10/22/2017 = Romans 3:21-26 = Always Being Reformed: “Reformation Resolve”

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Mark Wheeler

Romans 3:21-26

Always Being Reformed: “Reformation Resolve”

10/22/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day tossed here and there by so many troubles, and almost all things in the world are in confusion, so that wherever we turn our eyes nothing but thick darkness meets us, O grant that we may learn to surmount all obstacles and to raise our eyes of faith above the world, so that we may acknowledge that governed by [Your] wonderful counsel is everything that seems to us to happen by chance, in order that we may seek [You] and know that help will be ready for us through [Your] mercy whenever we humbly seek the pardon of our sins, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. (John Calvin, prayer for faith from his Commentary on Lamentations 3:39)

 

A young pastor was sitting in a restaurant eating lunch. He opened a letter he’d just received that morning from his mom. As he opened it a twenty-dollar bill fell out. He thought to himself, Thanks, Mom, I sure needed that right now.

As he finished his meal, he noticed a beggar outside on the sidewalk leaning against the light post. Thinking that the poor man could probably use the twenty dollars more than he, he crossed out the names on the envelope and wrote across the top in large letters, PERSEVERE!

So as not to make a scene, he put the envelope under his arm and dropped it as he walked past the man. The man picked it up and read the message and smiled.

The next day, as the pastor enjoyed his meal, the same man tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a big wad of bills.

Surprised, the young pastor asked him what that was for.

The man replied, “This is your half of the winnings. Persevere came in first in the fourth race at the track yesterday and paid thirty to one.”

 

Today, as we come near the conclusion of our sermon series themes that drove the Reformation Movement, we’re going to talk about the required faithful perseverance of the saints, the spiritual drive to live in a manner that glorifies God rightly, the need to continue Reformation Practices.

 

This Fall marks the 500th anniversary of what kindled the already ignited Protestant Reformation.  This movement was the hope of the Church. There had been 300 years of flickers of Reformation already in place, and when Martin Luther’s October 31, 1517, 95 theological debate topics finally got their posting, the Reformation fire got to roaring.

 

This event created an intense chaos within the Church, and it corrected some insanely wrong doctrines, practices, and power-plays (of Luther’s 95 Theses, which will continue for a few more weeks on the Sermon Notes page, they seem to center around the purchasing of indulgences to gain the Church’s pardon for our sins and the pope’s stated authority over the Word of God).

 

So, on the quincentennial of this flame fanning affair, we need to be reminded that the struggle against our own self-centered sinful desires must be sustained. This is what I’m calling Reformation Resolve!

This is an accepted truth from the days of Martin Luther and John Calvin. In fact, the phrase that has been noted as the Reformation Motto: “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda” = “the Church Reformed, and always being Reformedwasn’t actually stated for another 150 years (Jodocus van Lodenstein, a Reformed Pastor in the European Low Lands, what we now call The Netherlands, wrote this phrase in a devotional in 1674).

But we should never forget that the whole phrase includes the line, “secundum verbi Dei”. That is, “the Church Reformed, and always being Reformed, according to the Word of God”!

 

Before we go too far with that historical footing of our faith, let’s make sure we follow that rule about the Word of God. I invite you to turn to Romans 3:21-26, and hear from that Word of God. Paul’s letter from Corinth to the Christians in Rome, chapter 3, verses 21-26 …. —-

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

 

This well-known 6-verse passage from this Reformation-inducing epistle holds within its words the five Sola-statements we have seen over the last several weeks, and the five marks of grace which John Calvin outlined.

Listen again, and I’ll highlight those ten overlapping doctrinal truths:

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known (Soli Deo Gloria), to which the Law and the Prophets testify (Sola Scriptura). 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ (Sola Fide) to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace (Sola Gratia) through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Solus Christus). 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Limited Atonement). There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Total Depravity), 24 and all are justified freely (Unmerited Favor) by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Irresistible  Grace and Perseverance of the Saints).

 

But, because all of those doctrines are real and true, including our inherent proneness to sin, Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and Knox obeyed God’s call to Reform the Church (Ecclesia Reformata), and to declare that we need to always and continuously Be Reformed (Semper Reformanda), and only as according to the Word of God (Secundum Verbi Dei).

 

Notice three things about that saying.

First, it begins by addressing the Church that is Reformed. Given van Lodenstein’s context in the Netherlands, we are right to capitalize Reformed. The saying was not generally about churches of the Reformation (though it has application for those churches too). Rather, van Lodenstein was addressing the Dutch church that had identified as confessionally Reformed. In other words, far from encouraging doctrinal innovation, the original phrase presumes doctrinal stability. Whatever semper reformanda means, it cannot mean figure out your theological standards on the fly.

Second, the Latin verb reformanda is passive, which means the church is notalways reforming” (as many of us have incorrectly learned this phrase) but is “always being reformed.” The difference is consequential. The former sounds like change for the sake of change, while the latter suggests adhering to the proper standard. The difference between those two interpretations also divides over who does the reforming. Are we in charge of our own Reformation? Or is there an outside force who directs these changes? The passive construction suggests that there is an external agent operating upon the church to bring about the necessary reform. Who is that agent? Is it the culture and societal changes around us? Or is it Someone else?

Which leads to the third and most important point: the church is always being reformed according to the Word of God. May we never forget this as our identity.

 

Yesterday, a handful of us gathered with folks from a dozen other churches, talk about how we might faithfully adapt in the midst of rapid change. The question is one of how we communicate the Gospel, how we love our neighbors, how we follow Jesus and proclaim His Good News in a world where everything is changing around us, from the languages people speak to the ethics by which people decide to live. And, by the way, we need YOUR input. If you’d like to answer a four question “survey” to begin uncovering what new adventures God might have in store for our congregation. If you would like to participate in this process, please let me or Jacob know and we’ll arrange a way for that to happen.

How do we adapt in the midst of these changes? Some things must hold to their solid foundational truths, or we fail to be the Church; other things can change every day, to meet the needs of the listening world in ways to offer them God’s irresistible grace.

 

I began this sermon with a story about perseverance as a way to open the topic of our faith persevering with continual reformation, according to the Word of God, and now I will close after watching you persevere through this sermon.

But I want to offer a little feedback time – so if you have comments you’d like to add, insights to share, or questions you might want to ask, now’s your chance.

And, if they’re a little more private or personal, I’ll be downstairs during the Fellowship Time where we can talk even more. And for anyone who is able, we have a class on the Reformation, lunch provided, today at noon – that’s another place to go deeper….

Any thoughts, questions, criticisms, concerns?

 

Grant, O God, that we may learn to surmount all obstacles and to raise our eyes of faith above the world, so that we may acknowledge that governed by [Your] wonderful counsel is everything that seems to us to happen by chance, in order that we may seek [You] and know that help will be ready for us through [Your] mercy whenever we humbly seek the pardon of our sins, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Resources:

DeYoung, Kevin; “Semper-Reformanda”; The Gospel Coalition; October 27, 2016.

Godfrey, W. Robert; “Continuing the Reformation”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 33-24.

Nichols, Stephen J.; “The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, October 31, 1517”; TableTalk; October 2017; P. 71.

Parsons, Burk; “The Courage to Be Reformed”; TableTalk; May 2017; Pp. 26-28.

 

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2 thoughts on “10/22/2017 = Romans 3:21-26 = Always Being Reformed: “Reformation Resolve”

  1. thnks for the audio. Sun after church I will be downstairs for coffee. Have questions and concerns to talk about. if your not busy .

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