Month: October 2017

Born Again by the Living Word of God

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” – James 1:21

There is a good friend of mine who made this simple yet profound statement: “Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

When I heard this for the first time, I recalled my former life as an unbeliever. There was no power from within to overcome my sinful cravings. I had eyes full of lust. A haughty heart stirring up trouble in the bars. Constant cravings for success and self-promotion. While the superego accused me of not achieving my idealized self, the power from within had no ability to change my carnal nature.

Without the Word of God–who is the Logos, the Incarnate Son Jesus Christ, we have no power to overcome sin (Jn. 1:14; 6:63; 1 Pet. 1:22; Eph. 5:26). This is what James is getting at here in verse 21. He says it’s necessary to accept the Word of Truth planted in us since the Word has the power to save; the power to restore, heal, and deliver us from the penalties of the messianic judgment.

John Piper, theologian and former Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church said it best:

James adds at the end of verse 21 “which is able to save your souls.” What saves our souls? The implanted word which we receive. In other words, our souls depend on the implanted word, and our souls depend on receiving the word. If you decide that you don’t need to receive the external word, you are like a person who decides he doesn’t need to breathe. If you are spiritually dead, you can carry through that decision. You can choose not to breathe. But if you are spiritually alive, you can’t. The implanted word is powerful; it produces life and breathing. It takes over the spiritual diaphragm and demands oxygen. It demands the life-giving external word. If the word is implanted in you, you can’t hold your breath forever. The implanted word will sooner or later conquer and be replenished. You will receive the word again. And you will love it.

Furthermore, the Greek word δύναμαι (dunamai) refers to the intrinsic power and inherent ability of the Word of God to carry out the salvation of our souls. From the context earlier, James says, “The Word of Truth brought us forth, or made us born again, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” -James 1:18

You may be asking, “Isn’t it Jesus alone who saves us?” And my answer is, “Yes.” Also, remember that the Word took on human flesh. The Word is God. Jesus is the Word. Hebrews 4:12 makes it clear that the Word is more than letters on a papyrus–it is alive and active. Therefore, when James says the Word implanted in us is able to save our souls, he is viewing salvation as the entire process of the Christian life, culminating in our ultimate deliverance from sin and death that takes place at the time of Christ’s return in glory (Rom. 5:9, 1 Th 5:9; Phil. 2:12; 1 Tim 4:16; Heb. 9:28).

In the end, my friend was correct. Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible. The choice is yours. Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the implanted Word of God, which is able to save our souls. Thank you for Jesus Christ, Your Son, the Incarnate Word, who died on the cross for our sins. Thank you that His atoning sacrifice on the cross was more than sufficient to cleanse us from our sins. May we continue meditating day and night on your Word, knowing full well the logos has the power to rescue us from the grave. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Martin Luther’s View on the Law is Antithetical to the Gospel

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If you follow my posts, you are aware that I have been focusing much of my attention on the negative aspects of the Protestant Reformation. At times, it may seem cumbersome, but the point I want to get across, especially to many of my friends and colleagues who are celebrating the Reformation, is to think critically about the theology you have adopted.

It is my sincere desire and goal that the quotes I shed light upon from Luther and Calvin don’t attack the integrity of the person, but the “principalities and powers” of any theology that would oppose Christ and His infallible Word. And my intention is to have these conversations, not diatribes, with grace and humility. With that said, here is a quote from Martin Luther and his sharp criticism of the book of James.

“We should throw the epistle of James out of this school [i.e. Wittenburg], for it doesn’t amount to much. It contains not a syllable about Christ. Not once does it mention Christ, except at the beginning. I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any. Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did. (Luther’s Works 54, 424).

First, this statement is problematic. I am not the only one who agrees. John Piper writes an open rebuke to Martin Luther’s interpretation of James on his website desiring God.

He states: “Perhaps you’d quickly recant your unnuanced statement without my trying to make any case for it, but if it would help to display some data, here’s my modest attempt. To focus my claim, let me say it is emphatically not the case that James “has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.”

But the reason Martin Luther had a disdain for the book of James was not because of the apostle James. Rather, it was Luther’s incorrect interpretation of the Apostle Paul’s writings that led him to an antinomian spirit, especially his commentary on the book of Galatians.

Here is a direct quote from Martin Luther on his interpretation of what “weak and elementary principles of this world” meant in Galatians 4:3.

“As such times we are to believe in Christ as if there were no Law or sin anywhere, but only Christ. We ought to say to the Law: “Mister Law, I do not get you. You stutter so much. I don’t think that you have anything to say to me.”

Luther further adds: “The Law is of no comfort to a stricken conscience. Therefore it should not be allowed to rule in our conscience, particularly in view of the fact that Christ paid so great a price to deliver the conscience from the tyranny of the Law. Let us understand that the Law and Christ are impossible bedfellows.”- Martin Luther

Now, let’s read what Galatians 4:9 says. “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?”

Who is Paul addressing? The Pagan Gentiles. When were they slaves? When they worshiped false gods. This is addressed to Gentiles, not Jews. Therefore, Paul is not calling God’s Law bondage. Rather, he is calling their former pagan gods bondage.

Moreover, who are the pagan Gentiles returning to? To those elementary forces they “used” to be enslaved by, which were by nature not gods. If the elementary forces are not god, how could this text be talking about the Law of God? I think it’s clear this passage is not talking about God’s law.

In conclusion, Martin Luther spoke unfavorably towards the book of James, not because it established the necessity of works “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone (James 2:24), but because Martin Luther had an incorrect understanding of the Apostle Paul.

Paul loved the Law. James loved the Law. Most importantly, the incarnate God-Man Jesus loved the Law. We should love the Law too because it is part and parcel of the gospel. Blessings!