Calvinism/Arminianism, Mailbag

The Mailbag: What is Reformation Day?

Today is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. I hope you’ll enjoy this annual stroll through church history.

mailbag

Originally published at
Satisfaction Through Christ
on October 10, 2014.

reformation day

The Protestant Reformation. Outside of biblically recorded events and the closing of the canon of Scripture, it is arguably the most important event in church history, and one of the most important events in world history as well, yet many Christians today are unaware of this landmark incident in their heritage which birthed the Protestant church.

The year was 1517. A monk named Martin Luther gripped his hammer and nailed a list of biblical grievances against the Roman Catholic Church to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, much like we might post a notice to a community bulletin board today. These 95 Theses protested the Catholic Church’s unbiblical policy of selling indulgences,  part of an effort to raise funds for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Catholic Church had created the idea of the Treasury of Merit, sort of a “bank account” of merit deposited by Christ, Mary, the saints, and others as a result of their good works. When church members sinned, they could purchase an indulgence, which was akin to asking the Church to “transfer funds” from the Treasury of Merit to the sinner’s account. The indulgence basically excused the sinner from a certain amount of time in purgatory and/or temporal punishment for that sin.

In addition to protesting the sale of indulgences, Luther’s 95 Theses called the Catholic Church to conform to Scripture by abandoning its unbiblical practices and teachings regarding the doctrines of salvation, religious authority, the nature of the church, and the essence of Christian living.

95Thesen

Luther’s calls for reform spread quickly throughout Europe, inspiring the likes of church fathers Ulrich Zwingli (Zurich), John Calvin (Geneva), and John Knox (Scotland) to join the effort in their own locales. As they worked to address the issues raised in Luther’s document, these men codified what we know today as the “Five Solas of the Reformation,” the basis of Protestant church doctrine. The five solas are:

1. Sola ScripturaScripture alone is the basis for all church doctrine, belief, and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

2. Sola Gratia– Salvation is by grace alone. It is an unmerited gift of God based solely on His goodness, not our own (because we don’t have any). (Ephesians 2:8-9)

3. Sola Fide– Salvation is through faith alone. Faith is a gift bestowed by God. We are saved only by placing that faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, not by doing good works or by any other attempts to earn salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

4. Solus Christus– Salvation is found in Christ alone. As Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

5. Soli Deo Gloria– God saves man for God’s glory alone, and Believers are to live our lives to glorify Him alone. (Romans 11:36)

One of Luther’s most cherished ideals, from which we still benefit today, was that common people should have access to both the Scriptures and worship services in their own language. Prior to the Reformation, the Bible was only available in Latin. Likewise, all masses and other church services were conducted in Latin. Luther translated the Bible into German, and was later followed by William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, David Brainerd, and others who translated the Bible into various languages.

On Reformation Day, we commemorate the work, zeal, and sacrifices of Luther and the other reformers. Reformation Day is observed on October 31.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Help! There’s a pushy lady at my church!

 

There is a lady in my church who has become very involved in a certain form of parachurch Christian ministry. She is extremely gung ho about it and pressures church members to participate. She has also organized a conference, bringing in speakers from the national level of the ministry. The elders/pastors approved it, but there is some disagreement about bringing in outside speakers, charging attenders so much for tickets, and the fact that it is mainly drawing people from outside our church who are already involved in this ministry, not necessarily discipling our own church members, yet our church members bear the work of the conferences.

We, her friends, have watched her continue to insistently push this ministry agenda. She freely admits to being pushy and asks us to keep her accountable, but she continues to push and becomes frustrated when challenged. I have met with her one on one and discussed this, and she now avoids me. I guess my question is, is it right/OK for me to now keep my distance from her? Is it OK for a woman to push a ministry agenda in the church?

Every once in a while a situation arises at church that leaves you feeling like, “Church is great…except for the people.” I’ve felt that way many times over the years, and I’m certain many people have felt that way about me. Personality conflicts at church can be difficult to deal with, but they’re a great “homework assignment” from God that – if we approach them biblically – can help grow us and the other person in Christlikeness. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects of this reader’s situation.

Doctrinal clarity on the ministry:
I think the first question on the minds of many of those reading this article is going to be, “What kind of parachurch ministry is this?”. Because, if it’s a ministry that centers around false doctrine or is led by false teachers, that’s your answer right there.

I edited out references to the particular ministry the woman is involved in a) to protect my reader’s anonymity and b) because the reader assures me the issue isn’t the ministry itself, it’s the agenda pushing. I’m very familiar with this specific parachurch ministry. It’s doctrinally sound. The situation would be similar to someone getting very involved in pro-life ministry, for example.

Doctrinal clarity on the behavior:
From what the reader has described in her e-mails, the woman’s behavior, while annoying and possibly concerning, does not sound like it has reached the level of actual sin. The parachurch ministry is doctrinally sound, and she thinks it would be beneficial to her church. She has received approval from church leadership. It doesn’t sound like she’s being deceptive in any way or doing anything the Bible clearly prohibits; she’s just very excited about this ministry and wants others to be as excited and on board as she is. That’s not sin, it’s just off-putting to others who aren’t interested. We need to be clear on the biblical fact that just because somebody does something that aggravates us doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sin. And if it’s not sin, it shouldn’t be treated as though it were. (I’m not saying the reader is doing that, just a general concept all of us should be mindful of.)

Church leadership:
If this woman is bringing in conferences, speakers, and other events that utilize the church facility, she’s not doing it without the approval of the pastor and/or someone in leadership. What that means is, as much as other church members may not like it, the buck stops with the pastor/elders, and they have given their approval to the activities thus far. If they are having a problem with this woman being pushy with them, it is their responsibility as pastors and elders to sit down with her and put a stop to that. If the pastor/elders are aware of, and have a problem with ticket prices, church members doing all the work, and the other problems you mentioned, it is their job to address that. I understand your concerns, dear reader, and having dealt with people like this before, I certainly empathize, but if you insert yourself between this woman and the elders – regarding her pushiness with them or issues it’s their responsibility to address – you run the risk of becoming pushy yourself and stepping in where you don’t belong.

If you think the pastor and elders are unaware of pertinent information regarding this situation, talk to your husband about it, and pray together for wisdom as to if and how you, he, or both of you should approach them with the information, remembering that, as a godly wife, you need to respect and defer to your husband’s decision. If the pastor and elders receive the information and continue to approve the parachurch ministry conferences and activities, then your disagreement is with the pastor and elders, not the woman pushing the agenda.

Body parts:
You’ve asked if it’s OK for a woman to push a ministry agenda in the church. No, it’s not. It’s not OK for men to do so either. First Corinthians 12 compares church members to the various parts of the body. While “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,'” neither can the hand say to the eye, ear, nose, foot, mouth, etc., “You have to be a hand, just like me.”

It is absolutely fine to be excited about a ministry or a project at church and to invite and encourage people to participate in it, but crossing the line from inviting and encouraging to pressuring and badgering is not appropriate, biblical, or loving. It puts your brothers and sisters in the awkward position of either having to knuckle under and do something they don’t really want to do in order not to hurt your feelings, or having to say no and run the risk of hurting your feelings. It ends up making the decision to serve in a particular ministry all about you, the pushy person, rather than about whether or not God wants that person in that ministry at this time. And not only should we not be basing our decisions about whether or not to serve on pleasing man rather than on pleasing God, it is unloving and unkind to back a brother or sister into a corner, forcing them into a no-win situation. If you love your brothers and sisters in Christ, you’ll want them to serve because they’re convinced God wants them to serve, not because you want them to serve.

Woman to woman:
As far as your personal relationship with this woman goes, it sounds like you have tried to reach out to her and help her, which is commendable. We all have weaknesses, and it sounds like this lady’s weakness might be lack of self-awareness and social skills. Sometimes, no matter how gently and lovingly we approach someone about a personal issue, she will get defensive or avoidant. Maybe she just needs some time to settle down. People rarely stay at fever pitch about something forever.

Is it OK for you to keep your distance from her? Well, I don’t think you need to proactively pursue spending time with her, but I also don’t think you should avoid any of your normal church activities that would bring you into contact with her. And, of course, you should be kind and loving to her when you see her in passing. If she continues to press you about the ministry whenever she sees you, there’s nothing wrong with politely changing the subject or excusing yourself. And if she wants to know what’s going on, just kindly and lovingly be honest with her. For example: “Jane, I’m so glad you’ve found a ministry you’re excited about and enjoy, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Maybe we could talk about other things when we get together?”

Sanctification:
As I said in the beginning of this article, personality conflicts in the church aren’t easy to deal with, but if we submit to God and His Word in the situation, they can be very sanctifying.

When I have to deal with a Christian I find difficult it helps me to remember a few things. First, this is a sister in Christ, made in the image of God. God knit her together in her mother’s womb, breathed the breath of life into her, and bled and died on a cross for her sins just like He did for me. We are all sinners, and we all have various personality issues that sometimes rub others the wrong way. Second, for every one person I run into that bugs me, there are probably a dozen who are bugged by me. I’m not any better than the person I’m dealing with just because I don’t bug people the same way she does. I also try to keep in mind that Jesus had to deal with a lot of difficult people during His earthly ministry. And, while I frequently fail, I do my best to follow His example of how to treat people.

The people we’re in membership with at our local church are our family. Every family has a crazy grandma or a know it all uncle or a cousin who constantly drops the ball. But we don’t just give up on family because they annoy us. Pray – daily and fervently – for those crazy, annoying, frustrating, challenging brothers and sisters at your church. Pray that God will help you love them the way they need to be loved. Consider setting aside some time to just sit and listen to them pour out their hearts. Many people act out simply because they feel invisible, lonely, and unheard. Be patient with them. Be kind. Do something unexpectedly generous and loving for them. Exercise forbearance. Find a way to help. Scripture after Scripture shows us it’s God’s will for us to love the unlovely, just like we want others to love us when we’re unlovely. This is one of the reasons why we’re in the church.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Church

12 Songs for Reformation Day

Reformation Day, October 31, is the annual observance of the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Celebrate the day with these songs showcasing each of the Five Solas of the Reformation, or use them as a guide for your Reformation Sunday worship set. Soli Deo Gloria!

Sola Scriptura

Scripture alone – not church traditions, the teachings of man, or extra-biblical revelation – is what we base our beliefs and worship practices on.

O Word of God, Incarnate

The B-I-B-L-E

 

Solus Christus

There is salvation in no other name but that of Christ alone.

In Christ Alone

The Church’s One Foundation

 

Sola Gratia

We are saved by God’s grace alone, not by any merit or righteousness of our own.

Grace Alone

Grace Greater Than Our Sin

 

Sola Fide

We are not saved by good works, by by faith alone.

On Faith Alone I Stand

Let Us Plead for Faith Alone – Sola Fide

 

Soli Deo Gloria

To God alone be the glory for our salvation!

Soli Deo Gloria

Glorious is Thy Name

 

🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

Reformation Hymn

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

 

What’s your favorite Reformation Day song?


I have not exhaustively vetted these musicians and songwriters. please make sure to examine against scripture any of them you choose to follow and make sure they are doctrinally sound.
Mailbag

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: Give Me Church Ladies, or I Die?

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation coming up next Tuesday, an homage to my favorite Reformer:

Originally published May 2, 2016

mailbag

 

What does the tag line at the top of your blog, “Give me church ladies, or I die” mean?

JohnKnox150
Photo courtesy of ReformationHistory.org

The tag line on my blog, “Give me church ladies, or I die” is sort of an homage to John Knox, the key figure in the Scottish Reformation, who famously prayed, “Give me Scotland, or I die.” Knox had a passion for his people to know Christ, read the Bible for themselves, and for false doctrine to be eradicated from the church.

I admire John Knox, and share those same desires for my people (“church ladies”- Christian women and women who, unfortunately, have been deceived into thinking they’re Christians):

  • I have a passion for women to know and grow in Christ.
  • I want Christian women to break free of the “women’s ‘Bible’ study system” which keeps them enslaved to false teachers who spoon feed them false doctrine, and study the Bible for themselves.
  • I, too, want to see false doctrine eradicated from our churches and for sound doctrine to prevail.

Additionally, I am also Reformed, and my ancestry is Scottish, so I thought it was a fitting tag line for my blog.

John Knox was a fascinating man. Read more about him with these great resources:

Give Me Scotland or I Die by Burk Parsons

John Knox: Scottish Reformer at Christian Classics Ethereal Library

John Knox: Reformation Becomes a Reality at Reformation History

The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond and Steven J. Lawson


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mark Bible Study

Mark: Lesson 24

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

Mark 16

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.]

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. Jesus was crucified and buried on a Friday afternoon. What day did the women go to the tomb to anoint His body? (2) Why did they wait until Sunday instead of going on Friday evening or Saturday? (1) How does verse 1 say the women obtained the spices? Would they have been able to purchase them or do the work of anointing Jesus’ body on the Sabbath? What was the purpose of anointing a dead body with spices?

2. Read verses 1-5, focusing on the women’s actions and conversation. Do their words and behavior indicate that they expected Jesus to be dead or alive? Why would they not have expected His resurrection since He prophesied it multiple times?

3. Why was there a stone sealing the entrance to Jesus’ tomb? (3-4) Compare what Pilate and the chief priests believed about Jesus’ resurrection, and their subsequent actions, with what the women believed about Jesus’ resurrection, and their subsequent actions. How did the unbelief of the two groups differ?

4. Even though Jesus had prophesied his resurrection many times, the women didn’t have much of a frame of reference for someone rising from the dead. How does God sending the angel to explain things to them (5-7) instead of scolding them for their failure to grasp the situation demonstrate His mercy and understanding of their human frailty? What was their emotional reaction (8) to all these events? In light of the recent events of the crucifixion, and the actions of people such as Pilate and the Jewish leaders, explain why the women might have reacted (8) the way they did.

5. Imagine the book of Mark ends with verse 8. Who and what is the focus of the last chapter of Mark’s gospel? Why is Jesus’ resurrection crucial to the Christian faith, and to you personally as a Christian?

6. What does the notation between verses 8 and 9 mean? Read the following note on verses 9-20 from the MacArthur Study Bible¹

What evidence does Dr. MacArthur cite that Mark may not have written verses 9-20 and that it may have been added later? Does this in any way mean that the Bible is unreliable or inerrant? What are some precautions Dr. MacArthur suggests we should take with 9-20, and how should we handle this text comparatively?

7. Compare verses 9-20 with Matthew 28, Luke 24, and John 20, and any cross references (on 9-20) your Bible lists. Is there anything in verses 9-20 that isn’t mentioned elsewhere in Scripture? Is it “safe” to believe everything in 9-20 that matches up with other Scripture?

8. What has been the most important thing you’ve learned from our study of the book of Mark?


¹John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, English Standard Version, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), p.1464-1465

Homework

Read the following resources on the ending of Mark:

The Fitting Ending to Mark’s Gospel by John MacArthur

The Ending of Mark by Robert Stein

Should Mark 16:9-20 be in the Bible? at Got Questions?


Suggested Memory Verse

And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
Mark 16:6