Following Elijah’s stunning victory over the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, he turns his attention to drought that continued to linger over the land. Back in 1 Kings 17, Elijah had announced a drought on the land because of the apostasy of the people. They had backed into Baalism and paganism. And their failure to remain faithful to the Lord carried the judgment of God removing his word from the people, signified by the lack of rain or dew. This was also a polemic against Baal, the storm god. The Baal cycle would be broken and the LORD would show himself to be God.
"With which person in the Bible do you most identify?" This is a question I have often asked others in the church over the years. Most of us lack even enough self-awareness to able to answer the question. Others among us have a propensity to appeal to the best characters in Scripture.
Mikael Agricola and the Reformation in Finland
Like Primoz Trubar in Slovenia, Mikael Agricola was a Protestant reformer who had to develop a language before he could spread the gospel.
Robert Barnes – Early English Reformer
The early 1500’s was an exciting time for young intellectuals. Scholars such as Desiderius Erasmus and Jacques Lefèvre and religious Reformers such as Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli fueled many stirring discussions in the European universities. The growing discontent with the church and its doctrines seemed to have reached its highest pitch and the increasing consensus provided hope for a change.
When I give instructions to my children, or even to my students, they often come in the form of warnings: “Be careful not to postpone this assignment to the last minute…” “Watch out for cars on the road…” “Make sure to proofread your papers…” I don’t think I’m alone in doing this; in fact, I think that warnings and cautions make up a significant part of most of our instructions.
Warnings are found throughout the Bible as well. In several key places, both Jesus and Paul warn us using the same word. It’s a command that means to, “watch out” or “beware.”
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.
It is fascinating to see how St Paul looks back over his Christian life in face of his fast approaching departure from this world. Writing to Timothy, he describes it as a race to be run, a faith to be kept and also as a fight to be fought (2 Ti 4.7). Each metaphor sheds its own light on how we understand our new life in Christ. It involves endurance: ‘The one who perseveres to the end will be saved’ (Mt 24.13). It requires fidelity – both to the doctrines to which we have been committed (Ro 6.17); but also to the kind of life to which they call us (Eph 4.1).
It was John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, who added discipline to the word and sacraments as the third mark of a faithful church. Perhaps it was because the Celts are an unruly lot by nature and he felt the latter two needed the firmer hand of the former to bring the Scottish churches into line! Nevertheless, he rightly highlighted the need for this third element of church life for the church to be what it ought to be under Christ, its sole King and Head.
There’s something of a progression when one moves from the first commandment – “You shall have no other gods before me” – to the second commandment forbidding the making and worship of idols. It’s a move delineating how the one true God is to be worshipped. And it tells us something about God. Namely, that the Creator God is a spirit, invisible, infinite, and holy. In other words, there’s an unholy absurdity in making a finite representation of an infinite and immense God.
The full commandment, promises and all, reads thus:
“As long as he believes in something, that is what’s important.”
With those words the man in front of me simultaneously dismissed the authority of God and justified a younger relative who had embraced an animistic system of belief. For the older gentlemen, it was the act of believing in something supernatural that mattered, not the object of that belief itself.
This week on Theology on the Go, Dr. Jonathan Master is joined by Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and author of several books. Dr. Oliphint stops by to talk with Jonathan about apologetics. Listen in as Jonathan and Scott discuss this important topic!
Luther once said, “Whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between the Law and the gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture.” John Newton wrote something similar, “The correct understanding of the harmony between law and grace is to preserve oneself from being entangled by errors on the right hand and on the left.” When the leading soldier of the reformation and one of the wisest pastors of the 19th century speak on the difficulty of understanding the relationship between law and gospel we know that we have a real task ahead.
When I began to study the doctrine of good works in the Reformed tradition many years ago, I was astounded by a view that many Puritans, following in the footsteps of John Calvin, promulgated. These Reformed stalwarts taught that God graciously rewards eternal life to his people who persevere in good works to the end.