Why Reformed?

Who Are You: Exploring our Christian Faith  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:00
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1. A little history:

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Geneva was in disarray. It was a notoriously pleasure-loving city. It had rejected Catholicism, but now it was torn by dangerous factions. A young preacher named William Farel knew the city needed a leader. So when a young John Calvin visited Geneva, Farel made it a point to call on him. He urged the young scholar to stay in the city and help establish the work there.
Calvin protested that he wanted to pursue his studies. But Farel responded, "You are only following your own wishes! If you do not help us in this work of the Lord, the Lord will punish you for seeking your own interest rather than His." Calvin was terror-stricken. The last thing he wanted was to offend Almighty God! So Calvin agreed to stay and immediately took up the reforming cause in Geneva.
Calvin's leadership shaped a reformation tradition we call Reformed Christianity. What is the unique feature of Reformed Christianity? - God has a plan. Calvin was convinced of it. He called it God's sovereign will. Just as Luther's central doctrine was justification by faith, Calvin's was the Biblical doctrine of the sovereignty of God.

2. Ephesians 1 – God's sovereignty

Few passages highlight this teaching, as well as Ephesians 1. However, the key thought that ruins this chapter is that believers have wonderful blessings because they are chosen in Christ.
In (1-2)/
Ephesians 1:1–2 ESV
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul uses two words to describe the Christians in Ephesus: saints and faithful. Every Christian is both. The word "saint" means holy ones. We are saints because of what Christ did for us. He made us clean and makes us holy. In verse 1, the word "faithful" does not mean "dependable" as much as "full of faith in Jesus Christ." A Christian is a person made holy by God (a saint) and a person who trusts in Christ (faithful).
Eph. 1:3, we have one of the most glorious sentences inthe Bible.
Ephesians 1:3 ESV
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Paul uses three prepositions to describe our great blessing. First, God has blessed us 'in' the heavenly places 'with' every spiritual blessing 'in' Christ. Because we belong to Christ, we live where he lives (heaven) and receive what he deserves (unending blessing). All this is possible because of our union with Christ. This is God's sovereign plan for us.
So in verse 4, Paul tells us that those who believe and enjoy these blessings were chosen by God before the world was even formed. This is the wonderful doctrine of election.
Ephesians 1:4 ESV
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
God chose us in Christ by grace so we might be blessed with every spiritual blessing. God elects us to be saints (set-apart ones) and then predestines that specific purposes in our lives shall come to pass.
In verse 5/
Ephesians 1:5 ESV
5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
we are told that God has adopted us. Our entire blessedness - our victory, our happiness, our hope - is bound up in God's plan for us that is to be found in Christ. Moreover, God has accepted us.
Ephesians 1:6–7 ESV
6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
We are not acceptable to God in ourselves, but in Christ, we are "made accepted." This is the key to Reformed theology. Though we have sinned, Christ says to the Father, "Receive this saint as you would receive Me," because I have redeemed them by giving His life on the cross. Jesus purchased us from the slavery ofsin and has forgiven us. Christians were elected for this privilege/
Ephesians 1:11 ESV
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
before the foundation of the world. So we can be confident of finally receiving this blessing because the God who planned it accomplishes whatever he purposes.
We can also be confident because of the sealing of the Holy Spirit .
Ephesians 1:13 ESV
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
Just like our signature on the dotted line seals the deal, the seal of the Spirit (which comes when we believe the Gospel of Jesus) authenticates us as truly included in Christ. His seal secures our eternal safety and marks us as God's possession.
Ephesians 1:14 ESV
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, we would neither believe in Christ nor have the eyes of our hearts opened to the realities and promises of his word.
This means that we should give thanks,and Paul makes three requests. First, we should pray to know God better. Second, we should pray to know God's riches. Third, we should pray to know God's power.
Ephesians 1:16–19 ESV
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
This is the sovereign God's plan for us. For Calvin, this aspect of the Gospel thrilled him the most.

3. God's sovereignty is at the core of our faith.

But Calvin hadn't always valued the Gospel. He entered the University of Paris at fourteen and left with a Master of Arts degree. After uni, his Father wanted him to study law, but Calvin returned to Paris to study the classics.
His studies brought Calvin into touch with Luther's ideas. So after Calvin had what he called an "unexpected conversion." We can't be sure about the date, but Calvin surrendered his will to God's will for him in the Gospel. He gave up his career as a classical scholar and identified with the Protestant cause in France.
In the autumn of 1533, one of Calvin's close friends, Nicholas Cop, gave a strongly Protestant sermon. The vigorous sermon threw the uni into an uproar, and Calvin was forced to flee from Paris. This is why he travelled through Geneva when William Farel enlisted him.
The Genevan city councils offered Calvin a position, "Professor of Sacred Scriptures," and he began his work with vigour. He prepared a confession of faith to be accepted by everyone who wished to be a citizen; he planned an educational program. It was the most strenuous program of discipleship yet seen, a bit more than the city fathers had bargained for. After a year of struggle, Calvin and Farel were ordered to leave Geneva. (Explain)
Three years later, the city officials urged him to return and resume his reform efforts. Naturally, opposition continued. Many times Calvin was on the brink of banishment. But he fought his way through courageously. Two years later, Calvin's position in Geneva was secure, and until his death, he had no serious opposition in the city. For Calvin, however, Geneva was never an end in itself. He considered the city a refuge for persecuted Protestants, an example of a disciplined Christian community, and a centre for ministerial training. Enthusiastic students from all over Europe came to Geneva to see what John Knox called "the most perfect school of Christ that ever was on earth since the days of the Apostles."
The theology the students received flowed from Calvin's central belief in the absolute sovereignty of God. "God asserts his possession of omnipotence," he wrote, "and claims our acknowledgement of this attribute." God is the "Governor of all things." In his own wisdom, from the remotest eternity, he decreed what he would do, and by his own power, he executes what he has decreed.
Reformed theology teaches that God particularly directs our lives. We read that sparrows won't fall to the ground without the Father's knowledge. We read too that he has given babies to some mothers and withheld them from others. What this recognizes is the personal involvement of Almighty God in our lives.
If Luther's ultimate text was "the just shall live by faith," Calvin's was, "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Calvin saw the doctrine of predestination - as a source of great praise and worship. More than a problem of the mind, Calvin considered divine election to eternal life the most profound source of confidence, humility and moral power.
Reformed theology's emphasis on God's sovereignty led to a unique view of the state. Luther tended to consider the state supreme. The German princes often determined where and how the Gospel would be preached. But Calvin taught that no man—whether pope or king—has any claim to absolute power. Calvin never preached revolution, but he did encourage the growth of representative government. And his resistance to the exercise of arbitrary power by monarchs was a critical factor in the development of modern constitutional governments.
The church, said Calvin, is not subject to the secular government except for secular matters. But on the other hand, the church has the obligation, under the sovereign God, to guide the secular authorities in spiritual matters.
As a result, many of his students left Geneva and returned to their own countries to establish communities based on reformed principles. In Scotland, the reformers created something unique in sixteenth-century Europe: a land of one religion ruled by a monarch of another.
The monarch was Mary Queen of Scots, an eighteen-year-old girl living abroad. She married into the French royal family (Catholic), the Scots, and many Englishmen feared that she might deliver Scotland to the French (Cath). One man, however, preached everywhere the notion that the people of Scotland could challenge the rule of their queen. That man was John Knox.
Knox was a restless preacher who had tried earlier to point England toward Reformed theology. But, like many others, he was forced to flee England overnight when the country returned to the Catholic faith under Henry VIII's daughter, Mary I. The queen's persecution of Protestant leaders earned her the title "Bloody Mary."
Knox escaped to Switzerland, where he developed the theory that Protestants had the right to resist, by force if necessary, any Roman Catholic ruler who tried to prevent their worship and mission. That was farther than Calvin himself was willing to go, but many of the nobles in Scotland found the idea attractive.
When civil war broke out in Scotland in 1559, Knox rushed home. By the summer of 1560, the reformers were in control of Edinburgh. Under Knox's leadership, the parliamentabolished Roman Catholic rule.
Next year, when Mary Queen of Scots, now a nineteen-year-old widow, decided to return to her kingdom, she found it in the lap of the 'Reformed heresy." Over the next few years, Knox, the passionate preacher of Reformed theology, and Mary, the young catholic queen of Scotland, came to symbolize the Reformation conflict: Protestant against Catholic, but also the democratic claims of reformed theology against the monarchy's power.
Thus, when Calvin died in 1564, he left far more than a reformed Geneva. He had followers eager to continue in God's plan all over Europe and soon in distant America.
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