Standing On The shoulders Of The Fathers – 9
Theology is broken into two greek words, theos (God) and logos (Word). So then basically theology is the study of a “word about God” or God’s Word or God. You cannot separate the two. Many today will decry the study of doctrine or forming a belief system or knowledge about what and why one believes what they believe about God’s Word.Claiming all you need are the red letters, or love, or the Bible is forgetting some important truths. Those same red letters, that same Bible says that because of love we should “be aware of false teachers.(Matthew 7:15, Romans 16:17-20, 1 Timothy 4:1-2)” Paul, told Timothy to study God’s Word, so that he would be a craftsmen (2 Timothy 2:15).
The writer of Hebrews challenged his readers to move beyond the, “milk of the Word. (Hebrews 5:11-6:4)” So, to say that doctrine is not necessary is to try to live this life, as though one is building a swingset with no instructions. Ask anyone who has tried such a thing, and they will point out how utterly futile such an effort is.
Yet, the Word of God says something else very powerful, it says that God has given us teachers in order that we might not be carried away with every wind of doctrine, (Ephesians 4:14, Hebrews 13:9). So, to say that we need no one to teach us God’s Word is bound to allow us to begin a slow decent into the land of heresy, off the path of solid truth that keeps us on the right road, taking us beyond the horizon.
Yet, how does one know that how one is interpreting God’s Word or how a particular teacher is interpreting God’s Word is right? One way is by looking back upon historical faith. Historical faith helps direct us toward knowing how to interpret the Bible, application and theological formation, allowing one to know not only how such beliefs one is holding to may have developed, thus helping one better postulate those beliefs.
Historical faith also reveals to us what is important about the faith and how Christ is building His church. It is these, the reason why World Prayr is bringing, “Standing On The shoulders Of The Fathers”. As, we travel through history we will be looking at what various teachers, pastors, writers have had to say through history about God’s Word.
We, pray you are encouraged and blessed by such insights, introductions and teachings.
Zacharias Ursinus (18 July 1534 6 May 1583) was a sixteenth-century German Reformed theologian, born Zacharias Baer in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland). He became the leading theologian of the Reformed Protestant movement of the Palatinate, serving both at the University of Heidelberg and the College of Wisdom (Collegium Sapientiae). He is best known as the principal author and interpreter of the Heidelberg Catechism. – Zacharias Ursinus
Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism.
Laws Requirement of Perfect Obedience
The comparing of ourselves with the law, or of the law with ourselves, is a consideration of that purity which the law requires, and whether it be in us. This comparison clearly proves that we are not what the law requires; for it [the law] demands perfect love to God, whilst there is nothing in us but aversion and hatred to him. The law, again, demands perfect love toward our neighbor; but in us there is enmity to our neighbor. (pg. 26)
The obedience of the law is possible in the regenerate, 1. As touching external propriety and discipline. 2. As it respects the imputation of Christs righteousness, or by the benefit of justification and regeneration which we obtain by faith. 3. As it respects the commencement of internal and external obedience in this life. . . . He that boasts that he knows and worships God, without the commencement of obedience, or regeneration, is a liar.
Obj. 4. The severity of divine justice does not render good according to works which are not perfectly good. But Christ in the final judgement will render to every one, and so to the saints also, according to their works. Therefore the works of the saints are so perfect that they will in themselves stand in the judgement of God.
Ans. There are here four terms; because the major must be understood of a legal reward of works, whilst the minor must be understood of a reward that is evangelical; or to express it differently, we may say that the justice of God does not render good according to works which are imperfect, if he judges according to the covenant of perfect obedience to the law.
But Christ, in rewarding the works of the saints, will not judge according to the covenant of perfect works, but according to the covenant of faith, or of his own righteousness imputed and applied to them by faith; and yet he will judge them according to their works, as according to the evidences of their faith, from which their works have proceeded, and which they, as the fruits of this faith, declare to be in them.
Obj. 5. The Scriptures attribute perfection to the works of the saints [Citation is made of Ps. 119: 1, 10; Gen. 6:9; 2 Chron. 15:17] . . . . Testimonies of a similar character are found in every part of the Scriptures. Therefore the works of the saints are perfect.
Ans. These and similar declarations of Scripture speak of that perfection which consists in parts, of true sincerity as opposed to hypocrisy, and a feigning of piety, and not of that perfection which consists in the degrees of obedience which the saints ought to render to God. For the saints do not in this life attain to that degree of perfect obedience which the law requires; yet they, nevertheless, have the commencement of perfect obedience to the divine law, and of subjection to God, according to all his commandments.
And although there is much hypocrisy and sin still remaining even in the most holy, as it is said, let every man be a liar (Rom. 3:4), yet there is notwithstanding a great difference between those who are altogether hypocrites, whose hypocrisy is pleasing to themselves, having no commencement or sense of true piety in their hearts, and those who, acknowledging and lamenting the remains of hypocrisy in themselves, have at the same time the commencement of true faith and conversion to God.
The former are condemned of God, whilst the latter are received into favor, not on account of this commencement of obedience which is in them, but on account of the perfect obedience of Christ imputed unto them.
But, say our opponents, the Scriptures also attribute the perfection of degrees to the saints . . . . But these and similar declarations of scripture, do not mean by the term perfect, such as are absolutely or wholly conformable to the law, but such as have more knowledge, assurance and readiness (confirmed by exercise) to obey God, resist carnal desires, and to bear the cross, than others who are not so fully confirmed and established in the principles of piety. For so this perfection is elsewhere explained, where it is said [citation of Eph 4:13; Phil 3:12; Rom 7:18]. . . . Hence this perfection is relative, having respect, not to the divine law, but to such as are weaker and less confirmed in the faith of the gospel.