R.C. Sproul's Blog, page 4
October 31, 2017
In 1521, Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German and brought the Word of God to the people. On this five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we are pleased to announce that the Reformation Study Bible is now available in the language of Luther. This German translation, published by 3L Verlag, was made possible by the support of generous donors and contains:
Verse-by-verse and topical explanations
Contributions from 75 distinguished theologians led by Dr. R.C. Sproul
Theological summaries and notes from Dr. Sproul
Nearly 2,000 years of historic creeds, confessions, and catechisms
Award-winning maps and visual aids
Concordance, table of weights and measures, and more
Learn more about our other international translation and publishing projects and help bring the Word of God and trusted teaching to people around the world.
Today is the final day to secure your $40 discount when you register for our 2018 National Conference on March 8-10 in Orlando. We're nearing capacity, so register today to secure your spot. Offer ends tonight 11:59pm ET or until sold out.
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26)
Over these three days in spring, we will consider the theme of “Awakening.” Our goal will be to help Christians understand the importance of awakening and the way the Lord brings it about so that we might be used by God to be the means of a new awakening today. R.C. Sproul will be joined by Rosaria Butterfield, Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey, Steven Lawson, Albert Mohler, Stephen Nichols, Burk Parsons, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Derek Thomas to discuss awakening in Scripture and history, the means of awakening, the signs of an awakened church, and several other topics.
Thousands of Christians will gather in Orlando for this event. We hope that you'll join us. Register today and save. Don't forget to use #ligcon to let us know you're coming.
Offer ends 10/31 at 11:59pm ET.
In each of the five solas of the Reformation, the accent is on the qualifier "alone." Watch this brief clip of R.C. Sproul through the years as he teaches the truth of the gospel that was rediscovered during the 16th-century Reformation.
Throughout the “solas,” the accent is on the qualifier alone. The created world is called to reflect the glory of God. The very fact that God makes a creature places that creature in debt to the Creator. And the only reason you exist and that I exist is for Him. There's nothing inherently dignified about dirt, and that's what we've been made from. The reason why you count is because God says you count. And the whole world is full of His glory. Only God can bind the conscience absolutely. The peasant armed with one verse of Scripture has more authority than a pope or a church council who does not have Scripture. This is crossed out by the Reformers. This is crossed out by the Reformers. And my inherent righteousness is crossed out. So that you have faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone. The divine prerogative for mercy and grace is "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." That's His prerogative. God does not owe saving grace to anybody.
I talked to my Arminian friends all the time about this and say, "look, let me ask you a question. Why is it you're a believer, and many members of your own family or friends that you have are not believers when you both heard the gospel?" Jesus doesn't say no man can come to him unless God helps it. He says no man can come to Him unless God, in fact, gives it to him. No one is saved just because they affirmed the doctrine of justification. What happens if you deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone? Now that's a different matter because now you're denying that you're saved by Christ and by Christ alone, and that denial may be enough to damn you. Christ alone merits salvation in front of a just and holy God. Because He's the only one who is sinless. The whole doctrine of justification by faith, the whole doctrine of salvation by grace rests on the principle that the law of God has been fulfilled by Christ. When I put my trust in Him, He computes or counts to me His righteousness. And on the basis of that imputed righteousness, God declares me just right now. So if I die right now, I go to heaven right now, because I have all the righteousness I will ever need to get there—namely the righteousness of Jesus Christ. That's good news. You reject that you're rejecting the gospel.
On October 31, 1517, an obscure Augustinian monk nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This act changed the world forever. In this special Reformation Day edition of Renewing Your Mind, R.C. Sproul and Chris Larson join Lee Webb in the studio to discuss Martin Luther and the goal of the Reformation.
Today only, we will give you R.C. Sproul's series Justified by Faith Alone on DVD and the ebook edition of The Legacy of Luther for free. Request your resources here. Offer expires 10/31/17. US & Canada only.
You can now stream all of the messages from yesterday's Reformation 500 Celebration for free on Ligonier.org, the Ligonier app, or YouTube. It is also available as a free download. R.C. Sproul was joined by Sinclair Ferguson, Stephen Nichols, Burk Parsons, and Derek Thomas to explore the Reformation in brief messages that highlighted the gospel, what it means to have peace with God, the historical setting of the Reformation, and more. Watch each message below.
What's the Big Deal about the Reformation? by Stephen Nichols
Living the Reformation Today by Burk Parsons
The Importance of Luther by Derek Thomas
Peace With God by Sinclair Ferguson
What Is the Gospel by R.C. Sproul
Questions & Answers with Sinclair Ferguson, Burk Parsons, R.C. Sproul, Stephen Nichols, and Derek Thomas
We encourage you to share this event with your family and friends.
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At the very heart of the controversy in the sixteenth century was the question of the ground by which God declares anyone righteous in His sight. The psalmist asked, "If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" (Ps. 130:3). In other words, if we have to stand before God and face His perfect justice and perfect judgment of our performance, none of us would be able to pass review. We all would fall, because as Paul reiterates, all of us have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). So, the pressing question of justification is how can an unjust person ever be justified in the presence of a righteous and holy God?
The Roman Catholic view is known as analytical justification. This means that God will declare a person just only when, under His perfect analysis, He finds that he is just, that righteousness is inherent in him. The person cannot have that righteousness without faith, without grace, and without the assistance of Christ. Nevertheless, in the final analysis, true righteousness must be present in the soul of a person before God will ever declare him just.
Whereas the Roman view is analytical, the Reformation view is that justification is synthetic. A synthetic statement is one in which something new is added in the predicate that is not contained in the subject. If I said to you, "The bachelor was a poor man," I have told you something new in the second part of the sentence that was not already contained in the word bachelor. All bachelors are men by definition, but not all bachelors are poor men. There are many wealthy bachelors. Poverty and wealth are concepts that are not inherent in the idea of bachelorhood. So, when we say, "The bachelor was a poor man," there is a synthesis, as it were.
When we say that the Reformation view of justification is synthetic, we mean that when God declares a person to be just in His sight, it is not because of what He finds in that person under His analysis. Rather, it is on the basis of something that is added to the person. That something that is added, of course, is the righteousness of Christ. This is why Luther said that the righteousness by which we are justified is extra nos, meaning "apart from us" or "outside of us." He also called it an "alien righteousness," not a righteousness that properly belongs to us, but a righteousness that is foreign to us, alien to us. It comes from outside the sphere of our own behavior. With both of these terms, Luther was speaking about the righteousness of Christ.
If any word was at the center of the firestorm of the Reformation controversy and remains central to the debate even in our day, it is imputation. Numerous meetings were held between Protestants and Roman Catholics to try to repair the schism that was taking place in the sixteenth century. Theologians from Rome met with the magisterial Reformers, trying to resolve the difficulties and preserve the unity of the church. There was a longing for such unity on both sides. But the one concept that was always a sticking point, the idea that was so precious to the Protestants and such a stumbling block for the Roman Catholics, was imputation. We cannot really understand what the Reformation was about without understanding the central importance of this concept.
When Paul explains the doctrine of justification, he cites the example of the patriarch Abraham. He writes: “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness’” (Rom. 4:3, citing Gen. 15:6). In other words, Abraham had faith, and therefore God justified him. Abraham was still a sinner. The rest of the history of the life of Abraham reveals that he did not always obey God. Nevertheless, God counted him righteous because he believed in the promise God had made to him. This is an example of imputation, which involves transferring something legally to someone’s account, to reckon something to be there. So, Paul speaks of God counting Abraham as righteous or reckoning him as righteous, even though, in and of himself, Abraham was not yet righteous. He did not have righteousness inhering in him.
As I noted above, the Roman Catholic idea is that grace is infused into the soul of a person at baptism, making the person inherently righteous, so that God therefore judges him to be righteous. But the Reformers insisted that we are justified when God imputes someone else’s righteousness to our account, namely, the righteousness of Christ.
If any statement summarizes and captures the essence of the Reformation view, it is Luther’s famous Latin formula simul justus et peccator. Simul is the word from which we get the English simultaneous ; it means “at the same time.” Justus is the Latin word for “just” or “righteous.” Et simply means “and.” Peccator means “sinner.” So, with this formula— “at the same time just and sinner”—Luther was saying that in our justification, we are at the same time righteous and sinful. Now, if he had said we are just and sinful at the same time and in the same relationship, that would have been a contradiction in terms. But that is not what he was saying. He was saying that, in one sense, we are just. In another sense, we are sinners. In and of ourselves, under God’s scrutiny, we still have sin. But by God’s imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ to our accounts, we are considered just.
This is the very heart of the gospel. In order to get into heaven, will I be judged by my righteousness or by the righteousness of Christ? If I have to trust in my righteousness to get into heaven, I must completely and utterly despair of any possibility of ever being redeemed. But when we see that the righteousness that is ours by faith is the perfect righteousness of Christ, we see how glorious is the good news of the gospel. The good news is simply this: I can be reconciled to God. I can be justified, not on the basis of what I do, but on the basis of what has been accomplished for me by Christ.
Of course, Protestantism really teaches a double imputation. Our sin is imputed to Jesus and His righteousness is imputed to us. In this twofold transaction, we see that God does not compromise His integrity in providing salvation for His people. Rather, He punishes sin fully after it has been imputed to Jesus. This is why He is able to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus,” as Paul writes in Romans 3:26. So, my sin goes to Jesus and His righteousness comes to me. This is a truth worth dividing the church. This is the article on which the church stands or falls, because it is the article on which we all stand or fall.
It is strange to me that Rome reacted so negatively to the idea of imputation, because in its own doctrine of the atonement, it holds that our sins are imputed to Jesus on the cross, which is why His atoning death has value for us. The principle of imputation is there. Furthermore, Rome teaches that a sinner can receive indulgences through the transfer of merit from the treasury of merit, but this transfer cannot be accomplished except by imputation.
The Roman Catholic Church declared that the Reformation view of justification involves God in a “legal fiction” that undermines His integrity. Rome was asking how God, in His perfect righteousness and holiness, can declare a sinner to be just if he is not, in fact, just. That seems to involve God in a fictional declaration. The Protestant response was that God declares people just because He imputes the real righteousness of Christ to them. There is nothing fictional about Christ’s righteousness, and there is nothing fictional about God’s gracious imputation of that righteousness.
This excerpt is taken from Are We Together? by R.C. Sproul.
October 30, 2017
In 1517, a German monk named Martin Luther started a protest that exploded into a worldwide movement. 500 years later, a lot of people are asking what the Protestant Reformation was all about. This new short video narrated by R.C. Sproul is a tool to help you give an answer. Share it with your family and friends. Also available in German, Spanish, Portuguese, and more languages coming soon.
Learn more at Ligonier.org/reformation.
500 years ago, a German monk named Martin Luther started a protest that exploded into worldwide movement. At that time, Europe lived in the shadow of the Roman Catholic Church. It was more like an empire than a church. It crowned and cast down kings, and used its dominance to keep people in the darkness of superstition. That sounds pretty unfamiliar.
But in some ways, Luther’s day was very much like our own. Just like today, everyone had an opinion about the Bible even though almost no one had actually read it. Like so many of us, they were trusting the thought-leaders and taste-makers of their day to tell them what was in the Bible and whether or not to believe it. Luther was one of the very few people actually reading the Bible, and what he found was earth-shattering. Even though he was a monk, Luther hated the God of the Bible. But when he studied it, the world around him began to make sense. God made sense. The significance of Jesus became clear to him. He discovered the answer to his deepest question: how could evil be overcome? Specifically, how could his own evil—his own sin—be dealt with?
Luther discovered that he couldn’t do anything to fix this problem himself. He had to rely on the finished work of Christ alone. Luther had discovered a central truth. It changed his life. It changed the world. The Protestant Reformation was about two things. It was about who can say what’s true and it was about how to reconcile who we are with who God is. It recognized that God’s Word is the ultimate authority in this world, and that the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ are the only answer for evil and the only basis on which sinners can stand before a holy God. The Protestant Reformation is a story of transformation—a transformation from hate to love, from slavery to freedom, and from blind faith to a glorious discovery of the truth in Jesus Christ.
Ligonier Ministries exists to cultivate this transformation in a new generation. In a day when few are reading the Bible, and when confusion reigns in the church, we want to help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it, and how to share it. Join us.
October 29, 2017
Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII's personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: "The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ ." Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine's statement.
How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords?
Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine's sentence. What he wrote was: "The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance."
A moment's reflection explains why. If justification is not by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone — if faith needs to be completed by works; if Christ's work is somehow repeated; if grace is not free and sovereign, then something always needs to be done, to be "added" for final justification to be ours. That is exactly the problem. If final justification is dependent on something we have to complete it is not possible to enjoy assurance of salvation. For then, theologically, final justification is contingent and uncertain, and it is impossible for anyone (apart from special revelation, Rome conceded) to be sure of salvation. But if Christ has done everything, if justification is by grace, without contributory works; it is received by faith's empty hands — then assurance, even "full assurance" is possible for every believer.
No wonder Bellarmine thought full, free, unfettered grace was dangerous! No wonder the Reformers loved the letter to the Hebrews!
This is why, as the author of Hebrews pauses for breath at the climax of his exposition of Christ's work (Heb. 10:18), he continues his argument with a Paul-like "therefore" (Heb. 10:19). He then urges us to "draw near … in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:22). We do not need to re-read the whole letter to see the logical power of his "therefore." Christ is our High Priest; our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience just as our bodies have been washed with pure water (v.22).
Christ has once-for-all become the sacrifice for our sins, and has been raised and vindicated in the power of an indestructible life as our representative priest. By faith in Him, we are as righteous before the throne of God as He is righteous. For we are justified in His righteousness, His justification alone is ours! And we can no more lose this justification than He can fall from heaven. Thus our justification does not need to be completed any more than does Christ's!
With this in view, the author says, "by one offering He has perfected for all time those who come to God by him" (Heb. 10:14). The reason we can stand before God in full assurance is because we now experience our "hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and … bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22).
"Ah," retorted Cardinal Bellarmine's Rome, "teach this and those who believe it will live in license and antinomianism." But listen instead to the logic of Hebrews. Enjoying this assurance leads to four things: First, an unwavering faithfulness to our confession of faith in Jesus Christ alone as our hope (v.23); second, a careful consideration of how we can encourage each other to "love and good works" (v.24); third, an ongoing communion with other Christians in worship and every aspect of our fellowship (v.25a); fourth, a life in which we exhort one another to keep looking to Christ and to be faithful to him, as the time of his return draws ever nearer (25b).
It is the good tree that produces good fruit, not the other way round. We are not saved by works; we are saved for works. In fact we are God's workmanship at work (Eph. 2:9–10)! Thus, rather than lead to a life of moral and spiritual indifference, the once-for-all work of Jesus Christ and the full-assurance faith it produces, provides believers with the most powerful impetus to live for God's glory and pleasure. Furthermore, this full assurance is rooted in the fact that God Himself has done all this for us. He has revealed His heart to us in Christ. The Father does not require the death of Christ to persuade Him to love us. Christ died because the Father loves us (John 3:16). He does not lurk behind His Son with sinister intent wishing He could do us ill — were it not for the sacrifice his Son had made! No, a thousand times no! — the Father Himself loves us in the love of the Son and the love of the Spirit.
Those who enjoy such assurance do not go to the saints or to Mary. Those who look only to Jesus need look nowhere else. In Him we enjoy full assurance of salvation. The greatest of all heresies? If heresy, let me enjoy this most blessed of "heresies"! For it is God's own truth and grace!
This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.
Here are highlights from our various social media accounts over the past week.
— Renewing Your Mind (@RYMRadio) October 23, 2017
— Reformation Bible (@RefStudyBible) October 23, 2017
— Reformation Bible (@RefStudyBible) October 24, 2017
— Ligonier Ministries (@Ligonier) October 25, 2017
— Ligonier Ministries (@Ligonier) October 26, 2017
— Ligonier Ministries (@Ligonier) October 27, 2017
— Ligonier Ministries (@Ligonier) October 28, 2017
October 28, 2017
The actual date of Martin Luther's conversion is disputed. Some place it before the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses; some put it before the Heidelberg Disputation. It is highly likely, however, that Luther’s conversion came in 1519. In reading the whole of the Ninety-Five Theses, it is clear that Luther still held on to a number of formative Roman Catholic doctrines. At that point, he was not in favor of jettisoning the whole of it; he sought instead to correct and purify it from the corruptions that he saw as creeping in during the 1200s through the early 1500s. The corruption culminated in the indulgence sale of Tetzel and Albert and the relic exhibit at Wittenberg. There is also Luther’s own testimony that his “breakthrough” came while he was lecturing through the Psalms a second time. Those lectures were given in the early months of 1519. Many years later, in 1545, Luther reflected on his conversion, and offered up an extraordinary account of this event, one that hinges on understanding the difference between the active and the passive. So, Luther tells us:
Meanwhile, I had already during that year returned to interpret the Psalter anew. I had confidence in the fact that I was more skilful, after I had lectured in the university on St. Paul’s epistles to the Romans, to the Galatians, and the one to the Hebrews. I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was not the cold blood about the heart, but a single word in Chapter 1, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed” that had stood in my way. For I hated that word “righteousness of God,” which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they call it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience.
Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me.
Thereupon I ran through the Scripture from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word “righteousness of God.” Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise.
This excerpt is adapted from Stephen Nichols' contribution to The Legacy of Luther.