Why the Reformation? Purgatory

This message is a continuation of my series on the theological reasons for the Reformation.  Purgatory is a natural outflow of the corrupted Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation and justification.  Not believing that Christ’s sacrifice fully atones for sin, or justifies our persons, they teach that our remaining corruptions at death must be burned off in the flames of Purgatory.  On the contrary, the scriptures teach that in Christ all our trespasses are forgiven, and that death is our introduction into the paradise of God: “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

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The Dead Soul of Stephen Paddock

I recommend if anyone has 5 minutes to spare to read and consider the above article by Patrick Buchanan.  Although he is a Roman Catholic, with whom I would have obvious religious disagreements, his fundamental point in this article seems to me to be right on point: the reason we are seeing more and more dark, troubled souls turn to mass murder as their one ticket to fame, is because the Western world has been taken over by anti-Christian worldviews.

Let’s face it: if what we are taught in schools and universities is true, that man is a mere animal, an accident of evolution, nothing but an animated collection of atoms and molecules, then we really have no basis for describing what Paddock did as “pure evil,” as the president and others have done.  A naturalistic/materialistic worldview simply cannot sustain the level of morality needful to maintain a peaceful society.  From the naturalistic worldview, what was the worst thing Stephen Paddock had to fear at the end of his orgy of murder?  A quick death, and then… nothing.

This is why the wise man says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Even lost men, who bear within their consciences fear of God and judgment, will be very largely deterred from committing the unspeakable atrocities that occurred in Las Vegas.  What we need is a national awakening that will quicken men’s souls and consciences.  What we need are preachers crying out for sinners to flee from the wrath to come, and exhorting all who will listen, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.”

Much Required

This message was something of a postscript, an earnest application of the principles laid down in the Fifth Commandment.  With our congregation being largely comprised of Christian, homeschooling families, I sought to impress upon the young people the tremendous privileges God in His mercy had granted them by putting them in homes where they were taught the word of God, and in a church where they hear the gospel.  To use Christ’s language, “much has been given” to such, particularly in comparison with most of the rest of the world.  But the sober side is that, to those to whom much is given, much will be required.  Dreadful will be the eternal lot of those who spurn the advantages of godly families and faithful churches to pursue the world in its downward course toward hell!

But we are now delivered from the law, our old state of bondage being dead and buried.  If we agree that the apostle is referring to the law when he says “that being dead in which we were held,” which seems the most natural interpretation, then we must exercise the utmost care in defining how the law is dead to us.  We certainly cannot agree with those who push this to such a limit as to argue that God’s law has nothing more to say to the Christian, even as far as defining what is good and what is evil.  The New Testament writers, Paul included, constantly use the law as the standard of righteousness and unrighteousness, so it is unthinkable that Paul could have this as his meaning.

Romans_7-6

I think the key to understanding the statement is in the second half of the verse: “That we should serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.”  He has just told us that the motions of sin in our carnal flesh were stirred up by the law to produce even more sin, which is fruit unto death.  But we are no longer in that state and condition.  The law is dead to us as far as being a system by which we attempt to be saved and reconciled to God.  God has provided for us a better and more certain way of salvation, namely, the method of justification by free grace which Paul took such pains to explain in chapters 3-5.  What any person discovers who attempts to achieve a standard of saving righteousness by the law is that he has no power to live up to the high requirements of that law.  The law itself provides no help, except insofar as it defines what is right and wrong.  But it provides for us no power at all to do the right; rather, its very definitions, warnings, and threats, make the evil all the more tempting to us!  But we are now dead to that system of bondage, which can bring nothing except guilt and condemnation.  A new spirit and a right heart have been placed within us, so that we serve God with our spirits, not merely by attempting to conform our conduct to the letter of the law.  The man who once sought to please God by the works of the law will find when he becomes a Christian that he now has more power and energy to obey God than he ever dreamed of having when he was in bondage to a system of human works and merit.

When we were in the flesh, which is simply another way of describing our lost estate, the motions of sin within us worked in our body to produce fruit unto death.  Our depraved hearts produced fruit, but poisonous, noxious fruit, so useless and reprehensible that the woodsman could do nothing with us but cut us down and cast us into the fire.

KJV_Romans_7-4

But I note that Paul says of the motions of sin that they were “by the law.”  This is a remarkable statement, yet one that I think we ought to recognize as being true.  Those who have small children often have the experience of going into a room where there is some fragile article, which you are nervous that they will break.  They themselves have not noticed the thing at all; it is probably not in their thoughts whatsoever.  Nevertheless, for safety’s sake, we tell them not to go near it or touch it.  The next thing we know they are edging as close to the delicate thing as they can, and will assuredly touch it if they see we turn our heads for a moment.  The very fact that a law was passed against their touching the thing made it infinitely desirable to them.  This is how the law operates upon our sinful nature.  It is not that the law is wrong to define evil and warn us against it; but our nature is so perverse and corrupted by sin, that the very fact God has made laws against sin makes the sin itself more desirable.  Adultery seems more glamorous and fun simply because we know that it is forbidden by God.  The same can be said of stealing, lying, or any number of sins.  Men find a much greater thrill in idolatry than in simply worshipping the one true God in spirit and in truth, because our corrupt nature inclines to that which is forbidden by God’s law.  So, we should not presume that Paul is here speaking evil of the law; it is an evil to us, because it condemns us when we cannot keep it.  But the fault is entirely in us, and not in the law.  It is the motions of sin which are stirred up by the law that lead us into so much filth and wickedness.

The believer, Paul explains, is in an analogous case to this hypothetical woman.  By the body of Christ, which probably indicates the suffering of His body upon the accursed tree, we have become dead to the law.  It no longer rules and governs us, saying, “This do and thou shalt live,” and pronouncing a curse upon us if we continue not in its every dictate.  This was our condition when we were in our sins, and a miserable condition it was, for the law could do nothing but unmercifully flog us with threats of condemnation.  But now through Christ we are dead to that old position and condition, and are married to another, even to the glorious Son of God Who was raised from the dead.  When we were under the law, we could bring forth no fruit to God.  The law could tell us what we ought to do to please God, but it gave us no power for the performance of those things.  Far from it, because of our perverse nature, it rather stirred up our natural depravity!  But now that we are united as it were by a bond of spiritual matrimony to Christ Jesus the Lord, through the indwelling presence of His Spirit we are enabled to bring forth fruit unto God.

KJV_Romans_7-4

We are somewhat in the position of a woman who was married to a cruel, harsh, unforgiving husband, who eventually died, and then she entered into marriage with a man who is good, gentle, kind, tender, and affectionate.  The comparison is, of course, not a perfect one, for the fault between us and the law lay entirely on our part; nevertheless, the picture is a lovely one to contemplate, and ought to enable us to rejoice in our newfound position of life, peace, reconciliation, and security through our union with Jesus Christ.

 

He offers an example to prove his case, that being a married woman.  The law of God binds her to her husband as long as that husband lives.  Once she enters into the marriage state, she is bound to that man until the tie is severed by death.  She is under his authority, according to the law of God, and must render to him all wifely duties and obedience.

rings

But when he is dead, she is no longer bound to him as a wife, not is she obligated to live according to his commandments.  If she attempted to marry another man while her husband was yet alive, she would rightly be adjudged an adulteress, and would be subject to being regarded and treated as such.  But that same law which condemns the adulteress would not condemn her if her husband had died.  She could be married again, and yet be as pure as possible, provided that her first husband were already dead.  In that case, she would be at liberty to be married to another man.