The Question on Which the Reformation Focused

The Reformation focused on the question, How is a person justified?  Clearly justification involves a legal judgment by God, a declaration by him that we are just.  Then the burning question becomes this: On what basis or grounds does God ever declare anyone just?  Must we first become just inherently before God will make such a declaration?  Or does he declare us just before we are in ourselves actually just?  John Calvin answered the question this way:

A man is said to be justified in the sight of God when in the judgment of God he is deemed righteous, and is accepted on account of his righteousness; for as iniquity is abominable to God, so neither can the sinner find grace in his sight, so far as he is and so long as he is regarded as a sinner.  Hence, wherever sin is, there also are the wrath and vengeance of God.  He, on the other hand, is justified who is regarded not as a sinner, but as righteous, and as such stands acquitted at the judgment seat of God, where all sinners are condemned…Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favour as we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.

– John Calvin

as quoted by Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 60-61

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Please Keep to a Safe Distance

People have an appreciation for moral excellence, as long as it is removed a safe distance from them.  The Jews honored the prophets from a distance.  This world honors Christ, from a distance.

Peter wanted to be with Jesus, until he got too close.  Then Peter cried, “Please leave.”

– R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Ill., Copyright 1985, Kindle Edition

The Basis of Semper Reformanda is Sola Scriptura

The Reformed doctrine of sola Scriptura, then, affirms that the Bible is the sole written authority for the faith and life of God’s people.  We respect and submit to lesser ecclesiastical authority, but we are not bound by it absolutely as we are by biblical authority.  This is the basis for the Reformation principle of semper reformanda, which indicates that reformation of the church is an ongoing process.  We are always called to seek more and more to bring our faith and practice into conformity to the Word of God.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 54

A Most Prenicious Error Generally Prevailed

A most pernicious error has very generally prevailed – viz. that Scripture is of importance only in so far as conceded to it by the suffrage of the Church; as if the eternal and inviolable truth of God could depend on the will of men.  With great insult to the Holy Spirit, it is asked, Who can assure us that the Scriptures proceeded from God.

Nothing therefore, can be more absurd than the fiction, that the power judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends.  When the Church receives it, and gives it the stamp of her authority, she does not make that authentic which was otherwise doubtful or controverted, but, acknowledging it as the truth of God, she, as in duty bound, shows her reverence by an unhesitating assent.

– John Calvin

as quoted by Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 53

Scoffing at Inerrancy Misses the Point

For this reason [that the original manuscripts are unavailable] many scoff at the doctrine of inerrancy, saying it is a moot point since it cannot be verified or falsified without access to the original manuscripts.  This criticism misses the point altogether. We carry no brief for the inspiration of copyists or translators.  The original revelation is the chief concern of the doctrine of inerrancy.  Though we do not possess the autographs themselves, we can reconstruct them with remarkable accuracy.  The science of textual criticism demonstrates that the existing text is remarkably pure and exceedingly reliable.

– Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 50