few within the congregation that are not saved. Jude is providing this as a tool to deal with these people that are in their midst.
First, we are to be merciful to those who doubt. As God has shown us mercy in our sin, so we need to show mercy toward others. This does not mean that everyone can believe whatever they want, but it means that we also cannot shove our beliefs down someone else’s throat. If change needs to take place, and their conversion is genuine, then the Holy Spirit will do his work in their life. Note that the word that we translate as “doubt” is the Greek word diakri÷nw (diakrino), which means “to consider, evaluate, or doubt.” Jude is making a contrast between the thoughtful doubter who is still wrestling through the question of faith and the mockers who think and speak like unreasoning animals.
Second, we are to snatch others from the fire. When warnings do not work, sometimes a lifeguard is needed. People are saved through hearing the Gospel read and preached, we are to be actively at work in the field of evangelism. The real work is done by the Holy Spirit, but God has blessed us with the privilege of taking part in the process. Thus preachers are commended to faithfully preach the word and believers are commended to faithfully live out that word in the presence of others. Friends, if you are a born again believer, you have a witness or a testimony that can be used by God to draw others near to himself. The question we must ask is whether we are willing to share that testimony with others.
Third, we are to show mercy mixed with fear. Remembering that Godly fear is a humble awe and reverence toward him. We are to always remember from where God has lifted us up as we deal with people where they are, but to be on our guard lest we fall into their pit. Remember once again that God has shown you great mercy. Mercy is best defined as doing for someone else what they cannot do for themselves and what you have no obligation to do for them. That describes what Jesus did for us while we were still sinners, will you demonstrate that kind of mercy to a dying world?
Fourth, we are to hate even the clothing stained by sin. Clothing, in the Biblical mindset, represented status and position. Believers are given Christ’s righteousness to wear as a robe. Unbelievers wear the stained garments of their sinful life. When we evangelize, we are to hate the sin, not the sinner, but must never be tempted to put on the clothes of a sinful life. We are to be holy as God is holy. In turn, it is not only sin that we are to hate, but also the lustful desires that lead to sin. These desires often clothe the blackest sins with fleshly finery. We are to separate ourselves from the corruption that leads to these sins.
Exhortation: Stand Firm February 22, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Short Studies, Studies in Jude.
Tags: assurance of salvation, Commentary on Jude, exhortation, jude 20-21, Jude Commentary, pray with the Holy Spirit, stand firm in faith
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“But you, beloved, yourselves being built up in the most holy faith, praying by the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, receiving the mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ—eternal life.”
He begins the exhortations with guides for spiritual health within the congregation. We are to build ourselves up in the faith. This is different than the puffing up that the false teachers were doing. But building up is done through teaching, Bible study, fellowship, worship, and prayer. It is the laying of a sure foundation upon which our faith can be solidly built.
Secondly, we are to pray by the Holy Spirit. It is a reminder of what Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit is a guide to our prayers and it is a reminder the Holy Spirit is the third part of the Trinity and an integral part of our salvation, actively working in our lives through the process of sanctification.
Thirdly, we are to keep ourselves in God’s love. Jude is not trying to replace God’s grace, but is linking grace and love together as one goes hand in hand with the other. And he is not suggesting that those who are truly saved can lose their salvation, rather he is saying that when we walk in disobedience, we earn God’s rebuke; we are to walk faithfully, striving for a “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
And Fourthly, we are to rest in the final salvation that Jesus Christ has assured. The judgment of God against unrighteousness means salvation for those who have been saved. What does the mercy of God look like when it is applied to a person’s life? It fully manifests itself in eternal salvation—eternal life in the presence of God himself. What more could we hope to ask?
Exhortation: Remember February 22, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Short Studies, Studies in Jude.
Tags: beloved, false teachers, Jude 17-19, Jude Commentary, mockers
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“But you, beloved, remember the things that were foretold by the apostles of our Lord, Jesus Christ. For they said to you, ‘In the end times there will be mockers chasing their own desires and impiety.’ It is these who cause divisions. Natural ones, they do not have the Spirit.”
A third time Jude uses the word beloved to refer to the people in this church. It is a reminder to us that Jude is not writing here as an angry schoolmaster reprimanding unruly children. Rather, Jude is writing as a faithful brother in Christ, seeking to preserve his family from the dangers that surround it. Jude reminds us that false teachers will abound, which should be a constant reminder to us today. And we should not be surprised by their arrival, but ever watchful to keep our fellowship pure. Then Jude offers us two kinds of exhortations: inward and outward.
It is important for us to remember all of the things that the Apostles and Prophets have said. All of scripture is God-breathed and profitable to prepare the believer for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is our only guide and standard for life and faith. It will keep us from error and a faithful study of it will prevent us from being seduced by the false teachers who fill the world. The problem is that though we have the Bible available to us in a different translation for every day of the month, we don’t take time to read it or to study it. We see that as the pastor’s job. Yet, who will police the pastor that he does not fall into error and lead others in the same direction? It must be the men and women sitting in the pews who are always seeking a clearer understanding of the truth. Recognize that mockers will come and that they will wreak havoc in the fellowship, but be prepared to deal with them when that happens. That preparation comes by the careful study of scripture.
Warning of Coming Judgment February 22, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Short Studies, Studies in Jude.
Tags: Apocalypse of Enoch, Commentary on Jude, cravings, elect, election, Epistle of Jude, eternal damnation, Jude 14-16, Jude Commentary, Judgment, Lamb's Book of Life
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“And Enoch, the seventh son from Adam, prophesied these things saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with his holy myriads with him to bring judgment against all, to convict all human life of all their works of impiety, which they did impiously, and concerning all the cruelty that impious sinners spoke against Him. These are grumblers and complainers, walking according to their cravings and their mouths speaking boasts, flattering to gain advantage.”
This is the second time that Jude quotes from non-canonical literature. Here he quotes from the Apocalypse of Enoch, pointing to the second coming of Christ with his angels to judge the wicked (if you want a picture of those myriads of angels take a peek at Revelation 5:11). Do you notice a theme in this section? Impious, impious, impious… Sin is impious and sin brings death. It is only by being born again in Jesus Christ that we can be saved from the wrath that is to come. Woe, Woe, Woe. Revelation also contains three woes (Revelation 8:13). Three is a number of completion or fullness. Here we find the fullness of the woes of sinful man. These men have made full and complete their ungodliness and impiety and their judgment to come will be equally full and complete.
Make careful note of verse 15. When Christ comes again, he will execute judgment against all mankind, not just the evil ones. The Apostle John tells us in Revelation 20 that God will judge all mankind according to their works, and all whose names are not written on the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his minions. No one can stand upon his own works, it simply cannot be done because of indwelling sin. Only Jesus Christ has earned salvation by his works and he alone offers a way to paradise, being clothed in his righteousness. That comes through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. There is no other way to avoid the punishment that we deserve.
The elect, those whose names are written on the Lamb’s book of life and were written there from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), are the ones who will escape judgment, but all else will face eternal damnation. These, Jude reminds us again, are grumblers and complainers who chase after their own cravings. The word that we translate as “cravings” is the Greek word e˙piqumi÷a (epithumia), which refers to cravings or lusts, more times than not, for things that are forbidden. Also Jude points to judgment for the flatterers. This is the word qauma¿zw (thaumazo) in Greek, which literally means “to marvel” or “to be amazed.” This is not subtle flattery, but loud, boisterous flattery designed to inflate the ego of the listeners.
This is not to categorically state that all that are guilty of grumbling or flatterers are going to Hell, what it reflects is the idea that these things should not reflect the heart of the believer. God forgives us when we stumble and repent of our sins, yet if we remain hardened and unrepentant, we will face eternal punishment.
All of Jude’s warnings can begin to weigh on you. He warns you from the past, the present, and the future. But there is a reason that we are given warnings—they often keep us from harming ourselves. When I was in the Boy Scouts, I took Life-Saving Merit Badge. A great deal of the badge dealt with water rescues. But one of the things that the instructor impressed upon us was the value of preventive measures. Those measures begin with clearly posted warning signs. The letter of Jude is one of those signs.
Before we shift gears into Jude’s exhortation to the faithful of the church, I want to drive home the need to beware. There are spiritual predators who seek to fill your pulpits and they will seek to guide you down a false path. Watch closely through the eyes of scripture and prayer, not being impressed by flash or new ideas but holding true to the faith that was taught by the Apostles and handed down through the ages.
The Nature of These Men February 22, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Short Studies, Studies in Jude.
Tags: agape, Commentary on Jude, cup of judgment, fruitless trees, Jude 12-13, Jude Commentary, Judgment, Lovefeasts, shepherding themselves, wandering stars, waterless clouds, wild waves
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“They are a stain to your love feasts, eating without fear, shepherding themselves; they are waterless clouds, blown by the wind—unfruitful trees in late autumn—twice dead and uprooted. They are wild waves at sea, foaming up their own shame, wandering stars for whom the dark gloom of eternity has been kept.”
Eating without fear: These men have fully engaged in the “love feasts” or the aÓga¿ph (agape), which given its context both here and in historical literature, is most likely what we call Holy Communion today. Paul writes a stern warning against those who would approach the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner and goes as far as to say that those who do eat and drink judgment upon themselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). Unbelievers sometimes balk when we fence the communion table, preventing them from participating, but we do that not to exclude them, but to save them from imminent judgment. To the unbeliever, the communion cup is a cup of poison and judgment, it should be understood that it is a blessing that we withhold communion from those who would take it wrongly.
But this warning is important for believers to here as well as unbelievers. This is because those who would come to the communion table still holding sins or hatred against a brother, being unrepentant, also heap judgment upon themselves. We need to come to the table with great joy at the privilege that has been offered to us, but at the same time, we should approach God with fear and trembling, trusting in his grace and not taking that privilege and gift for granted.
Shepherding Themselves: These men have assumed the role of pastor without any concern or care for the sheep—they just want a paycheck to satisfy their own lusts. If a shepherd is not vigilant, the sheep will soon be devoured. These men are reckless with the flock that they tend and are more interested in the condition of their bellies than the spiritual condition of their flock.
One of my fears is that when we ordain men to the Gospel ministry, we pay more attention to the facts they know than to the man’s character. This is a recipe for disaster. Robert Murray M’Cheyene once stated that the greatest need of his congregation was his personal holiness. How true that is!
Waterless clouds: A cloud that is without rain may look pretty from a distance, but when up close you will quickly realize that they have no substance. They are valueless and will drift along with the winds of change. Oh, how this speaks of many American pastors today! How many ministers of the Gospel really cherish the Gospel they have been called to preach? How many would lay down their life to preserve the truth of the Gospel? How many pastors have the spiritual depth and density to truly feed their congregations? When sermons are filled with fluff, it is likely that the preacher is filled with the same. Jesus said that those who would come to him in faith would become fountains of water (John 7:38). As the Holy Spirit waters the believer in abundance, the believer’s cup runneth over with rivers of living water. To use the language of 2 Peter, these men are dry wells.
Fruitless trees: Not only do these trees bear no fruit, making them useless, but it is late in autumn and they have no sap in their veins to nourish growth and they are uprooted, never to see growth again. These men are twice dead, they are dead to sin here on earth and they are dead spiritually, an enemy of the giver of life. As Jesus said, the branches that do not bear fruit will be cut off, and they will wither and die being separated from the sap, and then, they will be thrown into the fire (John 15:1-8). Friends, our Lord has told us that we are to judge a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), these men are not only bearing no fruit, but there is no hope for them to bear fruit—they are twice dead. Be alert to those who would come in your midst in a like manner.
Wild waves: The ocean waves are loud and chaotic. Their shame and immorality is like the foam at the top of a breaker. They rage wildly in their sin without trying to hide it. They crash to the shore and they toss everything and everyone caught in their breakers around wildly. There is no safety to be found in these waters, only destruction. Remember that even in Jude’s day the sea was a place of danger and mystery, and so too are these false teachers.
Wandering stars: The language of stars is often used of angels, and in the context of verse 6, this implies that the false teachers will share the same fate as the fallen angels. They will be lost in darkness and damned forever. The believer will spend eternity with Christ, the unbeliever will spend eternity separated from Christ. Christ is true light and apart from him there is no light at all. Flames, weeping, gnashing of teeth, the worm consuming, separation from all that is good and right, and darkness—not a pretty image.
And none of this paints a pretty picture of the people who have become leaders in the church to which Jude is writing. This is a dark time for them. These men are destined for Hell in more ways than one and the church has fallen into their trap. Yet, these descriptions are sadly contemporary. Many churches, as well as whole denominations, have been seduced by men like this. We must be ever vigilant that we do not allow anyone to lead us or our congregation down such roads. We need to be keenly aware of who we ask to lead us. We need to watch to see whether these men are ones who will build up Christ’s body or only their own. We need to see whether they will bring unity or discord. We need to see whose agenda they are working toward. And most importantly, we need to see whether their life is pointing toward Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. These are not only questions that should be asked of pastors, but should be asked of all the members of Christ’s visible church. And, we absolutely must be asking them about our own lives.
The Three Woes February 22, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Short Studies, Studies in Jude.
Tags: Balaam's Error, Jude 11, Jude Commentary, Korah's Rebellion, perverting fellowship, perverting leadership, perverting worship, The Way of Cain
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The Three Woes:
“Woe to them who have traveled the way of Cain, and to them who have committed the error of Balaam, who have dedicated themselves to wages, and to those who perished in Korah’s rebellion.”
1) The way of Cain: Instead of taking the way of Christ, these false teachers are taking the way of Cain. Cain resented the purity of his brother’s sacrifice, and sought to destroy it. He perverted worship and he allowed pride to reign in his life.
2) Balaam’s Error: Instead of following the truth of Christ, Balaam sought to curse God’s anointed for his own gain and sought to mislead the Israelites into disobeying God’s law. He perverted the truth of doctrine for his own benefit. In addition, Balaam also taught Balak how to seduce the young Israelite men and bring them into sin (Revelation 2:14).
3) Korah’s rebellion: Instead of seeking to live as Christ, Korah sought to usurp rule and authority from Moses and the true priesthood. He perverted the life of the people of God, bringing disorder to the church.
These men are all apostate and brought destruction to the people who followed them. Woe to them, they are perverters of worship. Woe to them, they are perverters of the fellowship of God’s people. Woe to them, they are perverters of the leadership of Christ’s church. All of these men put their pride and personal desires ahead of the good of God’s people. Each of these men were destroyed for their sin.
Warnings from Israel’s Past: Sodom and Gomorrah (Sexual Immorality) February 21, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Short Studies, Studies in Jude.
Tags: blood of the covenant, Commentary on Jude, covenantal role of sexuality, eternal fire, Jude 7, Judgment, Justice, Lot, marital fidelity, marital infidelity, marriage covenant, Sexual Immorality, sexuality, Sodom and Gomorrah
“As Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, in like manner committing sexual sin and going after each other’s flesh, they are set before you as an example of suffering justice and eternal fire.”
Thirdly, Jude deals with the sin of sexual immorality by pointing to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This destruction is only a shadow of the destruction that will come on the ungodly in final judgment, for at that time the fire of judgment will be eternal.
Friends, we live in a culture that glorifies sexual immorality, not unlike the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Our culture has rejected the idea that sexuality is meant to be enjoyed within the confines of a marriage relationship. To understand why this is, we must understand what sexuality represents. Sexual relations between a husband and his wife represent the sealing of their marriage covenant, which is why we say that a marriage is not consummated until after sexual relations have occurred. Covenants, both in Biblical language and in the larger ancient world, were confirmed by the shedding of blood. The shedding of blood when a husband takes his wife in sexual relations and her hymen is broken is representative of the confirmation of this covenant. Afterwards, when a husband and a wife come together to the marriage bed, they are renewing the covenant which they made with each other before God.
This is why marital infidelity is so heinous in the eyes of God. For not only does it break the emotional and spiritual trust that is to be held within a family relationship, but it is a breaking of the covenant which was made by bringing someone who is not a member of the covenant into the covenant relationship. This is also why pre-marital sex is considered a sin, for it pretends to confirm a covenant that has never been made.
Throughout scripture, God uses the illustration of marriage to represent his covenant with his people. He is the faithful husband and Israel is the wife who falls repeatedly into sin. When the church worships idols, she brings an outsider into the marriage bed. To confirm the covenant with his people, God shed his own blood—the blood of Christ on the cross—thus, when God’s people fall into idolatry, they are simply playing at a covenant that does not exist.
Just as God uses the illustration of marriage to represent his relationship to the church, his faithfulness in his marriage to the church is to be modeled in the marriages of his people. Given that we live in a culture where the divorce rate amongst believers is as high as it is in the culture, it would seem that we don’t tend to take this very seriously. Friends, the faithfulness that you demonstrate within your marriage sends a message to the world about what you think of God’s faithfulness. If you want to send a message to the world that we must take our covenant with God seriously, then you must do so by demonstrating to the world how you take your covenant with your spouse seriously.
The sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah and the sexual immorality of our culture today mocks the covenant relationship that God has with his people. It makes light of the blood that was shed to confirm such a covenant. And, it downplays the idea of the covenant itself. The penalty for these two wicked cities and for all of the surrounding cities was for God to rain down fire upon them, wiping them from the face of the earth. And, this is the same judgment that faces those in our own culture that chase after sexual immorality—in the day of judgment. Our culture has exchanged the truth of God for a lie. We have adopted the idea that momentary pleasure is better than lasting pleasure and physical pleasure is better than spiritual pleasure. The pleasure that God offers in himself is eternal and infinitely satisfying. The pleasures of the flesh are fleeting and leave you unsatisfied and with a guilty conscience. Which will you chose?