Archives For History

There are a lot of Santa Claus stories floating around this time of year. Almost all of them are completely based in fantasy. Flying reindeer; a sleigh full of gifts; precarious chimney climbing; a fluffy red suit — all of that is total fiction.

But when my kids used to ask me, “Dad, is Santa Claus real?” I didn’t say “No.” In fact, I answered in the affirmative.

(Pause for dramatic effect.)

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Like any good student of church history, I explained that Santa Claus was actually a fourth-century pastor named Nicholas of Myra who was later considered a saint by the medieval Roman Catholic Church. He was a favorite of Dutch sailors who called him, “Sinter Klaas” (or “Saint Nicholas”) which then came into English as “Santa Claus.”

Of course, I was careful to point out that the modern American version of Saint Nicholas bears absolutely no resemblance to the fourth-century pastor from Asia Minor. The real Nicholas did not live in the North Pole. He was not Scandinavian. He did not drive a team of magical caribou. He did not work with elves. Nor did he travel the world every Christmas Eve exchanging presents for milk and cookies. Continue Reading…

Did Jesus become the literal embodiment of sin, or take on a sin nature, or become a sinner when He died at Calvary? I was asked a variation of that question just last week, which prompted today’s post.

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The heart of the question centers on Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21: ”He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

In what sense did Jesus become “sin on our behalf”? Does that phrase mean that Jesus literally became a sinner on the cross? Continue Reading…

The missionary spirit is utterly contagious.

Even just one life burning brightly for the gospel can ignite the hearts of hundreds of others for generations to come.

What a powerful thing it is to contemplate that reality in the history of missionary work! Consider, for example, the following chain of gospel influence:

1. John Elliott (1604–1690) was a Puritan settler in New England who began evangelizing the native Americans. Known as the “apostle to the Indians,” he translated the Bible into their native language, helped to establish churches, and sparked a missionary zeal among Christian settlers in the New World.

2. That missionary spirit inspired men like David Brainerd (1718–1747) to similarly devote his life to reaching native American Indians with the good news of the gospel.

3. Though Brainerd died at only 29 years of age, his friend Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) was so impressed by the young missionary’s passion that he edited Brainerd’s diary and published it. Edwards himself would later work as a missionary to the native American Indians of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

4. In 1785, an English shoe cobbler named William Carey (1761–1834) read a copy of An Account of the Life of the Late Rev. David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards. The book had a profound impact on Carey’s thinking, igniting a passion in his heart to take the gospel to India. William Carey left for India in 1793 and the modern missions movement was born. Continue Reading…

November 7, 2013

Truth Remains

by Nathan Busenitz

In our post last week, we celebrated Reformation Day by emphasizing the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura. I ended that post with these words:

You may have a dozen copies of the Bible in your house. But don’t ever let your familiarity with the Word of God breed indifference or contempt in your heart. The book you hold in your hand is a treasure. It is the revelation of God Himself — in printed form — empowered by His Spirit to conform you into the image of His Son. The Word of God has the power to change history and transform continents. It has the power to change hearts, including yours and mine.

Today, in keeping with that theme, I want to direct your attention to a great ministry and online resource that details key parts of the history of the English Bible — Truth Remains.

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According to the ministry’s website, the mission of Truth Remains is to promote and proclaim God’s written Word, thereby stimulating greater love and devotion to the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, in His church (John 1:14). That mission is primarily accomplished by exposing believers to the history of the English Bible, and thereby reminding American evangelicals of the great sacrifices that faithful men and women made in previous generations so that we could have access to the Word of God. Continue Reading…

Today marks one of my favorite holidays.

No, I’m not referring to Halloween.

I’m talking about Reformation Day — which is celebrated on October 31, and which commemorates the day on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door in 1517.

Reformation Day is not only celebrated here in the United States by a number of evangelical denominations, it is also an official holiday in parts of Germany and a couple other countries around the world.

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In today’s post, I’d like to focus on a theme that particularly relates to the Protestant Reformation. That theme is captured by the Latin phrase, sola Scriptura. It is expressed in the familiar words of Hebrews 4:12.

Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Because it is empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is a living Book. It actively convicts the human heart, as it pierces to the innermost depths of who we are. It is like a sword—the “sword of the Spirit” as Paul calls it in Ephesians 6:17 — a precise implement in the hands of its divine Author. And when it goes forth it will not return void, for God Himself energizes and empowers it. Continue Reading…

For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1, Q&A 1). I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, or if I’ll be able to do other sessions (check out Tim Challies’ blog for his coverage) But I thought a little would be better than nothing. It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Strange Fire

The focus of our study tonight will be another historical theology overview of a critical issue that ties in wonderfully with this entire conference. And the subject that I’ve been asked to address—and I’m happy to do so, and embrace it—is the Puritan commitment to sola Scriptura.

Arising out of the reformation of the 16th century, there sounded a trumpet blast that rallied the hearts of God’s people: sola Scriptura, which is Latin for “Scripture Alone.” It really served as the foundation for the four other solas: sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria. And these five fit together as one statement of truth—one declaration of the true saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Think of a magnificent, ancient temple and a foundation upon which everything rests. That’s sola Scriptura. Everything that we believe, obey, embrace, and hold dear in the convictions of our soul is based upon this foundation of sola Scriptura. Rome said, “We accept Scripture, but it is Scripture and. Scripture and church tradition; Scripture and ecclesiastical hierarchies; Scripture and the church councils; Scripture and papal authority. And the Reformers said, coming back to the Bible, “No, it is sola Scriptura: Scripture alone.” And if anything else is added to the foundation of the church, there will be cracks in the foundation and it will not hold up the teaching and the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, they said no to the Anabaptists and the libertines who wanted to add their dreams and visions and new revelations. They said no; it is Scripture alone.

Upon this foundation are three massive pillars, which really frame and uphold the Gospel in its most basic and elementary proposition: Sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus – salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Rome wanted to add good works and church membership and church attendance and baptism and marriage and last rites and indulgences and Mary and the treasury of merit. And they just backed up their dump truck and kept adding and adding and adding all kinds of rubbish. And the Reformers, because they came back to the Word of God—Scripture alone—they said, “No. Salvation, the one true saving Gospel, is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”

And when that is in place, and these three immovable sturdy pillars are in place, then the roof and the pinnacle over the hull that points upward is soli Deo gloria, “for the glory of God alone.” That is the entire Reformation in a nutshell. That is the entire forest in a small acorn. That is the entire matter reduced to its most minimal parts. Everything rests upon sola Scriptura.

Continue Reading…