Alister McGrath discusses Martin Luther’s thoughts about the relationship between God’s word and the nature of the church.
Neither an episcopally ordained ministry, nor an institutional continuity with the apostolic church, are therefore necessary to safeguard the existence of the church, whereas the preaching of the gospel is essential to the identity of the church. ‘Where the word is, there is faith; and where faith is, there is the true church.’ The visible church is constituted by the preaching of the Word of God: no human assembly may claim to be the ‘church of God’ unless it is founded on this gospel. It is more important to the preach the same gospel as the apostles than to be a member of an institution which is historically derived from them (Christian Theology: An Introduction, 382).
Hence, preaching was at the top of the to-do lists of the Reformers, e.g., in The Necessity of Reforming the Church, John Calvin said “no man is a true pastor of the Church who does not perform the office of teaching. . . . no man can claim for himself the office of bishop or pastor who does not feed his flock with the word of the Lord.”
“God’s people cannot be without God’s word.”
– Martin Luther
“The task of the Holy Spirit is to lead into God’s truth: without that Spirit, truth remains elusive” (Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 231).
“Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all “fulness of blessing” [Romans 15:29], both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment” (Saint Basil the Great, De Spirtu Sancto, XV. 36.)
“When Paul said he preached Christ, he meant it” (Separated Unto the Gospel: The Mission and Work of the Free Presbyterian Church of North America, 22).
In the Bible “creation” is an alpha and omega theme: in the Book of Genesis we learn about the original creation when “God created the heaven and earth” and in the Book of Revelation we see the glorified creation (re-creation) when the one who “sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Adam who by way of obedience and righteousness will make new all the things that the First Adam corrupted by way of sin and rebellion: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22); “For if by one man’s offence [Adam’s] death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).
“Creation” is an alpha and omega theme because all of Scripture speaks of the Creator-Christ: Christ is the “Alpha” Creator, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4), and Christ is the “Omega” Creator, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. . . . And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:1-2, 5-7).
“It is the Lord’s Table to which we come. It is not a denominational table. All who credibly profess salvation in Christ, are seeking to maintain a pure testimony, and are not currently under discipline for sin in their local church are welcome to participate in services that for many of us are a foretaste of heaven. Here we view our Saviour in symbols that point us to the day when we will see Him face to face” (Separated Unto the Gospel: The Mission and Work of the Free Presbyterian Church of North America, 11).
Blogging through and answering the questions from G. I. Williamson’s The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes for personal review and comprehension.
WCF. VII. Of God’s Covenant with Man.
1. What does the depraved sinner deny besides the fact that he is depraved?
In addition to deny his depravity, the depraved sinner denies his creaturehood. Depraved man is bewitched by self-delusions of autonomy and independence from God (the Creator).
2. Have Reformed Christians failed to consistently acknowledge “the distance between God and the creature?”
Yes, some Reformed Christians have failed to consistently acknowledge the basic distinction between the Creator and the creation.
3. How have they done so?
They have done so by when by describing a covenant as “an agreement between two or more persons.” Williamson says, “There is, in such language, at least the danger of suggesting that God and man are equal parties in the disposition of the covenants–as if each agreed to terms sovereignly imposed by the other!” (82)
4. What would God have owed a sinlessly perfect, or perfectly obedient, man?
God would have owed (God owes) only the gracious promises he has self-imposed by way of covenant.
5. By what is God “bound” in his covenant(s)?
Because “God’s covenant dealings with men are both sovereign and gracious” . . . “He is bound by nothing but his own holy Word” (82).
6. By whom is a covenant instituted?
A covenant is sovereignly and graciously instituted by God; a covenant is instituted by the will of God alone.