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Bad Plagiarists for the Reformation

Good Evening. A Puritan’s Mind brings you the old time radio program The Wild Boar News Podcast from Sunny South Florida. Welcome, I’m Dr. Matthew McMahon.

Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus says the LORD: "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.”

There are a variety of preachers that strive after reformation out there in the world, many with good intentions. They preach cardinal truths in order to propagate the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Reformation, as much as they are able. We don’t look down upon such things. God has granted many preachers a mediocrity that they are unable to escape, even to His glory, yet still they desire to preach God’s word and give it a little help. What do I mean?

Let pull a file. Case number 4,324,345. For the establishment of secrecy and non-embarrassment, let’s call this pastoral case number “Pastor Harry.” Pastor Harry knows its Reformation month. October rises up among the months of the year as one in which we remember the recovery of the Gospel from the cloak and darkness of the papists. Hus, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Farel, Corrault, Oecolampadius, Zwingli and others gave themselves over the recovery of the Word of God. Pastor Harry decides to take a reformation sermon, let’s say a sermon from Calvin, and “adapt” it to today’s congregation. After a week’s preparation of taking a good sermon by Calvin and adapting it for the 21st century church, Pastor Harry feels as though he will now be able to take such an exposition of the Word of God and deliver it to his congregation. He ascends the pulpit, and begins with an announcement to read the Scriptures, but first tells his people a story about his childhood, his job, or some other illustrious notation that he believes will hook the hearer. Then he segues into a prayer asking for the Holy Spirit’s help, and then after the “amen”, continues with another illustration.

Next, he announces that the sermon was adapted from Calvin’s works, and he finally, after 10 minutes, reads the Scripture. After a 30 minute unzealous explanation, he uses Calvin’s commentary and application, and then closes, hoping that his congregation would see some of the same truths he did in the passage at hand.

People like this may be zealous for the reformation, and for that credit is due. But the Reformation was founded upon a return to the Word of God, not the help that a 10 minute introduction had on childhood illustrations or talks that hook the listener. The very day such a pastor is to honor, he actually detracts from when he follows that kind of thinking. Instead, he should realize, with the Reformers, that the Word of God does not need any help. What do I mean?

Look at the prophets – when they came a spoke, they said, “Thus says the Lord” and then continued to explain what the Lord said. Not childhood illustrations or clever anecdotes that hook the listener. God’s Word was enough. Calvin began his sermon on the Passion of Christ by quoting the Scripture, and then immediately by saying, after the Scripture was read, “We have already seen in the preceding verses…” etc. In Calvin’s 16th sermon on Pentecost, he quotes Acts 2:1-4 and then begins to explain the passage. In Calvin’s first sermon on the deity of Christ he reads John 1:1-5 and then says “The Word “Gospel” declares how God loved us…” and goes to explain the passage. In his first sermon on Election and Reprobation, Calvin read Genesis 25:12 and then says “We have here to consider the difference…” and then further explains the passage. Luther did the same. Wycliffe did the same. Tyndale did the same. Every republished Puritan work does the same. Those hungry and excited for reformation in this light read the Scriptures first, and then preached what the Scriptures meant, pulled a doctrine from the Scriptures, and then applied those Scriptures. All their time was spent about the Word of God. They trusted that the Word of God was enough.

Now Pastor Harry not only began wrong, but bored his congregation with a so-so sermon. It was not that Pastor Harry bored his congregation; he’s done that before. What is astounding that he bored them with an adapted sermon of Calvin. Calvin’s sermons are not boring. Calvin’s sermons were huge flames of heartfelt power and energy surrounding recovering a glimpsed Gospel. Pastor Harry not only bored his congregation with a so-so message, he could not even copy the reformer well. Such is the state of Christianity with men who stand behind the pulpit and are only wishful in their thinking toward the Reformation. They do not stand upon the Word, and the Word alone, because the Word needs help. It needs to be coddled, and adapted.

Maybe you have experienced this in your own church.

In remembering the reformation and the power behind it, one must see, at least historically if not practically, that all these faithful theologians and preachers were used by God because they stood firmly upon the Word of God and “desired the old paths.”

Remember Jeremiah 6:16 says, “Thus says the LORD: "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.” The Scripture does not stop there. Its continues, “But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'”

Such is the case of many pastors who desire reformation today, but are unwilling to be unswerving in their devotion to its principles. Its principles stand firmly on the old paths, on the Word of God alone. Such men are simply bad plagiarists.

This is Dr. Matthew McMahon signing off.

Keep checking back at A Puritan’s Mind – the series on Election and Reprobation has just been completed. Go to www.apuritansmind.com and click on “What’s New?” There you will find information on this 9 part lecture series. Also in the works is an MP3 series on the Covenant of Grace, and a new book that will be first in a series called “The Writings of A Puritan’s Mind” which will be a compilation of Puritan sermons not yet published. Puritan Publications has already released its latest book, “A Heart for Reformation” which covers how every Christian should desire true biblical reformation. For more on Reformed and Puritan Theology that honors the Lord Jesus Christ, visit www.apuritansmind.com.

What was just described is a bare assessment of what could be called the modern "neo-reformed" churches, which are not truly reformed. If the reformers were suddenly to appear in these churches today, the pastors and congregation with either gather to stone them (covering their ears from their righteous accusations, even as the Pharisees with Stephen), or take immediate flight.

What is completely missing is Reverence, a true fear of God, who is still Jealous and Holy. Man-centered and "consensus" building Christianity, that resents and rejects the authoritative Word being preached (as much as the stiff-necked opposed Jeremiah's prophetic warnings against them) is proof that democratic humanism is the heretical philosophy by which modern churches operate, and their practices established and defended.

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