It’s hard to believe that 500 years have passed since a monk and professor of theology nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the church at Wittenburg, Germany.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther lit a match that spread a wildfire across Europe and changed things from the way people did church, to church architecture, to church music, to increasing literacy rates.
We just completed a sermon series on The Five Solas of the Reformation. Although they weren’t named that until about 100 years ago, the Five Solas summarize the most important theological points that emerged from the Reformation. They were:
Sola Scriptura — by Scripture Alone
Sola Gratia — by Grace Alone
Sola Fide — by Faith Alone
Solus Cristus — by Christ Alone
Soli deo gloria — glory to God Alone
Over the past five weeks, we saw that:
The Bible alone is our authority of matters of faith and practice.
We are justified by God’s grace alone.
We are justified by faith alone, but not faith that is alone.
We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
We are justified to the glory of God alone.
Notice the word alone. That one word was the key that differentiated the Reformers with the Roman Catholic Church of the day.
Please check out the audio of my sermons in the series to learn more. Come and see what God is doing at Fellowship Baptist Church in Weatherford, Texas!
I’ll bet you never thought you’d see these two titles in the same sentence!
Yes, this is a very provocative title, and an interesting and informative read by Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition. (If you know me, you know that I reject both of these views on the grounds of Biblical Theology.)
I was reading through our Sunday School Quarterly last night and came across a common illustration that isn’t based in truth. The lesson writer states that,
“Being sincere literally means to be without wax. This is a potter’s term and it refers to the devious practice of patching cracked pots with a mixture of colored dirt and wax in order to hide imperfections. An unwary buyer would think he had bought a good vessel until he used it. Then he would discover that it was defective. A sincere person does not have a cracked character that will be revealed under pressure. Of course, those who are sincere will not give offense to others. We should be honest with ourselves and God and allow God’s Word to mold our character.” (Fall Quarterly, Growing in Love, Joy and Knowledge p. 15, Bogard Press) (Note: I have serious concerns about this lesson writer and the publisher, but I digress.)
This sounds really good, and the premise has been used in many sermons to encourage people to be genuine and authentic. Unfortunately, it isn’t rooted in reality.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “There has been a temptation to see the first element as Latin sine ‘without.’ But there is no etymological justification for the common story that the word means ‘without wax’ (*sin cerae), which is dismissed out of hand by [this dictionary] and others, and the stories invented to justify that folk etymology are even less plausible.”
If we are to be sincere in studying and teaching God’s Word, we must be very careful when using stories like this. When we use “preacher stories”, we actually communicate untruths. Now, I won’t say that those of us who use illustrations like this are lying when we do so, because lying is telling an untruth with the purpose of deceit. What the lesson writer does is not unlike many Bible teachers when we use eisegesis instead of exegesis to study the Bible. Eisegesis means to read into whereas exegesis means to read out of. The dead giveaway for me — that sent me to research this – was the use of “literally” in the definition of sincere. Sadly, many times we say, “literally”, it isn’t literally true.
The Scripture Passage in question is Philippians 1:10 The lesson writer takes an English word sincere that was translated from the Biblical (Koine) Greek word εἰλικρινεις (eilikrineis) which means “pure”. Instead of translating the word from Koine Greek forward into Modern English and translating the word, “pure”, the lesson writer goes from 1611 Elizabethan English (KJV) backward to Latin to find a word pair that never existed to make an illustration that isn’t based in reality. This is a classic example of reading into the Bible what you want it to say, rather than simply letting the Bible Text speak for itself.
Thankfully, this illustration does little actual harm to a Sunday School Student. But being sloppy like this in studying and teaching God’s Word is irresponsible. And if the educated teachers (and degreed lesson writers) are sloppy and irresponsible, can we expect better from our students?
Let’s be sincere and let God’s Word speak for itself.
So what are your thoughts on this? Before you answer, please listen to how Southern Seminary’s Dr. Thomas Schreiner answers the question. The Biblical answer isn’t as cut-and-dry as many of us would like for it to be.