This is absolutely powerful!
Great resource from John Piper – 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die.
Spending today, Good Friday, reflecting on the work of Christ for my sin. Awed and humbled by God’s display of love, justice and grace. It was around this time, 27 years ago, that God, by His Spirit, began to open my heart to his tsunami of grace. #ForeverGrateful
Sex Symbols Who Speak in Tongues? | Excellent opinion article from Michael Brown. Great closing line: “It’s time to say to say goodbye to this watered-down, sin-excusing, so-called gospel that offers everything and calls for nothing. It’s time to get back to the cross and back to the truth. Otherwise, as America collapses in a heap of amoral ruin, the soft preachers of America will be largely to blame.”
The Super Bowl as a Theology of Women | This thought provoking article dissects what we really believe about women as evidenced through iconic events like the Super Bowl. This made me think a lot!
Book Review: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart | Tim Challies reviews J.D. Greear’s newest work. Challies gives it a hearty thumbs up.
Continuing his reasoning as to why the use of images in worship to God were to be rejected, Calvin states that for the first five hundred years, when Christianity was flourishing and a purer doctrine thriving, churches were commonly empty of images. “Thus, it was when the purity of the ministry had somewhat degenerated that they were first introduced for the adornment of churches.” (pg. 113)
When the teaching degenerated, man could not help but fall headlong into superstitious rites by setting up symbols and images that represented God. The only symbols, Calvin argued, that we should take on are the living and symbolic ones that the Lord has consecrated by his Word, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. All others forged by human ingenuity should be forsaken.
God has rightly prescribed in His holy Word how he is to be worshipped and right honor rendered to him. Because man is prone to superstition, in his pride and folly, is not content with the prescribed manner and order. The law given by God, is a “bridle that has been imposed upon men, to prevent their sinking into vicious rites.” (pg.117)
He opposes what he calls a “distinction without a difference” in the Roman Catholic distinction of latria and dulia. That is that God alone is to be honored and worshiped but that Mary and dead saints can be venerated and served. To serve and venerate a saint to Calvin was the same as worshipping the saint and that is idolatry.
Lord, break the Dagon of pride in my heart that would cause heedless zeal to turn to any superstitious, pretentious attempt to worship You that is against your prescribed order.
The papists used an argument that the need for images to represent God and his work were necessary because pictures are the books of the uneducated. Calvin argued that this was ridiculous in light of the testimony of Scripture and that “there would be no ‘uneducated’ at all if the church had done its duty.” (pg.107) These so called ‘teachers’ that were in authority in the church turned to idols to represent God, His glory and His work because they were ineffectual, powerless and ‘mute’.
Paul himself testifies that by the true preaching of the gospel “Christ is depicted before our eyes as crucified (Gal. 3:1)”. What purpose does it serve to have so many crosses fashioned of wood, silver and gold when the image of the cross does not teach what Scripture does concerning it, that Jesus bore our sins, suffered the wrath of God in our place, to expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body and the shedding of his blood, to reconcile us to God. A thousand crosses fashioned could never learn those truths apart from the instruction of Scripture.
Calvin says that “man’s nature, is a perpetual factory of idols.” (pg. 108) Man’s prideful mind and audacity, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; … and conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God… the mind begets an idol; the hand gives it birth.” (pg.108)
God forbids the fashioning of images that represent his glory and likeness because he is not to be worshipped superstitiously. When man fashions something as a visible form for God, he binds his power to it and can’t help but turn to it in prayer and worship. That, no matter the intention, is always idolatry. To make an image as a representation of God is to deface His glory and Scripture clearly forbids it.
Lord, keep us from defacing Your glory when our hearts seek to turn to something else which You already have made provision for through the work of Your Son Jesus.
“God’s glory is corrupted by an impious falsehood whenever any form is attached to him.” (pg. 100) That men would fashion something that resembles God is an absurdity. Scripture clearly repudiates idolatry. Calvin turns to the prophet Isaiah who was emphatic in teaching against idolatry in God’s people. “He teaches that God’s majesty is sullied by an unfitting and absurd fiction, when the incorporeal is made to resemble corporeal matter, the invisible a visible likeness, the spirit an inanimate object, the immeasurable a puny bit of wood, stone, or gold.” (pg. 101) God cannot be reduced to mere trinket or statue.
Even signs given by God to his people as a revealer of his divine Presence, were never to be taken as images to be used to represent God. “For clouds and smoke and flame, although they were symbols of heavenly glory, restrained the minds of all, like a bridle placed on them, from attempting to penetrate to deeply.” (pg. 102) Even the mercy seat over the ark, from which God manifested the presence of his power, was designed in such a manner to reflect the cherubims with wings outspread, covering it. The temple veil, also shielded the art from outside gaze. This was all done so that the Israelites would not be tempted (though they were) to fashion a physical representation of God. God is too big to be made so small as to fit in one’s pocket. Idolatry is insanity — but it is where the wicked heart of man takes him apart from Christ.
Lord, though I don’t fashion god-like trinkets from wood, metal or stone, idolatry, our hearts are always prone towards the worship of something. Let my heart always be inclined to worship you alone, the One true God, that cannot be contained by anything You have made.
Looking back to how God has revealed himself through his creation, Calvin shows that Scripture is in agreement with the attributes of God that are known in his creation and creatures. The Scriptures frequently reflect God’s attributes as he is toward us. Speaking of Exodus 34:6-7, Calvin writes “Thereupon his powers are mentioned, by which he is shown to us not as he is in himself, but as he is toward us: so that this recognition of him consists more in living experience than in vain and high-flown speculation.” (pg. 97) God is not known in the form of an image; whereby to fashion an image of the Creator from elements in his creation is an abomination (idolatry).
God’s attributes of mercy, kindness, goodness, justice, judgment and truth are the same powers enumerated as those shining forth in heaven and earth. “Indeed the knowledge of God set forth for us in Scripture is destined for the very same goal as the knowledge whose imprint shines in his creatures, in that it invites us first to fear God, then to trust in him. By this we can learn to worship him both with perfect innocence of life and with unfeigned obedience, then to depend wholly upon his goodness. (pg, 98)
Lord, let me look intently upon your Word and your creation, which both reflect and reveal your divine attributes, so that I might learn to fear you, trust you and worship you in purity of life and obedience and whole-hearted dependance upon your goodness.
That the Scriptures are still with us after a sustained assault from antiquity forward, is an attestation to preservation by heavenly providence and not human effort. With great care God has preserved His Word. “By countless wondrous means Satan with the whole world has tried either to oppress it or overturn it, to obscure and obliterate it utterly from the memory of men — yet, like the palm, it has risen ever higher and has remained unassailable.” (pg. 91) God’s Word has been miraculously preserved throughout history and is available to us today by divine will.
Calvin also turns his focus on those who, under the guise of the Spirit, elevate personal revelation, over Scripture. Interesting to see that it is as true today as it was in reformation times. The Spirit will always lead us into his Word, never away from it. “Therefore the Spirit, promised to us, has not the task of inventing new and unheard of revelations, or of forging a new kind of doctrine, to lead us away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but of sealing our minds with that very doctrine which is commended by the gospel.” (pg. 94) The Church is ruled by the voice of God and by the Spirit of God. They are in complete agreement.
Lord, I praise you for gloriously preserving your Word throughout history so that I might feast upon its riches and depths of its revelation of you. Let me never elevate thoughts about you that are not in accord with how you have revealed yourself in Your Word and let me cast them aside. Your Word is complete and it is enough for me.
Calvin begins to lay a clear case from Scripture about the proofs contained within its text, that establish the credibility of Scripture. Especially poignant at the start of this chapter in 1.8.1 he writes, “What wonderful confirmation ensues when, with keener study, we ponder the economy of the divine wisdom, so well ordered and disposed; the completely heavenly character of its doctrine, savoring of nothing earthly; the beautiful agreement of all the parts with one another — as well as such other qualities as can gain majesty for the writings.” (pg. 82) There is no literary work in all of antiquity that has the breath of the Divine infused within its pages like the Scriptures.
Calvin points to the content of Scripture, the antiquity of Scripture, the example of Moses, miracles, and fulfilled prophecies to present the proof of the Scriptures credibility. Looking at fulfilled prophecy that defied human expectation, he draws from the stories of Jacob and David to bolster the case that fulfilled prophecy came about by divine intervention and the prophecies were indeed spoken beforehand by divine inspiration. All of these point to the fact that it is God who speaks through His Word.
Lord, let me ponder and study the economy of the divine wisdom contained in the Word, and as I dwell upon the riches of what You have spoken, let faith arise and cause me to lose my taste for what is earthly and temporal and hunger for the eternal.
If the Scriptures are the truest revelation of God, where do they derive their authority to be considered God’s self-revelation? For if man is to believe that these are words from God, they must regard the Scriptures as having divine origin. The Scriptures do not have their origin in the church — the church recognizes, receives and gives its seal of approval to the Scriptures — but the church did not conceive of the Scriptures so as to render it the highest authority over Scripture. As Luther wrote in his Lectures on the Psalms, “The Scripture is the womb from which are born the divine truth and the church.” The Scriptures preceded the church.
In countering claims that Augustine believed that the church has higher authority than the Scriptures and renders final judgment on the Scriptures, he writes “those who have not yet been illumined by the Spirit of God are rendered teachable by reverence for the church, so that they may persevere in learning faith in Christ from the gospel. Thus, the authority of the church is an introduction through which we are prepared for faith in the gospel.” (pg. 77)
People look to the church as an authority on the Scriptures and rightly so, and by doing so, that can be a precursor to gospel transformation. But the only way we can fully accept the revelation of Scripture and doctrine is when we are fully persuaded, beyond doubt, that God is its Author. “If we turn pure eyes and upright senses toward it, the majesty of God will immediately come to view, subdue our bold rejection, and compel us to obey.” (pg 79) And that only happens through the witness of the Holy Spirit. “The testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason,” Calvin wrote. (pg. 79)
Lord, I recognize that You are the Author of your Word and the only true faith I possess is that which Your Spirit has sealed upon my heart. Grant unto me, by Your Spirit, the ability to comprehend the mysteries of God in the Scriptures, and let that knowledge draw and inflame me, towards obedience and deeper devotion.