Friday, April 25, 2014

                Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone) was a major issue in the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers rejected the authority of both the Roman Catholic Pope and church tradition and held that the Bible alone was the sole authority on matters of Christian faith and practice. Anything that was contrary to the teaching of the Bible must be rejected. Therefore, they rejected the worship of Mary, prayers to the saints, and indulgences. The perpetual virginity of Mary and the concept of purgatory are also Roman Catholic beliefs that are not supported by scripture. Because the Reformers believed in the supremacy of the Bible they worked hard to get it into the hands of ordinary Christians. Martin Luther translated the Bible into German it was mass produced on the newly invented printing press. Other translations into the common language of the people soon followed. This process is still going on as the Bible is being translated into many languages and the current translations are continually being updated.
                The Bible is the product of divine inspiration. 2 Peter 1:19-21 says, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (ESV) That is why it must be the sole authority for what we believe. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (ESV)
Sola Scriptura not only means that practices and teachings that are contrary to the Bible must be rejected; it also means that practices and teachings not found in the Bible are not authoritative. In the past, churches have condemned things like smoking, going to movie theatres and pool halls, playing cards and other practices that are not specifically condemned in the Bible. Deuteronomy 12:32 says, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Christians are often guilty of adding to what God says in his Word. (ESV)
Sola Scriptura also means that each Christian is equipped to understand the Bible. The Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible will guide him or her into its proper interpretation. Scriptural interpretation is not the sole prerogative of the church. Individuals may err in interpreting the Bible because we are all finite and flawed human beings and we are not always responsive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, that also applies to church officials.
Church councils, creeds, traditions, and practices are important, but they must always be subject to scripture as the supreme authority. Only the Bible is ultimately authoritative as to what we should believe and practice.
The Bible is the product of thousands of years of writing. Many human authors were involved, but only one divine author, the Holy Spirit. The present canon of scripture took some time to be established. The process of determining which books were inspired and authoritative took some time. The fact that Christians were being persecuted and books were being burned aided the process. If you are going to risk your life to protect a particular writing, then you would make sure that it is worth protecting. The apocryphal books are accepted by some Christians as having some authority, but they do contain errors and are not divinely inspired. Some books that were rejected as spurious are now being “discovered” and hailed as “lost gospels.” They were never actually lost. They were discarded as false.

Question:            How do the Bible impact your life? Do you live your life by it?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Poem 2014

I am a sinner, by birth and by practice.
I am the Judas that gave Jesus the kiss.
I am the Peter that denied him three times.
I should be on the cross to pay for my crimes.

It was for me that Jesus sweat drops of blood.
It was for me that His tears came like a flood.
It was for me Jesus was unjustly tried.
Jesus took on himself my sin and my pride.

It was for me that He was so badly treated,
And on the cross Satan Jesus defeated.
At Calvary the sinless One died for my sins.
There over sin, the victory He did win.

From the tomb on the third day Jesus did rise.
My Savior conquered sin and death and claimed His prize.
Jesus came to give the oppressed liberty.
It was people like us He came to set free.

Jesus left heaven for a manger and a cross.
For our sins our Savior willingly paid the cost.
Yet Satan and death could not hold Jesus down.
The King of kings rose from the grave to claim His crown.

Now let us celebrate all that Jesus has done.
Let us rejoice in the victory that He won.
Let all of us who claim Jesus as our King,
Join together our Savior’s praises to sing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


                Sola Fide (faith alone) was a strong rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation. When Martin Luther was studying the book of Romans he came to Romans 1:17 which says, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” That was a life changing moment for the legalistic monk. He wrote in his Bible, “sola fide.” In this verse Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4. He also quotes it in Galatians 3:11. It is also quoted in Hebrews 10:38. The fact that this verse is quoted three times in the New Testament shows its importance.
                Righteousness is by faith from first to last. Righteousness begins and ends with faith. Everything else is excluded. We are justified (declared righteous) through faith alone. Many teach that we can achieve righteousness before God by our good works, but that is definitely not what the Bible teaches. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” There is nothing that we can do that will gain favour with God.
In the third chapter of Romans the apostle Paul plainly declares that no one is righteous. All of us are sinners. He writes in verses 11 and 12, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; here is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” In verses 21 to 23 he says, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all sinners and deserve only condemnation. The only way that we can be declared righteous in God’s sight is through faith. John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
Justification by faith was a dramatic revelation for Martin Luther. It changed his whole thinking and made a huge impact upon the church. Our standing before God does not depend upon our own merit, but upon Christ’s righteousness applied by faith. Romans 4:1-5 says, “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (N.I.V.)
Martin Luther was disturbed by the sale of indulgences. People were told that they could buy their way into heaven. The Roman Catholic Church taught that salvation was by faith plus works. Faith alone was not enough. Baptism and other acts were necessary to be declared righteous before God.
There are many verses in the Bible that proclaim justification through faith. Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” Galatians 2:16 says, “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” (N.I.V.) Paul, in his epistle to Galatians even warns that anyone preaching any other gospel should be eternally condemned (Galatians 1:7-8).

Discussion Question:     How do we reconcile Paul’s emphasis that salvation is through faith alone with James’ declaration that faith without works is dead (James 1:14-26)?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Four hundred years of silence has been broken.
And now again God has finally spoken.
A prophet will come to turn hearts back to God.
Deliverance is coming; let us applaud.
Come and worship: fall on your knees.

The angel Gabriel comes to a young woman.
She will be blessed who has never known a man.
Can it be that the Son of God she carries?
Even before her betrothed Joseph she marries?
Come and worship: fall on your knees.

To Elizabeth Mary will quickly run.
For she too will be blessed with a special son.
God’s mercies toward us have only begun.
The victory will finally be won.
Come and worship: fall on your knees.

The baby in Elizabeth leaps for joy.
He knows Mary’s child is no ordinary boy.
Both Elizabeth and Mary burst into song.
For Mary’s child is the One to end all wrong.
Come and worship: fall on your knees.

Joseph the carpenter is a righteous man.
To stop Mary’s disgrace he will do what he can.
Suddenly an angel comes to him in a dream.
This Child’s not as impossible as it seems.
Come and worship: fall on your knees.

Shepherds in their fields are startled at night.
These humble people witness a glorious sight.
Angel choirs sing about a humble birth.
They say the Son of God is coming to earth.
Come and worship: fall on your knees.

 Simeon knows that he will see the Messiah.
God has promised him and He is no liar.
He sees the little child that Mary now holds.
This is the One that all the prophets foretold.
Come and worship: fall on your knees.

Wise men from far away see a special star.
To worship this Child they will travel far.
At His feet gold, frankincense and myrrh they present.
They too must worship the King that God has sent.
Come and worship: fall on your knees.

Now at this most blessed time of the year.
Let us all join in and sing carols of cheer.
Let us celebrate our Savior’s wondrous birth.
Now is the time to fill our hearts with mirth.
Come and worship: fall on your knees.


My son, David, asked me to write a series of articles about what it means to be a Baptist. Since Baptists grew out of the Protestant Reformation, I thought that it would be best to start with the issues that dominated the movement. It is common to date the start of the Protestant Reformation as October 31, 1517. This was when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. However, you might also consider the seminal moment of the Reformation as occurring on April of 1521. This was the time when Martin Luther was called before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms. Diet means formal meeting and Worms was where the meeting took place. Martin Luther was asked to recant his statements which were considered heretical. Instead he uttered these words, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”  
This was a crucial statement. The Protestant Reformation was about many issues. One of the key issues was the supremacy of scripture. The Roman Catholic Church held that scripture was not the only authority as what Christians should believe. They viewed that the church and especially the pope had authority. They also maintained that only the church could properly interpret scripture. Many modern day cults have that same attitude. While Roman Catholics have moved closer to Protestants on many issues, the supremacy of scripture is not one of them. They still hold to the authority of the pope. This is one of the main barriers to ecumenism.
There were many issues that Martin Luther and other Protestants took a stand on. One of them was allowing the laity (non-priests) to receive the cup at Mass. This is one issue where the Roman Catholics have moved. Another one was allowing priests to marry. The Roman Catholic Church has not moved much on this issue. It is interesting that Martin Luther, a former monk, married a former nun.
The main issues of the Reformation have been summarized by five solas. Sola is the Latin word for only. These are Sola Fide (faith alone), Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Gratia (grace alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (the glory of God alone).

I will deal with these five solas in later postings. Then I will comment on the Baptist distinctives. These are the beliefs that separate Baptists from other Protestants. I would like to close this blog with a question for discussion: Do you think that allowing priests to marry would lessen the abuses that have taken place?