Isa 52:7                     Reformation Day, or Halloween?                        10/30/2016   ßà

 

 

 

#1.      October 31 in the Years 1516 and 1517 (Rom 1:16-17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.      The Years 1536 and 1541 (Eph 1:3-6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.      The Years 1560 to 1609

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4.      October 31, 600 Years Ago

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans 10:15 (2X). How often does it come to pass that October 31 falls on a Sunday? On the average only once every 7 years does October 31 fall on a Sunday. And so, I could not resist to make this sermon a Reformation Day sermon. Therefore the title of this sermon is, Reformation Day, or Halloween?” (2X). What is Reformation Day? Allow me to introduce Reformation Day with the statement in Isa 52:7, which is repeated in Rom 10:15,

Isa 52:7 ¶ How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

God stated here in Isa 52:7 that in the eyes of God it is beautiful to see those that preach the true Gospel of salvation. God repeated this beauty of His preachers in Rom 10:15. The Apostle Paul was one of those who were beautiful in the eyes of God, because he brought the Gospel of salvation to the regions of Asia Minor and to Macedonia and to Greece, and to Italy. The Apostle Paul preached a Gospel that led people to salvation, because he preached the true Gospel. While Paul preached, God applied the principle that “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”, from Rom 10:17. At the same time we realize that not everyone who heard the true Gospel preached was automatically saved. God saved only those whom He wanted to save, according to the principle that God laid down in Prov 20:12, where God says, “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them” (2X). Those who are willing to hear the Gospel, and who are willing to see the beauty of salvation in this kind of preaching, were made willing by the power of God. That is the meaning of Prov 20:12. On the other hand, during the same time others preached a different gospel, which did not lead people to salvation. For example, the gospel that the Gnostics preached did not save anyone, and it will still not save anyone. Instead it will inherit the wrath of God on the last day on every preacher of the Gnostic gospel, and on all those who have believed them. They are no bringer of good tidings; their gospel brings death and destruction. And so it was with the gospel that was peddled by the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. It was a gospel of death. It was a gospel where man must do good works in order to be saved. It was a gospel where we must do the best we can, and then some. After people went to confess their sins in the confession booth, they were given tasks to do to show that they were really repentant. Those tasks earned them some time off from the time they had to spend in Purgatory. Purgatory was a hellish place where sinners burned off their sins before they could enter into Heaven. They were purged from their sins. That is why it was called Purgatory. It was described as an awful place, full of torment, and fire, and weeping and wailing. And thus it was not any wonder that the church offered to people time off from Purgatory by paying money to the church. These were called indulgences. People could buy indulgences to shorten their time in Purgatory. This background set the stage for the rebellion that we call “The Reformation”. Now enter:

#1.      October 31 in the Years 1516 and 1517 (Rom 1:16-17)

What came to pass in the year 1516? It was on October 31 of that year, one day before “All Saints Day”, that a monk from the Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg, by the name of Martin Luther, preached a fiery sermon in the church at Wittenberg against indulgences. What happened to him? Martin Luther entered the monastery because one day he was almost struck by lightning. There he intensely studied the Epistle to the Romans and there in the 1st chapter he read this. Please turn to Rom 1:16 (2X). There Martin discovered the importance of faith in salvation. God’s Word in Rom 1:16

Ro 1:16-17, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.      For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (2X).

Now Martin Luther understood why all the fasting and penances brought him no peace of mind. Such things did not count with God. And likewise indulgences, pilgrimages, visiting relics, or crawling up 28 sacred stairs did not count with God. They were all abominations in the sight of God. Not only did these works not count with God, but also they increased the guilt of those who do them, and so they made them twice more a child of Hell than before. His sermon was well received. Townspeople, students and monks alike were excited by his new ideas. The following year, 1517, on October 31 all of Wittenberg waited to see and hear what this monk would do and say. But now the situation had become worse. The Pope had sent a Dominican monk by the name of Tetzel to Germany to collect more money from the German people by selling indulgences, to finance a gigantic new cathedral. Luther was furious. “Why does the Pope not build this cathedral of his own gold, instead of the offerings of the poor?” Luther had been to Italy, and he knew that the Pope’s money bag was fatter than those of the richest merchants. And so, on the evening of October 31, in the year 1517, Martin Luther nailed Ninety Five Theses, or statements, on the door of the church in Wittenberg. These theses were written in Latin. But someone secretly translated these theses into German, send them to the printer, and sent copies of this document to other university towns. Suddenly Martin Luther and his attack on the Pope’s indulgences became the talk of all of Germany. Luther went on to ask if the Pope really had power over Purgatory. The Scriptures did not say so. Besides, Purgatory is not found in the entire NT. The Bible says that only the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ remits the penalties of sins, not the Pope. Luther went on to write many more books. Now his writings were not only for Germans, but his writings reached all over Europe, and in fact they were discussed all over the world. It was in the year 1492 that Christopher Columbus sailed West and discovered America. And so, in the time of Martin Luther all kinds of Europeans sailed to all six continents of the world, and brought with them an interest in matters of faith going on in their home country. Martin Luther, the monk of Wittenberg, was clashing head on with the greatest power in Europe, the Pope, and with the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles the 5th. This one man was:

Please turn to the Gospel according to Matthew 10:34 (2X) For a thousand years the Roman Church had claimed and enforced a monopoly on God and truth. The Roman Church claimed that it was the only source of Divine revelation on earth, and that the church was the author of Scripture itself, had insights into traditions so heavenly that even the Apostles had not written them down, and was God’s representative on this earth. For a thousand years millions of people believed these outrageous claims. The church had humbled Kings and princes and Emperors. This church organized a confrontation. Luther was summoned to come to Worms, a city in Germany, where he had to defend his writings and his teachings. There before the assembled princes, nobles, bishops, and the Emperor himself, Luther faced his greatest challenge: The entire medieval church and state were arrayed against him. Luther was confronting a thousand years of history. There was a stack of books that Luther had written. A spokesman for the powers that were assembled demanded that Luther publicly recant his writings. A simple “Yes” or “No” was all that they asked for. To the surprise of almost everyone Luther asked for a postponement of one day, which the Emperor granted. In that one day Luther prepared his speech. I am giving only a fraction of Luther’s speech. Luther said:

I have seen what has happened and what is happening. And I must say that for me it is a joyful spectacle to see that passions and conflicts arise over the Word of God. For that is how the Word of God works. As the Lord Jesus said in Matt 10:34-36, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.          For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.    And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.” And so we must weigh carefully how wonderful and how awful our Lord is in His secret counsels. We must be sure that those things we do to banish strife do not rather lead to a flood of unbearable evil. I could call on many examples from Scripture – Pharaoh, the King of Babylon, the Kings of Israel – that would show how they were brought utterly to earth when they tried to free their kingdoms from strife by means of their own wisdom.”

Please turn now to the Epistle to the Galatians 1:8-9 (2X). The matter of supreme importance to us is to appreciate the value and use of Scripture. It is a Witness that exceeds by far all miracles. The dead may deceive us, but Scripture shall not deceive us, because God cannot lie. The doctrines of Scripture should be approved even if Herod presents it, and commits nothing but murder besides. On the other hand, the doctrines of men should not be approved even if Peter, or Paul, or an angel presents it and produces a cloudburst of miracles besides. Therefore we are reminded again of the words our Savior gave us in Gal 1:8-9, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Is that possible that people bring another gospel? Now enter:

#2.      The Years 1536 and 1541 (Eph 1:3-6)

What happened in the year 1536? John Calvin intended to pass through Geneva, but a preacher urged him to stay. Calvin was already world famous, for he had written the “Institutes of the Christian Religion”, in which he tried to set the Reformer’s beliefs in order, to organize their ideas in a way that would stand up against any argument. He also outlined in his book the way that a church should be organized in order to teach the new doctrines and to make them part of the everyday life of a city or town. Calvin was shocked to find that the citizens of Geneva new next to nothing about the new religion, and each minister seemed to preach a different doctrine. And so, he stayed. But Calvin’s rules were too strict for Geneva, so they thought. After 2 years they asked Calvin to leave Geneva, but 3 years later they pleaded with him to come back. And thus, in 1541 John Calvin stayed in Geneva until the end of his life. This was about 5 years before Martin Luther died. How did John Calvin’s theology differ from Luther’s theology, and in what way were they the same? Both Luther and Calvin preached that the will of man is under bondage to sin and Satan. Therefore salvation is entirely by grace, and outside of God’s grace there is no salvation. Luther stressed that man is justified by faith, based on Rom 1:17. Calvin stressed that man is justified by grace, based on Eph 2:8. But these two viewpoints are one and the same, because “that faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God”, according to Eph 2:8. Please turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians 1:3 (2X). Calvin’s view of God was that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just good, and the overflowing fountain of all good. And since God is infinitely wise and knows the end from the beginning, God also knows whom He is going to take up into Heaven. Therefore God had to choose whom He elected unto salvation, and passed by everyone else whom He was not going to save.

Eph 1:3 ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: {places: or, things}

Eph 1:4-5  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:            Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Eph 1:6  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Unambiguously this passage states that God chose His elect from before the foundation of the world, “before they could have done any good or evil”. Verse 5 says that God predestinated us to be the adopted children of God by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And all this was not based on something that we would do, or the fact that we would be believers of Jesus Christ, but the fact that God has chosen us entirely “according to the good pleasure of His will”. God did not look down the corridors of time to see who was going to believe on Jesus, and these were the ones whom God chose unto salvation. This would not be “according to the good pleasure of His will”. And thus we see that the principle of election was not an invention of Calvin, or of Peter, or of Paul. The principle of election is a Biblical concept. God invented it, and God is applying it because it was His plan. God’s counsel shall stand, and God’s providence (God’s hands) shall work out what His counsel determined to be done. This was the Biblical theology of:

John Calvin reminded us of what God says in Isa 46:9-11. Please turn to the prophecy of Isaiah 46:9 (2X). God speaks here of the coming of Cyrus who would deliver the children of Israel out of their captivity to Babylon. God says here in Isa 46:9,

Isa 46:9  Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

Isa 46:10  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Isa 46:11  Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.

What does it mean when God says that He declares the end from the beginning? It means exactly that. It does not mean that God knows the end from the beginning. Yes, God knows that too, but that was not what He was referring to. God declares the end from the beginning because He is the One who makes it come to pass. What God in His counsel before the foundation of the world has determined shall come to pass. That is why God can call a ravenous bird from the East, another name for Cyrus) who executes His counsel. It means that Israel’s captivity in Babylon was no surprise to God, and thus that Israel’s apostasy, which led to Israel’s captivity in Babylon, was also no surprise to God. God made Israel’s sin part of His plan, whatever that plan may be.

On some practical matters John Calvin also differed from Martin Luther. God said in Rom 13:1,

Ro 13:1 ¶ Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. {ordained: or, ordered}

Ro 13:2  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Therefore Martin Luther taught his followers that it is impossible to resist the magistrate without at the same time resisting God Himself. Luther said that under no circumstance may we rebel against whoever is king of the land. But John Calvin added some significant qualifications. When Moses led the Jews against the king of Egypt he was armed with authority from Heaven, and he punished an inferior power by a superior one. The correction of tyrannical domination is the vengeance of God, and the obedience due to the civil government ought not to seduce us from obedience to Him to whose will the desires of all kings ought to be subject. These words traveled all over Europe, and set a continent on fire with political revolution that raged for the rest of the century. The preacher of Geneva died in 1541. Almost 20 years later, in the year 1560 something else came to pass.

#3.      The Years 1560 to 1609

What occurred in the year 1560 that was worth noticing? It was the year that Jacob Arminius was born. Jacob Arminius was a master of deception, who worked himself into the position of preacher, and subsequently to the position of professor of Sacred Theology at Leiden, in the Netherlands. That was a very prestigious job. Such an appointment in the Netherlands is made for life. A professor cannot lose his job. By God’s providence he lived only 49 years. Jacob Arminius was appointed to his post at the university of Leiden in 1603. Six years later he died. But those six years were enough to rally almost half the population of the Netherlands behind him. Why did he have such a large following in only 6 years? This goes to show that the true Gospel reaches only the few elect who will find the narrow gate and the narrow way to eternal life, by the grace of God, whereas wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to Hell, and many there be which go in thereat. Not until he was at Leiden did Jacob Arminius preach a free-will gospel, which is the gospel of Rome. The Netherlands wrestled themselves out of the grip of Spain. This was a long war, which lasted 80 years. At the same time it was a religious war of the Dutch Protestants against the Roman Catholic oppressor, Spain. But Jacob Arminius was going to lead the entire country back into the hands of Rome. God intervened. God revealed to a significant fraction of the preachers in the Netherlands that the diseased heart of the Roman Catholic heresy was the doctrine of free-will. All preachers were in possession of the Belgic Confession of Faith, which says in Article 14, “Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin, and can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven”. And so, the preachers of the true Gospel of grace were on their guard against those who preached another gospel. But the followers of Jacob Arminius were crafty. They cast their heresy in the form of the teaching that only the grace of God can enable the will of the sinner to believe. This grace however is universal, to all who hear the Gospel preached. Basic to their subtle lie were the twin notions of universal grace and resistible grace. It was the Arminian Party in the Dutch reformed churches who first summarized their teachings into five points of doctrine. This they did following the death of Jacob Arminius, the man who initially advanced these erroneous doctrines, and after whom the Arminian Party was named. He taught conditional election based on foreseen faith, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace. This was the poison that was injected into the Dutch reformed churches. Slowly it sent the entire country into turmoil and confusion. Something had to be done. In 1618 the Dutch Reformed Church decided to hold a Synod, a meeting of all the delegates from the churches, in the city of Dort, which in Dutch is the city of Dordrecht. This Synod had a truly international character, since it was composed not only of the delegates of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands, but also of 27 delegates from foreign countries. The Synod discussed the issues until all were resolved. This lasted 9 months, well into the next year 1619. Let us see what the preachers of Dort came up with.

Please turn to the Epistle to the Romans 11:6 (2X). The preachers at Dort came up with this foundation of the Christian Faith: Salvation is all of grace. And so, the five points they came up with were called the “doctrines of grace”. Quite often these are also called the “five points of Calvinism”. Keep in mind though that John Calvin had nothing to do with these statements. Calvin was already dead and buried 55 years earlier. Only to say, “Salvation is all by grace” would not have helped. The Arminian Party gladly said this, as they worked at leading the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands back to Rome. But the Synod at Dort preserved the Reformation. The Reformation exposed the lie of the works gospel peddled by the Roman Church. Dort preserved the Reformation by stating precisely the meaning of grace, which is unmerited favor, and the meaning of works gospels as abominations in God’s sight. What does God say in the Bible? God says in Rom 11:6, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work”. It is not possible that salvation should come by man’s will cooperating with God’s will. God says in Isa 42:8, “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images”. Clearly salvation is all by grace, and grace means that it is 100% God’s initiative. God exposed the lie of salvation by the will of man as a false gospel. God says in Rom 9:16, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy”. The Synod at Dort met the five doctrines of the Arminian Party head on, and the Synod declared that the Biblical view of salvation is given by the following five points: Unconditional election, Limited Atonement, Total Depravity, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints. Moreover, Dort dared to establish the message of the Gospel by confessing reprobation. It confessed reprobation in the face of the deliberate crafty policy of the Arminian heretics to destroy the gospel of grace by concentrating their assault on the doctrine of reprobation. They appealed to man’s natural aversion to reprobation. But the Synod of Dort never wavered. Silence about reprobation would mean the end of Biblical election. And Biblical election is the foundation and source of the message of grace. The Synod at Dort boldly confessed reprobation and demanded that it be preached wisely, but always in connection with election. The impossibility of maintaining election apart from reprobation is evident from God’s attribute of infinite wisdom. God cannot become wiser as time progresses, and therefore God cannot be surprised. Those in the reformed churches who clamor for election without reprobation either proclaim an election that is universal, or an election that is temporal, because the elect can fall from grace. Both of these are the death of the Gospel of grace. Therefore we hold that the event of the Synod at Dort was an event that stood out as a great event in the history of the Reformation. God gave us these preachers at the time of the Synod of Dort to preserve the Gospel of grace. Now let us enter another date:

#4.      October 31, 600 Years Ago

This brings us into the time of the Middle Ages. We find that October 31 was a religious pagan feast day. Already in the time of the Romans October 31 was a special feast in the honor of the goddess Pomona, the goddess of the fruit trees. Then later the Druids, which was an ancient order of Celtic priests in Britain, extended this celebration of October 31 in honor of Samhain, the lord of the dead. This was normally done on November 1, and therefore they decided to honor both Pomona and Samhain on October 31 and November 1. The Druids believed that on the night of October 31 Samhain called together the souls or spirits which had been condemned to live in the bodies of animals during the past 12 months. Since they were afraid of these spirits, they chose October 31 as a day of sacrifice to their gods, hoping they would protect them. They really believed that on this day they were surrounded by strange spirits, ghosts, witches, fairies, and elves, who came out to hurt them. In addition to this, they also believed that cats were holy animals, as they considered them to represent people who lived formerly, and as punishment for evil deeds were reincarnated as a cat. All this explains why witches, ghosts, and cats are part of Halloween today.

During the Middle Ages (about 600 years ago), the Roman Catholic Church at that time, de­cided to make the changeover from pagan religion to Christianity a bit easier, and therefore allowed the new converts to maintain some of their pagan feasts. It was agreed, however, that from now on they would be celebrated as "Christian" feasts. So instead of praying to their hea­then gods, they would now pray to, and remember the death of saints. For this reason the church decided to call November 1 the "Day of All Saints," and the mass to be celebrated on that day was "Alhallow mass." In consequence of this, the evening prior to this day was named, "All Hal­lowed Evening," which subsequently was abbreviated as "Halloween." In spite of this ef­fort to make October 31 a "holy evening," all the old customs continued to be practiced, and made this evening anything but a holy
evening! It is still a pagan feast.  Halloween is most definitely not a holy eve­ning! This annual event is far from the harmless, innocent tradition it is promoted to be. Many dread this "holy" evening as they think what could happen to them, their property, or their children! Consistent with its historical
roots, this evening is characterized by fear, and frequently arouses dormant fears in many. The fear generated by this event is symbolic of the fear which plagues so many in our modern, mor­ally bankrupt world. It is a fear that is symbolized by the costumes people wear on Halloween.

And so, let us look now at all the events from an objective point of view.

The Roman Catholic Church established Halloween as a feast day on October 31, and “All Saints Day” on November 1. It is an ugly pagan feast, with all the attributes of idolatry. It is Satanic. The Christians then established October 31 as a day to remember the Reformation. It is called Reformation Day, to honor the fact that on October 31 the Reformation started, and it drove away the ugly Roman Catholic heresy from the hearts of many. It was not Martin Luther who started this Reformation. God started it. God’s providence worked things out, so that the right preachers of the Word appeared on the scene at the right time. God was preserving His Gospel message for the generations to come. It is therefore with deep gratitude to God that we want to commemorate October 31, as it reminds us of God’s gracious and mighty deeds about 500 years ago. Then later, when the gospel was again threatened to disappear from the scene, God raised up holy men who came together in the city of Dort and they left us the legacy of the Canons of Dort, so that future generations may be blessed reading them. All this is connected with October 31.

The question then is: Which preacher do you listen to? Will you continue to listen to the voice of the Roman Catholic Church, which promotes a gospel of death? Or will you listen to the preachers of the Gospel of grace, of whom God says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” from Isa 52:7. Whom do you listen to? The ball is in your court. No one is twisting your arm. No one forces you to abandon the celebration of Halloween beginning today. No one forces you to throw those Halloween costumes in the trash. Just be honest with yourself. You have heard now all the facts. Do you believe all the facts? Whatever you believe, that you will follow up with action. And remember that your children will look at your actions and they will remember them, for you are a role model to them.

The Lord Jesus Christ tells us in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. No ifs and buts. They will follow me. Whatever your choice is that is whom you follow because that is the one whose servants you are.

AMEN.                  Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.