Calvin’s Repudiation Of Personal Revelations

Discernment BibleIn writing about the Reformers each Tuesday, I’ve sought to emphasize their commitment to God’s Word. Present-day evangelicals, for reasons I don’t fully understand, have moved away from the idea of relying on Scripture as the sole means of hearing from the Lord, and instead pursue mystical experiences of direct communication with Him. The Reformers would have found such expectations puzzling.

John Calvin, as a matter of fact, directly refuted the concept of God speaking to anyone apart from His Word. Consider the following quotation of Calvin’s writing on the topic of Scripture’s authority:

Since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only record in which God has been pleased to consign His truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized unless they are believed to have come from heaven as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.

As far as Calvin was concerned, the thought of God speaking in any way other than Scripture shouldn’t even be entertained. He insisted that the Lord had spoken with full authority in His Word, and therefore believers could trust that written record of His truth.

But Calvin didn’t stop there in his repudiation of personal revelations. With boldness that would make a modern discernment blogger blush, he unapologetically equated the practice with outright heresy!

The fanaticism which discards the Scripture, under the pretense of resorting to immediate revelations is subversive of every principle of Christianity. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency is always to bury the Word of God so they may make room for their own falsehoods.

I doubt John Calvin would show much tolerance in a room full of 21st Century evangelical women off-handedly talking about things they believe God told them. But then, he lived in an age that cherished the Bible, having seen the Roman Catholic Church persecute (and often execute) men and women for simply owning a Bible in their own language. He valued Scripture too much to see its authority supplanted by claims of personal words from the Lord.

According to Calvin, such personal words “buried” the Word of God. Hadn’t the Reformers just excavated that same Word of God that had been buried under Roman Catholic tradition and papal authority for centuries leading up to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses? Why, in so short a time, would Calvin acquiesce to anyone allowing Scripture to then undergo a second burial? And wouldn’t a burial under something as subjective as personal mysticism (which might easily be attributed to too much wine or not enough sleep) be even worse?

Calvin’s words elevating Scripture over personal spiritual experience must echo through our minds today. Like so many aspects of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, they must remind us to treasure the Bible as God’s Word — His only Word — to His people. They must remind us not to bury such a incomparable treasure under the filthy vestiges of subjective experience.

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In Praise Of The Trinity

In these past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Trinity. Actually, my prayers increasingly celebrate all three Persons, focusing on each of their respective offices and functions. It’s been kind of exciting, and kind of fun, to pray with such a view of God in His various Persons.

The hymn I have chosen for today gives a vivid portrayal of God in each of His Persons, and I simply love the rich theology! As you listen, I pray that you will grow in your appreciation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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Saturday Sampler: March 19 — March 25

Flower SamplerContinuing her series in Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. writes Learn to Discern: Who Do You Follow? She raises several important points that women should seriously consider as we pray to develop our discernment .

Unbelief doesn’t need one more miracle says Jennifer at One Hired Late in the Day. I’d been considering writing a similar article, but I really couldn’t improve on hers. If you want a solid explanation of the doctrine of justification, Jennifer’s blog post certainly gives it clearly.

“Authentic” seems to be the latest buzzword among evangelicals. In Has “Be Authentic” Replaced “Be Holy”? Rebekah Womble explains what postmodern people mean by authenticity, contrasting their understanding of the characteristic with the holiness that Christ calls us to practice.

Dinitatians typically believe in the Father and the Son, but not the Holy Spirit. In his blog post, Are Cessationists Dinitatians? Eric Davis of The Cripplegate refutes the popular notion that non-Charismatics don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. I love his list of 20 things Cessationists believe about the Holy Spirit.

Do you sometimes wonder what you should pray in praying for your pastor? Steve Altroggie, blogging on The Blazing Center, enumerates 8 Prayers You Should Regularly Pray For Your Pastor to offer us good direction in the matter.

John Ellis’ article, How NOT to Argue Online in adayinhiscourt convicted me. But it also encouraged me in arguing my case in ways that honor the Lord .

Responding to one of Beth Moore’s recent Tweets, Elizabeth Prata writes How does the Holy Spirit lead us? in her blog, The End Time. Her essay is lengthy, admittedly (and perhaps could have been broken into two separate ones), but her point is so crucial to Christian women that I strongly recommend it as essential reading.

In Don’t Get Your Theology from Movies, Michelle Lesley explains why even Movie Subscription Services that advertise themselves as Christian fail at helping us negotiate life’s issues. I’ve never seen anyone address this matter quite this comprehensively before, but Michelle does an excellent job.

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Saturday Sampler: February 5 — February 11


Writing a guest post for Pulpit and Pen, Dr. Jeff Hagan explains How NOT To Follow the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it sad that, in a time when technology has made the Bible more accessible than ever, we still need articles like this?

Please don’t miss The Five Tests of False Doctrine by Tim Challies. His blog post provides an excellent grid for practicing Biblical discernment.

Leslie A. at Growing 4 Life writes Learn to Discern: Introduction to inaugurate her new series on discernment. I appreciate her balanced, Biblical approach to this topic, and look forward to reading her insights. I’ll be interested to see how her series complements the one Tim Challies is writing.

I regret my neglect of Pastor Gabe’s Blog last week. Gabe Hughes writes Examining the Worship Song “Above All” with such theological accuracy that I just have to include it in this week’s Sampler.

Although I have problems with the “live the Gospel” mentality, I also understand that, as Christians, our behavior must line up with our professed beliefs. So John Ellis’ article, Why Are  Christians Bad Tippers? in PJ Media, made me both sad and angry. As Christians, we’ve got to do better for the sake of the Gospel.

For those of you who mingle psychology with Christianity, please prayerfully consider Rebekah Womble’s blog post, Guilt and Forgiveness: Why We Need Both in Wise In His Eyes. She well demonstrates the corrupting influence that psychology has on evangelicals, as well as the Biblical response to guilt.

The Cripplegate includes Battalogeo & Heavenly Prayer Language, in which Eric Davis thoughtfully discusses the Charismatic practice of speaking in tongues as a private prayer language.  This article may trouble Charismatics. Hopefully, they’ll be troubled enough to seriously study the Scriptures on this matter.

Inadequate Understanding of God #1: Why did He make things? launches Jennifer’s new series on One Hired Late In The Day. In this initial installment, Jen looks at God’s real purpose in creating the heavens and the earth.

Do you belong to a good church? Over on Parking Space 23, Greg Patterson gives us Marks of a Good Church to help us evaluate our home church by Biblical standards. The church John and I belong to more than passes the test!


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Th Distraction Of Psychology

dark-crossWhen evangelicals started blending psychology into theology back in the 1980s, they subtly shifted the Gospel’s emphasis from the Lord Jesus Christ to human beings. Okay, problems started before that point, particularly as a result of Pentecostal and Charismatic teaching, which unapologetically centers on personal (and therefore subjective) experience. But the advent of “Christian” psychology definitely made things a lot more narcissistic than they were.

I confess to still struggling with residual narcissism in my relationship with the Lord. I admit that fact with great shame and embarrassment, accepting ultimate responsibility for my self-centered attitude toward Christ. But, while understanding that God holds me completely responsible for this sin, I believe He will also hold accountable those who try to integrate the two disciplines.

Attempts to infuse human philosophy into Christianity didn’t begin with the 20th Century, of course. If you follow my Tuesday series on the Reformation, for example, you’ll see how the Roman Catholic Church corrupted itself by fabricating doctrines that had absolutely no basis in Scripture. Going further back, my   Monday series on Jude has shown that false teachers even infiltrated the First Century Church.

The apostle Paul warned the Colossian church against ideas that compete with the purity of the Gospel.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. ~~Colossians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Psychology, especially when couched in evangelical terminology, appeals to our fleshly senses as counselors promise to give us deeper understanding of ourselves. Typically, they work on raising our self-esteem by explaining that our sin patterns come from involuntarily responses to our environment.

Psychologists would likely attribute my anger, for instance, to behavior I learned from my dad. Admittedly, Daddy did use anger to control my sister, inadvertently teaching me by example that anger helps me get my way, but the real source of my anger is  the fact that I’m a born sinner. Years of psychological counseling might raise all sorts of interesting speculations about my relationship with Daddy, some of which might even be true, but the anger would remain. In fact, the counseling would provide a convenient excuse for   my tantrums.

Conversely, the Gospel tells me that my anger exposes the depravity of my heart. My anger condemns me as a sinner, highlighting my need for a Savior. By His grace, Jesus bears the penalty for my sin of anger and His Spirit teaches me to control my tantrums by obeying His Word. It’s not comfortable, but neither is it complicated.

Whether or not my father’s example encouraged me to practice anger as a means of  gaining control really doesn’t matter. And dredging up memories (some of which would probably be false) would only make me more preoccupied with myself. The answer comes as I focus on Christ, desiring to behave in a manner that honors and glorifies Him.

Psychology, like other human philosophies, directs our attention to ourselves. We may dress it up to appear “Christian,” but that dressing up doesn’t change the truth that it keeps people self-centered. On the other hand, the Gospel turns us to our merciful Savior, reminding us that our lives belong to Him. We can’t afford self-centered distractions.

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Hey Jude — How Should We Contend For The Faith?

Biblical UnityHappy New Year ladies! Isn’t it fitting that, as we pivot from 2016 to 2017, we’ve reached the point in Jude’s epistle at which he pivots from describing false teachers to explaining how true believers can contend for the faith (Jude 3). The two verses we’ll study today rather surprised me, since so many discernment bloggers have used Jude 3 as a rallying call to publicly expose and denounce false teachers. While other Scriptures certainly support such exposure and denunciation, Jude 20-21 proposes a different, more foundational strategy.

I’d really like you to prepare for this study by reading the entire epistle  (it’s only God 25 verses) to remind yourselves of the context. Click this link to make it easier. I know I’m always beating the context drum, but context helps more than I can say in sharpening Biblical discernment. When we view verses within their proper context, we get a much better sense of their intended meaning. So please, before you read any further in this blog entry, click the link and revisit Jude’s epistle.

Now, let me quote Jude 20-21 in its more immediate context.

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. ~~Jude 17-23 (ESV)

Last Monday we saw that the First Century apostles had directly warned Jude’s immediate readers that false teachers would arise. Jude verified that the apostles spoke of the people who, because of their worldliness and lack of the Spirit, cause divisions in the church. Now Jude draws a contrast between such apostates and true believers by giving us four practical ways to stand against heresies.

Jude begins by exhorting us to build ourselves up in the “most holy faith.” Notice the plural pronoun. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown juxtapose building up the body with the false teachers in verse 19 who cause divisions.

Where false teachers divide the church, we must edify the body of  Christ instead of tearing it apart. And, according to Jude, we build each other up in the “most holy faith.” By this phrase, he means specifically the Christian faith as opposed to the unbiblical ideas of false teachers. And how do we build each other up in the “most holy faith?” MacArthur comments that this building up happens through the ministry of God’s Word  (Acts 20:32). So we contend for the faith by bringing each other back to the truth of Scripture, which shows us the false teaching of apostates.

In addition to building each other up with sound doctrine, Jude instructs us to pray in the Holy Spirit. I could, with probably way too much relish, write an entire article on the topic of praying in the Spirit, basing it on the ways that Charismatics use this verse fragment to support their practice of speaking in tongues. However, I will restrain myself and simply say that praying in the Spirit means nothing more than praying according to the Lord’s revealed will in Scripture.

Rather than distract ourselves with a debate on Charismatic misinterpretations of this phrase, let’s concentrate on Jude’s point. Again,  Jamieson, Fausset and Brown draw a contrast between praying in the Holy Spirit and the apostates being devoid of the Spirit. Contending for the faith requires that we align our prayers with God’s Word. In so doing, we keep ourselves in His Spirit.

Next, Jude calls us to keep ourselves in the love of God. Those of us with Calvinist sensibilities understandably bristle at this clause, which clearly teaches a synergistic dynamic. But Philippians 2:12-13 helps us understand that any efforts on our part ultimately depend on God’s work in us. Remember also that Jude 1 stated that God keeps us for Jesus Christ.

Here Jude encourages the obedience that results from true faith. Jesus made a similar connection between faith and obedience in John 14:21. Since Jude has been  highlighting the permissiveness of false teachers, he directs us to combat their ungodly influence by living in obedience to godly principles.

Finally, Jude tells us to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. The commentaries I read didn’t belabor this point except to say that it refers to Christ’s return. After Jude’s repeated warnings about the judgment awaiting false teachers, he assures us that we can expect mercy!

Contending for the faith really boils down to basic Christian living that contrasts the rebellious lifestyle of apostates. Next week we’ll discover ways to minister to friends and family who have been deceived, or at least influenced by false teachers.

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Hey Jude — Final Words About False Teachers

463ca-ladies2bstudy2b01Ladies, are you tired of slogging through Jude’s rather vitriolic description of  false teachers? Are you starting to wonder how to apply everything he’s written so that you can contend for the faith as  Jude enjoins us to do in verse 3? The three verses we’ll study today offer a final description of false teachers, in order that we can begin to apply everything we’ve learned about false teachers. We’ll round the corner by introducing Jude’s closing paragraph.

Please prepare for this study by reading the entire 25 verses of Jude’s epistle (click this link to make it easier). I’ll quote today’s verses in the context of the closing paragraphs they introduce.

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. ~~Jude 17-25 (ESV)

As you can see, in verse 17 Jude pivots his attention from false teachers to his readers, urging that we remember the predictions that the apostles made. Obviously, Jude’s immediate readers had known the apostles personally, as verse 18 suggests. But those of us living in the 21st Century have access to those same predictions through Scriptures such as 1 Timothy 4:1-4. Jude quite firmly reminds both groups that, indeed, we have been put on notice.

Precisely for that reason, we shouldn’t be surprised by the false teachers and false teaching that permeates the visible church today. The apostles, speaking through Scripture, have prepared us to expect people  (even within our own ranks) to distort God’s Word.

Moving to verse 18, Jude specifically reiterates the apostles’ warnings, as if to solidify them in our minds. Right away, he quotes their assertion that the apostasy would occur in “the last times,” which Biblical scholars take to mean the period between Christ’s First and Second Coming.

Jude further reminds us that the apostles said that the false teachers (in many cases) would be scoffers. 2 Peter 3:4 expands on this idea by explaining that some of them would mock us for believing in the Second Corning. This idea fits Jude’s teaching earlier in this epistle regarding the sensuality of these teachers.

The scoffers mock the Second Corning, according to the apostles Jude quotes, because of their sensuality and worldly lusts. The quotation here doesn’t elaborate on this idea, so Jude interjects his own clarification in verse 19 by making two brief observations.

First he states that apostate teachers cause divisions within the church. We can easily name several present-day evangelical celebrity teachers and speakers/authors who have this effect. They divide the Church by tweaking God’s Word ever so subtlety so that the distortions appeal to our flesh. They then garner the loyalties of their followers, who in turn react violently to Scriptural evidence of their pet teachers’ error.

Second Jude says once more that false teachers are “worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” This remark perhaps summarizes everything he’s written in this epistle about apostate teachers. Their worldliness, which Jamieson, Fausset and Brown understand as “animal-souled,” underscores the thought that their rejection of the Holy Spirit reduces them, as he’s written in verse 10, to unreasoning animals.

Next week we’ll finally start looking at ways to deal with the victims of false teachers, remembering that apostate teachers have already incurred judgment  (Jude 4-7). As the epistle turns its attention away from false teachers, we will discover practical ways to contend for the faith.

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