Biblical Fidelity Illustrated in John Wycliffe

Biblical Fidelity Illustrated in John Wycliffe

Dr. John E. Greever

It is true that each faithful Christian today stands on the shoulders of faithful Christians of yesterday.  In a strategic and fundamental way, faithful servants of Christ who come before us pave the way for us to know and pass along the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And added to this, biblical fidelity (faithfulness to the Scriptures and the message of Christ and the gospel presented in the Scriptures) is the means by which we are faithful to God.  The two go together; faithfulness to God and faithfulness to the teaching of the Scriptures go hand-in-hand.

This is supremely seen in the lives of the Reformers and those who followed after them.  And this is specifically seen in the life of one who was a precursor to the Reformation, John Wycliffe (ca 1330-1384).

J. H. Merle d ‘Aubigne called Wycliffe the “First Reformer of Christendom”, even though he lived almost two hundred years before the official starting of the Reformation. Wycliffe’s ministry and impact was so powerful that the Reformation would probably not have happened when and how it did without Wycliffe. This is why Wycliffe is called the “Morning Star of the Reformation.”  Steven Lawson says of Wycliffe, “Wycliffe was an English scholar and theologian who did more to change the course of his nation’s history than perhaps any other person.”

What did Wycliffe do to make such an impact?  The historian d ‘Aubigne explains, “Wycliffe’s ministry had followed a progressive course.  At first he attacked the papacy; next he preached the gospel to the poor; he could take one more step and put the people in permanent possession of the Word of God.”  And that is what Wycliffe did:  he translated the Bible into the language of the people.  “Above all, he loved the Bible, he understood it and desired to communicate this treasure to others (Merle d ‘Aubigne).”  Wycliffe was opposed, rejected, despised, and persecuted for his convictions and his beliefs.  But Wycliffe continued his work in gospel preaching and Bible translation and teaching, because he believed in the value of these things.

Why is Bible translation and Bible teaching so important?  Lawson states, “Wherever there is an increased knowledge of biblical truth, the doctrines of grace are soon to follow.  That is to say, the more people are immersed in the Bible, the more likely they are to grasp the awe-inspiring profundities of God’s sovereignty in salvation.”

What can we learn from Wycliffe concerning biblical fidelity and why this is important in our own day?

  1. We need to realize that being faithful to the Scriptures means that we must be faithful to the teaching and redemptive interpretation of the Scriptures centering on Christ and the gospel. Faithfulness to the Scriptures means being faithful to the metanarrative of the Scriptures, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Bible and the gospel go together.
  1. By faithful interpretation and teaching of the Scriptures, we participate in the work of redemption in the lives of people by God’s grace through the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit. The faithful maintenance and faithful proclamation of the Scriptures are means by which God accomplishes His redemptive work in the lives of others.  People are saved, Christians grow spiritually, and the church of Jesus Christ is built through fidelity to the Scriptures.
  1. Biblical fidelity requires that we be textual in our approach to preaching, teaching, and ministry, and it means that we teach the next generation to do the same; thus, fidelity to the Scriptures ensures that the truth of God centered in Christ and the gospel continues for generations to come. As Christians, we want to faithfully serve the kingdom of God in our generation so that the next generation receives the true gospel of Christ.  Faithfulness to the Scriptures assures this.
  1. Biblical fidelity enables the church to fulfill its God given calling to be prophetic to each generation. By being faithful to the text and meaning of Scripture, the church serves to bring God’s revelation to the culture and society of each generation.  Without this prophetic voice of the church, the collective conscience of each generation will lack the sharp edge of spiritual and moral awareness.

John Wycliffe, and others like him, serves as model for us in our own day.  Let us not be swayed by the trends of the era in which we live; rather, let us seek to single-mindedly giving ourselves to be faithful to the Scriptures in our Christian lives, beliefs, and churches.  May our legacy be that we were faithful to God by being faithful to His Scriptures!

Biblical Fidelity in the Reformers: Jan Hus

Biblical Fidelity in the Reformers:

Jan Hus

By Jeremiah Greever,

Growing up, I liked and cheered for the National Football team, the Dallas Cowboys. I had the playing cards, the helmet mug with the Cowboys emblem, and the videos immortalizing prior Cowboys seasons. Year after year, during good seasons and bad, I cheered for the Cowboys as if I were part of the team.

I recently reflected as to why I liked the Cowboys so much. I wasn’t born in Texas, nor have I ever lived in Texas. So why was I such an ardent Cowboys fan? I cheered for the Cowboys for no other reason than my father cheered for them, and he passed that tradition on to me.

When we think back over church history, it is good for us to be reminded that in the same way that my father passed on the tradition of cheering for a specific football team, so too have traditions of biblical fidelity (faithfulness) been passed down to us from the Reformers. As current ministers and laypeople for the faith, it is important for us to recognize what our forefathers have handed down to us in the form of biblical constancy and faithfulness. Our church fathers labored for the accuracy and intentionality of the Word, and in so doing, have passed on the legacy of precision when it comes to the text.

Granted, in our modern culture, it can be difficult to maintain biblical fidelity. It seems that every other week some new megachurch pastor is attempting either to discredit the inerrancy of Scripture, or to challenge clear biblical teaching about sin and salvation. With so many modern pastors failing to defend biblical fidelity, we can quickly find ourselves wondering whether anyone remains faithful to God’s Word. Therefore, we would be wise to not only remember the legacy passed down from these specific Reformers, but also to hold fast to the truths for which they fought and died. One such figure who gave his life holding fast to the truths of Scripture was Jan Hus (John Huss).

When many people think on the Reformation, they rightly think back to Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door in 1517 as the inauguration of the Reformation. While this event was the pivotal point of the Reformation, the Reformation proper actually began years before Luther was even born. One of the earliest and most influential Reformers was a Bohemian priest named Jan Hus (c. 1371-1415 A.D.), who died over 100 years prior to Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses.

Hus was one of the first Reformers to hold to a high view of Scripture. Because of his elevated view of Scripture, Hus committed himself to obeying Scripture in all forms and practices. Therefore, while serving as priest at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague around 1402, Hus committed his life to accurately attesting to the truthfulness found in Scripture by focusing exclusively on preaching in the common vernacular. One of Hus’ earliest controversies against the Roman Catholic Church involved the unbiblical practice of allowing only the celebrants (priests) to take the chalice (wine) during the Lord’s Supper. Using Scriptural support, Hus fought against this distortion of the Lord’s Supper by the Roman Catholic Church.

While Martin Luther is also credited as the one who dispelled the sale of indulgences (documents that gave remission for sins), Jan Hus was one of the first to condemn the unbiblical papal practice of selling indulgences. In 1412, Hus preached against the sale of indulgences, and even claimed that the indulgences were the antichrist – “In a word, the papal institution is full of poison, antichrist himself, the man of sin, the leader of the army of the Devil, a limb of Lucifer, the head vicar of the fiend, a simple idiot who might be a damned devil in hell, and more horrible idol than a painted log.”

Understanding the gravity of what was at stake, Hus denounced participation in the practice that he deemed “wholly and completely unbiblical.” When challenged on his views concerning indulgences, Hus responded, “Shall I keep silent? God forbid! Woe is me, if I keep silent. It is better for me to die than not to oppose such wickedness, which would make me a participant in their guilt and hell.” It was this response from Hus that brought the greatest attacks from the Roman Catholic Church.

Even with violent responses from the Catholic Church, Hus’ commitment to Scripture became progressively more evident in his writings. He affirmed that his life goals were to “hold, believe, and assert whatever is contained in them [Scriptures] as long as I have breath in me.”

Unfortunately for Hus, he had few breaths left in him. A few years later in 1415 while imprisoned in Constance, Germany, the convening council charged Hus with heresy. According to one of the council members who condemned Hus, “Since the birth of Christ there has never been a more dangerous heretic than you [Hus], with the exception of Wycliffe.” After being ordered to recant, Hus refused, and was ordered to be burned at the stake.

Just before his execution, Hus was given one final opportunity to recant his views of the Scriptures and the Church. He responded: “God is my witness that … the principal intention of my preaching and of all my other acts or writings was solely that I might turn men from sin. And in that truth of the Gospel that I wrote, taught, and preached in accordance with the sayings and expositions of the holy doctors, I am willing gladly to die today.” As the flames engulfed Hus’ body, his final words were, “Jesus, son of the living God, have mercy on me.”

Jan Hus lived and died defending one of the core tenants of the Christian faith – the necessity and infallibility of the Bible. Like the Catholic Church so many years ago, many people today treat the Bible in a parallel fashion – solely as a list of moral suggestions and guidelines that can be contrived for personal use and gain. Jan Hus rightly understood that the Bible is unquestionably and unchangeably the Word of God, and thus cannot be manipulated to satisfy mankind’s preferences. Just as in Jan Hus’ day, we must hold fast to the truth that Scripture is all-sufficient for every area of life, all the while guarding the Scriptures from those who seek to fragmentize it.

Beauty

The is, kind of, a video blog. It is more a thought provoker, i.e. an attempt to consider an attribute of God in terms of the other attributes. While I have adapted these definitions from Wayne Grudem’s, Systematic Theology. the errors are all my own. Let me know if you want more. CMc

Praying Weighty A.C.T.S. Prayers

by Dr. Joshua Wilson

One of Charles Spurgeon’s popular quotes on prayer is “Some brethren pray by the yard, but true prayer is measured by weight—not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.” There certainly are times of extreme circumstance where in joy or pain we are moved to come before God groaning with weighty prayers. But what about all the other times when there are no extreme circumstances driving us into a state of prayer? How in those times can we be moved to come before the Throne of Glory, a weighty place, with weighty prayers?

One way of praying weighty prayers is to use the Bible. In his book Praying the Bible, Don Whitney teaches the time-tested method of opening the Bible and praying God’s own words back to Him. He teaches his readers how to pray through individual psalms, epistles, and even narratives. (In one of the appendices, He even provides a “Psalms of the Day” chart to aid his readers in daily Psalm-praying.) Praying the Bible does not add our weight to our prayers, but His weight to our prayers. Thus, I would like to share a similar strategy of using the Bible with another model of prayer known as the A.C.T.S. method.

Obviously, A.C.T.S. is an acronym. The A stands for “Adoration,” the C stands for “Confession,” the T stands for “Thanksgiving,” and the S stands for “Supplication.” The acronym of the A.C.T.S. model is a helpful guide for individual and corporate prayers. In the A.C.T.S. method, the prayer moves from praising God to confessing to Him to thanking Him, and then to petitioning Him with a list of needs and concerns. This model of praying can be used to even greater effect when all the parts of the A.C.T.S. prayer are focused upon a single topic, and each of those parts is informed by the scriptures. Let me give you a corporate example of this method in its entirety.

In our prayer meetings at FBC Park Hills, we usually focus on one big need. This is the S of the A.C.T.S. prayer method: supplication. This may seem backward, but it helps give direction to the other portions of the prayer: adoration, confession, and thanksgiving. In our most recent prayer meeting, our focus was on the nation and our concerns for it: the election, abortion, marriage, religious liberty, etc. With our one focus, we then go to the scriptures to give direction and weight to each part of our A.C.T.S. prayer.

  • A     With respect to the A (adoration) of the A.C.T.S. acronym, we search for the scriptures that speak to our focus: the nation. What does the Bible say about who God is and what He does in relation to the nations? God sits enthroned as King over them all (Psalm 22:8; Psalm 47:7-8). He demonstrates His kingship over the nations by creating them and apportioning their boundaries (Acts 17:26) and by raising them up and bringing them down (Job 12:23). He places as rulers over the nations whomever He desires and there is none who can keep Him from doing so (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32, 34-35). Moreover, He turns the hearts of those rulers to wherever He will (Exodus 7:3-4; Proverbs 21:1). With these scriptures in hand, we read and meditated upon them. Then a designated person prays a prayer of adoration that was informed by these passages from the Bible.
  • C     With respect to the C (confession) of the A.C.T.S. acronym, we again search for the scriptures that speak to our focus: the nation. (Keep in mind that adoration is upward focused, and confession is inward focused though still informed by the upward focus of adoration.) What does the Bible say about the nations in relation to what God has revealed about himself? Nations defile themselves before the Holy God, so He punishes them and their lands vomit them out (Leviticus 18:24-25). Rulers of the nations lead their people into sin provoking the Lord to anger (1 Kings 16:1-2). Nations and their rulers conspire and plot to throw off Christ’s rule over them prompting the Lord to laugh in derision at them and then rebuke them in wrath and fury (Psalm 2). Nations that are in rebellion to the reign and rule of Christ, build their house and watch over it in vain (Psalm 127:1). Ultimately, through the influence of Satan, the nations will unite together against the Lord prompting Christ to strike them down with the sword of His mouth (Revelation 19:15). Again, with these scriptures in hand, we read and meditated upon them. Then another designated person prays a prayer of confession that was informed by these passages from the Bible.
  • T     Finally, with respect to the T (thanksgiving) of the A.C.T.S. acronym, we again search for the scriptures that speak to our focus: the nation. What does the Bible also say about God’s gracious and merciful response to the nations? God relents from the disaster he has planned for nations when they repent (Jonah 3:4-10). If He has already brought disaster upon a nation, God will heal them if they turn to Him (2 Chronicles 7:13-14). God promotes the welfare of a nation through His people who dwell in it and pray for it (Jeremiah 29:7). Through the seed of Abraham, who is Christ, God blesses all the nations of the earth (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16). Through the root of Jesse, who again is Christ, God stands as a banner to which the nations will inquire (Isaiah 11:10). In the age to come, God gives the nations access to the tree of life that they might be healed with its leaves (Revelation 22:2). Once more, with these scriptures in hand, we read and meditated upon them. Then a final, designated person prays a prayer of thanksgiving that was informed by these passages from the Bible.
  • S     When we get back to the S (supplication) portion of our corporate A.C.T.S. prayer, the opportunity to pray aloud to God is opened to anyone from the congregation. At this point, all of our minds have been engaged with and saturated by the scriptures. We now have the Words of God to pray back to Him. We now have His weight behind our prayers. We now appeal to God according to how He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. We are basically saying, “Lord, because of what you have shown us in Your Word about who You are and what You’ve done and continue to do (insert petition here).” (cf. the prayer of Daniel in Daniel 9 and the prayer of the church in Acts 4).

Using the A.C.T.S. prayer model in this way has given a deeper sense of weightiness to our prayer meetings. At different times, we have used it to pray for the lost, our church, the persecuted church, and the community. It does take preparation and it does take time to search the scriptures, but if we want to add this kind of weight to our prayers we must do the work to search the Bible and come to know the weight of the God to whom we are praying. I would like to encourage you to try this model either individually or corporately. Start by using the topic of the nation and the scriptures passages of the Bible in this article. Read the scripture passages and meditate upon them before praying each part of the A.C.T.S. prayer. I believe you will sense the increased weight of your prayers and the increased weightiness of your prayer time.

 

Worship & Justice Concluded

Enacting Justice Today

Today’s Christian Church has nothing to offer individual or societal woes if  the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not first changed them from self-love and self-worship to the just love and worship of the God of the Bible seen in Jesus Christ. This change affects individuals both in private and in public.

In the Prayer Closet

In the book, The Enemy Within, Kris Lundgaard reminds us that our self-appraisal needs to be tempered with the following reminder:

What you are
when you are alone with God,
that you are—
and nothing more. (p. 119)

It is alone with God and His Word that we enter the crucible of the Holy Spirit’s work. He shows us what God says about Himself; He uses those truths to form Christ in us: He causes us to have affection for those truths, and He produces affectionate worship of God.

Here in the prayer closet, God’s Word breaks up our hard hearts, our sluggish half-hearted obedience, our passive disobedience, our compromised and conflicted lives and unifies our hearts, heads, and hands. His Word teaches our head the truth, moves our hearts to love that truth and motives our hands to true obedience of that truth.

For a practical example, take the right to life issues. As believers study the character of God in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit gives them a fresh appreciation of Him and His Image in them. As this appreciation grows, their worship grows, their love of other humans grows, their renewal in God’s image becomes more and more a wonder, and their worship enlarges into a multi-faceted admiration, read worship. In the same way, anything that desecrates that image becomes increasingly repulsive.

In the Pew

“If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both;” warns J. I. Packer. He continues, “if it does not encourage the commitment of faith, it reinforces the detachment of unbelief; if it fails to promote humility, it inevitably feeds pride.” This subtle encouragement reminds Christians to take the warm worship produced in the closet and to join it to the worship of other believers. When believers share their study of God in His Word, they grow closer to God and each other simultaneously such that their joined worship of God encourages greater and greater public admiration and bolder and bolder civic action.

Take again the life issues.  As Christians pool their admiration for God’s image in them and His just nature, they also grow increasing disdainful of societal disregard for God’s character. Society’s cavalier attitude about sexual fidelity degrades the image of God in them and its determination to avoid any unwanted consequences of their behavior kills the life in them. In the context of corporate worship, it seems truly natural for Christians to plan just opposition to these mounting injustices.

In the Public Arena

What has developed in the prayer closet and has blossomed in the pew must witness to the public arena. True and spirited worship aroused by the Holy Spirit in the heart and head of individual believers flows naturally into public worship. As worshipers come together, their adoration of God’s great and just character arouses a need to share this worship with non-believers. On a one to one basis, Christians share God’s love and justice within their sphere of influence. However, another responsibility compels the Christian.

As a citizen in a participatory government, the Christian’s worship of a just and loving God motives civil action toward the protection of all life as made in His image. Even though modern society attacks life on many levels, Christians armed with God’s truth in their heads and hearts, need to give bold actions to their God’s integrity. Surely Christians agree with J. I Packer when he prays, “May God give us light to see His truth, consciences to apply it and live by it, and conscientiousness to hold it fast, in these Laodicean days.”

Worship & Justice continued

Enacting Justice in the Bible

From the very beginning of time, humanity has been plagued with the consequences of self love which reflects insufficient love of God and demonstrates itself in disobedience of His law and in a personal offense to His character. When groups of humans gather under the influence of this self love, they create societies that exacerbate the problem and descend into self destruction. Either God’s people deny self or deny God; deny ungodliness and pursue godliness or deny justice and descend into the abyss.

The New Testament solution fixes the base problem one worshiper at a time. These God-produced worshipers cluster in groups (churches) where, under the moving of the Holy Spirit, the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. These groups affect society as the Lord wills. Christ is still the only hope for individuals and societies, but still His people must live up to His call. So, James encourages true believers to be hearers and doers (like Micah who encourages “doers of justice”).

My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil excess, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror; for he looks at himself, goes away, and right away forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who acts—this person will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:19-25)

This passage equally condemns those who hear but do not do, and those who do but do not hear. God’s people can neither ignore the behavior His Word calls for; neither can they go perform without depending on and following His revealed directions. One can readily understand, then, that the central point is the effect of the Word of God in the child of God.

God’s Word must be so implanted in His people that it displaces the moral filth and evil excess of self love and produces affection for God and His truth. Thus, they reflect His character by learning deeply from His Word in order that they may live well before Him by obeying from the heart what His Word proclaims. In short, know God lovingly from the Bible; represent God humbly in the World.

This is what the LORD says: The wise must not boast in his wisdom; the mighty must not boast in his might; the rich must not boast in his riches. But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me—that I am the LORD, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. This is the LORD’s declaration. (Jeremiah 9:23-24, HCSB)

Worship & Justice

Enacting Justice in Micah’s Time

In the days of the prophet Micah, worship coming from Israel—God’s covenant people—and going to their covenant God, had serious problems. Worship suffered from cold formalism, empty ritualism and meaningless symbolism. Israel practiced God’s law, observed every ceremony and offered each sacrifice with professional precision. While each ritual performance was precise, love for God had hardened into an attempt at divine bartering. Do what God demands so that He will give you safety, significance and service. Over time and little by little, even the most passionate and genuine worship of God can erode into a shell of false worship used to cover and excuse self worship.

Even though their outward actions lived up to God’s demands, self worship replaced the just worship of the Glorious God. Love of self replaced love of God. Self satisfaction replaced God given contentment. Self reliance replaced trust in God. Thus, Israel rejected the true safety and satisfaction which comes from the Glorious, Loving, Faithful God in favor of that which comes from wicked, selfish and fallen man. Their unfaithful worship disintegrated into becoming a faithless people.

Now listen to what the LORD is saying: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Listen to the LORD’s lawsuit, you mountains and enduring foundations of the earth, because the LORD has a case against His people, and He will argue it against Israel. My people, what have I done to you, or how have I wearied you? Testify against Me! Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from that place of slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam ahead of you. My people, remember what Balak king of Moab proposed, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, so that you may acknowledge the LORD’s righteous acts. (Micah 6:1-5, HCSB)

This was not a new occurrence in the history of the children of Israel. Indeed, it was and is a recurring issue. To quote a colleague, Dr. Andy Chambers, “we never drift toward God.” From this dead worship descended all kinds of idolatry, moral decay and civil injustice. These three seem to be mutually supportive in a decaying spiral of human and societal self destruction. Empty worship of the true God easily gives place to loving fake gods. For idolatry ultimately becomes self worship and self worship quickly gives in to those base desires that turn divine gifts into lusty abuse. This explains the relationship between idolatry and sexual license. Sexual license leads to sexual perversion and moral decay both privately and publicly. Thus, people using people for self-gratification become the norm and true justice is thrown out the window. Justice becomes questioned, redefined, abused, stretched, denied and ultimately superseded by public opinion as each man does what is right in his own eyes. Therefore, there exists a causal link from a loss of proper worship to personal and societal decay.

While the people loathed this outcome and craved any human remedy, they rejected turning to God with genuine repentance and complete trust in His way. For it seems easier to rely on human ability than Divine Will. This, of course, is absolutely false.

What should I bring before the LORD when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin? (Micah 6:6-7, HCSB)

God did not demand that they stop offering the sacrifices He formally required, nor did He want pagan worship applied to His name (“give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin”), rather He requires a people to reflect His Just character by working justice.

This requires two perspectives. First, everything done by God’s people should be held to the standard of His revealed justness. God’s people need to know God’s Word in order that they might live under it rule by means of the Holy Spirit. Second, God’s people must not fail to stand for justice when they see and have the opportunity. Inaction when justice needs a champion is as wrong as acting unjustly. Quiet ignorance and apathetic inactivity is not excused.  God’s people must adore Him and trust Him so much that they are compelled to cry out for and live by God’s justice.