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Issue No. 44 5 - 11 Nov 2012
Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone) and Carrying the Cross (By Dr Lai Pak Wah)

Once in a while, we would hear of Christians claiming that Christ’s death has released God’s abundant grace to us. By this they mean that Christians should believe that God is willing to enrich the faithful with material blessings. For this reason, it is not uncommon to hear testimonies of answered prayers for material goods such as a new wardrobe, or a salary increment or even a new car! To be sure, God is always the source of all blessings, material riches included. There are not a few biblical examples of how God’s people have been blessed materially, such as Abraham, David and Solomon. But the question to be asked is this: is material riches an essential part of God’s plan for us in the here and now, or is it incidental to His purposes? Or to put it differently, “If I am not rich, I am somehow less adequate, less complete as a Christian?”

The answer is clearly in the negative. Biblical teachings and examples galore as to how the faithful were often persecuted or misunderstood for their faith. Our Lord Jesus puts it quite clear, and perhaps disconcerting to some, by asserting that “whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27). Having said that, there are always ways, interpretative strategies, to get around such problematic verses’: “Oh, this instruction is meant only to the apostles;” or “such teachings occur before Christ’s crucifixion. At the cross, Christ borne all our pain, suffering and cost. What is left is God’s abundant grace and blessings for us.

Enough has been written to correct this misunderstanding through proper biblical interpretation (see, for example, Gordon Fee’s The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel). Yet, there may still be some quarters who remain unconvinced. This is when recourse to our rich Christian history becomes immensely helpful, since it provides us yet further evidence of how earlier Christians had understood God’s ‘abundant grace’ and so-called ‘problematic verses’ like Luke 14:27.

Since Reformation Sunday just passed, let’s take this opportunity to reflect on what the lives and legacies of the Reformers may teach us about the ‘abundance grace’ of God. Indeed, we wouldn’t have better examples than these men and women, since they were the very ones who restored the primacy of salvation by grace alone in the Church and bequeathed this legacy to us Protestants. How would a Reformer, like Martin Luther, John Calvin or Ulrich Zwingli, have understood the idea of God’s abundance grace then?

For Martin Luther, the answer is clear. In his Treatise on Good Works (1520), Luther likens the Christian’s life to that of the relationship between a husband and his wife. Just as a husband and wife, out of their love for each other, accepts and serves one another wholeheartedly, so also should a Christian live out his life in God: serving and obeying Him out of a confidence in divine grace. Yet, for Martin Luther and his fellow Reformers, this joyful confidence in God need not translate into a life of abundant material blessings. As a matter of fact, life often becomes harsher for Protestants who pursues such a life. In the wake of the Catholic persecution, Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic church, banished from his hometown for almost a year and faced constant danger of assassination from the Pope’s assassins. In the case of John Calvin, his reforming efforts were no less easy. During his first attempt to reform the city of Geneva, the Genevan citizens threw him out in less than 2 years. It took another 2 years before he returned. Over the next two decades, his reforms continued to encounter stiff resistance from many politicians. In his private life, things were no less difficult. He was to lose only son at infancy and his wife (and best friend) a few years later due to sickness. What about Ulrich Zwingli, the pioneering Swiss Reformer? In his attempt to fulfill his duty as chaplain to the Zurich army, he would find his life cut short at the Battle of Kappel, leaving behind his wife and 4 children, one of whom was merely an infant.

Hebrews 11:13-16’s description of the biblical exemplars seem exceedingly fitting for these Reformers: “these all died in faith, not having received the things promised but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth... As it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God.”

So, as we commemorate the legacy of the Reformers, let us remember also that living out God’s abundant grace for us also means a willingness to deny ourselves, to die to our passions and desires, so that we may fulfill God’s calling for our lives. This calling may not be easy. On occasions, it may be tough. Nevertheless, with the abundance grace of God, it can and will be joyful through the help of our Lord Jesus and the power of His Spirit. Day by day, as we patiently nurture the life of Christ in our hearts, let us be sure also that God will transform us, so that on that fateful day, when we depart for the everlasting kingdom, our children and friends will also count us among those “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) and thank us for showing them how to live out the grace of God in their own lives.

Chapel News

There will be time of prayer on 14 November 2012. Chapel begins at 12 pm. You are welcome to join us.

Faculty News
  • Dr Lai will be preaching at Hebron BP Church on 11 Nov 2012, 9:00am. The topic: 'In the Footsteps of the Reformers'.

  • Dr Tay will be preaching at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church on 11 Nov at the 8:30am and 10:45am services. The topic: “The Hope of Resurrection” (1 Cor 15:1-58).
Upcoming Courses

Christian Biography (commencement on 26 Nov 2012)
AT151 (1.5 cr)

Adjunct Lecturer: Rev Dr David Wong Rev Dr David Wong
Venue: BGST@ Clarus Centre
37 Jalan Pemimpin, #06-05, Blk B, S(577177)
Dates / Time: Nov 26 (Mon), 7.15 pm to 10.15 pm
Nov 29 (Thu), 7.15 pm to 10.15 pm
Dec 8 (Sat), 9.00 am to 1.00 pm; 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm
Fees: $225 (for credit), $157.50 (by audit)

COURSE SYNOPSIS

"History is but biography." The study of the lives of men and women down the ages makes history come alive. The course will acquaint students with selected key figures of church history. We will seek to understand the times they lived in, the challenges they face, and the qualities that made them great men and women of faith. For more information, please visit our website at http://bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events/302-christian-biography

Click here to register for the course.

Course Schedule for 2012-2013 Semester 2

For more information on Course Schedule, please visit our website:
http://www.bgst.edu.sg/media/files/courses/2012-2013-sem2.pdf

2012 sem 2

37 Jalan Pemimpin, #06-05 Block B, Clarus Centre, S(577177).
Tel: 6227-6815 Fax: 6255-3686 Email: inquiry@bgst.edu.sg
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