Saturday, September 23, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 39 BLOODY MARY

Reformation 500 WEEK 39    Bloody Mary


     “Princess Mary, the only surviving child of Henry VIII and [his first wife] Catherine of Aragon, was dedicated in her allegiance to the Catholic Church and Catholic Spain, the birthplace of her mother” (DeMar, Reformation, 227). Mary remembered what happened to her and her mother back in 1533. When Archbishop Cranmer had declared her mother’s marriage to Henry unlawful so Henry could wed Anne Boleyn, Mary was declared illegitimate and removed from the line of succession to the throne. In 1544, Henry reinstated Mary to the line of succession behind her half-brother, Edward, born to Henry’s third wife Jane Seymour in 1537.

     Before Edward VI died in 1553, knowing full well that after his death Mary would restore Catholicism in England, he devised a complicated scheme to prevent her from taking the throne. He named his Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey his success-or. After Edward died, Jane was proclaimed queen of England on July 10, 1553. Jane’s father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland, set out with forces to capture Mary, but before he could do so she raised her own army and rallied other support-ers, prompting the royal government to switch its allegiance from Jane and declare Mary the legitimate queen. Jane, who had reigned for just nine days, was imprison-ed with her husband in the Tower of London, and Northumberland was executed. Later, Jane and her husband were tried, found guilty, and executed as traitors.

     Queen Mary worked to return England to Catholicism, undoing the reforms made by Edward. She brought the Church of England back under the authority of the pope, deposed Protestant bishops, and restored traditional Roman Catholic worship. In 1554, she married King Philip of Spain, “the most deadly foe of Protest-antism in all Europe. Many English Protestants fled abroad: most found refuge in Germany and Switzerland [John Knox fled to Geneva]. Protestants who stayed behind in England were now arrested and tried for heresy(Needham, 2000 Years, 3:393).

     “The most notable victims of Mary’s persecution were the two bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. As the flames curled around their bodies Latimer spoke courage and comfort to his fellow martyr: ‘This day we shall light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.’” (Kuiper’s History, 226). Mary’s next victim was Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, who was promptly excommunicated. Even though Cranmer weakened and signed a denial of the Protestant faith, Mary decided to make an example of him and burn him anyway. But just before he was to die on March 21, 1556, he stunned everyone by renouncing his denial and reaffirming his Protestant faith. As the flames rose around him at the stake, the old archbishop in dramatic fashion held out the hand which had signed the denial, “so that it was the first part of his body to be burnt away” (Needham, 3:394).


     Before she died in 1558, Mary had more than 270 Protestants burned at the stake, earning her the name “Bloody Mary,” given to her by John Foxe (1516-1587) in his famous Book of Martyrs. Foxe hoped the church would never forget. At least the Anglican prayer book did not forget: “Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, after the examples of thy servants Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer; that we may live in thy fear, die in thy favor, and rest in thy peace.” 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 History: Bloody Mary

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 39

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts. 

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 39: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA 104

Reformation 500 WEEK 39: Heidelberg Catechism QA 104

Question 104: What does God require in the fifth Commandment? That I show all honor, love, and faithfulness to my father and mother, and to all in authority over me, submit myself with due obedience to all their good instruction and correction, and also bear patiently with their infirmities [weaknesses], since it is God’s will to govern us by their hand.

                The Fifth Commandment, “honor your father and your mother,” is first in the second table of the law, because it is in the home where we begin to learn how to love our neighbor as our self and to submit to all authority in society. The purpose “of this commandment is the preservation of civil order,” and parental authority and government “was the first established among men” (Ursinus, 575). Behind this commandment is the truth that God governs us through various kinds of authority. “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God” (Rom. 13:1-2). The only exception to our obedience to men is if they command us to disobey God, in which case, “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Parental authority is the foundation of all authority. Since God knows the depravity of our hearts, that we submit to authority grudgingly, He starts us off with that submission which is easiest to tolerate, in order to gradually accustom us to submit to all other lawful authority.

                The fact that the Bible directs this commandment to children in the church teaches us that God redeems children through faith in Christ from the penalty and bondage of sin, including the sin of dishonoring parents; so that they learn to honor, love, and obey their parents out of thankfulness for salvation. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). The words, “in the Lord,” mean that this obedience “should be religious; arising out of the conviction that such obedience is the will of the Lord. This makes it a higher service than if rendered from fear or from mere natural affection” (Charles Hodge, on Eph. 6:1).

The basic meaning of the word honor is “weighty, of great value and worth.” To honor our parents is to treat them as carrying a lot of weight, as very valuable and worthy of respect, because it is God’s will to govern us by their hand. Therefore, we “should treat them with honor, obedience, and gratefulness. It follows from this that we are forbidden to detract from their dignity either by contempt, by stubbornness, or by ungratefulness [Matt. 15:4-6]” (Calvin, Institutes, 2.8.35). On the other hand, “when God requires parents to be honored, He at the same time demands that they so discharge the duties of parents as to be worthy of honor [Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4]” (Ursinus, 576).


Honoring parents also means to bear patiently with their weaknesses, even when they behave dishonorably (Gen. 9:18-23). This does not mean children have to put up with abuse. Parents who abuse their children are breaking the law, and abusing the authority God gave them. Therefore, “if our parents spur us to transgress the law, we have a right to regard them not as parents, but as strangers who are trying to lead us away from obedience to our true Father” (Calvin, Institutes, 2.8.38). Abused or abandoned children do not have the right to be bitter or to rage against society. Only the Lord can heal their broken heart and bitterness. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10). 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism QA 104

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 39

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 38: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA 103

Reformation 500 WEEK 38: Heidelberg Catechism QA 103

Question 103: What does God require in the fourth Commandment? In the first place, God wills that the ministry of the Gospel and schools be maintained, and that I, especially on the day of rest, diligently attend church to learn the Word of God, to use the holy sacraments, to call publicly upon the Lord, and to give Christian alms. In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting Sabbath.

     The Hebrew word Sabbath means rest, or ceasing from labor. God established the weekly Sabbath day when He finished His work of creation in six days and rested the seventh day: “on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day” (Gen. 2:2). God’s resting does not mean He was tired or stopped His work of providentially preserving and governing the universe (John 5:17). It means He ceased His work of creation. After creation week, for example, God did not create any new people but He brought new people into existence according to His providential laws of reproduction. God’s rest also means He delighted in His finished work of creation. “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31); “on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed” (Ex. 31:17). God was refreshed “in the sense of His receiving joy and delight in the contemplation of the beauty of what He had created” (Kelly, Creation and Change, 238). “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work” (Gen. 2:3). To bless a day means to make it a day of blessing for man. The Lord Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). To sanctify (make holy) a day means to set it apart from the other days. By resting the seventh day God set it apart from the other six days to be a day of rest for man – to imitate God’s rest. Thus, the main purpose of ceasing from work is not for physical refreshment, but spiritual refreshment!

     “God rested; then He blessed this rest…He dedicated every seventh day to rest, that His own example might be a perpetual rule.” Since “it was commanded to men from the very beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world” (Calvin on Genesis 2:3).

     “The principle underlying the Sabbath is formulated in the Decalogue itself. It consists in this, that man must copy God in his course of life” (Vos, Biblical Theology, 139). “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy [set apart]. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work.” Why? “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed [sanctified] it” (Ex. 20:9-11). The unchanging moral principle of the Sabbath command is that God created us in His image to imitate Him in all of life – to work six days for His glory and to rest one day for His glory. The fall ruined our ability to imitate God, but redemption through faith in Christ restores our ability to imitate God out of thankfulness for salvation. “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children” (Eph. 5:1); “be holy for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16).

     The day can change without changing the moral principle. Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week did not abolish the weekly cycle of working six days and resting one day for God’s glory (Mt. 5:17). Rather, it showed that Christ perfectly fulfilled the law, paid the eternal penalty of sin, and obtained eternal life (eternal rest!) for all who believe in Him (He. 4:3). The new covenant has a new day of rest (just as it has new signs and seals – baptism and the Lord’s Supper) to show that sinners are saved only by trusting (resting) in the finished work of Christ alone!

     The new day of rest, which “God has instituted through the church [under the authoritative leadership of the apostles],” is “the first day of the week, which is called Sunday, or, more properly, the Lord’s Day, which the Christian Church has observed in the place of the seventh day from the time of the Apostles [Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:7], in view of the resurrection of Christ, as appears from what the Apostle John says: ‘I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10)’.” (Ursinus, 562).

     In regards to Romans 14:5, Galatians 4:10, and Colossians 3:16, most reformed commentators agree with Matthew Henry: “Paul is not speaking of the Sabbath command. Paul is speaking about special Jewish feast days, such as Passover, Pentecost, new moons, and the feast of Tabernacles.”

     The main focus on the day of rest is still spiritual worship and refreshment – to “call the Sabbath a delight,” to “delight yourself in the LORD” (Isaiah 58:13). This is why there is still to be a holy assembly every Sabbath (Lev. 23:3; Heb. 10:24-25). “God will not only be praised and called upon by everyone privately, but also publicly by the whole church [Ps. 68:26], for His own glory and comfort. It is for this reason that Christ has added a special promise to such prayers as are offered up publicly [Matt. 18:19-20]” (Ursinus, 571). The ministry of God’s Word is still the means by which God saves and sanctifies His elect (Ex. 31:17; Ac 15:21; 20:7; Rm. 10:17; Ep. 4:11-16).

     Therefore, “To keep holy the Sabbath, is not to spend the day in slothfulness and idleness; but to…devote it to the purpose for which God instituted it” (Ibid., 558); “to frequent the public gatherings of the saints for the purpose of hearing and learning the doctrine delivered from heaven [Acts 2:42], and having heard it, to meditate seriously upon it and inquire into its truth [Acts 17:11]” (Ibid., 567). It is our daily duty to meditate in Scripture (Ps. 1:2), but “every seventh day has been especially selected for the purpose of supplying what was lacking in daily meditation” (Calvin, Gen. 2:3).

     “When God forbids us to work on the Sabbath day, He does not forbid every kind of work [such as works of love, which our own necessity or that of our neighbor requires (Matt. 12:7-12; Mark 2:27)], but only such works as…hinder the worship of God, and the design and use of the ministry of the church” (Ursinus, 558). Some believers work on the Sabbath out of necessity – nurses, public officers, and others. But they can still make time for private devotions and Bible study.

     Every commandment has a wider meaning, as Jesus pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount. You shall not murder also means you shall not hate your brother in your heart (Matt. 5:21-22). You shall not commit adultery also means you shall not lust after a woman in your heart (Matt. 5:27-28). You shall do no work on the day of rest also means you shall rest every day from your evil works, allow the Holy Spirit to work in your heart (by doing your daily Bible reading and prayer), and thus begin in this life the everlasting Sabbath (cf. Heb. 4:9-10).


     To sum up [lest we make too sharp a distinction between the “continental” and “puritan” view of the Sabbath]: “The Lord’s Day (Sunday) shall be kept a holy day, devoted to the public worship of the Lord, to reading the Holy Scriptures, to private devotions, and to works of love and mercy” (RCUS Constitution, article 180).


NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism QA 103

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 38

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 37: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 101-102

Reformation 500 WEEK 37: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 101-102

Question 101: But may we swear reverently by the name of God? Yes, when the magistrate requires it, or when it may be needful otherwise, to maintain and promote fidelity and truth to the glory of God and our neighbor’s good; for such an oath is grounded in God’s Word, and therefore was rightly used by the saints in the Old and New Testaments.

     When the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not swear at all” (Matt. 5:34), He was not abolishing the lawful oath required in God’s law on certain solemn occasions. “You shall take oaths in His name” (Deut. 6:13); “and swear by His name” (Deut. 10:20; cf. Ex. 22:10-11). Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus Himself swore an oath when commanded to do so by the high priest (Matt. 26:63-64; cf. Heb. 6:13). The apostle Paul swore at least one oath. “I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth” (2 Cor. 1:23).

     One of the ways Jesus fulfilled the law was to clarify its true meaning, in order to correct the scribes and Pharisees’ perversions of God’s law. They perverted the oath by saying it was okay to swear without using God’s name. As Jesus pointed out, they swore by heaven, by earth, by Jerusalem, by their own head (Matt. 5:34-36). “The Jews made a distinction between binding and nonbinding oaths. Instead of using the divine name (which would be binding), they swore ‘by heaven or by earth or by anything.’ …that would be non-binding and would not incur the wrath of God” (Hendriksen, Commentary, James 5:12). But Jesus said that to swear by anything is to swear by God, for God stands behind everything (Matt. 23:21-22). Oath-taking is a very serious matter, and it is to be done only when necessary. In our daily conservations with people there is no need to swear at all. “But let your Yes be Yes and your No, No. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). As Christians, living before the face of God, we are under oath at all times to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, out of thankfulness for our salvation (Eph. 4:15, 25).

     In a court of law, especially, the oath is necessary – first and foremost because it promotes the glory of God. God is a God of truth; and the manifestation of truth is glorious to God. The oath also contributes to our neighbor’s safety. Law and order depend on men speaking truthfully and being faithful to their word. Because of man’s natural tendency to speak lies, the oath is required in this sinful world. There is no higher motive for telling the truth than the fear of God’s wrath. An oath temporarily reminds sinners that they will be judged for what they say, and this does reduce the amount of exaggeration, distortion, and perjury. In our courts today, “So help me God,” is being removed from the oath. Why then should people tell the truth?

Question 102: May we swear by the saints or by any other creatures?
No, for a lawful oath is a calling upon God, that He, as the only searcher of hearts, may bear witness to the truth, and punish me if I swear falsely; which honor is due to no creature.


     Only God can make the oath meaningful. The unbeliever will go to hell for lying; the untruthful believer will receive God’s fatherly discipline (1 Cor. 11:31-32). 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism QAs 101-102

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 37

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts. 

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 37 CALVIN AND SERVETUS

Reformation 500 WEEK 37    Calvin and Servetus


     The same year King Edward VI died in England (1553), Michael Servetus was burned to death as a heretic in Geneva. Ever since, Calvin’s Geneva has been stigmatized as a symbol of religious dogmatism, intolerance and cruelty. What people don’t know is that Calvin’s world agreed with the execution of Servetus, and that “there was no occasion for another capital punishment of heresy in the Church of Geneva after the burning of Servetus” (Schaff, 8:798).

     Servetus was a Spanish scholar, physician, and Anabaptist who published a book attacking the doctrine of the Trinity, even “comparing the Trinity to Cerebus, the three-headed dog of Greek mythology. He denounced Trinitarians as heretics” (DeMar, Reformation, 208). He also denounced infant baptism as a diabolical invention and destructive of Christianity. A rejection of the Trinity and infant baptism were capital crimes. Europe was a Christian society, where every citizen was born and baptized as a member of both church and state. Therefore, to reject the Trinity was to reject Christianity and to reject infant baptism was to reject citizenship. Both Catholics and Protestants viewed the Anabaptists as revolutionary and dangerous to society.

     The Roman Catholic Inquisition in Vienne, France condemned Servetus to die by burning. But he “escaped and made his way to Geneva where he arrived on Sunday, August 13, 1553. He was promptly arrested” (DeMar, 209). “When Roman Catholic authorities learned that the escaped Servetus was in Geneva, they demanded that he be returned to their jurisdiction. The Genevan City Council then offered Servetus a choice: he could either return to Vienne or remain in Geneva. Servetus chose to remain in Geneva and take his chances with Genevan justice [he probably hoped to benefit from the hostility the city council had towards Calvin]” (DeMar, 210). “Calvin’s opponents had done all they could to hinder the trial of Servetus. Because they had tried to protect a man whom everybody condemned as a great heretic, they were now thoroughly discredited. Their power of opposition was broken” (Kuiper, Church in History, 198). On October 27th, Servetus was sentenced to burn to death.

     Calvin agreed that Servetus should be put to death, but he disagreed with the Roman Catholic idea that the church “possessed both a religious and a secular sword” (RCUS pastor Mark Larson, Calvin’s doctrine of the State, p.3). Calvin argued that it was the job of the state, not the church, to execute heretics. 

     Both Farel and Calvin pleaded with Servetus to cry “for mercy to God whom you have blasphemed” (Schaff, 8:784). “Calvin had asked that Servetus be spared the agony of being burned to death, urging the Small Council to use the more humane method of beheading. The government refused this request” (Larson, 85-86). If Servetus died without repentance, then (like all others who have died without repentance) he is suffering in “the fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:43).


     “Calvin was certainly at fault…in accepting the widely-held belief of the age that heretics should be put to death. We are all prone to judge men of former days by the standards of the age in which we ourselves live…. Perhaps God allows blemishes in his own children, while on earth, in order that men should not idolize them and put them, as it were, on pedestals” (S.M. Houghton, Sketches from Church History, 109).
NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Calvin and Servetus


For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 37


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 36 ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

Reformation 500 WEEK 36    England and Scotland


     When Luther died in 1546, Calvin was busy reforming Geneva, and answering the official Roman Catholic counter reformation in progress since 1545 at the Council of Trent (northern Italy). This Council lasted until 1563 (a year before Calvin’s death).

     Meanwhile the reformation was spreading in England and Scotland. “Patrick Hamilton, a student of Martin Luther who was the first to bring Reformed preaching to Scotland, was burned at the stake for his faith in 1529” (DeMar, Reformation to Colonization, 229). Later, some young men from Scotland, after visiting Luther’s university at Wittenberg, returned to their native country to spread Luther’s doctrines. “The transition from Lutheranism to Calvinism took place under George Wishart” (Kuiper, Church in History, 216). A priest by the name of John Knox served as Wishart’s bodyguard. But “Wishart wouldn't let Knox come with him to his trial and execution” (reformationhistory.org). Wishart was hanged and burnt at the stake in 1546.

     “Wishart’s other followers, retaliated by murdering Cardinal Beaton, Scotland’s supreme Catholic official. For nearly a year those espousing Reformed principles made some headway in Scotland from their base at the castle at St. Andrews. With the help of French forces, Catholics regained the upper hand, taking the castle and sending its Protestant inhabitants, John Knox among them, to the galley ships as prisoners” (Nichols, Reformation, 96). For nineteen months, Knox “toiled as a galley-slave. Day after day he had to ply the oars in the hot, smelly hold of a French ship,” constantly “pestered with suggestions that he should pray to the image of Mary” (Kuiper, 216). After his release in 1549, “Knox went to England where he preached and eventually became chaplain to Edward VI” (DeMar, 230).

     Also in 1549, Calvin’s wife, Idelette, died. “Calvin was devastated. Writing to his friend and fellow Reformer Pierre Viret, he declared his grief: ‘I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life.’ To Farel he stated, ‘I do what I can to keep myself from being overwhelmed by grief’.” (Nichols, 119).

     When King Henry VIII died in 1547, his nine-year old and sickly son Edward VI (by his third wife Jane Seymour) came to the throne. At his coronation, Archbishop “Cranmer referred to him as the second Josiah, as a king who would restore England to the true faith” (DeMar, 226). Calvin dedicated several of his commentaries to Edward and wrote several letters to him. “Under Edward’s leadership, a number of important changes took place: religious services were conducted in English, the Catholic Mass was abolished [images were also removed], clergy were permitted to marry, and English Bibles were freely printed” (DeMar, 226). Distinguished Protestant refugees, Martin Bucer, Peter Martyr, Jan Laski, and John Knox were also helping with reform efforts. Bucer worked with Cranmer to improve the Book of Common Prayer (a service book still used today for use in worship). John Knox helped Cranmer formulate the Church of England’s official creed, the Forty-Two Articles.

     “The Reformation in England seemed to have complete victory within its grasp.” But “Edward [only 16] died of tuberculosis in 1553” (Kuiper, 227). The “young king died, praying, ‘My Lord and God, save this realm from popery, and maintain it in true religion” (DeMar, 226). His Catholic sister Mary succeeded him to the throne. 


NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 England and Scotland

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 36

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts. 

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 36: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 99-100

Reformation 500 WEEK 36: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 99-100

Question 99: What is required in the third Commandment? That we must not by cursing, or by false swearing, nor yet by unnecessary oaths, profane or abuse the name of God; nor even by our silence and connivance be partakers of these horrible sins in others; and in summary, that we use the holy name of God in no other way than with fear and reverence, so that He may be rightly confessed and worshiped by us, and be glorified in all our words and works.

God has many descriptive titles (such as Almighty, Most High, the Holy One, Sovereign), and one primary name: Jehovah or Yahweh – the equivalent of I AM (Ex. 3:13-14). In the English Bible, God’s primary name is translated LORD. “I am the LORD, that is My name” (Isaiah 42:8). “God’s name stands for all that God is. … to profane (despise or take lightly) the name of God is to blaspheme God Himself (Leviticus 24:11, 15)” (Jones, Study Helps, 241). The word ‘vain’ means ‘frivolous, insincere, thoughtless.’ To take the LORD’s name in vain is to take His name upon our lips irreverently, insincerely, rashly, lightly, or thoughtlessly: “Oh my God, Thank God, Good Lord, Hallelujah, Jesus Christ.” God’s name is abused in the following ways: (1) by cursing. “All cursing which proceeds from hatred, and from a desire of private revenge leading to the destruction of our neighbor, is … wicked; because it desires that God should be made the executioner of our corrupt wishes and passions” (Ursinus, 538); (2) by false swearing: lying after swearing to tell the truth; “you shall not swear by my name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:12); (3) by unnecessary oaths (explained in Q&A 101); (4) by our silence (explained in Q&A 100); (5) by our disobedience (Prov. 30:9; Rom. 2:24). We must use the holy name of God only with fear and reverence. “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name!” (Psalm 8:1; cf. 100:4-5). “Hallowed by Your Name.”

Question 100: Is the profaning of God’s name, by swearing and cursing, so grievous a sin that His wrath is kindled against those also who do not help as much as they can to hinder and forbid it? Yes, truly, for no sin is greater and more provoking to God than the profaning of His name; wherefore He even commanded it to be punished with death [Lev. 24:15-16].

It “is not enough merely to keep our mouth shut and not utter profanity, but we have to open them and defend the name of God when others profane it… As Christians, we are prophets (see Question 31 and 32) and must ‘confess His name’ to the world [especially when it is profaned]” (Study Helps). By our silence and connivance (acting as if nothing happened) we give the impression we approve of blasphemy: if a person “hears the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of it; if he does not tell it, he bears guilt” (Lev. 5:1). “The partner of a thief hates his own life; he hears the curse, but discloses nothing” (Prov. 29:24). Would we be silent if our mother’s name was cursed? Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, … the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes” (Mark 8:38). With respect and wisdom, we must show our disapproval of blasphemy (Matt. 7:6; Col. 4:5-6).


NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 90-100

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 36

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 35: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 96-98

Reformation 500 WEEK 35: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 96-98

Question 96: What does God require in the second Commandment? That we in no way make any image of God, nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded us in His Word.

In the first commandment, the true God commanded that He alone should be worshipped. In the second commandment, He requires us to worship Him in a way that “is pleasing to Him, and not with such worship as that which is according to the imagination and device of man [Acts 17:29]” (Ursinus, 517). When the Israelites made the golden calf, they were not intending to worship another god, but rather they proclaimed “a feast to the LORD [Yahweh]” (Ex. 32:5). They worshiped the LORD with an image. Having spent over 400 years in Egyptian bondage, the Israelites got the idea of making a bull from the Egyptians who thought the bull was a good representation of divine power. Like all pagans, they believed that by honoring the image, the god’s power and blessing would flow to them from the image. Listen to the pagans as they speak for themselves: ‘who but a perfect child considers these idols to be gods?’ ‘Rather, we worship the gods by them.’ ‘I worship not this visible thing, but the divinity dwelling there invisibly.’ (quoted by Turretin, 2:55).

The LORD repeatedly warned Israel not to worship Him the way the other nations did (Deut. 12:2-4, 29-32). “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way…. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deut. 12:31-32; cf. 1 Cor. 10:20). God has not left us free to worship Him as we think best. God has revealed what pleases Him in Scripture (Matt. 15:9). For this reason, our love to God through Jesus Christ should lead us to worship Him the way He requires in Scripture. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth [sincerely in accord with the truth of His Word]” (John 4:24). 

The reason why images of God are forbidden is because God cannot be imaged. God is infinite, “the heaven of heavens cannot contain” Him (1 Kings 8:27). “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), “dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen nor can see” (1 Tim. 6:16; cf. Ex. 33:20; John 1:18). “To whom then will you compare God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” (Isa. 40:18). Therefore, “you shall not make any likeness of anything…” (Ex. 20:4). All images of God are lies and detract from His glory (Hab. 2:18).

                What about pictures of Jesus? Jesus said, “all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). If it is wrong to make an image of God the Father it is equally wrong to make an image of God the Son! He is not just a man. He is also infinite God. “No man ever spoke like this Man!” There was no attempt by the apostles to make a portrait of Jesus, or to put on a passion play (cf. 2 Cor. 5:16; Rev. 1:14-16)! When pictures of Christ were first introduced they were condemned by the church fathers. The Council of Elvira (AD 306) declared: “there ought not to be images in a church, that what is worshipped and adored should not be depicted on the walls.” As late as AD 754, the 7th ecumenical council decreed “no images of Christ should be painted or graven, not even as it respects His human nature; because nothing but His humanity could be expressed by art; and those who make such images, seem to establish again the error of Nestorius, or Eutyches” (Ursinus, 527).

The reformation sought to return to the basic principles of worship as practiced in the early church, which was modeled after the Jewish synagogue. “The first Christians [were Jewish believers and] took over many of the worship traditions of the synagogue. They did not take over the rich and sumptuous ceremonial of the Temple, but rather the simpler synagogue service, with its Scripture reading, its sermon, its prayers, and its psalmody” (Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship, 43). The “highest worship of God is to hear Him speaking by human lips, and to yield subjection to His Word” (Calvin). “The best and true ornament of our churches is the pure and unadulterated doctrine of the gospel, the lawful use of the sacraments, true prayer, and worship in accordance with God’s Word” (Ursinus, 533).

Question 97: May we not make any image at all? God may not and cannot be imaged in any way; as for creatures, though they may indeed be imaged, yet God forbids the making or keeping of any likeness of them, either to worship them or to serve God by them.

The Second Commandment “does not absolutely forbid us to make, or to have images, likenesses and statues, because the art of painting, sculpture, casting and embroidery, is reckoned among the gifts of God which are good and profitable to human life, and God Himself had certain images placed in the tabernacle (Ex. 31:3; 35:30) and Solomon had upon his throne images of lions, and had figures of palm-trees and cherubim carved upon the walls of the temple by the command of God (1 Kings 6:23, 29; 10:19-20)” (Ursinus, 526). But those images were part of the structure, not part of the worship, of the temple; and they passed away with the passing away of OT worship. God does not want us to use man-made religious images in our worship of Him. God has given us images of His own choosing: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Not even a cross is to be considered a sacred symbol. If you want to have a cross for decoration, or wear one around your neck, that’s fine, just so long as you don’t superstitiously think that a cross is necessary for a person or a Church to be Christian.

Question 98: But may not pictures be tolerated in churches as books for the people? No, for we should not be wiser than God, who will not have His people taught by dumb idols, but by the lively preaching of His Word.


The Medieval Church used pictures, statutes and relics, rather than the Bible, to instruct its members. The reformers learned from the Bible that the way to instruct people concerning Christ is to preach Christ to them from the Bible and to teach them to read the Bible for themselves. “Preach the Word!” (2 Tim. 4:2). A picture of a man hanging on a cross tells you nothing about who the man was or why he’s hanging there or why we need to believe in him. Pictures do not teach truths. This is why they are called dumb idols. Only words can convey truth. Faith does not come from looking at images, but by the hearing of the word of God (Rom. 10:17). It is the message not the image of the cross that brings salvation. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18); “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…because the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor. 1:21, 25). 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 96-98

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 34


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Friday, August 18, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 34: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 92-95

Reformation 500 WEEK 34: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 92-95

Question 92: What is the Law of God? “And God spoke all these words, saying: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. [First Commandment] You shall have no other gods before Me. [Second] You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. [Third] You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. [Fourth] Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. [Fifth] Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. [Sixth] You shall not murder. [Seventh] You shall not commit adultery. [Eighth] You shall not steal. [Ninth] You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. [Tenth] You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

     We were created in God’s image to imitate God by obeying His law – which harmonizes with His eternal and unchangeable wisdom. God created Adam and Eve with a knowledge of His law (Rom. 2:14-15). “The law was engraved upon the heart of man in his creation, and is therefore known to all naturally” (Ursinus, 104). “Since the fall, however, which resulted in the corruption and depravity of our nature, a considerable part of the natural law has become obscured and lost by reason of sin [Rom. 7:7], so that there is only a small portion concerning the obedience which we owe to God still left in the human mind. It is for this reason that God repeated, and declared to the church the entire doctrine and true sense of His law, as contained in the Decalogue [i.e. the Ten Commandments]” (492). God wrote the Ten Commandments in stone (Exodus 31:18) as His permanent will for mankind. The other laws (both ceremonial and judicial) were temporary, designed only for Israel in the Promised Land, and were abolished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14-16).

     But the Ten Commandments were not abolished. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus fulfilled the law “by teaching it and restoring its true meaning and sense, which He did by freeing it from the corruptions and glosses of the Pharisees, as appears from His sermon on the Mount” (Ursinus, 496). He fulfilled the law by obeying it perfectly and suffering its curse on the cross (Gal. 3:13). “Christ fulfills the law in us by His Spirit, by whom He renews us in the image of God [Rom. 8:4] …. This obedience is commenced in us in this life by the Spirit of Christ, and will be perfected in the life to come” (Ursinus, 496). We were “created, and have been redeemed by Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, that we might keep this law … both in this life and in the life to come [2 John 1:7; 1 John 2:3-4; 1 Cor. 7:19]” (Ursinus, 491).

The preface to the law, “I am the LORD your God, who delivered you from bondage,” makes it clear that God redeems His people from the bondage of sin in order that they might obey His law out of thankfulness for salvation (John 14:15; 15:14).  

Question 93: How are these Commandments divided? Into two tables: the first of which teaches, in four commandments, what duties we owe to God; the second, in six, what duties we owe to our neighbor.

     The Ten Commandments were written on “two tablets of stone” (Ex. 34:1), for they contain all we owe to God and our neighbor. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40).

Question 94: What does God require in the first Commandment? That, on peril of my soul’s salvation, I avoid and flee all idolatry, sorcery, enchantments, invocation of saints or other creatures; and that I rightly acknowledge the only true God, trust in Him alone, with all humility and patience, expect all good from Him only, and love, fear, and honor Him with my whole heart; so as rather to renounce all creatures than to do the least thing against His will.

     To have other gods is not to have the true God (the God of the Bible), or to worship anything that is not God. The unbelieving and ungodly have always “worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). Sorcery, enchantments, or praying to unseen spirits are just some of the many ways people try (vainly) to find answers and help apart from the true God (see Deut. 18:10-12). God saves us so that we might begin in this life to love and desire Him more than anyone or anything else, so that our greatest desire is to please Him, and to fear to do the least thing against His will (Luke 14:26-33). “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God, my soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2). “Make me walk in the path of Your commands, for I delight in it” (Ps. 119:35). 

Question 95: What is idolatry? Idolatry is to conceive or have something else in which to place our trust instead of, or besides, the one true God who has revealed Himself in His Word.


     Part of putting off the old man and putting on the new man is to avoid and flee all idolatry. Since we believers are not perfectly sanctified in this life, the sin of idolatry still clings to our heart, and therefore we must daily fight against it: “do not become idolaters as were some of them…. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:7, 14). “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Every day we need to be reminded to put God first. “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).


NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 92-95

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 34


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 33: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 88-91

Reformation 500 WEEK 33: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 88-91

Question 88: In how many things does true repentance or conversion consist? In two things: the dying of the old man, and the making alive of the new.

Having considered why we must do good works (out of thankfulness for salvation), we will now learn that doing good works is part of what it means to live a repentant and converted life – which is exactly what sanctification involves.

The terms repentance (change of mind) and conversion (turning around) basically mean the same thing: to turn from sin to God for forgiveness and to obey Him out of thankfulness for salvation in Christ (Acts 11:21). “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). The repentance of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18) is called “the conversion of the Gentiles” (Acts 15:3).

                When God grants us true repentance so that we are truly converted, this is the beginning of our life-long experience of sanctification. By His Holy Spirit God has set us free from the enslaving power of our old sinful nature by giving us a new holy nature (2 Cor. 5:17). This does not mean we no longer have our old sinful nature, but it does mean we are no longer slaves to it (Rom. 6:6, 14). We have a new nature that hates sin and desires to please God out of thankfulness for salvation (Col. 3:10). “There is a part of us which is renewed [the new man] and a part which retains its natural corruption [the old man]” (Calvin). The process of sanctification is the process of repentance and conversion, of turning from our old sinful nature and living according to our new nature. Scripture says to “put to death” (Col. 3:5) or “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and … put on the new man which was created according to God [in His image], in righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-23). We are sanctified “so that we may more and more die unto sin and lead holy and unblameable lives” (Q&A 70).

Question 89: What is the dying of the old man? Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to hate and turn from it always more and more.

The dying of the old man is the life-long process of mortification, of putting to death our sins by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit: “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). “Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5; cf. Eph. 5:22-32). The Holy Spirit works in our hearts a godly sorrow for sin (Joel 2:13), which causes us to hate our sins and to turn from them more and more; “godly sorrow produces repentance” (2 Cor. 7:10). “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6). This is a very painful process (Gal. 5:17). The apostle Paul, speaking as a new man in Christ, expressed what is true for every believer, “I do the very thing I hate…. For I do not do the good I want to do but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin [my old sinful nature] that dwells in me” (Rom. 7:15, 19-20). “Our conversion to God is not perfect in this life, but is here continually advancing, until it reaches the perfection which is promised in the life to come” (Ursinus, 474). “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Phil. 1:6). 

Question 90: What is the making alive of the new man? Heartfelt joy in God through Christ, causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.

The making alive of the new man is the life-long process of God remaking us into His holy image, causing us out of thankfulness and joy to put on the new man. The old man must decrease. The new man must increase. Paul tells his fellow believers: “you have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering,” etc. (Col. 3:10, 12). “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (Eph. 5:1-2). Just as heartfelt sorrow causes us to hate sin and turn from it more and more, heartfelt joy in God through Christ causes us to take delight in living according to God’s will in all good works (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:20). “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). When we do not put our sins to death but give in to them, then we must confess our sins to God and pray for the renewal of the new man. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:10, 12; cf. Jer. 31:18; Luke 12:32). “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name” (Psalm 80:18).

To sum up, the sanctified life is putting off the old man and putting on the new man. For example, “putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with His neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor…that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification” (Eph. 5:28-29). To put it very simply: “Turn away from evil and do good” (1 Peter 3:11).

Question 91: What are good works? Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.

Three things are necessary for our works to be good: (1) A good root: True faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Remember that prior to regeneration we are spiritually dead incapable of doing anything good. “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matt. 7:18; cf. Matt. 12:33). The Lord makes us spiritually alive, giving us faith in Christ; and from the seed of faith comes a tree full of good fruit. True believers are “those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit” (Mark 4:20; cf. Heb. 13:15); (2) A good standard: God’s law (John 14:15; 1 John 2:4) – not what is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:25); not according to the traditions or commandments of men (Matt. 15:9). (3) A good goal: God’s glory; “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). To do anything to the glory of God, “is to do it, that we may testify our love, reverence and obedience to God, and that for the sake of showing our thankfulness for the benefits which we have received,” and not “from a desire to advance our own selfish interests;” God must “be respected first whenever we do anything; nor must we care what men may say, whether they praise or reproach us” (Ursinus, 478). Our good works are not perfectly good, but the unregenerate have no good works at all!

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 88-91

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 33


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.